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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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JuJu Smith-Schuster wants Antonio Brown to pay his fine for Vontaze Burfict hit

Juju Smith-Schuster Vontaze Burfict

JuJu Smith-Schuster served a one-game suspension and will have to pay a fine for his vicious hit on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in Week 13, but the rookie wide receiver expects one of his teammates to help him cover the cost.

After the game in which Smith-Schuster was flagged for his crack-back block on Burfict, Brown applauded him and offered to pay the fine. Smith-Schuster told reporters on Wednesday that he is holding the All-Pro receiver to it.

Burfict, of course, has a long history of dishing out cheap shots — especially against the Steelers. He infamously knocked Brown out of a playoff game with a brutal blow to the head two years ago, so Brown obviously felt like the linebacker got what he deserved. After Pittsburgh’s game two weeks ago, Brown was all smiles in the locker room and made some vague comments about “karma.”

Players aren’t supposed to cover each other’s fines, but Brown and Smith-Schuster will probably work something out. After all, the rookie is making a base salary of less than $500,000 this season. Brown signed a five-year contract worth more than $70 million with the Steelers this past offseason. He can afford it.

Report: Lakers had meeting with LaVar Ball asking him to tone criticisms down

LaVar Ball Lakers

The LA Lakers apparently had to stage something of a Big Baller intervention.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported on Tuesday that the Lakers front office recently held a meeting with LaVar Ball asking him to tone down his criticisms of head coach Luke Walton over his handling of Ball’s son Lonzo. The meeting was said to have been called by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.

More from Shelburne:

Johnson and Pelinka declined to comment when asked about the meeting. A Lakers insider said the main message to Ball was that they’ve tried to keep their relationship positive, while still allowing him to speak his mind, and they’d prefer he did the same.

Ball himself confirmed that the meeting took place as well.

“It was the best thing, man,” the outspoken father was quoted as saying in the report. “Everybody’s going to try to make it an ego thing, like I’m trying to tell them what to do or they’re trying to tell me to tone it down. It’s not about that. It’s about coming together and to get a solution to this problem.

“It may sound crazy to other people, but I really just want the best for Lonzo, and the best for Lonzo is going to be what’s best for the organization,” LaVar continued. “Because if everybody winning, we good.”

When you read some of LaVar’s recent criticisms, it’s easy to see why the team might have been concerned. Such comments threaten to undermine Lonzo’s relationship with his coaches (something that could be especially problematic in his rookie season), so it looks like the Lakers are hoping to nip this issue in the bud while they still can.

Astros player reveals Yu Darvish tipped pitches in World Series

Yu Darvish Dodgers

What long has been suspected was finally confirmed by a Houston Astros player: Yu Darvish was tipping pitches in the World Series.

SI’s Tom Verducci included a notable nugget in an article on Monday from the Winter Meetings that confirmed Darvish tipped his pitches.

Here’s how Verducci described what happened:

The player said it worked like this: Darvish holds the ball at his side when he gets the sign from the catcher. Whether he re-grips or not as he brings the ball into his glove was the tip-off whether he was going to throw a slider/cutter or a fastball.

“We knew the first time we faced him [in Game 3],” the player said. “The next time [in Game 7] it was mostly the same, but then it was more about just having a great game plan going in. We knew he was going to try to go back to his slider to find it. We had a great approach.”

Darvish failed to make it out of the second inning in either of his World Series starts, and that was after he dominated the Diamondbacks and Cubs earlier in the postseason. His inability to get outs in the World Series really could have only been attributed to one thing: tipping pitches, which is what many thought. After all, that is what accounted for his horrific start against the Marlins earlier in the season.

The Astros’ reported interest in Darvish as a free agent further solidified this idea. If they thought he was a postseason choker, they wouldn’t want to sign him. But if they knew his inability to get outs was simply due to him tipping, they would know how to fix it so he could get back to being an ace against other teams.

Once again, Dave Roberts’ decision to start Darvish made sense. The Dodgers’ problem was that they failed to discover the flaw the Astros had found.

20 NFL free agent signings who have paid off most this season

Calais Campbell

The 2017 NFL regular season is nearing the end with only three games remaining. With so many games having been played, evaluating previously signed free agents becomes a bit easier. And more often than not, the mid-season and post-season grades for such signings vastly differ from their pre-season grades.

Case in point: Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Washington Redskins. It didn’t appear to be much of an investment on the surface, and some could have considered the deal a steal. But after substantial struggles early in the season, Pryor was lost to injury and the Redskins were out $6 million. Needless to say, not every high-profile deal is a good one.

