Bengals’ John Ross eyes rebound armed with advice

Established professionals — two currently playing, one retired — are talking, and Cincinnati Bengals second-year wide receiver John Ross is listening.

Ross, the ninth overall pick of the 2017 draft, had a rookie campaign to forget after appearing in three games and posting no catches. His season ended after a shoulder injury landed him on injured reserve.

Armed with valuable information from teammates and Houshmandzadeh, Ross hopes to put his disappointing rookie season behind him and show he can be the player the Bengals saw in him leading up to the 2017 draft.

Last year I let everything get to me, Ross said. “I let my injury get to me. I was trying to do more than I could. I was out of shape. I’m not trying to make excuses, but it’s real life things. You can’t just come in the NFL and be that guy. You have to come in and prepare. I’ve learned that. It’s growth and progression from here on.”

I think it’s less pressure for us because the Kentucky Derby, for me, it was so special, Baffert said. “Coming in here I feel the same as I did when I won it with the other ones.”

Baffert won the Derby and Preakness with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002 and American Pharoah three years ago.

Justify will face three other challengers from the Derby — Good Magic, Lone Sailor and Bravazo — and four horses who skipped it to point to the Preakness — Quip, Tenfold, Sporting Chance and Diamond King.

After Justify and Good Magic, No. 1 Quip is third at 12-1. No. 2 Lone Sailor is 15-1, No. 6 Tenfold and No. 8 Bravazo are 20-1 and No. 3 Sporting Chance and No. 4 Diamond King are 30-1 on the morning line.

If Justify runs his best race, the rest of the field could be running for second place. cowboys_056

Steve Wilks: Cardinals “feel good” about Christian Kirk

Arizona coach Steve Wilks confirmed what the team’s statement said Monday about Christian Kirk‘s arrest: The Cardinals knew about the receiver’s arrest, conducted their own investigation and felt comfortable enough with what they found to draft Kirk in the second round.

“Well, I’m not going to go indulge in what he told us, but I will say this, we knew about it,” Wilks said Tuesday, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN. “We did our own independent research on it, and we felt very good about the information that we received and that’s why we moved forward in really drafting him. As I stated before, we want to bring in great character guys, and I think Christian is one of those guys. I think the situation is going to resolve itself here in a couple of months. And with it still being an on-going legal issue, I’m not going to go into it any further than that.”

Basketball has been a deep part of Kyle’s family forever. His parents both played at Central College in Pella, a picturesque small town 40 miles outside of Des Moines that is dotted with churches, parks and basketball hoops.

Pegula, along with husband and co-owner Terry, was rumored to be in the “early stages” of planning the future of the venue, though she specified that may not result in a new stadium being constructed.

“It may be nothing happens,” Pegula said. “It may be we make renovations. It may be that we build a new stadium. But we’ve got to get the information first.”

Nance and Green switch Horford’s pindown for Smart, and then re-switch when Horford screens for Smart up top. Horford knows that second switch is coming. He knows that Nance, about to switch onto him, expects him to roll to the rim. He counters with a delayed fade that completely fools Nance. Problem: LeBron sees that, zooms over like Mario after nabbing a Starman, and annihilates Horford.

If you are going to make that rotation off of Tatum, you’d better make it hard — and with serious airtime to disrupt that swing pass. LeBron’s defensive energy was on another level in Game 3, and it needs to stay there. When he treats Brown as a dangerous shooter, and closes on him fast, he erases Brown’s best looks. When he half-asses it, Brown feasts.ravens_182

“Complicated situation” results in resignation of Panthers defensive backs coach

A strange year for the Panthers is getting even stranger.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Panthers defensive backs coach Curtis Fuller abruptly resigned on Wednesday. Coach Ron Rivera called it a “complicated situation.”

“Matt and I worked together for over 10 years in New England, so there was a lot of time spent together, whether evaluating players, evaluating our own team, just talking about philosophies. We went through a couple years, I’d say in the late 2000s, where Matt and I spent a lot of time on the road together evaluating college prospects. So there were a lot of long drives, lot of hotel stays, a lot of dinners out, so we had a lot of time to bond as friends and as professionals.

