T.J. Watt and the board game bringing the Steelers together

It was Christmas afternoon and Pittsburgh Steelers players were scattering quickly after practice, in a rush to get back to their families.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

But Anthony Chickillo had business to take care of first.

He took the Biñho board from T.J. Watt’s spare locker and placed the table-top soccer game on the team’s covered pool table and dumped out the small game balls that look like marbles.

Then he turned and motioned Watt over.

“One game to five, that’s it,” Watt said.8

The two each took a side behind a tiny goal, reached across the table and shook hands over the board, which measures about a foot wide and two feet long. Defending each goal are 10 stationary defenders, represented by markers that look like golf tees. The object is to score by knocking the marble around the defenders and into the small goal.

As the game started, offensive lineman David DeCastro walked over and leaned in over the table to watch.

One by one, more teammates encircled the pair of players, watching breathlessly as Chickillo and Watt flicked the marble back and forth. Rookie tight end Zach Gentry morphed into a de facto commentator as Watt took a shot.nfl nike jersey cheap

“He knows all the nuances, it’s insane,” Gentry said. “He revolutionized the game.”

At one point, Alejandro Villanueva leaned in and pointed at the marble before Chickillo’s shot, trying to direct the linebacker where he should go with his next flick. Watt scolded the offensive lineman for giving his opponent extra help.

After 10 minutes, the score was tied, 4-4.

Watt was close on a number of near winning shots, yelling as one ricocheted off the bendy wall and came to rest just in front of the goal.

“I need to make that shot,” he said.

Finally, Watt finessed a soft shot through the stationary defenders and into the tiny goal, fist pumping as shot went in.

Browns fire coach Freddie Kitchens after 1 season, 6-10 finish

Even after a dispiriting loss to the lowly Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens spoke like he’d have a job to come to on Monday.

Turned out, he would not.

Shortly after the team landed from Cincinnati, owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager John Dorsey met with Kitchens at the team’s practice facility to fire him following one season in which Cleveland finished 6-10.

“We thank Freddie for his hard work and commitment to this organization but did not see the success or opportunities for improvement to move forward with him as our head coach,” the Haslams said. “Our focus is on hiring an exceptional leader for this football team and we will take a comprehensive approach to this process. We are excited about the core players we have to build around and develop and we look forward to bringing in a strong head coach that will put this group of players in the best position to succeed.nfl nike jersey cheap

The Haslams have now gone through six head coaches, including interims, since buying the team in 2012. Cleveland will be hiring its 12th head coach since returning to the NFL in 1999.7

After another listless performance in Sunday’s 33-23 loss to the then-1-14 Bengals, yet another coaching move in Cleveland felt unavoidable – even as Kitchens pushed back on any inevitability.

“We’ve got meeting scheduled through next week, and I’m looking forward to going to work tomorrow,” Kitchens said. “They have not given me any indication of anything else. Mr. Jimmy and Dee, I think they want me to do my job, and that’s what I’m gonna do – until they tell me not to, if they tell me not to.”

The Haslams had seen enough, as Kitchens’ brief tenure was enveloped by discipline issues and distractions.

The Browns ranked in the top five in penalties and penalty yardage all season.

Then on Nov. 14, in the closing seconds of a victory over Pittsburgh, star defensive end Myles Garrett ripped the helmet off Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and slugged him in the head with it. The incident left Garrett suspended indefinitely, and the ensuing melee led the NFL to fine both the Browns and Steelers $250,000 apiece.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Before the Dec. 1 rematch, Kitchens was photographed at the movies wearing a “Pittsburgh started it” T-shirt, a reference to the brawl. After the Steelers won the game 20-13, which severely damaged Cleveland’s playoff chances, several Pittsburgh players criticized Kitchens for wearing the shirt.

Kitchens, who originally came to Cleveland last year as a running backs coach, took over as offensive coordinator midway through last season after head coach Hue Jackson was fired. With Kitchens calling plays, Mayfield thrived and went on to break the NFL rookie record with 27 passing touchdowns.

Manchester United turn on style in comeback defeat of Newcastle

Anthony Martial scored twice as Manchester United hit back in emphatic fashion from a rocky start against a benevolent Newcastle United to open their Christmas programme with a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford on Thursday.

After a 2-0 loss at Watford last weekend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had demanded a response from his players but a yellow card for Scott McTominay after 24 seconds and going behind to Matthew Longstaff’s 17th-minute goal was not what he had in mind.

It was all smiles later though as Newcastle folded and Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford all struck before half-time before Martial scored again early in the second half as United moved back to seventh, four points off the top four.

United have now won 21 Premier League games on Boxing Day for a win percentage of 81% — more than any other club.

