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49ers place five players on injury lists, including Carlos Hyde

The 49ers placed five players, including two would-be starters – running back Carlos Hyde and center Daniel Kilgore – on the team’s injury lists Tuesday.

Hyde, who was placed on the Non-Football Injury list (NFI), dealt with a minor calf pull during spring drills but is not believed to have suffered an injury and likely won’t be on the NFI long.

The same goes for second-year player Aaron Lynch, an outside linebacker, and seventh-round draft pick Trent Brown, an offensive tackle. Both are on the NFI with Hyde.

Kilgore, meanwhile, suffered a broken ankle in October and was placed on injured reserve, ending his first season as the team’s starting center. He did not take part in any offseason practices but said he thought he’d be back for training camp. The 49ers, however, have placed him on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list to start the summer session.

Marcus Martin, Joe Looney and Dillon Farrell played center during the recent OTA and minicamp sessions and could fill in should Kilgore’s absence continue.

Fourth-round draft pick DeAndre Smelter also was placed on the NFI after suffering an ACL tear while playing wide receiver at Georgia Tech in late November. If he plays, it likely won’t be until the second half of the season.

Players on the injury lists count against the 49ers’ 90-man offseason roster. They can be removed at any time. However, if they are still on the injury lists when the season begins, they must miss at least the first six weeks.

The 49ers did not place either defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, who tore his ACL last August, or safety Jimmie Ward, who broke his foot in November, on the PUP list, and they have been cleared to practice. The team has until Saturday to add players to the various injury rosters.

The 49ers’ rookies, quarterbacks and injured players reported for training camp Monday and are permitted to go through light practices this week. The rest of the team reports Friday, and the first full-squad practice is Saturday evening.

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Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Trade News and Analysis: Cleveland Cavaliers Brings In Richard Jefferson and Mo Williams while Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao are Expected to Return from Injury

Basketball is a team game, so even if you have the ‘greatest basketball player in the world’ won’t ‘guarantee’ a championship trophy.

That’s the case of the Cleveland Cavaliers when they go up against the Golden State Warriors during the last NBA Finals. LeBron James almost single-handedly tried to carry the heavy burden of defeating the sweet shooting Warriors, not because he wants to do it alone, but he doesn’t have the luxury of having the people who helped bring the Cavaliers to the Finals due to injury – talking about Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Expected Return of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love from Injury

Kyrie Irving undoubtedly is the next best scoring machine for the Cavaliers, next only to LeBron James. Despite suffering an injury during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, he managed to continue playing until he was ruled out of the season after another injury in the overtime period during Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Warriors.

Kevin Love who already underwent surgery to repair his dislocated shoulder is reported to be cleared in time before the next NBA season starts. Love, who opted out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent, reportedly re-signed with the Cavaliers for a five-year, $108.9 million contract.

With Irving and Love coming back from their injuries, this could make life easier for King James. And if they both stay injury-free during the entire season, it’s easy to say reaching the playoffs will not that too difficult for the Cavaliers.
Additional Ceiling with Anderson Varejao’s Return

After just 26 games, Anderson Varejao injured his Achilles during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, making him the first casualty of the Cavaliers. But he’s back now, in fact, he’s raring to jump in and help the Cavaliers during the 2015 NBA Finals, had he received the go signal to suit up.

With Varejao’s hustle combined with Love’s offensive prowess, the improving Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers now owns the deepest baseline defenders in the NBA.
Cavaliers’ Outside Shooting Goes Deeper with Richard Jefferson

A fifteen-year veteran with a sweet touch from the three, Richard Jefferson is out to make a statement – he wants to championship ring.

After two successive failed attempts to capture the championship in just his first two years in the NBA during his New Jersey Nets playing days, the road to the Finals has been very elusive for Jefferson. This time, he’ll lend his shooting hands to King James, Irving, Love, and the rest of the Cavaliers in making sure their championship attempt this time won’t fail.

