Matt Ryan and the Falcons Are Not Concerned About Julio Jones’s Absence … Yet

What can we expect? The Falcons have the unenviable task of having to play six games in the NFC South this season and fight for a spot in the NFC playoffs. But we’ve seen what this offense can be when it’s unlocked, and OC Steve Sarkisian has everything he needs to get them back to the 2016 level. If the offense gels in Year 2 under this offensive coordinator like it did the last one, the Falcons are heading to the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

Well… now he’s the eighth highest-paid receiver, and his average annual salary is nearly $3 million less than top-paid Antonio Brown. And though everyone within the Falcons organization believes the two sides will bridge this wide gulf, what if it doesn’t? What if Atlanta starts the season against Philadelphia without its best offensive weapon? But it’s not time to worry yet.

I’d love to play to 40, Rodgers said in King’s debut Football Morning in America column. I just think that number means a lot. Obviously, Tom [Brady] is kind of rewriting the book. Brett [Favre] had a good season when he turned 40. My goal is be able to move like I do or close to how I do and still be able to do that at 40 . . . just because nobody’s been able to do that and still move around the same. Steve Young’s career was cut short in his late thirties. John [Elway], the same — he didn’t really move the same as when he was younger. So to be able to move the same way at 38, 39, 40 would be cool. That’s my aim.

Of course, to reach that goal, Rodgers is going to need a new contract, since there are two years left on his and he’s currently (and woefully) underpaid. He seemed to acknowledge offseason reports that he’s looking for a unique contract structure, perhaps something that ties his pay to a percentage of the salary cap. The team sounds hopeful something can be done soon, but that has been their mantra all offseason.

It’s only been on my mind because . . . people have been writing and talking about it a lot, Rodgers said. There have been many conversations about it. I think that there’s some merit to looking into where you do a non-traditional contractual agreement. If anybody at this point is gonna be able to do something like that, I think there needs to be a conversation about it. I never said anything about [tying the contract to] the cap.

I just think there’s ways to do contracts where you can still be competitive so the team is happy about it, but have some more freedom.

And he wants to do it in Green Bay, but his close friend Jordy Nelson leaving this offseason was the latest reminder that the Packers are seldom the happily-ever-after team, since they’ve built a reputation of letting guys go a year to soon rather than a year too late.

The Vikings offense was designed in part around the quick-strike ability of Brad Johnson, but Johnson went down in Week 2 with a broken ankle.

In came Randall Cunningham, who arrived in Minnesota a year earlier after spending the 1996 season out of football. It turned out to be kismet, with Cunningham, the former Eagle, finishing the ’98 season 259-425 for 3,704 yards, 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He would earn his first Pro Bowl nod in nearly a decade.

Randall Cunningham: I was going to sign with the New Orleans Saints, but Keith Johnson, the Vikings’ chaplain at the time, said, You’re Randall Cunningham right? I said, Yeah. He says, What are you doing working out? I thought you were retired. I said, I’m coming back. He said, Talk to Denny. So I flew to Minnesota, and they offered me a contract.

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns: It’s different opportunities. Josh only needed the one scholarship. Sam needed the camps. It’s whatever you can do to put yourself in the best position. I don’t agree with a lot of the Elite 11-type stuff because a lot of those guys lay their claim on people like Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston or Cam Newton, and they did not create those guys or do anything to really push them into the spotlight. Those guys were going to be NFL quarterbacks from Day They had the talent, they had their sights set.

Inside the office building, Chargers owner Dean Spanos is seated at the head of the table in a second-floor conference room. Over his shoulder is a giant rendering of the team’s new stadium, which will be located in Inglewood, just shy of an hour’s drive from the current office. Under construction until 2020, it’s the mecca toward which this franchise is marching.

It’s incredible—look at that, Spanos says, turning to face the photo. I mean, that’s massive. It doesn’t look like a football stadium, does it?

No, and that’s because, in many ways, it isn’t. The nearly $5-billion venue, formally called Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District (LASED), will include business parks and condominiums, a 6,000-seat theatre, luxury hotels and restaurants, an open-air shopping center and NFL Media’s nerve center. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is spearheading the project, with the stadium itself a joint venture between the two teams—the Rams and Chargers will operate under equivalent leases, and the Chargers will receive 18.75% of the LASED non-football event revenue.

NFL trade rumors: Possible Earl Thomas trade to Cowboys ‘still is in play’

Murray, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, was originally selected by the Cowboys in the third round of the 2011 draft. He spent four seasons in Dallas and one with the Eagles before he was traded to Tennessee in March 2016.

Murray led the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2014 with the Cowboys.

Earl Thomas has vowed not to report to training camp until the Seahawks give him a new contract, but the team hasn’t moved on that issue.

