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Friday, July 28, 2017

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Devin Hester: I have one foot in Hall of Fame

devin-hesterChicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester is arguably the greatest return man in NFL history. His 12 punt returns for touchdowns are the most in NFL history, as are his 18 combined touchdown returns on punts, kickoff and a missed field goal. The numbers speak for themselves, but are they Hall of Fame worthy?

As Pro Football Talk pointed out, former NFL kicker Jan Stenerud is the only player currently in the Hall of Fame based solely on special teams work. Hester believes he will be the next.

“I have one foot in right now,” he told the Chicago Tribune’s Mike Mulligan. “If I take three or four back this year, it should be considered 80 percent chance of making it. But I am not really worried about it right now. I am really focused on this season. After this season, when all the stats add up, hopefully it won’t be a question.”

Taking three or four back in 2013 will be no easy task, but Hester is more than capable of doing it. The problem now is that teams rarely give him a chance to return it, opting to either kick the ball out of bounds on punts or kicking to another player.

In aiming for the Hall, Hester is facing the same uphill battle punters face. Chris Kluwe wore a patch on his jersey last season to campaign for Ray Guy, who is considered to be the greatest punter in NFL history, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. As of now, punters and kick return specialists are not valued enough to be given a spot in Canton — or the 2013 Pro Bowl for that matter. I have my doubts that Hester will be any different.

Aaron Hernandez indicted in Odin Lloyd murder case

Aaron HernandezFormer New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was formally indicted by a grand jury in the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd on Thursday. The indictment, which was reported by CBS Boston and confirmed by Fall River Superior Court, came on the same day that Hernandez was due back in an Attleboro courtroom for a probable cause hearing.

Rather than laying out the evidence investigators have collected against Hernandez to make the case that he should remain in jail without bail, Bristol County prosecutors instead officially arraigned Hernandez. Last month, a judge granted a delay after prosecutors requested more time to present evidence against the 23-year-old to a grand jury. Without an indictment, Hernandez’s attorneys would have argued for his release on Thursday.

The official indictment follows a report from earlier this week that indicated the gun that was used in a 2012 double murder was found in Hernandez’s hometown of Bristol, Conn. It was reportedly uncovered in the car of a 19-year-old woman who has been arrested three times in the past year and was involved in a car crash in June. Prosecutors have been trying to make a case against Hernandez in the 2012 murders.

Alex Rodriguez tells his lawyers to stop threatening New York Yankees

Alex Rodriguez YankeesAlex Rodriguez is hoping for the best possible outcome in his appeal of a 211-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use. He has hired an All-Star team of lawyers than includes top New York criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina. Since Tacopina came on board, A-Rod’s situation has become about far more than his alleged involvement with Biogenesis.

Rodriguez is trying to prove that he did not interfere with Major League Baseball’s Biogenesis investigation and that he should be treated as a first-time offender, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There have also been reports that he will sue MLB if the suspension is not dropped altogether. Tacopina has even accused the Yankees of trying to sabotage A-Rod by withholding medical records and trying to keep him from playing.

Rodriguez (supposedly) wants those reports to stop.

“I’m shutting it all down, I’m shutting it all down,” he told reporters before Wednesday night’s game, via the NY Daily News. “The focus is to be back on the field. There are so many great stories going on in baseball, and for us, we really just want to focus on playing good baseball, and 100 percent have all the questions be about baseball. If there’s any question in the future that are not about baseball, the interview will end at that moment.”

A-Rod is a distraction. The Yankees are 9-5 in games he has played since he returned, but his teammates and coaches would obviously prefer to be able to focus on baseball rather than deal with the drama of Rodriguez being intentionally beaned by opponents.

“I think it’s the best thing to do for all of us, to focus on the game,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a pennant race. I want to put all the focus back on baseball. … I think the most important thing for us now out of respect to my team, and my manager and my coaches, we’re in the middle of a very important pennant race. We’re playing pretty well right now and we want to keep the focus on the field.”

