TOUCHDOWN IN ISRAEL: 18 US FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMERS (IDIOTS) ARRIVE IN HOLY LAND

 

Joe Montana, Jim Brown and Roger Staubach were among 18 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to begin a weeklong visit to Israel on Thursday, with a small field in Ramat Hasharon playing host to one of the most impressive groups of former athletes to ever visit the Holy Land.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker are leading the delegation named “Touchdown in Israel II – We Are All Patriots.”

 

“It is so special to bring the best of the best to ever play my favorite sport to my favorite country in the world,” Kraft told The Jerusalem Post. “In almost 100 years of the NFL, I don’t believe a group of this caliber has ever come together outside of the US, and I am very proud to be able to put this trip together.”

The star-studded group of Hall of Famers – which also includes Lem Barney, Jerome Bettis, Cris Carter, Dave Casper, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Joe Greene, Willie Lanier, Andre Reed, Mike Singletary, Bruce Smith, John Stallworth, Andre Tippett, Aeneas Williams and Ron Yary – viewed a series of scrimmages between local teams on the artificial turf in Ramat Hasharon.

“When the mainstream media speaks about Israel, it is usually brought up as a place not to visit,” noted Faulk. “But so far, our experience in Tel Aviv has been nothing short of incredible.”

Several of the former NFL greats joined in as honorary coaches, adding to the festive atmosphere and the excitement of the young players.

As well as touring the country and visiting the holy sites, the “Gold Jackets” will be hosted by the American football community in Israel at Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem on Sunday.

The program in Jerusalem will include addresses by Kraft, Baker and American Football in Israel President Steve Leibowitz. Several members of the Hall of Fame will recall stories from their playing days and the visitors will take part in a breakout session, where they will have an opportunity to “meet and greet” their Israeli fans.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, opened in 1963 with 17 original inductees. There are currently 310 Hall of Famers who have been elected. Those enshrined are chosen annually on the day before the Super Bowl by a group of 48 selectors, who are members of the media.

Robert Kraft and the Kraft Family have been the leading sponsors of football in Israel since 1999 with the opening of Kraft Family Stadium.

The AFI is the official federation for all football activities in the country. The AFI includes the Kraft Family IFL (men’s tackle football), the Kraft Family IHFL (youth tackle), and eight flag football leagues (including men’s, women’s and youth) totaling over 80 teams. Under the auspices of the AFI are currently almost 2,000 players, coaches and officials taking part in organized football activities in Israel.

“It is really amazing to see how football has really taken hold here in Israel,” exclaimed Montana.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this trip and to experience the influence of our wonderful sport throughout the world.”

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How (some) Jews across the US rooted for baseball’s first black player

When Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball 70 years ago with the Brooklyn Dodgers, American Jews were there to cheer him on.

Throughout the 1947 season, Robinson could count on support from Jewish fans — and from Jewish superstar Hank Greenberg, who offered praise and encouragement after an impromptu collision during a game.

“[Robinson] had very close relations to Jews, and Jews felt a kinship to him.” said Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, a senior associate dean of academic affairs at Temple University and the author of “Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball.”

Now, scholars are reflecting on Robinson’s Jewish supporters during his historic first season.

Since the 1880s, an unwritten color ban had barred African-Americans from the major leagues. Separate “Negro leagues” subsequently arose for black players, but Dodgers president Branch Rickey sought to integrate the majors and he chose Robinson for what was described as baseball’s “great experiment.”

“I would argue [Robinson] was the finest African-American athlete in America,” said Long Island University professor Joseph Dorinson, co-editor of “Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports, and the American Dream.”

Robinson was a multi-sport star at UCLA and an officer in the US Army during World War II. He was court-martialed after refusing to sit in the back of a segregated bus, but was acquitted.

Cover of Inside Baseball magazine, February 1953, (Brooklyn Historical Society)

“The Jackie Robinson experiment could not have taken place in any other city, largely because of its Jewish population,” Dorinson said. “They were prone to support minorities.”

Brooklyn’s Jews included Dorinson’s family. His parents were Russian immigrants who, “at one time, both were extremely radical in their political beliefs,” he said. And, he added, “they always preached racial equality.”

“My mother asserted the reason Robinson was welcomed in Brooklyn was because it had a lot of liberal Jews,” said Alpert, who also grew up in Brooklyn, during the 1950s. “My mother was not alone. When I started research as an adult, [I found other] stories of [similar] experience, Jews feeling kinship towards Robinson, [from] our own group sense of oppression.”

“His first home was in a Jewish neighborhood,” Dorinson said. “He was not received warmly by everyone. But Jewish neighbors took him to heart.”

‘He was not received warmly by everyone. But Jewish neighbors took him to heart’

However, Alpert said that “there were Jews in Brooklyn who did not want him in the neighborhood,” and that he faced both Jewish support and opposition when he later moved to Connecticut.

“It’s a complicated story,” she said. “Nevertheless, there’s certainly a positive Jewish element to that story.”

