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Olney: Gene 'Stick' Michael's stubbornness was the heart of Yankees' Core Four

A few months ago, Gene Michael leaned against the Adidas Jake Gardiner Authentic Jersey railing in front of the New York Yankees' dugout, looking a little disheveled, as always. The baseball caps he wore always seemed ill-fitting -- I could never figure out if they were too big or too small -- and his shock of white hair usually needed a trim. When "Stick" Michael carried a notepad, the primary architect of what may be baseball’s last dynasty looked more like a sportswriter than a multisport star from Kent State, where he played basketball and baseball. Even after 10 years as a major league middle infielder, Stick had long maintained to me that he’d been a better basketball player. But he loved to joke, loved to tell stories, particularly at his own expense, and he mostly smiled when he talked about his basketball career, so I never knew for sure if he was kidding. I am certain, however, that Michael was so smart that he understood that his grinning, aw-shucks Midwestern demeanor would improve the chances that he would be underestimated. The fact is that he could not have survived decades as an employee of George Steinbrenner without a marrow-deep toughness, a stubbornness, as an emotional Authentic Rasmus Ristolainen Womens Jersey Buck Showalter recalled Thursday morning, not long after learning about the death of his close friend and former boss. Michael played for the Yankees for the first couple seasons of Steinbrenner’s ownership and later worked as a coach, manager, general manager and scout -- just about every role. As Steinbrenner negotiated his suspension from baseball in 1990, he ordered Michael to generate a list of candidates to run the Yankees in Steinbrenner’s absence. But then Steinbrenner asked Michael himself to go back to being the team’s GM, because Steinbrenner knew that even in the worst of times, in the most trying of times, Michael possessed the integrity to always try to do what was right for the Yankees organization, rather than for himself. The promotion was a crossroad for the organization. More than a decade before "Moneyball" highlighted the Oakland A’s focus on on-base percentage, Michael rebuilt the Yankees by emphasizing OBP and acquiring left-handed power hitters to take advantage of Yankee Stadium's dimensions. Michael also worked to rebuild the farm system. Sometimes, what was right for the Yankees was to defy Steinbrenner throughout the owner’s swinging emotional pendulum -- sometimes directly, sometimes surreptitiously. Michael once recalled the day that Steinbrenner, frustrated with a young center fielder named Bernie Williams, phoned Stick and ordered him to cultivate offers from other teams, so the Curtis McElhinney Youth Jersey Yankees could pick the best offer and trade Williams, because it wasn’t working. Michael believed in Williams and his talent, so much so that he had confronted veteran outfielder Mel Hall after seeing Hall bully Williams to tears. Michael had no intention of trading Williams. But Michael called every other team, as Steinbrenner had ordered, and talked to rival executives about everything and anything other than Bernie Williams. Michael reported back to Steinbrenner that he talked to other teams and hadn’t gotten one offer for Williams. Steinbrenner, momentarily placated, moved on to other concerns, and Williams was in center field for the team’s five World Series appearances and four titles from 1996-2001. Before the 1992 season, Michael listened to former teammate and then-Reds manager Lou Piniella complain about one of his outfielders, Paul O'Neill, who Piniella thought should hit more homers. Knowing Piniella’s personality, Michael figured that Piniella would push and prod O’Neill to distraction. And sure enough, O’Neill had a bad season in ’92, batting .246. With O’Neill’s trade value bottomed out, Michael made a deal with Cincinnati for the right fielder, despite industry concerns that the intense O’Neill would struggle playing in New York. But Michael believed O’Neill actually had a perfect personality to play in New York, because he would be far more critical of himself than any fan or columnist. A few years later, he made the same assessment of third baseman Scott Brosius; both players thrived for the Yankees. Early in the 1995 season, in Michael’s last year in the role of general manager, he mulled the possibility of trading pitching prospect Mariano Rivera to the Tigers for left-hander David Wells. As he moved closer to a deal that spring, he read a report from Rivera’s most recent minor league start with Triple-A Columbus and noticed that the velocity readings reflected a jump of 4-6 miles per hour faster than Rivera’s history.

