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Baltimore Ravens

Aroldis Chapman’s remarkable year rocked baseball

Aroldis Chapman is a humongous human being. His hulking presence is more reminiscent of an outside linebacker than a pitcher. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, but he is probably bigger. Regardless, the size of Chapman’s frame befits his impact on baseball these last 12 months.

Amid the swirl of one of the biggest ethical issues facing major American sports — domestic violence — Chapman’s acquisitions and non-acquisitions have made a lasting impact on the three biggest markets in the country. How he became a Yankee, and how he reunited with them, has affected the game’s most historic franchise, its most epic championship drought and even its signature West Coast team.
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Exactly one year to the day — Dec. 7 — after the Cincinnati Reds reportedly worked a deal to send Chapman to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chapman agreed to the largest contract for a reliever in baseball history: a five-year, $86 million pact with the New York Yankees.

“We took calls. We listened. We engaged,” Huntington told reporters. “And not just on Andrew but on other players who are on one- or two-year contracts. As we will always do, if we find the right move and we believe the right move is to move the player, we’ll move the player. If we believe the right move is to hold the player, then we’ll hold the player.”
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The Washington Nationals were reportedly talking to the Pirates about McCutchen, but the Nats’ trade for Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton on Wednesday appeared to end their interest.

Pittsburgh nearly traded the 2013 NL MVP last week, and the two sides will enter the ’17 season unsure of the outfielder’s future with the franchise.

Baseball’s winter meetings ended Thursday with Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen still on the team. The expectation is that he will be there on Opening Day.

McCutchen is a five-time All-Star and won a Gold Glove in 2012. He has two years remaining on his contract.

Though McCutchen has been given “no assurances,” he has spoken to Huntington since the league’s winter meetings ended Thursday.

The Packers could have a significant shortage of linebackers

TE Jordan Reed caught passes during individual drills Wednesday, but there’s a ways to go before the Redskins are ready to declare him ready for Sunday’s game against Philadelphia. Reed is still suffering from the Grade 3 separation of the AC joint in his left shoulder. Meanwhile, the offensive line was suffering: Center Spencer Long (concussion) and guard Shawn Lauvao (groin) both missed practice as did Ty Nsekhe (ankle). But Nsekhe was going back to the bench anyway with Trent Williams returning from his four-game suspension. Long would be replaced by veteran John Sullivan, and Lauvao would be replaced by Arie Kouandjio.
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WR Jeremy Maclin will be available to play for the Chiefs for the first time in five games Thursday night against the Raiders. Maclin has been out because of a groin injury. He might not play his normal full role in his first game back, but the Chiefs are still better off having him for whatever number of snaps he is in their lineup. He’s their most accomplished and experienced wide receiver. It’s foolish to believe the Chiefs are a better team when he’s not playing.

Isaiah Pead Limited Jersey Derek Carr is still Oakland’s biggest injury question, despite his insistence that his right pinkie isn’t causing any limitations. Carr played the entire game last weekend in the shotgun or pistol to keep him from going under center and, thus, to keep his finger out of harm’s way. Sub-freezing temperatures are expected in Kansas City on Thursday night, and with the ball expected to be hard as a rock and his finger still sore and taped, it’s almost a given that Carr will again set up 4 or 7 yards behind the center. After not running a single play out of the pistol before Sunday, the Raiders ran 19 plays out of the formation against Buffalo. Expect more of the same at Arrowhead Stadium.

I realize 58 yards isn’t all that exciting, but such is the state of DeAndre Hopkins

Brandon Marshall, Jets: Down to just seven targets a game over his past seven games, I just don’t know how you can trust him with Bryce “I only have eyes for Robby Anderson” Petty under center. Now, Petty will have all week to prep with the ones, as opposed to being thrown into the middle of a game, so he won’t have to just go with who he knows, so to speak, and it is a good matchup with San Francisco.
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I realize 58 yards isn’t all that exciting, but such is the state of DeAndre Hopkins. Given the state of Indy’s secondary, I do like Hopkins as a WR3. … Kenny Britt now has a score or at least five catches in five straight and yes, I expect the Rams to be down in this one. Atlanta is 23rd versus the pass in the past four weeks. … No apologies needed this week, Eli, as Sterling Shepard comes off another game with a score to face the Cowboys.

