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Show me the money? Ex-stars say cash isn’t always king in NFL free agency

The first time he entered free agency, former NFL linebacker Bart Scott wasn’t afraid to make a tough call. He had survived a rough Detroit neighborhood. He prided himself on playing through pain, having endured Michigan winters and playing on dirt fields. And he arrived in the NFL as an undrafted free agent — from a school that flew a chartered UPS plane to games.

“It had no windows,” Scott said, “We landed and I was asleep and I thought we were f—ing crashing.”

Not much fazed him. He, and other former NFL players, understand the decisions many current players must make once free agency begins Wednesday. Money is a motivator, but there are other factors players consider as well.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Here’s a look at different perspectives from three prominent former players as they were about to hit free agency for the first time: Scott, running back Fred Taylor — both were Pro Bowlers — and defensive lineman Ziggy Hood — the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round pick in 2009.6

“If I’m able to garner this amount [on an offer] at that time, what happens if I get a full year and an opportunity to show what I can do?” he said. “It was me betting on myself and taking a shorter deal to show what I could do.

“Why lock myself down until I’m 30 and sign a deal under market [value] when I know it will change?”

Baltimore’s deal would allow Scott to hit free agency again as he entered his prime. His first season as a full-time starter in Baltimore (this time next to Lewis) worked out perfectly: Scott finished with a career-high 135 tackles, 9.5 sacks, two interceptions and nine passes defensed.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Two years later, he wanted to cash in on free agency but also consider life after football. When his defensive coordinator in Baltimore, Rex Ryan, became New York Jets coach, Scott knew where he wanted to go. He signed a six-year deal worth $48 million; Scott said Baltimore made him an identical offer.

“I wanted to be in a place I could make a transition off the field,” he said. “I knew New York had never seen such brash bravado from the Jets. I knew they’d be attracted to the in-your-face, unapologetic, tough, physical, braggadocio mentality me and Rex would bring.”

Scott said that sort of attitude helped him post-NFL. After he retired from the Jets following the 2012 season, he spent five years working for CBS Sports and currently has a radio show on ESPN New York with Alan Hahn.

How Thierry Henry is trying to resurrect his coaching career in MLS

Thierry Henry is annoyed. He grimaces. He extends his hands for emphasis, palms to the sky. It is a look the world has seen before.

Since the start of a 20-year playing career that included spells at some of the world’s most important football clubs, Henry has held his teammates, the journalists who covered him, and even his managers to the highest standards. He has been quick to express frustration with anyone who wasn’t good enough, didn’t try hard enough or, once, who didn’t push in his chair after a news conference.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Whether he responded with a word or a gesture, it was never hard to tell what he was thinking. He packed an entire narrative into a turn of the hands, a roll of the eyes. “He could score an amazing goal,” says Dennis Bergkamp, who played alongside Henry at Arsenal, “and then a moment later he’d be angry with someone for not passing the ball correctly. That’s the way he was.”

Henry experienced exactly that disappointment with the New York Red Bulls, where he spent the final 4½ seasons of his career. In 2013, the Red Bulls amassed the best regular-season record in MLS. Then they immediately lost their home-and-home conference semifinal to bottom-seed Houston. It wasn’t fair, but it was the system. “Those are the rules,” he says.nfl nike jersey cheap

So too is the structure that allows teams to sleepwalk through the regular season and flip a switch when the playoffs start. Or worse, lose every game and show up the next year ready to play again, rather than getting relegated as in nearly every other league in the world.3

“What happens if you lose?” he asks. “Nothing! Nothing happens. You’re still in MLS, or the NBA, or NFL, or whatever. The rules allow you to just let it go. You shouldn’t let anything go. In Europe, it’s unacceptable. It would never happen. It shouldn’t happen.”

He sighs. “But you have to know where you are,” he says.

A little more than a year ago, Henry was in Monaco, ending a managerial stint that was as short — three months — as it was disappointing. He’s back in MLS now, trying to rehabilitate his reputation while managing with a distinctly different frame of reference. Henry won nearly everything a player can win, but the Impact have been the model of a mediocre franchise, with only three trips to the playoffs in eight MLS seasons, and seven head coaches during that time.