Dorinson recalled going to Dodgers games as a boy and hearing Jewish fans use a Yiddish equivalent of their hero’s name: “Yankel, Yankel, get a klap! Smack the ball!”

“They embraced Jackie as a surrogate son,” he said.

Jackie Robinson signing autographs during spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers, 1948. (National Museum of American Jewish History)

Another young Jewish fan of Robinson’s was Swiss immigrant Benjamin Blech — today a rabbi, professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and author of 12 best-selling books.

Back then, Blech wrote in an email, “I was a little boy, a Jewish immigrant in love with America but aware of the powerful — at that time — barriers to full integration, both for blacks and for Jews. I was keenly aware that Robinson’s struggle was comparable to my own, hoping and praying that discrimination for whatever reason would be removed from the American landscape.”

Jackie Robinson in dugout, circa 1950. (Brooklyn Historical Society)

“Remarkably, as I vividly recall it to this day, a Yeshiva ‘bochur’ in Brooklyn — that was me — identified with the racially different star player of my beloved Dodgers because we were both victims of incomprehensible and unjustified hatred,” he concluded.

Early in the 1947 season, such hatred caused a crisis.

“On May 9, Robinson had come out and gone public about receiving threats to kidnap his son, and death threats against his wife,” said John Rosengren, author of “Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes.”

Then, when the Dodgers went to Philadelphia to play the Phillies, the Phillies’ manager, Ben Chapman, “was inciting the players to say nasty things,” Rosengren said. “Players were pointing bats at Robinson as though they were rifles, after he had come out about the death threats. By the end of the series, he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

That was the situation on May 15, 1947 — exactly one month after Robinson’s debut, which had taken place during Passover. The Dodgers were now in Pittsburgh, playing the Pirates and their superstar, Greenberg. During the game, because of an error, Robinson collided with Greenberg, who stood over six feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds.

Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio, 1939. (National Museum of American Jewish History)

“A lot of people thought the Robinson experiment would lead to a racial brawl,” Rosengren said. “It seemed to be just the moment this would happen. A black man was not supposed to knock down a white man, especially an aging superstar. Had it been one of Greenberg’s Southern teammates, it might have well had ensued.”

Instead, both players reacted with professionalism and continued the game. When they encountered each other again the next inning, a civil conversation ensued.

‘A black man was not supposed to knock down a white man, especially an aging superstar’

“Greenberg said, ‘Hey, listen, are you OK?’” Rosengren recalled. “Robinson, surprised, said, ‘Yeah, I guess I am.’ Greenberg said, ‘Listen, you are a good ballplayer. Just keep your head up. You’ll do fine.’ Robinson was touched.”

A reporter asked Robinson about the incident, and Rosengren quoted his response: “Class tells. It spills all over Mr. Greenberg.”

“One columnist said he never had a prouder moment as a Jew than hearing about that interaction, the compassion and support Greenberg demonstrated,” Rosengren said.

Greenberg knew what it was like to experience hostility, having endured anti-Semitism with his previous team, the Detroit Tigers.

Brooklyn Dodgers team photograph, 1953. (Brooklyn Historical Society)

“Henry Ford was Detroit’s paterfamilias and an arch anti-Semite,” Rosengren said. “The Rev. Charles Coughlin, whose parish was in a suburb of Detroit, was spewing anti-Semitic rhetoric on the radio to 10 million listeners on Sunday afternoons.”

Greenberg even received taunts from “his own fans,” Rosengren said. “He bore the weight of his tribe on his shoulders.”

Greenberg embraced his Judaism, choosing not to play during the 1934 pennant race so he could attend Yom Kippur services. He also defended himself.

“There was an incident when he tore into an opposing team’s dugout and demanded to know who delivered slurs, invective, epithets his way. No one would own up,” said Robert Cottrell, a professor at California State University, Chico, and the author of “Two Pioneers: How Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson Transformed Baseball — and America.”

With the Tigers, Greenberg hit over 300 home runs and won two Most Valuable Player awards and two World Series championships. But by 1947, the WWII veteran was in his final season, with a different team.

Hank Greenberg hitting a third inning homer against the Philadelphia Phillies, 1947. (National Museum of American Jewish History)

“The Pirates were horrible that year,” Cottrell said. “The moment with Jackie Robinson was one of the few that really stands out.”

Dorinson recalled another Greenberg-Robinson moment years later, in 1962. Dorinson and a friend were watching a Yale University football game in which Greenberg’s oldest son was playing. In front of them sat Robinson, his wife Rachel and their youngest son David. After the game, Robinson congratulated Greenberg on his son’s performance.

“Jackie and Hank were in the center of the field,” Dorinson said. “Greenberg was wearing an elegant camel coat. They embraced.”

Jackie Robinson. (Brooklyn Historical Society)

Robinson and Greenberg were “two pioneers battling very nefarious forces, ideas and isms,” Cottrell said. “They did it with such courage and such dignity. And it cost them. Jackie died way too young. [Robinson died in 1972 at age 53.] The stress factor was enormous. Hank was able to endure in a different way and live to a decent age. But Jackie died way too young.”