Tyrod Taylor, Bills: There’s a reasonable floor here because of the rushing, of course, but since the start of last season, the Steelers have allowed just one rushing score to an opposing QB. The fifth-best scoring defense and a top-10 pass defense the past four weeks, the Steelers are allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs since Week 9. Taylor, meanwhile, now has less than 195 passing yards in three straight games, with just one total touchdown pass in that span.

Spencer Ware, Chiefs: At least 16 touches in four straight games for Ware, and I expect the Chiefs to once again take a run-heavy approach against the Raiders. Now, maybe not as much as Week 6 in Oakland, when the Chiefs had 40 rushes for 183 yards and three rushing scores, but still.

Jordan Howard, Bears: No doubt the Lions have played terrific defense recently, as they are third against the run the past four weeks. But take a closer look at their opponents: Jacksonville, Minnesota, New Orleans and a bye.

Authentic Mens Malcolm Butler Jersey Andrew Luck, Colts: I’m the highest on Luck this week among our rankers. “Sure,” you say, “he beat up the Jets, but whatevs, dude, that doesn’t count. Now he gets Houston in a tough division game. I’m nervous.” Well, I’m not. He’s rocked the Texans before, scoring 23 points in Week 6, and he’s running a little bit more, with more than six rushing attempts per game in his past seven.

Manziel’s season ended when he was diagnosed with a concussion prior to the team’s final gam

Former Browns head coach Mike Pettine restored Manziel as the team’s starter heading into Week 14, but made it clear that Manziel was expected to live up to the team’s expectations on and off the field. Another video of Manziel partying surfaced around Christmas, and although Pettine said the circumstances differed from the previous incident, he also acknowledged that anything that potentially cast Browns players in a bad light was a concern.

Manziel’s season ended when he was diagnosed with a concussion prior to the team’s final game. Austin Davis started in Manziel’s place. Manziel missed the season finale and reports suggest that he may have been in Las Vegas instead.

The Seattle season unfolded with two losses, two victories, two losses, two victories and then another loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
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Authentic Youth Matt Moore Jersey Thomas said in video study after that Arizona loss that the defense could see that it was not playing with its usual fire. They had to become more swarming. They did. They won six consecutive games afterward and finished the regular season by winning seven of eight. The Seattle defense matched the 1953-1957 Cleveland Browns as NFL teams that led the league in scoring defense for four consecutive seasons. Then came the “Miracle at Minnesota” last weekend in the playoffs, a game played in frigid weather against the Minnesota Vikings that the Seahawks survived.

There is a thread of leadership and example through it all that revolves around Thomas.

I wondered if perhaps for a lot of football fans, even in 2016, in their minds if it didn’t show up on the stat sheet, then it didn’t happen. That’s not to say any of these guys had pitiful stats, it’s just that to truly understand their impact you need to look deeper than that.

The Clippers should at least get a crack at Golden State in the West finals

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Mbah a Moute might help. The Clippers have discussed pairing Paul with Raymond Felton and Austin Rivers in quicker lineups that might skitter through the Golden State labyrinth. It is hard to play Crawford against Golden State’s core groups, though he is adamant he can manage. “That’s always the question with me,” Crawford said. “I can look you dead in the eye and say I can do it.”

Even if he can’t, it’s unfathomable — without fathom! — that the solution to upsetting the Warriors involves extra heapings of Felton and the junior Rivers.

Three of their core four players — Paul, Griffin, and Redick — enter free agency this summer, assuming Paul and Griffin exercise early termination options. Paul and Redick are on the wrong side of the aging curve; Jordan and Griffin, bouncy types who rely to varying degrees on their athleticism, aren’t that far behind.

Rivers the president has left the cupboard nearly barren of young players and draft picks. If Paul or Griffin leaves, it is unclear how the Clippers can maintain a 55-win team. The Clippers present perhaps the best human drama of the 2016-17 season: can a great team heal its fractures, and find the best version of itself, before it’s too late?

Divided teams rarely survive the playoffs. The Clippers showed real mettle in outlasting San Antonio during their epic seven-game series two seasons ago, but they have quaked in other pressurized situations– including in their inexplicable collapse against a plainly inferior Houston team one round later. In frantic moments, great teams find calm — a collective trust, and a desire to win for each other.
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“With us,” Paul said, “it will all be about how we respond to adversity.”

