Jim Rice, Tom Caron, Steve Lyons Preview Red Sox’s First Series Vs. Yankees

It’s rivalry weekend in New York.
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees face off at Yankee Stadium for the first time in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season starting Friday night with Ryan Weber on the mound for Boston against Jordan Montgomery.
Prior to the big AL East matchup, Hall of Famer Jim Rice, NESN’s Tom Caron and Steve Lyons previewed the weekend series on “Red Sox Gameday Live.” To hear what they had to say, check out the video above presented by DCU.
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Watch Celtics Kneel For National Anthem Before NBA Game Vs. Bucks

The NBA has spent a lot of time recently focusing on ways to create change, and the Boston Celtics are firm believers in doing so.
The Celtics had all players and coaches take a knee during the national anthem before their contest against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, further protesting both police brutality and systemic racism.
It comes one day after the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz all took a knee before their respective games Thursday.
Watch it here:

Tonight's national anthem before #Celtics/#Bucks. pic.twitter.com/dVgBdP1DNZ
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) July 31, 2020

Together. pic.twitter.com/gr78CxLXce
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) July 31, 2020

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, while speaking with reporters prior to the game, noted that he expected both teams to do so.
“I think that the reality is we want to take a knee because we care, but also want to take a knee because we’re pushing for a higher ideal of equality, and more justice,” Stevens said, per the team.
The Celtics and Bucks took the floor starting at 6:30 p.m. ET for the first of each team’s eight seeding games. You can watch the game online here.
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How Patriots Are Working To Protect Players Against COVID-19

The New England Patriots’ No. 1 goal this summer, Bill Belichick said Friday, is to enter the 2020 NFL season as healthy as possible.
So far, so good.
The Patriots are one of seven NFL teams that have not placed a single player on the reserve/COVID-19 list as the first week of testing comes to a close. Players on the list either tested positive for the coronavirus or had been quarantined after coming in close contact with an infected individual.
Patriots players who returned three negative tests this week will be granted access to Gillette Stadium on Saturday, at which point the next stage of training camp (physicals and equipment fitting) will begin.
During a video call with reporters, Patriots coach Bill Belichick laid out the measures the team is taking to protect its players and prevent a COVID-19 outbreak. He praised team owner Robert Kraft for implementing several safety-focused stadium upgrades and said the Patriots are strictly adhering to — and even exceeding — the NFL’s COVID prevention protocols.
“The No. 1 thing is safety for everybody involved — players, staff, the organization, all our support people and so forth,” Belichick said. “The biggest thing is to try to start the season healthy, and that means healthy, in a safe environment, with all the required testing and so forth that we’ve been through. And I think the players have done a great job of responding to that so far, both in the recent week and the previous weeks and months before that.
“That overall has been really a very good thing for us throughout the entire spring, and organizationally, Robert and the Kraft family has responded with facility upgrades that are really at the highest level to put ourselves in the safest environment we can create on all different sorts of levels.
“We’ll use as much distancing as we can and other safety protocols that are in place, some of which, I think, are beyond (the NFL’s) requirements — in some cases well beyond the requirements — because we feel like that’s the most important thing and the right thing to do. So that’s really No. 1 on the priority (list).”
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Even the strictest regulations can’t eliminate the possibility of one or more Patriots players contracting the virus, however, as the NFL is not playing its season inside a bubble the way the NBA and NHL are. Players will be trusted to take proper precautions away from the facility and can be punished if they test positive after participating in high-risk behavior, including visiting indoor bars and attending large gatherings.
What happens if a Patriots player does test positive? That will depend on a multitude of factors.
“There are protocols on that,” Belichick explained. “When you say ‘test positive,’ there are a lot of different levels of that and a lot of different circumstances and so forth in how long that lasts and what the symptoms are and so forth and so on. In any case, we’ll follow the protocols, and however the players can be involved, certainly we’ll attend to them and help them work through whatever situation they’re in.
“We’ll treat it just like any other injury, if you will. If a player gets sick during the season, it’s a similar type of thing — what we do with them, how we try to get them back to full health and maintain whatever level of fitness and staying on top of the game mentally that we can. We’ll take it on a case-by-case basis.
Belichick said the Patriots “have a general plan for how (they) want to handle” any COVID cases that may arise this season.
“But each situation’s different,” he added. “Each player’s different, and sometimes the positions and other circumstances are different — where they’re living and so forth. We’ve talked about a number of scenarios, and I think that whatever happens will fall into one of the ones that we’ve talked about. But we’re not there yet, fortunately.”
The Patriots are scheduled to hold their first training camp practice Aug. 12, with the first full-contact session set to take place Aug. 17. There will be no preseason games this year.
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MLB Rumors: Rob Manfred Warns Season Could Shut Down If COVID-19 Continues