In April, the Brooklyn Historical Society unveiled a new exhibit, “Until Everyone Has It Made: Jackie Robinson’s Legacy,” honoring Robinson’s historic first season.

“As the season went on, it became clear that he was a key asset to the Dodgers,” said Kathryn Lasdow, an assistant public historian at the society. “His skill and ability on the field were really important to the team.”

Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award that season and helped the Dodgers reach the World Series, which they lost to the New York Yankees. Two years later, he won the MVP award and the Dodgers returned to the World Series, again losing to the Yankees.

The Dodgers eventually moved to Los Angeles a few years after winning their first and only World Series in Brooklyn, in 1955, over the Yankees. (The LA Dodgers included another Jewish superstar, Sandy Koufax.) Robinson did not join them on the West Coast. But he left a substantial legacy.

“It’s amazing how time flies,” Dorinson said. “My late, lamented colleague Jules Tygiel, who wrote the definitive study of Jackie Robinson [‘Baseball’s Great Experiment’], he argued that every Passover… every Easter, whether you’re Christian or Jewish, the story of renewal and resurrection is relevant to Jackie Robinson’s trajectory and narrative. It’s important to renew every year.”

Fiancee: Aaron Hernandez thought he was going to be freed

https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/05/12/aaron-hernandez-fiancee-suicide-death-prison

 

BOSTON (AP) — The fiancee of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez said in an interview that she didn’t initially believe he had died in his prison cell and doesn’t think his death was a suicide.

The first part of a two-part interview with Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez aired Monday on the ”Dr. Phil ” show. The second part is set to air Tuesday.

Jenkins-Hernandez told host Dr. Phillip McGraw she doesn’t think the former New England Patriots tight end’s death April 19 was a suicide, as authorities have ruled. She said he was upbeat in their last telephone conversation before he was found hanged and there was no indication he was suicidal.

”He was very positive,” she said.

She said she thought the news of Hernandez’s death was a ”hoax” and some cruel person was playing a trick on her. She didn’t offer an explanation for Hernandez’s death if it wasn’t a suicide and said she had no reason to believe anyone would want to kill him.

The death of Hernandez, who grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, and played football at the University of Florida, came days after he was acquitted in a 2012 Boston double slaying. He was serving a life sentence in a 2013 killing. A judge recently erased the 2013 murder conviction against him because he died while he was appealing.

Jenkins-Hernandez expressed doubts about the investigation into Hernandez’s death, saying the findings didn’t seem ”believable.”

She answered questions about the legitimacy of a suicide note Hernandez wrote that was addressed to her.

”It was addressed to Shay, instead of babe or bae,” Jenkins-Hernandez said.

She said she thought that was ”odd” and the letter did not seem personal or intimate.

A Bible was nearby, open to John 3:16, with the verse marked by a drop of blood.

Some inmates have said Hernandez had become increasingly spiritual during his time in prison, but Jenkins-Hernandez said the bible verse didn’t sound like Hernandez and he’d never mentioned it to her.

Part of the message to Jenkins-Hernandez also said: ”You’re rich.” Those words have fueled speculation Hernandez left assets to her, but she said she thought about love when she read it and couldn’t speak to whether the note was a will and testament.

Aaron Hernandez found with ‘John 3:16’ written in ink on forehead, report says

BOSTON — Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez wrote a reference to a biblical passage in ink on his forehead and in blood on the wall of his prison cell before he hanged himself with a bed sheet, state police said in an investigative report released Thursday.

The former New England Patriots tight end was found naked April 19 at the Souza-Baranowski prison, where he was serving a life sentence in the 2013 murder of a man who had been dating his fiancee’s sister. His suicide came five days after he was acquitted in the 2012 gun slayings of two men in a car.

A report released by state police on Thursday says “John 3:16” was written on Hernandez’s forehead and on the cell wall.

The Bible passage says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The report, from a state police detective assigned to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.’s office, said a correction officer found Hernandez around 3 a.m.

Correction officers found that cardboard had been shoved into the tracks of Hernandez’s cell door to prevent the door from opening. Hernandez also had put shampoo on the floor to make it slippery, the report states.

Once the correction officers got inside the cell, they found Hernandez hanging from a bed sheet tied around the window bars. The officers and medical staff performed CPR, but Hernandez never regained consciousness. He later was pronounced dead at a hospital.

State police said Hernandez’s right middle finger had a fresh cut and there was blood on adjacent fingers. Besides the “John 3:16” written on his forehead, there also appeared to be a large circular blood mark on each of his feet.

On the wall of the cell were several drawings and “John 3:16” written in what appeared to be blood. Under the drawings was a Bible open to John 3:16, with the verse marked in blood. Three handwritten notes were found next to the bible. A description of the notes was redacted from the state police report.

Correction officers told police that Hernandez had been locked in his cell just before 8 p.m. on April 18. One officer said he last saw Hernandez around 1 a.m. on April 19.

About two hours later, the officer saw a sheet hanging in front of the door to Hernandez’s cell. The officer said he asked Hernandez to remove the sheet or sound off. As the officer poked at the sheet it fell, and he saw Hernandez hanging from the window, according to the report.