Henry’s task is clear. If he can do a credible job for a couple of years, he’ll put distance between Monaco and his next job. “It could take him back on the managerial ladder in Europe,” says Craig Burley, the former Scotland international and current ESPN commentator.

Damion Lee puts tough outing in past while lifting Warriors past Sixers

Golden State Warriors guard Damion Lee has made a career out of proving people wrong. That determination has helped him earn the respect of his teammates and coaches over time. It is part of the reason why so many people within the Warriors organization were so happy to see him score 24 points while leading the team to a 118-114 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

At 27, Lee has had to overcome many hurdles to carve out a niche for himself in the league, the latest of which came following Thursday’s home loss to the Toronto Raptors in which Lee missed a pair of free throws and a wide-open 3 in the final minute of the game.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

After the previous game was over, Lee, who scored 23 points against Toronto, was the subject of online harassment from Twitter users. The abuse was so overwhelming that Lee’s teammates, including brother-in-law Stephen Curry and Eric Paschall, and Lee’s wife, Sydel, all came to his defense, posting messages of support.7

“I remember going home after that game, that last game, people were just slandering him,” Paschall said. “[He was] trending on Twitter. I didn’t like it. I feel like you always got to have your teammates back, and that’s the reason I tweeted that out, because it was like people were disrespecting him like [he didn’t] have a great game before that.

“Just because he had a little rough sequence doesn’t mean you take that away from a dude like that. So that’s why I was hyping him up, because I just wanted to let him know that, ‘You’re a killa. Kill me doing your thing.’ That was that sequence.”

Lee acknowledged that getting all the support from his teammates over the previous day and a half was important to him in the wake of all the demeaning comments he and his family saw since Thursday night.buy nike nfl jerseys cheap

“It’s huge,” Lee said. “That goes to show what kind of people they are, what kind of organization we have. This is a brotherhood, and no matter what we’re going through, ups and downs, we’re always going to stick together and defend each other.”

Playing without Curry (flu), Draymond Green (knee) and Kevon Looney (hip), it was Lee, Paschall and Marquese Chriss who led the way all night against Philly.

The Warriors were particularly good when Lee and his teammates went to the rim against a Sixers team playing without Joel Embiid (shoulder) and Ben Simmons (back). Golden State was 19-for-24 for 39 points when scoring on drives and 22-for-28 for 52 points when including any shots that came off drives, according to ESPN Stats and Information data.

“It’s not surprising,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Lee’s performance. “Damion has so much toughness [and] perseverance. You think about how he’s gotten this far — something like that the other night, a tough finish. If you play in the NBA long enough, stuff happens like that, so he bounced back quickly. He had a great game the other night too. He played really well the whole night through; just had a couple tough plays at the end.

“One of the things I love about this team is just seeing the stories of these guys.”

To Kerr’s point, aside from Lee’s contributions, the Warriors also received a boost from guard Mychal Mulder, who scored 18 points and made several big plays down the stretch. Kerr is hoping that Mulder, who is still on his first 10-day contract, remains with the Warriors for a while longer.

Next step: 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo delivers under pressure

Jimmy Garoppolo prefers to keep his secrets to himself. But there was nothing Garoppolo could do Sunday afternoon when cornerback Richard Sherman stepped to the podium following the San Francisco 49ers’ win against the Pittsburgh Steelers and revealed a surprise about the Niners’ quarterback.

“He likes getting hit, I don’t know why,” Sherman said. “Not every quarterback likes it. It kind of wakes him up.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

About 30 minutes later, Garoppolo would confirm Sherman’s assertion, noting that he has been told before that he seems to enjoy taking hits. If that’s the case, there’s little doubt that Garoppolo had a grand old time in Sunday’s 24-20 win against the Steelers at Levi’s Stadium.5

Making his third start of the season and third since returning from a torn left ACL suffered last September, Garoppolo felt more pressure Sunday than he had in the first two weeks combined — in more ways than one. Garoppolo had been sacked once and hit just twice in the first two games.

