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Pittsburgh Steelers hope to ‘find common ground’ with Le’Veon Bell on new contract


INDIANAPOLIS — The Pittsburgh Steelers are doubling down on optimism over a Le’Veon Bell contract.

The Steelers have spoken to Bell’s reps at the NFL combine here to “try to figure out common ground” for a long-term deal, general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters Wednesday.

Colbert said he hopes a deal is reached by March 6, the last day for designating a franchise player. Bell’s franchise number is around $14.5 million for 2018.

In 2017, the Steelers placed an exclusive tag on Bell on Feb. 26. There was less optimism over an extension then, and he ended up playing for one year at $12.1 million.

Colbert and team president Art Rooney have publicly stated they want the star running back to retire a Steeler, and Bell has too.

Bell’s per-game average of 129 yards from scrimmage since 2013 is the most by an NFL player in the first five years of a career since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

“I don’t like to get into too much detail,” Colbert said about the deal. “I can say that I am optimistic that we can find common ground. Those things are never final until they are final. Until we reach an agreement we don’t have anything right now.”



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Football – Is It Becoming Too Dangerous?

Football was always a dangerous sport. As far as physical contact goes, there is no sport that has more of it. But as dangerous as football has always been, it is more dangerous now than ever before and not so much because the game itself has changed. It’s more dangerous because the players who participate in the game have changed. Some would say for the better. But have they? We’re not going to take a stand either way in this article but simply present both sides of the argument. We’ll leave it to you to determine if football itself has become too dangerous to play.

Let’s start with the theory that football has become too dangerous and then we can present opposing arguments. The main reason that critics claim that football has become too dangerous is that the players themselves have become way too big. Years ago, to have a man on a team who was 300 pounds was an amazing thing to see. Now, a 300 pound lineman is average. Men are constantly topping 325 and 350 with no sweat at all. When bigger bodies start falling on you and running into you, there is going to be a greater probability that you’re going to get hurt, even with all the padding.

Football players are also faster than they were years ago. When a running back is carrying the football into the secondary and he gets run at by a charging linebacker at the speed of which these guys come at you, well, let’s just say it’s not the most pleasant feeling in the world. You can get more than just the wind knocked out of you.

Many would sat that the number of injuries today more than support this theory that football has become too dangerous. Many injuries, if not life threatening, come very close to it and in many cases have ended careers. Plus there is also the painful truth that many of these players, years after they retire, have aches and pains that stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Those who say that football has not become too dangerous and argue against the “bigger player” problem claim that these bigger players are in better condition than players of years ago and therefor can withstand more punishment. They say that it is because these men are in better condition that the game is not only not more dangerous, but may even be less dangerous than ever, especially with the advances and improvements made in the equipment that they wear. Faster players mean faster players at both ends of the field, thus making it easier for a running back to dodge that oncoming linebackers running tackle.

Again, it is not our intention to take either side. Certainly there are valid points to be made for each side. A football player’s mother will probably feel the game is way too dangerous since she’s worrying about her little boy getting his skull cracked. But for the casual or even big fan, this may not be something that they give much thought at all to. Football is what it is and they accept it.

We’ll let you draw your own conclusions.



Source by Michael Russell

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Packers RB Aaron Jones pleads no contest to marijuana-related charge


Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones pleaded no contest Wednesday to a marijuana-related charge stemming from a traffic stop last year.

Jones, the team’s second-leading rusher last season, was cited on Oct. 1, when he was stopped for speeding on Highway 172 in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin. A police officer smelled marijuana and said Jones’ eyes were red and bloodshot. Jones said he told the officer that he had smoked marijuana that morning. No drugs were found in Jones’ possession. Police administered a sobriety test and then took Jones to a local hospital for a blood test.

The fifth-round pick initially entered a not-guilty plea on Nov. 15 to operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in his system, speeding (24 mph over the posted speed limit of 55) and operating a vehicle without a valid license, according to Wisconsin Circuit Court records.

