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Rams’ Dante Fowler gets prove-it deal and fresh start

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Dante Fowler Jr.’s voice began to quiver as the Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker rattled through a roller coaster of events that have spanned his four-year career.

There were some highlights, such as the eight sacks he produced when the Jacksonville Jaguars advanced to the AFC Championship Game two years ago. And there were lowlights, like the ACL injury that ended his rookie season before it began and behavior, on and off the field, that resulted in a strained relationship with the Jaguars.

But as Fowler described the uneven start to his young career, a smile slowly grew across his face when he described his new start in L.A.wholesale cheap nfl jersey china

“Really wasn’t feeling myself until I got here,” he said. “… the coaches put me in a very great position, just like letting me be me, let me be the Dante Fowler that basically got me here.”

That is why Fowler, 24, signed a one-year, prove-it deal, worth up to $12 million, with the Rams ahead of free agency in March instead of testing the market as an unrestricted free agent.10

“I knew from like the first few weeks, really that first month when I was here, that this was a perfect fit for me, a perfect team for me,” he said.

Last season, in the midst of an 8-0 start and with an eye on a deep playoff run, the Rams identified the need for a pass-rusher. Ahead of the trade deadline, they sent third- and fifth-round draft picks to the Jaguars in exchange for Fowler, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft.cheap nfl jerseys wholesale china

Five days after he was acquired, the Rams inserted Fowler against the New Orleans Saints. Two weeks later, he started against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fowler’s contributions grew steadily and peaked in the NFC Championship Game when he pressured Saints quarterback Drew Brees into an errant pass that safety John Johnson III intercepted. The play set up a game-winning field goal and sent the Rams to Super Bowl LIII.

“What he was able to do coming in in the middle of the year and being able to contribute the way that he did really says a lot about how quickly he was able to pick things up,” coach Sean McVay said.

In eight games, Fowler had two sacks and four tackles for losses. He was embraced by teammates, and by the Rams’ front office.

“He made plays for us along the way,” general manager Les Snead said. “From the beginning, we wanted Dante to be back.”

But now it’s up to Fowler, who has 16 sacks, four forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in three seasons, to prove he can maintain his poise off the field and develop into a star in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme.

Ryan Fitzpatrick leading Josh Rosen in Dolphins’ QB battle — for now

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Rolling to his right with an easy glide and fluffy beard taking up his half his helmet, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick pulled his best Patrick Mahomes impression. He fired a no-look pass 20 yards on the money to wide receiver DeVante Parker, who dragged his toes along the sidelines for a catch. Miami Dolphins offensive players, standing on the nearby sideline, shrieked “Yeah” in excitement.

Several plays before that, Fitzpatrick cranked his arm back and threw a 70-plus yard pass that again hit Parker in stride. Fitzpatrick held up the touchdown signal and started skipping down the field. He later said he predicted that exact play and result to Parker when he walked into the building earlier that morning.

That’s some of the fun in FitzMagic. And on Wednesday — the Dolphins’ final day of spring workouts — Fitzpatrick had two memorable plays in a matter of minutes.cheap nfl jersey wholesale

Yet the 36-year-old gunslinger is on his eighth NFL team because inconsistency and a penchant for interceptions has left him in a constant yo-yo between starter and backup.9

The Dolphins have one of the NFL’s few starting quarterback competitions with Fitzpatrick battling talented second-year player Josh Rosen.

Everything screams that it’s in the Dolphins’ best long-term interest for Rosen to win the job.

Rosen, 22, was a top-10 pick a year ago and he was acquired by the Dolphins for pennies on the dollar in April. Miami has been looking for its true franchise quarterback since Dan Marino retired 20 years ago. There’s no chance Fitzpatrick is the No. 1 answer, but Rosen has a slight chance.cheap nfl jerseys wholesale china

Fitzpatrick isn’t interested in what’s supposed to happen. He’s playing loose, confident and dare I say… consistent in these padless workouts. He has been the Dolphins’ best quarterback this spring.

“I’m a perfectionist. There’s already some stuff on my mind that I have to go talk to some players about, some coaches about and have to work on myself,” said Fitzpatrick, before a wry smile appeared between his beard. “But yeah, there’s always a couple throws a day that get me fired up a little bit.”

Fitzpatrick has Parker smiling more, too. Players try to avoid picking favorites in a quarterback battle, but it seems those two already have a blooming relationship.

“He helped me a lot with communications and signals and everything,” Parker said. “[Fitzpatrick’s] telling me what I’m doing and what I need to do to be in the right spot.”

