NASA Astronaut Brought Patriots Super Bowl Banner To Outer Space

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The Dallas Cowboys still may be considered “America’s Team,” but it’s safe to say the New England Patriots are the NFL team that represents the entire planet.

Not only because their six world championships are the most of any other team save for Pittsburgh (through the Steerlers’ rings aren’t nearly as recent.) But also because there’s literally a Patriots’ Super Bowl LIII banner in space.

The team posted a photo of the 2018 title banner at the International Space Station, also sharing the story on its website of how Patriots fan and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir brought the memorabilia along with her on the first all-female spacewalk.

View this post on Instagram How cool is this?! A replica SBLIII banner made its way to the International Space Station thanks to New England's own @astro_jessica A post shared by New England Patriots (@patriots) on Sep 29, 2020 at 8:06am PDT

“NASA, we’re a tax dollar funded agency,” Meir told Patriots.com’s Angelique Fiske. “We’re a federal agency, and we are representing everybody. I’m the one that gets to be up there in space, but it’s everybody that helped me get here that are really pivotal in making that come true,” she said. “I grew up in New England … New England and the Northeast in general are so special to me. This was something that just really touched me to be able to share that with all the people that helped make it happen in some special way.”

Mier accomplished the spacewalk with Christina Koch in October of 2019. Certainly, it took a lot of hard work to achieve, but that’s the Patriot Way.

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This Young Patriots Defensive Back Aims To Be Next Devin McCourty

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Early in his New England Patriots career, Devin McCourty shifted from cornerback to safety. This season, Joejuan Williams is undergoing a similar position switch.

Williams hopes that won’t be the only similarity he’ll share with McCourty.

Speaking Wednesday in a video conference, the second-year Patriots defensive back said he views McCourty as a model of what he hopes to achieve as a player and person.

“Devin, on and off the football field, that’s the guy I want to be like in the future,” Williams said. “He’s the quarterback of our defense. Having him back there, it really — playing down, whether I’m at corner, whether I’m guarding tight ends — knowing he’s back there, it helps out a lot because I know he will be on his job, and it helps me play my role a lot better.”

McCourty has been a pillar of New England’s secondary since he entered the NFL in 2010. He’s missed just five regular-season games in his career — none since 2015 — and has been a Patriots captain in 10 of his 11 pro seasons.

The Patriots lost roughly half of their 2019 defensive starters to free agency, trades or COVID-19 opt-outs — including longtime safeties Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon — but McCourty remains. In fact, he’s hardly left the field this season, playing all but one defensive snap through three games.

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Still highly capable at age 33, McCourty ran an interception back for a touchdown during the Patriots’ Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The following week, he broke up two passes intended for star tight end Darren Waller in a win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

“I love having Devin back there,” Williams said. “Hopefully, I’m close to being like him one day.”

Williams has a long way to go to match McCourty, but he has taken on a more prominent role this season. After playing sparingly as a rookie cornerback, the 2019 second-round draft pick now is carving out a role as a matchup safety against tight ends.

Williams locked down Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki in Week 1and was heavily involved against Waller before being benched following two defensive holding penalties.

“When we first started, when I first got here, I told the coaches I feel like I can play anywhere,” Williams said. “Wherever they need me in this defense, wherever they need me for the team, I feel like I can play in the secondary. That was just one thing I prided myself on, that I’m a defensive back and I can be plugged and played anywhere.

“I worked everywhere during the offseason. I worked at corner. I worked at safety. I worked at nickel, star. Wherever there’s a DB in the backfield, I wound up there and got some work in. Overall, (I’m) just continuing to work and continuing to sharpen my craft and going on from there.”

McCourty, Williams and the rest of the Patriots’ secondary will face one of their toughest tests of the season this Sunday against Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Even Rookie Mike Onwenu Was Surprised Patriots Switched His Position

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In talking to Patriots rookie offensive lineman Mike Onwenu, it’s not surprising New England has put so much on the sixth-round pick’s plate so early.

Nothing seems too big for Onwenu, who casually talks about switching positions or sides of the line like it’s nothing.

“At the end of the day it’s football,” Onwenu said Wednesday.

But he was initially surprised by the Patriots’ decision to move him to right tackle. Onwenu primarily played right guard at the University of Michigan, though he did also take some reps on the left side. He played offensive tackle in high school but was recruited out of college as a guard. He expected to stay inside in the pros.