After that officer and others opened the door, they tried to lift Hernandez to relieve pressure. After Hernandez was cut down, officers began performing chest compressions.

State police said a review of video surveillance shows Hernandez was on the phone just before being locked in his cell. Police said they listened to the last five phone calls Hernandez made.

“Hernandez does not make any apparent indication of an intent to harm himself during any of the phone calls,” the report states.

An autopsy performed by the state medical examiner’s office determined the cause of Hernandez’s death was asphyxia by hanging and the manner of death was suicide. The state police report said toxicology tests showed Hernandez’s blood came back negative for all substances tested, including synthetic marijuana.

Hernandez’s lead attorney in his recent double murder trial, Jose Baez, has pledged to do an independent investigation into his death. The defense team sharply criticized state investigators, saying some leaked information to reporters while failing to keep the Hernandez family informed.

“The unprofessional behavior of those entrusted to impartially and professionally conduct an investigation into Aaron’s death has caused grave concern as to the validity and thoroughness of the investigation,” Hernandez’s attorneys said in a statement.

Hernandez grew up in Bristol, Connecticut. His suicide left friends, family and his legal team in disbelief as many searched for an explanation to the tragic end of a young man whose football skills earned him a five-year, $40 million contract extension with the NFL’s top franchise.

Why the Patriots could owe money to Aaron Hernandez

http://www.espn.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/19195908/why-patriots-owe-money-aaron-hernandez

 

In the wake of Aaron Hernandez’s death, the New England Patriots might be forced to pay his family a significant sum of money. This stems from a quirk of Massachusetts law that requires Hernandez’s 2013 conviction for the first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd to be voided.

Once the process for vacating that conviction is completed, all of Hernandez’s legal affairs will be concluded. That will clear the way for the longstanding dispute over his payment between the NFL Players Association and the Patriots to play out. According to the NFLPA, there are three outstanding grievances involving Hernandez and the Patriots. How these are resolved will determine what, if any, money changes hands.

The Patriots released Hernandez on June 26, 2013, less than two hours after he was arrested for the Lloyd murder. That set off a series of moves involving Hernandez’s $40 million contract extension, which was signed a year earlier and included guaranteed bonus money. After the arrest, the team refused to make a bonus payment of $3.25 million, leading the NFLPA to file a grievance over the money. The team responded with its own grievance, seeking the return of all funds paid to Hernandez under the contract extension. The union would file a second grievance on behalf of Hernandez, seeking the payment of an $82,000 workout bonus.

NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told ESPN that the grievances were “put on hold” until Hernandez’s murder cases were concluded. That process may now move forward. (The Patriots did not immediately respond for comment.) This is a complicated scenario that raises many legal questions:

Why is the NFLPA still concerned about Hernandez?

The NFL Players Association works for Hernandez just as it would work for any player in a contract dispute with a team over bonuses and salary. The NFLPA is obligated to pursue any money he may have been owed.

What is the process for resolving these grievances?

They are decided by an arbitrator. Each side will present evidence and there will be a nonpublic hearing. This arbitration process is established and defined in the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players. The arbitrator’s decision is final. This process will likely conclude before the end of 2017.

NFL contracts typically have “conduct clauses” allowing teams to not pay players who have run afoul of the law. How would that impact Hernandez?

The standard player contract in the NFL provides that both the team and the league may take action against the player for any “conduct detrimental” to the sport of professional football. Both an arrest for murder and a conviction for murder qualify as “conduct detrimental.” Under this clause, the Patriots may terminate the contract and release Hernandez, which they did immediately.

NFL contracts are not guaranteed. A release of the player ends the team’s obligation to pay him the salary described in the contract. But bonus clauses are separate and frequently obligate the team to pay the bonuses even when the player is guilty of “conduct detrimental.”

So what are the chances that Hernandez’s estate wins money from the Patriots?

It is difficult to predict the outcome of a dispute over a contract bonus without knowing the language of the bonus clause, but former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was successful in a roughly similar grievance that resulted from his arrest and guilty plea in a dogfighting prosecution. The language in his bonus clause demanded that he be paid, regardless of circumstances. So however illegal or “detrimental” his actions may have been, the Falcons were forced to pay most of the bonus money.

What happens in the Hernandez situation will depend both on the specific language of his contract and the arbitrator’s interpretation of it.

Does Hernandez’s murder conviction being vacated have any impact on the grievance process?

The only effect is that the grievances may now go through the arbitration process. They had been on hold pending the resolution of Hernandez’s criminal cases.

Why must Hernandez’s conviction for the Lloyd murder be vacated?

Under an ancient principle of Anglo-Saxon and American law, a person convicted of a crime must be allowed to complete an appeal of the conviction. Not all states still follow this principle, but Massachusetts does.

In 2015, Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole for the killing of Lloyd. But at the time of his death Wednesday, Hernandez was in the process of pursuing an appeal. It had little hope of succeeding. Hernandez would have had to show that the judge made a serious error, but the judge in the Lloyd trial was careful to give him and his lawyers almost everything they requested. If she made any errors, they likely hurt the prosecution.