Over the past few months, however, it seems as though what Harper cares most about is being the best home run hitter on the planet.

Before a May contest against the Pirates, the Nats slugger took early batting practice, then proceeded to go deep for the first time in more than two weeks. Afterward, when asked what the purpose of his early BP session was, Harper said: Just hit some homers … I was trying to hit the ball as far as I could. A few days later, following a two-jack game against the Phillies that included a 473-foot bomb to dead center, he weighed in with, It’s not how far. It’s how many. Over Memorial Day weekend, when he went yard against Miami but finished the series with a then season-low .230 average, he rationalized it like this: If I hit .230, and I hit 40, I’ll take it any day of the week.

David Tepper, the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, L.P., purchased the team from Richardson for a reported $2.2 billion in May.

I am thrilled to begin this new era of Carolina Panthers football and am humbled by the overwhelming excitement and support for the team, Tepper said, via the team’s website. On behalf of the fans and myself, I thank Jerry Richardson for bringing the team to the Carolinas and for entrusting me with its future.

Not at all, Bidwill said. I think it’s important to speak up. People are saying stick to sports? You know what? We ask our players 20 days a year game days to restrict their statements. The rest of the days, we want our players to get engaged in the community. Just like I am and other owners are.

In fact, I’m working with [an NFL] committee called the Social Justice Committee, where we’re working with players across the league to get them more involved in changing policy and making America a better place for everyone.

Nathan Peterman had worst starting debut for a QB. Here are all 5 of his interceptions

He should’ve never been in that position. But since he was, let’s have a look back!

If you want to celebrate something in the record book, look for the trash records, the kind that come with more notoriety than celebration. Those are the records I prefer. And that’s why we’re here talking about a guy you’ve already forgotten and one you’ll forget a year from now.

Legislation allowing sportsbooks to operate in the state’s casinos and racetracks has been on the books since 2012, but not enacted thanks to PASPA. With the Supreme Court ruling, you may be able to bet on pro sports as soon as Memorial Day weekend.

Mississippi legislators didn’t pass any new laws to enable casinos to allow for sports gambling — they just deleted a chunk of existing law back in 2017 to take advantage of this year’s Supreme Court ruling. With gambling already a part of everyday life in Tunica, operators will rush to get sportsbooks up and running in the Magnolia State. The Clarion-Ledger suggests sports wagering could go live as early as June.

On June 21, the state’s gaming commission voted to approve gambling regulations that will turn sportsbooks live by July 21.

As athletes, usually you are trying to hunt for the answers on your own, and you are trying to get in touch with certain people. To have them brought to you, and what I really love is people from all different industries, to me you find such inspiration in different places. … I would love to have something like that during my career.

Magic Johnson, who might know more than anyone how special being a member of the Lakers organization can be, says the Genius Series has had a measurable impact on a young roster that included 13 different players with two or fewer years of NBA experience last season.

Listen, this series has meant a lot to our Lakers, Johnson told ESPN. To have them in front of our guys, explaining how they became successful, has meant a lot, and it changed their lives. … I have been enjoying this just as much as the players. There’s greatness in what they all do and how they do it. But everything came down to the same thing: preparation … discipline.

To be chosen to ref a Super Bowl, an official has to be at the top of his or her game. Unless an official is ranked in the NFL’s top tier, which is based on their accuracy and performance over the course of the season, they’re not even considered. Football Zebras, a site dedicated to NFL officiating, projected that Steratore would be selected in part because the league gives priority to officials who had never worked a championship.

Romo is a revelation for Kansas City with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions to make his first Pro Bowl.

The Chiefs aren’t quite ready to be a winner yet after a 2-14 year in 2008, but the team doesn’t regret the six-year extension it gave to Romo after trading for him. He’s their quarterback of the future.

After three years of Quinn struggles, Denver moves on by selecting Tim Tebow in the 2010 NFL Draft. That draft pick also doesn’t go well, although he does have a tendency to pull a rabbit out of a hat every once in a while. A couple years later Peyton Manning finally smooths things over for the Broncos.

There’s a specific code section that says if you — for a political, partisan reason — take an action to affect somebody’s employment in the private sector that that is, not only a criminal offense, but actionable, as well.

Under the plain language of the statute, clearly, both Trump and [Mike] Pence have violated it. Not only are they covered persons under the statute, but there is irrefutable evidence … that it was done for partisan, political purposes. ‘Fire that son of a bitch’ was at a campaign rally.

And with Bledsoe, a capable and above-average starter in his 11th season at the helm, the Patriots are really good. Enough to beat the Titans and the Colts on the way to the Super Bowl, but not enough to top the Brady-led Cowboys.

