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Cowboys OT Doug Free to retire

A week ago at the scouting combine, the Dallas Cowboys were caught off-guard by a report that Doug Free was considering retirement. Now they have been informed that the veteran offensive tackle indeed intends to retire, according to multiple sources.

With uncertainty hanging over Tony Romo’s future in Dallas, Fox Sports is expressing interest in Romo as an analyst in the broadcast booth, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

He had surgery on his hip in January but said Sunday he will be ready for training camp.

“This is something that I’ve been dealing with for a number of years. Has always caused me a pretty good amount of pain at some point during the season, so it’s really been three or four seasons since I came into training camp just 100 percent healthy, and I really feel that’s where I’m going to be this year.”

The 2009 fourth-round selection, who was born in a suburb of Detroit and attended Eastern Michigan, has been a full-time starter since the 2011 season and just finished a four-year, $20.8 million contract extension.

After the Packers released guard Josh Sitton shortly before last season, Lang became the senior member of Green Bay’s starting offensive line. He has played in 119 of a possible 128 career games.

Lang is the second offensive lineman to leave the Packers in free agency, joining center JC Tretter, who signed a three-year contract with the Cleveland Browns.23

My opinion on the top quarterbacks in the draft didn’t change after the combine.

Even with his issues throwing over the middle of the field, Deshaun Watson of Clemson has been my favorite player at the position. If one of the top quarterbacks helped himself, it was Watson.

Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina isn’t far behind, and the feeling I got from teams is that he’s ahead of Watson.

Van Mil has been successful in the Netherlands, a part of the juggernaut Dutch team Cura?ao Neptunus, with whom he struck out 29 batters in 21 innings and issued just four walks. He will embarrass hitters in the WBC, throwing a 95-mph fastball downhill from about 50 feet away, which almost seems like cheating.

He wants to come back to the United States and prove himself at the highest level of competition. From Scott Miller at Bleacher Report:

Among the reasons some players elect to participate in the WBC is that the tournament partly functions as a showcase for those seeking another chance. Maybe, if everything comes together for Van Mil, a major league team will be waiting with another invitation.
If the early returns are any indication — his velocity, his success in the Dutch Major League, his success in the WBC — there’s absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t get that shot. Pitchers can discover their command after they turn 30. It’s why Randy Johnson is in the Hall of Fame instead of the Hall of Remember That Really Tall Pitcher?

Pitchers can learn to refine their pitches, even as they get older and older. It’s why Bartolo Colon can still make millions with his bag of moving fastballs in his 40s, which isn’t what made him successful in his 20s.19

Michigan plane’s takeoff aborted due to high winds on way to Big Ten tournament

Michigan had a very scary start to its Big Ten tournament road trip when its plane skidded off the runway due to high winds.

Further intensification of winds is anticipated over the next several hours. Wind gusts up to 65 mph will be possible at times between Noon and 5 PM local time.
As of Wednesday afternoon, over 400,000 people were without power in the metro Detroit area due to issues like fallen trees. The team is scheduled to play Thursday at noon, and the drive to Washington, D.C., from Ann Arbor is about 9.5 hours. At this point everyone on the Wolverines’ squad would likely rather drive after this situation.

The thing that was obvious about Scelfo’s résumé was his lengthy work with successful quarterbacks: Patrick Ramsey, J.P. Losman, and Shaun King at Tulane, Ross Jenkins at Louisiana Tech, Nick Foles and Matt Scott at Arizona. He might not have been directly responsible for their success, but he played a role.

Based on 2016, the answer is a solid “Maybe.” “Perhaps,” even! In his first year under Scelfo, Sturm’s completion rate fell slightly (from 59 percent to 56.5), but he averaged 2 more yards per completion (12.8 from 10.8), cut his interception rate (2 percent from 3.3) and cut his sack rate (10.5 percent from 13.1). That’s still far too many sacks, but improvement is improvement.

It took a little while for UTSA to work its way into the 2016 season. The Roadrunners were neither great nor terrible early, looking pretty poor in a win over Alabama State, then suffering competitive losses to Colorado State, Arizona State, and ODU.

Barring an excellent 55-32 win over Southern Miss, the team got to the midway point of the season without distinguishing itself. But thanks to a mostly solid defense, the Roadrunners navigated a high-octane late stretch to qualify for a bowl despite a shaky shootout loss to UTEP.22

Vikings decline option to pick up Adrian Peterson’s contract for 2017

The Minnesota Vikings will not pick up their option on Adrian Peterson’s contract for the 2017 season, the team announced Tuesday.

Peterson will become an unrestricted free agent on March 9.

Adrian Peterson has the reputation of a workhorse back with big-play speed, but his past three seasons offer a sobering glimpse at a star in decline.

With the Vikings declining Adrian Peterson’s option, Minnesota’s all-time leading rusher is likely to explore offers from other teams as a free agent.
Peterson, who restructured his deal with the team before the 2015 season, had an option for 2017 that would have paid him $18 million, including a $6 million roster bonus had he been on the roster on the third day of the new league year. The Vikings had until the start of the league year on March 9 to inform Peterson whether they would exercise the option.

