The Latest: Thomas makes impact for Texans against old team

The Latest on Week 9 in the NFL (all times EST):

4:40 p.m.

Houston didn’t waste time getting Demaryius Thomas the ball in his Texans debut against his old team.

The standout receiver turned a screen pass into a 31-yard gain on Houston’s fourth play of the game and he had an 18-yard reception on the next snap against the Denver Broncos.

His two catches for 49 yards set up a touchdown pass to Jordan Thomas.

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4:14 p.m.

Julio Jones’ touchdown drought is done.

The Atlanta Falcons wide receiver caught a 35-yard scoring pass from Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins, dragging safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on the way into the end zone. His score helped Atlanta beat Washington 38-14

It was Jones’ first touchdown since Nov. 26, 2017. He had played in 12 games since his previous score.

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4:04 p.m.

The Washington Redskins’ banged-up offensive line got a break with the return of Morgan Moses against Atlanta. Or, maybe not. The right tackle returned in the second quarter after limping off the field in the first. Moses was then called for holding, negating a 28-yard gain that would have put Washington in position to attempt a field goal.

Washington lost left guard Shawn Lauvao to an injured left knee on its first drive against the Falcons. The Redskins started the game without Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams after he had surgery on his right thumb. Lauvao was taken to the locker room in a wheelchair.

Atlanta was leading 38-14 late in the game.

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3:50 p.m.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seemed to survive a scare.

Roethlisberger went down after landing hard on the field after a sprint from the pocket, but was able to return after being out briefly. He was tackled from behind by Baltimore’s Za’Darius Smith and remained prone for a lengthy stretch of time. It appeared he landed hard on his shoulder, but appeared OK after being helped off the field.

The play occurred early in the fourth quarter with Pittsburgh leading the Ravens 20-13. Josh Dobbs came in to play quarterback for one play before Big Ben returned. Not long after that, Roethlisberger completed a 51-yard pass to Jesse James.

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3:40 p.m.

The Denver Broncos are going to honor former receiver Demaryius Thomas with a video tribute before their game with Thomas’ new team, the Houston Texans.

Thomas returned to Denver five days after his trade to Houston.

The Broncos also put a “Thank you, D.T.” message on the 10-story high poster of Thomas that graces the south side of Mile High Stadium.

The message was right above the tunnel where the Texans’ buses pulled into the stadium.

—Arnie Stapleton reporting from Denver.

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3:05 p.m.

Patrick Mahomes is lighting up the scoreboard again.

Kansas City’s quarterback had three touchdown passes early in the third quarter at Cleveland. Mahomes has 29 TD passes this season, one shy of the team record set by Hall of Famer Len Dawson in 1964.

Mahomes threw a 50-yard TD pass to Kareem Hunt and an 11-yarder to Travis Kelce in the first half. He hooked up again with Kelce on a 13-yarder early in second half.

By halftime, he had more yards passing (3,042) and touchdown passes (28) in his first 10 career games than any other player in league history since 1950.

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2:47 p.m.

Dalvin Cook has made an immediate impact for the Minnesota Vikings in his return to action after missing five of the past six games because of a hamstring injury.

The second-year running back had a career-long, 70-yard run in the second quarter against Detroit. That set up a short touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen. Cook has eight carries for 86 yards in the first half against the Lions, who are last in the league in run defense.

Defensive end Ziggy Ansah is back for the Lions after a six-game absence because of a shoulder injury. He sacked Cousins in the closing seconds of the second quarter to force a field goal. The Vikings lead early in the third quarter.

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2:30 p.m.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has scored for the ninth time, setting a franchise record for touchdowns through the first eight games in a year.

His latest touchdown came on a 6-yard throw from Ben Roethlisberger, who threw a screen to him and watched as he made a move to get the space he needed to get into the end zone in the second quarter.

Brown also made a spectacular catch in the first half against the Baltimore Ravens, but his leaping grab didn’t count because he was out of bounds.

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2:09 p.m.

James Conner continues to do a fantastic job filling in for Le’Veon Bell.

Pittsburgh’s breakout running back scored his 10th touchdown on a 7-yard catch in the first quarter at Baltimore. Since 1950, no one has scored more touchdowns for the Steelers through eight games than Conner. He has made the most of his opportunity to play for Bell, who hasn’t signed his one-year franchise tender.