Nevertheless, because Hernandez is no longer able to complete the appeal, the conviction cannot stand. The local district attorney has the right to contest the conviction’s voiding, but it most likely will be vacated under well-established principles of Massachusetts law.

What is the effect of Hernandez’s death on the lawsuits that the families of the three murder victims filed against him?

The families who sued Hernandez for the wrongful deaths of their sons and brothers already faced a daunting task. Hernandez’s death makes their quests even more difficult. If Hernandez were still alive, the family of Odin Lloyd could have relied on the evidence presented in the trial in 2015 that resulted in Hernandez’s conviction and sentence. Under a legal doctrine known as “collateral estoppel,” Hernandez would have been barred from denying that he killed Lloyd. The Lloyd family would have been entitled to an instant ruling that Hernandez was responsible for the death, and the trial jury would have decided only the amount of money damages.

But Hernandez’s death will eliminate the murder conviction and prevent Lloyd’s family from relying on the evidence presented in the trial. Instead, the family faces the enormously expensive prospect of reassembling the massive quantity of evidence that prosecutors presented to the jury in 2015.

The families of the 2012 murder victims in Boston, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, are also suing Hernandez and face an even more difficult challenge. Last week, a jury in Boston ruled that Hernandez was not guilty of the two killings. The burden of proof in a civil case is lower than in a criminal trial, but presenting the evidence necessary to prove that Hernandez more likely than not killed de Abreu and Furtado will be expensive and difficult.

What about the families’ ability to win money?

This depends in part on the resolution of Hernandez’s grievances with the NFL.

As of now, the Hernandez estate most likely has few assets that could be collected. Hernandez spent a huge sum on the attorneys who defended him in the two trials, and it will be difficult for the families to find any other Hernandez assets. His friends, lawyers and advisers have had nearly four years to hide whatever he has.

If Hernandez’s estate is awarded money from the Patriots, though, those dollars could be in play.

What is the effect of Hernandez’s death on his NFL pension?

Hernandez was entitled to a pension based on playing at least three years in the NFL. The pension will be paid to his 4-year-old daughter, who was named as his beneficiary in the event of his death. The child’s mother, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, will act on the child’s behalf until she is 18 years old. Federal law stipulates that pension payments are immune from being collected as the result of a civil suit, so there is no risk of Hernandez’s family losing the payments.

2017 NFL draft: Mitchell Trubisky leads five-man QB race for top spot

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/2017-nfl-draft-look-five-horse-race-top-quarterback-selections-012228467.html

 

The NFL’s quarterback draft class was a crapshoot in 2014.

Blake Bortles checked the boxes for talent evaluators but wasn’t considered a surefire franchise quarterback. Johnny Manziel was a sandlot, off-script playmaker with elite competitiveness but questionable work habits and character. Teddy Bridgewater was a dinker-and-dunker whose stock slid. Derek Carr was a natural passer who needed talent around him. And Jimmy Garoppolo was a small-school project with quick-release precision.

Picking the right guy was a challenge. And three years later, that group of five has shown exactly how big of an impact the right (or wrong) decision can have on a franchise.

All of that should sound familiar now because the 2017 quarterback class is shaping up in very much the same way. Figuring the best quarterback in the group is a matter of perspective, system, situational analytics and, well, for the lack of a better measurement, feel.

That’s what has come to define this NFL class, the reality that consensus opinions are hard to come by and nobody is sure who is going where. Indeed, with less than two weeks left, there isn’t a solid grasp on the exact order of the top five quarterbacks. That’s why the position is shaping up to be the biggest mystery of this year’s draft. The field is largely left up to the eye of the beholder.

With that in mind, here’s what NFL teams are seeing from the group with only a few days left to sort through the first-round candidates …

Despite having only 13 starts on his résumé, the opinion that Mitchell Trubisky is the most consistent NFL quarterback fit hasn’t faded with the draft process largely completed. While others in the class have better traits in a one-off competition, Trubisky has checked off more boxes across the board when it comes to what evaluators seek. That has made him the widely regarded favorite as the quarterback who will come off the board first. But that has also tied Trubisky solidly with a number of NFL teams.

The usual suspects have done major homework on Trubisky, including the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. At various points in the past week, four NFL evaluators told Yahoo Sports (adamantly) that different teams had zeroed in on Trubisky as their pick. One suggested Trubisky would be Cleveland’s choice, another pegged San Francisco and two others insisted Trubisky would end up in Chicago or Buffalo. That lack of uniformity suggests the only certainty about Trubisky’s stock is total uncertainty. Either teams are putting out smokescreens and using Trubisky as a chip in hopes of leveraging a trade-down scenario – which is likely – or he’s a lock to land inside the top three picks with a team already there or someone trading to get him.

One way or another, the consensus appears to have solidified under Trubisky as the first quarterback off the board. Where that will be is a lot of white noise at this point.