Major League Baseball’s 2020 abbreviated season reportedly could be in danger if COVID-19 continues to run through teams.
The novel virus already has impacted the Miami Marlins and forced them to postpone games through at least Sunday. And more games were postponed Friday between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers after two players on the Cards tested positive.
And apparently, Rob Manfred wants to see some changes.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Friday, citing sources familiar with the situation, that the commissioner told “MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark on Friday that if the sport doesn’t do a better job of managing the coronavirus, it could shut down for the season.”
There’s only been one outbreak within a team. But due to the traveling and the MLB’s protocols not being as strict as other professional leagues, it certainly could be possible another one occurs.
During the Friday call, “multiple players briefed on the call fear that season could be shut down as soon as Monday if positive tests jump or if players continue not to strictly abide by the league’s protocols,” Passan reported.
Passan noted the conversation “was not a threat, but a reality check.”

The conversation between Manfred and Clark was not a threat but a reality check that was relayed to players — and has spread quickly among them: We — all of us — need to clean this up, because if we don't, Major League Baseball in 2020 is going to be over.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2020

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this week the outbreak within the Marlins organization could put the season in danger.
This weekend likely will be crucial for the league and seeing how the numbers are after a weekend of travel.
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Take First Look At Celtics’ Jerseys Featuring Social Justice Messages

We’ve had the chance to hear their messages, and now we have the chance to see what they’ll look like.
The Boston Celtics will wear messages of social justice on the back of their uniforms as they face the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night. It comes after the league approved phrases players can wear instead of their last name, and the Celtics have overwhelmingly chose to do so.
The Celtics on Wednesday announced what each player’s message will include, but further revealed Friday just how those messages look on Boston’s green uniforms.
Of the jerseys tweeted by the team, Jaylen Brown will wear “Liberation,” Jayson Tatum will sport “Black Lives Matter,” Kemba Walker will showcase “Love Us,” and Marcus Smart will don “Freedom.”
Take a look:

first look pic.twitter.com/np5UvJzNwC
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) July 31, 2020

Tip is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday, the Celtics first of eight seeding games.
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Celtics Vs. Bucks Live Stream: Watch NBA Seeding Game Online

The Boston Celtics will kick off their seeding round slate against the top team in the Eastern Conference.
Boston will meet the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night in both teams’ first seeding round game inside the NBA bubble.
The Celtics currently sit third in the East with a 43-21 record, while Milwaukee is first at 53-12.
Here’s how to watch Celtics vs. Bucks online and on TV:
When: Friday, July 31, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN

Bill Belichick Clarifies Troy Brown’s New Coaching Role With Patriots

Troy Brown’s new job with the New England Patriots, on the surface, looks a little odd.
Brown made the Patriots Hall of Fame for his contributions as a slot receiver and punt returner. So, why is he coaching running backs — where he’ll work alongside Ivan Fears — and kick returners?
It turns out, that’s now all he’ll be doing with the Patriots this season.
“Troy spent the year with us last year. Of course, he has a tremendous amount of experience here. He’ll continue to work with other positions, as well, the returners and slot receivers,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Friday on a video conference call. “But I think just given the conversations I’ve had with Troy, he’s very eager. He has a very good football — he’s a very instinctive football player and coach. I think he was always great with the ball in his hands as a runner. He was obviously a great receiver. That’s a big part of every running back’s job. Again, he was a strong player in the kicking game, as well. It was an opportunity for him to be involved with a little bit of a different group.
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“We moved a couple coaches around this year that I think just expanding their coaching of different positions, coaching different players, it helps them become better overall coaches. Cole (Popovich) was with the running backs last year and this year he’ll work with the offensive line. Stephen (Belichick) was with the safeties and now will be with the outside linebackers. There’s a lot of benefit of that. Josh (McDaniels), Matt Patricia, we can go on and on about all of the coaches that have switched spots around here. I think Troy has done a great job with them and he’ll certainly be involved in other things besides just the running backs.”
Brown assisted Patriots wide receivers coach Joe Judge, who is now the New York Giants’ head coach, last season in an NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship position.
He caught 557 passes for 6,366 yards with 31 touchdowns, carried the ball 29 times for 178 yards, returned 252 punts for 2,625 yards with three touchdowns and 87 kicks for 1,862 yards in his career with the Patriots which spanned from 1993 to 2007. He also registered 22 tackles and three interceptions as a part-time defensive back.
Mick Lombardi will be the Patriots’ wide receivers coach this season. He was assistant quarterbacks coach in 2019. New hire Jedd Fisch will take over as quarterbacks coach in 2020.
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Bill Belichick ‘Totally’ Supports Patriots Players Opting Out, Unsure If More Will

