Mookie Betts ‘Loves’ Boston, Shoots Down Rumors That Say Otherwise

Professional sports often revolve around impending contract situations, and Mookie Betts’ current scenario is no different.
The reigning American League MVP can become a free agent after the 2020 season, so that’s naturally become the headline story surrounding Betts. But the right-fielder has consistently pushed away discussion of the topic, as he looks to remain focused on his performance more than anything else.
The 26-year-old joined WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” Tuesday during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon and briefly spoke about his future in Boston, as well as his love for the city.

“That is for the front office and those guys to decide,” Betts said, as transcribed by WEEI. “Right now, I have one more year here. I am going to enjoy it the same way I have enjoyed my past years here. That is something I don’t even focus on. I just know right now I am still a Red Sox. I am happy with it.”
Some fans have pushed the idea that Betts doesn’t enjoy playing and living in Boston, and that’s why he’s avoided the conversation. But the four-time All-Star shot down this notion, calling Boston his “second home.”
“No matter what I say, people are going to have their opinions and there is nothing I can do about that. I have made it known this is my second home. I have been here, this is all I have known. I’ve loved it here. I love the fans, everybody — my teammates, front office, everybody here. That doesn’t change the business of baseball and what value is there.
“I don’t want to go down that path, but for people who say I don’t enjoy it here, I love it here. I come here in the wintertime just to hang out with friends and whatnot. My family loves coming up here and going to do things. It’s not that I don’t like Boston at all.”
But the bottom line returned to Betts’ focus on the field, which remains his top concern.
“I am just worried about right now,” he added. “That is the last thing I am thinking about. When the media asks me, I am just like, ‘You know Scott Boras? Call him up.’ He’s the guy that is going to help me with that decision. I let him worry about that stuff.”

Red Sox’s Chris Sale’s Return From Injury In 2019 Will ‘Be Almost Impossible’

It doesn’t sound like Red Sox fans will see Chris Sale back on the mound in 2019.
The Boston ace was placed on the 10-day injured list with elbow inflammation Aug. 17. Sale visited Dr. James Andrews and was told he didn’t need Tommy John surgery, but received a PRP injection and will be re-evaluated in six weeks.

The Red Sox are six games out of a wild-card spot with 35 games left to play and just over four weeks left in the season. Of course, there is a chance Boston secures that wild-card spot, which had many speculating the hard-throwing lefty could return to the mound in the postseason.
But Alex Cora all-but-debunked that theory Tuesday ahead of Boston’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Fenway Park.
“For the regular, probably October, too, it’s going to be almost impossible,” the manager told reporters during his pregame press conference.
While that’s certainly discouraging, Sale did have a lot of confidence in being ready for 2020.
You can watch Cora’s full presser below:

Alex Cora gives updates on Chris Sale and David Price in the @Amica Pregame Press Conference. #redsox https://t.co/CRukEiNRjn pic.twitter.com/EBnXpHHo47
— NESN (@NESN) August 20, 2019

Patriots’ Tom Brady Posts Message To All Fantasy Football Team Owners

Tom Brady is ready to rack up the points for you in fantasy football this season.
The New England Patriots quarterback took to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon to build his case to be an early selection for a fantasy team owner, especially if you’re in a PPR (points-per-reception) league.

Take a look:

I know your drafts are coming up so I need to let all of you know I’m a PPR threat now. pic.twitter.com/RtNJFrzV3v
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) August 20, 2019

Look at that concentration.
Of course, Brady couldn’t let the moment pass without bringing up Super Bowl LII when he dropped a wide-open pass intended for him during a trick play in the 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

We’re in the trust tree here, no Super Bowl 52 jokes please.
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) August 20, 2019

Don’t worry, Tom, we won’t joke if you won’t joke.

Demaryius Thomas’ Activation Further Crowds Patriots Receiver Depth Chart

A talented wide receiver deserving of a roster spot will be cut or traded by the New England Patriots this month.
Just one short week ago, we were talking about the Patriots’ receiver room in “ifs.” If Julian Edelman’s thumb would heal, if Josh Gordon would be reinstated, if Demaryius Thomas was activated off the physically unable to perform list then the Patriots would have a stacked wide receiver group.