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1:42 p.m.

The Washington Redskins are missing most of their starting offensive linemen just minutes into their game against Atlanta.

Washington lost left guard Shawn Lauvao to an injured left knee on its first drive and right tackle Morgan Moses to an injured right knee on its second possession. The Redskins started the game without Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams after he had surgery on his right thumb.

Lauvao was taken to the locker room in a wheelchair. Moses limped off the field. Both were listed as questionable to return.

The Redskins were behind Falcons 7-0 late in the first quarter.

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1:22 p.m.

Former NFL receiver Steve Smith has shared a secret.

He acknowledged on the NFL Network he left his Carolina Panthers’ playbook for his new team, the Baltimore Ravens, to find when he was released in 2013. It’s not unusual for players to share secrets about their former team after being released or waived, but it is difficult to recall anyone talking about it publicly.

“When I came in I had the playbook and said, ‘It will be on my desk and what you do with it is on you,'” Smith recalled.

Smith said the playbook was missing from his locker for a couple of days before it was returned and he took it home. Smith said he had a copy of the Panthers’ playbook because it was given to him by another player who was cut a couple years before he was released by the team. Smith said he thought the playbook might be helpful if he got into coaching after his playing career.

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1 p.m.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is wearing custom cleats emblazoned with a Star of David, adorned with the phrase “Stronger Than Hate,” in response to recent shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. The Star of David is in yellow and serves as the upper part of the Steelers logo.

Roethlisberger and his wife are friends of Michele Rosenthal, a former team employee. Two of Rosenthal’s brothers were among the 11 killed in the late-October shooting.

___

12:46 p.m.

The surging Pittsburgh Steelers and the slumping Baltimore Ravens are among the NFL teams kicking off Week 9.

The AFC North-leading Steelers (4-2-1) are aiming for their fourth straight win on the road against the division rival Ravens (4-4), who have lost three of four.

Gregg Williams has a challenging debut as Cleveland’s interim head coach as the Browns (2-5-1) host the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs, who are a conference-best 7-1.

A pair of games later in the day, and night, should attract a lot of attention.

The undefeated Los Angeles Rams travel to face the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints, who have lost only once. Under the lights in New England, Tom Brady will match up with the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Panthers offered $120M to move facility to S.C.

Panthers offered $120M to move facility to S.C.

The Carolina Panthers will receive $120 million in tax breaks if they move

Panthers offered $120M to move facility to S.C.

The Carolina Panthers will receive $120 million in tax breaks if they move their facility to South Carolina, after the state’s Senate approved a bill Thursday by a 27-15 vote.

Under the bill, which Gov. Henry McMaster is expected to sign, the Panthers would be exempt from paying state income taxes for players, coaches and other employees for 15 years, assuming that money is used toward a new complex in South Carolina.

Currently based in Charlotte, N.C., the team has been planning a 200-acre development in Rock Hill, S.C., about 25 miles south of its current facilities next to Bank of America Stadium. The development plans include expansive football facilities as part of a broader campus with hotels, shopping and restaurants.

The bill was supported by McMaster, but many senators pushed back against the idea of giving public funds to a team owned by David Tepper, whose net worth is estimated at $11.6 billion.

“We’d like to be there. Hopefully they help us out there,” Tepper told reporters Wednesday of the potential facility in Rock Hill. “But I could be with a (practice) bubble and a cafeteria in Charlotte, too. So it’s up to them.”

Now the path appears clear for the Panthers to proceed with the planned move, which is not expected until at least 2022. The team will continue to play games at Bank of America Stadium, its home since its second season in 1996.

Tepper also told reporters Wednesday he hopes to bring a Major League Soccer team to the area eventually, potentially housing it on the same campus in Rock Hill.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Dolphins sign former Bills tackle Mills

Report: Dolphins sign former Bills tackle Mills

The Miami Dolphins are signing former

Report: Dolphins sign former Bills tackle Mills

The Miami Dolphins are signing former Buffalo Bills tackle Jordan Mills to a one-year, $3 million deal, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday.

Mills, 28, started all 48 games over the past three seasons and has appeared in 87 games with 82 starts for the Chicago Bears (2013-14) and Bills (2015-18).