There’s no telling what Charles could have accomplished if his career wasn’t interrupted by ACL injuries in 2011 and 2015. He missed 14 games in 2011 and 24 games in 2015 and ’16 combined.

Charles bounced back nicely the first time, setting his career high with 1,509 rushing yards in 2012. In 2013 he set his career high in touchdowns with 19 (12 rushing and seven receiving).

“I’ve been privileged to work with a lot of talented players over the years, and Jamaal Charles ranks up there with the great ones,” Reid said. “I appreciate the way he came to work every day, he gave us everything he had day in and day out. I’ve said it before, I think he’s a future Hall of Famer.”4

NFL Combine 2016: Running back drills

The 2016 NFL Scouting Combine is in full swing, with the first group of prospects hitting the field for position drills on Friday. That group included special teamers, offensive linemen and tight ends. Saturday’s group features quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs.

That group arrived in Indianapolis on Wednesday and has gone through medical examinations, interviews, measurements and the bench press. Thirty-six of those players in action on Saturday are running backs, including big names like Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley and Duke Johnson.

But what kind of drills will they be going through? First, the running backs will go through the usual drills that most players experience, including the 3-cone drill, 40-yard dash, shuttle run, vertical jump and broad jump. But there’s also some drills that only the running backs take part in.

Expected to be one of the first players picked in the NFL Draft this year, if not the first, Winston announced earlier this week that he planned to throw at the Combine.

Winston opened his session with a brief statement directed at the off-field concerns that have surrounded him throughout his career in Tallahassee.

“I know made mistakes. I know I have a past. But right now, it’s about me moving forward.”

He came back to the subject again … and again … and again during his brief time on the podium.

“Football is my passion. I’ve been doing this since I was young.” He also mentioned his 7-year old brother and others he wants to inspire by playing football.

World’s No. 4 most deadly spider attacks No. 2 deadliest snake

Growing up in Australia I saw a lot of weird animal-based stuff — but nothing compares to seeing a Redback spider fight an Eastern brown snake. This video, seemingly shot at a car repair shop, shows the spider halt the snake in its tracks with its web and proceed to come down and bite it.

This behavior is very rare for a Redback. They’re known for eating insects and even small lizards that get trapped in a web, but eating a snake is an entirely different thing. Typically the spider will inject its venom into the animal, liquefying its innards before returning to drink it.

The juvenile brown snake didn’t stand a chance.

The leading returning receiver had 12 catches in 2015. An underachieving line has to replace three two-year starters. And a defense that was only decent at big-play prevention must replace its top two safeties and four of its top six tacklers on the line.
Muschamp got a roster with precious little NFL talent.

Every year, though. Every danged year. It’s fun to poke fun at the Cardinals, just like it’s fun for them to poke back with their success. But take just one second out of your day to think about how deflating it is to expect the fun that comes with watching an excellent starting pitcher, only to have it ripped away in a single newsflash. It is one of the worst parts of being a sports fan, and there isn’t much that’s close.

The Cardinals have to deal with that feeling annually. That doesn’t mean you can’t hate them when they’re back in the NLCS. It just means that you shouldn’t feel weak when you feel sympathy for them after their annual rotation surprise. It’s perfectly understandable. They have a weird, unfortunate, and horrible tradition, and it makes me feel worse for them every season.

The team isn’t done making changes to its special teams

Warren is the first and only African-American chief operating officer of an NFL franchise in league history. His Vikings duties encompass overseeing marketing, finance, legal, sales, stadium development, public affairs, human resources and several other Vikings ventures.

“We first met Kevin as part of our purchasing the team and he has been a key part of our executive team since,” said Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf, who along with his brother, owner/chairman Zygi Wilf, bought the team in 2005.

“We have the highest respect for his integrity and leadership. He sets a great example on the ground for us in Minnesota. He is our feet on the ground. He has constantly helped people and players in our organization. He has let it be known that he is in support of Adrian returning. People talk about coaches having a coaching tree in this league. Kevin has a vast executive tree in this league of people he has mentored who are now doing great work for NFL teams. We are building a first-class on- and off-the-field experience with the Vikings. We have the best possible leadership in the league in Kevin to help us do that. I know I can say this — every day he looks out for the good of the Minnesota Vikings.”

One of the few weakness of the NFC North champion Green Bay Packers this past season — and one that ultimately cost them a trip to the Super Bowl — was the mediocre play of their special teams unit, which ranked 30th in Pro Football Focus’ ratings. It ultimately cost special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum his job, and resulted in the hiring of Ron Zook to fill the position.

The team isn’t done making changes to its special teams, however. Head coach Mike McCarthy told ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky that they “need to adjust [their] special teams philosophy” heading into next season. McCarthy specifically mentioned the need to use more starters and veterans on the coverage units. In 2014, there wasn’t a defensive or offensive starter that ranked among the top-14 players in special teams snap counts, per Demovsky.

