Tyrann Mathieu and Sean Payton speak out about New Orleans in the wake of Will Smith’s shooting

Emotions are running high for NFL players and coaches following the tragic shooting death of former Saints star Will Smith Saturday night in New Orleans. Louisiana native Tyrann Mathieu and Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke out about some of the issues surrounding Smith’s death.

Mathieu, the former embattled LSU star, opened up both Sunday and Monday about the limited opportunities that kids in New Orleans are given to succeed in things other than music or sports.

“And it’s time for me to speak up. It’s time for me to reach out and to let these kids know ‘Hey, you don’t have to be a football player. You don’t have to be a rapper to make it out of those situations.’ What you have to have is motivation and you have to have drive,” Mathieu said, on a local radio show.

The fifth-year option was implemented in the most recent version of the collective bargaining agreement established in 2011. The CBA dictates that rookies must sign four-year deals and provides the possibility for teams to pick up the option for a fifth season for first-round selections. The salary established for the fifth year is fully guaranteed in the event of injury.

Vaccaro had a strong rookie season in New Orleans, finishing 2013 with eight pass deflections, one interception, one sack and a forced fumble. He was benched briefly during a 2014 season in which the New Orleans defense struggled mightily across the board, finishing the season 31st in the league for total offensive yards allowed per game with 384. Vaccaro started all 16 games for the Saints last season, contributing three sacks, five pass deflections and a forced fumble.

Which team is expected to draft him?

Unsurprisingly, the New England Patriots are reportedly interested in snatching up Rob’s younger brother. The Pats met with him at the Senior Bowl in January and kept close eyes on him at the Combine. In addition to Rob, the Patriots also signed Dan in 2011, though he didn’t last a full season.

The Denver Broncos, who signed both Chris and Dan, may also be a fit for him. Last month, Gary Kubiak spoke about his desire to add a fullback.

“There will be some [fullbacks] on the roster,” Kubiak said, via Broncos.com. “Hopefully we have a couple going into camp and we can get back to some of those two-back things. Those guys are hard to come by. They really are. I think in the draft this year there are a few guys. I’m excited about that. We’d like to have one of those guys be a part of our roster.”

Given the war of words between the Broncos and Patriots in recent months — Rob said in January that Broncos players like to “give low blows” — it would take the term “sibling rivalry” to the next level if Glenn were to start his NFL career in Denver.

Jay Cutler: I’ve supported Donald Trump for a while

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler voiced his support on Thursday for President-elect Donald Trump.

“I’m happy with the [election] results,” Cutler said. “I’ve supported Trump for a while. I’m not going to dive into it. I know it’s a sensitive issue. I like where it’s going.”

Cutler was the first Bears player to publicly endorse Trump since he defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

Was he injured? He did have a thumb injury in June, leaving a game on June 22 in the sixth inning after it flared. At the time, he downplayed it and said, “It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a while,” although he had been using a thumb guard and icing “the heck out of it.”

He had his worst month of the season in June, hitting .202/.255/.322, but still failed to hit .300 in any other month. His average exit velocity essentially hovered just above league average throughout the season, with no obvious “he got injured here” data point.

Less murky is his play in center field, which deteriorated significantly in 2016. He was credited with minus-28 defensive runs saved, the worst total of any player at any position. Given that McCutchen’s defensive metrics have been below average for several seasons, it’s impossible to sugarcoat these numbers. He’s no longer a center fielder, and even if the Pirates keep him, he’s likely destined for left field with Starling Marte moving over to center.

With that in mind, any team looking to acquire McCutchen will certainly view him as a corner outfielder who can play center in a pinch. Here are the 10 teams with the worst wOBA production from their corner positions in 2016: Mets, Padres, Astros, A’s, Braves, Dodgers, Royals, Yankees, Angels and Phillies. That’s a starting point for potential trade partners. Here’s a list of teams that were the worst against left-handed pitching: Astros, Marlins, Yankees, Giants, Reds, A’s, Orioles, Braves, Phillies and Dodgers.

The Astros and Dodgers, however, are possible fits. The Astros did claim Norichika Aoki on waivers from the Mariners, so they might already have him penciled in for left field. Plus, while the Astros didn’t hit lefties that well, their lineup already leans right-handed.

The ties, like Newton’s hats that cost $800 and up, aren’t cheap. They cost anywhere from $165 to $295.

But Plotner believes Newton and his feather ties are a perfect fit.