With midfielder Paul Pogba also coming on after half-time, only his second appearance since September because of injury, United will hope to end an up-and-down year with a flourish with a trip to Burnley looming on the horizon on Saturday.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“Against Watford we were not good enough for our standard but the boys showed a great intensity today and we thoroughly deserved the three points,” defender Harry Maguire said.8

“We have now got a big game in two days and our story so far has been a good performance and then a not so good one.”

Newcastle have made steady progress up the table under former United defender Steve Bruce and could have gone above United with a win on Thursday. So when 19-year-old Longstaff tucked his shot past David de Gea after linking well with Joelinton the away fans went wild.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

It was Longstaff who scored the winner in the reverse fixture at St James’ Park this season, but any sense of dread for the Old Trafford faithful soon diminished as United sparked into life to play some flowing football.

Six minutes after Longstaff’s goal, United were level with Martial’s shot squeezing in at the near post when Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka should really have kept it out.

Newcastle offered United another gift as they tried to play out from the back but merely gave the ball to 18-year-old Greenwood who thumped a left-footed cracker in off the crossbar.

Manchester United’s Scott McTominay suffers knee ligament damage vs. Newcastle

Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay suffered knee ligament damage during the win over Newcastle, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

McTominay left Old Trafford on crutches after being substituted at half-time during the 4-1 victory over Steve Bruce’s side.

The 23-year-old was involved in a challenge with Sean Longstaff in the opening stages but was able to play on until the break before being replaced with Paul Pogba.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“He’s done his ligament in the knee,” said Solskjaer.7

“I don’t know how bad. Let’s see. The boy has got the biggest heart, you see the attitude of the kid [to play on]. I’m not sure if he’s going to be ready for Saturday [against Burnley] but we’ve seen him heal quickly before.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

United moved to within four points of the top four with victory over Newcastle, which was secured thanks to goals from Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and a brace from Anthony Martial.

Greenwood’s goal — his eighth of the season — was a spectacular effort from outside the box that went in off the underside the of crossbar and Solskjaer has warned the rest of the Premier League that the 18-year-old is only going to get better.

“He’s learning, growing as a human being,” said the United boss.

“He’ll grow more and more and we’re not going to see the best of Mason for a couple for years. When I was 18 … I was nowhere near the level he is now.”

Mavericks’ Luka Doncic (ankle) practices, could return Thursday vs. Spurs

Luka Doncic was a full participant in the Dallas Mavericks’ Christmas Eve practice — his first since spraining his right ankle almost two weeks ago — and could return as soon as Thursday’s home game against the San Antonio Spurs.

“He seems to be doing better every day,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know what his status will be for Thursday, but he’ll certainly be upgraded. He’s doing well. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow, and then Thursday we’ll see what’s what, but things are looking better and better.”

Doncic moved well during the practice, but the Mavs want to monitor how his ankle responds before determining his status against the Spurs.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“I’m feeling good,” said Doncic, who has emerged as an early MVP candidate by averaging 29.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game. “Just taking care of it. [There’s] a lot of things that we have to do, and we’re just taking care of it. We’ll see how it progresses, and we’ll see if I play.”8

Doncic injured the ankle when he stepped on the foot of Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn while driving to the basket in the opening minutes of the Mavs’ double-overtime loss on Dec. 14. The ankle rolled over so far that it touched the hardwood, and the Mavs felt fortunate that X-rays were negative and Doncic was diagnosed with a lateral ankle sprain.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

The Mavs managed to win two of the four games that Doncic sat out despite facing Eastern Conference powers, pulling off road wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers with Jalen Brunson replacing Doncic in the starting lineup. It would have been a 3-1 week for the Mavs, but on Sunday they became the first NBA team in a decade to blow a 30-point lead as they lost the Toronto Raptors.

“We have a great team and had some tough matchups,” Doncic said. “They played great. Like I always say, we have a deep team.”

After staying home when the team traveled to Milwaukee immediately after his injury, Doncic joined the Mavs for their weekend road trip to Philadelphia and Toronto and ramped up his rehabilitation process. He went through extended workouts under the supervision of Casey Smith, Dallas’ director of player health and performance, before both games. Doncic worked at close to full speed Sunday in Toronto, going through a series of one-on-one moves against the defense of assistant coach Jamahl Mosley.

“I just want to go back on the court to play, because I’m competitive,” Doncic said. “I just wanted it to get better quick, get back as soon as possible.”

Sources: Lakers’ LeBron James, Anthony Davis expected to play vs. Clippers

The Los Angeles Lakers will have their stars on the court for a Christmas Day showdown with the LA Clippers.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are expected to play on Wednesday, league sources told ESPN. James missed a game for the first time all season Sunday with a thoracic muscle strain and discomfort in his groin; Davis tweaked his right knee during that game, a loss to Denver.nfl nike jersey cheap

James and Davis encouraged an impromptu early-morning practice on Christmas Eve, sources told ESPN, in preparation for the Lakers’ first game against the fully formed Clippers with both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George available to play.