With the 49ers starting rookie Justin Skule at left tackle and their general preference for dialing up pressures, the Steelers made it clear they intended to throw everything they had at Garoppolo. By the time it was over, Garoppolo had been sacked just one time, but unofficial press box statistics had him taking eight hits. It seemed like many more.

Despite the pressure, Garoppolo didn’t flinch, sometimes even shaking loose from would-be tacklers and either making a play down the field, scrambling for a gain or throwing it away to preserve down and distance.cheap nfl nike jersey
Garoppolo’s toughness served as an example on a day when just about everything that could go wrong did. The Niners turned the ball over five times, including four in the first half. Two of those were interceptions charged to Garoppolo and he had his hand in two botched center/quarterback exchanges. Three of those turnovers came with the 49ers inside Pittsburgh’s 30, turning a game that could have been far more comfortable into a nail-biter.

After a third-down miscue on a snap that hit motioning receiver Richie James Jr. that the Steelers recovered at their 7, Garoppolo was visibly frustrated.

“I was upset,” Garoppolo said. “But the defense, when they’re playing like that, it gives you such confidence on the sideline. So it was just more about getting our guys ready for the next series. They make huge plays like that on defense, it sets us up for success.”

Cubs’ Javy Baez Thumb Injury Diagnosed as Fracture; Likely Out Rest of September

The Chicago Cubs will likely be without shortstop Javier Baez for the rest of the regular season.

According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, Baez is “unlikely” to play in September after suffering a fractured thumb. Wittenmyer noted a specialist confirmed the injury but discovered there was no ligament damage.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

The hope is he can play in October should the Cubs advance to the playoffs.6

Baez, 26, is slashing .281/.316/.532 with 29 home runs and 85 RBI in 133 games this season. He was also Chicago’s best player last year when he slashed .290/.326/.554 with 34 home runs and 111 RBI as a National League MVP candidate who helped carry the team into the playoffs.nfl cheap nike jerseys

Addison Russell would typically be the next shortstop with Baez sidelined, but he is under concussion protocol, per Zach Zaidman of the Cubs Radio Network. That leaves highly regarded prospect Nico Hoerner, who is in the starting lineup for Monday’s game against the San Diego Padres.

Vanderbilt’s Garland: I’m best guard in draft

If Thursday’s NBA draft truly has a steep drop-off in talent beyond the presumed top two picks in Duke’s Zion Williamson and Murray State’s Ja Morant, somebody forgot to tell Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland.

The 6-foot-2 guard, who left school after playing just five games his freshman season because of a meniscus injury in his left knee, said there’s nobody better at his position in this draft.

“I humbly say this, I think I’m the best (guard) in the draft,” he told ESPN. “I mean, I think I can do everything that an NBA team wants me to do.”
After Garland pulled out of the NBA draft combine in Chicago last month and sat out his agency’s (Klutch Sports) pro day in Los Angeles, draft pundits wondered whether he had received a promise from a lottery team. Garland and his agent, Rich Paul, lifted the smoke screen this week, however, as the guard granted private workouts to both the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers in L.A., sources told ESPN.cheap nfl nike jerseys china5

Both workouts occurred prior to the Lakers’ blockbuster trade Saturday for New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, which included Los Angeles sending the No. 4 overall pick to the Pelicans, sources said.

Garland impressed with his shot-making ability and deep range, according to sources present for the Lakers’ workout.

The Cavaliers, who hold the No. 5 pick Thursday, could arrange another swap with New Orleans, of course, if they set their sights on Garland and feel the need to move up to secure him. Should New Orleans take Williamson at No. 1, as expected, and want Garland at No. 4, Garland could pair with the Duke phenomenon a year after choosing Vanderbilt over the Blue Devils. Garland was heavily recruited by Mike Krzyzewski to become part of Duke’s heralded freshman class that included Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones. Kentucky also was interested in Garland, but he decided to play near his family in Tennessee.

“I got a chance to watch some Duke games (last season). I mean, it would have been a great fit, I guess. But I chose to stay at home, go to Vanderbilt. I always stick with my gut,” Garland said. “I wanted to do something different.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Garland’s father, Winston, played seven seasons in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves. Winston Garland’s time in the league ended in 1995, five years before Darius was born.

