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Thursday, November 21, 2019

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Hue Jackson believes Steelers would be best fit for Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick

Hue Jackson was not able to get an up-close look at Colin Kaepernick after the free agent quarterback bailed on the workout the NFL organized for him, but the former Cleveland Browns coach still has an opinion on which team might make the most sense for Kaepernick.

Jackson, who was supposed to lead the drills for Kaepernick at last Saturday’s workout, sat down to discuss the situation with Kristine Leahy of FS1. He said he believes Kaepernick is good enough to play in the NFL again, but it would have to be with “the right team and the right environment and the right people.”

“Some (team that has) a strong head coach who has been through the ups and downs of the NFL and understands how to deal with the media. That’s going to be a huge piece if he’s on your football team,” Jackson said. “A team and organization that has a strong locker room that can handle that type of personality in the locker room. Colin’s become iconic, somewhat. … I don’t think everybody’s equipped to (handle) that.”

When asked if there is a specific team that comes to mind, Jackson mentioned the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“When you think about the Steelers, because of how they do their business,” he said. “Any team that has that longevity of a head coach in an organization, they normally know how to do it and do it right. That’s the team that comes to mind right away for me.”

That is an interesting choice, especially given all the drama that unfolded in Pittsburgh with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. The Steelers are still a winning organization and have been able to remain in the playoff hunt despite losing Ben Roethlisberger to an injury this season, but people have been critical of the way head coach Mike Tomlin has handled star players.

Jackson was also asked if he believes Kaepernick genuinely wants to play in the NFL again.

“I’m not gonna say that he really doesn’t want to play. Obviously, there’s something that’s stopping him from feeling comfortable around National Football League employees to demonstrate his ability,” Jackson said. “But I also understand that the only way you’re gonna get back in the league is to do that in front of this group.”

We believe we have discovered why the NFL suddenly reached out to Kaepernick to invite him to work out in front of teams, though Jackson said he thinks the league was genuinely trying to give the 32-year-old a chance. As for whether or not the Steelers will sign Kaepernick, that seems as unlikely as any team bringing him in given what unfolded last weekend.

Tom Brady explains why he ‘liked’ Antonio Brown’s apology to Patriots

Tom Brady

Tom Brady was among several New England Patriots players who “liked” Antonio Brown’s social media post apologizing to team owner Robert Kraft and the organization this week, and the future Hall of Famer clearly did so intentionally.

Brown shared a photo of him and Brady from the duo’s brief time playing together, and he apologized for the “bad media attention and the drama.” When asked on Wednesday about hitting “like” and commenting with smiley face emojis, Brady was honest.

“I liked him. We had a great rapport when we were here,” Brady told Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. “I’m trying to support him to be the best person that he can be, that’s all.”

With New England’s offense having struggled again in Sunday’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles and Brady clearly frustrated, there has been speculation that the quarterback could be trying to show the Patriots he wants to bring Brown back. Brady seemed irritated by that assumption.

“It’s that time of year,” Brady said. “People put a lot of words in people’s mouths. It’s just part of the world we’re living in.”

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler learned this week that Brown has filed a countersuit against his former friend and personal trainer Britney Taylor, who is suing him for sexual assault. There have also been rumblings that Brown is optimistic the NFL may clear him before the end of the season after he stated his case in a meeting with the league last week.

From a football standpoint, the Patriots could undoubtedly use Brown. Their defense has been carrying them while the offense looks borderline inept, and Brady didn’t even seem like he enjoyed Sunday’s 17-10 win over the Eagles.

However, Brown has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, and Kraft was reportedly furious after the receiver sent threatening text messages to the second alleged victim. Brown also unloaded on Kraft in a since-deleted tweet after the Patriots released him.

If Brown is, for some reason, cleared by the NFL without a suspension, there’s at least a chance the Patriots might bring him back. His apology this week and Brady’s reaction to it may be part of setting the stage.

Jimmy Butler on Heat’s hot start: ‘We’re for real’

The Miami Heat are off to an excellent start in a season in which many were unsure of what to expect from them, and Jimmy Butler insists the results are not a fluke.

After Butler scored 21 points in Miami’s 124-100 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, he told reporters that the Heat are not going to be surprising opponents for very long. He believes the 10-3 start shows they’re “for real.”

Butler has obviously helped turn the Heat into a contender in the Eastern Conference, but the big story so far has been the leap third-year big man Bam Adebayo has taken. The former No. 14 overall pick is averaging a double-double with 13.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He’s also making a major impact with his tremendous defense.

