Tackle this: NFL players benefit from regular yoga practice

NEW YORK (AP) — Without stretching, New York Giants offensive lineman Chad Wheeler folds his 6-foot-7, 317-pound frame over far enough to place his palms flat on the ground. His knees are straight but not fully locked, because that’s poor form, and he can comfortably hold himself there — he’s that flexible.

That’s nothing for Wheeler. Like many NFL players, he does yoga.

“It’s funny doing it as a team because a lot of guys haven’t done it,” Wheeler said. “It makes me feel proud in a way. Like guys that are way more athletic than me, I can bend better than them in certain positions.”

Football players don’t fit the mold of a yogi , someone who regularly practices yoga. They’re large athletes with sculpted muscles from countless hours of lifting and conditioning. Most do not look capable of the contortions required of the ancient discipline, such as standing on one foot with the other propped up on their knee in a tree pose for an extended period without falling over.

Yet in recent years, the presence of yoga has grown in the NFL. The fast-paced, hard-hitting sport has accepted the more calming practice that emphasizes conscious breathing and body flow. Much like yin and yang, the two complement each other both mentally and physically.

“Obviously (yoga) helps with flexibility, what we call join integrity, discipline, focus and balance,” said Los Angeles Chargers Director of Football/Medical Services James Collins, an NFL athletic trainer for 31 years. “It has a lot of different entities to it. And one thing about professional football players is that if you explain something to them and give them the science and reasoning behind it, you can get them to buy into it.”

Many teams haven’t adopted yoga, but their players practice it individually, including Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, Buffalo Bills placekicker Steven Hauschka and New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.

The Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears offer it to their players on recovery days. Others make it a team activity: the Chargers, Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys.

“I was going into it expecting to tell them all the reasons why they should be practicing yoga and why it’s so beneficial,” said Kaleen Lugo, the Chargers’ yoga instructor. “They’re just like, ‘You’re preaching to the choir, girl. We know.'”

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

Getting ready in his pass-rush stance, New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams has his legs spread, knees bent and feet staggered. He leans forward with a hand on the ground.

That’s how he stays until the ball is snapped, holding his 6-5, 302-pound body in the three-point stance.

“For my position, you can get knocked off,” Williams said. “When we’re playing double teams, we got to stunt and do stuff, so it’s like sometimes we have to be on one foot, plant and go somewhere. I feel like yoga helps with that, when we’re doing one-legged poses and stuff like that. It helps with my balance .”

Yoga helps with so much more than balance, and flexibility.

Collins, who’s also the Professional Football Athletic Trainers’ Society president, said yoga is great for multidirectional joints such as the elbows, wrists, ankles, hips and shoulders. Regular stretching is linear and doesn’t help strengthen those areas.

Yoga also keeps muscles pliable and allows them to recover faster.

“At minimum, doing it helps maintain what you have,” Collins said. “Especially as an athlete and a football player, as he’s going through a season and his bodies getting beat up, everything starts to shut down — ‘Boy, I feel stiff. I’m sore. I can’t do this.’ But if you’re doing things throughout the season, like yoga, to help maintain what you’ve established with your body, that helps you get through the season, helps reduce your chance of injury and things of that nature.”

Each player — position, really — is different, too.

Gwen Lawrence, founder of Power Yoga for Sport, has been teaching athlete-focused yoga for 25 years and taught the Giants for more than a decade under former head coach Tom Coughlin. While she would work on arm and spine strength — spinal rotation — for a quarterback, she would focus more on the neck, hips and wrists for a lineman.

It comes down to releasing tension and building strength in overworked parts of the body.

“I didn’t realize once I got the hold of it how much stronger I felt,” Giants linebacker Jordan Williams said. “I wasn’t doing anything but using my body weight, and I felt so much stronger.”

MENTAL BENEFITS

Bending to the side, Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah reaches for a block on the floor . He then lifts his other legs straight out so he is parallel to the ground and extends his free arm upward.

Each limb is stretched out straight, as he breathes through the difficulty of holding yoga’s half-moon pose.

That’s where the mind-over-matter mentality comes in.

“They need to be trained when they’re in a tough situation, they can’t just bail,” Lawrence said. “A lot of times they’ll be like, ‘Ah, this is too hard. This hurts,’ and they’ll jump out of that. You can’t do that in a game, and you can’t do that in yoga.”

Mental toughness is one of the six facets Lawrence teaches in her yoga class, along with strength, flexibility, balance, focus and breath. But she also has a six-week mindfulness course Coughlin had the medical staff and players go through. The well-being of the mind is just as important as the well-being of body.

“We spend a lot of time paying attention to the psychology of the athlete,” said National Athletic Trainers’ Association president Tory Lindley, who’s also the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Health, Safety and Performance and Director of Athletic Training Services at Northwestern University. “That mind-body connection is critical.”

On the field and off it.