How realignment knocked Notre Dame off its pedestal

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It didn't take long for Garrett McIntyre Youth Jersey the booing to begin when Roger Goodell set foot on the Gillette Stadium field Thursday night. Maybe five or six seconds. Goodell was on the sideline chatting with Chiefs owner Clark Hunt about an hour before Kansas City and New England kicked off the 2017 regular season. When they were shown on the videoboard, the crescendo of boos grew louder and louder. Goodell simply went on with his conversation with Hunt. Patriots fans, of course, have a deep dislike for the NFL commissioner who suspended quarterback Tom Brady for four games for his role in the "Deflategate" saga. Goodell, once a frequent guest of Patriots owner Robert Kraft at games, avoided coming to Foxborough during the Brady case, though he was at the stadium this summer for a preseason game. SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It has been 29 years since Notre Dame won a national championship. It has been 28 years since Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany held a conference call for his athletic directors and told them -- he didn't ask them, he told them -- that Penn State had been voted into the league by its school presidents. The news stunned the ADs into silence. Finally, Michigan's Bo Schembechler sputtered, "You gotta be s----ing me!" That reaction, which the legendary coach recounted years later to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, captures the impact that Penn State's move had on college football. Penn State's move ignited the era of realignment, a benign word that Authentic Noah Spence Youth Jersey doesn't begin to explain the power shifts that followed. In the nearly three decades since, the Big 12 has come, the Southwest Conference has gone and Big East football has come and gone. College football on television has wallpapered the American Saturday. Every game of every major power is on the air, if not on the phone. And in that time, Notre Dame stopped winning national championships. The Irish won 11 from 1924 through 1988, one every six years or so. Yes, there have been other dry spells in Fighting Irish history. The 10 years between Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian (1954-63) defined mediocrity (51 wins, 48 losses). The Irish once went 17 years between national championships (1949-66). Here's a new 17-year stat for you: In the 17 seasons of this century, Notre Dame has beaten exactly one top-five team, No. 3 Michigan, 17-10 in 2005. That was the second game of the Charlie Weis era, and we know how that turned out. This is a generation of fans who have not witnessed the greatness that college football once took for granted. This is a sport in which legends are quickly preserved in amber. Some of us may believe that Reggie Bush is a recent memory, but today's college freshman attended kindergarten the last time USC finished No. 1. That means Notre Dame's last national champion seems prehistoric. Or, to put it another way, Tony Rice, the Irish quarterback on the most recent national champion, turned the big Five-Oh on Tuesday. So it has been a long while. "I'm not here to say we've performed as well as we've should. I just can't find the connection to the realignment," athletic director Authentic Randall Cunningham Womens Jersey Jack Swarbrick said. "I can't find the thing that I'd look to and say, 'Boy, if we had done something differently ... .'" Brian Kelly, who has won more games (231) than any active FBS coach, is 60-31 (.659) in eight seasons at Notre Dame. He declined an interview request, saying he wanted to focus on this year's team, now No. 24, rather than look at the program's recent history. It doesn't measure up. Once upon a time, Notre Dame served as the gold standard in college football. It was a national program in a regional sport. "If you lived in this part of the country, you were interested in the SEC, period," said Roy Kramer, who retired in 2002 after 12 years as Southeastern Conference commissioner and moved to Tennessee. "The only other entity with name recognition was Notre Dame." In the 1960s and '70s, when the NCAA controlled its members' TV rights and allowed no team to be televised more than two or three times a year, only one school had a nationally syndicated highlights show that ran on Sundays. "You saw Notre Dame every weekend," former Fighting Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said. "If they weren't on the Saturday broadcast, I know, like a lot of kids, I ran home from church at noon to catch Notre Dame highlights." In 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA could not demand control of a program's TV rights as a condition of membership. Those rights belong to the schools. Seven years later, in 1991, Notre Dame sold its TV rights to NBC. A school with its own network ... that, as it turned out, became just one more game in a sea of Saturday football. The Supreme Court decision triggered the rise of power among the conferences, which packaged their members' rights to sell to the TV networks. These days, every team is shown to someone pretty much every week.To make those rights packages more attractive to the networks, conferences looked to broaden their geographic footprint -- in other words, realignment. The Big Ten stretches from the east coast to the border of the mountain time zone, which it shares with the Pac-12. The ACC takes in the eastern seaboard, Miami to Boston.

