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Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro faces what might be NFL’s most unstable job

The Chicago Bears’ most scrutinized offseason storyline rests on the right foot of Eddy Pineiro, the former undrafted kicker who enters Week 1 with a tenuous grip on the starting job.

Tenuous being, perhaps, an understatement.

The Bears’ much-publicized, and sometimes unorthodox, search to replace Cody Parkey (he of “double-doink” fame and eight missed field goals in 2018) ultimately led them to Pineiro, whom Chicago acquired from the Oakland Raiders in May.

Pineiro ended up as the last man standing in a nine-kicker derby that began at the post-draft rookie minicamp, but Chicago’s problem isn’t necessarily solved. Pineiro said on Sunday, after Bears coach Matt Nagy named him the starting kicker for Thursday night’s Green Bay Packers game, that “a big stress has been lifted off my shoulders.”

In reality, having never attempted a field goal in a regular-season game, Pineiro’s stress level is about to get worse.
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The second-year kicker, who turns 24 on Sept. 13, is assured of very little beyond Week 1, and that’s the difficult balancing act for the Bears.6

“Hopefully it’s the arrow-up deal where he hits a few early and he gets his confidence going, and before you know it, he’s on a nice streak. … And if it starts out a little slow or there’s inconsistency, that’s where the challenge of being able to … the frustration of how much it hurts you comes into play.”

The Bears were exceedingly patient with Parkey only to get burned at the worst moment. Most people remember the 43-yard playoff miss against the Philadelphia Eagles, but Parkey, astonishingly, bounced four missed kicks (two field goals, two extra points) off the uprights in a regular-season home game with Detroit.

Chicago stuck with Parkey, who went 3-for-3 on field goals the next week, but the veteran’s accuracy again began to wane as the regular season drew to a close. The Philadelphia disaster made an already uncomfortable situation untenable. Parkey’s ill-advised appearance on a national morning television show days after the Bears’ season ended expedited his departure, which was inevitable.

The Bears cannot let history repeat itself, but they have to be fair to Pineiro.nike jerseys nfl cheap

“Otherwise, we’re just a cat chasing its tail,” Nagy said.

But just how much leeway can a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations afford an unproven kicker?

“You look at a lot of good kickers around the league, you’ll see ebbs and flows sometimes earlier in their career — not that that’s our expectation. We also understand sometimes that you have to have patience with this position,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. “Eddy has the right demeanor. He’s got the right leg talent. The team has really embraced him and we’re happy with the way the whole process played out.”

Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor added: “There have been some other players here that have been really good that missed two of their first four kicks. So the hard part is, if it does happen, when does that take place? … I like how he’s preparing, because he keeps growing, each and every day. And that’s our job to help him with that.”

‘Adaptable’ Patriots’ plan of attack in 2019? Whatever works

Ever since tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement in late March, the hot-button question has been how the New England Patriots will reshape their attack without him.

Josh McDaniels, the architect of the ever-evolving unit, keeps reminding everyone that he doesn’t have the answer right now. He isn’t being evasive as much as highlighting what has made the Patriots one of the most unique offenses in the NFL: a rare adaptability.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Last season, when the Patriots transformed to a smash-mouth approach in mid-December en route to their sixth Super Bowl championship, is a classic example of it.

“There are still a lot of unknowns, still a lot of bridges you have to cross, a lot of reps we need to take and get better at and improve on,” McDaniels said as the 2019 preseason ended. “There are areas of the game that we will continue to improve on and develop our identity and our team over the course of the regular season, which will be a lot more telling than what I know at this moment.”5

Specific to personnel, McDaniels obviously knows more now than he did in spring practices and training camp.

Four-year veteran Matt LaCosse (career-high 24 catches in 2018) and 2018 seventh-round draft choice Ryan Izzo (rookie season on injured reserve) are the lone tight ends. Veterans Benjamin Watson (four games) and Lance Kendricks (one game) are serving NFL suspensions to open the season.

Fullback James Develin, who played 35% of the offensive snaps last season, also factors significantly into the mix. Even when Gronkowski was on the field last season, and wasn’t often at his peak, Develin became a huge part of the attack.

This was a notable part of NFL Films’ “Do Your Job” special (NFL Network, 8 p.m. ET Wednesday) on the 2018 Patriots — how the offense turned to an old-school formula to turn its season around after back-to-back December losses to the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

“One of the things that I’m so thoroughly impressed with Bill [Belichick] on is his ability to adapt and evolve. He said, ‘If you keep holding on to what [you’d] rather be — no-huddle, spread formations, 34 points per game — then you’re probably going to end up regretting a lot of things at the end of the year. What are we really good at? What’s the most consistent part of our team offensively?’ Then you commit to it,” McDaniels said in the special.

