Jesse Pantuosco checks in on some of the league's more unpredictable backfield situations in this week's Bump and Run. [...]
Despite Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft publicly supporting the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas, there will be obstacles. The main one has nothing to do with gambling. There will be the gambling issue of course because the NFL's history against Las Vegas and gambling is very consistent. And there is the stadium issue. Just because Raiders owner Mark Davis pledged $500 million , that doesn't mean it'll get built. It wouldn't be something new in Las Vegas for a big project to be hyped, only to see it never get off the ground. There's also the issue of whether the NFL is using Las Vegas as its new Los Angeles, and scaring existing cities with the threat of moving to Vegas, like it did with L.A. for 21 years. But there's a real concern, and it's simply whether Las Vegas can sustain an NFL team. Vegas is not a big market. It's 40th in television market size , less than one-third the size of the Bay Area. It's not a tiny town, but it's also a step down for the NFL, which is always worried about its bottom line. The Raiders would need to capture a market that is filled with transplants who presumably already root for a team, if they follow the NFL. In 2011 the Las Vegas Sun said Nevada had by far the most transplants living there of any U.S. state, with only 24 percent of its residents born in Nevada. Las Vegas isn't a bad sports town. UNLV basketball has a great following. UNLV football doesn't, but that's because it has a lackluster stadium well away from campus, and it's UNLV football. But Las Vegas is also a unique market and we really don't know what would happen if a pro team moves there. [ Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now ] Give Davis this: He knows that his team would need to win over a local fan base to survive. "We're not looking to make this something where fans are going to fly in every week for the games," Davis said, according to NFL.com . "To fly down for 10 games a year might not be a thing that would happen for a lot of people. We want to have a local fan base and that's very important for us and I think that's something Las Vegas would like to have as well." [...]
... s in France on June 10, Albania played the first of two friendlies. Colorado Rapids midfielder Shkelzen Gashi started the game and played the first 45 minutes, ... [...]
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies fell one goal short of a Canadian Hockey League title.
Matthew Tkachuk scored his second of the contest 7:49 into overtime and the London Knights won the 2016 Memorial Cup championship in a 3-2 victory over the Huskies... [...]
What would you like the Nuggets organization and fans to know about you? [...]
What would you like the Nuggets organization and fans to know about you? [...]
One man's take on the best hybrid linemen in Denver's franchise history. [...]
Former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer stopped by practice on Thursday and shared his thoughts on Denver's quarterback battle. [...]
For Walt Weiss, the benefit of a bolstered bullpen is having the luxury to plan ahead. The Rockies were 19-0 this season when taking a lead into the eighth inning. On Saturday, that played to plan again — until it fell apart.
But in relying on rookie right-hander Carlos Estevez in a high-leverage situation, Weiss tipped his hand to how the Rockies might move forward with their relief corps.
Colorado carried a 5-4 lead into the eighth Saturday before Estevez — who was called upon for a third appearance in three days — gave up three runs in a six-run inning as the Giants rallied late for a 10-5 victory.
Estevez’s entry was decided before the game.
“With the lead, we’re going with Estevez,” Weiss said of the 23-year-old who was called up in late April. “We check those things out before the game. Those decisions aren’t made during the game. Estevez was only going to pitch in that game with a lead in the eighth. And that’s what we had.”
Buster Posey goes wild in Giants’ come-from-behind blowout of the Rockies
Estevez pitched three consecutive days just once before, when he walked two but didn’t allow a hit in the eighth inning of a 2-0 victory at San Francisco on May 8. Since then, Estevez has pitched in the eighth with a lead nine times. The Rockies won eight of those games.
“You have to be ready for your team,” Estevez said.
His back-breaking pitch was a fastball to Buster Posey that became a three-run homer.
“I’ve faced him before,” Estevez said. “I just try to attack the strike zone. I missed the first two sliders. And then he got the fastball.”