Though Winston averaged a respectable 9.4 points and 4.7 assists in 511 career games at the point, his son is primed to man the position in the modern NBA.

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.

Girona’s relegation poses a problem. Will Man City still care about Pep Guardiola’s brother and his club?

An hour after Girona’s final game at Estadi Montilivi, the kit man was still going back and forth from the dressing room to a van parked outside the ground, making his many trips in silence, lugging bag after bag and stopping just once to embrace the security guard, a look of sadness on their faces. Neither of them said anything; they didn’t need to. Watching him go and looking at the overall scene, it was hard not to see it as a case of packing away the first division. Defeated by Levante, it was just about over: They were on their way back to the second division.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

By that point, the last player had gone, sobbing as he went. Captain Alex Grannel had been in tears too, apologising for what had happened. And what had happened, the club’s sporting director Quique Carcel later said, was a “total failure.” In the news conference, coach Eusebio Sacristan struggled to talk. “I failed everyone,” he said, his voice cracking. After a few questions, the press officer asked: “OK?” In the small room, the journalists mumbled OK — no one had the heart to keep him there any longer. It was dark outside, and there was nothing much he could say.

At the full-time whistle, Girona’s owner Pere Guardiola, brother of Pep — yes, that Pep — had gotten up from his seat in the main stand and made his way downstairs, defeated. His second season — and the mighty City Football Group’s second as part-owners and investors, the club just one of many connected to Manchester City through that holding company — had ended in relegation. Girona had one more game to play, but it was over. No one was clinging to a potential miracle, and ultimately, it never came. A few days after the season ended, Eusebio resigned, his reputation damaged. He walked away, demanding nothing. He was a good person, everyone agreed, but maybe not a good manager — at least not for this team. He could have been sacked sooner: Girona should never have been in trouble but won just one of their last 10 games.5

This was only Girona’s second-ever season in the Primera Division: Three times previously, they had been on the cusp of coming up, but it didn’t actually happen until 2018. Now, in 2019, they were on their way back down. On one level at least, that was entirely normal. Leaving the stadium that night, you looked at the temporary standing at one end and wondered if it might be taken down soon. Girona had doubled the number of season-ticket holders, but could that be sustained in The Segunda? This is not a big football city. Or, at least it wasn’t. They had hoped to change that; now, maybe, they will see if they actually did.nfl nike jersey cheap

In a news conference a few days later, Carcel said that relegation had always been a possibility, and everyone knew it. He compared the situation that Girona found themselves in to where they’d been five years earlier, which on the surface, at least, was true but didn’t make it easier to take in that moment. Some didn’t entirely agree with that mindset; they also had doubts about where this would go now. “What did you want, everything to be flowers and violets?” Carcel said. “We have to be humble enough that this could happen to a club with the budget and history of Girona.”

Sure, but not to a club with a budget and a history of Manchester City.

That was the doubt lingering in some of the criticism and the fears: doubts that focused on their past, their present and particularly their future. Would Man City still care now? Had they cared enough before? What had Girona gained? Would they now lose all that? What had City gained? What, in fact, did City really want from their ownership of Girona anyway?

Matt Nagy sees no signs of defensive drop-off for Bears

Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy expressed confidence on Wednesday that the team’s top-ranked defense will sustain its level of success under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. Nagy hired Pagano in January to replace Vic Fangio, who departed to become head coach of the Denver Broncos.

“I have zero concerns,” Nagy said at the conclusion of the Bears’ second OTA workout. “It’s going to be exciting. We are seeing some different looks out there that we haven’t seen with Vic. It’s been neat.”

A 16-year NFL coaching veteran, Pagano takes over arguably the league’s best defense. The Bears ranked No. 1 in the NFL in takeaways (36), interceptions (27) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (five). They also allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns (five), posted the lowest passer rating allowed (72.9) and surrendered the fewest 20-plus-yard plays (46) in 2018.