On Wednesday, he entered a no-contest plea to the citation for driving with a controlled substance in his system in exchange for dismissal of tickets for speeding and operating without a license.

Court records indicate Jones will be required to pay $1,047 in court costs and undergo an alcohol assessment. His license was also suspended for six months by Brown County judge Marc Hammer.

The Packers had no immediate comment, but coach Mike McCarthy previously said he had been aware of the situation since shortly after it occurred.

“I spoke to Aaron after the incident,” McCarthy said in November. “It’s been a while since, I don’t recall the date. He made a mistake, and I know it’s a pending legal situation. But yes, I am aware of it.”

Jones could still be subject to a suspension from the NFL, but the league wasn’t expected to act until the legal case was resolved.

Information from ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.



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Learning About Office Pools – Part 3 – Soccer Pools

Soccer is all the rage outside of the United States; a weekly soccer office pool that's been around for years is most popular in England. The English Premier League has worldwide recognition, and with gambling being mainstream in England, it's a natural fit. Much like in the United States, in England there are bets placed on single match-ups (fixtures), match-up groupings (office pools), and championship match-ups (tournament cups).

The regular season for the English Premier League is 38 weeks long beginning in August and ending in May each season. Each of the teams within the premier league plays each other two, both at home and away. Premier league office pool is a weekly prediction pool in which a player makes an educated guess to the outcome of each match up; pick the winner or a draw (no winner). Every week there are six to 10 fixtures.

During the months of June and July, leagues throughout Europe play single elimination tournaments to declare an overall champion. In England there are both the Carling Cup and the FA Cup (Football Association Challenge Cup). The Carling Cup is really the league cup and sponsored by Carling, though in the past it's been sponsored by Coca Cola soft drinks and the Littlewoods retail and gambling outfit. Carling Cup is run by the league and only allows limited entries; 20 from the Premier League and 72 other teams are selected. The FA Cup was established in 1871 and is much more wide open when it comes to participants. This tournament allows over 700 teams to compete for entry into the FA Cup. As well as being presented with the cup, the winning team also qualifies by right for the first round of the UEFA Cup, unless they have already qualified for Europe in which case the position goes to the runners-up or to the highest placed Premier League side without European qualification.

The DFB-Pokal begins with a round of 64 teams. The 36 teams of the Bundesliga and 2nd Bundesliga are automatically qualified for the tournament. The tournament was established in 1935 and is a single elimination format.

The Coppa Italia (Italy Cup) is an annual cup competition that started in 1922. The format allows for 42 teams in competition which would play in the top 2 levels of Italian football associations Serie A and Serie B.

The Copa del Rey is an annual cup competition for Spanish football teams established in 1902. The naming of this tournament has a storied past which includes: King John Charles I's Cup, King Alfonso XIII's Cu, p and the Republic President's Cup. The tournament is single elimination and teams from upper and lower divisions will get to play against each other but the number of clubs allowed to participate is restricted.

The popularity of European Football is year round between the weekly fixtures and the summer tournaments. Office pools that accompany these match ups are a welcome companion and in some cases a necessary promotional tool.



Source by Lily Allard

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Adam Gase — Ryan Tannehill is the Miami Dolphins’ starting quarterback


INDIANAPOLIS — Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who hasn’t played in a game since December 2016, received a big vote of confidence Wednesday from coach Adam Gase.

“Ryan is going to be our starting quarterback, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” Gase said at the scouting combine. “I think that when we get back out there in spring and get going, I just know it’s going to be really good to have him back.”

Gase’s endorsement came amid speculation the Dolphins might take a quarterback with the 11th pick in the draft. He didn’t rule out that possibility, but Gase made it clear Tannehill is his quarterback for 2018.

If they were to pick a quarterback, Tannehill would embrace the competition, according to Gase.

“Ryan would never shy away from anybody coming in at that position,” the coach said.

Gase was less forthcoming on the future of wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who received the franchise tag. Gase said the tag was “the best thing for us and for him to know that’s there.”

