11

Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott continue their rivalry, friendship in the NFL

Barkley was approached after that game near midfield by Ezekiel Elliott, then Ohio State’s star junior running back, who remembers leaping over a defender on one drive and watching Barkley do the same thing on the very next drive. Elliott had some complimentary words for Barkley on the gridiron and later when speaking to the media.

“A real big shoutout to that freshman running back,” Elliott told reporters after the game. “He’s definitely the truth.”

Barkley noticed. It meant something to him that Elliott would heap such praise on a freshman who was playing in his fifth career game.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

This was Ezekiel Elliott, the top running back in college football and eventually the No. 4 overall pick in the next NFL draft. Barkley admitted later he was giddy just to be on the field that day with Elliott and Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller. That he opened Elliott’s eyes was a bonus.11

That sparked a friendship that has encouraged the two running backs to remain in touch ever since. Their second career matchup will be Sunday night when Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys host Barkley and the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium.

They’ve texted and spoken. Barkley even told Newsday that Elliott sent him a congratulatory text after he rushed for 106 yards and had a 68-yard touchdown run in his NFL debut.

“Just hitting him here and there, giving him a little bit of motivation, seeing how he’s doing,” Elliott said.

Elliott and Barkley were supposed to meet up and train together in Los Angeles this offseason, but their schedules didn’t align. Barkley had to leave just days before Elliott arrived. It was disappointing.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick by the Giants this year, studies almost all the top running backs. He watches film of Todd Gurley II (whom he did work out with in Los Angeles), Elliott and Le’Veon Bell, among others. Barkley wanted to pick Elliott’s brain, and he still plans to do so sometime in the future.

Barkley and Elliott, on the surface, are unexpected friends. Barkley is reserved and soft-spoken, conscious of his image and careful with his words. Elliott is more boisterous, an emotional roller coaster with a fair share of off-the-field incidents on his résumé.

12

No mistake about it: Mystics are headed to first WNBA Finals

It took 20 years, but they are the star-crossed Mystics no more. Washington is going to the WNBA Finals for the first time, thanks to resilience, persistence and — finally — some good breaks going their way.

The Mystics beat the Dream 86-81 in Game 5 of their semifinal series Tuesday at McCamish Pavilion. When they left this building a week ago after a Game 2 loss, the Mystics were feeling upset and worried. Elena Delle Donne had injured her left knee late in that game, and it was hard not to fear the worst.cheap nfl nike jersey

But Tuesday night, Delle Donne sat in the Washington locker room wearing a WNBA Finals hat with the Mystics logo on it. She finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Her knee was elevated with a bag of ice on it, but she was smiling along with the rest of her teammates.12

“Pure joy,” Delle Donne said of her emotions when the buzzer when off. “And just being so proud of this team and what we’ve been able to overcome throughout this season. I’ve said it a lot, but it’s the culture that has gotten us through so much.”

“Culture” used to be the last thing that worked in the Mystics’ favor. This franchise was 3-27 in its inaugural season in 1998, and it had 12 coaches in its first 15 seasons. The Mystics at times were derisively referred to as “the mistakes.”

The Mystics have made the playoffs in five of Thibault’s six seasons. This is his third trip to the WNBA Finals, having made it there in 2004 and 2005 with Connecticut.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“Almost every time we’ve been challenged this year, we’ve had a bounce-back,” Thibault said of his team’s mindset. “Tonight, [the Dream] came back and took the lead on us, and the bounce-back came back again. It’s a great accomplishment for our franchise. These players have a lot to be proud of.”

Last year, Delle Donne joined the Mystics via trade, and Kristi Toliver — who had 19 points Tuesday — came as a free agent the year after winning a WNBA title with Los Angeles. Both wanted to be in Washington because it’s close to home. Toliver is from Harrisonburg, Virginia, and went to college at Maryland; Delle Donne is a Delaware native who played for her home state university.

11

Sue Bird’s fourth-quarter heroics help Storm return to WNBA Finals

To reach the WNBA Finals and finally hand Diana Taurasi’s Phoenix Mercury a loss in a deciding game, all the Seattle Storm needed was a huge game from the current MVP and a Taurasi-esque performance from one of her closest friends.