The choice to go with Estevez was as much about who did not get the call. Weiss kept Jason Motte, Chad Qualls, Miguel Castro and Jake McGee in the bullpen. Motte was rested but has pitched just one game, Wednesday, after a shoulder injury. Castro pitched Friday night, but he’s being eased back after a shoulder injury. Qualls pitched the ninth after the game was out of hand. And McGee did not pitch, as Weiss held him for a save situation.
“As much as you can, you try to define roles,” Weiss said. “I would’ve gotten a lot more questions if I didn’t use Estevez and lost that game. Think about that. Estevez is our guy. He’s our eighth-inning guy that’s been dominant in that inning. If he’s available and we’re very thorough as far as making sure guys are available and ready to go, if that’s the case, why wouldn’t I use Estevez? I didn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t use Estevez in that situation.”
On Sunday, Estevez was off the table. Motte pitched a low-leverage seventh inning trailing by five runs. Qualls pitched before him in the sixth.
It’s likely that Motte, who’s making $5 million this season, will eventually take on the role of the eighth-inning arm, unless he becomes the closer and McGee moves to the eighth. Adam Ottavino (Tommy John surgery) will factor in, too, when he returns later this year.
“Roles change,” Weiss said. “But if you get six-plus from your starter, things fall into place very nicely in the bullpen.”
Footnotes. Center fielder Charlie Blackmon, who singled in the third Sunday, extended his career-high streak of reaching base to 24 games, and he has hits in 22. Since May 3, he’s hitting .343 (34-for-99) with eight runs. … Carlos Gonzalez, who homered in the eighth, is 14-for-29 (.483) in his past seven games. He has hit safely in each. … Giants catcher Buster Posey went 6-for-13 at the plate in the three-game series, with a triple, a double, two home runs and six RBIs. He’s hitting .392 in 50 career games at Coors Field. … RHP Christian Bergman (oblique) threw off flat ground Sunday for the first time since going on the disabled list May 20.
Reds RHP Dan Straily (2-2, 2.98 ERA) at Rockies RHP Chad Bettis (4-3, 4.90), 2:10 p.m. Monday, ROOT, 850 AM
Cincinnati juggled its rotation Sunday to move Straily, the club’s best pitcher this season, into the opening slot of a four-game series. In a five-year career, he has faced the Rockies just once — a five-inning, two-hit outing in Cincinnati on April 18 — but never at Coors Field. Bettis is in the same boat, with just one appearance against the Reds, when he gave up three hits (two home runs) in six innings on April 20. In three starts at Coors Field this season, Bettis has a 4.05 ERA over 20 innings — that’s the best mark among Rockies pitchers at home in 2016.
Tuesday: Reds RHP Jon Moscot (0-2, 4.02) at Rockies RHP Jon Gray (2-2, 5.95), 6:40 p.m., ROOT
Wednesday: Reds LHP John Lamb (0-3, 6.85) at Rockies RHP Tyler Chatwood (6-3, 2.69), 6:40 p.m., ROOT
Thursday: Reds RHP Alfredo Simon (1-5, 9.60) at Rockies RHP Eddie Butler (2-2, 4.13), 6:40 p.m., ROOT [...]
LAKEWOOD — Valor Christian outfielder Levi Walters must have nerves of steel.
He’s a senior and had experienced some anxious moments before while playing baseball, but the bottom of the seventh inning in Sunday’s Class 4A state championship game couldn’t have had much more drama.
Pueblo West had the bases loaded and was within striking distance of Valor Christian’s three-run lead.
“I had trust in my team,” Walters said, and it was rewarded as the Eagles (23-4) survived the challenge and won 9-6 at All Star Park. The victory put the first baseball title hardware into Valor Christian’s already crowded trophy case.
“We have trust and confidence with everybody,” Walters said. He added, “It’s awesome to leave a legacy in your senior year.”
It was Walters’ two-run double to left in the top of the seventh that clinched the victory.
For Valor Christian coach Keith Wahl, the title helped sooth some unpleasant memories.
“We were down by four early in the title game,” Wahl said. “We just kept scraping away. We talked about it in the dugout. Just get them one by one, and that’s what we did.”
