Jason Witten leaving Cowboys, joining ESPN

Jason Witten is exiting the playing field and entering the broadcast booth.

It’s not one thing, it’s Eli over the course of time, and it’s gotten solidified now getting a chance to work with him. … I saw a guy that could still throw the ball. I could tell he was still operating the offense pretty well. I saw that he had command of the offense, and I saw all the elements you see when things don’t go well.

There were drops, missed blocks, I think everyone had their mistakes. Things tend to get magnified. But just as a player, you could see he could still drop back and throw the ball as well as anybody.Getting to know the Mannings, and what Eli’s made of. Really, this started with a trip last July to the Manning Passing Academy where Shurmur’s son Kyle, the starting quarterback at Vanderbilt, was competing. The elder Shurmur, then a Vikings assistant, met Peyton and Eli and remembers the day asterrific. And who knew then where we’d be six months later?

It was a little thing, but in ways confirmed what Shurmur had seen coaching against Eli.

I thought I knew him from playing against him, having such great respect for him, Shurmur said.

Switzer is the third member of the Cowboys to make the move to Oakland since the Raiders hired Rich Bisaccia as their special teams coordinator this offseason. Switzer, a fourth-round pick last year, returned punts and kickoffs for the Cowboys as a rookie while also seeing 92 snaps on offense.

The addition of Michael Gallup in the third round and Tavon Austin in a trade made it unlikely that he’d be seeing a jump on that front if he stayed in Dallas.

Ward was a second-round pick in 2016 and moving him now would suggest the Raiders don’t think he’ll be a good fit for the defense Paul Guenther is installing this offseason. He only played in five games last year, so he wasn’t too firmly in the team’s plans before the change in systems.

What separates both from the previous position coaches is their backgrounds as players. Both started multiple years in the NFL and can offer valuable insight based on that experience.broncos_093_808d8fcaa5b9f47d-180x180

Here’s how Saquon will take pressure off Eli

Barkley is a threat to score every time he touches the football, whether it’s as a runner or a receiver, and has the chance to have an instant impact on a Giants’ ground attack that finished last season ranked No. 26 in the NFL.

In three seasons at Penn State, Barkley rushed for 3,843 yards and 43 touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Barkley also averaged 11.7 yards per catch on his 102 catches and added eight more touchdowns.

Neither Austin nor Kelly played the next night when the Yankees and Red Sox concluded their first of six 2018 series, and this week’s games are the first since between the AL East rivals.

Austin says that he has no hard feelings toward Kelly, but he doesn’t want to talk to him to clear the air, either.

I didn’t know him beforehand, so I don’t need to talk to him now, Austin said. No. We’re not talking. I don’t think there’s any need to talk.

They could face each other in Tuesday’s game, as Austin is in the Yankees’ lineup and playing first base in a rare start against a right-handed pitcher.

Strait played 61 AHL games during 2017-18, scoring three goals and adding five assists.

While the Devils didn’t need him in the NHL last season, the 30-year-old defenseman serves as a strong depth option for the team. He has played in 187 NHL games over the course of his career, and he can serve in the same role over the next two seasons with the Devils.

The Devils’ NHL defensemen stayed remarkably healthy last season, with Andy Greene, John Moore, Will Butcher and Damon Severson all playing in at least 76 games. Sami Vatanen appeared in all 57 regular-season games with the Devils following his Nov. 30 trade.

He got the feeling back, Cora said. He got some treatment and he was fine after that.

When Betts left the game, Boston moved Benintendi from left field to center field, Jackie Bradley, Jr. from center field to right field, and brought in Blake Swihart off the bench to play left field. sharks-022

Greg Olsen sticks with Panthers, signs two-year extension

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen has signed a two-year contract extension after contemplating his future in the NFL and a potential broadcasting career.

The new deal is worth $8.55 million per season, with an annual maximum value of up to $10.05 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“I’ve made it clear over the past year that I want to keep playing and I want to play here,” Olsen said in a statement Thursday. “Both sides were very fair and worked on it in a timely manner. I feel really good about what we were able to get done both for ourselves and the team.”

That doesn’t mean the Panthers will select South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst, as was predicted Tuesday night in the ESPN.com NFL Nation mock draft. They have plenty of other needs that are more pressing. A tight end to play opposite Olsen could be considered a luxury pick, even though Carolina plays a lot of two-tight-end sets and has no proven backup for Olsen after letting Ed Dickson go to Seattle in free agency.

The Panthers still have needs for a safety, wide receiver and possibly a center or guard.

Players who could be available with their pick to fill those needs are Stanford safety Justin Reid, Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore and UTEP guard Will Hernandez.

Atlanta Braves: Although it takes two parties to come together on a contract agreement, the Braves should aggressively pursue a long-term contract with Ronald Acuna one game into his MLB career. As the Indians learned last offseason, even waiting a year or two into the career of a young star can be too late to try to buy out arbitration and free-agent years. Francisco Lindor reportedly rejected a $100 million contract extension last spring. Getting Acuna locked up on the field now, rather than waiting another five or six weeks to avoid Super Two status, could be the biggest impact move the club could make.

Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles are desperately clinging to hopes of contention in their final year of control over Manny Machado. What the Orioles need is Kevin Gausman to pitch like an ace and to encourage him to rely more on his split-finger fastball, which he employed to post a nine-pitch, three-strikeout inning — an immaculate inning — against the Indians on Monday.

Bucks: C John Henson (back) missed his fourth straight game, with Thon Maker getting his first start of the series over Tyler Zeller. Maker finished with four points and one block. … Held a 25-4 edge on transition points. … Jabari Parker had another strong game off the bench with nine points and 11 rebounds, while Tony Snell had six points.

Veteran forward Al Horford chalks up Game 6 as another valuable learning experience for his young teammates.dolphins_032

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook knocking knee rehab ‘out the park’

The Minnesota Vikings made a splash on the free agent market last month, with their fully guaranteed contract for quarterback Kirk Cousins and the signing of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson for another instant upgrade for the starting lineup.

There’s another addition coming, too.

NBA Senior Vice President of Replay & Referee Operations Joe Borgia offered his take in an appearance on NBA TV on Wednesday night:

“Our rule is once the ball touches the glass, a defender cannot touch it,” Borgia said. “… But in order to use replay, you must call goaltending on the court. And no call was made on the court, therefore they could not come over and look at it.

“In super slow motion, you just see the ball hit the glass, and maybe come off an inch and that’s when LeBron got it. Like I said, once the ball touches the basketball, defenders cannot touch it and unfortunately James did.”

The Panthers issued a statement Thursday saying they would not comment on the specific allegations because of an ongoing legal review, but they did defend what’s been done to create “an environment in which our staff can feel proud to work.”

Meredith, 25, led the Bears with 66 receptions, 888 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2016. He missed the entire 2017 season after he tore knee ligaments in Chicago’s third preseason game at Tennessee last summer.

“Without getting into specifics, obviously he was coming off an injury,” Pace told reporters at his annual pre-draft news conference. “We lean on our training staff and our docs. Hey, I got a lot of respect for Cam and a lot of respect for the organization he went to. We wish him luck.”

The Saints — Pace’s former team — felt comfortable enough with Meredith’s medical information to offer him a two-year deal that included $5.350 million. The Bears, however, tendered Meredith at the lowest possible level ($1.9 million), and therefore received no compensation in return when he joined New Orleans.dolphins_119

Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon establishing new identity for the team

The Carolina Hurricanes are out of the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season — the longest drought in the NHL. They are without a coach (Bill Peters resigned, and he quickly found a new home in Calgary) and general manager (Ron Francis was transitioned upstairs in March).

They averaged just 13,320 fans per home game this season, the third-lowest figure in the league. That’s 82.6 percent capacity for PNC Arena — which ranks as the lowest mark in the NHL.

“If I can’t find the person who is undervalued and give them the chance at a price I think is fair, and give them a chance to build their market value and build the team, then I might move to a different plan. But I do think it would be surprising if there were only 30 people in the world who could do these jobs. We’re looking for the talent, not the résumé.”

On the status of the searches: “It’s probably the biggest misconception that I’ve seen that GMs or coaches don’t want to work for us. … It really hasn’t been what I’ve seen reported in terms of the amount of interest in these jobs. It’s probably the opposite. The hardest part is picking the right person; it’s not getting the right candidates.”

On Friday, coach Eric Spoelstra tried to tamp down any notion the Heat have in any way given up on Whiteside, who is owed $25.4 million next season with a player option available in the season after that — for $27 million.

“This is one of those periods that we know how to manage and help players get through,” Spoelstra said, while speaking to reporters in an end-of-the season news conference. “And when you get through it, there’s tremendous growth opportunity on the other side of that.

After meeting with Hassan Whiteside to discuss the center’s rant over the weekend, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team is putting the issue “behind us.” Whiteside was fined an undisclosed amount Sunday for his comments.

Whiteside was limited to an average of 15.4 minutes against Philadelphia. During the five-game series, Whiteside suggested a change in Miami’s offensive approach had affected his production in the playoffs.sl_cardinals_043

Miller’s absence felt by Indians as Mariners win 5-4

The first day without Andrew Miller didn’t work out too well for the Cleveland Indians.

Kyle Seager’s RBI double in the eighth off Nick Goody lifted the Seattle Mariners to a 5-4 win on Thursday night.

Seager is batting .378 (34 for 90) with five homers and 13 RBI in 23 games at Progressive Field.

“It hurt my feelings a little bit because it didn’t get out,” he joked of his winning hit. “That was the best I’ve hit a ball in a while and it stayed in the park.”

Dan Altavilla (2-2) got the last two outs in the seventh, and Juan Nicasio pitched a perfect eighth. Edwin Diaz, the Mariners’ fifth reliever, walked Francisco Lindor with one out in the ninth, then retired Jason Kipnis on a flyout and struck out Jose Ramirez. Diaz leads the major leagues with 11 saves and has not blown any chances.

