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Colts enter offseason drama-free for first time since 2014

Former coach Chuck Pagano and former general manager Ryan Grigson’s fractured relationship hurt the franchise, and there was three years of nonstop talk about quarterback Andrew Luck’s right shoulder. All those issues factored into three straight seasons of missing the playoffs.nfl cheap jerseys nike

It was evident the Colts didn’t have to worry about those things this season because they had a new head coach, a general manger with a clear vision and a healthy quarterback.

The result?5

Their best record — 10-6 — since, well, the Colts didn’t have any distractions when they finished 11-5 and reached the AFC Championship Game in 2014.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“It’s going to be the first normal — if there is such thing as a normal — offseason,” general manager Chris Ballard said. “But it is going to be nice to just be able to dial in, ‘All right, here’s the things we need to get better at.'”

The only coaching change Frank Reich and Ballard have to worry about is finding a new offensive line coach, as Dave DeGuglielmo was fired and assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson is headed to the Buffalo Bills.

One of the biggest factors that helps Ballard is that there are no longer any lingering doubts about Luck’s health. It took 25 minutes until Ballard was asked his first question about his quarterback during his 48-minute season-ending news conference this week.

The Colts will have more than $120 million in salary-cap space as they attempt to go from “good” to “great” next season. Ballard was steadfast in saying they will look to sign free agents, but he’ll do it judiciously because he wants to “stay the course” in his desire to build through the draft.

Despite loss, Nets can finally point toward a brighter future

For the past five years, any mention of the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets immediately brought up one thing: the blockbuster, draft-night trade in 2013 that altered the course of both franchises and inextricably linked them for years to come.

A move the Nets thought would elevate them to championship contention instead helped them win a single playoff series — and served as the firepower behind Boston’s execution of one of the most efficient rebuilds in NBA history, thanks to Brooklyn’s descent to the bottom of the standings.nfl cheap jerseys nike

As the Nets remained there, the trade — and its seemingly never-ending draft obligations — served as a constant reminder of how all of that losing would not translate into any of the one currency losing teams always can hang onto: hope.

That was the case, at least, everywhere outside of Brooklyn. Inside the team — and, specifically, the offices of general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson — there was simply too much work to be done to spend time worrying about the situation they inherited.5

“I’ll give Sean a lot of credit: We just kind of put it in a box, and we never really talk about it,” Atkinson said before his Nets lost 116-95 to the Celtics on Monday at TD Garden. “But I do love the fact that it’s Brooklyn and Boston, and this is what the NBA’s all about. I hope we can improve enough where these games become more and more meaningful as we go down the line.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

While no one would mistake the Nets for being in the same class as the Celtics quite yet, the Nets do have something cooking in Brooklyn, despite the restrictions both Marks and Atkinson have spent the past two-plus seasons working under. Even after losing Monday night, the Nets have won 12 of their past 16 games, a stretch that has allowed them to surge into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Given the dearth of quality teams in the East outside the top five, there’s no reason to think the Nets can’t stay there.

That the Nets are even in the conversation for a playoff spot is a credit to the plan Marks and Atkinson have put in place since they arrived with the organization in 2016. That plan required them to get creative to create assets when the franchise otherwise didn’t have any. The assets the organization should’ve had wound up in Boston, as first-round picks in 2014 (James Young), 2016 (Jaylen Brown) and 2017 (Jayson Tatum) gave the Celtics a pair of young wings to build around. The 2018 Nets pick that became Collin Sexton was the key piece of the trade that brought Kyrie Irving to Boston in the summer of 2017.

Sweet 16th: Udonis Haslem sticking with Heat on one-year deal

Udonis Haslem is barely given the chance to play anymore, and the Heat wanted him back anyway.

That’s how much they value his presence.nfl nike jersey cheap

A person with knowledge of the negotiations said Haslem and the Heat have agreed to a one-year, $2.4 million contract that will keep him with his hometown team for a 16th season. The person spoke to the AP on Thursday on condition of anonymity because the contract has not been signed, though that last detail is merely a formality.