Wins over Dallas and Connecticut in the elimination rounds pushed the Mercury’s record to 13-0 in winner-take-all games with Taurasi. When Phoenix controlled the first half Tuesday, leading by as many as 11 points, the visiting Mercury looked well on their way to making that 14-0.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

With MVP Breanna Stewart leading the charge, the Storm rallied to tie the score late in the third quarter. Then Seattle turned things over to Sue Bird, who proved that she, too, can make big shots in big situations, despite wearing a face mask to protect a broken nose suffered on Sunday. Bird’s first 3-pointer of the fourth quarter came with 5:48 left and the Storm down four. A minute later, Bird drilled a step-back jumper just inside the arc, followed by another 3 on a kickout after an offensive rebound.11

When Bird nailed a third triple two possessions later — moments after having the face mask knocked off her face in a scramble for the ball that left her atypically furious at referees who called no foul and awarded a jump ball — she’d racked up 11 points in a stretch of fewer than three minutes that saw Seattle outscore Phoenix 15-3 to go from down four to up eight with 2:51 to play. Bird — who said the scramble caused the mask to “hit down on to my nose, and it started bleeding” — later added a fourth 3 in the quarter as insurance in the final minute.nike cheap nfl jerseys

“I was just open,” Bird said after the game. “It was mostly off them having to focus on Stewie so much because she was being so aggressive. Other players kind of getting in there, creating these openings. A lot of those were kickouts to me, and I was able to knock them in.”

8

Cowboys sign veteran OL Xavier Su’a-Filo

After working out for the team last week, veteran offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys that includes a $50,000 signing bonus.

To make room for Su’a-Filo, the Cowboys released Kadeem Edwards, who served as a backup lineman in the season-opening loss to the Carolina Panthers.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Su’a-Filo was among the Tennessee Titans’ final cuts. He spent the first four years of his career with the Houston Texans, starting 31 of 32 games in 2016 and ’17 after being selected in the second round of the 2014 draft.8

The Cowboys have been searching for interior line depth since losing Marcus Martin in the preseason to a toe injury. They traded for Parker Ehinger from the Kansas City Chiefs, but he was placed on injured reserve last week with a knee injury that will require surgery. They also claimed center Adam Redmond off waivers from the Buffalo Bills after the final cuts, but he was inactive against Carolina.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Rookie Connor Williams gave up two sacks in the loss to the Panthers, but the Cowboys believe he will get better the more he plays.

“Obviously it’s a challenging task for him Week 1 to go against that defensive front,” coach Jason Garrett said. “There were some good things for him. There’s some areas in pass protection that wasn’t good enough and we’ll continue to work with him on that.”

7

If Paul Pogba wants to go, Manchester United should just let him

The drama surrounding Paul Pogba’s future at Manchester United continued to unfold this week, with the midfielder hinting that a move may well be on the cards.

The only future he was prepared to commit to was “right now” before repeating that he was “currently” a United player but “who knows what will happen over the next couple of months.” These certainly aren’t the encouraging words United supporters would hope to hear from their best outfield player. (Deepening the mystery, Pogba on Thursday night, after France’s match against Germany, commented on the exit rumours, saying: “It’s not me who is talking.”)cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

While some fans may be desperate to cling on to him, many will have to acknowledge there’s no point keeping hold of a player who doesn’t want to be there. And there’s no pride in pandering after a want-away player either, especially not for supporters who believe their club is the biggest in the world.7

This isn’t a totally foreign situation for them, though. During the summer of 2008, star man Cristiano Ronaldo was regularly linked with a move to Real Madrid and he was all too happy to encourage the rumours. “Only God knows” was his standard response when quizzed about his United future. “I love to play in white,” he said when interviewed following a Euro 2008 game for Portugal, with a cheeky grin on his face. “The white of the national team,” he added.

Watching your best player flirt with another club and the possibility of leaving is always fairly painful. Pogba’s claim that “I give it my all for United always” is of little comfort, especially when his start to the season has been anticlimactic, with him acknowledging that his attitude wasn’t right in his team’s defeat against Brighton.

But if he wants to go, United should allow him to leave. The medal he won this summer will only add to his astronomical transfer value. Yet the more depressing reality is that it is unlikely United will know how to spend it. If their transfer business following Ronaldo’s sale is anything to go by, as well as the many windows since, there’s small comfort in knowing they can demand a large sum for him.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

In the summer, given a choice between the player and manager, many supporters would have picked the former. He was seen as the long-term hope for the club while Jose Mourinho was only ever going to make it until the end of the season, at most. Yet Mourinho has seen his stock rise in recent weeks, with fans in the Stretford End and the away end at Burnley making their feelings known, and the manager reciprocated by entering the pitch to applaud them.

10

MLBPA: Blue Jays not calling up touted prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is ‘bad for the industry’

The Major League Baseball Players Association faulted the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday for not calling up touted prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., saying the decision was bad for all involved.