With Brady at the helm, the Cowboys are set up to be a contender for years to come. Behind him on the depth chart are his former Michigan teammate Drew Henson and promising second-year passer Tony Romo.

But the defense takes a step back and Dallas isn’t able to repeat as Super Bowl champions. They aren’t even able to defend their NFC East title with the Eagles making a run to the Super Bowl that ends with the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.

Bledsoe’s consistently average performance and climbing age means it’s time to invest at the quarterback position, because late round picks haven’t been blossoming into future stars.

Picking near the middle of the first round can make it tough, but California’s Aaron Rodgers inexplicably slides to the back half of the first round and the Patriots take him at No. 20 overall.

Epstein discussed her resignation in an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Tuesday with the headline ‘I’m done helping the NFL Players Association’s pay lip service to domestic violence prevention.

New catch rule includes more than third step, reaching with ball

The NFL’s most recent effort to fix the catch rule included the crafting of an objective test for satisfying the all-important third element of the rule. Subjectivity, though not entirely eliminated, has been enhanced by objective examples of satisfying the requirement that the ball be possessed for a specific amount of time.

The two examples cited by the league in passing the catch rule were taking a third step or reaching or extending the ball toward the line to gain. But the final rule identifies other concrete ways in which the player will be deemed to have possessed the ball long enough to complete a catch.

For now, all that matters is that he’s back.

No loss feels good, Roberts said. But I’ll tell you, when you have your horse throw the way he did, in five innings, and felt really good after, and to know that we can build him up, and build on this start, that’s probably the most important thing for our club. This loss doesn’t feel good, but I think the bigger picture is good for us.Paul George agrees with Thunder on 4-year, $137 million deal

The guys that are fast, you can’t teach that, Sirianni said. The guys that are fast pose this threatening position to the defensive back where, yeah, they can get behind them. So there’s that fear that they can get behind them and they do get behind them when the coverage lends itself. But then every other play, that defensive back is thinking, ‘Shoot, he can get behind me.’ So it softens him up — plus-16 yard gains in my mind are chunk plays. It really is no secret: It’s speed.

Josh Fields, who has emerged as a premier setup option, was put on the DL because of inflammation in his shoulder and the Dodgers suddenly found themselves shorthanded in the bullpen. Their manager, Dave Roberts, had Buehler fly back Thursday morning and basically rehab in the major leagues for what would be his first appearance in nearly three weeks.

Buehler gave up a leadoff homer in the sixth and allowed five of the next eight batters to reach, setting up a seven-run seventh inning that blew the doors open.

Roberts didn’t regret the decision, outside of the fact that it led to a loss.

Agreed to a reported three-year, $22 million deal with forward Doug McDermott

As a combo forward just reaching his peak (he turned 26 in January), McDermott fits the rough outline of what the Pacers should add to one of last season’s most surprising teams. It’s the specific player who doesn’t fit as well.

In theory, McDermott can defend either forward spot. In practice, that mostly means he’s a liability at either position. Last season was the first time in four NBA seasons that McDermott’s defensive rating in ESPN’s real plus-minus was better than three points per 100 possessions — worse than league average; he improved all the way to minus-2.3.

Aaron Hicks hits three of the Yankees’ six home runs in an 11-1 victory against the Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball. (1:14)

NEW YORK — Another ragged start against the New York Yankees has Boston Red Sox starter David Price contemplating a new approach for the next time he faces them.

With the home runs and earned runs piling up in Sunday night’s 11-1 loss at Yankee Stadium, Price knew that the plan he implemented in this latest outing against his team’s biggest rival simply didn’t work.

It’s time for me to kind of go back to that drawing board and kind of reinvent myself against these guys, the 32-year-old left-hander said.

Across just 3 1/3 innings in Sunday’s blowout loss, Price surrendered eight runs on nine hits. He allowed the Yankees to hit five home runs on their way to a six-homer night. It was only the fifth time in the past 100 seasons that the Yankees had that many home runs in a game against the Red Sox.

White Sox OF Avisail Garcia set to start rehab assignment

White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia is set to start a minor league rehab assignment as he works his way back from a strained right hamstring.

General manager Rick Hahn says the 2017 All-Star will begin rehab with Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday and will need at least seven to 10 days before he is activated. Garcia has not played since April 23. He is batting .233 with four RBI in 18 games after hitting .330 and driving in 80 runs a year ago.

JS: [chuckles] I don’t know about that. I remember in 2010, I hadn’t had a complete game since, I think, maybe four or five years prior to that. I told [Maddon] in spring training that I wanted to finish games off. He believed in me. He believed in the process. In 2011, I had 11 complete games that year. At the end of the day, you have the trust of your manager and you have to have that mentality and work ethic to be able to do that.

