Malcolm Butler sees some Belichick in Mike Vrabel

It’s probably not an overstatement to say that Malcolm Butler is a Titan this year because of Bill Belichick.

What’s a bit surprising is how excited he is that his new coach so resembles his old one.

Butler slipped off the Tennessee on a lucrative free agent deal (five years, $61 million), after he spent the Super Bowl in Belichick’s doghouse watching Nick Foles strafe the Patriots defense. But he had nothing but praise for Titans rookie coach Mike Vrabel, who played for Belichick eight years and is well-versed in the Patriot way.

The Vikings finished undefeated in the preseason, outscoring opponents 129-50, the highest margin of any team that summer. While the preseason is not necessarily an indicator of what’s to come, those inside the Vikings locker room had a feeling that this team was special. Everyone, except maybe for Moss, was preparing for a career-defining ride as the Vikings throttled the Buccaneers in the season-opener and went on to win their first seven games by a combined total of 125 points.

Cris Carter: Randy was missing from the pregame meal Week 1 down in Tampa. I found him and I’m like, Why didn’t you go to pre-game meal?’ He was like, I was playing video games. I said, Well, there’s attendance down there, so now the team thinks you’re AWOL. He’s like, Aw man. So I ask him, Did you get a meal? What are you going to eat before the game?

I learned I need to handle players, and work with players, better, McAdoo writes. Take Odell Beckham Jr. I needed to be better for him personally, as a coordinator and head coach. I was too busy trying to scheme ways to get him the ball, especially early in my time in New York, that I didn’t step back and see the big picture the way I should have. Odell’s so passionate, and cares so much, and that emotion hurts him at times on game day. I should have seen my job with Odell was more than simply X’s and O’s; it was also helping Odell the person. He is not only a generational talent, but also bright and well-read, and I let him down early in his career. I will not make that mistake again.

New Giants head coach Pat Shurmur will need to do better than McAdoo. Getting the ball in Beckham’s hands is the easy part, but there’s more to coaching than that.

Doug Baldwin, Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins and Benjamin Watson, for finding a crafty way to answer the President’s request—and ask for pardons for larger groups of people, not just individuals. So much of what they wrote is in simple, common-sense terms. And no matter where your political feelings are, what’s great about what this group of players has been doing is that they’ve taken the collateral gained from the protests of the last two years and smartly leveraged it to accomplish their goals, which doesn’t always happen in these situations.

Moorhead’s offense challenges defensive backs, as Penn State’s numbers can attest.

The Nittany Lions have completed 124 passes of 20 or more yards since the start of the 2016 season, top-10 nationally. Mississippi State had 68 over that same span.

Coaches know Fitzgerald has the ability because they witnessed it during the spring: the deep comebacker, the out route from the opposite hash, the inside seam ball between a safety and linebacker.

They’ll lean on his arm more than his legs. In fact, the morning of a reporter’s visit, Moorhead had met with his offensive staff to discuss just how much to run Fitzgerald.

A typical Moorhead offense might average 10–15 called QB runs a game, and that includes RPOs. The discussion in there today was because of his ability and skill set, is the number 15–20? Moorhead says. I think a lot of that will be determined by where we are in preseason camp.

Two surgeries and months of rehabilitation have Fitzgerald’s ankle oh-so close to 100%, despite its appearance. A jagged eight-inch scar runs down the outside of his right leg, from his calf to his foot, and a two-inch scar on the inside of his right foot marks where Linton inserted a screw, then removed it six weeks later.

They are there forever, unnecessary reminders in a world with the Internet. Immediately after the injury, from an X-ray room at Davis Wade Stadium, Fitzgerald scrolled on his phone through videos of the play, followed by the gruesome result.

As far as how that ties into the military and the anthem, if you ask anyone on our team, we love the military and the anthem and the flag, and everything that it stands for. We’re hopeful that by taking some initiative, and taking a stand to make a difference this spring, we got to some of those issues that are really important and that need our attention. I was glad that we were able to make an impact.

