Steve Wilks: “Pretty exciting” to have David Johnson back out there

Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said he didn’t want to get “too excited” about how anyone looks at this point in the calendar, but he sounded pretty happy about how one key player looked during the first organized team activity of the offseason.

That player is running back David Johnson, who missed all but a handful of snaps last season due to a wrist injury suffered during the first week of the regular season. According to Wilks, Johnson put some of that pent-up energy to good use on Tuesday.

This also will hold the audience in place, giving fans fewer reasons to stray during lulls in the action, since they’ll be scanning the available options for the next bet they’ll be placing, before the next play begins.

However sports betting shakes out, every sports league and network that televises sports should be immediately figuring out how to deliver real-time action, since it will be the best (and perhaps only) way to enjoy real-time action from home.

“We’re getting more information,” Rockets CEO Tad Brown said. “[Rockets owner] Tilman [Fertitta] is very engaged with it. He and I have been talking about [what can be done.] I’d call it a recognition of the importance of supporting all of our community. We’re actively trying to figure out how we can best impact those people affected by it.

“It’s amazing that these things seem to be more and more commonplace now. This hits close to home because it’s right down the street. We’re going to make sure we get all the appropriate information and deliver the appropriate tribute and support that we can.”

Rockets guard Chris Paul gave an impassioned statement Friday, saying the playoffs were “minor compared to what is taking place down in Santa Fe.”

Saturday, he talked more about the incident. “I have two kids of my own who I take to school … and you hope they come back to you.

“Prayers go out to those families and everyone that was affected by it. This is becoming somewhat of the norm and shouldn’t be.

Sabathia takes Sheffield under wing

The Mets will designate Harvey for assignment after he refused to accept a minor-league assignment, general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters Friday.

Earlier Friday, a source with knowledge of the Yankees’ personnel decisions said, Don’t bet on it, when asked if a Yankees-Harvey union could be imminent.

The next stop for Witten and his diamond-encrusted football will likely be the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 11-time Pro Bowler ranks fourth all-time in career receptions, and no one will be shocked if Witten is becomes a first-ballot Hall of Famer in five years.

The Cowboys trust Dak Prescott to both push the ball downfield and show touch on shorter, safer throws. But the QB needs some of that burden eased with either a young wideout who can run well after the catch or a big-bodied No. 1 who can replace Bryant.

Ridley and Moore are excellent options for the former type of receiver. Ridley might not have ideal top-end speed, but he’s good at creating separation both on the perimeter and in the middle, and he can catch everything. Moore can take over games with volume and can take any play to the house.

Gettleman also proved he has no fear of drafting running backs in the top 10 when he picked Christian McCaffrey at No. 8 overall with the Panthers last year before he was fired as GM. McCaffrey had 1,086 combined rushing and receiving yards as a rookie.

Barkley is extra valuable and appealing as a back who can stay on the field in passing downs; he had 54 receptions for 632 yards last season. Over his three years at Penn State, he amassed 3,843 rushing yards, 1,195 receiving yards and 51 combined touchdowns. He can do for Manning and the Giants as much or more than what Gurley did for Goff and the Rams last season (2,093 combined yards, 19 touchdowns) in helping Los Angeles to a division title.

Although Elvis isn’t in our current plans, Lynch said in a statement, we would never close the door on a potential return in the future.

Last year, Dumervil, 34, had 6.5 sacks on a team that didn’t have another player manage more than three sacks. The 49ers had the sixth-fewest sacks (30) in the NFL and don’t have a player on their current roster with more than 10 career sacks.

The city and the team definitely appreciated what Wade did Monday night.

“The first game is the only one that matters from a one-game-at-a-time approach,” he said. “Obviously, they’ve had our number the last few years. We’ve lost eight in a row against them. So it’s exciting to start at home against them with a division game.”

Rivers has been particularly snake-bitten by the Chiefs. He has thrown 30 career interceptions versus K.C., most against any opponent, including a whopping six in two tilts last season. Luckily he will no longer have to face Marcus Peters twice a year.

The changes on the Kansas City defense could be the biggest beneficiary for Rivers, who has struggled mightily against the division foe. With the Chiefs trading away Peters and saying goodbye to the likes of Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, Rivers will be facing a revamped defense still attempting to gel.