“He’s unique and unconventional,’’ he said. “He’s not worried about what everybody else thinks. He wants to be himself. That’s what we admire about his sense of style, and that’s what we like to do with our product.’’

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Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians confirmed that J.J. Nelson was now a starter in the three-wide receiver set

You can question the move all you want, but if Bibbs is indeed going to approach or pass a 50 percent share of the touches in this backfield, he is squarely on our radars. The Broncos travel to the Superdome where not only do the Saints put up points in bunches, they bring their opponents out of their shell, as well. New Orleans gives up 95.3 rushing yards per game on the season, but have been especially roasted through the air of late. The Saints allowed a league-high 235 receiving yards to running backs over the last month. Don’t forget that it was a 69-yard can and run for a touchdown that got Bibbs into position to take this job in the first place.

Lance Kendricks, TE, Los Angeles Rams (4.3 percent owned)
The tight end position is a mess, and while using Lance Kendricks after a 12-target, 90-yard day may feel like chasing points, we don’t have much in the way of real alternatives. Kendricks’ playing time is at a pristine level, as he’s played 86 percent of the team snaps their last three games. He’s been out on the field plenty, and last week showed us he has the volume upside we look for. The Jets are weak in the secondary and rank an average-level 15th at defending the tight end positon in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics.

That’s why Atlanta gets the edge here. The Falcons might not have as good a record as Oakland (6-3 vs. 7-2), but quarterback Matt Ryan looks like the early favorite to win league MVP honors. Even with ample questions on defense — which won’t improve if a recent shoulder injury sidelines cornerback Desmond Trufant for any lengthy period of time — the Falcons also have more players who’ve been to the postseason on their roster. That means plenty when you’re trying to separate contenders from pretenders.

Which struggling NFC North team is worth believing in: Green Bay or Minnesota?

There was no gutsier team in football for the first five weeks of the season than the Minnesota Vikings. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater before the opener and rallied behind Sam Bradford after he arrived in a trade. They watched Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson go down with a knee injury in a Week 2 win over Green Bay and still managed to start the year with five straight victories. There have been other key injuries — and the stunning resignation of offensive coordinator Norv Turner — and still the Vikings keep talking like they will overcome.

But it’s time to face reality: It’s hard to see Minnesota keeping pace down the stretch.

The Packers have their own problems — including an injury-riddled backfield and the fact that they’re beginning a three-game road swing after dropping three of their last four contests — but they also have Aaron Rodgers. If he can continue to shake off the early-season struggles that plagued him, the Packers should be in good shape. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson is looking more comfortable in his return from a torn ACL sustained last season and Green Bay still has history on its side. After all, the Packers haven’t missed the playoffs since 2008 — tied for the longest current streak in football with New England.

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Ravens have Antonio Brown’s number, and amazingly, it’s 1 (TD)

The Baltimore Ravens have dominated their rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent years because they’ve been able to do something that the rest of the NFL has struggled with — keep wide receiver Antonio Brown out of the end zone.

Between his junior and senior years, Johnson went to a football camp at Northern Iowa, where coach Mark Farley noticed Johnson’s “great” hands and “great” cuts. Johnson was seamlessly making sharp cuts out of routes. Most of his high school peers had to chop their feet before cutting or decelerating to make the move. Farley instantly started to daydream about using Johnson as a slot receiver. Farley knew Johnson hadn’t been used as a true running back or true receiver during his senior year. Camp utilized Johnson more as a wing back, making it tough for Farley to evaluate Johnson as either.

Johnson was rated as a two-star athlete coming out of high school, and UNI was one of a couple schools to seriously recruit him. Camp got calls from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas State and even Notre Dame, asking who was recruiting Johnson. It got to the point where Camp figured if one major program showed interest, the offers would start pouring in. It never happened.

Farley wanted Johnson as a receiver, and that’s what he got.

When Johnson signed with Northern Iowa, he was sent their route trees. He spent the summer before college catching passes on the JUGS machine, researching how to be a better receiver, working with receiving coaches and learning UNI’s passing game. He was all set to be a receiver in college.

For two weeks, at least.

Long before Cardinals coach Bruce Arians built an offense around Johnson, Camp and Farley did the same.

“I was split out in college, doing all the same stuff — choice routes, corners and stuff like that,” Johnson said. “They utilized me that way.”