The Dolphins reportedly are interested in trading Landry, who made more receptions in his first four seasons (400) than any player in NFL history. If they don’t trade him, they could sign him to a long-term contract or sign him for the franchise tender — an estimated $16 million — in 2018.

Asked if he expects Landry to be part of the team, Gase said, “Yeah, if it works out the way we kind of looked at things. … That’s why we franchised him. We’ll just see how it goes.”

Tannehill is trying to rebound from two major knee injuries. The latter occurred in August during a training camp practice, requiring reconstructive surgery. Jay Cutler signed a one-year contract to replace him.

Gase said Tannehill is doing “extremely well” in his recovery, although he declined to provide a timetable for this return.

“He’s always going to be ahead of where he’s supposed to be; he’s a physical freak,” Gase said. “He’s a physical freak, and we’ll just kind of play this one as the week goes on, throughout the offseason.

“Really, for me, I won’t personally know until we get into those stages to where we can be out at practice, throwing. All I can do is hear things are going good, he’s moving around well, he’s able to do what he needs to do to play quarterback.”



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Aaron Rodgers can name his price, but at what cost to Packers’ hopes? – Green Bay Packers Blog


INDIANAPOLIS — The way one NFL team executive sees it, Aaron Rodgers can name his price when it comes to his next contract. Especially with the kind of money the San Francisco 49ers just gave Jimmy Garoppolo and what some team will surely pay Kirk Cousins.

“The quarterbacks who are more established and much better than a Garoppolo, much better than some of these guys, they could literally say, ‘Redo it right now,’” Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine.

There’s no doubt Rodgers’ next contract will set a new bar, just like his five-year, $110 million extension did when he signed it in 2013. Rodgers’ $22 million average per season made him the NFL’s highest-paid player, let alone the richest quarterback. Now, he ranks sixth and still has two more seasons left on that deal.

No wonder the Green Bay Packers have already opened the lines of communication with Rodgers and his agent about a new contract, team president Mark Murphy told ESPN.com at the combine.

Rodgers’ current deal — negotiated by Russ Ball, the team’s executive vice president/director of football operations, and signed off on by then-general manager Ted Thompson — has remained salary cap friendly throughout. The figures ranged from $12 million the first year to $21.1 million in the final season (2019), and won’t hit the $20 million mark until this coming season, when it’s $20,562,500.

Garoppolo’s five-year, $137.5 million deal took advantage of the 49ers’ salary-cap situation — they had more than $100 million in space under the projected cap. It contained a $28.8 million roster bonus, all of which will count on the 2018 cap. After a $37 million cap change this season, the figures range between $20 million and $27 million.

“It’s whatever your team is comfortable with,” said John Elway, the Denver Broncos‘ president of football operations and general manager. “It’s whatever fits into your team. It’s got to fit into the puzzle.”

For Rodgers, it might be about the cash, especially guaranteed money. But for the Packers, it will be about the structure and the cap to ensure new GM Brian Gutekunst has the ability to rebuild the roster how he sees fit.

“We want to create a win-win [situation],” Murphy said of Rodgers’ next contract.

The Packers have remained in good salary-cap shape despite having to pay a top-tier quarterback, and Murphy said their cap should be able to absorb another blockbuster deal for Rodgers without having to cut corners at other positions.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “although obviously there’s only so much money.”

The Packers carried over $3,934,518 in cap space from last season, according to the NFL Players Association. It puts the Packers at $15.9 million under the projected 2018 cap, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“At some point the quarterbacks, it’s like with [Tom] Brady — you have to decide how much of the cap you want to take,” Jones said. “These quarterbacks want to win football games, too, at some point. I know [Tony] Romo was that way. I don’t know Aaron, but I’m sure these other quarterbacks are that way, if they feel like they take up too much room. … You want to have a good football team around you.”

As long as the cap grows each season, there’s not likely to be a ceiling for quarterback contracts.