The Eagles had a busy Sunday on the way to the title. Pueblo West had started the day unbeaten in the playoffs. Wahl told a postgame gathering that 24 years ago, while playing for Mitchell High School in Colorado Springs, he experienced the other side of the picture when his team was beaten by Cherry Creek.
Freshman right-hander Davis Heller pitched the Eagles to a 7-1 victory in the first game to keep Valor’s hopes alive.
“We had the guy up there who we wanted in the bottom of the seventh,” Pueblo West coach Dan Sanchez said after his team finished 21-6. “He hit the ball as hard as he could. We probably hit 15 line drives right at them during the day.”
In 1880, Walter Camp conceived a set of “football” rules and originated the “quarterback” position.
Within 10 minutes, someone else undoubtedly invented the term “quarterback controversy.”
Here we go again.
The Broncos are experiencing yet another “quarterback controversy.”
There hasn’t been such a tumultuous hullabaloo in Denver since way back in … uh, oh, when? … January?
What would Broncos football be without a QB Quandary-Quarrel-Question? We’d have to argue about such inconsequential matters as “Who should be the next president?”
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By my reckoning, this is the 86th time in franchise history that wise men and silly fools, fans and foes, coaches and general managers have argued vehemently over the Broncos’ starting quarterback.
The Broncos’ first coach, Frank Filchock, and assistant Frank Tripucka, a retired quarterback, squabbled in the Broncos’ inaugural camp over what lousy aspirant should be the team’s No. 1 QB. An exasperated Filchock finally said: “Well, let’s be frank. You do it.” So, Tripucka was the starter for three seasons — until a fresh “quarterback controversy” erupted.
For those who may have forgotten, there was a “quarterback controversy” in regard to the Broncos’ starter for the past postseason — Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler.
Manning won out in the internal debate, and won out (sort of) in his career.
Both Peyton and Brock exited.
Enter Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch.
Trevor Siemian remains, but he remains the odd man out among the bickering Broncos backers.
For the sake of this argument, the dueling quarterbacks will be Sanchez, the man of journey, vs. Lynch, the rookie of potential. Sides have been taken. Who you got?
Superman or Batman? Captain American or Ironman? Alexander Pushkin or Georges d’Anthes?
The deja has been viewed hereabouts before — Brian Griese vs. Bubby Brister, Jake Plummer vs. Jay Cutler, Steve Tensi vs. Marlin Briscoe, Charley Johnson vs. Steve Ramsey, Mickey Slaughter vs. John McCormick, Kyle Orton vs. Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn. So it goes. Mistakes were made; errors were repeated.
And, of course, let’s remember Steve DeBerg vs. John Elway 33 years ago.
DeBackup against Air Apparent.
Elway and Gary Kubiak know full well. This isn’t the pals’ first rodeo.
In 1983, Kubiak was drafted by the Broncos in the sixth round, with the expectation he would compete as a rookie with DeBerg, a veteran who had taken over from Craig Morton. Instead, along came the heralded Elway, and Gary became third man on a match.
The Great Unwashed Masses, including this grubby columnist, favored Elway in training camp; coach Dan Reeves preferred to start DeBerg — and did in three exhibition victories. Elway started the last, at Minnesota, and the Broncos were drubbed 34-3. Reeves surprisingly opened the season with Elway at quarterback — and always said he regretted the decision.
Elway completed only 1-of-8 passes in Pittsburgh and also played poorly in Baltimore against the Colts — the team he refused to join after being drafted first overall. In each game the hurt and humbled Elway was replaced by DeBerg, and the Broncos won both. With Elway at QB, the Broncos lost the next three, and DeBerg was elevated for the following five (winning four). DeBerg injured his right shoulder, and Elway returned, losing to the Raiders. Hurt again, Elway sat while the Kubiak-quarterbacked Broncos defeated Seattle.
Elway was reinserted for the final four, and the Broncos finished 2-2 and made the playoffs as a wild card.
DeBerg, named the starter against the Seahawks, was brutal, and Elway relieved in the fourth quarter of a 31-7 lambasting.