In 2003, Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Keith Mitchell sustained a career-ending injury. It came after seven years in the NFL, mostly spent with the Saints. He was lost, saying he showed signed of depression and had suicidal thoughts, until he found yoga.

Mitchell credits meditation and conscious breathing for getting him through the tough time. Now, he’s a yoga instructor and hopes the practice grows in the NFL because he wishes he had done it as a player.

“The game, I always say, is 80 percent mental,” Mitchell said. “So anything we can do to reboot the mind — I call it a meditation and I teach it as a mind practice — that’s just going to make you even more impactful, more effective on your endeavors.”

Many players do it for the mental aspect alone, saying yoga gets their mind right and prevents overthinking. It forces them to be in the moment, otherwise there’s no way they’d be able to accomplish some of the poses, which make them feel better physically.

One thing leads to another, much like the flow of a good sun salutation — moving from one pose to another.

“When you feel good, you play good,” Lugo said. “When you play good, it’s all good. They know that comes from so much more than just keeping your body in peak shape and condition.”

NFL updates stance on embattled Kraft

NFL updates stance on embattled Kraft

NFL updates stance on embattled Kraft

An arrest warrant for Patriots owner Robert Kraft is expected Monday, which prompted the NFL to release an updated statement on the status of the pillar of the New England franchise.

Kraft is facing two counts of misdemeanor solicitation of a prostitute connected to a sting at a massage parlor in Jupiter, Fla.

“Our personal conduct policy applies to everyone in the NFL. We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under our policy. We are seeking a full understanding of the facts, while ensuring that we do not interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation. We will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts,” read the NFL statement.

Kraft and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have had a frosty relationship at times, notably during the infamous Deflategate investigation that led to a four-game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady, but they also powered the labor negotiations and CBA deal signed with players amid a lockout in 2011.

Kraft, 77, is alleged to have paid for sex at Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., one of 10 massage parlors shut down in the region after a long investigation showed the women in the spas were sex servants, according to authorities. Kraft allegedly visited the spa on two occasions, according to law enforcement.

If convicted of the misdemeanor charges, he would face a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine as a first-time offender. He also could be subject to disciplinary action by the NFL.

Kraft, who also owns the New England Revolution MLS franchise, denied the accusations on Friday afternoon.

“We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity,” a spokesman for Kraft said in a statement. “Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”

The NFL also released a statement.

“The NFL is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments,” the league said Friday afternoon.

Authorities at a news conference on Friday said much of their evidence in the investigation comes from cameras worn on officers’ uniforms and from surveillance that was conducted via hidden cameras inside the day spa. The cameras captured the alleged sexual acts being committed inside the spa, including those involving Kraft.

“We’re as deeply stunned as anyone else,” Jupiter, Fla., Police Chief Daniel Kerr said of Kraft’s alleged involvement.

–Field Level Media

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Panthers re-sign RB Hood to one-year deal

Panthers re-sign RB Hood to one-year deal

Running

Panthers re-sign RB Hood to one-year deal

Running back Elijah Hood has signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers, the team announced Monday.

Contract terms were not announced.

The Panthers claimed Hood, a Charlotte native, off waivers last May, but he tore an ACL in the final preseason game and spent the season on injured reserve.

He was a seventh-round draft pick by Oakland in 2017.

“Obviously it’s a blessing. I’m excited. I thank God that I’ll get the opportunity to keep playing here,” Hood, who turns 23 in April, said per the team’s website.

The 5-foot-11, 230-pound back played in one game in 2017 with the Raiders and was on the practice squad the rest of the season.

Hood will have a chance to compete to back up Christian McCaffrey. Four running backs on the roster could become free agents next month.

“They’re putting their faith in me,” Hood said. “I’m expecting to deliver something.”

–Field Level Media

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Ex-Florida T Taylor to sit out combine drills

Ex-Florida T Taylor to sit out combine drills

Ex-Florida T Taylor to sit out combine drills

Former Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, a projected first-round draft pick, won’t take part in various drills at the NFL Scouting Combine this week under the advice of renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted a copy of the letter Andrews sent to NFL teams earlier this month to inform them of Taylor’s mild distal hamstring strain.

“I expect this injury to be resolved quickly,” Andrews wrote in the Feb. 14 letter, “and Jawaan should be able to return to normal activity in the near future.”

Andrews said Taylor should not participate in timed drills or the long and broad jumps. The 6-foot-5, 328-pound tackle is expected to be available for team interviews.

In three seasons at Florida, Taylor played in 37 games, starting 35 of them, and worked at both the left and right tackle spots.

The combine begins Tuesday in Indianapolis and runs through March 4.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Ravens to release WR Crabtree

Report: Ravens to release WR Crabtree

The Baltimore

Report: Ravens to release WR Crabtree

The Baltimore Ravens will release veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree after one year with the team, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday.

The team owed Crabtree a $2.5 million roster bonus next month and $7.5 million for the 2019 season, according to ESPN. His release will give Baltimore $4.67 million in additional salary cap space.