It was easier, too, because of the attachment the Falcons have had to the military, and the fulfillment of Quinn’s plan to build its principles into his program. The idea crystallized with the story of the injured soldier, but that was neither the beginning nor the end for the coach.

Quinn’s father-in-law, Larry Haines, was in the Navy, and a number of his college buddies served too. He says now that if not for coaching, there’s a good chance that would’ve been his life too. And so he’s always kept a connection there, and that was the impetus to launch Quinn’s Corps in 2009 in Seattle, when he was the D-line coach. He took it with him to the University of Florida, back to Seattle and then to Atlanta.

Work stoppage won’t work until players will go without pay

Rams running back Todd Gurley made headlines recently for musing to TMZ that NFL players could get fully-guaranteed contracts via a work stoppage. Whether that’s successful depends largely on one factor: The willingness of players to go without game checks.

During the last strike, in 1987, the owners didn’t blink. They hired replacements. And the strike ended just a few weeks later.

Both strategies rely on the players having a short-term willingness to do without. Seven years ago, they didn’t. Three years from now, will they?

I asked Gurley that question during a Saturday #PFTPM interview, and it became clear that he hasn’t thought that many moves ahead. Still, to get the best possible deal in early 2021, the players need to first be committed to not getting paid. They then need to have a plan for replacing part of the lost revenue during all of the 2021 season.

I knew he was a really gifted rusher, Guenther said, via ESPN.com. … Just coming here, I thought his best assets for us was to go forward rather than go backwards. He’s done a good job with what we’re asking him to do in the base fronts. Obviously, we know what he can do as a pass-rusher. Hopefully, we can get him over a double-digit [sack] mark this year. That’s the goal for him.

Gruden talked about the need to add a third pass rusher to complement Irvin and Khalil Mack after the team drafted Arden Key in April. That would be a nice addition to the Raiders defense, especially if it comes alongside an even bigger year from Irvin.

Maybe Quinn has asked McKay, and maybe McKay hasn’t been able to answer. According to Vrentas, McKay said the league will study this season how the rule change may be able to impact interior line play. That’s a careful and diplomatic way of acknowledging that (wait for it) no one knows what’s going to happen.

McKay apparently has an idea about what could happen, since he contends that the lowering-the-helmet rule implies intent. Very rarely do you write a rule with some element of intent in the language, but that was purposeful, McKay told Vrentas.

Ernie Nevers holds the two oldest records in the NFL.

In 1929, he rushed for six touchdowns in the Chicago Cardinals’ 40-6 win over the Chicago Bears (one record). He also added four extra points that day, meaning Nevers single-handedly scored all 40 points (the other record).

The team record for a single game is just three (Rams vs. Giants, Sept. 30, 1984), and I want that to be, say, quadrupled. The individual record in a game is two (Rams’ Fred Dryer vs. Packers on Oct. 21, 1973). That needs to change — probably also via the Rams and their stupidly ridiculous defensive line in 2018.

And then there’s the season-wide record of 26 safeties across all teams in the 1988 season. That’s far too low. I want that to double at the very least. I want offenses in full retreat and utterly terrified of doing anything remotely risky close to their own end zone, and then I want them to give up safeties anyway. Inject that misery right into my veins. Give me all the safeties. — James Brady

On Monday, we asked Twitter which record they want to see go down.

Here’s what Russell Wilson saw at the time. There’s nowhere to run.

Passing the ball was the best option in this situation. Against man coverage, a pick play was a sound choice.

There is a fair argument to be made that Seattle could have called a different pass play, to one of its more experienced options. However, given this pre-snap look, Wilson had to expect possible zero coverage, where everyone who’s not guarding an offensive player in a route is rushing the passer. That doesn’t leave much time for much of a route concept. This play, in theory, is a great press man coverage beater.