3 ejected after benches clear in Pirates-Braves

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Pittsburgh right-hander Joe Musgrove and Atlanta third baseman Josh Donaldson have been ejected from Monday night’s game between the Pirates and Braves for triggering a benches-clearing confrontation.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle also was ejected by plate umpire Brian Gorman for arguing the decision to toss Musgrove.

With two outs in the first inning, Musgrove’s pitch grazed Donaldson’s jersey. As Donaldson headed to first base, he exchanged words with Musgrove and took a few steps toward the mound before Pirates catcher Elias Diaz intervened.10

Donaldson shoved Diaz. That prompted players from both dugouts and bullpens to spill onto the field. No punches were thrown, and the field was quickly cleared.

The ejections followed a brief huddle by the umpires.

Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon, who is on the 60-day injured list with a flexor tendon strain, tweeted his displeasure of the decision to toss Musgrove.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Right-hander Alex McRae replaced Musgrove. Johan Camargo replaced Donaldson.

Braves’ Keuchel pitches 7 scoreless in minors

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Newly signed Atlanta Braves pitcher Dallas Keuchel pitched seven scoreless innings in a minor league start with Class A Rome on Monday, striking out nine Charleston batters.nike nfl jerseys for cheap

Keuchel allowed one hit, walked one batter and threw 77 pitches (55 strikes).9

The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner had been scheduled to pitch Saturday for Triple-A Gwinnett against Durham, but the game was called off because of inclement weather.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

Keuchel signed a one-year deal last week that pays him $13 million. The two-time All-Star went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 34 starts last season for Houston.

Sources: Rockets, D’Antoni close to extension

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The Houston Rockets and Mike D’Antoni have rekindled discussions about a contract extension for the head coach and are nearing an agreement, sources told ESPN on Saturday.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has agreed to eliminate the buyout language that was the primary reason that D’Antoni and his agent, Warren LeGarie, ended talks on May 30, sources said.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Fertitta and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey visited D’Antoni at his offseason home in West Virginia this week to smooth over any hard feelings. LeGarie was not part of those discussions and told ESPN that a deal still needs to be worked out through him.

“Did Mike speak to those guys down there? Yes, he did,” LeGarie told ESPN. “As always, they asked Mike what he thought, and Mike said, ‘Sounds great, but talk to Warren.’ Mike’s job is coaching, and he leaves the negotiating to me.10

“Mike is always affable with everybody out there, not trying to raise the rancor in a situation clearly gone astray.”

After the previous talks ended, Fertitta told reporters during a hastily arranged media availability that the offer to D’Antoni was a one-year extension with a $5 million base salary plus $4 million in incentives for advancing in the playoffs.

However, the original offer included only $2.5 million in guaranteed money, due to a buyout in case the Rockets fired D’Antoni before the end of the season, or if they did not make the playoffs and terminated him after the season.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

LeGarie maintains D’Antoni deserves a multiyear extension with a higher base salary than what the Rockets have offered so far.

D’Antoni, who is under contract through the 2019-20 season, has a 173-73 record in three seasons with the Rockets. Houston is 23-16 in the playoffs during that span, losing to the Golden State Warriors the past two seasons.

With Durant sidelined, non-Nike brands have big Finals opportunity

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The Golden State Warriors aren’t the only team feeling the hurt of Kevin Durant’s calf-induced absence from the 2019 NBA Finals.

Without Durant on the court — and with LeBron James home for the postseason for the first time since 2005 — Nike is facing its first Finals since 2006 without one of its active signature stars playing.

Even that Finals matchup between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks included former Nike signature players Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning wearing black-and-red, Heat-themed editions of their respective late-’90s signature shoes, the Zoom Glove and Air Alonzo.

In the 13 seasons since, Nike has been able to count on signature stars such as James, Durant, Kobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving playing deep into June every year, giving the company the ability to introduce new technology, Finals-themed colorways and elaborate marketing campaigns.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Nike, the league’s official uniform and apparel outfitter, does boast Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam in this series, but none of them has their own shoe. In fact, Siakam’s 32-point performance in Game 1 came in Durant’s KD10, which was released two years ago.

For Under Armour, Anta, Puma, New Balance and Adidas, there’s an opening this spring for the first time in more than a decade, as Nike’s superstar roster had continued to dominate the landscape. The last Finals MVP who wore a non-Nike Inc. sneaker was Tim Duncan, who sported Adidas in the 2005 Finals, two years after Nike declined to re-sign him.9

A similar story could be unfolding in 2019 with Kawhi Leonard, who chose not to re-sign with the Nike-owned Jordan Brand and instead inked a deal with New Balance, immediately becoming the face of the company’s re-entry into the basketball market.