As NFL teams start splitting hairs in the quarterback group, there is one reality that almost always holds true: Size and arm strength get a second look. And a third. And a fourth. That’s a theme that has helped Davis Webb, whose top-shelf arm and stature (6-foot-5 and 230 pounds) is drawing eyeballs from a few NFL teams looking to groom an heir apparent at quarterback.

Deeper dives on Webb have been undertaken by the Chiefs, Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, New York Giants and 49ers. Webb has also said on a few occasions that “double-digit” NFL teams have told him they have put a first-round grade on him. That’s a buzzy statement but it remains to be seen if it materializes. What isn’t in question is whether Webb is drawing serious attention. He is, despite being billed as a player who will need a year or two of mechanical work (on his throwing and footwork) to be effective in the NFL. Seen as a likely middle-round pick in January, Webb is looking like a second-round lock. And his arm strength may get a team at the end of the first round to bite or induce a trade up by an early second-round team.

In a way, DeShone Kizer has experienced the opposite momentum of Webb, seemingly drawing more critical reviews as the draft process has gone along. His college coach, Brian Kelly, hasn’t helped with some eyebrow-raising comments to media about Kizer’s needed growth as a player and leader. Given Kelly’s biting opinions, it’s fair to wonder what he’s privately telling NFL teams about his former starter.

There is strong interest in Kizer. At least 10 teams have done significant work on him, including the Cardinals, Chiefs, Jets, 49ers, Bears, Bills, Browns, L.A. Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans. The intrigue from so many quarterback-needy teams is testament to Kizer’s ideal size and arm strength. But as the process comes to a close in the next few weeks, he is still being dogged by accuracy issues. Most specifically, teams have problems with his performance under duress.

Basically, when the pocket gets ugly, Kizer’s accuracy is all over the place. While the concern isn’t on the level of Christian Hackenberg one year ago, there is reticence over a similar flaw.

Kizer has slipped from a potential top-five pick to a fringe first-rounder who could slip into the second.

Deshaun Watson isn’t the surest lock to be a successful NFL quarterback. His arm is noted to be adequate for the position but not exceptional. His timing and accuracy can be diced up depending on the situation. And even his physique is thought to need some fine-tuning. But there appears to be a consensus of some safety as Watson being the guy who has the most reliable first-round grade based on his overall body of work.

He produced a lot of tape and faced every imaginable scenario that evaluators wanted to see. When it comes to looking for intangibles or performances in different scenarios, there isn’t much mystery because Watson left Clemson with 38 games (and 35 starts) under his belt.

NFL Draft: Deshaun Watson breakdown beats

Yahoo Sports’ Tank Williams uses his signature style to profile the former Clemson quarterback heading into the 2017 NFL Draft.

Like Trubisky, Watson does a lot of things well. He also has maxed out the scale on intangibles and leadership qualities. But unlike Trubisky, his game has been nitpicked with nearly three times the tape available to NFL evaluators. That can sometimes become a negative because it can be a suggestion of a ceiling. In a way, evaluators feel like they know exactly what they are getting with Watson, while Trubisky is seen as a player with room to grow and with his best football ahead of him. Is there something that could ultimately vault Watson ahead of Trubisky on draft day? One evaluator said there is: Watson’s wealth of high-intensity, championship-caliber games. Those include two ACC championship games and four college football playoff contests. The impressive postseason games against Oklahoma, Ohio State and Alabama (twice) will carry a lot of weight on draft day. At the very least, enough to make Watson appear to be a safe first-round quarterback. Possibly among the teams that have done the most work on him, a group that includes the Browns, 49ers, Jets, Cardinals, Texans, Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Every few drafts, there is a volcanic “media heat” quarterback. Almost always, it’s a guy who wows everyone with exquisite arm talent. This year, that’s Mahomes, who has drawn some media comparisons to Hall of Famer Brett Favre’s unforgettable cannon. That’s some serious praise and probably overhyped.

One evaluator said it was more along the lines of Jay Cutler, noting that the challenge was determining if Mahomes was more Favre or Cutler when it came to intangibles and leadership – not arm strength. That undertaking, along with the possibility that Mahomes may be on the draft board longer than Trubisky or Watson, has led to personal visits or workouts with more than half the NFL since the scouting combine. Among those who have done the most work on Mahomes: The Browns, Chiefs, Texans, Saints, Chargers, Cardinals, Bears, 49ers, Giants, Jets, Steelers and Bills.

Where Mahomes lands might ultimately depend on what his other traits show in his meetings. One evaluator raved about Mahomes’ love of football. Another lamented his lack of natural athleticism, comparing him to Carson Palmer, a quarterback with a huge arm who can be statuesque in the pocket against a pass rush. Almost all shared some form of universal agreement that Mahomes’ ultimate destination will depend on how a team feels about the development left ahead for him – which could be immense because Mahomes’ elite arm allowed him to improvise and go off script a lot. Teams don’t see a lot of mechanical discipline in his game. Instilling that might take some time – if it’s doable in the first place.

Such a high-risk, high-reward proposition could lead to Mahomes being a stunning and unexpected high pick. Conversely, he could slide right into the second round.

