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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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Tennessee DL suspended in wake of domestic assault arrest

Tennessee Vols logo

The University of Tennessee announced on Monday that defensive lineman Ryan Thaxton has been suspended after he was arrested over the weekend and charged with domestic assault and false imprisonment of his girlfriend.

According to court records obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel, Thaxton was accused of pushing his girlfriend toward his dorm room when she refused to accompany him. He then allegedly carried her inside the room and blocked the door to prevent her from leaving while an argument took place.

Thaxton, a second-year defensive lineman who did not play in 2017, has been suspended while authorities and the university investigate the incident.

“We are aware of the incident,” Tennessee football spokesman Zach Stipe said in a statement. “The student-athlete has been suspended from all team activities while law enforcement and the university investigates.”

Thaxton is scheduled to be arraigned on both charges on July 23.

Pistons reportedly enlist Kevin Garnett to work with centers

The Detroit Pistons still believe that Andre Drummond could become one of the NBA’s very best centers, and they’ll continue to do everything they can to get him to that point.

That includes working with an NBA icon.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Pistons quietly enlisted Kevin Garnett to work behind closed doors with Drummond and another young big man, former first-round pick Henry Ellenson.

Drummond had his best rebounding season of his career last year, leading the NBA with 16 boards per game. He even saw his free throw percentage go from awful to merely bad, too.

Last summer, there were some rumors about Drummond’s future in Detroit. For now, they appear committed to making it work.

Steelers leave Le’Veon Bell off of jersey promo advertisement

Le'Veon Bell

If you’re hoping for a sign that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell are on the verge of agreeing to a long-term contract extension, an advertisement the team ran on social media Monday probably will not make you feel very optimistic.

Perhaps it was a complete coincidence, but fans were quick to point out that an ad for a jersey promotion the Steelers are running featured three players, and Bell wasn’t one of them. Should he have been?

It makes sense to have Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, but teams love capitalizing on their star power any chance they get. At the very least, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher that the Steelers decided to go with JuJu Smith-Schuster’s jersey over Bell’s.

Bell, of course, is on the verge of having to play a second consecutive season under the franchise tag. There have been rumblings that he could go to drastic measures to protect himself if he doesn’t get a long-term deal, and the two sides are quickly running out of time to reach an agreement.

Big 12 commissioner will not rule out College Football Playoff expansion

Bob Bowlsby Big 12

There are a number of fans who believe that the College Football Playoff is simply too small at its current total of four teams. Those who believe that got some somewhat positive news on Monday.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said that, while there is no real urgency to expand the playoff field beyond its current size, discussions about doing so will continue.

As noted, however, the current format is locked in through 2026. Any changes are a long ways away. Plus, even as expansion is floated, it simply doesn’t sound like there’s a lot of institutional support for it.

Report: Manny Machado has likely played last game with Orioles

Manny Machado

The trade talks surrounding Manny Machado have been heating up in recent weeks, and all indications are that the Baltimore Orioles are close to making a deal. According to one report, that deal will be completed at some point during the All-Star break.

Jim Bowden of CBS Sports was told by sources that the 2018 MLB All-Star Game will likely be the last time Machado represents the Orioles.

The O’s gave us an indication that they are on the verge of completing a trade when they pulled Machado from Sunday’s game due to some concerns over field conditions.

We have already heard that two teams are the finalists to land Machado, but others are sure to make a final push to land the star shortstop. Teams have until July 31 to work out trades, but it sounds like Machado won’t be with the Orioles when that is upon us.

Kemba Walker hopes to remain with Hornets ‘for a long time’

Kemba Walker isn’t itching for a homecoming in New York. In fact, he wants to stick around Charlotte for a while.

With the Hornets point guard entering the final year of his contract, there is doubt about Walker’s long-term future in Charlotte. It’s particularly true as he’s a New York native, and some have whispered about a homecoming with the Knicks.

Don’t count on it, says Walker.

“As far as seeing me in New York, I doubt it,” Walker said, via Michael Scotto of The Athletic. “I’m a Hornet, and I’m planning on being a Hornet for a long time, so, yeah, I’m not sure about that.

“I’m not planning to leave, no. It’s not up to me right now.”

Walker has made it quite clear that he’s happy in Charlotte and absolutely does not want to leave. Of course, he may not have a choice if the Hornets decide to get some assets for him, but right now, he’s content to remain a Hornet.

Le’Veon Bell contemplating sitting out first half of 2018 season?

Le'Veon Bell

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell have found themselves in a familiar situation with the deadline to work out a long-term extension about to pass, and speculation has already begun regarding where Bell could go from here.

In an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said he believes it is possible that Bell could sit out the first eight games of the 2018 season.

As Schefter notes, Bell’s rationale would be that he does not want to risk suffering a serious injury when he’s only playing under a one-year deal. However, he is set to make $14.5 million in 2018 if he plays under the franchise tag for the second consecutive year. Sitting out half the season would mean forfeiting more than $7 million.

There have been some positive signs surrounding Bell’s contract negotiations with the Steelers, and the team doesn’t want to go another training camp with its star running back holding out. However, it would be a surprise if Pittsburgh’s brass actually believes Bell would sit out half a season and give up millions of dollars.

