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#pounditFriday, September 22, 2023


Blue Jays provide update on Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s knee injury

Vladimir Guerrero Jr in a hat

Feb 17, 2020; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) looks on during spring training at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays appear to have successfully tip-toed out of danger on the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. front.

Blue Jays manager John Schneider gave an update to reporters on Thursday about the knee injury hampering the All-Star slugger Guerrero. Schneider said that an MRI on Guerrero revealed that there was nothing structurally wrong with his knee and that Guerrero is just dealing with inflammation, per Shi Davidi of SportsNet. Moving forward, Guerrero will be day-to-day with the injury.

Guerrero himself said Thursday that he felt “relief” after the MRI results came back but added that he is dealing with soreness and pain in the knee that is worst when he runs.

The 24-year-old Guerrero was a late scratch for Wednesday’s game against the New York Yankees with what the Blue Jays officially termed as “right knee discomfort.” The injury could hardly have come at a worse time for Toronto as they are clinging to a razor-thin one-game lead in the AL Wild Card race (with ten games left to play).

Though Guerrero hasn’t quite had an MVP-caliber year, he has still been a force at the plate overall, batting .264 with 24 home runs and 90 RBIs in 147 games. Guerrero also finds creative ways to contribute in other areas, so the Blue Jays will be hoping that he can return to the lineup as soon as possible.

3 NBA playoff contenders linked to Buddy Hield amid trade buzz

Buddy Hield smiling

Apr 7, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield (24) in the second half against Detroit Pistons at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The trade market for Buddy Love may end up being a robust one.

Shams Charania of The Athletic offered an update this week on Indiana Pacers swingman Buddy Hield. Charania named three particular playoff contenders who have registered interest in the 30-year-old sharpshooter.

“Dallas, Philly, Milwaukee, those are the types of teams that could definitely use a shooter like Buddy Hield,” said Charania. “They’ve [all] had a level of interest in him over the last several months.”

The former No. 6 overall pick Hield is reportedly now on the trade block after extension talks with the Pacers broke down. Hield is also facing the likelihood of a reduced role in Indiana next year with 23-year-old Andrew Nembhard and 21-year-old Bennedict Mathurin quickly on the upswing.

But Hield, a 40.2 percent career three-point shooter who averaged 16.8 points per game last season, can provide tremendous value as a secondary scoring piece for a contender. All of the teams mentioned by Charania (the Mavericks, 76ers, and Bucks) have their primary offensive options set but a lingering need for a knockdown three-point shooter to give the offense more breathing room. Hield can be just that for those teams, but there is also the possibility that another former suitor could suddenly crash the party too.

Stephen A. Smith bounces first pitch at Yankees game

Stephen A. Smith ready to throw

Stephen A. Smith got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the New York Yankees’ game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. It didn’t go as Smith had hoped.

The ESPN host boldly walked to the mound for his first pitch and stood on the rubber, attempting to fire a strike from the full 60-foot, 6-inch distance. Though Smith’s windup and leg kick were clean, he bounced his pitch.

Next time let’s get Stephen A. a cutoff man to relay the pitch home.

Smith had said in a video ahead of his first pitch that he was nervous. He also said that Derek Jeter told him not to mess it up.

Don’t let Jeter see the video, Stephen A.!

Khris Middleton speaks out on uncertainty over Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future

Khris Middleton looking on

Jul 11, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton looks on during warmups prior to game three of the 2021 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Khris Middleton has something to say about all of the recent #GiannisOut rumors.

In an interview this week with ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, the Milwaukee Bucks star Middleton spoke on the buzz over teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future. Middleton indicated that he was not worried about Antetokounmpo leaving, despite some recent comments that The Greek Freak made.

“I think it’s kind of business as usual either way,” said Middleton of the Antetokounmpo uncertainty. “It doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t think it affects us as a team. I think this is something he said almost every year he’s come up in contract extension talks.

“We always want him back for sure,” Middleton added. “Let’s be for sure and let everyone know that. We want this guy to come back because he’s one of the best players in the world, one of the best players in franchise history. So when he says things like that, I think he just wants to challenge the team, the organization, to keep putting us in position to win championships.”