“That’s how our business works,” Jones said. “The bigger surprise probably for everybody has just been the guys who haven’t really done a lot that are getting paid these types of numbers, and of course that’s risky business. But obviously these teams make decisions that they feel is in their best interests.

“Your quarterback is your partner. At some point when we sat down with Tony we told him, ‘You just need to decide how much of this you want, what you think is fair.’ The rest of it, they know us, we’re going to spend it on teammates. So I think that’s probably what every team with a top quarterback faces. It’s up to them. It’s, ‘How much of this do you want?’”



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Packers prefer to keep Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews – Green Bay Packers Blog


INDIANAPOLIS — Brian Gutekunst doesn’t want to lose receiver Randall Cobb, receiver Jordy Nelson or linebacker Clay Matthews — three high-priced Green Bay Packers veterans.

The first-year general manager sounded open to keeping all three on the roster, but it might not be under their current contracts — which combined would take up more than $36 million in salary-cap space and cost more than $31 million in actual cash.

“If you have really good players, you need to keep really good players,” Gutekunst said Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine. “And you don’t let them walk out the door just for that reason.”

Gutekunst said Nelson still qualified as such despite a sharp decline in production after quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone last season, and Nelson’s status as the oldest player (he will turn 33 in May) among that trio. Matthews will turn 32 in May, and Cobb will be 28 in August.

“He’s been a great player here,” Gutekunst said of Nelson. “He’s still a very strong contributor for us. You saw early in the year the impact he had in those games, yeah, he’s still a really good player in my eyes.”

Nelson has the second-highest salary-cap number ($12,518,750) and the second-highest salary ($10.25 million) among the three. Cobb ranks higher in cap number ($12,718,750) but lower in salary ($9.5 million), while Matthews ranks higher in salary ($11.4 million) but lower in cap number ($11,337,500).

The Packers expect to come in at around $16 million under the projected salary cap for 2018 as things currently stand. But with Rodgers’ contract extension expected to be completed this offseason and Gutekunst likely to pursue free agents more aggressively than predecessor Ted Thompson, the Packers could need some of the salary-cap space that cutting or restructuring those players’ deals would provide.

“It’s hard enough in this league to find them, so we certainly wouldn’t want to let them walk out the door,” Gutekunst said. “But there are restraints and there’s things that every decision kind of affects something else, so we kind of want to let all the information come in before we get to that point.”

The greatest debate could center on Nelson, who had six touchdowns in the first five games of the 2017 season but none after that. His receptions dropped from 97 in 2016 to 53 in 2017, and his yards dropped from 1,257 to 482. Nelson also caught 14 touchdown passes in 2016 and was the NFL’s comeback player of the year following his return from ACL reconstruction.

No one has better chemistry with Rodgers, although they weren’t able to rekindle it when Rodgers made a one-game return following his collarbone surgery. Nelson, however, has been in Green Bay for most of the offseason, and coach Mike McCarthy said Nelson has even sat in on some meetings with the new offensive coaching staff as they have rewritten the playbook.

When the Packers signed Davante Adams to a four-year, $58 million extension in December, it put them in position to have three receivers near or over the $10 million mark in salary-cap charges for 2018. Signing Adams also created the possibility that either Nelson or Cobb — or perhaps even both — could be gone.

“Jordy and Randall can still play,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “But we need to improve. That’s a common conversation Brian and I have — how are we going to get better? Get better internally or externally.”



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Washington Redskins don’t plan to tag QB Kirk Cousins for third straight season


INDIANAPOLIS — The Washington Redskins don’t anticipate using the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said Wednesday that he doesn’t think they would try to tag Cousins for a third straight season. The idea, if they did, would be to then trade Cousins, hoping to get more than just the possible compensatory pick they would receive in 2019 if Cousins signs with another team.

The Redskins moved on from Cousins on Jan. 30 when they traded for Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith, a move the team can’t discuss until it becomes official on March 14. Multiple reports after the deal stated the Redskins would consider tagging Cousins.

