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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.

Bears rookie TE aspires to be infectious-disease doctor

Braunecker’s love of medicine developed over the last two years.

“I worked in a lab at Harvard Medical School for the past two summers,” Braunecker said. “[It is] a mitochondrial protein regulatory lab, so it’s not infectious disease, but basically it’ll give you the fundamentals to be able to work in (an infectious disease) lab.”

In addition to his lab work, Braunecker found time for football. Signed by the Chicago Bears as a priority undrafted free agent, Braunecker had a breakout 2015 season for Harvard, catching 48 passes for 850 yards and eight touchdowns.

That earned him an invite to the NFL combine, where Braunecker tested well enough that many considered him draft worthy.

“Projections had me anywhere from a fourth-rounder to a sixth-rounder, and I sat there on draft day for about seven hours on my couch with an ESPN camera in my face watching every pick go by,” Braunecker said. “That definitely puts a chip on my shoulder. I want to make this team, I’m driven to make this team and I’m really thankful the Bears gave me this opportunity.”

Braunecker has a decent shot to stick in Chicago. The tight-end position is somewhat thin after the Bears traded former Pro Bowler Martellus Bennett to the New England Patriots. But with an Ivy League education in tow, Braunecker is ready to enter the real world if necessary.

“You don’t go to Harvard to be a professional football player,” Braunecker said. “I just did that because it was the best educational opportunity for me and the best of both worlds really because while I was there we won three straight Ivy League championships. But I still have aspirations to be a doctor post-football, so thankfully I have something to fall back on if this doesn’t work out for me.”

“Every Mother’s Day it kind of gets to me,” he said. “I know she’s watching from afar, and she’s one of those angels that continues to pray for me. So I’m very blessed.”

The Bills have not issued No. 78 to any player since Smith’s final season with the team in 1999.

Smith, 52, played 15 seasons (1985-99) with the Bills and four seasons (2000-03) with the Washington Redskins. His 200 career sacks remain the most in NFL history.

The first overall selection of the 1985 draft, Smith was an 11-time Pro Bowler and two-time Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2009.