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“I didn’t hear anything about (playing offensive tackle) pre-draft,” Onwenu said. “In my head, I thought guard or center. That’s what my thought process was. But anything that comes up that I’m able to do or help with I’m open to, I’m here for the team. …

“The first few days (of training camp) it was kind of a surprise to me too but I went out there head-on first. So, after you kind of look at things in terms of the tackle aspect, all the plays you already know, so I’m just thinking the next guy over from me. It wasn’t really that much of a point where I felt confident because I knew all of the stuff in terms of all that, but it was just me playing the other position more so than the person next to me.”

Onwenu certainly has been helping the team. He played jumbo tight end and right tackle for the first two weeks of the 2020 season. After starting center David Andrews went to injured reserve last week, the Patriots reshuffled their offensive line and Onwenu wound up at left guard. Given how well the unit blocked, Onwenu will likely stay at left guard until Andrews returns at which time he could be back playing on the outside as an offensive tackle or tight end.

“It’s just staying in the books and asking the questions,” Onwenu said. “Any question that comes up, I’m the type of person that likes to ask those questions. For my mind, it brings peace and ease to it, so whenever that circumstance does come up I already know the answer to it.”

Onwenu leads Patriots rookies in snaps as a sixth-round pick while higher selections like tight end Dalton Keene and linebacker Josh Uche have yet to see the field.

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Brad Stevens Thinks Current Celtics Team Has Chance To Be ‘Special’

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The Boston Celtics fell short of the NBA Finals this season, but certainly have a group with some long-term promise.

Sure, Boston hasn’t made it out of the Eastern Conference finals since 2010. But the current squad has undergone plenty of growth the last few years, and has the talent and chemistry to continue.

Head coach Brad Stevens, for one, believes the team has something special on their hands.

“I think this is a really good group,” Stevens said Wednesday during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak and Bertrand,” as transcribed by NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg.

“From what was accomplished to where we can go and where we can grow, I feel like this group has a chance to be special. I think that’s really exciting. I’m really hopeful.”

The ever-changing landscape of the East, which has grown increasingly competitive in recent years, however, will be one of Boston’s biggest hurdles.

“It’s not enough to stay the same, as far as it’s not enough to expect that, because you ended where you ended, you will be back there,” Stevens said, via Forsberg. “… Everyone has to get better for us to have a chance to be back and hoepfully move ahead.”

What happens next, especially with changes looming in the offseason? Only time will tell.

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Patriots Injury Report: Sony Michel Among Four Limited Ahead Of Chiefs Game

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Sony Michel enjoyed one of the best performances of his New England Patriots career this past Sunday, but he did not escape the game unscathed.

The Patriots running back was limited in Wednesday’s practice — New England’s first of Week 4 — with a quad injury.

Michel played 26 offensive snaps (38 percent) in the Patriots’ 36-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, rushing nine times for 117 yards and catching two passes for 23 yards.

This is the 25-year-old’s first appearance on the injury report this season, though he also missed most of training camp following offseason foot surgery.

Three other players also were limited Wednesday: wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee), offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn (calf) and defensive tackle Adam Butler (shoulder).

Special teamer Cody Davis (rib) did not practice. He received medical attention on the field Sunday after recovering a Raiders onside kick.

Running back Damien Harris and wide receiver/punt returner Gunner Olszewski both practiced Wednesday for the first time since being place on injured reserve in early September. It’s unclear whether either will be activated ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Patriots have up to 21 days to add Harris and Olszewski to their 53-man roster. If they do not do so by that deadline, the player(s) would revert to IR and be ineligible to play this season.

Chiefs star defensive tackle Chris Jones was limited in practice Wednesday with a groin injury, according to Kansas City’s injury report.

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Freddie Freeman Helps Braves Outlast Reds, Hits Walkoff Single In 13th Inning

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Wednesday was quite the pitcher’s dual between the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of their National League Wild Card round.

Trevor Bauer gave the Reds 7 2/3 innings of scoreless work, while Mike Fried threw six scoreless. The bullpens took over and continued the shutout, making some postseason history in the process.

Never in baseball history has a playoff game gone into the 12th inning without a run … until today.Reds 0, Braves 0 after 11.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) September 30, 2020

But then Freddie Freeman ended the game in the 13th when he hit a walkoff single to end the game.

M! V! FREE!#MixItUp pic.twitter.com/SiTPz7SnKO— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 30, 2020

The Braves now lead the best-of-three series 1-0 and have the chance to eliminate the Reds on Thursday afternoon.

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Lakers Vs. Heat Live Stream: Watch NBA Finals Game 1 Online

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We’re down to two teams in the NBA bubble.

