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#pounditThursday, August 6, 2020

Stories by Grey Papke:

Pro Football Hall of Famer Ron Yary ‘fighting for his life’

Minnesota Vikings logo

Pro Football Hall of Famer Ron Yary is “fighting for his life,” according to his son.

In a Twitter post, Jack Yary said his 74-year-old father is currently hospitalized, apparently due to COVID-19.

A member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Yary was a six-time All-Pro for the Minnesota Vikings in the 1970s. He’s also a member of the Vikings’ Ring of Honor and was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1970s. He was also a two-time All-American with USC.

Yary won championships at both levels, winning a title with USC in 1967 and claiming an NFL championship with Minnesota in 1969.

Devin McCourty calls NFL’s opt out deadline change ‘absolute joke’

The NFL’s handling of its opt out deadline has received bad reviews from at least one player.

New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty called the league’s decision to move the deadline up an “absolute joke.” He pointed out that veterans will be in the building for the first time Monday, and thought it ridiculous that they would barely have any time to assess the situation there and make a final decision.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the deadline for players to opt out is likely to be Wednesday. The player decisions are final, as the NFL does not want opt-outs being used as backdoor holdouts.

The NFL has legitimate reasons for limiting the opt-out period, but it does put players in a difficult position. McCourty may not be the only one feeling this way.

Joe Maddon has optimistic comment on struggling Angels

The Los Angeles Angels are off to a disappointing 3-6 start, but manager Joe Maddon is keeping a cool head about things.

Maddon remained optimistic about his team on Saturday, saying that they’re “very close” to rounding into form and winning more games despite the underwhelming beginning to the season.

Normally, a 3-6 start wouldn’t be the end of the world, but in a shortened season the reality is they need to get things turned around very quickly. Saturday’s comeback win over the Houston Astros could be a catalyst. It also helps that Maddon, ever the optimist, isn’t going to give up on his team publicly or privately at this point of the year either.

One of the big keys for the Angels will be getting Shohei Ohtani right on the mound after his poor start to 2020. If they can do even that much, they still have a chance to turn things around, but it has to happen fairly quickly.

Report: NFL teams concerned players are exploiting opt-out rule

While the NFL took steps to prevent the opt-out rule from being exploited by players in 2020, there are concerns around the league that some players and agents have found a way to do it anyway.

On Saturday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the league is looking to move the opt-out deadline up to as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday. On Sunday, ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio shared two key reasons why the NFL is doing this.

Some teams are concerned that players who are on the roster bubble and may not make the team are choosing to opt out, thus guaranteeing them a six-figure stipend for 2020. While the league states that players would have to repay the stipend if they fail to make the team in 2021, that’s not something that teams want to have to deal with.

In addition, there is some concern that some agents are using the threat of opting out as leverage in a bid to get new contracts for some players. Florio points out that this is not necessarily being done in bad faith, as increased compensation could be enough to entice some players into playing in 2020.

The NFL took steps to prevent opt-outs from being exploited and essentially used as holdouts. These things, however, are harder to prevent. That’s why the obvious solution is simply to force players to make a decision as quickly as possible.

Craig Kimbrel may already lose Cubs closer role

Once one of MLB’s elite closers, Craig Kimbrel’s hold on the role for the Chicago Cubs is becoming increasingly tenuous.

Cubs manager David Ross admitted that he and Kimbrel are discussing the role going forward, and he didn’t deny it when asked if he had considered removing Kimbrel as closer.

“That’s a good question. I appreciate you asking that,” Ross said, via Jesse Rogers of ESPN. “I’m not sure on that. I’ll get back to you on that. … I’m in the middle of conversations with Craig. We’ll have those with him first.”

Ross added that the organization wants to help Kimbrel get back into form, adding that they “need him to be good” for the season to be a success.

Kimbrel signed a $43 million deal with the Cubs last June, and has struggled since. His 6.53 ERA in 23 appearances in 2019 was by far the worst of his career. The hope was that a full offseason of preparation would help the 32-year-old look more like his old self, but struggled in his first appearance before giving up two home runs in a non-save situation Friday night.

Victor Oladipo will reportedly play in NBA restart

The Indiana Pacers will kick off their NBA restart campaign Saturday, and it appears Victor Oladipo will be with them.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Oladipo has decided to play in Orlando after all.

Oladipo, who has been working his way back from a ruptured quad suffered in January 2019, initially said he was opting out due to concerns about further injuries. It didn’t take long for him to have a change of heart and at least decide to test out his body before making a final decision, and he now appears comfortable taking the risk.

The star guard played in 13 games this season before the NBA shut down, scoring a modest 13.8 points per game as he looked to get back up to speed.

Trevor Bauer criticizes Rob Manfred for comments about player responsibility

Trevor Bauer

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer continues to not be a big fan of commissioner Rob Manfred.

On Saturday, after Manfred said that the season would continue, but “players need to be better” in terms of observing health and safety protocols. This didn’t sit well with Bauer, who felt that Manfred was throwing players under the bus and pinning too much responsibility on them.

Most teams and players do appear to be working hard to follow Manfred’s guidelines. There’s a lot of anger at one team that seemingly failed to do so.

Bauer has long been an outspoken critic of Manfred on many issues. He also doesn’t want the players getting blamed if the season does not go as planned.

David Njoku seemingly walks back trade demand on Twitter

Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku abruptly demanded a trade just before the start of training camp, but appears to have quietly moved on from that request.

On Saturday, Njoku tweeted that he was “all in” with Cleveland, suggesting that he was no longer seeking a trade from the Browns.

The Njoku saga was a strange one. Last month, he and his agent pushed the Browns for a trade before the start of camp. The organization did not appear to make much of an effort to accommodate that request, and we didn’t hear much else about it aside from the odd tweet from Njoku.

Njoku played in only four games for Cleveland last season, catching just five passes in an injury-hit season. The Browns spent big money to bring in Austin Hooper to play the same position this offseason, but it’s been said they still have a big role in mind for Njoku.