Miami won just 39 games last year and missed the playoffs, and the belief from many was that trading for Butler wouldn’t be enough to get them over the hump. If Adebayo and others continue to step up, it just might be. The East is top heavy after Kawhi Leonard left the Toronto Raptors in free agency, so there’s no reason the Heat can’t compete for a top seed.

5 NFL players earning themselves a big 2020 contract

Amari Cooper

Every season there are some players who step up and outplay their current contract. There are also players who have big years just as they’re about to hit free agency, setting themselves up for big pay day. This season we have several players who fit in either category.

Here’s a look at five players who are now primed for a big contract in 2020 thanks to how well they’ve played this season.

5. Markus Golden, LB, New York Giants

There’s not much going well for the Giants on the defensive side of the ball, but that is no fault of edge rusher Markus Golden. Two years removed from a torn ACL, and back under defensive coordinator James Bettcher, Golden is experiencing a bit of a career resurgence — something he banked on when signing a one-year deal with Big Blue this past offseason. Through 10 games, Golden leads the Giants with 6.5 sacks and seems to be a relatively consistent force when on the field. He’s on pace to eclipse 10 sacks for the first time since his remarkable 2016 campaign. He will undoubtedly be considered among the best available pass rushers in free agency next year.

4. Shaq Barrett, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After four underwhelming seasons in Denver, Barrett signed a one-year deal with the Buccaneers this past offseason and like Golden, has seen an impressive career resurgence. He’s managed to not only find a niche, but to also excel under Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles in Tampa Bay, recording 11.5 sacks and one interceptions through 10 games this season. And while he has slowed down slightly after a torrid start (nine sacks in his first four games), there will be plenty of teams willing to shell out some big-time dough for him come 2020.

3. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Cooper seems like he should remain in Dallas where his career has completely taken off, but there’s been little progress on contract talks between the two sides, so the wide receiver now prefers to wait on negotiations until after the season. That will allow for a potential bidding war, assuming he’s not designated the team’s franchise player. As much as he may want to remain with the Cowboys, big money elsewhere could alter his thinking. In 10 games this season, Cooper has 56 receptions for 886 yards and seven touchdowns, which are numbers that extrapolate to career highs across the board over the course of 16 games.

2. Kyle Van Noy, LB, New England Patriots

Is Van Noy a young star in the making or is he just another product of a Patriots system that manages to milk the very best out of every player who comes along? It really doesn’t matter, because Van Noy has been a star on one of the most dominant defenses in decades, and every GM across the league is just waiting for the opportunity to open their checkbook. In nine games this season, Van Noy has recorded 32 tackles, 5.5 sacks and forced three fumbles. He’s played well against the run and in coverage, and his 85.7 PFF rating is among the best at his position in all of football. Some may view Van Noy as a “no name” on New England defense, but I assure you talent evaluators don’t look at him the same way.

1. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, New Orleans Saints

When Bridgewater signed a one-year deal to return to the Saints this past offseason, some were surprised. After all, Bridgewater, years removed from a gruesome leg injury, was looking for an opportunity to prove to NFL executives he could still perform at a high level. Getting an opportunity to prove that seemed unlikely behind Drew Brees, but that all changed when Brees suffered a thumb injury in Week 2. Bridgewater, a former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year contender, took advantage of the opportunity, completing 67.7 percent of his passes for 1,370 yards, nine touchdowns and just two interceptions over seven games (5-1 as a starter). Whether or not he sees the field again this season, someone will probably pay Bridgewater big money in 2020.

Watch: JJ Barea messes with Mavericks fans by faking check-in

JJ Barea had a funny moment toying with Dallas Mavericks fans at the end of the team’s 142-94 win over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.

Barea has only played in one game this season as he returns from a torn Achilles tendon, mostly because of the depth Dallas has at the position. But with the Mavs up so big, there was some thought that Barea might see some garbage time action. At least that’s what the fans chanting “We Want JJ” were hoping for.

With just under three minutes left in the game, Barea, a fan-favorite, pretended to check into the game before running back to the bench. He got the fans’ hopes up and gave teammate Luka Doncic a laugh in the process.

Barea has only played in one game this season, which came when he scored 11 points in 16 minutes in a win over Orlando on November 6. Barea said he was dealing with an elbow injury and was only going to play if the team had an emergency situation, meaning fans will have to keep waiting.

Jerry Stackhouse confronted by Austin Peay assistant coach in handshake line

Jerry Stackhouse Sergio Ruoco

Jerry Stackhouse was confronted by Austin Peay assistant coach Sergio Rouco in the handshake line after Vanderbilt’s 90-72 win over the Governors on Wednesday night.