Johnson is thankful Farley let him return to running back. He ran for a school-record 49 touchdowns and averaged 95.7 yards per game in 49 college games. His identity heading into the NFL was as a running back — but his receiving skills helped get him drafted in the third round.

Here’s how the Vikings’ offense can get back on track without Norv Turner

After the shocking announcement that Norv Turner had tendered his resignation from the offensive coordinator role with the Minnesota Vikings, the team confirmed that tight ends coach Pat Shurmur would step in as the interim coordinator. Shurmur has experience with Sam Bradford and sub-par offensive lines. His job now is to get Minnesota’s offense looking competitive again.

The Vikings’ offensive line has been abysmal, particularly over the past couple of weeks. An inability to adequately protect Bradford has been a contributing factor in two consecutive losses. Through seven games, the offensive line has allowed 19 sacks on Bradford.

“It’s something I’d like to see go down … I don’t think it’s a good thing,” Bradford said Wednesday about the number of hits he’s taking. “I think we have to figure out a way to bring the number down.”

Shurmur has plenty of experience working with bad offensive lines, which will come in handy as he works to overcome that weakness with the Vikings’ offense.

His first stint as an offensive coordinator in the NFL was with the St. Louis Rams in 2009-10. In 2009, the Rams were working with Marc Bulger, Keith Null, and Kyle Boller under center. St. Louis allowed 44 sacks on that combination of quarterbacks.

It’s not easy to shift offensive philosophies midseason, so don’t expect to see wholesale change from the Vikings.

“Halfway through the season, I’m not sure you can completely change the offense and the terminology for everyone,” Bradford said Monday.

But they can make it a simpler offense with subtle changes that can have a big impact.

Going up-tempo should help keep defenses at bay, too. An up-tempo offense makes it difficult for defenses to get set and anticipate what the offense is going to do, and it’s something Shurmur did last season in Philadelphia with a Chip Kelly offense that relied on quick pace. The offensive concepts were pretty simple, but when they’re executed rapidly, they’re much more challenging to defend.

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The Panthers gave their owner a statue that would make Vladimir Putin proud

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson turned 80 last Monday, forcing the team to confront the timeless question of what to get an old rich guy who already has everything (except a Super Bowl).

The answer: A 13-foot high statue of the man pointing a football ominously into the future and standing between two very muscular panthers.

According to the sculptor, the twin panthers represent both offense and defense as well as both North and South Carolina. They could also represent Richardson’s steadfast defense of NFL owners’ wallets during the 2011 lockout. There’s a lot of room for interpretation!

Looking at the statue it immediately conjures the socialist realism. Conceived under Stalin it rapidly became the preferred art movement of dictators everywhere. It’s a school of art aped by Vladimir Putin, flexing with tigers or riding horses without his shirt on. Its origins best identified with lifelike images of terrible men pointing at things.

Will Steph Curry and Kevin Durant cancel out each other’s MVP bids as so many pundits leaguewide presume?

Can any of the league’s best solo stars — Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, etc. — win enough games with their respective teams to make a run at a trophy that hasn’t been awarded to a player from a sub-50-win-squad since Moses Malone in 1981-82?

Is Kawhi Leonard really just going to keep getting better and better?

Shouldn’t everybody in this conversation be concerned that LeBron James, who just happened to uncork the first triple-double on Opening Night since Jason Kidd in 2006, says reclaiming the Podoloff is a goal of his this season?

We just gave you a lot of reasons to stay tuned in between now and April 12.

Big men, for the first time in a long time, will be loved and appreciated again.

Karl-Anthony Towns. Andre Drummond. Steven Adams. Kristaps Porzingis. Rudy Gobert. Myles Turner. Jusuf Nurkic. Joel Embiid.

And those are just the young (or younger) ones.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the Jets’ starter again, so where does that leave Geno Smith?

The spat between Ryan Fitzpatrick and the New York Jets lasted for several months and at least appeared to show faith in Geno Smith’s ability to take over the reins as the team’s starting quarterback. But on Wednesday, one day before Jets players were set to report for training camp, the dispute ended with a one-year, $12 million deal for Fitzpatrick.

“Geno’s here at number two right now unless Bryce and Hack have some great gain, if they come along like gangbusters,” Bowles said. “Number two right now, it’s open.”

Smith is the only one of those four who was brought in by a different regime. Mike Maccagnan took over as the Jets general manager in January 2015, a day before Todd Bowles was named the new head coach. In their 18 months on the job, the Jets added Fitzpatrick and drafted both Petty and Hackenberg.