Sometimes the defense just wins a rep. That’s exactly what happens on this play, and it’s beautifully told in this YouTube clip from Do Your Job.

Clearly New England was prepared for the pick play, and it was executed brilliantly. If you want to get upset with the Seahawks, then you should be upset they weren’t as prepared for this situation as the Patriots were.

Robert Irsay’s relocation of the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis had a huge impact on the NFL future of several cities.

In the middle of a March night in 1984, the Colts packed 12 Mayflower trucks with all the team’s belongings and left Baltimore for Indianapolis.

The relocation didn’t just devastate Baltimoreans — it left a few other cities disappointed, too. Prior to the move, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Phoenix were all courted as the potential next home of the Colts.

If the relationship had not entirely soured, what do people think would have happened in 2014 and into 2015 and 2016? It’s not a simple what if to consider. The team saw significant roster turnover after the 2014 season. There was some talk of players being a bit worn out by Harbaugh, although it’s not fully clear beyond Alex Boone who that might have entailed.

I suppose one problem with the counter is the fact that Harbaugh is wired in a way that is going to grate on some people. If he didn’t grate on people the way he did, who knows if he would have been as successful as he was with the 49ers.

Harbaugh would have been a better coach than Jim Tomsula, but Trent Baalke hamstrung the roster with many of his personnel decisions the past three years. Of course, a better relationship between Harbaugh and Baalke maybe leads to better communication on draft picks, but just based on how things went in the front office from 2014 to 2016, it does not seem like it would have been too surprising to see the 49ers take a step back from their Super Bowl contending ways. I don’t think they bottom out like they did, but they would have still faced a host of roster questions.

I also don’t know if Gano fetched that ball, but it looks like they have a backup ball on the side there, though I’m not positive on that. It could be a different kind of ball. If you booted the ball too far in elementary, you had to hoof it all the way out there to get it yourself, at least as far as I remember.

Either way: Gano’s kids just got owned, and this should be a lesson to all of you: do not play kickball with an NFL kicker.

Apparently, the jury agreed, because they awarded Bush $4.95 million in compensatory damages and another $7.5 million in punitive damages, finding the Rams organization 100 percent liable for the incident. Not long after Bush’s injury, the Rams covered the exposed concrete with rubber.

I’m very happy with the verdict, Bush said after the victory, via the Post-Dispatch. The people spoke and decided very fairly.

Originally, Bush had also sued the public agencies that technically own and operate the stadium, but they were dismissed from the suit after they successfully argued that the Rams organization had control of operations at the stadium on game days.

Are the Lakers contenders now? If not, how far away are they?

Herring: Right now? No. This is a really young team that last season was one of the worst in the league in 3-point shooting — LeBron needs shooters around him — and could use some better defense on the wings. Both things could be addressed by moving major pieces to get Leonard, which would almost certainly be good for the short-term outlook. But such a deal would immediately thin the team’s secondary scoring depth, probably in the form of Kyle Kuzma or Brandon Ingram, if not both.

The Thunder would be looking at a road map that has them over the salary cap, with a core of Westbrook, Steven Adams and a 34-year-old disgruntled Anthony. The Thunder shot their shot, taking a swing at a near full recovery from Durant leaving by adding a star small forward, but they could be left in a more desperate, more uncomfortable position than ever.

All year we watched epic moments where titles were won and others where records fell. Vote not to determine deserves to raise another trophy – the ESPY.

Presti has talked a lot about how the Thunder are still working off the canvas they had when the team relocated from Seattle more than a decade ago. It’s been a single-line graph for this era of the Thunder, a decade of playoff appearances, MVPs, historical achievements and periodic contention.

For now, the Thunder don’t want to go down any new paths. What they want is to finish the plan that started a year ago. They have a real chance to retain George and to keep working off that same canvas.The star extensions that matter in NBA free agency

Hendricks might feel good, but he looked anything but as he answered questions at his locker after giving up six runs in 2⅔ innings, serving the Dodgers two home run balls as his first-inning ERA ballooned to 7.88. He was asked if his pregame preparation should be scrutinized, considering those early-game struggles.