How convenient. Tacopina would not have gone public with any accusations against MLB or the Yankees if A-Rod didn’t authorize it. Now that most of the dirty laundry has been aired out, Rodriguez is trying to look like the peacemaker who is committed to helping his team win. It’s a bit too late for that.

Roy Hibbert shows us how he fits (or doesn’t) in an airplane bathroom

Being over seven feet tall increases your chances of becoming a professional basketball player, but that type of height can create plenty of hassles in life. Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who stands at 7-foot-2, gave us a prime example on Thursday.

Have you ever felt claustrophobic when having to use a bathroom on an airplane? Try switching bodies with Hibbert and then relieving yourself. As you can see, the big man pretty much does not fit in an airplane bathroom.

“I’m not one to take selfies but I know y’all were wondering how I fit in an airplane bathroom and the answer is … I don’t,” he wrote on Instagram. “#crampedlife.”

Hibbert’s height allows him to make amazing blocks like this on the basketball court, but everything has it’s pros and cons. Being a giant is certainly no exception.

Yasiel Puig, Dodgers make light of his showing up late to game

Yasiel PuigLos Angeles Dodgers rookie phenom Yasiel Puig is one of the most talented young players in professional sports, but his attitude and personality have become a concern. He has already earned a reputation among his fellow MLB players as someone who is arrogant and not all that likable. Puig also seems to struggle with dealing with the media.

On Tuesday, Puig was benched for the start of LA’s game against the Miami Marlins after he showed up late to the ballpark. The 22-year-old has only three hits in his last six games, so manager Don Mattingly said the benching was more about giving him a breather than punishing him for tardiness. On Wednesday, the Dodgers’ Instagram account posted a picture to make light of the situation:

On the surface, the reports about Puig being late are not a big deal. The concern for most people arises when Puig does things like swearing at the media and partying after losses. If he wants to enjoy life off the field and kick it at the Playboy Mansion, Puig will have to learn to deal with scrutiny from the LA media. Otherwise, his personal life will become a major story in itself.

H/T SI Hot Clicks

Yankees P David Huff makes amazing backhanded flip for assist (Video)

David-Huff-backhanded-flipNew York Yankees reliever David Huff turned in one of the best plays of the night at a crucial moment during his team’s 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

With a runner on first and nobody out in the eighth inning, Toronto catcher Josh Thole dropped down a perfect bunt between the pitcher’s mound and first base line. Huff, a left-hander, had to circle the ball and snag it with his glove in order to give himself a chance to make the out at first. He did just that, flipping the ball backhanded to first and somehow getting Thole in time.

It was a phenomenal play that Huff somehow made look easy. Had he allowed Thole to reach on an infield hit, there would have been runners on first and second with nobody out in a 2-2 game. Instead, the Yankees were able to get out of the inning unscathed. Yunel Escobar still probably wins the award for best backhanded play of the season, but Huff is definitely a finalist.

H/T Big League Stew

Jim Harbaugh: AJ Jenkins was bullied by media

AJ-Jenkins-NinersThe San Francisco 49ers drafted former Illinois wide receiver AJ Jenkins in the first round of the NFL Draft last year, and the selection never panned out. Jenkins never caught a pass in a regular season game for the Niners and was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday for receiver Jon Baldwin.

At this point, it is safe to label Jenkins a draft bust. Last year during training camp, Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh blasted the media for criticizing Jenkins when he was not performing well in practice. In retrospect, it appears the writers and reporters were accurate with their assessment of Jenkins. Despite that, Harbaugh continued to defend the 23-year-old after trading him.

“I know a lot of people made sport of AJ and Jonathan and my comments and that type of thing,” he said Wednesday, per Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “And I really feel the same as I did a year ago when I made those comments. I don’t think it’s fair to bully or label a young player. I fully understand people are entitled to their opinion and their perspective, however, I refer the criticism — or appreciate — if the criticism is directed toward me. I’m responsible and I certainly accept it.”