Though the Pryor signing turned out to be a bust, many others yielded excellent results for their teams this season. Here’s a look at 20 free agent signings that have paid off this season (in no particular order):

20. Barry Church, S, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have been wheeling and dealing in recent years, so they’ll be well featured on this list. First up is safety Barry Church, who was signed to a four-year, $26 million contract this offseason. Although he’s playing slightly worse than a season ago, he’s still been a solid addition to Jacksonville’s defense. In 13 games, Church has recorded 60 tackles (47 solo), one sack, five passes defensed and two interceptions. He’s also warranted a 83.7 Pro Football Focus grade.

19. Rick Wagner, OT, Detroit Lions

Wagner signed a five-year, $47.5 million deal this offseason and has rewarded the Lions with 12 starts through 13 weeks. And while he hasn’t been perfect, he has earned a 81.7 PFF grade, which is good for 10th-best among tackles in the NFL. Needless to say, for a team that struggled along the offensive line in 2017, Wagner has helped provide some much-needed stability.


Report: Aaron Rodgers pushing hard to play; collarbone not fully healed

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is eligible to return from injured reserve this week, and Green Bay Packers fans are downright giddy about the possibility of the star quarterback taking the reigns again just in time for the playoffs. At this point, there’s still a chance that won’t happen.

Rodgers underwent a CT scan on Monday to determine how his fractured collarbone is healing, but there has been no announcement yet on whether he will return. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Packers are consulting with several experts to determine if it is a wise decision to have Rodgers play.

Rodgers is said to be “pushing very hard to play,” but the team is concerned about the two-time MVP’s long-term health. Rodgers’ collarbone is not fully healed, and the Packers have known all along that it would not be by now. As Rapoport notes, an 80 percent healed collarbone would be considered good enough to play. However, there is still some risk of Rodgers re-breaking the bone. That’s exactly what we saw happen with Tony Romo back in 2015 when he returned before his fractured collarbone was fully healed.

Brett Hundley has led the team to two important wins in a row, keeping them squarely in the playoff discussion with a record of 7-6. Green Bay has games remaining against the Panthers and Lions on the road with a home game against the Vikings in between. That’s certainly not an easy schedule, so their postseason hopes may rest on Rodgers’ shoulder — literally.

Rodgers could still conceivably return in Week 16 or Week 17 if the team opts to give his collarbone more time to heal, but that would require Hundley to keep the team in playoff contention. If all of the things Rodgers and his teammates said to defend team doctor Pat McKenzie in the wake of disturbing allegations from Martellus Bennett were true, Rodgers may not be given the green light with a bone that is less than 100 percent healed.

Chris Bosh’s mom denies drug charges, says son is evicting her

Chris Bosh

The mother of Chris Bosh is denying any ties to a drug trafficking operation and has a pretty good explanation for what’s going on.

The DeSoto, Texas home where Freida Bosh has been living, which is owned by her son, Chris, was raided on Friday morning by police in a drug sting. Police believed crack cocaine and heroin were being trafficked from the home.

Freida spoke with TMZ Sports in an interview published on Monday to explain her side. She says that she and her son Chris have a deteriorating relationship and he has been trying to evict her from the home. She told TMZ Sports that she took on short-term tenants to help raise money to pay for her legal bills to fight the eviction. She is blaming one of those short-term tenants for creating the drug mess.

No arrests have been made in the drug case yet.

Chris Bosh, 33, is an 11-time NBA All-Star but has not played in the league since the 2015-16 season due to blood clots. He recently said he is still open to continuing his career. His family says they are hoping to reconcile matters.

Giancarlo Stanton compares Marlins to a circus in farewell message

Giancarlo Stanton

It does not sound like Giancarlo Stanton will look back on his time with the Miami Marlins particularly fondly.

In a farewell post on Instagram, Stanton thanked the Marlins organization and fans — while noting that he tried his best to remain professional during “unprofessional, circus times” in the organization.

Thank you to the Marlins Organization & the amazing city of Miami! The city that adopted me at 17 with open arms. I’ve loved this place over the years and it will always be special to me. I appreciate All my teammates & coaching Staff that battled day in and day out I feel for u fans, you’ve stuck with me as we’ve shared some roller coaster years. I’ve always tried to be as professional as possible during the unprofessional , circus times there! Regardless of the Ups&downs, I’ve grown n learned a lot as a Person/Player. So for that I give thanks, I hope there are better days in Miami . The city & the people are too great not to be! Stay positive & much love ! ————————————— As for NEW YORK CITY !!! I am officially a YANKEE I can’t wait to spark this new chapter in my life, & keeping it Lit

A post shared by Giancarlo Stanton (@giancarlo818) on

Now that Stanton is officially a New York Yankee, he doesn’t have to bite his tongue about what he really thinks of the Marlins. Reports that he is “very happy” to be joining the Yankees may well be an understatement if this is how the slugger felt about his tenure in Miami. To be fair, he’s not really saying anything that nobody from the outside didn’t think.

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