Sanchez: I have no regrets over Man Utd move

Alexis Sanchez has said he has no regrets over his decision to join Manchester United last year.

The Chile international signed for Inter Milan on a season-long loan after 18 months at Old Trafford where he managed only five goals in 45 appearances.
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The forward has joined up with Romelu Lukaku at Inter after the Belgium international also joined the Nerazzurri this summer.

“I’m very happy I went to Manchester United,” he told BBC Sport. “It’s the club that’s won the most in England.

“When I went to Arsenal it was fantastic — I was happy there — but United were growing at the time, they were buying players to win something.7

“I wanted to join them and win everything. I don’t regret going there.”

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said Sanchez could feature for the club after his loan spell in Serie A but the forward said he needs regular minutes on the pitch to feel happy.

“I think that I’m happy when I play for my national team,” he added. “I was happy at Manchester United too, but I’ve always said to my friends I want to play.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

“If they would let me play I’ll do my best. Sometimes I’d play 60 minutes then I wouldn’t play the next game — and I didn’t know why.”

Meanwhile, Inter have confirmed Sanchez will wear the No. 7 shirt at the club this season.

Awkward… Is Liverpool’s African brotherhood on the rocks?

There was friction within African football’s most beloved double act this weekend, as Sadio Mane’s frustrations with Mohamed Salah boiled over, although there’s been plenty of success for the continent’s stars in Europe’s major leagues this past week.

Mane’s displeasure with his teammate came within the context of another resounding Liverpool victory, with the Senegal forward netting the Reds’ second in a 3-0 win at Burnley.

Mane played a key role in another fine Reds performance, as they maintained their 100 percent start to the new campaign and secured a club-record 13th successive league win in the process.

The 27-year-old’s second goal of the season came via a Roberto Firmino assist, as the Brazilian exposed space in the Burnley half, dribbled to the edge of the box and played in Mane, who snapped his shot beyond Nick Pope.nfl nike jersey cheap

Earlier, the attacker had played in Salah for a fine chance, only for the Egyptian to strike the woodwork, although the latter didn’t return the favour late on when he opted to go for goal himself, rather than tee up Mane.

The West African reacted emotively after being replaced, gesticulating furiously to teammates and not hiding his anguish at perceived selfish play on the part of Salah.5

In another context, this act would be perceived as a gross display of dissent, but in this Liverpool machine, it’s being read as a testament to the side’s hunger and single-mindedness under Jurgen Klopp.

Certainly, the coach opted to play down Mane’s frustrations post-match.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“I could describe five or six situations where everyone thought, ‘pass it, pass it, pass it’,” Klopp told journalists, as per the Metro. “That is the freedom of the player.

“The boys have to make these decisions: pass the ball, don’t pass the ball,” he added. “We can make this mistakes. You can lose the ball and mis-kick the ball, or sometimes you cannot see your teammate.

“It is not that you ignore him. Sometimes to us it looks like you must see him but you don’t. It’s not a big challenge, but of course with a striker always you can have this.

“What you do depends on the situation,” the German coach concluded. “We will leave it 100 percent because we won 3-0, and everyone goes away in different directions. In one week, I don’t think I will talk about it again.”

Credit must also go to Joel Matip, one of the unsung heroes of this Liverpool side, who cleared an Ashley Barnes effort off the line with the scores level, ensuring the contest didn’t turn against the visitors.

Also in the Premier League, Alex Iwobi scored his second goal in a week for Everton as they defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2, with new Ivory Coast call-up Willy Boly seeing red in stoppage time.

At the FIBA World Cup, Argentina steps into the shadow of their golden generation

When Manu Ginobili and Andres Nocioni embraced after Argentina’s loss to Team USA in the basketball quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, it spelled the end of an era. The success on the international stage that peaked with a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics gave way to a new crop of players, tasked with continuing the legacy of the most prolific generation in the history of South American basketball.

Luis Scola, 39, was part of that golden generation and remains as much on the current national team that takes the floor in China at the 2019 FIBA World Cup. A key figure, Scola embraced the incoming crop of players one by one. And in that passing of the torch, Facundo Campazzo, a point guard for Real Madrid in Spain’s Liga ACB, stepped up.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Work, dedication, humility and conviction are the four pillars that depict the Argentine national team, one that reached its zenith in the era when Manu had flowing locks and regularly dunked and now survives with Ginobili bald and retired. Argentina, simply put, is a team that lacks the marquee names.6

Wednesday marked the 15th anniversary of Argentina’s Olympic gold in Athens. That magical title was their most notable achievement. There were others: silver at the 2002 FIBA World Championships in Indianapolis, and two wins over the Dream Team, albeit a diminished one. But their most relevant accomplishment was laying the foundation of concepts that have enabled the team to find its finest version with the available talent. Stars may shine with their respective teams, but then may disappoint on their national teams. In basketball, Argentina has managed to do the opposite: Their players deliver their best performances in that sky-blue and white jersey. That’s the legacy of that wonderful team and a product of what then-national team coach Ruben Magnano and his staff imprinted on their players.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“We are done talking about the golden generation. We admire them, we love them, they are our role models,” said Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez. “We are here because we saw them and followed their footsteps, but they have become part of our history. We don’t want to be compared with anyone.”