Obviously, Harbaugh and the entire San Francisco organization are disappointed that they spent a first-round pick on a player who never worked out. But as Harbaugh has shown us in the past with his animated defense of Alex Smith, he is rarely ever going to throw a player under the bus.

“I’m responsible. I’m responsible for helping pick the draft picks and fully responsible for coaching the players up,” he said. “So I willingly accept those responsibilities.”

Baldwin, also a first-round pick in 2011, caught 41 passes for 579 yards and two touchdowns during his two seasons with the Chiefs. A change of scenery could benefit both players.

H/T Around the League

Tony Gonzalez would rather be hit in the head than the knee

Dustin-Keller-knee-injuryThe NFL has done a fairly effective job of cutting back on head shots and helmet-to-helmet contact over the past several seasons, but at what price? With decreased risk of concussions comes increased risk of knee injuries, and Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is not happy about that.

Last week, Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller had his season end when Houston Texans safety DJ Swearinger tackled him by diving at his knee. Keller suffered a torn ACL, MCL, PCL and a dislocated knee on the play. Gonzalez hated it.

“I’d rather have a guy hit me head than knife at my knee,” he said, via USA Today’s Jim Corbett. “You’re talking about a career-ending injury. It’s going to be so hard for Dustin to come back off of that. It should be a fineable offense, just like going for the head is.”

Players have already accused the NFL of turning them into robots with all of the new rules and regulations, so making a low tackle a fineable offense is likely out of the question. The league has worked to eliminate head shots because they affect a player’s quality of life after football. From Gonzalez’s perspective, a major knee injury is just as devastating.

“It should be a fineable offense,” Gonzo said. “That’s just not part of football — hitting a defenseless player in his knee, that’s something we all dread as players. That’s my nightmare. Hit me in my head (instead).”

Gonzalez is not the first player to address the fact that less head injuries could lead to more knee injuries. As Ed Reed once said, football will have to disappear before the NFL can put a stop to concussions. Knee injuries cost players money and can ruin their careers, but they won’t affect their cognitive abilities. That trade-off is apparently enough for the NFL to stick to its guns.

H/T Pro Football Talk

David Ortiz disagreed with Ryan Dempster hitting Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez Ryan DempsterBoston Red Sox fan favorite David Ortiz came to the defense of Alex Rodriguez on Wednesday in the wake of the New York Yankees slugger being drilled by Ryan Dempster. Like many others, Big Papi felt that it was wrong of Dempster to intentionally target A-Rod because of his 211-game suspension and alleged PED use.

“I didn’t like it. I don’t think it was the right thing to do,” Ortiz told USA TODAY Sports. “But we don’t all think alike, and the guy who did it, Dempster, is a great guy. It’s not that I didn’t think it was right because Alex and I are friends, because once you cross the white lines, everyone’s on their own.”

Ortiz said the biggest problem he had with Dempster’s stunt is that it put a man on base and energized an opponent in a game that the Red Sox would have loved to win.

[VideoRyan Dempster hits Alex Rodriguez intentionally]

“We’ve got Tampa right on our heels, and that pitch woke up a monster in the Yankees’ team at that moment,” he continued. “You saw how the game ended up. CC (Sabathia) was throwing 91 (mph) and started throwing 96. Alex later hit one way out there. You’re talking about a good team that you can’t wake up. But we learn from our mistakes.”

That is certainly a valid point. The Red Sox are currently a game ahead of the Rays in the AL East standings, and they dropped a game on Sunday night after losing to New York thanks in part to an angry A-Rod homer. But Big Papi probably should have stopped there.

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Brian Wilson has a crazy mohawk going

Brian-Wilson-mohawk

Brian Wilson was activated by the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this week after missing more than 16 months of Major League action. The last time he pitched in a game was April 12, 2012, so he has had ample time to grow his infamous beard to a more unmanageable length. He has also added an insane mohawk.

As you can see from the photo above that @MetsKevin11 passed along, Wilson is rocking a revolutionary hairstyle that combines a mohawk and a ponytail. Here’s a different angle of the back of his new hairstyle:

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