With a 3-point-shooting percentage of .426% last season placing ninth overall, Jefferson is expected to lead the long list of Cavaliers’ outside shooting players like Irving, J.R Smith, Iman Shumpert, Mike Miller, and James Jones – all capable of providing outside firepower needed to open up the lanes for the Cavaliers’ big men.
Talking about Depth, Court Generals Kyrie Irving, Matthew Dellavedova, and Mo Williams

With Irving out in the Finals, Matthew Dellavedova steps up his game tenfold, tried to beat the odds by playing more than 36 minutes per game after taking over the point position since Game 2 of the NBA Finals. But alas, Delly cannot sustain the magical game he had during Game 3, shooting just 19% in the last three games of the Finals.

With this problem exposed, general manager David Blatt decided it’s time to bring reinforcement, someone who’s familiar with the Cavaliers’ playing system, someone who’s familiar with King James, someone like Mo Williams.

A member of the team that almost got Cavaliers back into the NBA Finals, Williams brings in experience and court leadership along with his scoring prowess. He recently signed with the Cavaliers for a two-year, $4.3 million contract with player option on the second year.

This early, many basketball analysts thinks the Cleveland Cavaliers, assuming they all stay healthy, will be a dominant force this coming 2015-16 NBA season which starts in October.

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Jim Tomsula feature talks introduction to Mike Nolan, Jed York comparison to Warriors

The San Francisco 49ers start up training camp next Monday, when rookies and quarterbacks report. Veterans follow on Friday, and the first practice is set for Saturday, August 1. That makes the timing perfect for a sizable feature on head coach Jim Tomsula. Emily Kaplan put together a great read over at the MMQB that goes into even more detail than what we already knew about Tomsula.

We get a lot of the same back story that we know fairly well at this point. However, it goes into further detail, including interviews with Tomsula’s parents, wife and others. One of my favorite tidbits is about how he ended up joining the 49ers in the first place.

In January 2007, Tomsula received a most unexpected call: 49ers coach Mike Nolan was looking for a defensive line coach. Though they played on the other side of the ball, offensive linemen Harvey Dahl and Tony Wragge had returned from Europe raving about Tomsula’s mentorship. The 49ers flew Tomsula out for an interview; it was the first time he ever rode first class. Tomsula accepted the job, but first asked Nolan an important question: “I don’t know anything about money. Can I live with my family in California and provide for them with that salary?”

Nolan told him yes, and then boosted his salary $10,000 on the spot.

The article talks about Tomsula’s camp for kids with Down Syndrome, his work at Catawba College, and the coaching staff that is meant to challenge and push him. It all wraps up with the story about his football camp, and then the post-camp party at Tomsula’s sister’s house. The anecdote there is particularly interesting.

I would be remiss if I did not reference the Jed York portion of the article. Discussion has focused on that, with Jed York making a comparison to the Golden State Warriors. People are focusing on that, which takes away from the rest of what is a fantastic article. Nonetheless, I will give it some space here.

The article talks about his struggles in the opening press conference and his first radio interview. It then discusses how he handled himself better in assembling a staff and preparing for the coming season. It goes into a discussion about Tomsula’s decision to move the head coach’s office from the second floor of the facility down closer to where the players are situated. The idea being that players will always go by his office when they are making their way around the facility, as opposed to going out of their way to see him on the second floor. Kaplan then had this comment from York:

“Culture is huge. That’s the difference between a championship-caliber team and a championship team,” York says. “You look at the Golden State Warriors. They were the dumbest team in the NBA for letting Mark Jackson go, who won the most games in the franchise’s history. How could you be so dumb? They bring in Steve Kerr, who has been around the game for a long period of time but has never coached before. Kerr changes the culture, comes in with a different perspective, and look what happens.”

I do get the general point he is making. There is a comparison to be made between Mark Jackson and Jim Harbaugh. Jackson did not get along with people, and that resulted in his departure. Harbaugh did not get along with people, and that resulted in his departure. And it is entirely possible the 49ers roll through the 2015 season and shock a lot of the national media and 49ers fans.