Mills played 95.5 percent of Buffalo’s offensive snaps (1,011 total) at right tackle last season and was penalized five times — three for holding and two false starts.

He was a fifth-round draft pick by Chicago in 2013.

Mills offers veteran stability to a Miami offensive line that lost Ja’Wuan James to the Denver Broncos in free agency.

–Field Level Media

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Dolphins sign former Bills tackle Mills

Dolphins sign former Bills tackle Mills

The Miami Dolphins signed former Buffalo Bills

Dolphins sign former Bills tackle Mills

The Miami Dolphins signed former Buffalo Bills tackle Jordan Mills to a one-year deal Thursday, which ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports is worth $3 million.

Mills, 28, started all 48 games over the past three seasons and has appeared in 87 games with 82 starts for the Chicago Bears (2013-14) and Bills (2015-18).

Mills played 95.5 percent of Buffalo’s offensive snaps (1,011 total) at right tackle last season and was penalized five times — three for holding and two false starts.

He was a fifth-round draft pick by Chicago in 2013.

Mills offers veteran stability to a Miami offensive line that lost right tackle Ja’Wuan James to the Denver Broncos in free agency.

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars release QB Kessler

Jaguars release QB Kessler

Cody Kessler is looking

Jaguars release QB Kessler

Cody Kessler is looking for work after the Jacksonville Jaguars released the quarterback on Thursday.

Kessler, who turns 26 on Saturday, was 2-2 as a starter for Jacksonville last season. He completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 709 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

A third-round pick in 2016 by Cleveland, Kessler was 0-8 as a rookie starter for the Browns and was traded to the Jaguars during the 2018 offseason for a seventh-round pick.

Kessler and Blake Bortles were the only quarterbacks used by the Jaguars last season, and now both are gone.

Bortles was released in March after Jacksonville signed Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl hero Nick Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract.

Foles’ remaining backups on the roster are untested 2018 draft picks Tanner Lee (sixth round by Jacksonville) and Alex McGough (seventh round by Seattle).

–Field Level Media

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Reports: TE Watson to join Patriots

Reports: TE Watson to join Patriots

Reports: TE Watson to join Patriots

Tight end Benjamin Watson plans to end his short-lived retirement and sign with the team that drafted him, the New England Patriots, multiple media outlets reported Thursday.

According to ESPN, Watson will sign a one-year, $3 million deal. ESPN previously reported the tight end was also considering the Chiefs, Bills and 49ers.

Reports earlier Thursday said Watson was meeting with the Patriots, who took him 32nd overall in 2004. He played six seasons in New England, followed by three seasons in Cleveland.

Watson, 38, played four of his previous five seasons with the New Orleans Saints, including last season’s run to the NFC Championship Game.

He announced his retirement in December.

“It’s time. It’s time to be done,” he said then. “I’m going to finish strong.”

In his career, Watson has played in 195 games, with 530 receptions for 5,885 yards and 44 touchdowns. In 12 postseason games, he has 22 catches for 234 yards and three scores.

The Patriots were looking for depth at tight end following the retirement of All-Pro Rob Gronkowski. They previously added free agents Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Matt LaCosse, and they did not draft a tight end last month.

On Wednesday, the Patriots announced the release of wide receiver Bruce Ellington. He signed with New England as a free agent on March 15.

–Field Level Media

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Jags LB Smith to skip 2019 for personal reasons

Jags LB Smith to skip 2019 for personal reasons

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith said he

Jags LB Smith to skip 2019 for personal reasons

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith said he won’t play the 2019 season for personal reasons.

A full-time starter the past four seasons and a 2017 Pro Bowler, Smith made the announcement Thursday on Instagram.

“At this time I must take time away from this game & get my world in order,” Smith wrote. “I must give this time back to myself, my family, & my health. I appreciate all the support I will & will not get. I just ask y’all respect my decision to not play football this season.”

He also affirmed he doesn’t plan to play for any team other than the Jaguars, despite rumors of a possible trade.

Smith, 28, was set to earn a base salary of $9.75 million this season. He signed a four-year, $45 million extension in October 2017.

A fifth-round pick by Jacksonville in 2014, Smith posted a career-high 134 tackles in 2018. He also has 26 pass breakups and nine interceptions in his five-year career.