Crabtree, 31, signed a three-year, $21 million contract last March.

A product of Texas Tech, Crabtree was the No. 10 overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2009 NFL Draft. He spent the first six seasons of his career with the Niners, followed by three seasons in Oakland before joining Baltimore.

Last season, Crabtree started 16 games and caught 54 passes – his fewest in a full season since 2009 – for 607 yards and three scores. He caught 19 passes in just five games in 2013 because of a torn Achilles tendon.

For his career, he has played 141 games, starting all but three, gaining 7,477 yards and scoring 54 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Richardson’s 3 TDs lead Iron to 3-0 start

Richardson's 3 TDs lead Iron to 3-0 start

Trent Richardson

Richardson’s 3 TDs lead Iron to 3-0 start

Trent Richardson rushed for three touchdowns, doubling his season total, and the visiting Birmingham Iron moved to 3-0 with a 28-12 victory over the Atlanta Legends on Sunday.

A 2012 first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns who last played in the NFL in 2014, Richardson had 17 carries for 46 yards with scores of 5, 1 and 6 yards. He is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry (59 carries, 145 yards) through three weeks of play, but his six rushing TDs lead the league by four.

Iron quarterback Luis Perez, who went undrafted in 2018 out of Texas A&M-Commerce and spent training camp with the Los Angeles Rams, finished 17 of 31 for 160 yards and an interception. Birmingham and Orlando, both 3-0 atop the East Division, are the AAF’s only undefeated teams.

Legends signal-caller Matt Simms, formerly of the New York Jets, went 28 for 48 for 328 yards, a touchdown and three picks. Atlanta joined Memphis as the only winless teams through three weeks.

–Field Level Media

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Johnson to five-shot win at WGC-Mexico

Johnson to five-shot win at WGC-Mexico

Johnson to five-shot win at WGC-Mexico

Dustin Johnson has made his fame and fortune on the PGA Tour by being one of the longest hitters in the world, but it was his all-around game that was on display this week as he posted a five-shot victory at 21-under-par 263 after the final round of play Sunday at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City.

Johnson had six birdies on Sunday along with a bogey, his first of the week though he did have a double-bogey in the third round, while carding a 5-under 66 on Sunday as he was never seriously threatened after sleeping on a four-shot lead.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy finished second after a 67 on Sunday while three players — Paul Casey (65) and Ian Poulter (68), both of England, and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (68) — finished in a tie for third at 11 under.

Johnson did a little bit of everything and did it all really well while winning this event for the second time in three years; he finished tied for seventh in 2018 when the tournament was won by Phil Mickelson.

Earlier this month Johnson won the inaugural Saudi International on the European Tour by two strokes from China’s Li Haotong. The win in Saudi Arabia was Johnson’s sixth European Tour title, but first regular tour event, outside of the majors and WGCs.

“I struggled the past couple of weeks, and I didn’t think my game was in very good form at the Saudi even though I won there,” Johnson said. “I worked on it, and I hit the ball really well this week.”

Most of the hard work was done over the first three days, when Johnson sprinted to the lead. This tournament sported the best field assembled this year on the PGA Tour, but Johnson was far and away the top player this week.

“I definitely felt some nerves at the beginning of the day, but I made some good par-saves on the front nine and it gave me the momentum,” Johnson said. “I knew I was swinging it well but I just needed to give myself some chances, and I turned it on on the back nine.”

It was the eighth time in 16 events that Johnson has won when leading after 54 holes. The victory extended Johnson’s streak of winning at least one PGA Tour event to 12 consecutive seasons, dating to his rookie season in 2008, the longest active streak on the circuit.

McIlroy, who — along with Patrick Reed — played in the final group with Johnson, never got closer to the lead than two strokes early in the round as he forged a seven-birdie, three-bogey round. Any chance McIlroy had to make a run at Johnson died after bogeys on the fourth and sixth holes.

“I played good this week, and if someone would have told me beginning the tournament that I would shoot 16 under I probably would have taken it,” said McIlroy, who recorded his fourth straight top-five finish.

“Some weeks a guy just plays better than you and that’s what happened,” added McIlroy, who is a combined 56-under-par in his first four starts of the year. “DJ had a four-shot lead going out there today and then shot a five-under, and (when that happens) you are not getting beaten. He was so impressive over the weekend and definitely deserved to win.”

Johnson began the final 18 holes at 16 under and well clear of McIlroy. Reed, Patrick Cantlay, Australia’s Cameron Smith and Spain’s Sergio Garcia were seven shots back of Johnson at 9 under to start the day. No one in that group made any kind of real charge, and Johnson rolled to the win.

Cantlay, Garcia, and Smith all shot 70s on Sunday and finished in a tie for sixth at 10 under. Reed shot 73, finishing in a tie for 14th at 7 under.

Justin Thomas had the week’s best round with a 62 on Sunday that allowed him to move up 28 spots to a solo ninth at 9 under. He started the day on the back nine at 16 shots behind Johnson and missed a 14-foot birdie to fall one short of the course record, which was set by Thomas in the last year’s third round.

