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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.

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.

Colts took LB knowing about sex assault claim

Colts general manager Chris Ballard says he knew Stanford’s Bobby Okereke had been accused of sexual assault in 2015 when he drafted the linebacker in April.

“When we looked at it and talked about it and talking to the young man, an incident from four years ago, no discipline by the university [and] he was never charged with a crime,” Ballard said Wednesday. “And then you look at his track record from that point to now. Team captain. Lott Trophy quarterfinalist. He graduated with a degree in management and engineering. He’s working on his master’s. From 2015 to 2019, from everything we gathered and high recommendations that we got, it felt appropriate to take him.”

Okereke was forthcoming about what occurred in 2015 when he met with the Colts at the Senior Bowl in January, Ballard said. The general manager said the team investigated the situation, including reviewing the documents from the ensuing Title IX case, and felt comfortable selecting the linebacker in the third round.china nike nfl jerseys cheap7

According to a New York Times story in December 2016, an unnamed Stanford football player was not disciplined by the school or football team after an in-house disciplinary board made up of five panelists did not get the necessary four votes to say they believed he sexually assaulted the accuser. Three of five did believe the accuser, according to the newspaper. Ballard said Okereke told the team that he was the player in the article when he was asked at the Senior Bowl if the Colts should be aware of any issues in his past.

“[These things are] very difficult,” Ballard said. “Not only from our perspective from trying to get the information, but from the university perspective. You have a he-said, she-said incident. I don’t want to sit here and act like we don’t have sensitivity for both sides of it. But as I’ve kind of said, it happened four years ago and because there were no charges or disciplinary actions by the university and then his track record from everything we know to this point has been good.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

The general manager acknowledged Wednesday that the team did not talk to the accuser or her lawyer due to the fact that there were no charges or discipline handed down by Stanford officials.

Ballard, who has put a premium on character inside the locker room as he continues reshaping the organization, was asked why he did not reveal the information about Okereke sooner.

“I didn’t see it [as] appropriate considering he had never been charged or disciplined by the university. That’s the reason why we did not give you that information,” Ballard said.

Phillies acquire outfielder Bruce from Mariners

The Philadelphia Phillies acquired former All-Star outfielder Jay Bruce from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Class-A infielder Jake Scheiner and cash considerations, the Phillies announced Sunday.

Bruce is owed $8,317,204 this year from his $13 million salary and has a $13 million salary in 2020 — the remainder of a three-year contract he signed with the New York Mets in January 2018. The Mets remain responsible for the second $1.5 million installment of his $3 million signing bonus, a payment due Jan. 31, 2020.

The 32-year-old Bruce is hitting .212 with 14 homers and 28 RBIs. He has struck out 53 times in 165 at-bats.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

“I figured this would be the situation,” Bruce told reporters. “It’s bittersweet. I really like the group of guys here [in Seattle]. I got to know some of them and had great relationships. It’s part of the business, though. I get to go somewhere I have a chance to win, and at this point in my career, that’s pretty paramount for me.”7

A three-time All-Star for Cincinnati in 2011, ’12 and ’16, Bruce was acquired by the Mets from the Reds on Aug. 1, 2016, traded to Cleveland on Aug. 9, 2017, then became a free agent and returned to the Mets in 2018.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

He hit just .223 with nine homers and 37 RBIs in 94 games last year, and New York traded him to Seattle in December as part of the deal in which the salary-shedding Mariners sent second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz to the Mets.

Philadelphia outfielder Odubel Herrera was placed on administrative leave by the commissioner’s office Tuesday under the sport’s domestic violence policy after his arrest in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Bruce is expected to help fill that void.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Bruce would be used both off the bench and as a starter.

“Jay Bruce makes our bench stronger and I also think he makes our lineup stronger on days when we’ll see a right-handed pitcher,” he said.

Bruce’s last hit with Seattle was memorable: He clubbed his 300th career home run on Friday against the Los Angeles Angels.

Scheiner, 23, hit .256 with two home runs and 19 RBIs for Class-A Clearwater this season.

Browns eager for good dose of OBJ in minicamp

Browns coach Freddie Kitchens was direct when asked what Odell Beckham Jr. was missing during organized team activities, which are voluntary.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“A lot,” Kitchens told reporters Thursday. “The offense.”

Beckham attended the first OTA session May 14 but has missed the eight sessions since. The Browns open mandatory minicamp Tuesday, and Beckham is expected to show. Beckham also attended an April 1 news conference with teammates Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry and Myles Garrett, but he has not been a fixture at the team facility since Cleveland acquired him in a March 12 trade with the New York Giants.7

“I just want to see him,” Kitchens said when asked what he wants to see from Beckham during the three-day camp.