The talent is there to win a lot of games, but there are still questions. And to make that comparison so soon after the Warriors championship just seems like he is trying to use what he can to provide additional cover for the decision to replace Harbaugh with Tomsula. I believe the team respects Tomsula and will play hard for him. But to drop the Kerr reference so quickly does not strike me as the wisest move.

I suppose York’s expectations of a Super Bowl mean the pressure was already there. So maybe it really doesn’t matter. But if the 49ers struggle out of the gates, it will be interesting to see how quickly the seat gets hot and how fans handle it. Of course, if the 49ers come out of the gates strong, Jed York’s Twitter account will be interesting to watch as well.

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Ravens’ Brandon Williams earning national respect

There has been plenty of talk about Timmy Jernigan playing a more prominent role on the Ravens’ defense next season after Haloti Ngata’s trade to the Lions. However, the Ravens have another defensive lineman with Pro Bowl potential — nose tackle Brandon Williams.

After playing well as a starter in 2014, in only his second NFL season, Williams is getting his respect around the league. Case in point. NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks lists Williams as the league’s fifth-best run stopper. His top four in order are Ndamukong Suh of the Dolphins, Marcell Dareus of the Bills, Aaron Donald of the Rams and Damon Harrison of the Jets.

Williams may be the strongest player on the Ravens. Because of his power, low center of gravity, size (6-foot-1, 335 pounds) and athleticism, Williams is often double-teamed by the opposition. That allows inside linebackers C. J. Mosley and Daryl Smith to make more plays, and helps the Ravens be one of the NFL’s most difficult teams to run against.

There is every reason to believe Williams will continue to improve at age 26. Looking back the Ravens’ 2013 draft, safety Matt Elam (first round) and linebacker Arthur Brown (second round) have been disappointments so far. But Williams (third round) has been a gem.

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Ex-teammate gives a vote to Taylor as Bills’ QB

When the Buffalo Bills reconvene at St. John Fisher College for training camp, all eyes will be on the quarterbacks.

The veteran Matt Cassel. The 2013 first-rounder EJ Manuel. The mobile pick-up Tyrod Taylor. Heck, even Matt Simms.

Buffalo has the most-wide open quarterback competition in the league. And Taylor – a dual-threat option – is the wild card of the bunch. The former Virginia Tech standout has thrown a whopping 35 passes in four years. So how has he developed behind the scenes? What kind of quarterback is he? Baltimore safety Terrence Brooks faced Taylor all of last season in practice, in addition to the quarterback’s banner 2010 season in college.

Brooks believes Taylor is ready to run the show as a No. 1.

“He’s a very versatile quarterback,” said Brooks. “The kid can run. He can definitely sling the ball around. He’s one of my favorite quarterbacks – I loved playing with Tyrod. He always gave us a good look. Whenever we faced a good running quarterback, he always got us prepared. Most of the time, he was doing it better than they did.”

Running the Ravens’ scout team through the 2014 season, Taylor mimicked the likes of Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and everyone in the AFC North.

Brooks is quick to say Taylor is more than a running quarterback.

Buffalo has been there, done that. J.P. Losman was the athletic, mobile, anti-Bledsoe out of Tulane and then struggled keeping his poise in the pocket.

“You can’t just limit him to that,” Brooks said. “Even passing, he’s got it all.

“He was definitely a guy who could’ve been a starter. But he was behind Joe Flacco, a really good guy, too. If we ever needed Tyrod, I was pretty sure he could step up to the job and do it.”

The Bills’ options this past offseason at quarterback were limited. They traded for Matt Cassel (due $4.15 million in 2015) and signed Taylor (three years, $3.35 million) to compete with Manuel. Unlike Taylor, Cassel does have game experience, albeit a 33-38 career record as a starter with only two solid seasons (2008 in New England and 2010 in Kansas City).

That being said, Cassel struggled through spring practices.

Is Taylor ready to elevate from handy scout-team quarterback to NFL starter?

