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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Featured Stories

Eric Reid nails Ben Watson with late hit days after Twitter disagreement

Eric Reid Ben Watson

Eric Reid nailed tight end Ben Watson with a late hit during Thursday’s preseason game between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers. The timing of the play has greater significance given the context of their opposing viewpoints.

First, here’s a look at the hit from Reid, which happened after the Patriots tight end was already down following a catch late in the first quarter.

Reid was flagged for a late hit on the play.

What’s notable is that Reid and Watson have been involved in a dispute.

Reid has stood with his ex-49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick since the quarterback began kneeling in the 2016 season. The two were even part of a collusion lawsuit against the NFL that they later settled. Reid has been critical of anyone working with the NFL in the name of improving social justice matters. He called out the Players Coalition, which is a group of current and former players working with the league to improve communities and social issues. Watson issued a response on Twitter in which he disagreed with Reid and said “we need each other”.

Whether or not their opposing political viewpoints had a role in Reid’s late hit on Watson is up for you to decide.

Justin Verlander accuses reporter Anthony Fenech of ‘unethical behavior’

Justin Verlander

The Houston Astros created a controversy when they blocked reporter Anthony Fenech from entering the clubhouse immediately after Wednesday’s game, apparently at the request of Justin Verlander.

Verlander pitched for the Detroit Tigers from 2005-2017. Fenech has been a beat reporter covering the Tigers for the Detroit Free Press since 2011. Fenech was blocked by the Astros from coming to interview Verlander after Detroit’s 2-1 win in Houston due to what the team described as “past history” between Fenech and Verlander.

MLB has spoken with the Astros to let them know Fenech should have been allowed to enter the clubhouse at the same time as all other reporters. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America said in a statement that they were “alarmed” by Houston’s decision.

Verlander addressed the matter on Twitter Thursday and accused Fenech of “unethical” past behavior.

Accusing Fenech of “unethical behavior” is a serious matter, but Verlander has not offered more background regarding his accusation.

Verlander did express some frustration last year with the Free Press’ portrayal of an issue he had with the Tigers over an injury. However, the initial article was not written by Fenech. There is also some speculation that Verlander was retaliating on behalf of teammate Alex Bregman.

Fenech reported on August 4 that the Tigers turned down a chance to trade Michael Fulmer for Bregman in 2017. Bregman called that report “false”.

Despite Bregman’s denial, Fenech wrote a second article discussing the trade Detroit turned down in 2017. The article was published on Tuesday morning, in the middle of the series between the Tigers and Astros, and the day before Verlander’s start against his former team.

Bregman’s previous denial of the trade via Twitter makes it clear he was irritated by the report. It’s possible he was bothered that Fenech brought the matter up a second time, which led Verlander to take action. This Bregman matter is just speculation, but it adds some background and context to stories Fenech has written that relate to Verlander’s Astros.

Report: Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys expected to have agreement by Week 1

Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott has yet to report to the Dallas Cowboys and there appears to be some tension between him and team owner Jerry Jones, but it sounds like it would be a surprise if the star running back is not on the field in Week 1.

Elliott and the Cowboys are expected to reach an agreement on a long-term contract extension prior to their season opener, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported on Thursday. The two sides are not all that far apart despite the recent posturing we have seen in the media.

While Elliott is undoubtedly looking to become the highest-paid running back in football, there’s a feeling around the league that the Los Angeles Rams may have set an unrealistic bar when they signed Todd Gurley to a four-year, $60 million deal that includes $45 million guaranteed. Even Le’Veon Bell — who sat out the entire 2018 season in search of a new deal — was unable to get that much on the open market this past offseason, as he received $35 million guaranteed from the New York Jets and an average annual salary of just over $13 million.

So where does that leave Elliott and the Cowboys? According to ESPN’s Ed Werder, the team’s most recent offer to Elliott would make him the second-highest paid running back in the NFL, behind only Gurley.

When you consider that Elliott still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, that sounds like a good deal. He has leverage in that he can refuse to show up this season and still accrue enough seasons toward free agency if he plays next year, but ultimately he has less leverage than a free agent would. Paying him more than Bell seems more than reasonable.