Smith and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey opted to sit out the Jaguars’ voluntary workouts last month, prompting public criticism from team executive vice president Tom Coughlin.

Smith made his first public comments about that controversy Monday during an Instagram live session.

“Understand this, I never left Duval. I’m never leaving Duval; it’s Duval ’til we die,” he said, referring to Jacksonville’s location in Duval County. “You understand me? Y’all seen trade rumors and stuff. Y’all seen me go anywhere? Exactly. Y’all seen the rumors go somewhere, but y’all ain’t seen me go nowhere cause I ain’t going nowhere. You understand me?”

Smith promised his followers Monday that they would learn more “this week” about what’s going on.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: TE Watson visiting Patriots

Reports: TE Watson visiting Patriots

Reports: TE Watson visiting Patriots

Tight end Benjamin Watson could end his short-lived retirement and is spending Thursday meeting with the New England Patriots, according to multiple reports.

Watson is no stranger to the organization, which made him the No. 32 overall selection in the 2004 NFL Draft. He played six seasons in New England, followed by three seasons in Cleveland.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday that Watson also is considering the Chiefs, Bills and 49ers.

Watson, 38, played four of his previous five seasons with the New Orleans Saints, including last season’s run to the NFC Championship Game.

He announced his retirement in December.

“It’s time. It’s time to be done,” he said then. “I’m going to finish strong.”

In his career, Watson has played in 195 games, with 530 receptions for 5,885 yards and 44 touchdowns. In 12 postseason games, he has 22 catches for 234 yards and three scores.

The Patriots are looking for depth at tight end following the retirement of All-Pro Rob Gronkowski.

On Wednesday, the Patriots announced the release of wide receiver Bruce Ellington. He signed with New England as a free agent on March 15.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: CB Taylor joins Seahawks

Reports: CB Taylor joins Seahawks

Cornerback Jamar Taylor agreed to a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks

Reports: CB Taylor joins Seahawks

Cornerback Jamar Taylor agreed to a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday, per multiple reports.

Taylor, a nickel cornerback, follows defensive end Ziggy Ansah as another potential value find deep into free agency.

Ansah, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft, was due in Seattle on Thursday to a sign a one-year deal that could be worth $8 million. However, Ansah is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and might not be cleared until August.

Taylor, 28, is a former second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins out of Boise State but has bounced around from Miami to the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos, where he ended last season.

The Seahawks lost cornerback Justin Coleman (Detroit Lions) in free agency.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Seahawks agree with DE Ansah

Reports: Seahawks agree with DE Ansah

Reports: Seahawks agree with DE Ansah

The Seattle Seahawks agreed to a one-year deal with free agent defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, multiple media outlets reported Wednesday evening.

Ansah is expected to fly to Seattle on Thursday to sign, according to ESPN.

NFL Network reported earlier Wednesday that Seattle was the front-runner to sign Ansah, adding that no agreement had been finalized and the Buffalo Bills remained interested.

Had a team signed Ansah before Wednesday, he would have factored into the compensatory-pick formula. By waiting, Seattle remains in line to get third-, fourth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks next year as compensation for losing Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman, Shamar Stephen and Brett Hundley, per OverTheCap.com.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane said earlier Wednesday on 1270 The Fan in Buffalo that the team was still in contact with Ansah, and that he wasn’t necessarily buying that the Seahawks were the favorite.

“We’re still in talks with him and his agent,” Beane said. “Everything has been very good. All I’ll say about reports is I don’t buy into that garbage, especially when I consider where some of the sourcing comes from.”

Ansah visited the Baltimore Ravens and then the Seahawks in late April, after meeting the Bills and the New Orleans Saints shortly after free agency opened in mid-March. Coming off of shoulder surgery after missing nine games in 2018, Ansah saw his market be slow to develop as teams monitored his health and recovery.

NFL Network reported last month he is expected to be cleared by mid-August.

Ansah, who will turn 30 on May 29, had four sacks and seven quarterback hits in seven games (two starts) while playing on the franchise tag for the Detroit Lions last season, after posting 12 and 17, respectively, in 2017. His best season came in 2015, when he had 14.5 sacks and 34 QB hits while earning his only Pro Bowl nod.