“No one will really know until they give him a shot,” Brooks said. “That’s what he’s been working for – for a while – just to get that shot, to show everybody what he can do. What I remember from playing against him in college and the ACC Championship Game is he tore it up. I’m pretty sure he could do the same still.”

Brooks was on the field for that 2010 ACC Championship Game, a 44-33 Virginia Tech win over his Florida State team.

That game, Taylor completed 18 of 28 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and another rushing touchdown. And that game, really, is the most recent extensive game footage there is of Taylor. He threw 24 touchdowns to only five picks his final year with the Hokies and was drafted in the sixth round by Baltimore.

Be it at Virginia Tech or Baltimore, Brooks says what makes Taylor different from other quarterbacks is that he “creates plays.”

“When things are broken down,” Brooks said, “he can move around with his feet and make things happen. And even if he can’t get anybody open, he’s still going to make a play with his feet. So he’s a guy you really have to watch out for and I’m pretty sure they’ll be happy to have him.”

Asked if he can still read a defense, Brooks adds “He’s a NFL quarterback so I’m pretty sure he’s got it in there somewhere.”

Coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman have decided to bring a quarterback competition into camp, rather than declare one player The Guy. They’ll be watching how Cassel, Taylor and Manuel can all read a defense closely, if they can make the necessary anticipatory throws.

Practices will resemble the stock market with the Bills simply hoping all four don’t crash.

After facing Taylor each day in Baltimore through 2014 – Taylor’s fourth season of waiting as a back-up – Brooks believes his former teammate will respond.

“Competition is what the league is made of,” Brooks said. “You have to go through that in whatever you do. He sees the opportunity in front of him, so I’m pretty sure he’s not going to let it go.”

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Smith, Colvin among the 5 Jaguars poised to breakout

It happens every season.

Whether a team is playing poorly or emerging as a contender, several unexpected players come from out of nowhere with positive performances.

Last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars witnessed the surprising emergence of Ryan Davis, Allen Hurns and Denard Robinson, among others.

This season, there seems to be several young players that have the potential to shine after receiving limited to no attention heading into training camp.

In order for the Jaguars to take the next step and start adding wins to the team’s collection, the squad needs a handful of players to enjoy seasons above everyone’s expectations.

Here are five players poised for a potential breakout this season.

Telvin Smith, OLB, 2nd Season

Smith is an obvious candidate to break out for several reasons. As a rookie, he played very well and since then has added more weight and become even more receptive to the playbook. A tweener on paper, Smith has the ability to make plays in several different ways and could see his numbers skyrocket as he gets more adjusted to the NFL.

After only starting nine of the 16 games that he appeared in, Smith is now a surefire starter at WILL linebacker. The added snaps should see him increase his 104 tackles, two sacks and one interception stat line from his rookie year. Smith had 31 combined tackles in his last two games as a rookie and if he can continue that production, the sky is the limit.

Aaron Colvin, CB, 2nd Season

While a lot of fans and media members expect Aaron Colvin to take a backseat to Demetrius McCray and Davon House, that may not last long, if at all, during the season. Colvin was a dynamic talent before he was injured in the pre-draft process last year and was among the most talented players in his class. The Jaguars got a steal in Colvin in the fourth round and he performed relatively well when he returned from injury.

After a full season of healing, Colvin is ready to take the next step. Whether he is at nickel or on the outside, Colvin is set to make plays for the Jaguars. He has had a very solid offseason and has stood out consistently on the field. He may be the most talented player at cornerback on the Jaguars roster.

Sergio Brown, S, 6th Season

It’s unusual for a player to breakout in the middle of his career, but it happens (just ask Chris Clemons and Sen’Derrick Marks). Sometimes, a change of scenery or strategy helps veteran players emerge. Brown is likely to be a full-time starter for the first time in his NFL career and if he can take advantage of that opportunity, he will easily outperform his production from previous seasons.

Brown has been practicing with the first team and rookie James Sample is still on the sidelines. The veteran seems to have the heavy lead on the competition and shouldn’t let up until at least the early parts of the campaign. A very vocal player, Brown may not just emerge on the field but in the locker room as well.