“When I made the coaching change in January, Matt was at the top of my list and I was very fortunate to bring him to Detroit because the last couple months have been great. He’s been awesome in the building, the players are responding to him and we have a great feel for how we’re going to do next season.”

The Browns traded him to New England in March.

Shelton, 24, has played 46 games with 44 starts. He made 128 tackles and 1.5 sacks in three years with Cleveland, which selected him 12th overall in 2015.

The NFL says Saints running back Mark Ingram has been suspended for the first four regular season games of 2018 because of a violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy.

The league has not released details about whether Ingram has tested positive for a performance enhancing drug or simply a banned masking agent.

The league says Ingram will be eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games, and will be eligible to play in his first regular season game after the Saints visit the New York Giants on Sept. 30.broncos_047_cc230e2c88d4fb10-180x180

Report: Raiders making changes to personnel department as Gruden’s influence grows

The Raiders are Jon Gruden’s team, and with the draft behind him, Gruden can now focus more on shaping the personnel department his way.

Alex Marvez of Sporting News reports that Gruden is making changes to the personnel department. One change could be Raiders player personnel director Joey Clinskscales leaving Oakland for Cleveland.

Manning is still considering Navarro’s offer to become a limited partner, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the Panthers’ sale.

Attempts to reach Manning and Navarro were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Manning, the former Indianapolis and Denver quarterback who won a record five MVPs, retired in 2016 after beating the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

Weston Richburg developed into a top-third center, but instead of signing him long-term this offseason, the Giants chose to sign a more expensive left tackle in Nate Solder.

Richburg got $28.5 million guaranteed from the 49ers, where he’ll bring north/south mobility and an aptitude for angles in the screen game.

Devon Kennard also got away in this past free agent period (Lions, three years, $17.25 million).

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who left in the coaching regime change this offseason, built some of his first and second-down scheme around Kennard’s ability to jam tight ends up on the line of scrimmage.

But we don’t know that, because he’s not talking about the fact the Ravens used a first-round pick on quarterback Lamar Jackson.

When approached by Jamison Hensley of at the team’s draft event today, Flacco declined the opportunity to share his thoughts.broncos_093_808d8fcaa5b9f47d-180x180

Source: Saints release Coby Fleener

Coby Fleener never worked out as hoped.

Expecting him to replace Jimmy Graham in the offense was never going to happen, not as a one-to-one replacement, but it looked like he had the skills and talent to flourish in an offense that habitually makes tight ends flourish when he signed a five-year, $36 million contract with the Saints in 2016. But it never happened. There were flashes, moments and drives where it looked like it clicked, but it never locked into place.

Angela M. Mannarino, lawyer for the defendants, wouldn’t specify an amount in damages being sought by Richardson, who is black, and Yanagi, who is of Japanese descent. She told The News she is waiting on an official response from the Lions and the NFL, both of whom have requested brief extensions.

The Lions issued a statement Tuesday afternoon. It read: We are aware of the report. Because the report involves ongoing litigation, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.

The team distributes iPads that serve as a de facto playbook. The Bears were able to wipe the iPad of all the playbook information once they learned of the theft.

According to Athens-Clarke County (Ga.) public information officer Epifanio Rodriguez, Smith called the police department at 11:45 a.m. Saturday to report that items from his 2018 BMW X5 had been stolen.

But we don’t care about any of that in fantasy. In the fantasy realm, it’s all about opportunity and with Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall both hurt ( Sterling Shepard also missed five games due to injury), Engram drew more targets than every tight end except for Travis Kelce. That was enough to propel Engram into the TE1 ranks while also cementing his status as a staple of DFS lineups. It’s hard to judge Gesicki when we haven’t seen him play an NFL snap yet, but I agree that he’ll be someone to monitor in upcoming drafts.

Gesicki didn’t block a lick at Penn State but he was one of the better receiving tight ends in college football, corralling 51 passes for 501 yards and nine touchdowns this past season.sharks-020

NABC executive director supports commission’s recommendations

The head of an influential group representing college basketball coaches believes the Commission on College Basketball’s sweeping recommendations, which the group supports, will change the system for the better.