Josh Rosen has an idea for how to fix college athletics

Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen is one of many people who have spoken out against the problems that exist with the current NCAA system, but he is one of the few who have proposed some actual ideas on how those issues might be resolved.

Rosen has been working with Tye Gonser, a partner at a Southern California business law firm called Weinberg Gonser LLP, and USC law student and former baseball player Bryan Bitzer on a system they believe could help college athletes get paid while also promoting education. They put together an essay on the topic entitled “The Modernization of College Athletics as an Incentive for Graduation,” and they shared it exclusively with Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports.

Under the plan Rosen, Gonser and Bitzer proposed, student athletes would be able to profit from a number of revenue opportunities throughout their college careers, such as name, image and likeness, jerseys and apparel, video games and other areas. However, the money would be placed into an account that students are only entitled to if they graduate.

“I’m not against the NCAA,” Rosen said. “I do strongly believe in the student-athlete experience, and I don’t think the free market is the way to go. I also don’t want a system that was created in the 1950s to stay the way it was. I want it to be like the iPhone, constantly updating to stay current with the times.

“I want this idea to get people talking. I want this to sort of be the WD-40 that unlocks the stuck gears of how to compensate student-athletes.”

Rosen and his colleagues understand their system would have obstacles, and they tried to address one of the biggest ones with the forming of an independent entity they refer to as the “Clearinghouse.” That non-profit organization would be responsible for playing the role of middle man between players and potential endorsers to help erase the need for agent involvement.

“It’s an idea, and I think it’s a cool one,” Rosen said. “We need to find a way where we can mutually push in the same direction. This can legitimately help both sides, the college side and the student-athlete side.”

Rosen has been taking shots at the NCAA over money for years, but you have to respect him going through the effort to propose an actual idea. That’s more than most people who bash the system can say for themselves.

Aaron Rodgers open to ‘non-traditional’ contract with Packers

Aaron Rodgers

Kirk Cousins may have made life difficult for the Green Bay Packers when he signed a three-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $84 million this offseason. Aaron Rodgers has just two more years remaining on his deal, and it’s no secret he wants a new one. While he probably won’t get a Cousins-type deal, the Packers may have to get creative with the six-time Pro Bowler.

In an interview with Peter King for King’s first “Football Morning in America” column with NBC Sports, Rodgers said he would be open to a unique contract agreement with the Packers. The example King laid out would be a deal that included annual raises for Rodgers based on the percentage the NFL salary cap increases.

“It’s only been on my mind because … people have been writing and talking about it a lot,” Rodgers said of his contract. “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.”

The only real risk the Packers have in not giving Rodgers an extension is angering their franchise player. The 34-year-old is signed through 2019, and Green Bay could always use the franchise tag after that if necessary. However, it might make Packers fans a little nervous that Rodgers has not ruled out playing elsewhere.

“I think in my time there, I realize no one is above the team,” he said. “They can trade Brett Favre, Jordy Nelson. They can not re-sign a Charles Woodson or Julius Peppers. They make decisions that are in the best interest of the team. It could be me at some point. You have to be humble enough to realize that, and I do. I’d love to be able to …

“How many guys get to actually pick the way and the team how they go out? You know? Hardly anybody. You have to understand that’s a real possibility. But yeah, my dream situation would be to stay in Green Bay.”

Rodgers has already hinted at what he might mean when he says he is open to a non-traditional contract agreement, and those types of ideas are likely why the situation still has not been resolved. While it would make sense for him to want to be the highest-paid QB in the league, it’s not that simple now that Cousins signed his fully guaranteed mega-deal.

AJ McCarron eyeing another sport when football days are over

AJ McCarron

AJ McCarron is trying to win a starting NFL quarterback job for the first time in his career this summer, but the former Alabama star admits he has thought about life after football. When he eventually decides to turn in his pads and helmet, McCarron wants to pursue something a little more high-speed.

Speaking at his annual free football camp in Mobile on Saturday, McCarron revealed his love for auto racing.

“Eventually, I want to get into racing,” he said, via Mark Inabinett of AL.com. “My grandfather raced at Irvington back in the day when it was a dirt track and then Sunny South (in Grand Bay). I want to get into racing eventually. I love it. I do IRacing a lot with some of my NASCAR buddies.”

McCarron grew up around racing, and he used to serve as the grand marshal every year when the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competed at MIS. He said he envisions starting with small circuits and trying to work his way up.

“Eventually, I want to work up to the pro trucks that they run at short tracks, whether it’s Pensacola or Mobile,” McCarron said. “Maybe eventually a late model or a super late model. It’d also be fun to get on a big track like maybe the ARCA Series eventually and try to do something like that. But I don’t know. I love it, and, hopefully, one day it will happen.

I think it’s just the rush and competing. Trying to make your car better than the others, and then if it’s not, trying to figure out how you can get ahead of them. I just love it. It’s just something in my blood, probably passed down, and, hopefully, one day …”

Based on some of the reports we have heard this summer, McCarron is no lock to start in Buffalo. If he can’t carve out a starting role with the Bills, he may officially become a career backup. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that and his love for auto racing shortened his NFL days.

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