Mayfield has been running the offense without several top options. Landry did not participate in Thursday’s session, and Kitchens said an injury will likely keep him off the field for minicamp, delaying the on-field reunion of Beckham and Landry from their LSU days. Running back Duke Johnson, the subject of trade rumors, has stayed away.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Two weeks ago, Kitchens said he wanted every player here but stressed they had the option to attend. Receivers coach Adam Henry, who coached Beckham in New York and at LSU, said he has no concerns about Beckham’s readiness.

“He’s a worker. He’s a guy who works hard,” Henry said. “He’s always in condition. You have to save him from himself when he’s practicing because he’ll go and go and go. He’s like the young person with the ball. If there’s a ball being thrown or kicked, he wants it.”

The Browns haven’t seen much of that in person but are eager to find out.

Beckham is entering the second year of a five-year, $95 million deal he signed with the Giants last offseason.

Bart Starr was the toughest football player who ever lived

Nearly four years ago, when I visited Bart Starr in his Birmingham, Alabama, home, he did not remember the five NFL championships he had won, or the Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, he had won them for. He could not place Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers, even though he studied Rodgers closely through the DirecTV package his wife and high school sweetheart, Cherry, had bought him as a Christmas gift.nfl cheap jerseys nike

Starr even asked me if I had played for Lombardi, the former coach at my New Jersey high school. We shared a small laugh over that before I brought up the 1967 Ice Bowl, one of football’s most iconic games settled by one of football’s most iconic players. Starr did not remember anything about that either.

The then-81-year-old former quarterback had suffered multiple strokes, a heart attack, four seizures, and significant brain damage within the previous year, and some doctors could not believe he was still alive. During one stay in the hospital, a doctor told Cherry her husband likely would not make it through the night. Bart woke up the next morning in much better shape.

He lost his memory long before he lost his life Sunday at 85. But Starr never lost his dignity while he reminded the world, in his last great comeback, that he was the toughest NFL player who ever lived.5

When we think of old-school toughness on the football field, we often think of big and vicious hitters, fire-breathing defenders who played through injury and enjoyed cutting skill-position players in half. Chuck Bednarik, Ray Nitschke and Dick Butkus. Mean Joe Greene, Jack Tatum, Jack Lambert and Mike Singletary.

But at 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, the gentlemanly Starr made the most difficult championship play under the most difficult circumstances in a game that never should have been played. With the ball at the 1-yard line at Lambeau Field, down three points to the Dallas Cowboys with 16 seconds to go, Starr ignored his frozen hands and body, the subhuman Green Bay conditions (the wind chill was minus-48 degrees), and the fact that he was an aging, athletically-challenged quarterback who had already been sacked by Dallas eight times. Starr asked to keep the ball in a huddle with Lombardi, who ordered him to push it across the goal line. “And then let’s get the hell out of here,” the coach cried.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Starr scored, of course, behind Jerry Kramer’s famous block on Jethro Pugh, and afterward his wife was stunned by the severe swelling in his face. No NFL player had ever been asked to give more on a single drive or a single play. Starr would be named Super Bowl MVP for a second straight time two weeks later, and he never again managed a winning record as a starter.

Sources: Chelsea trigger Giroud contract extension

Chelsea have triggered their option to extend Olivier Giroud’s contract by another year, sources have told ESPN FC.

Giroud had been set to become a free agent, but Chelsea have decided to keep him as they weigh up whether to take their appeal against a two-transfer window ban imposed by FIFA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Chelsea’s move to retain the France international follows their decision to break their policy of only offering one-year extensions to players over the age of 30 when David Luiz signed a new two-year contract earlier this month.

Giroud has made a positive impact since joining from Arsenal for £18 million in January 2018 and is the joint-top scorer in this season’s Europa League, netting 10 goals in 13 appearances to help Chelsea reach the final.4

But he has been unable to break into Maurizio Sarri’s team in the Premier League, starting just seven of Chelsea’s 38 league games.

Speaking last month, Giroud said he would only agree to stay at Chelsea for another season if the club could assure him of a bigger role.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“Obviously I’m happy to be here,” he said. “The thing is I just want to enjoy. It’s not because I’m 32 and I’ve won the World Cup, because I don’t want to retire. I want to be first choice.

“With what I’ve achieved here, there is no reason they won’t give me one more year. But I need to be happy also.”

Ex-Chelsea midfielder Mikel considering Premier League offers – source

John Obi Mikel is closing in on a return to the Premier League with a source telling ESPN FC that the former Chelsea star is considering multiple offers from around the league and could make a decision before heading off to the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria.

With Boro’s season over and no promotion, a source close to the Nigeria international said he has received multiple offers to return to the Premier League, including newly promoted Norwich and Sheffield United.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china4

“There are some options right now, and a few more we expect to see over the coming days,” the source told ESPN FC. “Once all the options are on the table, he will make a decision.”

That decision is likely to be made before the Africa Cup of Nations Finals.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Mikel has just been recalled to the Nigeria squad after nearly one year out, and is expected to lead his country to the Africa Cup of Nations finals.

“He will most likely make the decision before the finals, although that will depend on what is on the table,” the source added.