July 2013

Charged with domestic assault.
Charged with domestic assault.
While the 2013 NFL is still over a month away, fans and sellers have already voted with their wallets on the most compelling games of the season. With only eight home games each season, NFL tickets are always the most expensive of all the major sports leagues. Across the league, [...]
COMMENTARY | The time is now for Tony Romo. The Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback has this season to prove that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with the elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
The "Shutdown Countdown" has entered the home stretch. In addition to previewing each team, Shutdown Corner will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the New England Patriots. 2013 Adjusted Cap Number : $129.152 million (13th in the NFL in 2013) 2013 Cap Room Remaining : $9.782 million (10th in the NFL, as of July 31) [Related: Despite rough offseason, Patriots should still win AFC East ] Best Bargain : Even if he opens up the season on the physically unable to perform list and misses the first six games, tight end Rob Gronkowski is one of the biggest bargains in the league with a base salary of just $630,000 and a $2.75 million cap hit in 2013. There are 54 tight ends in the NFL with higher base salaries and 22 tight ends with higher cap numbers than Gronkowski this season. Of course, there is no need to pass the hat to help Gronkowski out. Last year, Gronkowski earned $8.575 million and is scheduled to make $19 million over the course of 2014 and 2015. Potential Camp Cap Casualty : The Patriots are in excellent shape, cap-wise, and there are only three players — Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins and Stephen Gostkowski — on the roster with base salaries of $2.5 million or higher this season. So saving cash or cap space doesn't figure to be a big factor when the team is shaping its 53-man roster. One name who might be end up on the cut list is veteran tight end Daniel Fells, who is behind Gronkowski on the depth chart and will be pushed in camp by Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui and rookie Zach Sudfeld. Fells played in less than a quarter of the Patriots' offensive snaps last season and is due $1.25 million in base salary, which might be too steep for a No. 4 tight end.
COMMENTARY | See if you can keep up.
There was a point in the 2012 season where the New England Patriots found themselves with a 3-3 record and in a four-way tie for first place (or four-way tie for last, if you're a fan of The Minutemen, a seminal punk band from the 1980s) in the AFC East. If the Patriots had a sense that didn't belong in that tie, it would be justified by having their three losses come by a total of four points. First came a 20-18 loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals, a game the Patriots were in position to win before Stephen Gostkowski's fifth field goal attempt of the game sailed wide from 42 yards out. The following week, the Patriots had a nine-point lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth quarter before Baltimore's offense gained 162 yards on 15 plays over two drives and scored 10 points, including a 27-yard field goal from rookie kicker Justin Tucker as time expired. [Related: Patriots' Aqib Talib, Brandon Spikes playing for new contracts ] The third loss came in Week 6 to the Seattle Seahawks. Up 23-17 in the final two minutes, Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson hit Sidney Rice for a 46-yard touchdown to give Seattle the lead. Tom Brady would throw two incomplete passes, take a sack and the swarming Seahawks defense would keep Wes Welker short of the sticks on a 4th-and-17 play to force a turnover on downs. After the game, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman would get in Brady's face to ask "U Mad, Bro?". Yes, Brady was mad. After the loss in Seattle, the Patriots would win seven straight games, with Brady passing for 1,692 yards with 19 touchdowns and one interception as New England outscored their opponents by an average of 21 points per game. The Patriots nearly ran their win streak to eight, completely erasing a 31-3 second-half deficit to the San Francisco 49ers before allowing 10 fourth-quarter points in a 41-34 loss. The Patriots would close out their season with back-to-back wins to finish 12-4, the 10th consecutive season the Patriots had won 10 or more games. In the playoffs, the Patriots trounced the Houston Texans to advance to the AFC championship game, but All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski broke his left forearm for the second time in three months and was done for the season. In addition to losing Gronkowski, cornerback Aqib Talib, acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers midway through the season, injured his thigh in the first quarter of the AFC championship game against the Ravens. Without Talib, the Patriots struggled to cover wide receiver Anquan Boldin, whose 60 yards and a pair of touchdowns catapulted the Ravens into Super Bowl XLVII with a 28-13 win in Foxboro. 2013 has been a very eventful offseason for the Patriots. It started out great, as Brady signed a three-year, $57 million contract extension in February that gave the Patriots some cap room to work with in the offseason. Unfortunately, most of the news involving the Patriots has been controversial, bad and downright tragic. The Patriots were unable to re-sign Welker, who turned down New England's offer to to sign a similar deal with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. To replace Welker, the Patriots had signed Danny Amendola, who has been compared to Welker throughout his career, largely because they're both white wide receivers who entered the NFL as undrafted free agents after playing their college ball at Texas A&M. That's where the comparisons stop as Welker has been far more productive, and far more durable, than the slightly bigger and slightly more athletic Amendola has been during his career. Gronkowski, the best tight end in the NFL, underwent multiple surgeries on his forearm before having back surgery in June, which puts his availability for the first half of the season in jeopardy. While Gronkowski was getting frequent flier miles on the operating table, the Patriots invited the circus to town when they signed free agent Tim Tebow to replace Mike Kafka as the No. 3 quarterback on the roster. Rock bottom was struck when tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in June, prompting the Patriots to release a player who less than a year earlier had signed a five-year, $37.5 million extension with $16 million in guaranteed money. Around the same time, starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who slid to the seventh-round of the 2012 NFL draft because of off-field issues (assaulting a police officer), was arrested in Lincoln, Neb. on suspicion of DUI. The Patriots are turning the page, however, beginning with a "jersey exchange" at their Pro Shop that reportedly cost the team $250,000. In their comments at the start of training camp, owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and Brady have all referred to the team reemphasizing the "Patriot Way" in how they conduct themselves on and off the field. There are legitimate questions about how the passing offense will fare with so much turnover at wide receiver and tight end, but Josh McDaniels is a very smart offensive coordinator who will adjust and adapt his play-calling to fit the personnel. The defense should be solid and the Patriots should have little trouble winning the AFC East and securing one of the top two seeds in the AFC.
COMMENTARY | The 2013 NFL season is just around the corner, which means it's almost time to get together with your pals and draft your fantasy football team.Earlier this summer, I highlighted the best fantasy options on the New York Giants, but now it's time to examine the lesser-known players who could pay huge dividends for your team, because, as we all know, the injury bug is sure to bite at some point during the lengthy NFL season.
Both veterans and rookies in NFL training camps know that making a good first impression can go a long way.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Major League Baseball has told the union which players it intends to suspend in its drug investigation and which ones will receive lengthier penalties for their roles in the Biogenesis case, two people familiar with the talks told The Associated Press.

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