Well, since that point, Edelman was activated off of NFI, Gordon was conditionally reinstated and Thomas was brought off the PUP list. So, here’s what the Patriots wide receiver room looks like:
Braxton Berrios
Ryan Davis
Phillip Dorsett
Julian Edelman
Josh Gordon (NFI)
Maurice Harris
N’Keal Harry
Cameron Meredith (PUP)
Jakobi Meyers
Gunner Olszewski
Damoun Patterson
Matthew Slater
Assuming Gordon comes off NFI before the season begins and Meredith stays on PUP, the Patriots have some very difficult cuts to make.
Consider Edelman, Gordon, Harry and Slater stone-cold locks.
In the past, Slater has participated in wide receiver drills during training camp. That has not been the case this summer. The Patriots traditionally keep six wide receivers, including Slater, on their initial 53-man roster.
If we’re counting Slater as a wideout, then two more players would make the team. If we’re not, then the Patriots could keep three more wideouts.
The favorite out of the non-locks (Berrios, Davis, Dorsett, Harris, Meyers, Olszewski and Patterson) is Meyers. The undrafted wide receiver has outplayed Harry in his first training camp. He’s been automatic in two preseason games and was running with the Patriots’ first-team offense through most of the summer. He has had, up to this point, one of the best summers we’ve ever seen out of a Patriots undrafted rookie.
Next in that list would be Thomas. The Patriots don’t have much time to work with Thomas because he started the summer on PUP, so he very well could wind up being the next Eric Decker, Reggie Wayne or Nate Washington. But he’d serve as pretty solid insurance as a big-bodied receiver in case Gordon can’t stay on the field or if Harry can’t get acclimated quickly enough.
Dorsett would be a close third. He knows the offense and is entering his third season with the Patriots, but he couldn’t vault past Chris Hogan on the depth chart last year. He’s dependable. Quarterback Tom Brady completed 76.2 percent of his targets to Dorsett last season. And he came up big in some moments last season. He scored two touchdowns in the Patriots’ playoff run. But his upside isn’t the same as players like Meyers or Thomas.
After those three players, we’d rank the rest 1. Harris, 2. Berrios, 3. Olszewski, 4. Patterson, 5. Davis.
The Patriots also could choose to keep Gordon on NFI through the first six weeks of the season. It’s a little bit risky, but it also could serve as a trial period for Gordon to prove he can stay clean. The Patriots could either try to ride out Gordon as long as he stays on the straight and narrow, or they could give him six weeks to prove himself. With Edelman and Thomas healthy and Meyers, Dorsett, Harris and Berrios also on the depth chart, the Patriots would have enough bodies to tread water until Gordon returns.
Either way, the Patriots have tough decisions to make before Aug. 31, when they must trim their roster down from 90 to 53 players.

Chris Sale Expresses Confidence Toward 2020 Season, Downplays Injury

The Boston Red Sox avoided losing Chris Sale to Tommy John surgery this week, but they’ll have to wait six weeks until the left-hander can be evaluated any further.
Despite the injury, Sale downplayed the situation to reporters Tuesday at Fenway Park, while expressing plenty of confidence that he’ll be ready for the 2020 season. When asked about next season, the lefty said he’s “very confident” he’ll be good to go.

How confident is Sale that he’ll be ready for 2020? “Very confident. I know who I am.”
— Chris Mason (@ByChrisMason) August 20, 2019

Yes, Sale’s sidelined for six weeks, but according to the seven-time All-Star, it’s “not the end of the world.”
“We’ll get through this,” Sale said, per Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam. “It’s not the end of the world. It could be worse – that’s my mindset.”
Sale was also given assurance that he is only dealing with inflammation, and no UCL damage, which is great news for the Florida native.
“Yeah. There was inflammation,” Sale said, per the Eagle Tribune’s Chris Mason. “We got a round of PRP. I’ve never done that before so that was kind of an interesting process too.”
The left-hander’s season likely will conclude with a record of 6-11 and a 4.40 ERA. If it does, it will be Sale’s lowest win total of his career and his highest single-season ERA.

How Josh Gordon’s Patriots Support System Has Changed Post-Suspension

FOXBORO, Mass. — One of Josh Gordon’s closest allies during his initial stint with the New England Patriots was Jack Easterby, the team’s character coach.
Following Gordon’s trade from the Cleveland Browns last September, the wide receiver frequently was seen alongside Easterby, who took an active role in helping Gordon adjust to New England and navigate the off-field issues that have followed him throughout his NFL career.