“I was hitting [the] driver everywhere,” Thomas said. “I felt like I was driving it well enough to where I could create a significant advantage for myself. I was just trying to go as low as I could to finish as high as I could. I knew I obviously had zero chance to win the golf tournament.”

Tiger Woods, playing competitively in Mexico this week for the first time, managed a 69 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 10th at 8 under along with Joost Luiten (64) of the Netherlands, Keegan Bradley (65), and David Lipsky (69).

The 34-year-old Johnson became one of six players since 1966 to win 20 times on the PGA Tour before turning 35, joining Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Woods and Phil Mickelson.

“To get 20 wins out here is very difficult, and to do it before I turn 35 is pretty incredible,” Johnson said. “This is a big win for me and it gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year.”

Johnson joined Woods as the only players to win the same WGC event three times. It was his sixth WGC title, putting him just 12 behind Woods. Johnson is the only player to win all four WGC events.

The PGA Tour returns to the United States next week for the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Thomas is the defending champion of the event.

–Field Level Media

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Trainer takes Puerto Rico Open for 1st PGA win

Trainer takes Puerto Rico Open for 1st PGA win

Trainer takes Puerto Rico Open for 1st PGA win

Martin Trainer finished his final round with a 5-under 67 on a windy day at Coco Beach Golf and Country Club to win the Puerto Rico Open on Sunday, the 27-year-old’s first career PGA Tour victory.

The PGA Tour rookie completed his four rounds at 15-under 273 to best four others by three strokes, firing four birdies over the final 10 holes to pull away from the pack. Trainer, who earned $540,000 with the win, earned a spot on the Tour this season by finishing fourth on the Web.com money list in 2018.

Australia’s Aaron Baddeley led after three rounds, but his final-day 72 dropped him into a second-place tie at 12 under with Daniel Berger (66), Canada’s Roger Sloan (67) and Johnson Wagner (69). Defending champion D.A. Points shot a 69 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 42nd.

–Field Level Media

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Former DE Bryant waiting for kidney transplant

Former DE Bryant waiting for kidney transplant

Former NFL defensive end

Former DE Bryant waiting for kidney transplant

Former NFL defensive end Armonty Bryant disclosed he has end stage renal failure, is undergoing dialysis and needs a kidney transplant.

In a lengthy interview with Michael Rothstein of ESPN, Bryant, a seventh-round draft pick by Cleveland in 2013, described how he learned of the disease.

He signed with Oakland last spring after he was cut by the Detroit Lions. He spent three seasons with the Browns, then parts of two years with the Lions, who cut him following his third suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

After a physical with the Raiders, team doctors called and told him to go to the emergency room after reviewing the results of his blood test. He had an elevated potassium level and at the ER, his blood pressure was almost 200.

He eventually was diagnosed with kidney disease. The Raiders released him last May with a non-football illness designation and he announced his retirement in July.

“They say the kidney is a silent killer,” Bryant said. “It’s true because I can tell you right now, I had nothing wrong with me. I had a little back issues, but that’s about it. I never thought that this could end my career, basically.”

Bryant, 28, is awaiting a transplant at home in San Diego. He has the support of the local John Brockington Foundation, named for the former Green Bay Packers running back who also needed a transplant.

Brockington received a kidney in 2001 from his wife, Diane, before they were married. Diane Brockington said they have spoken to Bryant and his wife.

“We tried to instill hope, because that is the single thing they need most at that stage and it’s not a false hope,” Diane said. “So I think we kept saying what we like to say, ‘Believe that there is a kidney transplant in your future. There is a kidney for you. It’s a matter of locating it.'”

Bryant had 11.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 36 career NFL games.

–Field Level Media

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Bucs’ playbook safe despite theft of player’s tablet

Bucs' playbook safe despite theft of player's tablet

Bucs’ playbook safe despite theft of player’s tablet

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took fast action to disable potential access to their playbook when a player’s team-issued tablet was stolen from his car.

Running back Peyton Barber, who was visiting Atlanta, told police his SUV was broken into early Saturday morning. His tablet, passport and other items were taken, according to Atlanta police.

Police said there was playbook information on the tablet, but the Buccaneers told WSB-TV that only videos were on it.

“We were able to remotely disable the Surface tablet once we were informed. There was no playbook info on the computer, just some self scout videos, etc… nothing of much importance, ” the team statement said.

Barber, an Alpharetta, Ga., native, was in Atlanta Friday night to visit a friend. His SUV was one of several vehicles broken into Saturday morning, police said, adding surveillance video showed five men committing the acts.

