Vikings’ decision to extend Kyle Rudolph reflects all-in mentality

He wore his feelings on his chest, donning a white hoodie with the phrase “Lots of Game Left” as he participated in voluntary workouts while uncertainty swirled around the status of his contract and his future in Minnesota.

Ahead of mandatory minicamp, the Vikings came back at Rudolph with a message just as poignant: The pursuit of our first Lombardi Trophy cannot happen without you.nfl jersey cheap wholesale china

The four-year, $36 million contract extension Rudolph signed on Tuesday is set to keep him in Minnesota through the 2023 season. The veteran tight end got what he wanted — to remain in the place where he started his career in 2011 on a deal in which he doesn’t feel like he’s shortchanging himself ($9 million of Rudolph’s new contract is fully guaranteed, a source told ESPN). The Vikings made out well on their end, too, not having to overpay or lock themselves long term into a player approaching the later years of his prime, with Rudolph’s extension also expected to free up $4 million in cap space, according to NFL Network.

The laborious work it took for both sides to get here finally paid off. Finding a way to keep Rudolph on this offense exemplifies a mentality that the Vikings are all-in for the 2019 season, backed by the support of an ownership group willing to pull out all the stops to make it happen.6

“It certainly embodies the win-now mentality,” Rudolph said. “But to me, it just embodies how much they (the Wilf family) care about winning, period. They came to this organization a little over 12 years ago with one goal and that was to win a championship. All the stuff that they’ve done since is falling in place with that goal. Certainly we want to win now — that’s not going to change. But with their leadership, they’re providing us with every resource imaginable to win now, but also to win for a long time.”wholesale jerseys cheap nfl

Rudolph is the third core veteran the Vikings retained this offseason when financial limitations felt like they would lead to dead ends. Keeping defensive end Everson Griffen, linebacker Anthony Barr and now Rudolph shows the belief this franchise has that it can get back to where it was in 2017, when this team reached its highest heights under this ownership, front office and coaching staff, standing one win away from a trip to the Super Bowl.

What the Vikings want to do offensively cannot happen without Rudolph on the roster. After the Vikings drafted Irv Smith Jr. with the 50th overall pick, general manager Rick Spielman noted how the use of multiple tight end sets can help this offense become harder to defend. Smith and Rudolph are completely different; one does not make the other obsolete. Keeping both of them, especially with the roles tight ends have played in Gary Kubiak’s offenses before and the concepts that coordinator Kevin Stefanski has voiced a desire to employ regularly, was critical for the success of this unit.

If the Vikings weren’t serious about the way they view Rudolph’s role as a necessary component to the success of this offense, they might have taken a gamble that they could have been just as successful without him. But the pressure that would put on Smith to perform immediately when rookie tight ends often face struggles might not be worth it.

Aaron Rodgers still wants to make the ‘no-no-no, good-play’ throws

Aaron Rodgers probably figured it would be best to get this out of the way early with his new Green Bay Packers coaches.

There will be plays that, as they develop, will cause them angst.

“I was teasing them about how every coach always says, ‘No, no, no. Oh, good play,'” Rodgers said this week in an interview with ESPN.com. “It’s always a ‘No’ until, it’s ‘Oh yeah, good play.’ I said, ‘There’s going to be a couple of those, trust me. But they usually work out pretty good.'”nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Which raises the question: Under new coach Matt LaFleur, will Rodgers look like a different quarterback this season or will he simply look like the same Rodgers in a new system?5

“That’s a great question,” new Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “I would sit there and say Aaron is Aaron. Aaron has done some pretty good things up to this point in his career. And I think we’re still trying to understand this whole offense as a group, as a whole and where we can try to take him even farther. I think that’s what we’re always trying to find out, what we’re trying to accomplish.nfl jersey cheap wholesale china

“We just want to make it even easier for him. It’s one of those things … he’s already at a very high level and we’ve all seen that. We all know that. And I think that our job as coaches with this offense is to just try to fit it with him and give him more ammo. And that’s something that’s going to be … it’s going to be fluid, and I think that’s what we’re trying to work towards.”

It’s not exactly like Mike McCarthy’s task when he inherited Brett Favre in 2006. The previous year, Favre set a career high with 29 interceptions on a 4-12 team. Favre’s response to an offense-challenged team was to try to throw his way out of it.