“When players come in and we talk to them about what it means to be a Miami Heat player, we point them at Udonis Haslem,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said earlier this offseason.5

Haslem and Dwyane Wade are the only players to appear on all three of Miami’s NBA champion teams. Haslem becomes the 19th player under contract going into training camp, one shy of the preseason maximum — and the Heat are waiting to see whether Wade will take that last available spot.

Haslem’s on-court role has been limited over the past three years. He appeared in only 14 games last season, all off the bench, and he hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in any game since Jan. 1, 2017.

But his voice in the locker room is vital. The 38-year-old Miami native remains one of the team’s captains, and it’s not uncommon for him to mentor teammates on the bench during games or raise his voice at halftime — even before coaches enter the room — when things are not going to his liking.

“UD is always the guy who sets the standard for teammates,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Haslem has played with 126 Heat teammates, not even counting those players who were signed for training camps and never actually appeared in a regular-season or playoff game. His return for a 16th year means that he has now been with the franchise for more than half its history; the Heat had played 15 seasons before he signed with them in 2003.

No time to gamble: Ravens play it safe by keeping Robert Griffin III

It’s now well known that keeping Robert Griffin III means the Baltimore Ravens are carrying three quarterbacks for the first time since 2009.

Perhaps the more relevant streak is this: The Ravens avoided relying on a rookie quarterback as Joe Flacco’s primary backup, which hasn’t happened since Tyrod Taylor in 2011.nike jerseys nfl cheap

At that time, Flacco was one of the most durable quarterbacks in NFL history. Baltimore was going to the playoffs every season.

The Ravens just couldn’t take that same risk this season, even though some believe Lamar Jackson can handle the No. 2 quarterback duties.10

Flacco is no longer threatening Brett Favre’s consecutive-games streak, battling injuries in each of his past three seasons. The Ravens aren’t a perennial postseason team anymore — they haven’t made the playoffs since 2014.

Given the circumstances, the safe bet was keeping Griffin. He has more experience than Jackson, and he has been more consistent than Jackson throughout training camp and preseason games.

It was surely tempting to continue Baltimore’s trend of keeping two quarterbacks after Jackson completed 64 percent of his passes and posted a 103.2 passer rating in his past two preseason games. But, if Flacco was injured again, does anyone know which Jackson the Ravens would get? Would it be the one who put up dazzling numbers at the end of the preseason, or would it be the quarterback who couldn’t complete more than half of his passes in each of the first three games?cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

With so much riding on this season, Baltimore simply can’t gamble on the most important position in the game.

Griffin was poised and efficient every time he stepped on the field. He continually moved the offense, not looking like a quarterback who was out of the league last season. He didn’t get many reps throughout the entire week of practice.

“There’s no doubt that you want Robert Griffin on your team,” coach John Harbaugh said after Thursday’s preseason finale. “He makes our quarterback room better and stronger. He looks like a starter to me. He has been a starter. Certainly a backup in this league, without question. I mean, that’s not even close. I would like to have him on the team.”

Inter Milan have a point to prove in Serie A and UCL after Luka Modric disappointment

Inter Milan are back in the Champions League after six long years in the wilderness, but Thursday’s draw only confirmed that this season is off to a difficult start already.

According to the front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday, Juventus and Roma are “in heaven,” while Inter are “in hell” after AC Milan legend Riccardo Kaka and former Inter flop Diego Forlan placed them in a group with Barcelona, Tottenham and a PSV side that has won every game in the Eredivisie this season.