Commodores guard Saben Lee dunked the ball with seven seconds left instead of dribbling out the clock as Stackhouse wanted. That was the final basket of the game and gave Vandy the 18-point win.

Rouco took issue with the dunk and held onto Stackhouse’s hand extra long in the handshake line so he could say something to the coach:

Stackhouse, who had to forcibly pry his hand away, said he told Rouco “I’ll coach my team and you coach yours.”

Stackhouse also said after the game that he doesn’t want that type of play from his guys.

“(Lee’s dunk) is not a play that we want to have happen. We want to be a team of class and a team of dignity,” Stackhouse said after the game, via The Tennesseean. “Saben just had a lapse right there. But that’s something I’ll correct with my team, not something that anyone else is going to correct with my team.”

Stackhouse had a great answer for Rouco, who apparently wants to play the role of sportsmanship police. Rouco may have gone overboard with the extended handshake though.

Vandy is in its first season under Stackhouse, a former North Carolina star and NBA All-Star. So far he seems to be handling his team well.

Ezekiel Elliott has great quote about his role on Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott on Wednesday offered a great quote about his role on the Dallas Cowboys.

Zeke has been held to under 50 yards rushing the past two games. That doesn’t sound good, but Dallas won last week at Detroit, and Zeke is keeping things in perspective.

He said Wednesday that the media makes him “feel awkward” because they focus on his lack of stats even when the team wins.

Elliott actually scored twice in the game, and it’s not like he hasn’t been doing well all season. Prior to the two straight sub-50 games, he had three straight 100-yard efforts.

Elliott seems like he’s going to take the chances as he gets them and savor the team’s wins. He needs to maintain that attitude, because it sounds like the Cowboys aren’t going to keep forcing him the ball.

76ers coach praises Joel Embiid for avoiding fight with Marcus Morris

Joel Embiid 76ers

Brett Brown praised Joel Embiid for showing discipline in avoiding a fight with Marcus Morris during the Philadelphia 76ers’ 109-104 win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

Embiid and Morris got tangled under the basket late in the second quarter. The Knicks forward yanked Embiid to the ground, opening things up for a potential skirmish. Rather than fight Morris, Embiid allowed himself to be separated from his opponent:

Double-technical fouls were handed out, while Morris also received a flagrant-1 foul. Embiid ended up with 23 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes.

After the win, Brown complimented Embiid for showing maturity by not fighting Morris.

Why the praise? Embiid got into a fight with Karl-Anthony Towns last month over a similar situation and ended up suspended two games. He may not earn any tough guy points by avoiding fights, but he is helping his team by not getting ejected or suspended.

Luke Doncic outplayed the entire Warriors team in the first quarter

Luka Doncic

The Dallas Mavericks brought the pain to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, and the game began as a one-man domination show by Luka Doncic.

Doncic scored 22 points with five rebounds and five assists in the first quarter of the game. Read that again — he put up those stats in one quarter.

Doncic actually had more points, rebounds and assists than the entire Warriors team during that quarter, becoming the first player since Allen Iverson in 2003 to achieve the feat (per Elias Sports).

The Mavericks were up so big on Golden State that Doncic was able to end his night during the third quarter.

Luka finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists and three steals, giving him his seventh triple-double of the season. He also went 6/10 on threes for his best 3-point shooting night of the season. What a game.

Yankees finally release free agent bust Jacoby Ellsbury

Jacoby Ellsbury

The New York Yankees have finally moved on from free agent bust Jacoby Ellsbury.

The Yankees on Wednesday released Ellsbury and designated Greg Bird for assignment as part of moves related to their 40-man roster.

Finally cutting Ellsbury ends what had been a difficult past few years with the outfielder.

The Yankees signed Ellsbury to a 7-year, $153 million contract ahead of the 2014 season. He played well in 2014, batting .271 with 16 homers and 39 stolen bases. All three marks were his best ever with the Yanks, but it was mostly downhill from there.

Ellsbury missed time in 2015 due to a knee injury and lost his starting job; he played below expectations in 2016; and he played in just 112 games in 2017 as he was in and out of the starting lineup.

Ellsbury missed all of 2018 after undergoing hip surgery and all of 2019 due to various injuries.

The 36-year-old outfielder is still owed $21.1 million next season and has a $5 million buyout. He will have given the Yankees a little over three full seasons worth of games on his 7-year deal. He batted just .264 with a .716 OPS as a Yankee, compared to .297 with a .789 OPS during his time with the Red Sox.