Rodgers simply wasn’t as productive in McCarthy’s final year. He threw only 25 touchdown passes — his lowest total in a full season. Although he threw only two interceptions, his accuracy suffered and his default setting when plays broke down was to throw the ball away. He led all quarterbacks with 59 throwaways, according to Pro Football Focus, and that’s the most since it began tracking the stat in 2006.

Source: Oblak wants Atleti exit, favours United

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak wants to leave in the summer following broken promises over his future — and the boyhood Manchester United fan favours a move to Old Trafford over Paris Saint-Germain, a source has told ESPN FC.

Last week, Oblak voiced concerns about Atletico’s competitiveness, with star forward Antoine Griezmann set to leave and Lucas Hernandez, Diego Godin, Filipe Luis and Juanfran also departing.

Oblak wants Atleti to match his ambition and is considering his options, with PSG also in the running after announcing that Gianluigi Buffon would leave in the summer.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

However, a source told ESPN FC that United are in the chase for Oblak, despite the fact that they will not be playing in the Champions League next season.8

The source said the 26-year-old wants to play in the Premier League.

David De Gea’s United future is in considerable doubt — the Spain international is also a PSG target — and sources told ESPN FC in April that United were considering triggering Oblak’s €120 million buyout clause in the event De Gea leaves.

Earlier this year, Oblak signed a new deal until 2023 and was told the Atletico squad would be strengthened to compete for La Liga and the Champions League.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Brazilian centre-back Felipe has joined from Porto and striker Nicolas Ibanez has come in from Atleti’s Mexican franchise Atletico de San Luis, but the source said Oblak did not feel the list of possible Griezmann replacements was good enough.

Regarded as one of the finest goalkeepers in the world, Oblak won his fourth Zamora Award as La Liga’s best goalkeeper after helping Atletico finish second in the table last season.

The Slovenia international kept 27 clean sheets in 50 matches in 2018 — more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s top five leagues including Liverpool’s Alisson and United’s De Gea — and conceded just 36 goals.

Manchester United declined to comment when asked by ESPN FC about interest in Oblak.

Lukaku: Inter’s Conte ‘best manager in world’

Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku has said Antonio Conte is the “best manager in the world” and that, along with the Premier League, Serie A is the league he “always dreamed” of playing in.

Sources have told ESPN FC that, while new Nerazzurri boss Conte is interested in making Lukaku his first signing at San Siro, there has not yet been any contact between the two parties. Conte reportedly wanted Lukaku when he was Chelsea manager, but the Belgium international moved to United instead.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

He added: “With the transfer of [Cristiano] Ronaldo, I think the Italian league is now coming back. Antonio Conte going back to Inter Milan, which is really good because he is, to me, the best manager in the world.5

“And then you have Maurizio Sarri going to Juventus and [Carlo] Ancelotti at Napoli. So I think Serie A will be really exciting next year and I’m really happy for Italian football.”

Lukaku said he has made a decision about his future, but he may not have the final say should something happen.

“He [Conte] knows what I think about him,” Lukaku said. “I’m not somebody who likes to talk about my personal relationships with managers, but you know, I’m a player of Manchester United and I have to respect my club.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

“And if something happens, the teams and my agent have to do the talking. I have my decision and stay outside.”

Lukaku joined United from Everton in 2017 and was a regular starter under Jose Mourinho. However, he lost his place to Marcus Rashford when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in.

In April, the 26-year-old’s agent said they would assess the forward’s future in the summer.

Red Sox, fans rally around Ortiz after shooting

David Ortiz helped his adopted city recover from the Boston Marathon bombings. Now the Boston Red Sox are calling on their fans to reciprocate for their beloved Big Papi.

“We all remember in 2013 when we needed David Ortiz the most, he was there for us,” team president Sam Kennedy said Monday, a day after the longtime slugger was wounded in a nightclub shooting in his native Dominican Republic. “So it’s appropriate and expected that his community would rally behind David when he needs us most.”nike nfl jerseys for cheap

Ortiz, 43, was shot at a club in Santo Domingo. A team of surgeons operated on Ortiz for six hours and repaired damage done by the bullet to both intestines and his liver. They also had to remove Ortiz’s gallbladder to work on the liver, though the gallbladder itself was not damaged.