Those issues caught up to Gordon last December. After playing in 11 games for the Patriots and posting impressive receiving numbers, Gordon was indefinitely suspended by the NFL for violating the terms of his reinstatement. He was unable to join the team for its Super Bowl run and was barred from taking part in spring practices and training camp.
On Friday, one day before New England’s second preseason game, the league conditionally reinstated Gordon. He was allowed to return to Gillette Stadium over the weekend and rejoin his teammates at practice Monday, though he remains on the non-football injury list.
Most of the teammates who helped Gordon along last season still are with the team, but one key member of his support system is gone: Easterby, who left New England this offseason to become the Houston Texans’ executive vice president of team development.
Speaking before Tuesday’s practice, longtime special teams captain Matthew Slater admitted Easterby’s impact will be difficult to replicate.
“I don’t know,” Slater said. “It’s tough. Jack Easterby is one of a kind. No one’s going to be able to do what Jack did, obviously. Everyone can kind of hopefully find their niche and go from there.”
Providing Gordon with the help and support he needs will be a team effort, Slater said.
“I think everyone has to do a good job of managing their expectations,” Slater said. “I think you have to live in the moment and just take things every day at a time and support him however you can. And that’s going to look a little differently for everyone depending on their relationship with him, but I think it’s important that he feels supported and that everyone just (says), ‘Hey, let’s take things one day at a time and go from there.’ ”
Various suspensions have severely limited Gordon’s availability over the years. He’s played a full 16-game season just once in his career — as a rookie in 2012 — and appeared in just 10 total games over four seasons from 2014 to 2017. The Patriots are happy to have him back, though, and Slater viewed his latest reinstatement as a positive development.
“I think the fact that he is back points to things going well for him off the field, and that’s the most important thing,” Slater said. “I don’t care if the guy can catch 200 passes a season. Is he doing OK as a man? Is he in a good place mentally, physically? And obviously, I think this step, as far as him coming back, means that he’s in a better place. So that’s the most important thing.”

Xander Bogaerts Reveals Which Pitcher He Fears Most And It May Surprise You

Xander Bogaerts has quickly become one of the most feared hitters in Major League Baseball, but that doesn’t mean some pitchers don’t give him nightmares.
The Boston Red Sox shortstop appeared on the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon on Tuesday afternoon and was asked about which pitcher he feared the most. His answer wasn’t Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander or even teammate Chris Sale.
“In spring training I got asked who might be the pitcher you fear the most or something like that and I said Jeff Samardzija,” Bogaerts said. “I haven’t faced him in awhile. I faced him a lot when he was with the White Sox.”
Bogaerts is 1-for-6 lifetime against Samardzija, but he hasn’t faced the San Francisco Giants righty since 2015, when the Aruban was just 22 years old. A lot has changed since then, as Bogaerts has a couple of All-Star appearances under his belt and is putting together an MVP-caliber season in 2019.
But still, there’s something about the former Notre Dame wide receiver-turned-pitcher that strikes fear into Bogaerts.
“When he’s been with the Giants now I haven’t seen him as much. They’re coming here soon, so hopefully I don’t have to face him. Jeff Samardzija, the way he throws it. he just looks at you like he doesn’t fear anything. Some people have different guys, I have Jeff Samardzija.”

Fantasy Football 2019: Top Eight Running Back Handcuffs In Your Drafts

The road to fantasy football championships are often paved by bell-cow running backs. But sometimes, you need to be ready for those plans to go sideways and move on to Plan B.
That’s where handcuffs can come into play.
If you get the chance to draft one of the best running backs early in your fantasy football draft, you should jump at that opportunity, but it doesn’t hurt to grab some insurance later in the draft. Some handcuff scenarios make more sense than others, either because of workload forecasts or injury histories.
For those fantasy football players who always want to be prepared, here are some of the top handcuff options for the 2019 season.
Austin Ekeler, Los Angels Chargers
2018 stats: 106 carries, 554 yards, 3 touchdowns — 39 receptions, 404 yards, 3 touchdowns
Well, for starters, we already know Ekeler can handle being a No. 1 running back for a legitimate NFL contender. He stepped in for Melvin Gordon when the star back went down with a knee injury, and LA didn’t miss a beat in the games he started with a 3-0 record. If Gordon’s contract situation isn’t resolved, Ekeler will become even more important with a bigger workload.
Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks
2018 stats: 85 rushes, 419 yards, 2 touchdowns — 9 receptions, 57 yards, 0 touchdowns
Penny, a first-round pick last year, is probably worth drafting just on his own, handcuff status be damned. But if it’s going to be Chris Carson’s backfield to lose, then ride with Penny if possible and wait for him to get his chance. He showed his spark last season, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry, and he showed a knack for the end zone when involved in the passing game with two touchdowns on just nine receptions.
Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons
2018 stats: 90 carries, 315 yards, 4 touchdowns — 27 receptions, 152 yards, 0 touchdowns
When Devonta Freeman got hurt last season, it was Tevin Coleman who was called on to carry the load. Well, Coleman is a 49er now, and the role of Freeman’s understudy falls on the shoulders of Smith. He didn’t play a ton, but he made the most of his chances — he averaged 4 yards per touch — and the early reviews this summer are positive. Freeman’s age (27) and injury history make Smith someone worth monitoring on draft day.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
2018 stats: 56 carries, 211 yards, 3 touchdowns — 35 receptions, 218 yards, 0 touchdowns
It feels like Bernard has been in the NFL for more than six years, doesn’t’ it? While he’s not getting any younger, he’s still a solid backup plan for Joe Mixon, who has missed at least two games in each of his first two seasons. Bernard remains a viable option in the passing game, too.
Jaylen Samuels, Pittsburgh Steelers
2018 stats: 56 carries, 256 yards, 0 touchdowns — 26 receptions, 199 yards, 3 touchdowns
James Conner’s breakout season will ease the pain of Le’Veon Bell being gone for good, but don’t sleep on what Samuels can bring to the table. The Steelers have plans to use both backs this season, and Samuels’ ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will give Randy Fichtner some chances to mess around. And don’t forget: Conner has suffered nagging ankle and knee injuries over the last two seasons.
Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints
2018 season: 140 carries, 578 yards — 22 receptions, 141 yards, 0 touchdowns
Everyone knows Alvin Kamara is one of the top fantasy running backs going right now. But this is the first season in which he won’t have Mark Ingram carrying the load with him. Enter Murray. The veteran back had a nice year in Minnesota last season, averaging just over 4 yards per carry and scoring six times. He’s dependable, too, having missed just three games in his career.
Damien Harris, New England Patriots
2018 season (college): 150 carries, 876 yards, 9 touchdowns — 22 receptions, 204 yards, 0 touchdown
We’re required by law to say “it’s always hard to predict how the Patriots will use their running backs.” Now that we have that out of the way, there’s a reason New England took Harris in the third round one year after drafting Sony Michel in the first round. Michel got plenty of work in his rookie season, but we’re also required to mention his long-standing knee issues. Harris does a little bit of everything, and he’s been really good in the preseason where he’s averaged 5.7 yards per carry in limited work.
Duke Johnson, Houston Texans
2018 stats: 40 carries, 201 yards, 0 touchdowns — 47 receptions, 429 yards, 3 touchdowns
Johnson might wind up being a very shrewd pickup for Houston, who acquired the veteran back from Cleveland for a conditional fourth-round pick in early August. He’ll get plenty of work as a pass-catching back and could take on an even greater role if Lamar Miller reverts back to the player he was in 2017. Regardless, he should be a dynamic weapon for Deshaun Watson when he’s on the field.