Corey Grant, RB, Rookie

Last year, Allen Hurns started off hot and found a role in the Jaguars offense. Heading into his second season, he’s poised to potentially start due to Marqise Lee’s injury woes. Corey Grant just seems to be this year’s Hurns for several reasons. For one, he’s an undrafted free agent from a big school who had an up-and-down college career but clearly has the talent to play at this level. Secondly, he’s the overlooked rookie at his position after T.J. Yeldon was drafted in the second round, similarly to Hurns’ relationship to Lee and Allen Robinson last season. Still, Grant seems to be gaining more and more traction and may have been one of the most consistent talents during organized team activities and minicamp.

A speedy returner with the ability to blaze out of the backfield and catch, he could end up being the fourth running back on the depth chart to begin the season. That may sound like an underwhelming spot, but injuries and poor play are inevitable at his position, so he could easily grow throughout the season and see more snaps. He could also be the starting punt and/or kick returner, which could lead to some big play opportunities.

Andre Branch, DE, 4th Season

For Andre Branch, this is a make or break year. While he has shown NFL talent and flashed as a pass rusher, this needs to be the season that he puts it all together. Chris Clemons is an aging, one-dimensional veteran pass rusher and Branch provides a youthful alternative with Dante Fowler Jr. out for the season.

Branch has been able to be productive in a rotation but if he can really own the LEO position moving forward, his opportunities to make plays will rise substantially. Coming off a three-sack season, Branch needs to triple that total to get a worthwhile contract as a free agent next offseason.

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Vikings deep at cornerback despite Robinson injury

In case you missed it during the holiday weekend, it was revealed that Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson has a partially torn pectoral muscle. The extent of the injury is unknown, but he wasn’t on the field during minicamp last month.

Robinson played in all 16 games last year and made six starts. After dealing with a hamstring injury during training camp and being labeled as “the other guy” by Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer as a result, Robinson actually got off to a good start. He appeared as the most improved player on the team during the early portion of last season serving as an outside cornerback.

Robinson was inconsistent at the end of the season however, including his performance in Chicago where the Bears picked on the 5-10, 199-pound cornerback the entire game. He finished the season with 56 tackles, two interceptions and three passes defended.

So where does this leave the Vikings at the position?

There’s a clear emphasis on depth this year for the Vikings, but it’s almost mandatory at cornerback and the defensive line in Zimmer’s defense. He stresses on those specific positions in order for his scheme to function properly by eliminating the run and having technically sound cornerbacks that are in position to contest every ball.

Fortunately for the Vikings, they stocked up on cornerbacks this offseason with the additions of veteran Terence Newman and rookie Trae Waynes. The Vikings are already set with their No. 1 corner, Xavier Rhodes. The rest remains a mystery as we’re a little over two weeks away from training camp.

Captain Munnerlyn was limited with a foot injury during OTAs and minicamp, which led to the Vikings slotting Waynes in the nickel role with Newman serving as the outside cornerback with Rhodes. Jabari Price, Marcus Sherels, Jalil Carter and undrafted rookie free agent Justin Coleman also all benefited with more reps due to the absence of Robinson and Munnerlyn.

If Robinson is out for an extended period of time, the Vikings should be fine with the depth they have. But he’s 24 and entering a contract season with a lot to prove. I wouldn’t give up on him yet despite the injury and his recent Twitter comments, but he needs to get on the field as soon as he can so he doesn’t fall behind the competition.

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NHL: Sabres’ O’Reilly gets $52M extension

The Buffalo Sabres have made newly acquired forward Ryan O’Reilly their highest-paid player by signing him to a $52.5 million, seven-year contract extension on Friday.

The Sabres announced the signing, while two people familiar with discussions revealed the value of the contract to The Associated Press. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Sabres did not disclose the monetary terms.

O’Reilly’s extension runs through the 2022-23 season. The 24-year-old is regarded as a top-line talent and was acquired from Colorado in a trade that involved five players during the first round of the NHL draft on June 26.