The Buccaneers signed Barber as an undrafted free agent from Auburn in 2016. In three seasons, he has gained 1,751 yards from scrimmage and scored 10 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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AAF roundup: Richardson’s 3 TDs lead Iron to 3-0 start

AAF roundup: Richardson's 3 TDs lead Iron to 3-0 start

AAF roundup: Richardson’s 3 TDs lead Iron to 3-0 start

Trent Richardson rushed for three touchdowns, doubling his season total, and the visiting Birmingham Iron moved to 3-0 with a 28-12 victory over the Atlanta Legends on Sunday.

A 2012 first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns who last played in the NFL in 2014, Richardson had 17 carries for 46 yards with scores of 5, 1 and 6 yards. He is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry (59 carries, 145 yards) through three weeks of play, but his six rushing TDs lead the league by four.

Iron quarterback Luis Perez, who went undrafted in 2018 out of Texas A&M-Commerce and spent training camp with the Los Angeles Rams, finished 17 of 31 for 160 yards and an interception. Birmingham and Orlando, both 3-0 atop the East Division, are the AAF’s only undefeated teams.

Legends signal-caller Matt Simms, formerly of the New York Jets, went 28 for 48 for 328 yards, a touchdown and three picks. Atlanta joined Memphis as the only winless teams through three weeks.

Fleet 31, Commanders 11

Ja’Quan Gardner capped a string of 28 consecutive San Diego points with an 83-yard touchdown run, the longest play in the AAF’s three-week history, helping secure a 31-11 victory over visiting San Antonio.

An undrafted Humboldt State product who spent training camp with the San Francisco 49ers last fall, Gardner finished with 122 yards on 12 carries. He leads the AAF in rushing (281) by 93 yards, and his 8.0 per-carry average is nearly double that of any other back with at least 30 carries.

San Antonio intercepted San Diego’s Philip Nelson on the game’s first play, and Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside hit wideout Mekale McKay for a 47-yard score on the second play, but it all went south from there. Woodside, a 2018 seventh-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals out of Toledo, finished 12 of 23 for 151 yards, the touchdown and two interceptions, including a 27-yard pick-six to linebacker A.J. Tarpley.

Tarpley, a former Buffalo Bills linebacker who retired due to concussions after one season, is trying to get back to the NFL after three years away from the sport.

–Field Level Media

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Raiders WR Brown attends practice

Raiders WR Brown attends practice

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown

Raiders WR Brown attends practice

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown showed up to work Monday as his search for a suitable helmet continues.

Multiple outlets reported that Brown attended team meetings, although a walk-through practice was apparently canceled.

His attendance came the day after Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said it was time for the All-Pro wideout “to be all-in or all-out.”

Brown has had only one full-speed practice this preseason, in part because he was recovering from foot blisters caused by a cryotherapy mishap and lately because of his helmet issue.

His old helmet is no longer approved for NFL use because it is more than 10 years old, and when Brown used social media to find a newer version of his favored model — the Schutt AiR Advantage — it failed NFL testing.

Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Get Up! on Monday that his client “wants to be part of the team, he wants to practice, but he’d also like to do it with the helmet he’s worn his entire life.”

“He’s a wide receiver. He gets hit across the middle. People are trying to take his head off,” Rosenhaus said. “He’s a big target. You talk about how many catches he’s had over the last six years, for example, this is his life. He’s risking everything. He’s got a family. He’s had a concussion before. This helmet has kept him safe. He’s had brutal hits.

“We’re just trying to find a way to work it out. We’ve worked very closely with the Raiders, we’ve worked very closely with the NFL, but I hope people can appreciate, this is not a simple issue. The helmet is the most important piece of equipment and he’s had the same one every single snap he’s played in his football career. This is a major issue for him.”

The Raiders acquired the seven-time Pro Bowl selection from the Pittsburgh Steelers in a trade in March and later signed him to a three-year, $50.125 million contract.

Brown, 31, caught at least 100 passes and exceeded 1,200 receiving yards in each of the past six seasons with the Steelers. He has appeared in 130 games with Pittsburgh from 2010-18, catching 837 passes for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Raiders WR Brown attends practice

Reports: Raiders WR Brown attends practice

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio

Reports: Raiders WR Brown attends practice

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown showed up to work Monday as his search for a suitable helmet continues.

Multiple outlets reported that Brown attended team meetings, although a walk-through practice was apparently canceled.

His attendance came the day after Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said it was time for the All-Pro wideout “to be all-in or all-out.”

Brown has had only one full-speed practice this preseason, in part because he was recovering from foot blisters caused by a cryotherapy mishap and lately because of his helmet issue.

His old helmet is no longer approved for NFL use because it is more than 10 years old, and when Brown used social media to find a newer version of his favored model — the Schutt AiR Advantage — it failed NFL testing.

Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Get Up! on Monday that his client “wants to be part of the team, he wants to practice, but he’d also like to do it with the helmet he’s worn his entire life.”

“He’s a wide receiver. He gets hit across the middle. People are trying to take his head off,” Rosenhaus said. “He’s a big target. You talk about how many catches he’s had over the last six years, for example, this is his life. He’s risking everything. He’s got a family. He’s had a concussion before. This helmet has kept him safe. He’s had brutal hits.