Drafted fifth overall by Detroit in 2013, Ansah has 48 sacks and 110 quarterback hits in six NFL seasons.

The Seahawks added defensive end L.J. Collier with the 29th overall pick in last month’s draft, but they needed help at the “leo” defensive end spot after trading Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: McVay opens up on Super Bowl loss

NFL notebook: McVay opens up on Super Bowl loss

NFL notebook: McVay opens up on Super Bowl loss

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay experienced paralysis by analysis in the days before his team lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.

McVay took responsibility for the 13-3 defeat in the immediate aftermath of the game, and he expounded upon his faults in an interview with Sports Illustrated published Wednesday.

“In the back of my mind, (when making the Super Bowl game plan back in L.A.), I operated knowing I had another week,” he said. “That urgency to completely finalize the game plan wasn’t quite there, and that led to me watching so much film that you can almost water down your thought process.”

“You have so much time that you can overprepare and get away from some of the things that helped you get there. I watched every game from New England’s season. You see stuff that worked in, say, Week 3, but you forget about the amount of stuff that’s taken place since Week 3. You can watch so much film that you lose perspective.”

–The Seattle Seahawks have emerged as the front-runner to sign free agent defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, NFL Network reported.

The report indicated no contract was finalized, adding that the Buffalo Bills remain interested after hosting Ansah for a visit in March.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane said on 1270 The Fan in Buffalo that the team is still in contact with Ansah, and that he isn’t necessarily buying that the Seahawks are the favorite.

–Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is paying the funeral expenses for Jaylon McKenzie, the promising eighth-grade football player killed by a stray bullet last weekend in Venice, Ill.

“For him to reach out to me was unbelievable,” McKenzie’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“Jaylon loved Ezekiel Elliott. He talked about him all the time. … For him to reach out to me and help me in this difficult time leaves me speechless.”

–The Carolina Panthers hired recently retired defensive end Julius Peppers as special assistant of business operations.

Team vice president of external affairs Steven Drummond said Peppers will have an office at the team facility and will be in the building several days a week.

–Former Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson said he is suffering from an autonomic disorder that contributed to his decision to step down after the 2017 season.

Thompson, 66, who was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame on Saturday, revealed his diagnosis on the Packers’ official website. He added that medical specialists do not believe he is suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

–Washington Redskins right guard Brandon Scherff said he is 90 percent recovered from a torn pectoral muscle and will be “ready to go” for training camp.

Scherff, 27, sustained the season-ending injury during a 38-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 4.

–Free agent running back Bilal Powell has been cleared to play after a career-threatening neck injury and is looking for an employer.

NFL Network reports Powell sent a letter to NFL teams to say he was “really looking forward to getting back to work.” The 30-year-old sustained a season-ending neck injury with the New York Jets in October and underwent surgery soon after.

–The Indianapolis Colts will induct defensive end Dwight Freeney into their Ring of Honor during a Nov. 10 game against the Miami Dolphins.

The date was confirmed on Twitter by team owner Jim Irsay, who announced Freeney’s selection last week.

–Kansas City signed longtime linebacker Derrick Johnson to a one-day contract so he could retire as a Chief.

Johnson, 36, played his first 13 seasons with the Chiefs, earning four Pro Bowl nods, before playing six games with the Oakland Raiders in 2018.

–Joe Thomas, a former All-Pro offensive tackle with the Cleveland Browns, joined the NFL Network in various on-air roles.

Thomas will be added to the network’s on-location pregame and postgame shows for 13 Thursday night games, as well as coverage of the Super Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine and the draft.

–The Philadelphia Eagles signed safety Blake Countess to a one-year extension, after claiming him off waivers from the Los Angeles Rams last week.

Countess was a restricted free agent but is now under contract through 2020. He was primarily a special teamer for the Rams.

–The New England Patriots waived/injured former Houston and Detroit wideout Bruce Ellington, who was signed in free agency in March.

Ellington caught 31 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown across seven games with the Texans and Lions in 2018.

–The New York Giants signed former Cowboys running back Rod Smith.

Smith had 129 touches for 631 yards and six touchdowns in four years with Dallas, the past three as a backup to Elliott.

–The Chicago Bears signed free agent linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, who last played for the Jets.