There is nothing to suggest that Argentina will achieve that seemingly surreal success at the 2019 World Cup in China. The golden generation had more than two elite players at every position. That is not the case with the current team.

This is Donovan Mitchell’s moment

Watching Gregg Popovich work is one of the joys of being around Team USA.

During the NBA season when he’s in San Antonio he builds walls, actual and figurative, that purposely shield nuance. It’s understandable because it’s a competitive game, and Popovich, while often gregarious, prefers privacy.

But it’s also unfortunate, because it’s in those moments when Popovich becomes “Pop.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

In this setting with the national team, though, there are fewer barriers. There’s less time and less attachment. These players aren’t bound by contract, and in this scenario Popovich needs short-term buy-in more than the players need to give it.

It opens some windows into the revelatory Popovich stuff, and it’s happening in China as the U.S. gets ready to start the FIBA World Cup on Sunday when it takes on Czech Republic (ESPN+, 8:30 am ET).5

Over the last month, a beneficiary of this situation appears to be Donovan Mitchell. And because of that, these could end up being transformative weeks for the Utah Jazz star.

He’s getting some special attention from Popovich, who needs Mitchell to be great for Team USA to win gold. But there’s another reason, and this is what the whole point is.

“When you tap somebody that has leadership ability, it’s better to start it sooner,” Popovich explained this week. “The quicker you make them feel responsible that they can do that, the better. Then if that person grabs onto it then you know you chose the right guy.”

This is the Popovich sauce, in this case a pearl about how to cultivate a young player by giving more trust. It actually follows a Popovich method, which is to buck the norm. You can see it in those sideline interviews he’s famous for. Come at him soft and he’ll often come back hard. Come hard and he’ll often go soft, keeping everyone off-balance.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

It goes against conventional wisdom that on a Team USA squad with a number of established veterans like Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton, Harrison Barnes, Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee, that Popovich would guide one of the youngest into a leading voice.

But here the old master is working, it’s the 22-year-old Mitchell who he’s entrusting to guide this important enterprise. Popovich seems to see the leadership qualities in Mitchell that Jazz leadership and his Utah teammates have talked about for the last two years.

Packers cut Kizer; Boyle likely to back up Rodgers

Less than two years after he started 15 games for the Cleveland Browns as a rookie, DeShone Kizer was released by the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers traded former first-round pick Damarious Randall to the Browns for Kizer on March 15, 2018. While Randall flopped as a cornerback for the Packers, he started all but one game for the Browns last year at safety and is projected to be a starter again this season.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Packers kept Tim Boyle, who likely will be Aaron Rodgers’ backup at least to start the season. Boyle, an undrafted free agent who was the Packers’ No. 3 quarterback last season behind Rodgers and Kizer, led all NFL quarterbacks this preseason with six touchdowns (and did not throw an interception).6

The 23-year-old Kizer, who was the 52nd overall pick in the 2017 draft, was never able to rectify the accuracy problems that plagued him during his rookie season as the Browns’ starter. He threw a league-high 22 interceptions and just 11 touchdowns in the Browns’ winless 2017 season. For Kizer, this was his fourth different offense in as many seasons — from his last year at Notre Dame to the Browns to his first year with the Packers under then-coach Mike McCarthy to new Packers coach Matt LaFleur.

Kizer played in three games in relief of Rodgers last season, including three drives in the season opener after Rodgers hurt his knee against the Chicago Bears and then most of the season finale against the Detroit Lions after Rodgers suffered a concussion. He threw two interceptions without a touchdown in 42 pass attempts in those two games.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“In terms of myself, I feel confident as hell,” Kizer said after Thursday’s preseason finale. “I’ve changed my body, I’ve changed my mental [approach], I’ve changed my process as far as how I go about things, I’ve changed my mentality with how I approach the game, and with that, I’m happy. This has been a great offseason for me. The decision of whether or not I play for this team isn’t on me. But what I can say it that I’m confident I’ve become a better quarterback, I’ve become a better person, and I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to go out there and win games. That’s kind of the last cherry on top. But in terms of age and youth and where I see myself, look man, this game has given me a great life. It’s given me a great education, it’s given me great relationships that I’ll cherish forever, it’s given me opportunities of a lifetime. And for that, I’m always going to be grateful, I’m always going to have positive energy, but now it’s about seeing where I’m going to land and what team I’m going to be able to affect with that positive energy.”