“We’re just trying to find a way to work it out. We’ve worked very closely with the Raiders, we’ve worked very closely with the NFL, but I hope people can appreciate, this is not a simple issue. The helmet is the most important piece of equipment and he’s had the same one every single snap he’s played in his football career. This is a major issue for him.”

The Raiders acquired the seven-time Pro Bowl selection from the Pittsburgh Steelers in a trade in March and later signed him to a three-year, $50.125 million contract.

Brown, 31, caught at least 100 passes and exceeded 1,200 receiving yards in each of the past six seasons with the Steelers. He has appeared in 130 games with Pittsburgh from 2010-18, catching 837 passes for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Agent says WR Brown will rejoin Raiders ‘soon’

Agent says WR Brown will rejoin Raiders 'soon'

Agent Drew Rosenhaus

Agent says WR Brown will rejoin Raiders ‘soon’

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said wide receiver Antonio Brown will rejoin the Oakland Raiders soon.

“I do think he’s going to be back soon,” Rosenhaus said on ESPN’s Get Up! program. “We’re looking into any and all options right now to resolve the helmet issue. Antonio is very genuine. He wants to be there, he wants to be part of the team, he wants to practice, but he’d also like to do it with the helmet he’s worn his entire life.”

The agent’s remarks came one day after Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said it was time for the All-Pro wideout “to be all-in or all-out.”

Brown was a full participant in the team’s walkthrough on Saturday, but he has had only one full-speed practice, in part because he was recovering from foot blisters caused by a cryotherapy mishap and lately because of the helmet issue.

His old helmet is no longer approved for NFL use because it is more than 10 years old, and when Brown used social media to find a newer version of his favored model — the Schutt AiR Advantage — it failed NFL testing.

“He’s a wide receiver. He gets hit across the middle. People are trying to take his head off,” Rosenhaus said. “He’s a big target. You talk about how many catches he’s had over the last six years, for example, this is his life. He’s risking everything. He’s got a family. He’s had a concussion before. This helmet has kept him safe. He’s had brutal hits.

“We’re just trying to find a way to work it out. We’ve worked very closely with the Raiders, we’ve worked very closely with the NFL, but I hope people can appreciate, this is not a simple issue. The helmet is the most important piece of equipment and he’s had the same one every single snap he’s played in his football career. This is a major issue for him.”

The Raiders acquired the seven-time Pro Bowl selection from the Pittsburgh Steelers in a trade in March and later signed him to a three-year, $50.125 million contract.

Brown, 31, caught at least 100 passes and exceeded 1,200 receiving yards in each of the past six seasons with the Steelers. He has appeared in 130 games with Pittsburgh from 2010-18, catching 837 passes for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Report: CBA talks resume, playoff expansion front and center

Report: CBA talks resume, playoff expansion front and center

Report: CBA talks resume, playoff expansion front and center

Playoff expansion is front and center as the NFL and the Players Association resume talks geared toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, NFL Network reported Monday.

The addition of one playoff team from each conference has been discussed before, but could become reality as owners consider ways to maintain profit margins while also eliminating at least one week of preseason games.

Currently, each team has two home games each preseason. With season-ticket holder and personal seat license sales counting toward attendance, the gate for home teams at those two games is considerable.

Some owners support expanding the regular season to 17 or 18 weeks from 16.

There is also growing support for boosting the playoff field by one team in each conference, per NFL Network.

The existing CBA expires in March 2021, but commissioner Roger Goodell said there is momentum on both sides to agree to a new deal before the start of the NFL’s 100th season on Sept. 5.

Scheduling might not be an easy bridge to cross in negotiations considering player-safety initiatives during the lifespan of the current CBA. An even greater challenge would appear to be the players insisting on a greater take of revenues from the current allotment of 47 percent.

–Field Level Media

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Flores: Dolphins QB competition still open

Flores: Dolphins QB competition still open

Flores: Dolphins QB competition still open

Ryan Fitzpatrick gets the start for the Miami Dolphins this week, but head coach Brian Flores claims that decision is not an indication of his plans for Week 1 of the regular season.

Fitzpatrick was deemed to be ahead of Josh Rosen entering the preseason, but neither quarterback has separated himself through two games.

“I’m going to put the guy who will help us win, who we feel will give us the best chance to win games,” Flores said.

The third preseason game often is used as a dress rehearsal of sorts, testing starters against starters to prepare for opening weekend of the regular season on Sept. 8.

Fitzpatrick is expected to start Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars and play into the second half before giving way to Rosen, Flores said.

“I would say we’re going into every game trying to evaluate every player on the team,” Flores said on Monday. “I know this is the third preseason game, and the thought is this is the dress rehearsal for regular season game No. 1. In a lot of ways, it is that. But every game is important to me.”

Rosen is 23 of 38 (60.5 percent) for 293 yards and one interception. He has been sacked five times. When asked on Monday where Rosen needed to improve, Flores called him out for holding onto the ball.