“We have to think positive,” Inter’s vice-president Javier Zanetti said, while also defending his club from Real Madrid president Florentino Perez’s latest attack for daring to try and sign Luka Modric.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Watching Modric beat Cristiano Ronaldo to the UEFA Player of the Year award must have led many Interisti to ponder what might have been: principally because the need for an imaginative playmaker to make their team’s play less predictable is so great.9

Inter may have a few regrets, but the big picture is, as the club’s chief executive Alessandro Antonelli wished to make clear, that “we are back where we belong.” Memories of Jose Mourinho running under the sprinklers, arm out-stretched, his finger pointing to the jubilant away fans at Camp Nou is enough to crack a smile on every Inter supporter’s face.

Their return to the Champions League eclipses, in emotional terms, the trepidation caused by the daunting prospect of facing Lionel Messi and Harry Kane. It is a source of considerable pride for the club and fanbase. While much of the international focus was of course centred on Juventus and their chances of winning the Champions League this year, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo’s reunion with Manchester United, Antonelli couldn’t resist reminding everyone: “We are the last Italian side to win it…”

Zanetti struck a slightly different tone. Rather than hark back to the past, he stayed firmly rooted in the present, acknowledging that “we have been drawn in a very difficult group.” The Argentine just hopes the level of competition will provide the necessary inspiration for Inter to raise their game and smash through another ceiling in the team’s development. “When you face sides like Barça and Spurs you have the chance to improve,” he added. “And that could be important for us.”cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

If there’s one major takeaway from the opening fortnight in Serie A it’s that Inter need to be better. A lot was expected of Inter after a summer transfer campaign rated 9/10 by Gazzetta and encouraging preseason in which they went to places like Atleti and Lyon and won against full strength sides.

Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward ready for camp, can go ‘full speed’

Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward will return to Boston next week and are expected to join their teammates in informal workouts as Celtics players begin pickup play in advance of the late-September start of training camp.

Irving and Hayward have been rehabbing this summer from follow-up procedures on the injuries that shortened their 2017-18 campaigns and prevented them from playing in Boston’s surge to the cusp of the NBA Finals.cheap nike jerseys nfl

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told ESPN on Monday that both Irving (knee) and Hayward (ankle) appear at full health and are ready for the new season.

“I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I’m saying that if our training camp were starting today that they would be here today going full speed,” Ainge said. “It’s not like they need an extra month. I think that they know they have an extra month, so they are sort of pacing themselves. They’re playing as if to build up to that opening day of training camp [Sept. 26].”

Celtics players have expressed excitement in starting 5-on-5 work after Boston brought back much of the same roster from last season’s squad that, even without Irving and Hayward, took the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.9

“They’ll both be here within the next week or so; by the time Labor Day is over, they will all be playing 5-on-5,” Ainge said of Irving and Hayward. “I think it’s just a matter of, if they’re not playing 5-on-5 now, then it’s only because they want it more of a controlled environment, I guess. They’re doing everything — dunking the basketball off both legs and playing one-on-one live and jumping and cutting and defending. I’m excited for them.”

Ainge said the team will carefully ramp up activity for Irving and Hayward during camp and that the emergence of Boston’s younger players should ease the burden on the returning stars early in the new season.cheap nfl nike jerseys free shipping

But there’s an obvious excitement for the Celtics in having their team whole again for the first time since the 2017-18 opening night in Cleveland.

“I’m really excited about the upcoming season with [Irving and Hayward],” Ainge said. “Obviously, there’s a transition from rehabbing to playing one-on-one to playing 3-on-3 to 5-on-5 and then playing NBA basketball, so I don’t want to build up expectations too high. I think there will be a little bit of an adjustment once that last phase is made.

Tyrod Taylor turning out to be QB Browns were hoping for

Ohio — The Cleveland Browns hoped they found a leader for a franchise in desperate need of one when they made a trade with the Buffalo Bills for veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor this offseason.

When asked what impressed him about training camp, Browns coach Hue Jackson singled out his new starting quarterback.

“I would be remiss if I did not say Tyrod Taylor and what he has done on this football team since the day that he walked in the building at practice, his leadership, how he has conducted himself here and trying to do everything he can to get this organization winning,” Jackson said.