But Haney acknowledged rules alone will not change college basketball.

“Ultimately, it comes down to our conduct,” he said. “You can have stiffer penalties, you can have more rules, you can have more stringent rules, but the people who abide by the rules now are the same people that are gonna abide by these changes.”

The Los Angeles Chargers informed tight end Antonio Gates this offseason that they do not plan to re-sign him, the team confirmed Friday.

Gates said at the end of last season that he wanted to continue his career in 2018.

The 15-year veteran had a reduced role with the Chargers in 2017. He played 478 snaps, finishing with 30 catches for 316 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns; only his rookie season produced more meager numbers.

Although James’ 3-pointer would have been enough for a Cavaliers victory regardless of Oladipo’s attempted layup, the non-call still didn’t sit well with the Pacers.dolphins_030

Sources: Shea Patterson’s request to play immediately appears close

Shea Patterson’s long winter of waiting appears to be coming to an end.

The NCAA is expected to let the Michigan quarterback know soon if he will be able to take the field for his new team in the upcoming season.

In joining Oakland, Bryant, who missed the entire 2016 season because of a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, gives Raiders quarterback Derek Carr a dangerous receiving corps alongside Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson. Bryant’s arrival also makes slot receiver Seth Roberts a potential trade chip.

“We’ve been looking for a size receiver, a big receiver,” said Raiders coach Jon Gruden. “He’s big, he’s 6-foot-4. We’re looking for a fast receiver and he’s fast. He runs sub 4.4. So he has size, he has speed.

The Saints have a long history of moving up in the first round to draft a player they covet. This marks the sixth time they’ve done it in general manager Mickey Loomis’ tenure, dating to 2003.

Although the cost of two first-round picks might seem like a fortune on the surface, coach Sean Payton pointed out that the Saints hope both of the picks wind up coming late in the round, which made the value perfectly fair on their chart.

“This was one that was easy,” said Payton, who made no apologies about New Orleans’ aggressive trading history in the draft. “Look, these were the same questions last year when we moved our second-round pick for Alvin Kamara. And that appeared to be ‘ahhh’ a lot. And yet, shoot, what’s our country’s national debt? I mean, hopefully we’re [just] talking about a late first-round pick next year.”

It was clear an edge rusher was a big need for the Saints — Payton called it a “must” in each of the past two years. And he said Davenport was a player they had coveted throughout the process, dating to his impressive Senior Bowl week. Davenport was the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year with 8.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and four pass break-ups. He had 22, six and eight in his four-year college career.dolphins_121

Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies go deep as youthful Braves beat Reds

The Atlanta Braves’ youth movement is going long.

Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, the two youngest players in the major leagues, homered and combined for five RBIs to lead Atlanta over the Cincinnati Reds 7-4 Thursday and give the Braves a split of the four-game series.

“He makes the club more athletic,” Snitker said. “Batting, fielding, running the bases — he makes the club better.”

Sam Freeman (1-1) retired all four batters he faced and Arodys Vizcaino pitched a one-hit ninth for his second save. Cincinnati dropped to 5-20 for the first time in franchise history.

“The Braves are playing good baseball,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “We didn’t have an answer for the middle of their lineup.”

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo says his team’s Game 6 win over the Boston Celtics was an important step for the young team’s development.

Antetokounmpo’s performance, and ability to make plays when his team needed them, took a huge burden off the rest of the group.

“I thought he played great,” Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty said of Antetokounmpo. “I don’t think he forced anything. I think he took opportunities that were there for him. He knows the spots to get to, but we also have to give him spacing around him to make sure we are in the right spots so that he has room to operate. … Overall, Giannis played an outstanding game. One of his best plays was the offensive rebound where he pretty much just jumped up, put his arms up, made a play that very few people in this league can make.”

Teammate Anthony Rizzo says he thinks Bryant is heading in the right direction.

“He seems good,” Rizzo said. “It’s a scary thing.”