“I didn’t sleep very well last night,” said Red Sox special assistant Jason Varitek, who was Ortiz’s teammate for nearly a decade. “I don’t think anybody did.”7

The shooting occurred during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and stole the city’s attention from the Bruins’ victory, as fans and former teammates stayed up into the morning hoping for information on Ortiz’s condition. Longtime rivals turned to social media to offer their best wishes, and former Dominican president Leonel Fernandez visited Ortiz in the hospital.

“It shocked us to the core,” Kennedy said. “It was jarring, stunning and, frankly, terrifying. It was a horrific incident. Our focus right now is exclusively to focus on his health and well-being [and] to get David back here in Boston.”cheap nike nfl jerseys china

The Red Sox sent an air ambulance to the Dominican Republic to transport Ortiz to Boston, where he will continue his treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Kennedy said he hoped Ortiz would be arriving in the city sometime Monday night.

The team asked fans to observe a moment of reflection shortly before Monday night’s game against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park and posted on the videoboard: “We send our love to David Ortiz.”

“I just hope when he gets here that everything is fine, and we can see the big man here again with us and filling our room with joy,” manager Alex Cora said. “He’s bigger than life.” In the sixth inning, fans broke out into cheers of “Papi!” and cheered when pictures of fans in his No. 34 jersey were shown on the scoreboard.

Astros prospect Alvarez hits HR in first game

Houston Astros prospect Yordan Alvarez, the minor league home run leader, homered in the second at-bat of his major league debut on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles.

“That’s an incredible performance for him when all everybody ever wanted today was a homer from him,” manager AJ Hinch said. “That’s what everybody expected, and he did it.”

Alvarez, who was promoted from Triple-A Round Rock, served as Houston’s designated hitter and batted fifth in Sunday’s game against Baltimore right-hander Dylan Bundy. His first major league home run was a two-run shot to center field in the bottom of the fourth that traveled 413 feet.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

He finished 1-for-3 with the home run and a walk in the Astros’ 4-0 victory.5

“That first at-bat, obviously, I felt a little bit nervous,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “But then I started thinking about all the players here and how much advice they’ve given me and how they made me feel comfortable, [and] I felt great.”

Hinch said before the game that Alvarez will see some time in left field, but he wants him to get a feel for Minute Maid Park first.

Alvarez, who turns 22 later this month, has dominated the Pacific Coast League this season, batting .343 with 23 homers — the most in the minors — and a league-leading 71 RBIs in 56 games. He has split time at first base and left field throughout his minor league career.

Alvarez, recently ranked baseball’s No. 44 overall prospect by MLB.com, is the latest prospect to be called up to the majors by the injury-plagued Astros, who have All-Stars Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa on the injured list.buy nike nfl jerseys cheap

Joining Alvarez in Houston’s starting lineup Sunday were fellow rookies Jack Mayfield and Myles Straw.

Marc Gasol was once a basketball dinosaur before becoming a Raptor

Raptors coach Nick Nurse, pacing the sideline, does not holler at his gifted big man, but his heart rate elevates as he waits. He knows that when Gasol scores more than 10 points in the playoffs, Toronto is tough to beat. (The Raptors are 6-1 when Gasol scores in double figures this postseason.)

There’s another former Gasol coach watching, too. New York Knicks coach David Fizdale can relate to the frustration about Gasol’s reluctance to let it fly. When Gasol and Fizdale were together in Memphis, it was a point of contention. After watching Game 1, Fizdale notes, “You can almost feel Marc saying, ‘Should I?’ But he has to take those shots.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Fizdale is right. After nearly three seconds tick off — an eternity in today’s fast-paced NBA world — Gasol fires off the trey. It swishes through, one of the six baskets he will convert on a 20-point night that plays a key role in a Raptors win.

Gasol doesn’t fare as well in Game 2. DeMarcus Cousins badgers him with two hard fouls to start the game, and he scores just six points on 2-of-7 shooting with no 3s.6

That is a problem for his team.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gasol has been one of the league’s most effective 3-point shooters this postseason. Of the 32 players who have taken at least 50 3s in the playoffs, he ranks 12th with a shooting percentage of 38.8. When Gasol drains the long ball, it pays off for the Raptors, opening up the floor for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam.