–Field Level Media

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After Masters’ bet, man goes big on Tiger to win Slam

After Masters' bet, man goes big on Tiger to win Slam

James

After Masters’ bet, man goes big on Tiger to win Slam

James Adducci, who took home $1.19 million on a bet when Tiger Woods won the Masters, is again putting his faith in the 15-time major champion.

Adducci took $100,000 of his winnings and placed it on Woods to take the title at all four majors this season, according to Golf Digest, which confirmed the bet through sports book operator William Hill U.S. Adducci placed the bet at SLS Casino in Las Vegas, the same sportsbook where he gambled $85,000 on Woods to win the Masters at 14-to-1 odds.

Adducci, a 39-year-old from Wisconsin, is getting 100-to-1 odds on Woods winning the Grand Slam, which would pay out $10 million.

The second leg of the Grand Slam, the PGA Championship, will be held next week at the Bethpage Black course in Farmingdale, N.Y., with the U.S. Open in June and the British Open in July. Woods is the betting favorite for the PGA Championship at 8-1, according to Westgate Sportsbook.

No golfer has ever won all four modern majors in the same season, although Woods held all four titles at the same time over the 2000 and 2001 seasons. The term Grand Slam was coined in 1930, when Bobby Jones won the British Open, U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and British Amateur.

–Field Level Media

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Cowboys’ Elliott pays funeral costs for slain eighth-grader

Cowboys' Elliott pays funeral costs for slain eighth-grader

Cowboys’ Elliott pays funeral costs for slain eighth-grader

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is paying the funeral expenses for Jaylon McKenzie, the promising eighth-grade football player killed by a stray bullet last weekend.

“For him to reach out to me was unbelievable,” McKenzie’s mother, Sukeena Gunner, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“Jaylon loved Ezekiel Elliott. He talked about him all the time. When Ezekiel was playing, he would sit in front of the TV. His eyes were glued to the TV, watching him. For him to reach out to me and help me in this difficult time leaves me speechless.”

McKenzie, 14, was featured in an article in Sports Illustrated last November titled: “Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports.”

He played running back, wide receiver and defensive back at Mason-Clark Middle School in East St. Louis, Ill., and already had Division I college offers from Missouri and Illinois.

Elliott has ties to the area, having played prep football at John Burroughs School in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue, Mo.

–Field Level Media

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Former All-Pro OT Thomas joins NFL Network

Former All-Pro OT Thomas joins NFL Network

Former All-Pro OT Thomas joins NFL Network

Joe Thomas, a former All-Pro offensive tackle with the Cleveland Browns, has joined the NFL Network in various on-air roles.

Thomas will be added to the network’s on-location pregame and postgame shows for 13 Thursday Night Football games this season, starting Sept. 13 when the Carolina Panthers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Thomas is also slated to appear on the NFL Network’s coverage of the Super Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine and the draft, as well as various daily programs.

“I am thrilled to join NFL Network and Thursday Night Football,” Thomas said in a statement. “Throughout my playing career, I quickly realized there are few events which can rival the excitement and action of primetime NFL games, and having the chance to be a part of that atmosphere each week is something I greatly look forward to.”

Thomas played 11 seasons with the Browns, earning 10 Pro Bowl invitations and six first-team All-Pro nods. He retired after the 2017 season.

The New York Post reported Wednesday that the NFL Network is being forced to cut $20 million out of its projected budget and has eliminated five shows. The network said it was shifting its programming based on a celebration of the NFL’s 100 season this year.

“As part of an increased investment in programming and content for 2019, NFL Network will unveil several shows geared towards a celebration of the NFL’s 100th season,” an NFL network spokesman, Alex Riethmiller, said in a statement to The Post. “These shows will replace a handful of existing shows from our 2018 schedule.”

–Field Level Media

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Report: Seahawks front-runner for DE Ansah

Report: Seahawks front-runner for DE Ansah

Report: Seahawks front-runner for DE Ansah

The Seattle Seahawks have emerged as the front-runner to sign free agent defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, NFL Network reported Wednesday.

The report says no contract is finalized, adding that the Buffalo Bills remain interested after hosting Ansah for a visit in March.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane said Wednesday on 1270 The Fan in Buffalo that the team is still in contact with Ansah, and that he isn’t necessarily buying that the Seahawks are the favorite.