There may be some hurt feelings after the way Jones spoke about Elliott recently, but this is all about money. If the two sides are already close to an agreement, it would be a surprise if Elliott’s holdout continues into the regular season.

Report: Police found cocaine at Patrick Chung’s house after alarm went off

Patrick Chung could be facing potential legal issues and NFL discipline after he was reportedly found to be in possession of cocaine recently. The way he got himself into trouble probably left the New England Patriots safety in disbelief.

Chung was indicted by a grand jury in New Hampshire earlier this week on a cocaine possession charge, but there is no record of him having been arrested. That is because the 32-year-old was not home at the time police found cocaine in his house. Jim Murray of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston reports that police discovered the substance while checking on Chung’s house after the alarm had tripped.

If those details are accurate, it will be interesting to see how the legal process plays out. Chung owns the New Hampshire home, but he could probably claim the drugs did not belong to him — and they may not have. Still, even if he ends up being cleared legally, the NFL can suspend him for four games as a first-time offender of the league’s policy on substance abuse.

Chung has won three Super Bowls with the Patriots and is in his second stint with the team. This is the second time this year that he has dealt with legal issues, as he was also sued several months ago by a former Los Angeles Rams employee who claimed he lost his job over some trash talk with the veteran.

Alex Rodriguez was ‘bummed’ over trade to Red Sox falling through

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez spent the bulk of his career playing for the New York Yankees, so it’s easy to forget just how close he was to becoming a member of the Boston Red Sox.

A-Rod signed a then-record 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2001 season. He put up godly numbers with Texas, leading the American League in home runs all three years he was there. Unfortunately, Rodriguez’s success did not translate to team success, so the Rangers decided to deal him.

The Red Sox were dying to get their hands on the reigning AL MVP and agreed to trade Manny Ramirez and prospect Jon Lester to Texas for A-Rod. Rodriguez would have taken a pay cut as part of the deal. However, the players association rejected the trade because they did not want the league’s highest-paid player to take a pay reduction.

During an appearance on Boston sports talk station WEEI’s “Dale & Keefe” show Wednesday, Rodriguez discussed his feelings when the deal fell through.

“And of course it all came down and collapsed really quickly after the union did not allow me to give back tens of millions of dollars because it would set the wrong precedent for the other 749 players. I was completely bummed it collapsed. It was so depressing, never knowing that the Yankees were even an option at that point,” Rodriguez said.

In a separate interview last year, Rodriguez admitted he even got drunk after the deal fell through.

Of course, everything worked out well anyway. The Red Sox went on to win several World Series with the help of Lester and Ramirez. The rival New York Yankees decided to swing a trade for Rodriguez later in the offseason after third baseman Aaron Boone injured his knee playing basketball. A-Rod played 12 seasons for the Yankees and helped them win the 2009 World Series.

Watch: Ben Simmons working on his jumpshot during pickup games

Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons is a highly-talented player whose abilities helped him become the No. 1 draft pick and eventually earn a max contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite the things he does well — pass, rebound and defend at the point guard position — he has a glaring weakness when it comes to his outside shooting.

Simmons almost refuses to take outside shots in games. Even though we’re in an age in the NBA where big men are stretching the floor and outside shooting is a valued skill, Simmons has only attempted 17 3-pointers during his entire two seasons in the league. The lack of a threat of an outside shot from him makes him and the Sixers easier to defend, especially in the playoffs.

But this video shows the work Simmons is doing on his shot this offseason:

Last year there was talk about Simmons possibly switching to shooting with his right hand rather than his left. He seems to be sticking with his left and potentially improving.

If Simmons can integrate an outside shot and improve his free throw shooting, he would be on a pathway to being dominant.

Report: Melvin Gordon holdout likely to run into season

The Los Angeles Chargers appear very likely to be without their starting running back at the start of the regular season.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Melvin Gordon’s holdout is expected to stretch into the regular season, with contract talks failing to progress.

Given the total lack of recent news on progress, this isn’t a huge shock. Reports indicate that the two sides are far apart in negotiations, and there does not appear to be much appetite for compromise on either side. That almost certainly means that the Chargers’ star rusher will miss at least a portion of the 2019 season.