Even the threat of Gasol from beyond the arc is an asset. The two-month Raptor knocked down only one of four shots from beyond the arc but pitched in 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes in Game 3. Those minutes offered valued space on the floor, and Toronto secured a 2-1 advantage behind its best offensive showing of the Finals.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“We’d like him to shoot them, especially when it’s a rhythm shot,” Nurse says, “but Marc is one of the great big-men passers. It’s always harder to convince guys to shoot more than to convince guys to shoot less. That’s the battle we’re in a little bit with Marc.”

Left unsaid is this: Toronto needs more from its thoughtful big man, who, like so many centers, has had to contend with a shift away from a traditional low-post attack. Fizdale spent a tumultuous year and a half in Memphis insisting that Gasol be a more aggressive scorer, a stretch-5 who could shoot the 3 and excel in a pace-and-space system.

Bogut: Warriors have ‘been though hell and back’

Toronto, ON – As the entire basketball world is preparing to write the Golden State Warriors’ obituary, centre Andrew Bogut says the series is far from over ahead of a win-or-go home Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.

“They’ve got to beat us four times,” Bogut told ESPN. “Obviously they’re playing really good basketball right now, but we know this thing’s not over yet. We’re going in with the mindset of winning Game 5 and going back home and seeing what happens.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china

After splitting the first two games in Toronto, no-one gave the Raptors much chance of winning both games at Oracle Arena but behind Kawhi Leonard’s otherworldly play and key contributions from Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry, the Eastern Conference champs have become a frightening opponent. They now have the home crowd and momentum going their way.

Bogut admits there is no room for error for the Warriors now.4

“The odds are against us, no-one’s giving us much of a chance because NBA history says this [coming back from 3-1 down] doesn’t happen very often — it actually happened to us three or four years ago — so we think we can still salvage the series, but we kind of have to play three perfect games to beat these guys who are playing really good basketball,” he said.

In 2016 the Warriors were famously on the wrong end of history when the Cavaliers came back from 3-1 down in the Finals to win their first Championship. What has been forgotten amid the social media jokes about that epic collapse was the Warriors had come back from the same deficit to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. It’s that experience that Steph Curry says the team will lean on.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“We haven’t been in this position before in The Finals, but playing OKC and the whole 2016 run, where we were on both sides of this equation, you can kind of relive those experiences and understand what the emotions were like and how important literally every possession of those potential closeout games were on both ends, and what it took for those comebacks to happen,” he said.

“But for us it’s just a matter of – can you win one basketball game right now? Can you go out, play an amazing 48 minutes, quiet this crowd that’s going to be probably unbelievable, and slow down a team that’s been playing amazing, especially these last two games, and just win one basketball game and take it from there?

“If we focus on that mission, our history kind of speaks for itself in terms of being able to get that done. Just win one basketball game and then we’ll worry about the rest.”

Look closely at the Warriors’ star player’s stats and you’ll see that they’re actually not performing badly: Curry is averaging 32.8 points per game, Klay Thompson, 24.7 on 55 percent shooting from distance. Draymond Green is averaging close to a triple-double – they’re just getting beat by a better team.

Analyzing those numbers and going by previous history, if any team can get hot quickly, Bogut believes it’s the Warriors.

“We’re a team that can also go on a run and start feeling good about ourselves and some of our threes start dropping,” Bogut told ESPN. “I think we’ll be okay if we can just be solid. We had numerous spurts throughout the last couple of games where we just had bad runs – we were fouling and getting Kawhi to the free-throw line pretty much but we have confidence.

“This group has been though hell and back numerous times – dealing with injuries, dealing with guys in-and-out of lineups, all the media attention we’ve had over the last 12 months has been crazy; we’ve seen everything, so this will be just another cog in that chapter hopefully.”

Josh Norman’s offseason: Blue Angels, Rio Grande, helping others

The spring adventures ended late last month with Josh Norman losing consciousness in a flight with the Blue Angels. Norman tried to fight it, but it played out just like the pilot had predicted.

Here’s what the Washington Redskins cornerback recalls: boasting to the pilot he wouldn’t vomit; reaching a G-force of 7, and then …
Norman was fine because he was doing what he wanted — and needed — in the offseason. His travels took him to Flint, Michigan, to hand out bottled water; and to Rio Grande Valley in Texas to hand out supplies to immigrants.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

He did not attend the Redskins’ voluntary workouts. Last year, he participated in “Dancing With the Stars,” though he also still participated in the Redskins’ workouts.

