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‘Yacht’s all’: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants Receivers Excoriated for Boat Party and Subsequent Dropped Passes



GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Yacht’s all, folks.

That was Monday’s kicker headline on the New York Post’s front page, accompanying one of the infamous photos taken a week ago showing various New York Giants receivers lounging and partying with celebrities, including Justin Bieber, on a fancy boat off the coast of Miami.

After a pair of those receivers — rookie Sterling Shepard and, especially, superstar Odell Beckham Jr. — came up small with big-moment drops in Sunday’s 38-13 loss to the Packers, you knew the New York media were going to drill deep down into that one-day, fun-in-the-sun decision.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning targeted Beckham 11 times, but the king of one-handed catches came down with just four, for 28 yards. One of Beckham’s two foul-handed drops was a sure touchdown, beautifully thrown by Manning. Beckham dropped a third pass in the second half; even though Manning threw that one quite high, the acrobatic receiver usually catches those.

Shepard dropped two passes, one at the Green Bay six-yard line that might have given New York a first-and-goal. Instead, the Giants settled for a short field goal and a 3-0 lead.

ESPN reported late Sunday night that Beckham was inconsolable after the game. Livid after getting raked about the drops by the Big Apple press corps, he allegedly punched the wall outside the visiting team’s media interview room beneath Lambeau Field’s stands. ESPN showed a punch-sized hole in the drywall, about where Beckham allegedly let loose. ESPN said the NFL was investigating.

Beckham had told reporters that “at the end of the day, I went through practice (all last week), had zero drops, zero missed assignments. There was nothing that could connect seven days ago to today and how we played and executed.”

Maybe so. But Giants players knew the yacht questions would come.

“He didn’t have the game that he wanted to have,” Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas said of Beckham. “I know that for sure. He had a couple of dropped passes and I am sure you guys are going to get after him a bit. I guess that comes with the territory.”

Was it the cold (-10C at kickoff, but not windy) that contributed to the drops? Shepard said no.

“We weren’t going to let that affect us,” he said. “It was cold. Your fingers are cold. Everything is cold, but we have been playing this game since we were little, so that wasn’t a factor.”

What about nerves? Emotions? Those were more likely at the root of it, especially with the volatile Beckham.

“The way that he was prepared for the game, emotionally, might have been too much for him,” Casillas said of the third-year Pro Bowl player. “It happens every now and again.”

Manning hit on that point afterward, too, without naming Beckham in particular.

“When you have a young team like we do, a lot of the guys making the playoffs for the first time, I think you have to look at it as a learning situation (on) how to deal with the playoffs, how to get your mind right and don’t make it too big, so you can go out there and have your best performances in these games,” he said.

Giants GM Jerry Reese said this of Beckham at his year-end news conference Monday:

“This is what I see — I see a guy who needs to think about some of the things that he does. Everybody knows that he is a gifted player, but there are some things that he has done that he needs to look at himself in the mirror and be honest with himself about, and I think he will do that,” Reese said.

“We will help him with that, but he has to help himself, and we believe he will do that. He is a smart guy, but sometimes he doesn’t do smart things.”

Another factor? The Packers defence.

Although Green Bay’s secondary is pure patchwork — the No. 1 cornerback now, LaDarius Gunter, began the season No. 4 on the depth chart — the coverage schemes that defensive coordinator Dom Capers employed worked well.

“We had a lot of focus on No. 13 (Beckham),” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s just a tremendous player. I thought we did a good job keeping him in check. Hey, that’s a talented, talented perimeter group (of receivers). I thought Eli threw the ball very well today. We were scrappy, and we got it done.”

Manning, for instance, likes to hit Beckham on quick slant patterns. Beckham has taken such short throws the distance after speeding away from the trailing cornerback, then splitting two deep safeties up the middle.

The Packers, though, found “ways to eliminate” some of those pet routes of New York’s passing game, Beckham said, “cutting off with a corner on the inside, a safety over the top.”

To a man afterward, Packers offensive players thanked their defensive teammates for keeping them in the game. Their offence indeed had a lousy start; Green Bay had seven yards of total offence entering the second quarter, compared to New York’s 105. Thereafter: 399 yards and 38 points for Green Bay, 260 yards and seven points for New York.

“The key, I think, for the entire game was early on — our defence with the stops in the red zone,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “If (the score is) 14-0 and not 6-0, it’s a different football game. So we’ve got to give those guys credit.”

The Packers now prepare to play at Dallas in the second NFC divisional playoff game next Sunday afternoon. As for the Giants? They can pull up anchor and set sail any time they’d like.

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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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