“The union’s position on service-time manipulation is clear, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and other great young talents around baseball have earned the right to play on the field for a major league team,” a union spokesman told Sportsnet on Thursday. “The decision to not to bring him up is a business decision, not a baseball decision. It’s bad for the Blue Jays, it’s bad for fans, it’s bad for players and it’s bad for the industry.”cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Guerrero was not among the September call-ups for the Blue Jays, despite being one of baseball’s top prospects while tearing up the minor leagues this season.10

Asked about the decision Wednesday, Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said it was not a financial one.

“It has nothing to do with business,” Shapiro told SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio. “It has nothing to do with anything other than we think the best thing for him developmentally is to go play in Arizona (in the fall league there) and continue to develop.

“We think that when he gets here — which would obviously not preclude him from making the team out of spring training next year, which would be evidence of that fact — we think he’s got a chance to be an impact player.”

When the Blue Jays do call up the 19-year-old Guerrero, his major league service time begins. Thus, the quicker he’s called up, the sooner he’s eligible for free agency and a potentially big payday.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Guerrero was No. 2 on ESPN Insider Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list. He hit .402 with 14 home runs and 60 RBIs in Double-A, then was promoted to Triple-A and hit .336 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 30 games.

10

Beware, NFL: Eagles defense may have gotten even better

It was eerie how closely the ending of Eagles-Falcons Thursday night resembled the final moments of the divisional playoff game between these two teams in January.

The Eagles holding onto a small lead late in the fourth quarter. The Falcons knocking on the door. Fourth-and-goal. The game on the line. Everyone in the building knowing the ball was going to Julio Jones in the end zone.

“It was déjà vu all over again,” said cornerback Jalen Mills, who was on Jones the last time around, pestering the superstar receiver as Matt Ryan’s offering went off his fingertips and out of bounds to punch Philly’s ticket to the NFC Championship Game.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

It was a different play call Thursday. The Falcons went with an empty set, and had Jones in the slot instead of outside. But as safety Malcolm Jenkins said afterwards, all you had to know was that Jones was on the field and the ball was being thrown into the end zone. He sprinted to his left, and this time, Ryan and Jones connected, but cornerback Ronald Darby made sure Jones landed out of bounds. Ball game. Again.10

“Definitely,” said Jenkins, on whether he felt history repeating during that Falcons drive. “But that gives you a little bit of comfort, because we’ve been here before, so nobody’s panicking, nobody’s worried or stressed. Just do your job, line up and play.”

“Fletcher is a… tremendous, tremendous player,” coach Doug Pederson said. “I think with the additions of [DT] Haloti Ngata, [DE] Michael Bennett, [DE] Derek Barnett in his second year, [DE] Chris Long, I think having everybody on that D-line, on that rotating basis, keeps guys fresh and keeps a little pressure off of Fletcher just a little bit. He’s a strong, powerful guy, and he took [Falcons C Alex] Mack, the center, one time and got up under his shoulder pad on a move and got after the passer, and very disruptive in the pocket. Those are things that you like to see from your top players.”

Jim Schwartz’s defense ranked fourth in opponent yards (306.5), points per game (18.4) and takeaways (31) last season. While D-linemen Vinny Curry and Beau Allen and slot corner Patrick Robinson departed this offseason, he’s added a pair of proven vets in Bennett and Ngata along the defensive front, and now has the services of corner Sidney Jones and LB Jordan Hicks, who missed much of 2017 with Achilles injuries.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

The defense is loaded with talent, has another year in Schwartz’s system under its belt, and now carries additional wisdom gained through its Super Bowl run. For at least the first week, it carried the weight as Pederson’s offense struggled to get on track.

9

Jaguars all-in with Blake Bortles, even if rest of NFL isn’t

The NFL season was still several days away, but there was linebacker Telvin Smith, doing what he and numerous other Jacksonville Jaguars players did seemingly every week last season: defending Blake Bortles.

Opposing players, analysts and experts haven’t been harshly critical or insulting of Bortles — yet. But everyone, including Bortles, knows that will come again at some point in 2018, and there’s just a lingering, general feeling of contempt about the Jaguars quarterback: The team reached the AFC title game in spite of him last season, and he will be the reason they won’t get back there this season.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Smith was in the midst of making a point that there are numerous quarterbacks who haven’t even won a playoff game, yet alone reached a conference title game, when he stopped talking, pau9

That’s what Smith and his teammates believe. So do executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone. It’s why they didn’t pursue Kirk Cousins, Sam Bradford or Case Keenum in free agency. It’s also why they didn’t trade for Nick Foles or Alex Smith.