Fitzpatrick is 5 of 14 (35.7 percent) for 40 yards with a long completion of 14 yards.

The Dolphins signed the 36-year-old Fitzpatrick in the offseason. They also traded for the 22-year-old Rosen, who was a first-round draft pick by Arizona in 2018. He became expendable when the Cardinals took quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.

–Field Level Media

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AAF roundup: Hackenberg benched, Apollos top Express

AAF roundup: Hackenberg benched, Apollos top Express

AAF roundup: Hackenberg benched, Apollos top Express

The Orlando defense forced Christian Hackenberg to the bench with two first-half interceptions, and the offense did enough for the Apollos to hold off the visiting Memphis Express 21-17 on Saturday night.

Memphis coach Mike Singletary pulled Hackenberg — the 2016 second-round pick of the New York Jets — at halftime in favor of Zach Mettenberger, who made 10 starts for the Tennessee Titans from 2014-15. Hackenberg finished 8 of 14 for 88 yards and the two picks, plus another would-be interception that was dropped.

Mettenberger rallied the Express to make it close, going 9 of 12 for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Sherman Badie also turned heads with eight carries for 59 yards for Memphis, which fell to 0-3.

Orlando quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who played briefly for the Carolina Panthers in 2018, finished 14 of 28 for 207 yards and a 37-yard touchdown to Rannell Hall. Wideout Charles Johnson, a former Minnesota Viking, continued his strong play with three grabs for 53 yards for the Apollos, who moved to 3-0.

Stallions 23, Hotshots 15

Quarterback Josh Woodrum threw for 178 yards and a touchdown as Salt Lake City earned its first win, beating visiting Arizona.

Woodrum, a Liberty product who has been on six NFL rosters since going undrafted in 2016, finished 22 of 31, with a 15-yard score to wideout De’Mornay Pierson-El in the second quarter. Pierson-El, who signed briefly with the Washington Redskins last spring before playing in the CFL, caught all eight of his targets for 90 yards. Running back Branden Oliver, who previously played for the San Diego and Los Angeles Chargers, added 40 rushing yards and a touchdown.

John Wolford struggled at quarterback for Arizona, going 14 of 22 for 127 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Trevor Knight, the former Oklahoma and Texas A&M quarterback, saw time as well, going 7 of 16 for 85 yards. Former Washington Redskins wideout Rashad Ross continued his strong play with six catches for 51 yards and a 1-yard score, but the Hotshots fell to 2-1.

–Field Level Media

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Baddeley holds third-round lead at Puerto Rico Open

Baddeley holds third-round lead at Puerto Rico Open

Baddeley holds third-round lead at Puerto Rico Open

Australia’s Aaron Baddeley fired a six-under-par 66 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the Puerto Rico Open at Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.

Baddeley’s 12-under 204 total is one stroke better than Nate Lashley and two ahead of Martin Trainer, who both shots 69s. Baddeley has six birdies during a bogey-free round. Lashley, who was among three co-leaders entering the day had an eagle, four birdies and three bogeys. Trainer had five birdies — including three in his last four holes — and two bogeys.

Defending champion D.A. Points is tied for 50th at 1 under. He shot 72 on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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Johnson takes 4-shot lead into WGC’s final round

Johnson takes 4-shot lead into WGC's final round

Johnson takes 4-shot lead into WGC’s final round

Dustin Johnson fired a 5-under-par 66 on Saturday and built a four-stroke lead after the third round at the WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City.

Johnson is at 16-under 197 and well in front of Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who had seven birdies and four bogeys on his card in the third round for a 68, good for second. Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay, Australia’s Cameron Smith and Spain’s Sergio Garcia are tied for third, seven shots back of Johnson at 9 under.

Reed fashioned a third-round best 7-under 64 on Saturday while Cantlay carded a 65, Smith finished with a 68, and Garcia birdied the last hole to end up with a 69. Reed will be in the final group with Johnson and McIlroy on Sunday.

Johnson still has not made a bogey this week through 54 holes, but a double bogey on the 10th hole showed that he is indeed human and slowed his march to this title, if only for one hole.

“I played really well on the front nine even though I missed some putt, but on 10, I misjudged the lie a little bit and it jumped straight up in the air and hit the tree and I ended up making double,” Johnson said. “I didn’t let it bother me because I knew I was playing well and I knew that there were still plenty of holes I could make birdie on coming down the stretch.”

Johnson also had an eagle on the par-4 second hole, when he drove the green and made a 4-foot putt. He had birdies on the fifth, 11th, 12th and, after a wonderful pitch, on the 15th. He also birdied No. 17.

“I feel good just about everywhere,” Johnson told Golf Channel, when asked about the state of his game. “I’m doing everything well. These green here are pretty tricky and I keep giving myself opportunities to make birdies. Maybe I will take advantage of a couple more of those on Sunday.”