“I don’t think so,” Williams said of such a move. “But it’s not too late. But we haven’t really talked about that. The media had come up with those scenarios more than what we’ve talked about it because I can’t remember one meeting where we talked about the possibility of tagging him.”

Tagging Cousins would have been a risky endeavor. If he did not sign the franchise tender, the Redskins would be unable to trade him — and he would cost $34.5 million on the cap when free agency began. If he did sign the tender, he would let teams interested in trading for him know that he would not sign a long-term deal. That could block a deal, leaving him on the Redskins roster.

Though Williams couldn’t discuss Smith, he did respond to why the team opted not to try negotiating one more offseason with Cousins. The sides had discussed long-term deals each of the past two offseasons, though there was never much traction as both sides rejected overtures by the other.

Cousins, a fourth-round pick in 2012, started the last three seasons, twice setting franchise records for passing yards.

“Kirk has been here for six years and I’m sure there have been opportunities that deals could have been worked out,” Williams said. “It hasn’t worked out. As a team you’ve got to always put yourself in position where in case what might not happen. We can’t afford to let it come to the 12th hour and Kirk decide not to come back and leave us with the bag. We got to make decisions that are best for the organization and whatever decision we make or made, that’s what we’ve got to live with.”

The Redskins also didn’t want to have too much money tied up in one player — unless it was for a quarterback at the level of an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. Smith, once he joins the Redskins, will count $17 million against the cap this season.

Cousins could end up as the highest-paid player once he signs in free agency, with an annual salary that might hit $30 million.

“It’s about winning,” Williams said. “The guy that played the Super Bowl and was the runner-up [Brady] makes about $15 million dollars, which is a lot of money. But you get to the point, it’s about the team. … When you got a team around you, you have to look at the team as a whole and find out how much it’s gonna take and what this is about, is this a team sport? I’m not saying giving a hometown discount or anything like that, but you’ve got to be real about the team, too. If you get all the money and you got nobody to play with, what good is playing?”



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Betting Against the Spread for NCAA Football

Long-term success in football betting extremely disadvantages in betting against the spread. Indeed, you'll almost always make out better in the long run when betting against the spread than betting on straight wins and losses. However, betting against the spread requires doing a bit of homework before you pick your lines. If you're interested in improving your winning percentage, these tips can help you make the best picks for the season, whether you're betting NFL or NCAA football lines.

NCAA Football Betting: In for the Long Haul

It's true that some lucky bettors strike it big with one against-all-odds bet, but that's a rare occurrence. Most players make their profit by building smaller wins over the course of a season. Even the best bettors only win about 60 to 65 percent of their bets. This is a nice return on your investment when you're betting against the spread. Keep that in mind when you're looking for a source of NFL or NCAA football picks.

Long Shots are For Losers

After all, when all the odds are against a team, there's a reason for it. Do not throw your money away betting on huge long shots unless you have some pretty serious inside information. Instead, study the lines leading up to a game, do your research on the teams, and then pick the best games to bet on.

Bet Against Large Point Spreads

On the other hand, when the bookies are giving more than 30 points on a big public favorite, bet against spread. They're sucker bets – and they've got a 65% win rate over the past 10 years. Use your judgment, but be aware of history.

Do not Bet On Every Game

Or, for that matter, every week. Be selective. Only bet when you feel you've got a good line on a winner. In fact, if you bet on fewer games, you'll be able to place larger wagers when you do have a line on a winner.

Watch the Line

Keep your eye on the moving line. Point spreads move up and down over the course of the week based on many factions, including betting action and news about the teams. Keep your eye on line, especially if you know about injuries, coaching mishaps or other issues that might affect the outcome of a game, and bet when you'll get your best value.

Bet the Same Amount on Every Game

While it's tempting to throw a wad of money at an NCAA football game with a sweet spread, it can throw your discipline off. The truth is that, like most other things in life, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Design a plan for your betting, and stick with your plan. You'll almost always come out better over the course of the season.