Even if the rest of the NFL, analysts and experts, and a large segment of their own fans think otherwise, the Jaguars believe they can reach and win a Super Bowl with Bortles.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“We all have confidence in him,” center Brandon Linder said. “We knew that [last year’s success] was going to happen. I know this year he’s going to be just as [good]. We’re all excited, not only for Blake but for everyone on this team.”

10

Why almost every MLB game begins with a fastball

But it’s an interesting question that turns out to have — thanks in part to Scherzer and that hook he threw to Carpenter — an interesting answer.

It is true that almost all baseball games begin the same way. At 12:05 p.m. ET on Aug. 1, for instance, Tommy Milone threw the first major league pitch of August, and if I told you to imagine a first pitch of a game, you’d get this one exactly right: a fastball, firm and four seams, right down the middle, taken for a strike. The next first pitch — in the Bronx, one hour later — was only a little different, a Sonny Gray two-seamer, low for a ball. Then in Detroit, a Mike Fiers four-seamer on the inner half for a called strike. Speed through the next five days, and the first 64 games of August all began with first-pitch fastballs, before Mike Leake opened his Aug. 5 start with a changeup.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

There have been just over 2,000 games played this season, and only 59 of them — through Friday — began with anything other than a fastball in the top of the first. First-pitch non-fastballs to start the bottom half of the first inning turn out to be just as rare, so we’ll henceforth lump both pitches together so we can get a more robust sample: More than 4,000 first pitches this season, of which only 106 were anything but fastballs. Approximately 2.5 percent. That’s so few! There are more non-fastballs thrown on 3-0 — approximately 4 percent — than there are to start starts, which makes the first pitch of the game arguably the single most predictable moment that exists in baseball.10

Clayton Kershaw has, since at least 2010, never started a game with anything but a fastball. Justin Verlander hasn’t either. Bartolo Colon, Jon Lester, Madison Bumgarner: not one. Jake Arrieta hasn’t since 2012, when he was still an Oriole and still terrible. Trevor Bauer never had until this July, when he dropped in a first-pitch curveball against the Reds.

Pitching is so much about keeping hitters off balance, guessing, uncertain about what comes next. That’s why catchers put down signs instead of just shouting out instructions. So why, for this one moment, does such predictability exist?cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Some pitchers do have more first-pitch variety than others. Since his debut, Masahiro Tanaka has begun 42 of his 128 starts with non-fastballs, mostly sliders, but occasionally curves or splitters. Leake has started 33 of his 260 starts with sliders or changeups. Tanaka and Leake have nine and eight such starts, respectively, this year, the most in baseball.

Scherzer is tied with Leake, which brings us back to Monday against Carpenter. Until last summer, Scherzer almost never threw anything but fastballs to start games. From 2010 through mid-June 2017, he started almost 250 games and threw fastballs at the commencement of all but one of them. But on June 27, he started Anthony Rizzo off with a slider (called strike), and a month later, he threw David Peralta a slider (called a ball). This year, he has begun eight games with changeups (2), curves (3) or sliders (3).

Scherzer is known to be a smart pitcher, and one who pays a lot of attention to the progression of at-bats, and this new tack could be seen as a tiny, microcosmic example of his wiliness — particularly because of what else is going on in the game.

9

Jays say money not factor in decision not to call up Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“It has nothing to do with business,” Shapiro told SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio. “It has nothing to do with anything other than we think the best thing for him developmentally is to go play in Arizona (in the fall league there) and continue to develop.

“We think that when he gets here, which would obviously not preclude him from making the team out of spring training next year, which would be evidence of that fact, we think he’s got a chance to be an impact player.”cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

When the Blue Jays do call up the 19-year-old Guerrero, his major league service time begins. Thus, the quicker he’s called up, the sooner he’s eligible for free agency and a potentially big payday.9

Shapiro, though, said that didn’t factor into the team’s decision. Instead, he brought up his experience with the Cleveland Indians and Manny Ramirez, who made his major league debut as a 21-year-old and was “underdeveloped” as a baserunner and a defender and it “took years for him to catch up in those areas.

“We’re trying to do everything we humanly can developmentally with an accelerated time frame to ensure that his defense, his preparation, his routine, his understanding of his impact as a leader and as a teammate — all the different things that go into, that they’re taking advantage of and that we can build as strong a foundation as possible when he gets here,” Shapiro told SiriusXM Radio regarding Guerrero.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Guerrero was No. 2 on ESPN Insider Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list. He hit .402 with 14 home runs and 60 RBIs in Double-A, then was promoted to Triple-A and hit .336 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 30 games.