Olney: Boston's high-tech cheating is like sign-stealing on steroids

The New York Yankees suspected for weeks Authentic Braydon Coburn Womens Jersey that the Boston Red Sox had illicitly stolen signs in some way because of the comfort in the swings of the Boston hitters. One of New York’s hard-throwing relievers would try an off-speed pitch, and time and again, it seemed that the Red Sox hitter at the plate would dial down and taken an aggressive, healthy hack -- as if the batter had been lucky and guessed right. But happened again. And again. And again. So the Yankees searched for answers about how this might be taking place, and on the evening of Aug. 18, the Yankees’ staff discovered in video review what it determined to be incontrovertible evidence -- as first detailed in the New York Times on Tuesday afternoon. An assistant trainer received a message on his watch; the trainer informed a Red Sox Authentic Sean Kilpatrick Youth Jersey player in the dugout; the player relayed that information to the runner at second base, indicating which pitch signal in the sequence of signs was real; the runner at second, instantly armed with the key to breaking the Yankees’ signal-calling code, could detail the identity of the forthcoming pitch for the hitter at the plate. David Dombrowski, the president of Boston’s baseball operations, noted Tuesday that sign-stealing has been a part of the game for decades. But this was something different than the good ol’ fashion cat-and-mouse between the pitcher and catcher and the baserunner at second base. If what the Yankees believe to be true is fully verified by Major League Baseball, this was like sign-stealing on steroids -- using technology to accelerate the process of decoding catchers’ signs and giving the Red Sox a competitive advantage over teams that respected MLB’s no-technology rules. If what the Yankees believe to be true is verified, Boston hitters had advance knowledge of markedly more pitches they were about to see than their opponents, because members of the organization ignored MLB's guidelines. It’s basically the same type of advantage a student would have over peers if he or she received the questions to a college exam before the test. If Major League Baseball wants teams to take its no-technology rules seriously, it needs to come down hard on the Red Sox. If commissioner Rob Manfred lightly fines Boston, or renders some other toothless punishment, then he’ll essentially greenlight other teams to try to replicate the Red Sox crime -- and guarantee that a game he is trying to speed up will instead be even further bogged down by mound meetings and infield conferences, as teams combat an even more complicated version of sign-stealing. If what the Yankees allege is verified, then what the Red Sox did was brazen, and continued even after the Yankees initially reached out to the commissioner’s Derrick Rose Womens Jersey office with an unofficial complaint. The day after the Yankees identified the video evidence that they felt demonstrated Red Sox cheating, sources say, they reached out to the commissioner’s office and were informed that they would be contacted by Dombrowski. That did not happen. A Red Sox source maintained that nobody within the commissioner’s office reached out to Dombrowski at that time and that the Red Sox were told that Yankees GM Brian Cashman intended to call Dombrowski. In that day’s game -- after the Yankees had first been in touch with MLB -- the Yankees again collected video of what they believed to be the same sequence of events: Athletic trainer checks his watch; athletic trainer speaks to a player in the dugout; player in the dugout communicates with a runner at second; and with the clear view of the catcher, the runner decodes the signals for the batter and relays that information to the hitter.On Tuesday, neither Dombrowski nor John Farrell addressed the specifics of what the Yankees alleged. But the Red Sox did file their version of a countersuit against the with MLB, suggesting that the Yankees have been using a YES Network camera to steal signs. Yankees manager Joe Girardi dismissed that possibility, and if MLB finds no credibility to the Red Sox allegation, that should be a factor in determining a penalty against Boston. Because that will mean that given the choice between being accountable and acknowledging a transgression -- a clear violation of a written rule -- the Red Sox instead tried to obfuscate, to muddy the conversation about sign-stealing. Everybody’s doing it is not an acceptable response because, quite frankly, not everybody’s doing it -- and certainly not in the manner the Red Sox were.