Keep Track

If you're serious about making money on NCAA football or NFL games, keep records of your bets. There are several reasons for doing this. First, you want to make sure that you know what your open bets are. You want to be able to see if your betting strategies are working. And finally, if you do make money betting, you'll owe taxes. You may be able to deduct your losing bets as expenses.

The most sage advice comes from the pros: do not let losses shake you emotionally. Betting against the spread is like any other business with a big element of chance. You'll win some and lose some. If you let the losses get to you, you risk making poor decisions and throwing good money after bad. Stick with your strategy and you'll end up coming out ahead by the end of the season.



Source by Chris Robertson Jr

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Indianapolis Colts won’t re-sign Frank Gore, expect Andrew Luck at offseason workouts


INDIANAPOLIS — The Colts are saying goodbye to their starting running back from the past three seasons, and they expect franchise quarterback Andrew Luck to be with the team when offseason workouts begin in the first week of April.

General manager Chris Ballard met with Frank Gore and told the veteran running back that the Colts don’t plan to re-sign him.

“We had a discussion. We had it multiple times during the season. Frank knows we’re at the point where we need to get younger, and I want to give Frank a chance to see what’s out there and see if he finishes in a place he wants to finish it,” Ballard said. “He’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame player. He likes it when you’re honest with him.”

The Colts’ decision isn’t surprising. Gore will be 35 years old in May, and the Colts are in the process of making a youth movement with their roster.

Gore said at the end of last season that he planned to play a 14th season in the NFL while knowing there was a possibility that it wouldn’t be with the Colts.

He arrived with players like Andre Johnson, Todd Herremans and Trent Cole in the spring of 2015 with the thought they would be the final pieces for the Colts to make a run at the Super Bowl after they reached the AFC Championship Game the previous season.

Not only did Gore fail to reach the Super Bowl with the Colts, but he failed to make the playoffs with them in his three seasons. Gore and Luck, who was one of the main reasons the former 49er signed with Indianapolis, played just 22 games together because of injury problems to the quarterback.

The Colts didn’t have team success with Gore, but the running back had individual success. He rushed for 2,953 yards and 13 touchdowns while starting all 48 games during his three seasons. Gore became the Colts’ first running back to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a season since 2007 when he tallied 1,025 yards in 2016. He is only 76 yards shy of passing Curtin Martin for fourth place on the NFL’s career rushing list.

“Hall of Fame back, passionate,” Ballard said. “In just three years, even though most of his career was in San Francisco, he left an impact on the locker room and people like I’ve never seen another player do.”

Ballard and new coach Frank Reich said they are working under the impression that Luck will be with the team when it starts its offseason workouts the week of April 2. Luck, who had right shoulder surgery in January 2017 and missed all of last season, still has not thrown a football, but Ballard hopes the quarterback will be throwing within the next couple of months.

“I think we’ll get there during April and May to where we’re all seeing the progress we want to see,” Ballard said. “Talking to him and talking to the doctors, we’ve all ruled out surgery. I think it’s at the point where we have to make sure. You have to remember that he played for two years banged up. Then he had this whole year off.

“Taking a year where you’re not every day working the motion, it takes time to get back. When is that point? I wish I could give you a date. There’s no drop-down date. Can’t do it. I know this, I believe in the kid. I believe in where he’s at mentally, and he’s going to do some really good things going forward. He’s in a good place.”

Luck’s only practice time since Week 17 of the 2016 season was on a limited basis in October before the team gave him a cortisone shot and shut him down due to soreness in the shoulder. He spent about six weeks in the Netherlands getting rehab on his shoulder and is currently in California working with throwing experts. Luck has used weight balls to work on regaining strength in his shoulder.

The Colts, despite Luck’s long layoff, continue to believe he will be back for the 2018 season.

“Do I have any doubt that he’s going to be ready? No, I don’t,” Ballard said.



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