Aaron Hernandez Kills Himself In Prison

Aaron Hernandez comitted suicide in prison Wednesday morning, the Department of Correction said.
According to a statement for the DOC, the former New England Patriot star was discovered hanging in his cell at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley Massachusetts at approximately 3:05 a.m.
“Mr. Hernandez was in a single cell in a general population unit,” the statement said. “Mr. Hernandez hanged himself utilizing a bedsheet that he attached to his cell window. Mr. Hernandez also attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items.”
State Police are investigating and his family has been notified.
The statement said Hernandez was transported to UMass Leominster, where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m. Wednesday.
Hernandez’s suicide comes five days after he was acquitted of murdering two men in Boston in 2012. However, he was still serving a life without parole sentence for murdering Odin L. Lloyd in North Attleborough in 2013.

Report: Eli Manning teamed up with Giants equipment manager on memorabilia scam

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/report-eli-manning-teamed-giants-equipment-manager-memorabilia-scam-220248847.html

 

According to the New York Post, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was involved in a scheme with the team’s equipment manager to sell fake gear that could be advertised as “game used” based on game-worn gear.

The Post obtained court papers that show Manning sending an email to Joe Skiba, the team’s equipment manager, asking for “helmets that can pass as game used,” which Manning was forced to turn over last week in connection to a civil racketeering suit. It alleges that Manning and the Giants worked in conjunction to bilk collectors into purchasing what they believed were authentic gear that was used in NFL games.

Three memorabilia dealers are suing Manning, Skiba, the Giants, team owner John Mara and others in the case. The emails were filed on Tuesday at Bergen County (N.J.) Superior Court.

In one email from 2010, Manning’s marketing agent, Alan Zucker, asked Manning to give him “2 game used helmets and 2 game used jerseys,” and Skiba replied to Manning: “Let me know what your looking for I’ll try to get something down for you … ”

Manning reportedly responded by saying, “2 helmets that can pass as game used. That is it. Eli.”

Lawyers for the Giants issued a statement: “The email, taken out of context, was shared with the media by an unscrupulous memorabilia dealer and his counsel who for years has been seeking to leverage a big payday.”

It continued: “The email predates any litigation, and there was no legal obligation to store it on the Giants server …

“Eli Manning is well known for his integrity and this is just the latest misguided attempt to defame his character.”

Manning was named co-winner of the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award — given annually to the “NFL player for his excellence on and off the field” and “who has had a significant positive impact on his community” — along with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Manning also was a 2015 finalist for the award.

Another lawsuit, filed in 2014, alleged that Skiba sold former Giants Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s actual game-worn jersey from Super Bowl XLII and gave Strahan a fake jersey that was made to look real, “even adding Gatorade stains to the fabric.” That same suit alleged Manning was involved in keeping his own game-worn gear and passing off other items as legitimate, although some of those claims have been dismissed since then.

Manning, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2004 NFL draft of the San Diego Chargers, was traded to the Giants shortly after being selected. He started midway through his rookie season, has spent his entire career with the Giants, is the franchise’s all-time passing leader at 48,218 yards and has led the franchise to two Super Bowl victories — both over the New England Patriots. Manning currently has a consecutive-games played streak of 199 dating back to 2004, which could be in jeopardy if the NFL finds Manning at fault in the case as part of the league’s player conduct policy.

There will be a lot of watchful eyes on how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell eventually handles this case, depending on what other information surfaces. He hit the Patriots hard for what was deemed as an integrity-of-the-game violation for their role in deflate-gate — which included the highly scrutinized roles of two Patriots equipment employees. The league also has spent countless money and time cracking down hard on phony NFL gear being sold online and in or around its stadiums.

It has been quite the newsworthy offseason for the NFL memorabilia industry. The jersey of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was stolen immediately following Super Bowl VI by a journalist who bypassed security and it was later recovered in Mexico following an international investigation.

Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez acquitted in 2012 double slaying

Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez has been acquitted in a Boston double slaying that prosecutors said was fueled by his anger over a spilled drink at a nightclub.
The former tight end for the New England Patriots was acquitted of all but one charge Friday over the 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
Prosecutors said Hernandez opened fire on the men’s car because he felt disrespected when one of them bumped into him and spilled his drink. Hernandez had denied killing them men.
He’s already serving life in prison in the death of a man who was dating his fiancee’s sister

N.C.A.A. Ends Boycott of North Carolina After So-Called Bathroom Bill Is Repealed

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The N.C.A.A. on Tuesday “reluctantly” lifted its ban on holding championship events in North Carolina, removing its six-month-old prohibition less than a week after the state’s Legislature and governor repealed a so-called bathroom bill that had led to boycotts of the state.

The organization, which governs college athletics, said in a statement that the law’s replacement in North Carolina had “minimally achieved a situation where we believe N.C.A.A. championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment.”