The Sabres also acquired forward Jamie McGinn, a former Shark, while giving up forward Mikhail Grigorenko, JT Compher, defenseman Nikita Zadorov and the 31st pick of the draft.

“It’s not easy to find a player who, at his age, is already established in the league as someone who plays a complete game and makes his teammates better,” general manager Tim Murray said about O’Reilly in a team statement.

O’Reilly will get a chance to play alongside rookie center Jack Eichel, who was selected with the second pick in the draft. O’Reilly had 17 goals and 55 points in 80 games last season.

Blue Jackets: Stanley Cup winner Brandon Saad signed a six-year, $36 million contract with his new team. Columbus acquired Saad, 22, from Chicago earlier this week. He will be with the Blue Jackets through the 2020-21 season, and is expected to play on the team’s top line alongside center Ryan Johansen.

Saad set career highs with 23 goals and 29 assists in 82 games last season. He then had eight goals and three assists in the playoffs, helping Chicago to its third NHL title in six seasons.

Blackhawks: Forward Andrew Desjardins has agreed to a two-year contract with Stanley Cup-winning Chicago. Acquired from the Sharks before the trade deadline, he became an important part of the fourth line and helped Chicago win its third Stanley Cup in six seasons.

Oilers: Top overall draft pick Connor McDavid agreed to terms on his three-year, entry-level contract with Edmonton. McDavid’s contract is worth approximately $11.3 million in total — $925,000 per year plus bonuses — the maximum allowed for an entry-level contract.

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New book outlines problems between Yasiel Puig, teammates

The polarizing Yasiel Puig is quite the unpopular fellow in the Dodgers locker room, according to a new book by ESPN’s Molly Knight, titled “The Best Team Money Can Buy.”

A few of the issues, via Yahoo’s Jeff Passan:

While some issues, like his habitual tardiness for games, have abated this year, according to sources, Puig’s work ethic in batting practice and the weight room continue to bother some teammates. Much of the hostility stems from a general sense of entitlement shown by the 24-year-old. During spring training this year, as Knight writes and multiple sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports, Puig argued with teammates over who should be allowed on a plane ride that typically includes wives and girlfriends. The subject of someone from Puig’s entourage joining the traveling crew came up, and sources told Yahoo Sports that Puig argued with pitcher Zack Greinke and nearly came to blows with infielder Justin Turner over the matter.

Greinke, the National League ERA leader and one of the game’s best pitchers, was at the center of another memorable Puig moment related in Knight’s book. In 2014, during the Dodgers’ annual trip to Chicago, the team bus stopped downtown to allow rookies undergoing hazing to walk into a pizza place and emerge with food for the veterans. Some Dodgers players, not wanting to wait, skipped off the bus. When the bus was ready to leave, Puig was outside, looking for his luggage inside of the bay underneath the bus. After Puig ignored multiple requests to close the luggage bay, Greinke hopped off the bus, grabbed the suitcase in front of Puig and chucked it onto Michigan Avenue. Puig stepped toward Greinke and was restrained by reliever J.P. Howell.

Oh man. Passan also reports that a Dodgers player who asked to remain unnamed said trading Puig would be “addition by subtraction.”

Further, how about this gem from Hanley Ramirez? From Knight’s book:

“You guys tell me how you want me to play,” Puig said last year in a team meeting.

“I just don’t want your career to go the way my career went,” Ramirez said. “All my teammates hated me because of the way I played.”

That’s rough. I guess the silver lining is that it’s nice Ramirez owns who he once was now that he’s 31.

Puig is only 24 years old, and he’s a career .304/.386/.498 hitter. The Dodgers have made the playoffs in each of his first two years and appear headed that way again. Puig has the tools to be an all-around superstar for more than a decade. And yet, it sounds like many of his teammates want him gone.

The hunch is this front office continues to stick with Puig, so long as the Dodgers are winning, in hopes that as he ages he straightens things out. In the meantime, it’s a situation worth monitoring.