The two-time Pro Bowler showed right away the kind of leader he was going to be. He coordinated a trip to California for some offensive players to meet following the June veteran minicamp so they could bond and work on team chemistry ahead of training camp.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“I know the offseason, especially before training camp, is a time you can get around your family before you get back to the grind,” Taylor said. “But I thought it was necessary for us to get together especially with a new team and a new scheme.”

Gathering the offense together before training camp was something Taylor had learned from his time in Buffalo. Another thing Taylor brought was the ability to handle changes to the wide receiver group, something the Browns have had to deal with as the season approaches.6

Not only did the Browns lose Josh Gordon before training camp began (he has since returned after receiving help for his mental health), but they also traded Corey Coleman to Buffalo in the middle of training camp. But Taylor knew what to do because the Bills last season traded Sammy Watkins during training camp and also acquired Jordan Matthews on the same day.

“It is not something that you want to go through, but at the same time, it is the nature of the business,” Taylor said. “You understand that things happen. That is why we always say next guy up or next man up mentality and I think guys have stepped up to the opportunity, went out and competed and are still doing it.”

Taylor has shown leadership just by the way he conducts himself every day, and that’s a welcome sight for a franchise that has had 28 different starting quarterbacks since 1999 and traded all three of its QBs who played last season in DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“Tyrod sets the bar for consistency, there is no doubt about it,” Browns quarterback coach Ken Zampese said. “There is no man more consistent than him when he gets here. The bar is set very high. It’s fantastic.”

Play Dak and Zeke in preseason? That’s Jason Garrett’s dilemma

“It’s always a balancing act. It’s always has been about how much you play guys to get them ready for the season versus putting them in a situation where they expose themselves to injury,” Garrett said. “We believe it’s important to play guys at some point in the preseason to get them ready for regular-season action. We feel like they’re more compromised in the regular season if they don’t play at all in the preseason.”nfl nike jerseys cheap china

When the Cowboys learned of the Guillain-Barre syndrome diagnosis of Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick on Wednesday, they knew he was not going to play Sunday. They know Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin will not play because of a bruised knee suffered in last week’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Without those two, why risk playing Elliott and Prescott?8

Elliott did not play in either of the first two preseason games. The Cowboys have followed the same plan they used in the running back’s first two seasons, when he played only a handful of snaps in the third preseason game and shut it down until the regular season. LaDainian Tomlinson would not play in the preseason. As Emmitt Smith’s career went along, he did not play before the regular season, either.

“We’ll certainly take that into account when Jason decides who should be out there in terms of the risk/reward of what we get there,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “And as we’ve said, this is a long season and every player is looked at differently in terms of where he is health-wise.

“If a guy has got a strain, a groin strain or a hamstring or something like that, then we’re going to err on the side of being conservative. We got to get everybody, as much as we can, ready for that first game.”cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Prescott has played 39 preseason snaps so far. He has completed 13 of 18 passes for 125 yards and two touchdown passes. Heading into the 2017 season, he played 49 snaps.

“It’s been good work for him. He seems comfortable and confident out here,” Garrett said. “He moved the ball in those four drives with the ones. We scored two touchdowns and kicked a field goal. He has been productive.”

He also has been sacked twice with his line mostly intact. Without Frederick and Martin, the Cowboys would go with Joe Looney and Kadeem Edwards at center and right guard.

In 2010, the Cowboys had Tony Romo play 10 snaps in the second preseason game with Robert Brewster as his right tackle. Brewster, a third-round pick in 2009, did not play his rookie year because of an injury and never played an offensive snap in a regular-season game before his release.

Davis Webb appears set to be the Giants’ backup quarterback

That didn’t stop the New York Giants from entering this summer with the mid-round picks from the past two drafts as their contingency plans should something happen with starting quarterback Eli Manning. The only other quarterback on their roster is Alex Tanney, who is on his eighth team in seven years and has attempted a grand total of 14 career passes.