Chicago’s Yoan Moncada hit his first career leadoff homer . But at 5-16, the White Sox are off to their worst start since 1950.

Zunino doubled and scored in a two-run third and gave the Mariners a 4-3 lead with an opposite-field, solo drive to right against James Shields in the sixth.

“The rhythm, the timing’s, the biggest thing and that’s what’s gonna come,” Zunino said. “Obviously, that’s where I’m trying to drive those fastballs. It’s tough on a day like today when you have Shields (who) can mix it up so well, add that really slow curveball and was able to locate it just below the zone. But I was just able to try to battle, get in a good count and get a good pitch to hit.”sl_cardinals_023

Davidson homers twice, White Sox beat Royals 6-3

Matt Davidson is disproving the notion power hitters don’t like Kauffman Stadium.

Davidson hit two of Chicago’s five home runs, leading the White Sox to a 6-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.

Davidson, who drove in three runs, has seven home runs this season — five against the Royals in Kansas City. He hit three out in the season opener March 29. In this game, he homered in the fourth and then hit a two-run shot in the sixth that went 450 feet to left-center.

“A few of them were up and out over the plate and they took advantage of them,” Junis said. “Pretty rare to give up five homers on six hits in a game. That’s never really happened to me. When you give up six, you’re not really getting it done.”

In the East, we have the two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the Metropolitan-winning Washington Capitals, as well as the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning against the Boston Bruins.

And all eight teams remaining in the field finished the regular season with at least 100 points, a feat that has never happened before in NHL history.

Using Hockey-Reference’s Simple Rating System (SRS), we can chart the combined strength of each matchup. Below are the four second-round matchups and their combined SRS.

Hockey-Reference’s Simple Rating System measures a team’s average goal differential after adjusting for strength of schedule. The rating is measured in goals above/below average, in which zero is average.

To put the strength of the top two 2018 series into perspective, we looked at the past 10 years of Stanley Cup playoff second-round matchups, to find the highest SRS scores for each series. The Predators-Jets series and the Lightning-Bruins series both rank among the top five most-stacked second-round showdowns of the past decade. Last year’s Capitals-Penguins series provided the best combined matchup of teams, per SRS.jets_018

Raptors, Blue Jays offer condolences to families of victims in Toronto van attack

The Toronto Raptors and Blue Jays voiced their condolences for the relatives of victims in Monday’s vehicular attack in the city that authorities say killed 10 people and injured 15.

“I want to send my thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims of yesterday’s tragedy,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said after Raptors practice on Tuesday. “It’s sickening. It’s just something where my kids could have been there when they’re older, you know what I mean? It’s just a sad time. A sad day. It’s kind of hard to put into words how you feel. It’s just tough.”

The Blue Jays honored the victims, and the first responders who rushed to the scene, with a brief tribute before Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

The attack occurred on Monday afternoon when a 25-year-old assailant drove a van into pedestrians at two locations along Yonge Street, one of the Toronto’s main thoroughfares, in the city’s North York neighborhood north of downtown. The driver was taken into custody by police without shots being fired.

Lowry offered praise to the arresting officer at the scene for his restraint.

“My swing’s there,” Fowler said. “I’ve just been hitting stuff off the end of the bat, not hitting it the way I want to. I’m barreling it, just towards the end.”

St. Louis trailed 2-0 in the seventh and 3-2 in the 10th. Tommy Pham had four hits and scored twice, a day after leaving a game after cutting his head with his bat while warning up in an indoor batting game. He played with a large bandage on his head.

“It could have been worse,” Pham said. “I’m just extremely lucky.”

Jose Martinez walked with one out in the 13th against Paul Sewald (0-1), took second on a single by Marcell Ozuna and scored when Fowler singled to right for his sixth game-ending RBI.

John Gant (1-0), recalled from Triple-A Memphis before the game, pitched three perfect innings of relief for his second big league win. His first was for Atlanta against the Mets on June 17, 2016.

“He was finishing that game,” Matheny said. “He did a good job of finishing that game.”jets_054