The six New England Patriots players who decided to opt out of the 2020 NFL season did so with the full support of their head coach.
Speaking Friday in a video conference with reporters, Bill Belichick said he respects the choices that Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Bolden, Danny Vitale and Najee Toran made to prioritize their health and families over football amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I respect all of them,” Belichick said. “I respect all the players on our team. We all have to make decisions. I talked to those guys, and they explained their situation. They had to make the decision that was best for them, and I totally respect and support it, 100 percent.”
Hightower, Chung, Cannon and Bolden all have played important roles on multiple Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams and are well-respected figures in the Patriots’ locker room. Vitale was projected to start at fullback this season after signing as a free agent in March.
Belichick said he’s unsure whether any additional Patriots players will opt out. The deadline for opt-outs has not been finalized but will be no earlier than Aug. 7.
“Again, I think everybody’s got to make their own individual decisions on that, and they have to weigh their own situation,” Belichick said. “Each one of us is unique and we all have different lives, situations, families, environments, and so forth and so on. There’s no two situations that are the same. Everybody will have to make their own decision on that.
“My crystal ball is kind of cloudy right now, so I have no idea of what will happen along those lines. I think everybody in the league, every team in the league, every player, every coach, everybody in the league is involved in that to some degree. So we’ll just have to see how it turns out.”
Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater reportedly considered opting out before ultimately deciding to play. More teammates might have followed suit had the longtime locker room leader chosen to sit out, according to a report from NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo.
Chung, who said Belichick “totally understood” his decision, told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday that other Patriots players were contemplating whether or not to play this season.
“I know a lot of guys are thinking — it is; it’s a scary situation,” the veteran safety said. “And whatever they decide, then that’s on them. I can’t really speak for them. Like I said, everyone has different situations. Some people don’t have people at high risk in their household or around them, so it’s a little different. Hopefully, whatever they do, they make the right decision that’s going to keep their family healthy, keep them healthy and be safe.”
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Kemba Walker Explains Celtics’ Mindset Heading Into Contest Vs. Bucks

The Boston Celtics will get back on the floor Friday for a real game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Celtics point guard Kemba Walker expressed how the team is looking forward to the challenge the Eastern Conference’s top seed brings every time they step on the floor.
“We’re looking forward to the matchup,” Walker told reporters on Thursday, per team reporter Marc D’Amico. “We’re looking forward to the competitiveness. Because we know for a fact they’re going to bring it, as they do each and every night, each and every game. It’s going to be fun.”
Walker himself will be on a minutes restriction as he continues to recover from a knee injury. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, who said Walker’s knee is “strongest its been” since September, noted Thursday he will play between 14-20 minutes.
The Celtics currently are the No. 3 seed in the East, while their eight seeding games could potentially help them advance to the No. 2 seed.
That chance will begin starting Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET against the Bucks.
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Bill Belichick Did His Research On Patriots’ Cam Newton, Liked What He Found

The decision to sign quarterback Cam Newton was not a rash one for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
The way Belichick tells it, the Patriots spent a while talking to Newton and people close to the quarterback before electing to sign the 2015 NFL MVP.
“Things worked out,” Belichick said Friday in a video conference call with the media. “We spent quite a bit of time with Cam. He spent quite a bit of time with us. I think there was some mutual interest. We spent quite a bit of — a number of different people and a number of different conversations. Just trying to see how the fit would be. It was very positive on our end. I’m glad it worked out.”
Belichick isn’t ready to name Newton the Patriots’ QB1 to start the season, however. The Patriots also have Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham and rookie Brian Lewerke on their quarterback depth chart. Stidham and Hoyer also could battle for the top role this summer in training camp, which will officially kick off Aug. 12, though Patriots players will report to the facility this weekend.
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“That spot’s the same as all of the other spots on the team,” Belichick said. “We’ve got a long way to go and we’ll see how things turn out. I can’t control how players perform. That’s up to them. We’ll give everyone an opportunity and see what happens. I don’t know.”
The Patriots elected to sign Newton in late June. That was after the NFL’s offseason workout program when organized team activities and minicamp are usually held. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, players only took part in virtual meetings. The Patriots didn’t get to see how Stidham had progressed over the spring. Belichick said that didn’t play a role in the decision to sign Newton.
“Yeah, I don’t know. It wasn’t that way, so I don’t know if it had been different if it would have happened differently,” Belichick said. “I don’t know. I don’t see why it would have, but I’m not sure.”
It’s been assumed that the Patriots will have to restructure their offensive system if Newton wins the job because of his mobility and different skill set than Stidham, Hoyer or former starter Tom Brady. Belichick said that decision will come at a later date and would be dictated by all position groups. The Patriots will be focusing on fundamentals and the basics early in training camp.
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