If there is a horse for the course this week, it’s Johnson, who has two top-10 finishes in two starts in this event and won this championship in 2017.

Johnson had the 36-hole lead at 11 under, two strokes over first-round leader McIlroy and Matt Kuchar. Tommy Fleetwood of England started the third round three shots off the pace and Garcia was four back.

Kuchar on Saturday stumbled to a 79 — he had five bogeys and three double bogeys on his card — while playing in the final group with Johnson and McIlroy. He has a 54-hole total of 212, 15 shots behind Johnson.

Ian Poulter of England (69) and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (68) are tied for seventh at 8 under.

Fleetwood (72) never got anything going, ending the round tied for ninth at 6 under.

Tiger Woods had an up-and-down round, settling for a 70 that featured six birdies, three bogeys and double bogey. Woods needed 35 putts in the round, just two shy of his all-time high of 37 in a PGA Tour round. He’s among the four players tied for ninth at 207, 10 shots off Johnson’s lead.

McIlroy had a slow start — he was six shots off Johnson’s lead after eight holes — but played the final 10 holes in 4 under.

“I hung in there because I didn’t hit the ball as well as I did the first couple of days,” McIlroy explained. “I kept myself in some sort of touch with D.J., which I had to work to do. The course is getting rather difficult out there, it’s getting bouncy, and it’s going to be tough out there [Sunday] if it remains dry like this and it gets even firmer and faster.”

Four players in the last 50 years have won 20 times on the PGA Tour before turning 35: Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Woods and Phil Mickelson. Johnson can join them if he can finish off things on Sunday. It would take an epic collapse for him, or a torrid round by McIlroy, not to get the job done in the final round.

Johnson has won seven of 15 times he’s held a 54-hole lead in his PGA Tour career. He said he will approach Sunday’s final round with the same strategy he had the first three days.

“There are a lot of great players behind me and I am going to have to go out and shoot a great score [Sunday] if I want to win,” Johnson said. “It should be a lot of fun.”

–Field Level Media

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Johnson takes commanding lead into WGC’s final round

Johnson takes commanding lead into WGC's final round

Johnson takes commanding lead into WGC’s final round

Dustin Johnson fired a 5-under-par 66 on Saturday and built a four-stroke lead after the third round of play at the WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City.

Johnson is at 16-under and well in front of Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who had seven birdies and four bogeys on his card in the third round to sit in second. Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay, Australia’s Cameron Smith and Spain’s Sergio Garcia are tied for third, seven shots back of Johnson at 9-under.

Reed fashioned a third-round best 7-under 64 on Saturday while Cantlay carded a 65, Smith finished with a 68, and Garcia birdied the last hole to end up with a 69. Reed will be in the final group with Johnson and McIlroy on Sunday.

Johnson still has not made a bogey this week through 54 holes, but a double bogey on the 10th hole showed that he is indeed human and slowed his march to this title, if only for one hole.

Johnson also had an eagle on the par-4 second hole, when he drove the green and made a 4-foot putt. He had birdies on the fifth, 11th, 12th, 15th holes and 17th holes

If there is a horse for the course this week, it’s Johnson, who has two top-10 finishes in two starts in this event and won this championship in 2017.

Johnson had the 36-hole lead at 11 under, two strokes over first-round leader McIlroy and Matt Kuchar. Tommy Fleetwood of England started the third round three shots off the pace and Garcia was four back.

Kuchar struggles to a 79 – he had five bogeys and three double bogeys on his card – while playing in the final group with Johnson and McIlroy.

Ian Poulter of England (69) and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (68) are tied for seventh at 8-under.

Fleetwood (72) never got anything going, ending the round tied for ninth at 6-under.

Tiger Woods had an up-and-down round, settling for a 70 that featured six birdies, three bogeys and double bogey. Woods needed 35 putts in the round, just two short of his all-time high of 37 in a PGA Tour round. He’s among the four players tied for ninth, nine shots off Johnson’s lead.

Four players in the last 50 years have won 20 times on the PGA Tour before turning 35: Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Woods, and Phil Mickelson. Johnson can join them if he can finish off things on Sunday. It would take an epic collapse for him, or a torrid round by McIlroy, not to get the job done in the final round.

–Field Level Media

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Buccaneers WR Evans (leg) misses practice

Buccaneers WR Evans (leg) misses practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans did not practice

Buccaneers WR Evans (leg) misses practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans did not practice Monday due to an apparent leg injury.

The Tampa Bay Times said the two-time Pro Bowl selection grabbed his left leg after catching a deep ball during Sunday’s practice.

Evans played a total of 20 snaps in the Bucs’ first two preseason contests, but his availability for Friday’s game against the Cleveland Browns is in question.

Evans, who turns 26 on Wednesday, is coming off his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season. He broke the single-season Tampa Bay record with 1,524 receiving yards in 2018.

Named to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2018, the 2014 first-round draft pick (seventh overall) signed a five-year, $82.5 million extension in March 2018.

–Field Level Media

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