Additionally, Chicago set a franchise record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a 16-game season.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Pagano told reporters on Wednesday that he and the rest of the defensive staff are in the infant stages of installing the scheme but that some of what Chicago ran with Fangio would remain.6

“It would be foolish on my part not to have some carryover considering what they’ve done,” Pagano said on Wednesday. “Vic and I were together at one point in Baltimore, so there’s some common threads that run through both systems, and that’s a good thing for these guys and myself.”

Pagano was the Colts’ head coach for six seasons (2012-17), leading Indianapolis to two AFC South championships (2013, 2014) and three consecutive playoff appearances (2012-14). Pagano was fired with a 53-43 regular-season record and a 3-3 mark in the postseason. The veteran coach served as a consultant for the NFL during the 2018 season, the first time in 33 years Pagano was without a coaching job.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“It was great to have time off to do some things I haven’t been able to do in 33 years,” Pagano said. “But again, you ask any player that’s been let go or put on the street and then been given another opportunity, another team, another locker room, coaches to be around, players to be around, come out here and run around like a kid again — there’s nothing better.”

Prior to accepting the Colts’ head-coaching job, Pagano served as the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator in 2011. Pagano coached the Ravens’ secondary from 2008 to 10.

“[Pagano] connects so well with the players,” Nagy said. “He connects so well with his coaches. He’s a big communicator — that’s one of his biggest strengths. Is this thing going to happen overnight? Absolutely not. He knew that coming in here. We had one of the best defenses in the NFL, and he knows what kind of challenge that is, because there’s expectations not just from the media and from the fan base but from his own players. They know what they did under Vic’s regime and his coaching staff. So I think that’s going to be really neat to watch organically happen, but there’s got to be some patience involved there, so that’s what we’ll continue to talk through.”

Can Kyler Murray continue legendary winning ways with Cardinals?

Kyler Murray’s high school résumé is a thing of football lore in Texas.

Forty-two wins. No losses. Three straight state championships. Three championship game MVPs. Gatorade Player of the Year.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Tom Westerberg, Murray’s coach at Allen High School. “We played at the highest classification in the state of Texas, and to know that we ran the table three times with him, it’s unbelievable.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Unbelievable? Yes. Incredible? Yes. New? No.

Murray, the quarterback taken No. 1 overall in the NFL draft last month by the Arizona Cardinals, didn’t start winning when he transferred to Allen before his sophomore year. By then, he’d been doing it for years. All he has ever done is win, and he has done it at every level. Now he joins a Cardinals team that finished 3-13 last season and has reached the playoffs just four times this millennium.

Murray dominated the Lewisville Football Association for the next seven years, losing just one game, as Nelson recalls, and winning six league titles out of a possible seven. And Murray did it often by playing against older players. Because of his August birthday, Murray was always among the youngest kids in his age group.5

Nelson saw firsthand how tough it was to beat Murray: He coached the team that gave Murray what’s believed to be his lone youth football loss, in 2006, when Murray was 9.

“It was a pretty big deal when that happened,” Nelson said. “I’ve been doing this 19, 20 years now. He’s the best youth football player I’ve seen. Hands down.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

By the time Murray finally took the field at Huffines Middle School, his reputation preceded him. Dick Olin, then the head coach at Lewisville, installed a watered-down version of the varsity’s scheme, which was essentially the Air Raid, for Murray to run.

It didn’t take long for Murray to pick up the offense, said Heath Naragon, his eighth-grade coach at Huffines, so he’d go back to Olin and get another part of the playbook to install. Murray would absorb it and Naragon would go back to Olin. It got to the point where Murray’s eighth-grade team was running an offense more complex than the junior varsity but not quite as complicated as the varsity.

“He was very knowledgeable,” Naragon said. “I’ve been doing this, I don’t know, 11 years now and I’ve never seen anybody like that.”

It translated into sheer dominance on the field. Huffines lost once that season, in the semifinals of the middle school playoffs — because Murray missed the game with a shoulder injury.

What stood out to Naragon beyond Murray’s arm strength, which he believed was better than 99 percent of Texas high school quarterbacks as a seventh-grader, was Murray’s poise.