“We’ve been winning a lot of close games and Eddie’s stuff was right there, like it has been the last three games,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

“That was fun,” Martinez said after his team dodged a three-game sweep. “The boys came out to play. They’ve been swinging the bats well. Today we just got hits, the timely hits. It was good day for all of them.”

The Nationals had totaled just eight runs during their skid. Andrew Stevenson had two doubles, two singles and four RBI as Washington set season highs for runs and hits (18).

Turner came into the game batting .232, and the leadoff man’s slow start had contributed to the Nationals’ struggles. He raised his batting average 35 points, tying a career high for hits in a game. He also scored twice, drove in two runs and stole his 10th base this season.

“We know that this is what the offense is capable of doing,” Adams said. “If we go out there and have quality ABs like we have been, things are going to start falling and they did today.”

Adams matched his career best for RBI. He singled as part of a three-run first, put the Nationals up 6-1 with a three-run homer off Jeff Samardzija (1-1) in the fourth and added a two-run single in the eighth.jets_016

Schwarber hits 2 HRs as Cubs beat Indians in Series rematch

The memories of winning a championship two years ago came flooding back for the Chicago Cubs when they arrived at Progressive Field on Tuesday.

The positive feelings continued once the game began.

Kyle Schwarber hit two of Chicago’s four solo home runs during a 10-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the first meeting between the teams since their classic 2016 World Series.

Schwarber is batting .500 (15 for 30) with three homers and eight RBI in seven career games at Progressive Field, including the postseason. The left-handed hitter, who grew up in southwest Ohio, made his major league debut in Cleveland in 2015. He had six hits in his first two starts.

In Mayfield’s first appearance with his new team, the former Oklahoma quarterback discussed his leadership and said the transition from the Sooners’ Air Raid offense to the NFL won’t be too difficult.

“The game of football is the same,” Mayfield said. “It’s just a matter of terminology, language and how they teach it, so you’re not going to find one guy who is reinventing the wheel.”

The Browns’ selection of Mayfield was a surprise in a draft in which three taller quarterbacks were available, but the Browns touted his competitiveness, accuracy, skills as a leader and the fact he had worked for everything he had earned. Mayfield is the first walk-on to win the Heisman Trophy and be the first overall pick in the draft.

“It’s a surreal feeling, thinking about the … how long it’s been and exactly where I came from, so a very surreal feeling,” the 6-foot-⅝ Mayfield said. “It’s not one that I would have imagined back then, but I’m happy about it now.”

Mayfield did say his crotch-grabbing antics and cursing of Kansas players during Oklahoma’s blowout road win in November were inappropriate, and he said in the future he would try to better manage his competitive nature.

“That was absolutely over the top,” he said. “But there’s a fine line. You need to be competitive, but a lot of that you can internalize and use that as motivation to drive you. You don’t have to show it all the time.jets_052

Eagles hosting Falcons to launch 2018 regular season

The Philadelphia Eagles will open their first Super Bowl defense when they host the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, Sept. 6, to start the 2018 NFL regular season, the NFL announced Thursday night.

The Eagles defeated the Falcons 15-10 in the NFC divisional round last season en route to their Super Bowl LII victory.

The New York Jets will host the Detroit Lions on Sept. 10 in the first Monday Night Football game of the season, followed by the Los Angeles Rams at the Oakland Raiders later that night. Former MNF analyst Jon Gruden makes his regular-season coaching return with the Raiders that night.

Flexible scheduling in which a Sunday afternoon game can be switched to the evening because it is a better matchup than the previously planned game will be in use for Weeks 11-17. But two Sundays in Weeks 5-10 also can have a game flexed to night.

In a new twist, flex scheduling will be used for Saturday games in Weeks 15 and 16. In Week 15, two games will be played on Saturday, Dec. 15: Houston at the Jets and Cleveland at Denver, with game times of 4:30 p.m. ET and 8:20 p.m. ET to be determined. In Week 16, two of four possible matchups will be scheduled for Saturday: Baltimore at the L.A. Chargers, Jacksonville at Miami, the New York Giants at Indianapolis, or Washington at Tennessee. Start times for Saturday games for Week 15 and 16 will be announced no later than following Week 8, with the contests not chosen for Saturday to be played on Sunday on the 16th weekend.

Clint Capela had 26 points and 15 rebounds, Harden added 24 points and the Rockets pulled away in the third quarter to get another lopsided win and eliminate the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 122-104 victory in Game 5 of the first-round series Wednesday night.

The top-seeded Rockets are headed to the second round for the second year in a row after taking care of the eighth-seeded Timberwolves. Minnesota was in the postseason for the first time since 2004.

Houston will await the winner of the Utah-Oklahoma City series, which the Jazz lead 3-2 after the Thunder rallied from a big deficit Wednesday night to avoid elimination.

After scoring 22 points in Houston’s 50-point third quarter in a Game 4 blowout Monday night, Harden poured in half of Houston’s 30 points in the third quarter Wednesday night to put the Rockets up for good. His 15 third-quarter points matched Minnesota’s output in the frame, and he finished with 12 assists.

“I knew that Minnesota wasn’t going to just go away,” he said. “We had to do the right things to put them away.”jets_111