The Lakers, who recently completed a stint of 12 out of 15 games on the road, also practiced Monday, but both James and Davis were held out of on-court participation.7

With an early 5 p.m. PT tip on Christmas making it too much of a time crunch to hold a morning shootaround on game day, the two Lakers leaders brought the group in on Tuesday so they could join their teammates in the walk-through to prepare for the Clippers.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel lamented his team’s overall lack of practice time and conceded that it could be a contributor to the three-game losing streak L.A. is mired in.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“We went a 10-day trip without a single practice, really,” Vogel said Monday. “One shootaround, I think. Sometimes that benefits your legs, but usually it leads to a little bit of slippage in your execution and togetherness, particularly on the defensive end.”

The Clippers beat the Lakers 112-102 on opening night in a game that the Lakers admit did not feature their best execution. “I think we were super emotional in the first game, and it showed,” Dwight Howard said this week, looking back at the loss.

James and Davis’ extra practice time would seem to be a step toward drilling down the game plan to have that knowledge to fall back on when the atmosphere gets charged at Staples Center for Lakers-Clippers, Part 2.

“It’s a little bit like the playoffs,” Vogel said. “You want to be jacked up. But sometimes the best mental approach to the playoffs is managing your adrenaline and managing the edge. But let’s start with the edge first. Bring the juice first. If we’re overboard with it, we can always pull back. But you don’t want to be it the other way around. And it won’t be.”

Lions win despite loss, moving up to No. 3 in 2020 NFL draft

The most dramatic moments for the Detroit Lions on Sunday came hundreds of miles and two time zones away from Empower Field at Mile High. For the purposes of this flailing Lions season and everything that is to come in the future, what happened in Maryland and Miami mattered much more.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

As games between fellow top-five draft contenders went to overtime — actually overlapping with a quarter of Detroit’s 27-17 loss to Denver on Sunday — there were questions about how high or how low the Lions could go, at least in terms of the 2020 NFL draft.

As the Miami Dolphins kicked a field goal at the end of overtime to beat the Cincinnati Bengals and the New York Giants scored an overtime touchdown to best the Washington Redskins, the Lions moved from No. 5 in the draft to No. 3. And the chase for potential defense-changing Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young remains on in earnest.8

In the Super Bowl era, they now have the worst record of any team that went unbeaten in the team’s first three games, snapping a 50-year-old mark held by the Bengals, who went 4-9-1 in 1969 after starting 3-0. Coincidentally, they lost at Denver in their season finale. While this isn’t the last game for the Lions, the loss did lock up this mark for Detroit.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

A loss Sunday in the season finale against Green Bay would give the franchise its worst season since a 2-14 record in 2009 — one year removed from the franchise’s winless 2008 season.

But a loss to the Packers on Sunday combined with a Washington win over Dallas would give the Lions the No. 2 overall pick and a really, really good chance at Young.

Silver lining: The Lions activated starting running back Kerryon Johnson on Saturday and he ended up being a decent part of the team’s game plan. He didn’t take his first snap until late in the first series, but had 10 carries for 42 yards — including the bulk of the work in the third quarter on a drive that ended with a Kenny Golladay touchdown. It’s still reasonable to question why Johnson was playing in a game with little meaning, but the duo of Johnson and Bo Scarbrough showed promise, combining for 76 yards and 4.2 yards per carry.

Bold prediction for next week: One unexpected player is going to have a standout performance with more playing opportunity. The pick here is linebacker Steve Longa, who might see increased work if Jahlani Tavai’s shoulder injury keeps him out. Should that happen, don’t be surprised if Longa has a double-digit tackle day to show he can play some defense along with his role as one of Detroit’s top special-teams standouts.

Describe the game in two words: One. Left. The 2019 Lions season mercifully comes to an end Sunday against the Packers. Green Bay could be playing for a bye or a division title. The Lions will be playing for the last time until the 2020 season.

Patrick Mahomes won’t admit connection between finger counting and draft

So maybe Patrick Mahomes does feel snubbed for being the 10th player and the second quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL draft.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback was seen counting to 10 on his fingers after throwing a touchdown pass to Travis Kelce late in the first half of Sunday night’s 26-3 win over the Chicago Bears. Ten, as in the 10th player drafted, on the same night he and the Chiefs were facing the only quarterback selected ahead of him that year.

The Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky was drafted second overall.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“I don’t know if there was necessarily a meaning,” Mahomes said later. “I was just kind of in the moment and just enjoying it. … I knew it was a big moment in the game and you look to take advantage of it when you get that opportunity against that defense.

“I was just out there having fun. … We had a big score before the half and I was just trying to enjoy it. You’ve seen me play. I play with emotion. I like to just go out there and have fun with my teammates.”7

Perhaps. But the timing, with the Chiefs facing the Bears and Trubisky, seemed to make Mahomes’ gesture more than a coincidence.

Even one of his teammates, running back Damien Williams, seemed to understand the significance. Williams offered Mahomes congratulations as the quarterback was heading off the field while counting and approaching the sideline.

Mahomes was the clear winner in the quarterback battle with Trubisky. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score. Trubisky completed 18 of 34 passes for 157 yards.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Kelce said he didn’t see Mahomes’ 10 count.

“I can’t really see Pat doing that,” Kelce said. “He’s a humble guy. You know what drives everyone sometimes is something deeper. I’m sure he’s happy where he is, but that probably helped him in his early years. Kind of gave him some motive and gave him some fire.

“I think he’s the type of competitor that he feels, every single game, every single time he touches the football he’s trying to prove something. Well, not necessarily prove something but be the best he can and show the world that you know that he is the best.”

That just hadn’t been Mahomes’ way, until Sunday night. He’ll celebrate after a touchdown with his teammates, but is quick to deflect any credit to his coaches and teammates.

Mahomes, while not acknowledging the meaning of his 10 count, did indicate he remembered being the second quarterback drafted two years ago.

Wolves come from behind to win at Norwich

Wolverhampton Wanderers got back to winning ways as they punished relegation-threatened Norwich City with a second-half comeback to win 2-1 in the Premier League on Saturday.

Wolves, whose 11-match unbeaten run was ended by Tottenham Hotspur the previous week, were dreadful before half-time, but goals by Romain Saiss and Raul Jimenez sealed victory.

Roared on by the Carrow Road faithful, Norwich outplayed Wolves in the first half and had they been more ruthless the points could have been in the bag before the interval.cheap nike jerseys nfl

Wolves keeper Rui Patricio produced a smart early save to deny Kenny McLean and then turned Alex Tettey’s low drive against the post as Norwich swarmed forward.6

Norwich took the lead in the 17th minute when Wolves failed to clear McLean’s cross and Todd Cantwell smashed the ball home.

Teemu Pukki was twice denied by the over-worked Patricio as Wolves staggered to halftime only a goal in arrears.

Predictably, Wolves were a different proposition after the break and equalised after 62 minutes when the increasingly influential Joao Moutinho whipped in a cross that Saiss met with a powerful header.

Norwich were deflated and Wolves snatched victory in the 81st minute with Jimenez on hand to convert a rebound after keeper Tim Krul saved Matt Doherty’s point-blank effort.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

“Football can be the most unfair sport in the world,” Norwich manager Daniel Farke said. “You have to grab your reward and we didn’t. We missed too many chances today.”

The defeat leaves his side second from bottom, six points below the safety zone, while Wolves climb to sixth with the win, two points off fourth-placed Chelsea who face Tottenham on Sunday.

Sheffield United beat Brighton to close in on top four

Oliver McBurnie scored the only goal of the game as Sheffield United extended their superb unbeaten away record in this season’s Premier League with a 1-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.cheap wholesale nike nfl jerseys

The visitors had already had a goal ruled out by VAR when McBurnie exploited indecision in the Brighton defence to take control of a long ball and lash home the winner midway through the first half.

After a toothless first-half performance, Brighton boss Graham Potter made a double substitution at half-time, introducing Aaron Connolly for Leandro Trossard and Glenn Murray for Pascal Gross.

But it was David McGoldrick who almost made it 2-0 early in the second half, snapping up another poor header and rounding the goalkeeper before shooting into the side netting with the goal at his mercy.5

Brighton’s attacking fortunes improved slightly in the second half as the rain poured down, with teenage striker Connolly proving a handful with his quick feet and direct style, but the home team could not force an equaliser.

“We didn’t play well today,” Potter said. “They made it difficult for us and we weren’t as good as we’d like to be.

“Sheffield United did what they did well. First half they were better than us and deservedly it was 1-0.”

The result marked United’s third win in a row in the league and lifted the Blades to fifth in the table on 28 points, one behind Chelsea, who play Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Brighton remain in 13th on 20 points.cheap nike jerseys nfl

United boss Chris Wilder said he was pleased with his side’s performance, but was not sure their good run of away form could continue much longer.

“We did a job on them, should have had more possession, but we had the better chances on the counter-attack and we’re delighted to keep the away run going,” he said. “But the next two [away games] are at Manchester City and Liverpool.”