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Calvin Johnson: This is Lions’ best chance to win a Super Bowl

Calvin-Johnson-Flying-Lions-Receivers-to-Pro-BowlThe Detroit Lions took a small step in the right direction last season, but they were ultimately a dissappointment once again. The Lions are just 11-21 since ending their 11-year playoff drought back in 2011. Just when Detroit fans thought their team might be turning a corner, the Lions reverted to their old ways. Calvin Johnson feels the 2014 season will be different.

After practice on Tuesday, Megatron said he believes this season represents Detroit’s “best chance” to win a championship.

“I honestly believe that,” Johnson said, via Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press. “And you’ve got to buy in. You’ve got to buy into the coaches’ philosophy, and we have. I believe that everybody is doing exactly what the coaches want us to do, and if we’re not, if something is not like he wants it, he’s going to tell us and we’re going to get better at it and he only has to tell us one time.”

There’s no question the Lions have enough talent to be a serious contender. Their offense is loaded with big names like Megatron, Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush and now Golden Tate. A front seven led by Ndamukong Suh should dominate, though it has not been that simple in past seasons.

While Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he also believes his team has the foundation needed to win a Lombardi Trophy, Stafford seemed a bit more reserved.

“I think we’re a talented football team, but there’s a long way to go,” Stafford said. “This is practice No. 2 for Week 1. Obviously, we’re a confident bunch. We’re confident in our abilities and our schemes, confident in each other. But at the same time we got to go out there and execute. We got to get better week to week, we got to get hot and go and see what happens. But on paper we’re as talented as anybody in the league, in my opinion.”

The NFC North, led by the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, should be a very difficult division this season. The key for the Lions will be getting off to a good start and proving they are not going to be the same disaster that they have been for the better part of two years.

Merril Hoge: Johnny Manziel is a ‘juvenile punk,’ has no business in NFL

Johnny-ManzielWe already knew Merril Hoge was not a fan of Johnny Manziel. Prior to the draft, Hoge said Manziel has “bust written all over him” and that he has no pocket presence or awareness. Now that we have seen Manziel play in the NFL, Hoge is even more down on Johnny Football.

Hoge appeared on 102.5 WDVE with Randy Baumann and the DVE Morning Show on Wednesday and ripped Manziel to shreds. The ESPN analyst referred to Manziel as a “juvenile punk” and said he has no business playing in the NFL right now.

“There is nothing that he does that transitions to the NFL,” Hoge said. “There’s not one skillset he has that you say, ‘Gosh, he’s a first rounder…’ This guy has no business playing. If they put him in, quite honestly, it’s not helping their chances to win. It’s jeopardizing their chances to win.

“He has no business being on the field right now.”

Hoge repeatedly pointed out that the Browns have given Manziel an “elementary” playbook to work with and he still hasn’t been able to handle it. He also said that Manziel infuriated coaches around the league when word surfaced that he texted the Browns telling them to draft him so they can “wreck this league” together.

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Wes Welker on Molly: I don’t have any idea what it is

Wes Welker Kentucky Derby

Wes Welker was suspended four games by the NFL on Tuesday for violating the league’s drug policy after he tested positive for amphetamines in May. There have been conflicting reports over what it was that Welker tested positive for. One reputable site claims Welker took Molly at the Kentucky Derby. The Denver Post says Welker failed his test because of Adderall.

While Welker did not say what he tested positive for in his statement on Tuesday, the Post reports that the Denver Broncos wide receiver wonders if someone slipped something in his drink. He claims to have no idea what Molly is.

“I wouldn’t have any idea where to get a Molly or what a Molly is,” Welker said. “That’s a joke. I don’t do marijuana, I don’t do drugs. I don’t do any drugs.”

I don’t know what a Molly is? I don’t do marijuana? Welker is certainly trying hard to convince people he did not knowingly consume a recreational drug. Seriously, who calls it doing marijuana? That makes it seem like he is really trying to play dumb.

We’re not saying Welker took Molly. We have no idea, and the NFL’s drug testing policy — the same one Welker criticized — makes it so the substance a player took is never officially revealed. While a lot of NFL players do take Adderall, it is also a convenient excuse for players who fail drug tests because there is no stigma associated with it.

McKayla Maroney was underage when leaked photos were taken

McKayla Maroney not impressed

McKayla Maroney was underage when the leaked photos of her were taken, and her legal team is attempting to remove the hacked properties from the internet.

According to TMZ, Maroney’s lawyer contacted Porn.com demanding they remove the photos, which were spread across the internet Sunday as part of a massive leak of hacked celebrity photos. In the letter to the website, the attorney said the Olympic gymnast was underage when the photo was taken. Maroney did not turn 18 until Dec. 9.