“We’re still in talks with him and his agent,” Beane said. “Everything has been very good. All I’ll say about reports is I don’t buy into that garbage, especially when I consider where some of the sourcing comes from.”

Ansah visited the Baltimore Ravens and then the Seahawks in late April, after meeting the Bills and the New Orleans Saints shortly after free agency opened in mid-March. Coming off of shoulder surgery after missing nine games in 2018, Ansah’s market has been slow to develop as teams monitor his health and recovery. NFL Network reported last month he is expected to be cleared by mid-August.

Ansah, who will turn 30 on May 29, had four sacks and seven quarterback hits in seven games (two starts) while playing on the franchise tag for the Detroit Lions last season, after posting 12 and 17, respectively, in 2017. His best season came in 2015, when he had 14.5 sacks and 34 QB hits while earning his only Pro Bowl nod.

Drafted fifth overall by Detroit in 2013, Ansah has 48 sacks and 110 quarterback hits in six NFL seasons.

The Seahawks added defensive end L.J. Collier with the 29th overall pick in last month’s draft, but they could still use more help at the “leo” defensive end spot after trading Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs.

–Field Level Media

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Redskins G Scherff targets training camp return

Redskins G Scherff targets training camp return

Redskins G Scherff targets training camp return

Washington Redskins right guard Brandon Scherff said he is 90 percent recovered from a torn pectoral muscle and will be “ready to go” for training camp.

Scherff, 27, sustained the season-ending injury during a 38-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 4.

“I think it was just a fluke injury,” said Scherff, who competed in the Redskins Charity Golf Classic earlier this week. “My arm got caught in a weird position, and my pec popped. There’s nothing you can really train for that injury, but it’s all about getting stronger and eating healthier — I’ve been doing that a lot better — and just not worrying about (the injury). Just going out and playing football.”

Scherff was the Redskins’ first-round pick (fifth overall) in 2015 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017.

Before the injury, he had started 54 of a possible 56 games.

–Field Level Media

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Freeney to join Colts’ Ring of Honor on Nov. 10

Freeney to join Colts' Ring of Honor on Nov. 10

The Indianapolis Colts will induct defensive

Freeney to join Colts’ Ring of Honor on Nov. 10

The Indianapolis Colts will induct defensive end Dwight Freeney into their Ring of Honor during a Nov. 10 game against the Miami Dolphins.

The date was confirmed Wednesday on Twitter by team owner Jim Irsay, who announced Freeney’s selection last week.

A first-round pick (12th overall) by Indianapolis in 2002, Freeney played 163 games with the Colts from 2002-12. He earned three first-team All-Pro selections, made seven Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl championship during that tenure.

Freeney ranks second in franchise history in sacks (107.5) and forced fumbles (43).

Freeney becomes the 16th member of the Ring of Honor, a group that includes former teammates Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Edgerrin James and Jeff Saturday and former coach Tony Dungy.

–Field Level Media

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McVay regrets ‘overpreparing’ for Super Bowl

McVay regrets 'overpreparing' for Super Bowl

Head coach

McVay regrets ‘overpreparing’ for Super Bowl

Head coach Sean McVay experienced paralysis by analysis in the days before the Los Angeles Rams lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.

McVay took responsibility for the 13-3 loss in the immediate aftermath of the game and expounded upon his faults in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

“In the back of my mind, [when making the Super Bowl game plan back in L.A.], I operated knowing I had another week,” he said. “That urgency to completely finalize the game plan wasn’t quite there, and that led to me watching so much film that you can almost water down your thought process.”

“You have so much time that you can overprepare and get away from some of the things that helped you get there. I watched every game from New England’s season. You see stuff that worked in, say, Week 3, but you forget about the amount of stuff that’s taken place since Week 3. You can watch so much film that you lose perspective. You have 18 games of film you can pore over. And then I even watched the Philly and Atlanta Super Bowls closely.”

McVay said after the Super Bowl that he was outcoached, tipping his hat to Bill Belichick and the Patriots for a better plan and superior execution.

Los Angeles under McVay was No. 2 in scoring in the NFL in 2018.

McVay also told SI that he didn’t take enough time to absorb what it took to become NFC champions.