It’s possible the Packers could bring in another quarterback, such as former New England Patriots backup Brian Hoyer (who was also released on Saturday) or someone else familiar with LaFleur’s offense, but for now Boyle will back up Rodgers. The strong-armed 24-year-old was inactive for all 16 games last season after making the roster as a free agent out of Eastern Kentucky. Boyle started his college career at UConn, where in three seasons he threw just one touchdown and 13 interceptions.

John Harbaugh’s T-shirt game is strong and motivating the Ravens

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh loves a good T-shirt. So much so that he’s got a guy on staff making custom designs for him.

At training camp last year, Harbaugh showed up with three words printed on a T-shirt.

Trying to set the tone after the 2017 season ended with a last-minute loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Harbaugh wanted to move past one of the most gut-wrenching moments in team history and put his players in the right mindset.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

At a team meeting, Harbaugh told the story of the biblical figure Benaiah chasing a lion into a snowy pit and killing it.

“If you want to do great things, you have to have courage,” said Harbaugh. “You got to know your moment.”

And boom … not long after that, Harbaugh later appeared at practice wearing a shirt reading, “Chase the Lion.”

One of the reasons Harbaugh is the fourth-longest-tenured coach in the NFL is his ability to find the pulse of the team and tailor his message to the circumstances. Harbaugh’s success — a Super Bowl title and 114 victories — comes from his ability to reinforce those messages to his players.5

And T-shirts are one of his favorite methods.

“If I wear it out there, I’m trying to say something to them that day,” Harbaugh said. “It’s all part of culture-building. It’s our world view. It’s what we believe. It’s what we’re based on. It’s our principles that we’re anchored to, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Harbaugh loves reading. If he comes across a meaningful life lesson, he picks up his phone and types it into his notes. There are easily a thousand talking points on his phone right now.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Many of those get made into shirts. Harbaugh doesn’t know the number of T-shirts he has made in his 12 seasons in Baltimore. The older ones are stored in a couple of drawers in his office.

If he wants a new message placed on a shirt, he informs Ravens equipment manager William Sheridan, who promptly gets it done.

“I’m going to make all of them into a quilt some day,” Harbaugh said with a smile. “I just have to find time to learn how to sew.”

Ibrahimovic: ‘If United need me, I’m here’

LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has joked about returning to Manchester United after claiming he is still good enough to play in the Premier League.

Ibrahimovic, 37, has scored 46 goals in 49 games for Galaxy since arriving from Old Trafford in 2018 but after United sold Romelu Lukaku this summer with Alexis Sanchez set to follow, he hinted at a comeback.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“Nah, I did my job in Europe. I enjoyed it, I have 33 trophies that I brought with me here and hopefully I can get something here. And then we will see where that adventure finishes.”

The former Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, Barcelona and Juventus striker added that he still checks for United’s results and was aware of the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday.6

“I look, I look, I look,” he added. “I saw the last game and I think they were unlucky. If they score the penalty, it’s a different game but a game in England is not finished until its finished.

“Anything can happen, especially in the last minutes where everything is in the heat of the moment.”

Ibrahimovic said he is not surprised to see Wayne Rooney depart Major League Soccer but is not sure what he will do when his own contract is up at the end of the year.

“No, I’m not surprised [that he’s going back],” Ibrahimovic said. “Absolutely not.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“I think he came, he tried, he did his best and, yeah, he had patience. You need a lot of patience and it has finished, the patience. I mean, my deal is until December 31. What happens afterwards I don’t know.

“I’m in a different position than Wazza. Wazza is much younger than me. I am old but still dominating, still making the difference. Let’s see what happens. I have to be feeling good physically.”

Man United held to draw by 10-man Saints

Manchester United’s patchy start to the Premier League season continued with a 1-1 draw at 10-man Southampton after a Jannik Vestergaard header cancelled out a brilliant Daniel James goal for the visitors on Saturday.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

The result left United on five points from four games after last weekend’s shock 2-1 home defeat by Crystal Palace while Southampton, who stretched their winless league streak at home against United to nine games, have four points.

Wales winger James, signed from Swansea City during the close season, netted the third goal of his United career with a 10th-minute rocket into the top corner which gave Saints keeper Angus Gunn no chance.4

The visitors dominated the opening half and livewire James forced a reflex save from Gunn with another piledriver from 20 metres midway through the first half after Marcus Rashford had headed well wide from close range.

But United faded after the break and Vestergaard equalised in the 58th minute when he rose above Victor Lindelof to head home emphatically a Kevin Danso cross from the right after visiting keeper David De Gea had saved a Danny Ings effort.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

The home side were forced to hang on in the closing stages after Danso was sent off in the 73rd minute for a second bookable foul when he hacked down Scott McTominay, with Gunn denying Rashford and substitute Mason Greenwood.