Cam Newton 'so happy' for brother Caylin's early success at Howard

HARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton Men's Nike Chicago Bears #13 Kevin White Elite Navy Blue Throwback NFL Jersey wasn't worried on Tuesday about whether his surgically repaired shoulder would hold up in Sunday's opener at the San Francisco 49ers. Newton said he feels "great" physically. The 2015 NFL MVP was more concerned about living up to the standard "little" brother Caylin Newton set on Saturday in leading Howard University to one of the biggest upsets in college football history based on the point spread. Caylin had 330 yards of total offense and three touchdowns as Howard, a 45-point underdog, beat UNLV 43-40. "I've got my hands full of trying to follow up a great performance by him," Cam Newton said. "I just see all of the notoriety he's been getting. I've just been seeing a lot of, 'Cam Newton's little brother. Cam Newton's little brother.' "I would just prefer his name be Caylin. He's deserved that right." Caylin (5-foot-11, 194 pounds) pales in size compared with his big brother (6-5, 245 pounds). Because of his size, Caylin wasn't highly recruited out of Grady High School in Atlanta, winding up at the historically black university in Washington, D.C. Cam was one of the most sought-after quarterbacks in the country coming out of Westlake High in Atlanta. He initially went to Florida Authentic Taijuan Walker #44 Youth jersey and finished as a Heisman Trophy winner and national champion at Auburn in 2010 before becoming the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft. Newton on Tuesday teased Carolina outside linebacker Thomas Davis, a former first-round pick out of Georgia, that the Bulldogs made a mistake by not recruiting his brother. "I said, 'Listen, Georgia needs a winner. Every Newton that I know is a winner. You dig what I'm saying? They missed out on yet another one.'" Newton said. "He's a very undersized quarterback. But yet, it doesn't measure the heart that he has, what he brings to the table. He has that 'it' factor to have guys follow him. That's what you want in your quarterback." The elder Newton, 28, has the physical size and the "it" factor teams look for. But this is a critical time for him, as he comes off statistically the worst season of his career and surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff. Coach Ron Rivera said on Sunday that his quarterback was "ready" for the opener. He said on Tuesday that Newton wouldn't be limited on any kinds of throws. But Newton spent more time on Tuesday talking about his brother's performance than himself. "Now hearing him talk on the phone and hearing his responses to certain things ... I'm telling him, like, you're giving people hope," Newton said. "Like a team that probably has been known for their band, you know, people are going to the football games now to watch football ... not just to listen to the band play." Newton monitored the Howard-UNLV game on his ESPN phone app. "There was a lot of refreshing going on," he said. "But it was exciting talking to him prior Authentic Kirby Puckett #34 Womens jersey to and after the game. I tried not to dump so much on him. It's a difference when you're Cam Newton. And it's a difference when you're big brother. So now I try to find a fine line and give him a lot of the experiences I've [had]." Newton said it's like passing information on to a son or daughter. "You can tell your kids everything they're about to go through, but as soon as they go through it they're like, 'Man, I remember you telling me,'" he said. "I'm like, 'Yeah, I told you.' "I was just so happy for him. When he went through his whole little recruiting process he was getting so frustrated. I knew. I could tell. I could sense it." Newton compared watching Caylin being interviewed on ESPN to the attention Steve McNair got at Alcorn State in the mid-1990s. McNair went on to become the No. 3 pick of the 1995 draft and a three-time Pro Bowl selection. "It's just a [testament] to hard work," Newton said. "For a person that wasn't highly recruited, he seen his brother grow up and had accolades and had all the stardom coming out of high school. "I just told him be patient, that everything works for the greater good, knowing everything that your heart desires is still at hand, no matter if you're at Idaho Tech or wherever, they're going to find out. You just do your part and everything else will take care of itself." The Texans don't know what they're going to get from the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year after his recovery from a pair of back surgeries in 2016. But even in limited action during training camp, Watt has shown flashes of his old self. The Texans' defense stepped up last year in his absence, and now Watt will benefit from playing alongside Whitney Mercilus and a healthy Jadeveon Clowney, who is coming off the best season of his career. -- Sarah Barshop