“I didn’t appreciate it,” McVay said. “I think there’s a lot to be said for the journey, and I appreciated what the season had entailed. But I could have appreciated the week and entirety of the event more. I kept myself kind of isolated because I didn’t want any distraction.”

–Field Level Media

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Ex-Packers GM Thompson reveals nerve disorder

Ex-Packers GM Thompson reveals nerve disorder

Former Green Bay Packers general

Ex-Packers GM Thompson reveals nerve disorder

Former Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson said Wednesday he is suffering from an autonomic disorder that contributed to his decision to step down after the 2017 season.

Thompson, 66, who was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame on Saturday, revealed his diagnosis on the Packers’ official website.

“I have been diagnosed with an autonomic disorder,” Thompson said. “I feel that it’s important to mention that based on the test results and opinions of medical specialists, they feel that I do not fit the profile of someone suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).”

Thompson played linebacker for the Houston Oilers for 10 seasons from 1975-84, appearing in 146 games.

He served as the Packers general manager from 2005-17, helping to build a roster that became a perennial playoff contender and won a championship in Super Bowl XLV following the 2010 season.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “autonomic nerve disorders (dysautonomia) refer to disorders of autonomic nervous system (ANS). … Symptoms are wide-ranging and can include problems with the regulation of heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, perspiration, and bowel and bladder functions. Other symptoms include fatigue, lightheadedness, feeling faint or passing out (syncope), weakness, and cognitive impairment.”

Thompson, whose current position with the Packers is senior advisor to football operations, thanked the organization for its support.

“The Green Bay community and the fans of the Packers have always been and will continue to be very special to me. It is my hope and belief that I will be able to overcome this disorder,” he wrote.

“Finally, I’d like to ask that you respect the privacy of myself and my family as we move forward.”

–Field Level Media

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Europe opts for three captain’s picks for 2020 Ryder Cup

Europe opts for three captain's picks for 2020 Ryder Cup

European Ryder Cup captain Padraig

Europe opts for three captain’s picks for 2020 Ryder Cup

European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington will use three wild card picks instead of four when his team defends the cup at next year’s event at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

Nine golfers for the European squad will qualify through the point system. Four will be chosen from points accumulated exclusively in European Tour events, with the next five coming from the World list, where points are gained for starts on any tour.

Europe won the 2018 event in Paris, when captain Thomas Bjorn made four at-large selections.

“I have said on many occasions that one of the reasons for recent European success in the Ryder Cup is continuity,” Harrington said via Golf Digest. “It is a theme that will be prevalent across my captaincy and I think you can see that in the overall qualification process for the 2020 team.

“Having said that, I am pleased that the (European Tour) tournament committee agreed to the change of wild card numbers. I have spoken to a number of people regarding the ninth player automatically qualifying for the team and, in my experience, a player is more comfortable when he has qualified, hence my reasoning behind this change.”

The 43rd Ryder Cup will be played on the Straits Course at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., from Sept. 25-27, 2020. The U.S. team, led by captain Steve Stricker, will use four captain’s picks.

–Field Level Media

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Panthers give retired Peppers an office job

Panthers give retired Peppers an office job

After years of pounding quarterbacks on

Panthers give retired Peppers an office job

After years of pounding quarterbacks on Sundays, Julius Peppers will punch the clock from Monday to Friday as the Carolina Panthers’ newest office hire.

The team announced Wednesday that they are giving the recently retired defensive end the title of special assistant, business operations.

“Julius is a special person and he will help us in a variety of ways,” Panthers vice president of external affairs Steven Drummond said. “His role is part special projects on the business side and part ambassadorship. We are giving him an opportunity to work in several parts of our business while also helping us engage and grow our business with fans and partners. He will be a tremendous asset.”

Drummond said Peppers will have an office at the team facility and will be in the building several days a week.

Peppers, 39, ranks fourth on the NFL’s all-time sacks chart with 159.5, including 97 during his 10 seasons with the Panthers (2002-09 and 2017-18).

The No. 2 overall pick by Carolina in the 2002 draft, Panthers also played for the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers during a 17-year career that included 11 interceptions, 52 forced fumbles and 266 games played. He made nine Pro Bowls and was a three-time first-team All-Pro.

–Field Level Media

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