Allen estimates that more than a dozen media outlets used his image to accompany the headlines

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When the Ponzi story broke in April 2015, Allen estimates that more than a dozen media outlets used his image to accompany the headlines. As a result, Allen paid lawyers “enough” to handle various cease-and-desist letters.

Reaction was swift and negative and directed at the wrong Will Allen after his picture was put in a story about a felon by the same name.

But when several outlets, including ESPN, featured a picture of Allen the former Steeler with its headline last week, on Nov. 21, Allen decided to sleep on the issue after saying a prayer — and then he took a few steps to correct it. He took to Twitter to highlight the misidentification and the damage done to his reputation. He posted several pictures of himself doing community work with the message, “This is who I am!! Not a criminal!!”

He also consulted a public relations expert on damage control. He called a few people he trusts for advice.

“As soon as I started talking, his eyes got big and he was like a different dude,” Chancellor says. “I had this huge weight off my shoulders, and so did he. It was like, ‘OK, we got Kam back. We got the brotherhood back. We got the team back.’ And ever since then it’s like we’ve all fit right into place.”

Over the past seven seasons, teammates have come to see Chancellor as the Seahawks’ soul.

His place is a locker in the absolute center of the room after a game on Monday night. Teammates are walking by on their way to the shower, and he’s congratulating each one for the win against Buffalo. “Boom!” he tells one linebacker. “We’re back,” he tells another. “LOB,” he says to Thomas.
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Players are lining up at his locker. He has friends and family visiting from Norfolk. The engagement ring is already in his pocket for that night’s proposal. In the coming days, Chancellor will rejoin the team and speak before another game, this one on the road against the Patriots. He will anchor the defense and bruise Tom Brady and lock down Rob Gronkowski on the decisive play of the game. He will say, afterward, that the upset on the road against New England both counts as revenge for one of the Seahawks’ trips to the Super Bowl and foreshadows another.

Aaron Rodgers regularly expressed confidence in Adams, even this summer when he had an uneven training camp

As a sophomore at Fresno St., Davante Adams led the nation with 131 receptions. AP Photo/Gregory Bull
His second season was more of the same. He missed three games early in the year because of an ankle injury and then went down with a knee injury in the playoffs. Despite catching 50 passes, it was dubbed a disappointment in part because of a rash of drops and in part because he didn’t have another 100-yard game.

Still, he never lost the trust of his quarterback. Aaron Rodgers regularly Todd Gurley Youth Jersey expressed confidence in Adams, even this summer when he had an uneven training camp.

Antoine believes he knows why.

“It was a blessing for him to come into college with an All-American quarterback and to go to the NFL with an All-Pro quarterback,” Antoine said. “You talk about a lucky dude. The thing you get with an elite quarterback that you don’t with another guy, is you get a guy that wants the route run correctly.

“I always told him, ‘Those quarterbacks are human, and if you screw that quarterback and you’re not in the right spot when you’re supposed to be there and he throws a pick, you might have to wait 10 balls before you get another one,’” Antoine said. “The coverage may say throw it to him, but the quarterback will be like, ‘No way, he screwed me last time.’”

He completed five of seven passes that went at least 10 yards with a touchdown after the injury; he Torry Holt Youth Jersey was just 2-for-4 on such throws before.

It was Carr’s fifth game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime this season, the most by any Raiders quarterback in a single season in franchise history.

Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.

Sunday’s loss put Denver in third place in the division behind the Oakland Raiders (9-2) and the Chiefs (8-3), but more concerning is that the Broncos (7-4) are now tied with the Miami Dolphins in the AFC playoff race overall. And the Dolphins have a better AFC record, at 5-3 compared to the Broncos’ 4-3.

“I think, obviously, this one stinks and we’ve got a bad taste in our mouth,” Siemian said.

“We’ve got to win them all, that’s how we look at it, but that’s been our approach for a while,” cornerback Chris Harris said. “We want to just get into the playoffs. If we get into the playoffs, we’re scary for everybody.”