Gordon Hayward Looking Forward To Playing With Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter

Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart have gotten the chance to play with Kemba Walker this summer, but the rest of the Boston Celtics are still looking forward to training camp as their first opportunity to do so.
Gordon Hayward spoke about the upcoming season while participating in the Celtics’ annual Home Court Makeover program Tuesday in Burlington, Mass. and had great things to say about the former Charlotte Hornets point guard.
“I think obviously a veteran guy, so some leadership, but somebody that’s just a game-changer with his quickness, probing in the lane,” Hayward said, per The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. “He’s able to find seams that a lot of guys can’t just because of his change of speed and obviously his scoring ability too. We’ll lean on him a lot for sure.”

The Celtics also acquired Enes Kanter this offseason, who spent time with Hayward as a member of the Utah Jazz. It’s pretty clear he made a good impression on the 29-year-old, as the forward sounds eager to add Kanter to the Celtics’ arsenal.
“Everyone’s going to love his energy that he brings,” Hayward said. “He’s one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, so that’s going to be a no-doubt, but he’s gotten really well at the mid-roll, half-roll area, making decisions in there and also in a game that doesn’t have very many post players. He’s a bucket on the block. He always has been.”
Walker averaged 25.6 points and 5.9 assists in 82 games with Charlotte last season, while Kanter posted 13.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in 67 total games with the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers.
Check out Himmelsbach’s full article here >>>

49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo Reacts To Dreadful Return From ACL Injury

Jimmy Garoppolo will be quick to put his return to NFL action behind him.
Garoppolo on Monday played in his first game since tearing his ACL last September. While brief (and in just the second game of the preseason), Garoppolo’s performance couldn’t have gone much worse, as he only completed one of his six pass attempts while also throwing an interception in the San Francisco 49ers’ loss to the Denver Broncos.

The 27-year-old surely would have liked to see his return to the gridiron go a bit smoother, but he’s not putting too much stock in Monday’s outing.
“Obviously (I’m) a little frustrated,” Garoppolo said, per ESPN. “But it’s the NFL, unfortunately we don’t get to play the whole game. … You wish you could be out there for more so you could bounce back. … It is what it is. It’s the preseason right now, so you just gotta take it in stride.”
There was one positive takeaway from Garoppolo’s showing, though. The sixth-year signal-caller had no issues with his surgically-repaired knee.
“I wasn’t thinking about it, so I was happy about that,” Garoppolo said. “It didn’t bother me too much.”
Garoppolo will have his work cut out for him in the famously important Week 3 of the preseason, as the 49ers will visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday night. But luckily for Jimmy G, he only can go up from what he delivered against the Broncos.