Former NHL enforcer Colton Orr finds new role in spotlight

TORONTO -- The hardest part for Colton Authentic Zane Beadles Womens Jersey Orr was pretending. After duking it out many times in an NHL career that spanned almost 500 games, Orr was trying to pretend he was fighting in front of the camera as a first-time actor in "Goon: Last of the Enforcers." It's the latest step in the spotlight for the 35-year-old former enforcer. Orr retired from the NHL in April, just over a year after his final game with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Though he played in hockey hotbeds like Toronto, New York and Boston, Orr was often reluctant to step in front of the microphones and cameras. All that is beginning to change as he adjusts to life with wife Sabrina and their two young children. Not only will Orr have a part in the "Goon" sequel that features Seann William Scott and Liev Schreiber, he's also getting into broadcasting with SportsNet New York. His real-life story slightly resembles that of Doug Glatt, the main character in "Goon" (Scott), an enforcer forced to confront the end of his playing career. Unlike Orr, who stepped away for good as the NHL transitioned away from enforcers, Glatt decides to give his dream another go. "It's not always easy when you retire from something that you did for so long, that was your livelihood and everything you've done since you were a kid," said Orr, who is also coaching youth hockey and working with the Rangers' alumni program. "It's hard, but you have to find ways to push through and figure out what you're going to do next." Orr was thrilled when Jay Baruchel, the film's Canadian writer and director, asked him to be involved. He found the nerves were different as an actor. As a player, he was often worried about getting hurt in a fight. On the set, he would sometimes feel a pit in his stomach when someone would shout, `Action!' Orr was worried he might make a mistake and force the shoot to linger longer into the A.J. Green Womens Jersey night. "At first you're like, `OK, what? What was my line again?'" Orr said with a chuckle. "It was like one word." Orr was excited to get a trailer of his own on set and spent time between shoots catching up with longtime colleagues like George Parros and George Laraque -- both of whom were in the film -- as well as some of his acting heroes. A film and TV buff, Orr was a fan of Scott from "American Pie," Schreiber from "Ray Donovan" and Baruchel for his role in "Tropic Thunder." He came away somewhat starry-eyed. "You watch these guys all the time, you see them on TV and in interviews so it was kind of surreal being on set with them and being part of their movie," Orr said. The choreographed fight scenes proved to be the biggest challenge. As if he were a professional wrestler, Orr was having to sequence his usual fighting motions to script -- right punch, left punch, upper-cut -- and sell it hard when he supposedly got hit. Wary of Hurricane Irma's potential effect on the South Florida area, the Panthers' ownership chartered a plane and will take some players, staff and other team Authentic Chris Davis Womens jersey employees to Boston on Friday -- getting out of town long before the storm is expected to hit. Panthers CEO Matthew Caldwell told The Miami Herald that the team is even prepared to open training camp in Massachusetts if necessary. The Panthers are expected to take the ice for the first practice of the season on Sept. 14. Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck tweeted that players are lucky to have owners Vincent Viola and Doug Cifu "look out for us and get us to safety.'' The NHL did not request for Vegas Golden Knights games to be removed from Nevada's legal sportsbooks, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN on Wednesday. The league had 30 days before an event to make the official request to the Nevada Gaming Commission; the Golden Knights open their inaugural season on Oct. 6 against Dallas. The Golden Knights are currently +220 underdogs against the Dallas Stars at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. "What we're most in is making sure we get equitable treatment with the NFL in terms of how teams are dealt with on the book," Daley told ESPN. "We had discussions both with the club and MGM, with respect to betting around the arena. There may be some steps done in respect to that, but we didn't feel like it was an appropriate time to make the global request." Nevada Gaming Commission chairman Dr. Tony Alamo confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday that the NHL had not made the request to prohibit betting on Golden Knights' games a