Division games are always important. The level of significance gets magnified when it opens the season, and you’ve lost eight straight times to that opponent.

“I feel like my experience was what I needed. I feel like it made me appreciate, it made the city of Miami appreciate everything.”

Philadelphia led Game 2 by as many as nine points in the first quarter. But then Wade checked in, and he single-handedly turned around the game in the first half, outscoring the Sixers by himself 21-20 over the final 15 minutes of the half.

When Philadelphia made a 21-7 run in the fourth quarter to close to within two points with 4:29 left in the contest, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra brought Wade back in. From there, Wade immediately went into closer mode:

The Philadelphia Eagles and backup quarterback Nick Foles have agreed to a revised contract for the 2018 season that includes a mutual option for 2019, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Friday, per two sources informed of the agreement between the sides.

Flyers’ Sean Couturier injured in practice collision with Radko Gudas

Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier had to be helped off the ice at the team’s practice Tuesday after a collision with a teammate..

Couturier was skating in on goal when his right leg was hit by defenseman Radko Gudas, who was moving backward and didn’t see Couturier.

Then Hayward bolted in free agency, leaving a huge void in the Jazz’s offense. The blow of that bad news subsided a little bit with Mitchell’s dominant performance in the Utah Summer League on the day Hayward announced his decision. By the time the Jazz summer team left Las Vegas, expectations for Mitchell had increased dramatically.

Herring: I have a feeling Anthony Davis will go off in this series against the Blazers, regardless of whether the Pelicans find a way to pull off the upset in Round 1. His versatility will present enormous challenges for Jusuf Nurkic, who prefers to drop into the paint but won’t always be able to do that because of Davis’ shooting ability. AD averaged 31.5 points, 11 boards and three blocks per game in his first playoff showing against the Warriors three years ago, and it’s conceivable that he could do just as much damage here.

Spears: Russell Westbrook will be trying to embarrass the Utah Jazz the entire series. The Thunder have had their struggles all season, and they’ve been disrespected with the ups and downs of their Big Three. Westbrook will try to impose his will on the up-and-coming Jazz and take the spotlight from heralded Donovan Mitchell.

He was booked into the Scottsdale City Jail and later released on a criminal citation.

In a statement Tuesday, Coyotes officials said they are aware of the incident and still gathering information.

Panik, who had 22 goals and 22 assists for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2016-17 season, was traded to Arizona in January after getting six goals and 10 assists in 37 games for Chicago.

The bad news for the Twins is they have not played since Thursday. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the White Sox’s and Twins’ three straight postponements are the most consecutive since the Mariners and Indians had four straight in April 2007. The good news for the Twins is they went 3-1 in the four games they played last week, including a series win against the Astros in which they limited Houston to 11 runs in three games. — Woolums

Case Keenum went through lot in his first six NFL seasons.

He played for three different teams, including two in 2014 alone. Before winning 11 of 14 regular-season starts with the Minnesota Vikings in 2017, Keenum was 9-15 as a starter.

If the journeyman version of Case Keenum shows up in the Mile High City, Denver will be in trouble.

The pregame unveiling of the World Series pennant in left field hit a bit of a snag. Tugging ropes on the fabric covering the golden pennant on a windy day didn’t work. So after a minute or so, a man with a leaf blower appeared and helped get it off. Players chuckled during the delay and fans cheered loudly when it finally came off.

I was like: `Come on, come on, come on,’ and then finally, Altuve said. It was funny but in the end it came off and we all liked to see the World Series champs on the banner.

Manziel threw to receivers and running backs including Texas A & M’s star receiver Christian Kirk, who has drawn a lot of interest.

According to a source, the Patriots spoke with Manziel both before the workout, as well as after the session.

First, the Bills unloaded quarterback Tyrod Taylor, trading him to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the No. 65 overall pick. Then, just days later, they traded left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Cincinnati Bengals and swapped first-round picks, moving from No. 25 overall to No. 12 overall. While that’s not high enough to walk away with one of the draft’s top quarterback prospects, the trades have helped stockpile assets for the Bills, who are now expected to attempt a move up into the top five. And with No. 12 and No. 22 picks in Round 1, as well as picks No. 53 and No. 56 in Round 2, the ammo needed is most certainly there. It has been an aggressive strategy for the Bills, but their wheeling and dealing has put them in good position to reach their ultimate goal.patriots_015

McCarron technically should have been a restricted free agent with the Bengals this offseason because of his number of accrued seasons.