Another one of Maroney’s attorneys sent cease and desist letters to other sites demanding that they remove the photos on grounds of copyright infringement, which implies Maroney owns the photos.

These letters are a strong indication that the photos are real, even though Maroney referred to them as “fake” over Twitter early Monday morning.

Though only a few alleged photos of Maroney were leaked, it’s possible some people are in possession of many more. Deadspin posted screenshots of a Facebook conversation between two people that shows one claimed to have possession of many celebrity photos. The conversation took place weeks before the Labor Day weekend leak. At the time, the person claimed to have 95 photos and four videos of Maroney. The sheer amount of photos and video allegedly possessed by the individual is another strong indication that the gymnast’s phone was hacked.

The origins of the leak are still being hotly debated. Speculation is that the photos were obtained by targeted hacks of individual phones or by some insecurities in the iCloud. The perpetrator(s) are likely facing serious legal consequences for their actions.

Jim Irsay suspended six games, fined $500K

Jim IrsayJim Irsay pleaded guilty on Tuesday to driving while intoxicated, which paved the way for Roger Goodell to finally hand down his punishment of the Indianapolis Colts owner. Irsay has been suspended for the first six games of the 2014 season, fined $500,000 and banned from discussing his team or the NFL on social media.

“I have stated on numerous occasions that owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players,” Goodell said in a letter to Irsay. “We discussed this during our meeting and you expressed your support for that view, volunteering that owners should be held to the highest standard.”

Goodell also noted that the Colts would not be forced to forfeit a draft pick or face any other type of competitive sanction because Irsay’s conduct “did not have competitive consequences.”

[Related: Jim Irsay had pills, pill bottles and $30K on him at time of arrest]

For a guy who has more money than he knows what to do with, this equates to a slap on the wrist for Irsay. He can’t be around the team until after the Colts face the Houston Texans on Oct. 9, but big deal. He’s an owner, not a coach.

Goodell is really punishing the fans, because Irsay runs one of the most entertaining Twitter accounts in sports. We don’t know the exact terms of his social media ban, but if Irsay can’t tweet ridiculous photos of himself getting jacked up for games then we’re all the real losers here.

H/T Mike Garafolo

Ned Yost thinks Royals may have caved under pressure of large crowds

Ned YostLess than a week after Ned Yost ripped Kansas City fans for not showing up to games when their team is in a pennant race, the Royals manager wondered over the weekend if playing in front of such a large crowd was an issue for his players.

The Royals lost a couple of crucial games against the Cleveland Indians in front of a packed house on Friday and Saturday. More than 30,000 fans showed up to each game. On Sunday night, Yost praised the fans but wondered if the team pressed too much because of them.

“The crowds have been fantastic,” he said, via Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star. “I think it’s got them juiced up. They want to really perform for them. And that never works. You’ve got to stay disciplined.”

Make up your mind, Ned. As a reminder, here’s what Yost said after Kansas City’s walk-off win last Tuesday.

“I mean, what, 13,000 people got to see a great game? … I know it’s a school night. But I’ve been through this before in Atlanta in ‘91, where it didn’t matter what night it was, that place was packed at the end of August and September. The fans really got into it. They’re a big part of our success, especially at home. Because the electricity they provide, the energy they provide, helps you get through games like this. You know?”

If Yost’s team pulled out its best win of the season in front of a stadium that was half-full and struggled when tickets were sold out, are the Royals better off with fans staying home? In reality, Yost probably realizes he came across like a jerk last week and was trying to pay the fans a compliment. Still, he should probably stop focusing so much on attendance.

H/T Hardball Talk

Eric Wood blames ESPN for Michael Sam not signing with team after release from Rams

eric-woodFrom the time Michael Sam was released by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday as part of their final cuts, speculation began about what would be next for last year’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

Sam recorded 11 tackles and three sacks during the preseason, including this memorable one of Johnny Manziel. Despite showing perhaps more than some expected, Sam didn’t make the Rams’ 53-man roster.

After clearing waivers, Sam is now a free agent. However, the seventh round has yet to receive any offers. Why is up for debate. Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Eric Wood has a theory and it involves the network that reported on Sam’s showering habits.

Certainly ESPN isn’t the only culprit of the massive amount of coverage Michael Sam has received since being drafted, but the point made by Wood is a valid one. Any team that signs Sam will obviously not only be signing a defensive player, but the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL.

It would be premature to say Michael Sam’s professional football career is over after just beginning. The Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League have reached out to him, although they have yet to hear back. Whether it’s the Alouettes or someone else, the next team Michael Sam suits up for should be prepared to deal with the media attention that comes with it, fair or not.