You’re always looking at your routine, he said. Today my bullpen was OK. Felt strong. The mechanical things I’ve been working on felt OK. I get out there and I’m all over the place.

Staked to a 2-0 lead, Hendricks gave up a home run to Max Muncy on his 10th pitch of the game, a two-seam fastball. Later in the first, Yasmani Grandal doubled home two runs on a four-seamer.

Pinder’s RBI double over the head of Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones made it 4-2 in the fourth.

Pinder spent most of the series hitting long flyballs that Leonys Martin kept tracking down at the 420-foot mark in center.

Tigers: LHP Daniel Stumpf (ulnar nerve) remains in Triple-A Toledo on a rehab assignment. Stumpf is Detroit’s only left-handed reliever.

A’s: Return home after their 10-game road trip to face the Cleveland Indians. Paul Blackburn (1-2, 8.83) pitches Friday’s opener against Trevor Bauer (7-5, 2.44).

Tigers: Travel to Toronto for a four-game series against the Blue Jays. Francisco Liriano (3-3, 3.94) faces Marcus Stroman (0-5, 6.80) on Friday.Mariners complete 4-game sweep of Orioles with 4-2 victory

Pirates: Placed RHP Chad Kuhl on the 10-day disabled list with a right forearm strain.

Padres: Green said OF Franchy Cordero is leaning toward having surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.

Pirates: RHP Trevor Williams (6-5, 4.03), a 2010 graduate of San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo High, is scheduled to start the middle game of the series. He’s made one career start against the Padres, giving up four runs in six innings and getting a no-decision in an 8-5 Pirates loss at Pittsburgh on May 20.

Padres: LHP Joey Lucchesi (3-3, 3.57) is scheduled to make his third start since returning from a DL stint that lasted just more than a month.Knapp homers to lift Phillies to 4-3 win in 13 innings

Matz, 3 relievers help Mets beat Miami with 4-hitter, 5-2

Standing in foul territory, Steven Matz stared at the ball he had just mishandled and started to give it an angry kick, then changed his mind and instead just picked it up.

Matz and the New York Mets keep their cool Sunday, barely, overcoming three errors and escaping the NL East cellar after a one-day stay by beating the Miami Marlins 5-2.

The Mets, who endured their worst June ever, won for only the second time in the past 12 games to reach the season’s halfway point at 33-48.

We’re all disappointed with where we’re at, Matz said. We had higher expectations. We’re just going to keep pushing.

Matz (4-5) did that in the series finale, when he pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed only an unearned run. It scored on his error, and he worked around misplays by two teammates — an encouraging sign from a pitcher still learning not to let setbacks snowball.

If I had taken my time I would have had him, but I rushed it, Matz said.

Callaway talked before the game about how the Mets needed to play better defense, but they didn’t. Second baseman Cabrera and third baseman Frazier misplayed grounders for errors.

Ohtani has been cleared to hit and will resume batting practice immediately, general manager Billy Eppler said June 28. Eppler said Ohtani had an MRI that noted improvement in his ulnar collateral ligament and said he expected to continue to see progress. The GM declined to address whether Ohtani would pitch again this season, saying the 23-year-old will see doctors again in three weeks and the Angels will give a further update at that point.

For more on what Ohtani’s injury could involve, and potential courses of action the Angels may have to take, you can read Stephania Bell’s analysis of the possibilities and the risks.

On the mound — Ohtani’s start against the Royals on June 6 was cut short after four innings because of a blister on his pitching hand. It was the second time this season Ohtani left a game due to a blister on his right middle finger. Last time, he did not miss a turn. Ohtani gave up one run on four hits and three walks, striking out four.

At the plate — Ohtani had a pinch-hit single in his lone at-bat against the Royals on June 4. His season line stands at .289/.372/.535.