Leonard debuted the OMN1S model during All-Star Weekend in Charlotte and has worn a rotation of 27 different colorways in the months since. With an expected wide release not coming until October, the brand has released only a few hundred pairs of the sneaker to date. Dubbed the “2-Way Pack,” drafting from his status as perhaps the league’s best two-way player, a pair of the OMN1S and a similarly styled pair of the 997 Sport lifestyle sneaker was released online, selling out in mere seconds.

Luckily for New Balance, the sole launch to date featured the same colorway Leonard was wearing when he nailed his instant classic, Game 7 buzzer-beater over the outstretched arms of Joel Embiid, advancing the Raptors past the second round and toward their first trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Both models were designed by Leonard himself, featuring regal hues of gold and purple, along with a faux crocodile, textured collar. The instant sell-out gave New Balance confidence and hope as it heads toward additional moment-driven, surprise releases should Leonard win the NBA championship.

In the week leading up to the Finals, New Balance digital banners flanked the streets of Toronto, declaring Leonard the “King of the North.” The morning after the Raptors’ convincing Game 1 win, the brand launched yet another billboard campaign, this time just off Oakland’s 880 highway heading toward Oracle Arena.

Why D.J. Reader is an ‘invaluable’ piece of Texans’ defense

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Jadeveon Clowney isn’t the only member of the Houston Texans’ front seven due for a new contract this offseason.

While Clowney and J.J. Watt typically get the headlines, nose tackle D.J. Reader is the player doing the dirty work — “a grinder’s job,” according to Watt — as a presence in the middle of the defensive line, taking on “double-teams so everybody else can make the plays.”cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Don’t sell Reader short, though. He’s capable of making his fair share of impressive plays.

“He doesn’t get enough credit for what he does,” Watt said. “If you really watch the film closely, you’ll see D.J. sometimes runs down plays all the way down the line of scrimmage to the sideline. I think for a nose tackle to be able to do that, with the athleticism and the endurance he has, I don’t think he gets enough credit.”

“In terms of the success of our defense, [Reader] is invaluable,” Weaver said. “While he may not fill up the stat sheet, all those guys who are filling up the stat sheet, whether it’s a linebacker behind him or J.J. [Watt] or J.D. [Clowney] on the outside, they know that a lot of that success is the result of what D.J. is doing.10

“To me, D.J. is a strong pillar. If you’re talking about a house, you’re talking about a foundation. That’s D.J. Reader. He’s the guy who you build everything around. I think great defenses are built from the inside out. If you’re talking about the defensive line, that starts up front with D.J. Reader at nose tackle. Because if teams can just run right down the middle, if you don’t have a solid nose, it’s going to be bad for you. We force that ball to go outside, you don’t want to run into 90 [Clowney] and 99 [Watt] and 59 [OLB Whitney Mercilus] and all those guys. He enables us and allows us to do that.”

“He’s a leader on this defense,” Weaver said. “He’s very smart. He’s very smart and he relates to almost everybody. I think that’s where some of his leadership skills and traits shine. Because he’ll talk to the lowest guy on the totem pole, and the highest guy on the totem pole, and treat each and every one of them the same, and can relate to them. So, not only does he have tremendous value for us as a player, but he has tremendous value for us in that locker room as well.”

Reader says he’s not thinking about a new deal, but has felt like he has found a home in Houston. The Texans have typically signed their draft picks to extensions before the start of their fourth season. Still, there’s no doubt the Texans have Reader in their plans for the foreseeable future given his importance to the defense.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“He does a tremendous job,” Mercilus said. “He definitely holds down the middle of the line. He’s quiet, but you know his presence is going to be there. The linebackers would say something if he was getting pushed back, but D.J., you can’t push him back at all.”

Tom Coughlin’s ‘history with receivers’ brought Terrelle Pryor to Jaguars

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Tom Coughlin is known for many things. He helped build the Jacksonville Jaguars, taking them to a pair of AFC Championship games in eight seasons. He also won two Super Bowls as the head coach of the New York Giants and is a strict disciplinarian with some ridiculous-sounding rules.

But when Terrelle Pryor thinks about Coughlin he immediately thinks about wide receivers, which is why he was happy the Jaguars called him for a workout and eventually signed him last Monday morning.