Andrew Cashner’s DL stint means more second guessing for the Padres

Bench spots are limited, so as much as we might want to stash all eight relievers just to be safe, it’s time to put our prioritization skills to work. To help with the weeding out, I have ranked these eight closers-in-waiting. If it makes it more fun to call these Power Rankings, then let these be Closer-in-Waiting Power Rankings.

Note: Since we now know that Rays manager Kevin Cash intends to re-install Brad Boxberger as the Rays’ closer, in place of Alex Colome, once he comes off the disabled list, he has been omitted from these rankings. Or you can just consider him the de facto No. 1 closer-in-waiting.
1. Trevor May, Twins (14 percent owned)
Trevor May RP / Minnesota Twins (2016 STATS)
IP: 19 ERA: 1.89 K: 27 BB: 8

Pros: Jepsen has been shaky, and May has been excellent since being moved into a relief role last season. As Jepsen has done seemingly everything possible to lose the job, May has been peaking, having not allowed a run in his last eight appearances and pitching with better control than he had been earlier in the season.

Some weeks, finding five teams with definitively good matchups and five with definitively bad matchups is a challenge.

Week 7 (May 16-22) isn’t one of those weeks.

In fact, there’s even some overflow. The Twins are scheduled to face Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Verlander, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marcus Stroman in a seven-game slate, yet they don’t make the cut for worst matchups. That Mike Pelfrey matchup drags down the whole thing.

Brandon Finnegan ($6,000, $6,200)

If Volquez is the cash game play, Finnegan is definitely the tournament option. He hasn’t been good since his last start against this offense and there’s something to learn from that. The Phillies are terrible against LHP. Their .265 wOBA vs. LHP is better than only the Braves and their 24.1 percent K rate is just as enticing. Finnegan struck out nine in his last appearance against this lineup,
Stack Attack

The Coors effect is an interesting one tonight. I could see Matt Harvey as a contrarian play, but I could also see the Rockies lighting him up. The Mets will be the more conventional plays, particularly Michael Conforto and Lucas Duda. I’ll probably have the most exposure to Curtis Granderson, who will be leading off and is the cheapest of the good Mets’ LHH.

Blue Jays @ Rangers

It’s time for the checklist. Are the Jays in a good park? Yes. Are the Jays facing a bad pitcher? Yes. Stack the Jays! This got us into trouble when the Rangers went to Toronto earlier this year, but I’m going right back to it. Thankfully, the Jays have also seen a decrease in price with Josh Donaldson falling all the way down to $4,300. I’d play almost any RHH in the Jays lineup against Martin Perez.

Nationals vs. Marlins

Tom Koehler on the road has basically been a disaster for the past three years. This year he’s been even worse. With Daniel Murphy hitting fourth, the preferred Nationals stack is now 1-4 again. You don’t need the BvP excuse to play Bryce Harper, especially at $4,300, but boy does he have it. Harper has six home runs in 31 career plate appearances.
Lineups

Pop Warner becomes first national football organization to ban kickoffs

The rule change will be tested in the three youngest levels of play: Tiny Mite (ages 5 to 7), Mitey Mite (7 to 9) and Junior Pee Wee (8 to 10). In those divisions, offenses will begin possessions at their own 35-yard line.

After one season, the organization said it will consider spreading the rule to the older divisions.

It might seem like a small change, but it could be significant. If the NFL eliminates kickoffs down the line and wants to minimize the kind of criticism that could lead to a loss of fan support, a change at the youth level would help. By starting at the youth level, football without kickoffs might eventually be established as the new norm once the kids who are currently 5 or 10 reach the NFL and adulthood. It could, in theory, change the culture of the game.

There’s no guarantee that ever happens, but it’s a situation worth monitoring, especially if Pop Warner implements the rule on a league-wide basis.

The Astros, a team many expected to take a big step forward this season, have not gotten off to a good start in 2016. They have lost three of their last four games to fall to 15-24 on the season, 7 1/2 games back in the AL West.SportsLine says their postseason odds have dropped from 62.0 percent to 26.7 percent since Opening Day.

While a couple having twins doesn’t typically qualify as news (after all, couples often have kids together), the birth of the twins is newsworthy for more than a few reasons.

For starters, it’s important to point out just how busy Cromartie will be this summer: He just welcomed the arrival of his 11th and 12th kids to the world, and his third and fourth with Terricka. So, at the very least he’ll be well-prepared for the lack of sleep in the coming months.

He will, however, be required to remember a few more names and birthdays:

According to US Weekly, this will be the couple’s final pregnancy:

But while the happy mom of four is delighted with her newest arrivals, she’s taking steps to make sure these babies are her last — she’s getting her tubes tied!

Mathieu matured into a leader on the Cardinals and is one of the best off-field guys the team has; he couldn’t have landed in a better spot. (You better believe he’s a role model for moving forward.)

On the field, the man formerly known as the Honey Badger is the perfect modern-day defensive back. He can play safety, he can play corner, he can play in the slot, he can blitz the quarterback and he’s one of the best natural ballhawks in the entire league.