He filed a grievance against the Bengals, claiming that they shouldn’t have placed him on IR in his rookie season. He won.

That gave teams another starting quarterback option in free agency. And McCarron, who showed promise in 2015 filling in for an injured Andy Dalton but hasn’t played consistently since, should come much cheaper than Cousins.

Unless the specific contract terms make this a friendlier deal for the Bears, this looks like a very aggressive deal from Pace.

This also adds to the allure of the top pitching options — both in the form of starters and relievers — as well as increasing the demand for the more favorable matchups. Here again, the supply of good spot-starting scenarios is reduced, increasing the price of the desirable options.

Looking ahead to the playoffs, the Jets will take a more conservative approach to Scheifele’s recovery from a recent upper-body injury. Sitting second, somewhat comfortably, in the Central, the Winnipeg club has the luxury of resting their top center while skating Bryan Little (or maybe shifting Blake Wheeler back to the middle) on the top line for now. Scheifele’s fantasy managers may want to move some players around in the meanwhile.

Coach Guy Boucher speaking to Stone’s absence with a leg injury: It could be short, it could be a little longer, it could be very long.

It’s a high bar, but I never have to wonder if I have seen what it takes to achieve it. My mouth has a mind of its own, so when a draft prospect makes a play that is deserving, the cuss words just come tumbling right on out.

Hell, I would have never guessed he was listed at 344 pounds from watching his tape. The way he carries that weight and how he moves around on the field suggested to me he was a much lighter dude. Keep in mind that Suh weighed closer to 300 pounds when he was coming out at close to the same listed height. Vea damn sure looks pretty fast on film at that weight, so I didn’t care very much what his 40-yard dash time was. But he ran a 4.98 at the combine.

While much of his success in the games I watched was largely due to brute strength, Vea also showed he could win with finesse too.

Imagine trying to pass block against a guy who had previously used a hump move to knock you on your ass, then ran over you and your home boy with a bull rush, only to see him hit you with a quick arm over when you finally set for power.

The Jags’ defense will do work, but Bortles is such a wild card it’s nearly impossible to trust their offense.

red_wings_015At 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday, the Steelers will have all available hands-on-deck, and it will be only up to the players if they are able to put together a winning performance. After all, they don’t have banged up players as an excuse if the team falls flat.

This game could get out of hand if Pittsburgh jumps out to an early lead and an inexperienced Jags squad loses the plot. On the other hand, Jacksonville could easily pull a 2000 Baltimore Ravens if Bortles does his best Trent Dilfer impression — they can’t be written off that easily. Let’s say the Steelers take it by two possessions, but it stays close throughout.

“Stability at the position is hard to find, no question,” GM Bob Quinn told me Wednesday night. “And the position is becoming increasingly difficult to scout in college football with the high percentage of teams using a version of a spread offense. You really draft quarterback traits and hope they transfer to the NFL game.”

Because he inherited Stafford, Quinn doesn’t have to follow his own advice. And he doesn’t really want to be in that position either.

The term has been used so liberally the past several months that I felt like it’d behoove me—and the readers here—to actually look up the definition of “blackball.” Thanks to Merriam-Webster for furnishing it:

In this week’s Game Plan, we’ll check back on the Bears and how their plan for and perception of Mitch Trubisky has shifted after his big preseason; see how the draft’s forgotten quarterback is faring so far; explain why the Lions did not in any way overpay for Matthew Stafford; take a look at how the Texans have pulled together in their city’s time of crisis; and check in on the trade and free-agent markets ahead of the cutdown.

We start with the Kaepernick story that won’t go away, and why it’s lasted as long as it has. The main thing I learned? Teams didn’t have many internal discussions about Kaepernick. The level of interest in him as a player was such that the football people I talked to never even brought it to their owners to discuss whether or not his social stances were going to be a problem for them.

NFL scores: Week 16 results, highlights

Week 16 in the NFL was all about the playoff picture, so multiple teams were watching scoreboards Sunday. After Saturday’s results, 10 teams entered Sunday and Monday with chances to clinch something, be it home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, a first-round bye, a division title or a postseason berth.