“His view of receivers and how he teaches it, even when he was a head coach,” Pryor said. “I remember working out for him back in 2015. I was hurt coming off of the Browns and I got cut from the Browns in the preseason. I worked out for the Giants, and I was excited because I knew about Coughlin’s history with receivers and stuff. When I worked out for him and he didn’t sign me, I was kind of bummed out.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Jimmy Smith enjoyed seven of his nine 1,000-yard seasons and Keenan McCardell four of his five 1,000-yard seasons while Coughlin was coaching the Jaguars from 1995-2002. During Coughlin’s 12 seasons as the Giants coach, five receivers (Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith, Hakeem Nix, Victor Cruz, and Odell Beckham, Jr.) surpassed 1,000 yards receiving nine times.9

Coughlin isn’t doing any on-field coaching with the Jaguars in his role as executive vice president of football operations but he was at Pryor’s workout and attends organized team activities. Pryor is hoping Coughlin offering him a chance to win a roster spot over the next three months will allow him to make up for the past two disappointing seasons.

Pryor, whom Oakland selected as a quarterback in the third round of the 2011 supplemental draft, has only been a receiver since 2015. He seemed to be on his way to a productive career after catching 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns with the Browns in 2016, but multiple injuries and a clash with New York Jets coach Todd Bowles ruined his past two seasons.

The Browns didn’t re-sign Pryor and he joined the Washington Redskins on a one-year, $8 million contract. He suffered an ankle injury in Week 2 but played through it until opting for surgery in November and finished with 20 catches for 240 yards and one TD in nine games.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Pryor signed with the Jets and had 14 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns in the first six games while playing through a groin injury. He also drew heavy criticism from Bowles during the preseason after he told reporters he had suffered a broken ankle during offseason workouts. Bowles and the Jets had previously said it was a minor injury.

The Jets cut Pryor in October (he was still dealing with the groin injury) but he landed with Buffalo and told reporters there that he felt he was underused in New York. Pryor caught two passes for 17 yards in two games before being cut.

Devonta Freeman takes verbal hits from Warrick Dunn to avoid real ones

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Devonta Freeman has done a solid job emulating Warrick Dunn as a dual-threat back, but imitating how Dunn talks is another story.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Freeman, the Atlanta Falcons’ two-time Pro Bowl running back, leaned on a set of bleachers, took a deep breath, lowered his tone and offered his best impersonation of Dunn, who had his most productive seasons with the Falcons from 2002 to ’08.

“Warrick always tells me all the time — you know he talks low — but he tells me, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got to do better. You can’t be taking all these hits, man. It’s all about longevity,'” Freeman whispered with a Southern drawl. “That’s what he always says to me, and I appreciate that. I really appreciate stuff like that.”8

Dunn probably would have laughed at the way Freeman mimicked his tone, but at least his message seems to have resonated. The bond Freeman shares with Dunn, a fellow Florida State Seminole, extends beyond football talk. They keep in touch often, even if it means checking in just to say hello. In the bulk of those conversations, Freeman has grown accustomed to Dunn preaching to him about avoiding some of those vicious hits.nfl cheap jerseys nike

“Yeah, I agree with him 100 percent,” Freeman said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people about it.”

Dunn, now a Falcons minority owner, never regrets bringing it up.

“A lot of times, these guys always want to prove that they’re tough or that they can get the tough yard, but sometimes you have to live for another down,” Dunn said. “My advice to Devonta was, ‘You have to learn how to protect yourself at the same time. You’re picking up tough yards, but you have to be smart and strategic about it.’

“To be a better runner, it’s not always about, ‘Let me run over guys.’ It’s ‘How can I avoid the big hit so I can have longevity in this league?’ And I just try to encourage him to become a better overall runner.”

Sources: Man Utd doubt Juve can afford Pogba

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United insist Pogba, who is under contract until at least 2021, is not for sale. And, privately, the club have also played down Juventus’ ability to pay a transfer fee which would be significantly higher than the £89.3 million United paid for Pogba in 2016 while also offering a salary that would tempt the 26-year-old to return.

Real Madrid are also interested in Pogba and sources have told ESPN FC he would prefer a move to the Bernabeu to link up with compatriot Zinedine Zidane. Solskjaer is keen to keep Pogba, who scored 16 goals in 47 games last season, and build a new-look team around the World Cup winner.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

The Norwegian is set to name Ashley Young as club captain following Antonio Valencia’s departure but is open to offering Pogba a leadership role within the dressing room that would see him wear the armband when Young is not in the team.10

Should Pogba force a move, sources have told ESPN FC United have identified Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen and Leicester’s James Maddison as possible replacements.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham are also interested in 22-year-old Maddison, who impressed in his first season in the Premier League following his move to the King Power Stadium from Norwich last summer.

Eriksen is open to a move away from Tottenham after helping Mauricio Pochettino’s side reach the Champions League final. The Denmark international, who been at the club for six years, is also on Real Madrid’s radar.

Solskjaer is already targeting at least one new midfielder this summer after Ander Herrera left on a free transfer. The Spaniard is expected to join Paris Saint-Germain.