The Los Angeles Lakers achieved their seemingly inevitable destiny, gentleman’s sweeping their way to LeBron James’ 10th championship appearance.

The Miami Heat, meanwhile, entered the NBA Playoffs as the No. 5 seed. Miami took down Eastern Conference titans like the Milwaukee Bucks and then the Boston Celtics in the conference finals.

And now, the NBA Finals begins Wednesday night. Here’s how to tune in to Game 1 between the Lakers and Heat:

When: Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 9 p.m. ETTV: ABCOnline: FuboTV — free trial

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Why Brad Stevens Isn’t Putting Emphasis Into Marcus Smart’s Game 6 Shot Output

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When the world seemed to be falling for Boston Celtics fans on Sunday, one statistic sent it deeper into oblivion.

Celtics guard Marcus Smart attempted 13 3-pointers during Boston’s season-ending, Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat. Those were among his 22 total shots attempted.

Smart attempted more 3-pointers than Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker (10 each) and Jaylen Brown (seven). He attempted more shots than both Brown (17) and Walker (15) with only the All-Star Tatum attempting more (26).

It led many Celtics fans to question the team’s offensive strategy, and in some cases, point the finger directly at Smart.

Head coach Brad Stevens, though, doesn’t agree. Stevens expressed just that Wednesday while on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak and Bertrand.”

“One of the things about that, the way they were playing us, was a lot of attention at the top of the zones or even on the catch for certain guys, was going to be more than others,” Stevens explained. “So, I thought our guys made the right pass or the right play a lot. You saw Marcus hit those shots early in the game. And I thought his best looks came in the third quarter. I thought he had a couple wide open ones in the corner, that he shoots a high percentage on.

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“So, I don’t look at necessarily quantity of shots taken by each individual, I look at the quality of shots generated by our team,” Stevens continued. “And there were certainly some throughout the game, by our team, that we could’ve got better looks.  But I also think we attacked a lot of what they were trying to do well. We scored 113 points in the game and didn’t convert much at the end. The deal is is that the other end of the floor, you know, I thought the really took advantage of us in several instances.”

Smart was among the Celtics most impactful players throughout their postseason run, especially his two-way production in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Toronto Raptors. He was consistently praised for helping Boston win hard-fought games with “winning plays” down the stretch.

Now, though, the Celtics will turn the page as they take some time away before the 2021 campaign.

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Chaim Bloom Not Ruling Out ‘Long-Term Deals’ For Core Red Sox Players

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The Red Sox aren’t a typical cellar dweller.

Yes, they just finished in last place in the American League East, recording the fourth-worst record (24-36) in Major League Baseball for the abbreviated 2020 season.

But Boston’s roster already features multiple potential building blocks, including Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Alex Verdugo and Eduardo Rodriguez, among others.

As such, it’s not unreasonable to think the Red Sox again be competitive before long, provided chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom augments Boston’s current core with the correct pieces.

This raises the question: Could the Red Sox consider signing their own players to contract extensions this offseason, which is more unpredictable than usual thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic?

“It’s going to be a different offseason, but I wouldn’t at all rule out the possibility of us engaging with players on long-term deals,” Bloom told reporters Tuesday during a video conference. “That’s something if we did it, it’s something we would do our best to keep in-house unless there’s an agreement. But I think as long as there’s mutual interest, if there’s a mutual fit, I don’t see why we wouldn’t look into it and pursue it.”

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The Red Sox already locked up Bogaerts with a six-year, $120 million contract extension in April 2019, one week after signing Chris Sale to a five-year, $145 million extension. Bogaerts is set to earn $20 million annually through 2026, although the All-Star shortstop can opt out after the 2022 campaign if he chooses.

Devers and Rodriguez therefore seem like the most logical extension candidates right now, with Verdugo also possibility to consider in wake of his strong 2020 after coming over from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price blockbuster and Andrew Benintendi an under-the-radar option if the Red Sox are confident in his ability to bounce back from a season lost due to injury.

Devers, who turns 24 in October, is under club control through 2023.

Rodriguez, who turns 28 next April, can become a free agent after the 2021 season.

Verdugo, 24, and Benintendi, 26, are under control through 2024 and 2022, respectively.

Each of these players’ situation is unique, making it complicated to evaluate their respective markets, especially with MLB free agency likely to be affected by the financial repercussions of the coronavirus outbreak.

But it’s something to monitor — particularly when it comes to Devers and/or Rodriguez — as the Red Sox reshape their roster in the hopes of returning to prominence in 2021 or soon thereafter.

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