You can read Middleton’s full interview with Bontemps here.

The two-time NBA MVP Antetokounmpo is the direct source of all the uncertainty. He himself said in an interview last month that he won’t extend his contract with the Bucks if he does not feel that the team is still devoted to a championship pursuit. At it stands right now, Antetokounmpo can become a free agent in 2025 at the age of 30.

For Middleton, Antetokounmpo’s Bucks teammate for the last ten seasons, he did his part by agreeing to a new long-term contract with Milwaukee this summer. But Antetokounmpo’s choice may ultimately be out of Middleton’s control. Instead, there are some indications that it could actually hinge on a different player.

Fernando Tatis Jr. has interesting explanation for Padres’ struggles

Fernando Tatis Jr. looking away.

Apr 19, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (23) looks on after the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres have won seven consecutive games, but their streak is almost certainly too little, too late for their playoff hopes. That may not be coincidental, at least based on what Fernando Tatis Jr. had to say after Wednesday’s win.

Tatis suggested that the Padres had struggled under the weight of expectations to start the season, and that players put too much pressure on themselves to perform instead of simply focusing on the task at hand.

“All the expectations and knowing the group that we were,” Tatis said, via AJ Cassavell of “All the good players and the hype. People were excited. Coming in as a group together, I feel like we put a little bit of pressure on ourselves. Too much. Not trying to perform, but trying to make it happen. … I feel like we learned our lesson.

“It taught us a lot as a group. It means: Cut the eyewash. Just come in as a group knowing what you need to do. Go out there, play the game, make yourself feel like a kid again. This is the hardest game in the world. Adding that pressure is just overwhelming.”

After an NLCS appearance in 2022, the Padres signed Xander Bogaerts as a free agent and were considered World Series contenders at the start of the season. The attitude they had very much backed that up. Instead, things went wrong, as the Padres have struggled from start to finish. Even after winning seven straight entering play Thursday, they are just 75-78.

The 2024 Padres should have a lot less hype surrounding them, and perhaps that will help. Tatis will have a big say in whether things improve next year, as he hit a modest 25 home runs with a .260 average so far this season.

Ravens player goes viral for hoodie making fun of Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

Feb 8, 2020; Tampa Bay, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tight End, Rob Gronkowski, (87) at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via USA TODAY NETWORK

Despite having been retired from the NFL for multiple seasons now, Rob Gronkowski is still out here catching strays.

Baltimore Ravens running back Kenyan Drake, who just re-signed with the team this week, went viral Thursday for the hoodie he wore to Baltimore’s practice facility. Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey posted a picture of Drake in a hoodie that read “Gronkowski didn’t have the …” with an image of a geometric angle underneath.

Check it out.

That is, of course, a reference to the famous 2018 “Miracle in Miami.” Drake, part of the Miami Dolphins at the time, scored the game-winning TD on an improbable play as time expired. Gronkowski, who was on the New England Patriots, entered the game on defense for the final play as a 6-foot-6, 265-pound body to clog up the goal line on a potential Hail Mary throw. But when Miami went with a shorter throw and a series of laterals instead, Gronkowski became BBQ pork in the open field as Drake beat him to the corner of the end zone to give Miami an incredible 34-33 win. Meanwhile, TV broadcaster Ian Eagle’s call on the play of “Gronkowski didn’t have the angle!” went down in football lore (and also inspired Drake’s hoodie above).

Granted, Gronkowski, a four-time Super Bowl champ and sure-fire Hall of Famer, won’t be too bothered by the dig. In fact, Gronk would probably appreciate it having had similar fun at the expense of others before.

Davante Adams calls out Bills safety over hit to head

Davante Adams motions to the Raiders crowd

Dec 4, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams (17) walks off the field after the Raiders defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 27-20 at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams landed in the concussion protocol thanks to an illegal hit late in Sunday’s loss to the Buffalo Bills, and Adams is very much holding a grudge against the player responsible.

Adams took a late helmet-to-helmet hit from Buffalo safety Taylor Rapp late in Sunday’s game. Rapp was flagged for the hit, and Adams landed in the concussion protocol, though the wide receiver was back practicing by Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Adams criticized Rapp for playing “out of control” and suggested that the safety’s reckless play is why he is not getting more snaps for Buffalo.