Sunday’s early games were highlighted by a contest that will go a long way in deciding the NFC South. The Saints’ win over the Falcons means New Orleans is a win away from the division title. The Panthers, who beat Buccaneers on Sunday, are lurking in case the Saints slip in Week 17.

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After selecting Myles Garrett No. 1 overall this spring, Cleveland will become the first team to pick at the top of the draft in consecutive years since, yes, the Browns in 1999 and 2000. Cleveland took Tim Couch and Courtney Brown with those back-to-back No. 1 picks.

Garrett was one of the few signs of life in another disheartening performance Sunday. The rookie made a potentially game-changing interception on the opening drive of the second half, picking off Mitchell Trubisky and returning it to the Bears’ 5-yard line with Cleveland trailing only 6-3. But Carl Nassib was flagged for lining up offsides, negating the big play, and Jordan Howard scored four plays later. The Browns never sniffed the lead again.

“That part’s inexcusable,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said of the Nassib penalty. “… It’s just not where we need to be.”

With another loss in the books, the stakes for Jackson’s team in Week 17 are straightforward. A loss at the playoff-bound Steelers on New Year’s Eve will give the Browns the second 0-16 season in NFL history, joining the 2008 Lions.

The two tackling machines talked barely above a whisper, Oliver’s hands torquing to illustrate a point.

Bryant missed the final four games of the season, but he still ranked second on the team in receiving with 22 catches and 331 yards. The yardage total also ranked second among Power 5 true freshman tight ends.

Dimukeje’s 7.5 tackles for loss were tops among ACC freshmen. He chipped in with 39 tackles, two sacks and four QB hurries to go with an interception in a critical win over Georgia Tech. Dimukeje’s impact was huge for a Blue Devils defense that allowed eight fewer points per game than it had in 2016.

Those stadium and temperature factors are the type of things NFL coaches should know when scouting an opponent and a venue. McCarthy made the wrong decision and it cost Green Bay as the Steelers took advantage of the field position and drove 53 yards in six plays for a touchdown.

We have become accustomed to Rodgers’ heroics but he would have needed to have monster game to outshine Hundley and lead the Packers to a road win against the NFL’s No. 2 defense.

“Every guy in here, they have looked and seen who has already played against who,” Mayfield explained. “We’ve all already watched film of the team we’re playing in our games, but nothing beats real game experience. So, if you really watch this week you’ll see guys grabbing other guys and asking for tips on their next opponent.”

In that very room with the two Sooners sat Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. He kept his distance from Mayfield, the quarterback he’ll be charged with stopping in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual on Jan. 1. Smith stayed on the back row of the conference room, throwing down on a bag of Chick-Fil-A. But as soon as Mayfield was pulled out of that room to knock out a TV interview, Smith jumped up and went straight to Ed Oliver, the Houston defensive lineman who burst onto the national scene in 2016 by making Mayfield’s day miserable.eagles_024_fdc446662e2b7db4-180x180

High school football’s greatest rivalry: Muck City

The towns of Pahokee and Belle Glade are about 17 miles apart. Between them, they have a population of fewer than 30,000. Both have struggled economically with the mechanization of sugar cane farms, by far the largest industry in the area. That cane grows in a rich soil known by the locals as “The Muck.”

There’s something else Belle Glade and Pahokee produce: professional football players. Anquan Boldin, Travis Benjamin, Reidel Anthony, and Pernell McPhee are just a handful of the current and former NFL players who hail from this small part of South Florida, and they know The Muck gave them the foundation they needed to succeed, physically and mentally, at the next level.

That’s partially thanks to the rivalry between the two towns, who face off every year in the Muck Bowl. To the people of Pahokee and Belle Glade, it’s the biggest — and maybe only — game on the calendar each season.

Lions 7, Giants 7: New York spent the final few minutes of the first quarter trekking through the Lions’ defense, then made on the first play of the second quarter with an Eli Manning touchdown pass to Evan Engram. The eight-play, 75-yard drive was all about Manning, who has already spread the ball around to five different receivers for six completions.

Engram did get busted for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the touchdown for grabbing his crotch, however. Gotta be careful out there!

Lions 7, Giants 0: Taking advantage of the good field position afforded by a three-and-out on the Giants’ opening drive, the Lions drove down the field and got on the scoreboard with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Marvin Jones.