After watching training camp and the first two preseason games, it’s not hard to realize the Giants are banking on Webb to be their backup. With little money currently available under the salary cap, they’re not trading for Teddy Bridgewater or spending to bring in a veteran. Webb is destined to be their guy, this season and perhaps beyond.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

He started Friday against the Detroit Lions and received some reps with the first-team offense. Webb has spent most of the summer working with the second-team offense while Lauletta, a rookie out of Richmond, and Tanney have split third-team snaps.

It was a risky proposition the Giants settled on this spring, and they couldn’t have felt great after watching Webb stumble in the preseason opener. Everything that left the over-amped quarterback’s hand sailed high.

Webb’s performance Friday night in Detroit at least gave hope that the Giants are in capable hands if something were to happen to Manning. The second-year quarterback looked poised and effective. He threw for 140 yards on 14-of-20 passing with a touchdown pass and no interceptions in a 30-17 win over the Lions. He threw darts and touch passes on the run and from the pocket. Webb appeared to have total command of the offense, and the look of a quarterback with potential to be a starter.5

It was just a preseason game that validated what the Giants had seen most of the spring and summer, but it at least allows the Giants to sleep easier at night knowing their backup QB situation isn’t a dire emergency. And it’s possible they have something for the future with Webb and Lauletta, who held up admirably while completing 2-of-5 passes for 27 yards and showcasing some nifty footwork on a touchdown scamper.

“I feel like they’re making progress on a daily basis, and that is a good thing,” Shurmur said of his quarterbacks not named Manning. “None of them get all the reps but I think they’re doing the best with the reps that they get. I think all three guys have made very good improvement. They’ve improved.”nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Shurmur wasn’t ready to declare Webb the backup or make any definitive evaluations off one preseason game. He said they have Manning and no depth chart behind him.

Practice and the preseason to date seem to indicate otherwise. Webb is the backup. He’s been No. 2 in the pecking order since the start of the Giants’ offseason program. Something would have to unexpectedly change dramatically for Lauletta or someone else to take that spot.

Reinstated DE Randy Gregory gets first game action since 2016

For the first time since the 2016 regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, defensive end Randy Gregory played for the Dallas Cowboys.

Suspended all of last season and reinstated only a matter of days before training camp started, Gregory played in 10 first-half snaps in Saturday’s 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium.

“I haven’t played an actual game in basically two years,” said Gregory, who did not record a tackle or pressure. “Practice is one thing. Conditioning’s one thing. Personal training’s one thing, but actually going out there and be with my guys and at least attempt to make some plays, it felt real good.”

The Cowboys took Gregory in the second round of the 2015 draft despite the off-the-field concerns that saw his draft stock take a hit. After a strong start in the preseason, an ankle injury kept him out of four games, and he did not record a sack in the 12 games he played. He has one sack in his career.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Gregory has played in only two of the past 32 regular-season games because of multiple violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. He opened training camp on the non-football injury list, as the Cowboys wanted him to work on his conditioning after such a long absence.10

He took part in just four full practices during the Cowboys’ time in Oxnard, California, but quickly showed that he was ready for at least some preseason action. In one practice, he recorded two sacks in a three-play span.

“Once we saw him practice, we anticipated him being able to play this game,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Certainly we want him to play the whole time. We want to be deliberate with him, and he went through all the steps we wanted him to go through.”

After the final practice on Thursday in Oxnard, Gregory said he does not feel like he has made the 53-man roster yet. Gregory said he hopes to play more Aug. 26 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Gregory said he was not reflective about his journey back to the Cowboys before kickoff.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

“I think if I did that, it would have kind of taken my mindset away from the game,” Gregory said. “I think I did it the right way, just coming in here like a professional and get ready, be out there early, warm up and then carry on as I would any other game.”