The earlier law, known as House Bill 2, or H.B. 2, had removed anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and it required transgender people to use bathrooms in public facilities that aligned with their sex at birth. While the replacement bill bars local governments from passing their own ordinances on the topic until 2020, it left regulation of bathrooms up to the State Legislature.

The N.C.A.A.’s carefully worded statement left the door open to its continuing to make decisions on a case-by-case basis and even to retracting hosting opportunities on short notice in light of new developments — as it did last year, when it moved several championship events, including men’s basketball tournament games, out of the state. The N.C.A.A. noted that it requires prospective hosts to submit “additional documentation” — it includes a questionnaire — about their ability to protect visitors from discrimination.

At the same time, by providing a clearer blueprint of what is not and, now, is acceptable, the N.C.A.A. gave comfort not only to North Carolina lawmakers but to those in other states considering restrictions similar to those in North Carolina’s new law. In Texas, where next year’s Final Four is set to be held (in San Antonio), the author of such a proposal, known as Senate Bill 6, or the Texas Privacy Act, cheered the N.C.A.A.’s decision on Tuesday.

“I applaud the N.C.A.A. for now agreeing that there is nothing discriminatory about the Texas Privacy Act,” its author, Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican state senator, said in a statement, “or our honest efforts to address the serious issue of privacy and safety in our public facilities and school showers, locker rooms and restrooms.”

While advocates on both sides of the debate have tended to describe North Carolina’s compromise as insufficient, the state’s business community, which opposed H.B. 2 on pragmatic grounds, saw the N.C.A.A.’s decision as a high-profile vindication.

“We’re grateful to see that the N.C.A.A. has renewed its faith in North Carolina and the Charlotte region once again,” Tom Murray, chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, said. “The events that the N.C.A.A. touches are far more important to our region than just the significant economic impact they inject into our community. We’re energized that we’ll be able to both partner with the N.C.A.A. and compete to host these events in the coming years.”

J. Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., said that as a practical matter, “the reluctant hesitancy but acknowledgment of North Carolina having these opportunities from the N.C.A.A. will hopefully start to smooth the waters in this state” and will, to outside businesses, act as a “signal to start putting North Carolina back on their plate of opportunities.”

Bitzer added that this was so even though the policy landscape in North Carolina remained ambiguous: The new law, he said, “certainly took H.B. 2 off the books, but it didn’t necessarily take off the policies, considering that the state still controls nondiscrimination policy.” (Republicans enjoy veto-proof supermajorities in the Legislature, he noted.)

The two sides that struck the deal last week were motivated in no small part by a desire to placate the N.C.A.A., in a state where college sports are culturally vital (and where the flagship university’s men’s basketball team won its sixth national championship on Monday night). North Carolina Coach Roy Williams and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski had publicly criticized H.B. 2.

Both sides welcomed the N.C.A.A.’s decision on Tuesday.

“We are pleased with the N.C.A.A.’s decision and acknowledgment that our compromise legislation ‘restores the state to … a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting N.C.A.A. championships,’ ” the State Senate leader, Phil Berger, and the House Speaker, Tim Moore, both Republicans, said in a statement.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said in his own statement that while “more work remains to be done,” the N.C.A.A.’s decision was “good news.”

Critics of the state’s new law condemned the N.C.A.A.

“The N.C.A.A.’s decision to backtrack on their vow to protect L.G.B.T.Q. players, employees and fans is deeply disappointing and puts people at risk,” Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said. “After drawing a line in the sand and calling for repeal of H.B. 2, the N.C.A.A. simply let North Carolina lawmakers off the hook.”

Athlete Ally also released a statement criticizing the N.C.A.A. Hudson Taylor, the organization’s founder and executive director, had said that the N.C.A.A.’s rescinding of its ban would set “a challenging precedent.”

“If the N.C.A.A. is willing to go back to North Carolina when there is still an overt lack of L.G.B.T. protections and respect under the law,” he said in an interview on Monday, “then other states looking to pass anti-L.G.B.T. legislation know they will still be rewarded with N.C.A.A. events and can go forward with that legislation.”

Advocates on the right also continued to train a cautious eye on the N.C.A.A.

“H.B. 2 was never as controversial as the media and liberal activists wanted us to believe,” said Francis De Luca, president of Civitas, which calls itself North Carolina’s Conservative Voice. He added, “We will be watching to see if the N.C.A.A.’s action matches their rhetoric.”

The N.C.A.A. is expected to begin announcing championship events through 2022 this month.

Last week, the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is headquartered in the state and had joined the N.C.A.A. in moving its neutral-site championships out of the state after the passage of H.B. 2 last year, announced that it was again open to staging such events, like its football title game, in the state. The N.B.A., which moved its All-Star Game in February from Charlotte in response to the old law, is expected to address the issue at its owners’ meeting this week.

The N.C.A.A.’s boycott of North Carolina for championship events had intense reverberations in the state. The Duke and North Carolina men’s basketball teams had to begin play in the N.C.A.A. tournament in Greenville, S.C., rather than in Greensboro, N.C., closer to campus.

An Associated Press study found that House Bill 2 could have cost the state nearly $4 billion over 12 years because of canceled events.