Yankees’ Brett Gardner proving to haters he’s not finished

Mets lefty Jacob deGrom doubled over like he was going to puke.

He probably didn’t look too different than all those who were calling for Brett Gardner to lose his job earlier this year.

Gardner was the difference in the Yankees ‘ 4-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field on Friday night, his two-run shot breaking a 1-all tie in the eighth inning.

It came off deGrom, who otherwise looked like the ace he’s been over eight innings. deGrom left an 87-mph changeup over the middle of the plate and Gardner hammered it. When he crossed second base, he let out a big, Woo!

It’s fun to watch. That guy’s had some big homers for us, some big hits, said Giancarlo Stanton, who followed with his own home run, a solo shot, in the ninth inning that created the final score.

Gardner is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, making $11 million this season. He has a $12.5-million team option and a $2 million buyout for 2019.

Obviously he means so much to our team, the heartbeat, what he brings every day, manager Aaron Boone said. Game-plan-wise today, he was really on it and came up today in a big spot there and snuck one out of there. Just really quality at-bats all the time and for the better part of a month now, the results have followed those quality at-bats. He’s a savage up there at the top.

Aaron Hicks (B), 44 percent, New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays (Bullpen game): Not only does Hicks contribute to that, but as a switch-hitter, he’ll enjoy the platoon edge on all the Rays’ arms.

Kole Calhoun (L), 6 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Marco Estrada): It was only his second homer of the season, but Calhoun has to start somewhere, as he’s a much better hitter than what he displayed the first 2 1/2 months of the season. He’s 3-for-7 with said homer since coming off the disabled list. Estrada has pitched better lately, though for the season, he’s administered 14 homers in 77 1/3 innings.

Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher’s history (three years’ worth) as well as ballpark factors. LH and RH ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively.

Yankees crush Mariners behind Domingo German, homers

The Yankees pulverized four balls well over the wall, a welcomed sign for an offense that had fallen on hard times by its own lofty standards.

More importantly, they got yet another strong showing from a starting pitcher they figured would spend most of the season in the minors.

Domingo German’s push to stay in the Yankees’ rotation long-term got another boost in a 7-2 win over the Mariners at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.

Greene is a microcosm of the entire Jaguars team. The franchise is still growing, and its potential is vast. The team has some issues, of course, like every team, but it also is continuing to grow. Like Greene.

I feel like it’s time for me to take it to another level, Greene told me recently. I want to show Jaguars fans what I can really do, and I think I can do so much more.

The Jaguars lost to the Patriots in last year’s conference title game but had a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter. There’s no reason to think this team can’t make a Super Bowl run this coming season. I asked Greene if that was a fair thing to say.

I believe that’s fair, yes, he said. We have to keep working and getting better and we will. I feel like we have everything we need to make it. We have a lights-out defense and an offense that can run the ball well and pass it well. I’ve seen Blake [Bortles] improve so much this offseason. His decisions are cleaner and he’s got the support of the entire team.

Carol Cullen, a long-time secretary for the Eagles, was stunned to find out that she was also receiving a ring from the club, despite having been fired several years before by ex-coach Chip Kelly.

Details regarding the unveiling of the 2018 American League and National League All-Star Teams will be available in the coming weeks. The AL All-Star Team will have nine elected starters via the fan balloting program, while the NL All-Star Team will have eight fan-elected starters. The pitchers and reserves for both squads – totaling 23 for the NL and 22 for the AL – will be determined through a combination of Player Ballot choices and selections made by the Commissioner’s Office. The AL squad will be managed by AJ Hinch of the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros, while the NL team will be led by Dave Roberts of the defending NL Champion Dodgers.

Located on a densely wooded four-and-a-half acres, the modest, 2,793-square-foot home is a private oasis, according to the listing.

The home, which has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, has an open floor plan highlighted by a foyer that leads to a great room with vaulted ceilings and access to the back deck.