The Broncos dumped DeBerg in 1984, and Elway started 14-of-16 regular-season games (missing two with injuries, and Kubiak was 1-1) as the Broncos ended up 13-3 — and lost at home in the playoff game to the Steelers.
The rest was historical for Elway, Kubiak and the Broncos.
But, for Elway, that rookie season was excruciating. Afterward he briefly considered quitting. Despite three Super Bowls together, the long-term relationship between Dan and John always was awkward and even antagonistic.
Gary was thisclose to the DeBerg-Elway “quarterback controversy.”
And he was the man in the middle of the “quarterback controversy” last season. Kubiak and Elway had to be so careful during the decline and injury of Manning and the rise, then the fall, of Osweiler, and the comeback of Manning.
The Broncos became world champions.
Now, Elway and Kubiak must be as cautious and conscientious.
With a thorough understandin [...]
Peyton Manning played to his expiration date to help the Broncos win a Super Bowl. He left everything on the field. He exited as a compromised quarterback, grinding through a foot injury while robbed of his athleticism and accuracy. Without Manning, even the last version, the Broncos don’t pass out rings on June 12. They won despite him against the Carolina Panthers, but needed him against Pittsburgh and New England.
And let’s not dismiss his presence in every moment. I have never covered a player who was held in higher regard by teammates than Manning. He was throwing interceptions at an alarming rate through nine games last season, and no one in the Denver locker room was calling for his benching. It spoke to the reverence for his career. Everyone assumed he would figure it out. He never really did, but was able to adjust enough to play a marginalized role.
Leadership was central to Manning’s value in his final season. Forget Manning’s squirm-inducing passes. Know that his command of the huddle, command at practice, command in meetings will be missed. There is a void with his departure. A player or players must step into this vacuum for the 2016 Broncos to reach their offensive potential.
It doesn’t have to be the quarterback. That position requires respect, and if Mark Sanchez wins the job, he is a natural leader, according to teammates. Second-year pro Trevor Siemian is viewed in a similar fashion — his career-ending injury at Northwestern devastated his teammates — and players gravitate to rookie Paxton Lynch because of his childlike enthusiasm.
Denver’s uncertainty at quarterback, though, demands somebody step forward. Running back C.J. Anderson sets an example with his brilliant football IQ and bowling-ball yards after contact. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is the longest-tenured offensive player, and in a much better place than a year ago during his contract absence. I am not in the locker room but for a few allowed hours per week during the season. Still, my observations from practice and games suggest an obvious choice: Emmanuel Sanders.
A check list emerges for leaders, and points to Sanders. The player must produce. Players can’t lead without delivering. It’s reality in athletic Darwinism. Sanders owns 177 receptions for 2,539 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Broncos. And it’s not just how many yards, but how he accumulates them. Sanders can break free deep, but he rolls up his sleeves and lives over the middle where every tackle is a car crash. Which brings me to my next point. Sanders’ grit. Conduct a poll at Dove Valley in the locker room and executive offices, and I would be shocked if Sanders wasn’t voted the toughest player. He looks like he should be running the 100-meter dash for Team USA in Brazil this summer. Instead, his body gets turned into a pretzel, he was nearly decapitated two years ago at St. Louis, and he keeps punching the clock.
Finally, Sanders brings the noise. This has to be natural. Teammates dismiss and see through fake rah-rah guys. And if a guy talks all the time, it masks underlying insecurity and undermines his message. Sanders picks his spots. He will light up the huddle when necessary, imploring and encouraging teammates. He will back it up by staying late at practice running routes, practicing goal-line audibles or just making extra catches.
Leaders emerge naturally. A player can’t make himself captain. That’s as obnoxious as giving yourself a nickname. The Broncos want to follow their path back to the Super Bowl. The offense needs players to follow. The list could vary, but it should start with Emmanuel Sanders. [...]