Neither Petty nor Hackenberg has ever thrown a pass in the NFL, so it’s tough to imagine the Jets parting ways before they have a chance to develop. And if they keep both of those players, as well as Fitzpatrick, that leaves the Jets with a choice: Keep four quarterbacks or part ways with someone.

San Francisco took steps to fix one of the guard spots by signing free agent Zane Beadles, and then traded up back into the first round to land Stanford guard Joshua Garnett. A line consisting of Joe Staley, Garnett, Daniel Kilgore, Beadles and Davis would be significantly better than last season’s line.

It’s unclear if Davis is in football shape and can regain his job, but for now, he is allowed by the NFL to play in 2016.

The deal is especially surprising after the Chiefs struggled to negotiate with Eric Berry during the offseason after placing the franchise tag on the safety. Berry has not reported to training camp and is expected to miss much of the preseason due to his frustration with the Chiefs, and now the team has even less cap space to work with.

Fisher, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, struggled with injuries early in his time with the Chiefs and had a poor rookie season, drawing early bust prognostications. But he steadily improved and has settled in as a solid left tackle for Kansas City. He especially shined during an AFC Wild Card game against the Houston Texans when he dominated a hobbled J.J. Watt, eventually smushing the injured defensive lineman and forcing him to leave the game.

The extension for Fisher is much more about the path that the Chiefs believe he is on than the performance he has provided in his first three NFL seasons. It could mean Berry’s time with the Chiefs is coming closer to inevitably ending, though.

And none of those reasons to part with Smith even mention how he has played on the field. In his 29 starts, the Jets are 11-18 while Smith has tossed 27 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. Fitzpatrick led the Jets to a 10-6 season in 2015 with 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

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Lions’ Glover Quin lives on 30 percent of take-home pay, uses rest to invest in future

TROY, Mich. — Glover Quin heard it from teammates early in his career. They saw how he lived, how they lived and chided him. “Stop being so cheap,” some of his teammates in Houston said. Quin ignored them.

He continued to drive the Yukon Denali he bought when he entered the NFL in 2009, a car he still owns. He stuck with his budget. He had a plan. It meant doing everything possible to make sure he had a long NFL career while using it to set up the rest of his life.

Quin saved 70 percent of his take-home pay each year and invested in well-known, publicly traded companies. He and his family lived on the remaining 30 percent, about $6,000 a month — $72,000 per year — the first three years of his career.

Not flashy, but effective. And it led to his monetary success.

Occasionally, Quin had a higher budget if he got what he called “unaccounted-for” money for doing an appearance that wasn’t planned. He and his wife would use that money on vacations and other potential luxuries they didn’t initially budget for. Other than that, it was always about the plan.

“I’ve always trusted in the plan and never really let other people sway me away from it,” said Quin, now a safety on the Detroit Lions. “I like to call it tunnel vision. It’s not good to have tunnel vision on the field, because you need to know what’s going on around you, but when you’re in life, especially in this field, you need to have tunnel vision, because you see so many guys around you buying cars, buying jewelry, doing this, spending money, talking about the money that they spend.

“And you’re sitting there like, ‘Man, I’m living off this much money every month, and this cat spending this much money every day.'”

Quin majored in business at the University of New Mexico. He understood the power of investing and creating generational wealth. The 70/30 save-spend strategy brought to him by his financial advisor, Humble Lukanga, made sense.

The two met sitting next to each other in a 7 a.m. business ethics class at New Mexico. Quin eventually hired Lukanga, who has many other NFL clients, and Quin bought into the save-spend strategy immediately and carried it through to now, even with a lucrative second NFL contract.

“That 30 percent just gets a little bit bigger,” Lukanga said. “You have a little bit more breathing room, but the discipline is the same. If you can’t save on your first contract, you’re probably not going to save on your second contract. So the key is to develop. First, you form habits, and then habits form you.”

Quin entered the league wanting to build his wealth, although he wasn’t initially thinking about investments. After signing a free-agent deal in Detroit in 2013, Quin decided to venture into a more risky investment world — private equity, using 10 to 20 percent of his wealth to fund private, up-and-coming businesses.

Think “Shark Tank” with a specific plan.

“We like companies that we feel can change the world,” Quin said. “That can make the world a better place, so that’s one thing we look at as well: Can this company change the world?

“If we feel that way and we believe in the company and we believe in the direction that they are going and the people that are behind it, I feel a lot more comfortable.”