“When it’s time to come back to work, that’s what we do,” Norman said. “We don’t miss a beat. Athletes like myself, we have a different mindset about this. I love the game, I really do, but I respect the game. When I come back I treat it as I did as I was a young kid. I love it and I always will, but there’s other priorities that take place as well. My purpose in life is to help others as well.”7

Norman certainly looked like he was in shape and also showed his competitive side during practice Thursday. Norman wanted to face rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Norman did what the Redskins hope they see more of this season: He made a diving interception for a pick in the end zone, then bounced up and sprinted to the other end zone.nike cheap nfl jerseys

As Norman was running downfield, coach Jay Gruden told an official: “Throw a flag; I want to f— with him.”

“He’s a great competitor, that’s what makes him great,” Gruden said. “He may not have the speed you might want at corner. But the one thing that sets him apart from everybody else is competitiveness. He tends to have better games when he’s on better people and he feels challenged. He’s got to understand every player is a challenge in the NFL. He’s got to step up his game at all times, but he’s an excellent player and, I think, very underrated in people’s eyes.”
“I’m great with Josh. He makes our football team better,” Gruden said. “That’s all I care about, really. We’re going to have some issues from time to time where we don’t see eye-to-eye, but he’s got to understand I am the head coach and what I say goes. Not everybody believes that all the time but that’s usually the case. Especially him, but I like Josh. I like where he’s at. Wish he was here for OTAs but those are voluntary. But, he was here the last couple days and we see what type of difference he makes. [He] had two picks in two days. We need Josh, we like Josh a lot.”

But Norman, entering his eighth season and fourth with Washington, wants to be about more than just football. In March, Norman and New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis went to Flint.

“It’s been neglected,” Norman said. “I see they needed help, so why not? I’m in a position where I can and I do. That’s the difference between people. Whether it’s something you can do about it or not, some don’t. Others do. And I’m one of those people that are others.”

In April, the two players went to Rio Grande Valley together as well. They had also traveled to the border with supplies last offseason.

Top pick Devin Bush turning heads ‘really quickly’ with Steelers

“He’s quicker than snot,” linebacker T.J. Watt said. “He’s been flying around and making a lot of good plays.”

The early returns on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first top-10 pick in nearly two decades have been largely positive.

The 2019 draft featured two inside linebackers expected to contribute right away. One was Devin White, who has made an immediate impact with the Tampa Bay Bucs. The other, Bush, the former Michigan inside linebacker acquired via a draft-day trade with the Denver Broncos, has put his 4.43 speed on full display in the three weeks of OTAs.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

To be sure, the Steelers won’t know exactly what they have until they put on the pads for training camp. But a No. 10 overall pick is expected to have a presence from day one, and Bush has.4

“He’s not the biggest guy, but he definitely walks with a presence, walks with a purpose,” Watt said of the 5-foot-11, 234-pound Bush. “He’s taken on a good role in knowing all the plays and being able to call some plays for us.”

Bush has made clear since his introductory news conference that he isn’t looking to replace Ryan Shazier, whose speed made him a two-time Pro Bowler on the inside before a severe spinal injury stalled his career. Bush understands the expectations. The team’s last top-10 pick was Plaxico Burress, No. 8 overall in 2000.

“He showed really quickly he’s going to be able to fit in well with the defense with that group of guys,” tight end Vance McDonald said. “When you look at him, you don’t expect him to be as quick or as agile as he is. There’s a couple of things he needs to work on: being more vocal, because of the role Coach Tomlin wants him to fit into quickly, and the expectation of him doing that. But that’s still such a young thing. You never want to overstep, especially when the pressure is on. I think that will come, especially in Latrobe as he gets the pads on.“nfl nike jerseys for cheap

That’s when McDonald and others expect Bush to really shine with physicality. For now, he’s doing what he was taught to do more than a decade ago: Cover receivers in space.

Bush has received first-team reps but is sharing time with free-agent acquisition Mark Barron, who figures to play in base or nickel packages. Bush has lined up with tight ends and running backs and looks comfortable in either setting, particularly at the goal line.

“He’s been flying around, especially seeing him in the seven shots period. He’s high intensity, doing a good job covering people,” backup quarterback Mason Rudolph said. “You can see his athleticism, and he’s learning quick.”