“Was it unnecessary? Completely, obviously,” Adams said, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN. “But certain players play a certain way too. Some people, out of control, they fly around, they don’t really have much true purpose out there. I mean, playing a half field on one side, you run over and hit somebody in the head on the other side of the field.

“That’s the kind of stuff that contributes to you not being on the field. That’s why you’re in when you’re blowing us out by 25 at the end of the game. Maybe if that man learns how to play the game the right way, he’ll see the field. Until then, he’ll have to go and live off of plays like that, I guess.”

Rapp is in his first season with Buffalo after spending four seasons as a regular starter for the Los Angeles Rams. He has yet to start a game for the Bills. He has apparently rubbed some teammates the wrong way in the past, so Adams might not be alone in his feelings.

Bruce Arians has funny warning for Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield in pads and a hat

Aug 26, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks on against the Baltimore Ravens during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians likes what he has seen so far from quarterback Baker Mayfield, albeit with one exception.

In his new “No Risk It No Biscuit” podcast, Arians had praise for what Mayfield has been able to do through the first two weeks of the season. He did say, however, that he had given Mayfield a stern warning about trying to run the ball and invite contact.

“Like I told him, ‘You don’t need to be trying to run them linebackers over every week unless you put some big shoulder pads on,'” Arians said, via Joe Bucs Fan. “‘You already won the locker room over. You don’t have to do that bravado s–t.'”

Mayfield had a particularly punishing run in the Buccaneers’ Week 1 win that included some viral trash-talk. It certainly seemed to fire up the team, but Arians and the Buccaneers would not want to see Mayfield get hurt doing something like that.

Mayfield has thrown three touchdown passes without a turnover in the first two games of the season. No wonder the Buccaneers would fret about him getting hurt when he’s playing quite well.

Bears WR DJ Moore hints at frustration with role

DJ Moore stands with a towel over his head

Aug 12, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver DJ Moore (2) leaves the field at halftime at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears have been a mess through the first two weeks of the season, and one of their biggest offseason additions may already be frustrated with his role.

DJ Moore, who was traded to Chicago from the Carolina Panthers back in March, had an interesting exchange with Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White prior to last Sunday’s game. White complimented Moore’s game and told the speedy receiver “I miss tackling you, Go-Go-Gadget.” White then told Moore that the Bears are not using Moore properly.

If you listen to the clip closely, you can hear Moore’s response. The former first-round pick said “tell me about it.”

That probably is not a great sign for the Bears.

Moore has just 8 catches for 129 yards on 9 targets through two games. He had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Panthers from 2019-2021.

The Bears traded their No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers in exchange for the No. 9 overall pick, Moore and some other picks. They obviously believed at the time that Moore could become an explosive piece of their offense and help quarterback Justin Fields elevate his game, but the early returns have not been there.

Fields this week seemingly blamed Chicago’s coaches for the quarterback’s early-season struggles. He later insisted he was not pointing any fingers, but he did vow to be less robotic and get back to trying to make plays. Moore certainly would like if that meant a few more balls coming his way.

Matt Canada has concerning quote about Steelers’ offense

Matt Canada looking on

Oct 17, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada looks on before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada seems to be on the hot seat, and he probably did not help his cause Thursday with an answer to one question.

Canada was asked Thursday what he can do to bolster the team’s struggling offense, and he genuinely did not seem to have an answer. He responded by telling reporters to let him know if they have the answer.

“I don’t know. If you have the answer, you can let me know or tell somebody else,” Canada said. “When you’re playing good on offense or anything in life that is good, you stack it.”

Canada is under a lot of pressure after an underwhelming start to the season. The Steelers were inept offensively in Week 1 against San Francisco and were not particularly inspiring in Week 2 either, even though they won the game. Things were bad enough that Steelers fans were chanting for Canada’s firing during that game, a move coach Mike Tomlin did not exactly criticize.

Canada has been Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator since 2021. It’s not clear if he has ever had the full support of Tomlin or his players.