So far, the strategy has worked. Quin and Lukanga estimate a five-year projection where his private portfolio could match the money he has made in the NFL. When his contract expires after the 2017 season, Quin will have earned more than $21 million, before taxes, in his eight-year career.

Quin understands the risk of private equity investment, a reason he diversifies his dollars in multiple companies. In the offseason, he’ll sometimes study two or three deals per month, starting by reading it over to see if it hits certain metrics he has for investments.

If those things happen, he talks with Lukanga and does more research. He’ll often chat with his wife, asking her opinion on a potential product without divulging there could be an investment opportunity.

Quin has to believe in the product and that the company fits his “change and better the world” philosophy. It is part of what attracted him to three of his companies: Health Warrior, a company that makes food out of chia; pawTree, a customized pet nutrition company; and PeerWell, an app that helps people prehab before joint replacement surgery to aid in their post-surgery recovery.

Quin is being smart with his private equity approach. He knows some of his investments will fail. If he hits on an average number of deals, he believes he has put himself in good shape. Some of the failed deals end up as a successful return on investment because of knowledge gained.

He might have made his money in the short-term NFL world, but he’s in the investment game for the long haul. Because in business, that’s often how you win, and that, as always, is Quin’s plan.

“To sit here and say I’ve played for eight years and made this much money, I was in a couple investments for five years and kind of made the same amount of money,” Quin said. “It’s kind of like having a double NFL career, you know.

“It’s one of those things that’s very exciting. Hopefully, everything continues to work out great and I can be one of those stories that they say, ‘You know what, I probably made more money investing than I made playing football.'”

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Jeremy Mincey retires after 9 seasons in the NFL

Defensive end Jeremy Mincey is hanging up after nine seasons in the NFL. The 32-year-old announced his retirement on with a lengthy post on Instagram, where he thanked his fans, former teams and coaches.

The 23-year-old running back explained that his weight gain was due to poor eating habits during his fiancée’s pregnancy.

The decision to waive Williams is a change of heart for Ryan, who was asked earlier in August if the running back’s roster spot was in jeopardy.

“We’re not going to give up on Karlos Williams. I can tell you that,” Ryan assured reporters, via Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com.

Williams played safety at Florida State before moving to running back for the Seminoles as a junior in 2013. He bulldozed his way to 11 touchdowns in each of his junior and senior seasons.

In the course of the League’s investigation, our investigators became aware that his wife had filed a statement with the county court alleging previous altercations between the spouses. However, despite multiple attempts to speak with her about this incident and her previous statements, she declined to speak with us. We understand that there are many reasons that might have affected her decision not to speak with us, but we were limited in our ability to investigate these allegations.

Over the course of the 10-month investigation, we also made numerous requests—as late as this spring—to local law enforcement officers for information on the case and previous allegations. They declined those requests for information.

As a result of these factors, our investigators had insufficient information to corroborate prior allegations. In addition, no criminal charges were brought forward regarding the incident in question or prior allegations. The NFL therefore made a decision based on the evidentiary findings around this one incident as provided to us by the District Attorney.

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Jets WR Brandon Marshall injured, but returned to the game almost immediately

New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall sustained what appeared to be a knee injury in the second quarter of Thursday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills. He went to the locker room for further examination, but almost immediately returned to the game.

Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore was flagged for a face mask on the tackle that led to Marshall’s injury. There is a reason grabbing the face mask is illegal. These tackles carry a higher risk of injury for players.

The Jets seemed to get off to a slow start, but New York’s methodical approach and consistency won the game for them.

Taylor took an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit, which was hard enough to justify concerns about a concussion.

He objected to being removed from the game and had to be escorted off of the field by head official Ed Hochuli.

After he was evaluated for a concussion on the sideline, Taylor was cleared to return to the game. After the game, Bills head coach Rex Ryan said he “understands” the referee’s decision to remove Taylor from the game, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak.

Jon Dorenbos finishes third on America’s Got Talent. Eagles long snapper wowed the nation.

Russell Wilson was a full-go at practice this week. Good news for the Seahawks, their quarterback’s ankle injury doesn’t seem to be hobbling him.
Doug Pederson is no Andy Reid, and that might be a good thing. Pederson showed us a lot in his first game.

According to the NFL bylaws, celebratory actions that are “sexually suggestive or can otherwise be construed as being in poor taste” fall under the banner of “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Brown’s thrusting would appear to fall into that category.

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