A two-time All-Star closer, Britton placed fourth in Cy Young voting in 2016, when he went 47-for-47 in save opportunities and finished with a 0.54 ERA. In 2017, he battled a forearm injury that forced him to the disabled list twice and limited him to 38 games.

Despite expectations that the Orioles would trade Britton last summer, a deal never materialized. A free agent after this season, the 30-year-old hurler could be a valuable trade commodity this year for a Baltimore team that has already fallen out of contention and currently has the worst record in the majors. In the meantime, manager Buck Showalter said he’d prefer not to rush Britton back into the closer’s role.

In a perfect world, I’d like to not have to do it right out of the chute, Showalter said. I would rather him work his way into it with an outing or two. But sometimes the competition and the game doesn’t cooperate.

Righty Brad Brach has served as Baltimore’s closer this season. In 24 games, Brach is 0-2 with a 4.24 ERA. He has recorded 10 saves in 12 opportunities. As for Britton, he doesn’t care how or when he’s used, just so long as he’s used.

Chris Johnson faces misdemeanor battery charges

Elliott had 354 touches in 2016.

He’s a hard worker, Linehan said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. He’s really been putting a lot of time and emphasis into working on his game. . . . He knows he still has a lot ahead of him to prove.

Can Carson Wentz regain his pre-injury MVP form? Can Dak Prescott prove he’s the Cowboys’ franchise quarterback? Here’s what will define the 2018 season for every team.

But Jones’ enthusiasm for his scheme, and Manziel’s fit in it, glosses over the more fundamental challenges of this transition. People I spoke with last week reinforced what others said during a trip to Hamilton in 2016: American visions of Manziel mirroring the success of Doug Flutie, another Heisman Trophy winner who moved north to find success, are outdated. Rather than scramble madly from wide sideline to sideline, successful CFL quarterbacks must now throw accurately and efficiently from the pocket, above all else.

If anything, the league’s three-down structure discourages quarterbacks from taking chances on unscripted runs or off-schedule throws. Lost yardage on first down, or even a minimal gain, leads to the NFL equivalent of third-and-long, effectively quashing drives. Historically, according to league data, CFL teams convert first downs on second-and-10 or longer between 12 and 14 percent of the time. In 2017, they converted 35.9 percent on plays of second-and-7 or longer.

Like so many others, Walker believes Bryant has plenty left in the tank.

I see him in my type of situation, you know, an older vet guy, Walker said. And I’m able to play at a high level, so I’m still sure he’s able to play at a high level. People have got to remember, it’s football. Some years you’re going to have bad years, some years you’re going to have good years. And, you know, they’ve got to look at the better years he had than him having one bad year.

But here’s the thing. Bryant didn’t have one bad year. He’s had three straight seasons that don’t reflect No. 1 receiver performance, all of which came after he signed his long-term deal in Dallas. His subpar effort in 2015 resulted from injury. In 2016, he played in 13 games and generated fewer than 800 yards. Last year, his total numbers were up, but per-catch average plunged from 15.9 yards to 12.1.

So it’s unclear whether he can still perform at a high level. And it’s unclear whether he’d be happy with the third spot on a depth chart. And it’s unclear whether he’d be able to translate motivation into production.

That brainstorming is on hold, though. Right now, Lewis is obsessing over his new website.

He remembers how he was discovered. Ravens scout Phil Savage saw him grinding through a solo workout in a 60-yard sandpit one off day his freshman year in Knoxville, told Ozzie Newsome he needed to see him ASAP, and the rest is history.

The next morning, like clockwork, Lewis is stationed in the corner of Buttermilk Kitchen. Right when the restaurant of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives fame opens, at 8 a.m., he’s here. His eyes are fixated on the screen of his iPad. Email to email, text to text, call to call, he keeps his mind moving. As if he’s racing against time.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, now the attorney for President Donald Trump, celebrated his 74th birthday on Monday by returning to the Bronx for the Yankees ‘ Memorial Day game vs. the Houston Astros.

He never stopped enjoying the chase.

And no, it’s not the Super Bowl win he cherished the most. Not any touchdown, not the 2K fame. Most of all, Lewis simply loved having the ball in his hands 30 times a game. Loved staring down a defense and letting instinct take over. He viewed himself as a boxer in pads, jabbing and jabbing and jabbing you for three quarters before delivering a haymaker in the fourth.

That feeling of running…and running…and never stopping. That feeling of control.

That’s what you live for, Lewis says. After I just wore you down. Now we can roll.

So, no, he will not shimmy out of bounds. He’s plowing into the unknown the only way he knows how: head on.Lewis runs three businesses, brings AFC North passion to youth baseball games and never stops thinking. Never stops moving.