PITTSBURGH– It wasn’t supposed to take the San Jose Sharks this long to reach their first Stanley Cup Final. It wasn’t supposed to take this long for Sidney Crosby to guide the Pittsburgh Penguins back to a destination many figured they’d become a fixture at after winning it all in 2009.
Not that either side is complaining.
Certainly not the Sharks, whose nearly quarter-century wait to play on the NHL’s biggest stage will finally end Monday night when the puck drops for Game 1. Certainly not Crosby, who raised the Cup after beating Detroit seven years ago but has spent a significant portion of the interim dealing with concussions that threatened to derail his career and fending off criticism as the thoughtful captain of a team whose explosiveness during the regular season too often failed to translate into regular mid-June parade through the heart of the city.
Maybe the Penguins should have returned to the Cup Final before now. The fact they didn’t makes the bumpy path the franchise and its superstar captain took to get here seem worth it.
“I think I appreciated it prior to going through some of those things,” Crosby said. “I think now having gone through those things I definitely appreciate it more. I think I realize how tough it is to get to this point.”
It’s a sentiment not lost on the Sharks, who became one of the NHL’s most consistent winners shortly after coming into the league in 1991. Yet spring after spring, optimism would morph into disappointment. The nadir came in 2014, when a 3-0 lead over Los Angeles in the first round somehow turned into a 4-3 loss. The collapse sent the Sharks into a spiral that took a full year to recover from, one that in some ways sowed the seeds for a breakthrough more than two decades in the making.
General manager Doug Wilson tweaked the roster around fixtures Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who remained hopeful San Jose’s window for success hadn’t shut completely even as the postseason meltdowns piled up.
“I always believed that next year was going to be the year, I really did,” Thornton said. “I always thought we were a couple pieces away. Even last year not making the playoffs, I honestly thought we were a couple pieces away, and here we are.”
The Penguins, like the Sharks, are a study in near instant alchemy. General manager Jim Rutherford rebuilt the team on the fly after taking over in June, 2014 and with the team sleepwalking last December, fired respected-but-hardly-charismatic Mike Johnston and replaced him with the decidedly harder-edged Mike Sullivan. The results were nearly instantaneous.
Freed to play to its strengths instead of guarding against its weaknesses, Pittsburgh rocketed through the second half of the season and showed the resilience it has sometimes lacked during Crosby’s tenure by rallying from a 3-2 deficit against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals, dominating Games 6 and 7 to finally earn a shot at bookending the Cup that was supposed to give birth to a dynasty but instead led to years of frustration.
True catharsis for one side is four wins away. Some things to look for over the next two weeks of what promises to be an entertaining final.
FRESH FACES: When the season began, Matt Murray was in the minor leagues. Now the 22-year-old who was supposed to be Pittsburgh’s goalie of the future is now very much the goalie of the present. Pressed into action when veteran Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion on March 31, Murray held onto the job even after Fleury returned by playing with the steady hand of a guy in his 10th postseason, not his first. San Jose counterpart Martin Jones served as Jonathan Quick’s backup when the Kings won it all in 2014 and has thrived while playing behind a defense that sometimes doesn’t give him much to do. Jones has faced over 30 shots just four times during the playoffs.
“HBK” IS H-O-T: Pittsburgh’s best line during the playoffs isn’t the one centered by Crosby or Malkin but Nick Bonino, who has teamed with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin to produce 17 goals and 28 assists in 18 games. Put together when Malkin missed six weeks with an elbow injury, the trio has given the Penguins the balance they desperately needed after years of being too reliant on their stars for production.
POWERFUL SHARKS: San Jose’s brilliant run to the Finals has been spearheaded by a power play that is converting on 27 percent (17 of 63) of its chances during the playoffs. The Sharks are 9-2 when they score with the man advantage and just 3-4 when it does not.
OLD MEN AND THE C(UP): Both teams have relied heavily on players who began their NHL careers in another millennium. Pittsburgh center Matt Cullen, who turns 40 in November, has four goals during the playoffs. Thornton and Marleau, both 36, were taken with the top two picks in the 1997 draft that was held in Pittsburg [...]