Chip Kelly shut down a columnist who tried to condemn Colin Kaepernick

You’ll never believe this, but crusty columnist Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat does not like that Colin Kaepernick is talking about race and oppression in America when he could be talking about very important things like beating the Los Angeles Rams. He’s also the same guy who once admonished Kaepernick for such egregious offenses as wearing “his cap backwards and at an angle.” Fortunately, 49ers head coach Chip Kelly put the man in his place during Thursday’s press conference.

“How do you feel when he takes over the locker room,” asked the guy who tried to take over the press conference.

Kaepernick didn’t try to take over the locker room, as Kelly points out. He answered questions Cohn’s colleagues were asking about his decision to take a knee during the national anthem protesting racial injustice and inequality in America. The coach also reminded Cohn of that central fact, shutting him down faster than Kelly’s offense can run a play even on its best day.

After the game, Cutler was wearing a cast on his right hand and told reporters he was concerned about the injury, particularly since he has injured this thumb in the past.

“I’m concerned. You know, as a quarterback, you kind of need your right thumb,” Cutler said after the game. “I think I was 12 or 11 when I had surgery on this thumb, so we’ll see what it is.”

Prior to injury, Cutler had completed 12 of 17 passes for 157 yards and one interception. Cutler said after the game that the thumb injury contributed to the interception.

“Just my strength in (the thumb), I couldn’t really grip the ball,” Cutler said. “So that was obviously a big issue for me.”

Cutler said the interception made him aware that he was not physically able to finish the game.

“I knew that I was putting the team, especially the offense, in jeopardy at that point,” Cutler said. “So, I had to talk to Rags and get (Brian) Hoyer in there and then I knew my day was done.”

Hoyer replaced Cutler, finishing the day with 78 yards and no touchdowns.

“More videos have come out of guys getting killed, and I think people are still missing the point,” Sherman said. “The reason these guys are kneeling, the reason we’re locking arms is to bring people together to make people aware that this is not right. It’s not right for people to get killed in the street.”

Packers’ injury situation not as simple as ‘give me another RB, CB’

Mike McCarthy would like another running back before the Green Bay Packers have to play Thursday night against the Chicago Bears.

But it’s not as simple as promoting Don Jackson from the practice squad or signing someone off the street.

So it’s entirely possibly he might have to make do with the same setup he had in Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, when Eddie Lacy – on a tender left ankle – played as much as he could and got moments of rest when the Packers used their “Big Five” package (an empty-backfield, five-receiver set) for the first time all season and also sprinkled in Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery as makeshift backs.

In response, the Packers did precious little on Sunday to prove McGinn wrong. McCarthy, who has steered the Packers disastrously wrong at times in years past with conservative decision-making, chose to kick two early field goals on fourth-and-short against a dynamic Cowboys offense to make the score 7-6. The Packers subsequently failed to score on their next five possessions, including one in which McCarthy chose to try to convert a fourth-and-5. By the time the Packers scored a touchdown, the Cowboys were up 27-9 with seven minutes to go.

Smith replaced Fitzpatrick with 8:20 remaining in the game and the Jets trailing 28-3 — aka garbage time. Bowles should have made the move at halftime, if only to shake up the mojo, but this much we know about Bowles: He doesn’t have a quick hook. Smith completed a few passes against soft coverage, but he also joined the pick party, throwing an interception on his first series. He finished 4-of-6 for 31 yards.

Afterward, Bowles channeled his inner Joe Girardi, using a baseball analogy to describe his quarterback situation. Smith was simply a relief pitcher, replacing the starter, Bowles said.

The Packers also are in a difficult spot at cornerback, where they could be without their top three on the depth chart – Sam Shields (concussion), Damarious Randall (groin) and Quinten Rollins (groin).

“It’s never, ‘Give me another running back,’ or ‘Give me another corner,’” McCarthy said Monday. “Because it’s a long year. You have 53 [on the roster], plus you’re counting practice-squad guys. That is the chess match right there. If you’re talking about chess match in the game of football, it’s managing your roster.”

Lacy’s status could impact that, too. McCarthy couldn’t say whether Lacy’s ankle was any worse after his 17-carry, 65-yard performance against the Cowboys. Lacy was still undergoing tests on Monday, McCarthy said. He also confirmed that James Starks had knee surgery on Sunday, which rules him out again this week.