Sources: DeAndre Hopkins gets record $49M guaranteed in new deal

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans Authentic Ryan Callahan Womens Jersey signed wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to a five-year, $81 million contract extension with $49 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Hopkins' $49 million guaranteed is the largest for any wide receiver in the NFL. Hopkins had a breakout season in 2015, with 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns. Last year, Hopkins' production dipped -- he finished the year with 78 catches for 954 yards and four touchdowns -- with quarterback Brock Osweiler throwing him the ball. During the offseason, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said even though Hopkins' stats were not what they were the year before, he helped the team in other ways on offense and in the locker room. The Texans exercised Hopkins' fifth-year option in April 2016, so the wide receiver was entering the last season of his rookie contract. Last year, Hopkins left training camp for one day because he wanted a new deal. This year, he reported to camp, telling ESPN's Dan Graziano he did not hold out "because I know I have a great team." "My teammates, those guys count on me to come here and make this team better," Hopkins said earlier this month. "Guys like Lamar Miller, like J.J. Watt that want to win a championship. And I know, for them to be able to do that, I have to be able to come out here and help those guys do it. So you know, the other 52 players on the team, they depend on me. That's why I'm here." Hopkins has a hand injury and has not practiced since the Texans' first preseason game on Aug. 9. He is expected to be ready for Houston's season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. After trading Osweiler in March, the Texans had almost $31 million in cap space, and they put some of it to use on Thursday. Houston also gave contract extensions to free safety Andre Hal, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and fullback Jay Prosch. That’s how the rest of the NFL world thinks the 2017 Cleveland Browns season will go. Thursday was the day for ESPN’s annual ritual of picking the results for each team’s game. Every NFL Nation reporter who covers his or her team does the picks. In picking the Browns games, I gave them five Authentic #18 Louis Murphy Youth Jersey wins. I see them as improved, but that this will be another difficult growth season. In essence, this is the season that most expected last season. Instead, the bottom fell out and the Browns didn’t get their first win until the second-to-last game of the season. There are serious concerns on this team -- at receiver, tight end and the secondary. But there is enough new talent to get past the catastrophic 2016 season. This season, I think the Browns will show some growth. However, they haven’t proven that to the rest of the world. The reporters from NFL Nation who picked their games when playing the Browns in every case picked their team to win. They won’t beat the Jets, Jacksonville or Chicago. They won’t win a division game. They will complete the 0-16 season they flirted with a year ago. Los Angeles Chargers: Maybe the image of the Chargers losing to the Browns on Christmas Eve lingers with me, because that did not look like a good team. Chargers reporter Eric Williams, though, points out that “the last time the Chargers lost at home against the Browns was 1991.” My retort: Will a converted soccer stadium in a new city be a home-field advantage? Chicago: I see the Browns squeaking this one out on the road on Christmas Eve. Jeff Dickerson says the Bears are “good enough to beat Cleveland.” This “lack of national respect” thing is an annual story for the Browns, and will be until they do something about it. Last season I picked the Browns to go 1-15, which they did. NFL Nation agreed, saying 1-15, with the only win over San Diego. I had them beating the Giants, which they didn’t. So the other NFL Nation reporters nailed it a year ago. Compared to the new deal Derek Carr did with Oakland earlier this offseason and the new deal Andrew Luck did with the Colts last summer, Stafford and agent Tom Condon slugged this one out of the park. This makes some sense, given that Stafford was starting from a higher leverage position, with one year and $16.5 million left on his deal, whereas Carr had one year and a little more than $1 million and Luck did his extension with two years left on his deal. But not only is Stafford's average annual salary higher than those of Carr and Luck, the way the deal is structured leaves those deals in the dust. Start with the top-line number. If you wanted to, you could describe Stafford’s deal as a six-year, $151.5 million contract because they re-did the one year he had left on his old contract, and that’s the amount of money he’ll make between now and the end of the 2022 season, if he continues playing to the length of the deal. Even that gives you $25.25 million per year, which exceeds Carr’s $25 million average and Luck’s $24.6 million. So, no matter how you slice it, Stafford can claim to be the league’s highest-paid player -- at least until Kirk Cousins hits free agency next March and sets a new bar.

Sabres' Kyle Okposo eager to look forward now that he's healthy

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Authentic Melky Cabrera Womens jersey Okposo happily looks to the future now that he's fully recovered from the concussion-related symptoms that nearly derailed his career in March. Saying he's not dwelling on the past, Okposo was eager to rejoin the Sabres after skating with numerous teammates for practice a little more than a week before the team opens training camp. Though he has been skating for much of the summer, Tuesday marked his first time on the ice in Buffalo since being hospitalized late last season. "It was obviously a tough situation, a tough road," Okposo said. "I'm just happy to be back and happy to be able to play again, and play at a high level." He acknowledged questioning if he would ever get better before he started feeling "clear" in May. "It was definitely a scary thing," Okposo said. "Your mind starts to question a lot of things." In a letter posted on the Sabres website in July, Okposo wrote he began losing weight and had difficulty sleeping after what he described as "a routine hit" in practice. He played one game before the symptoms worsened. Okposo then spent nearly a week in April in Buffalo Adidas Authentic Cam Atkinson Youth Jersey General Hospital's Neuro Surgical ICU to be stabilized. The 29-year-old from St. Paul, Minnesota, had 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points in 65 games during his first season with Buffalo. Okposo signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Sabres in free agency last year. BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sabres star center Jack Eichel is focused on taking a larger leadership role and is not concerning himself with contract talks -- even it means waiting until next year to sign a new deal. "I have no problem playing the season out and just trying to earn whatever," Eichel said Tuesday. "We know where we stand. We know where the Sabres stand. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen." Eichel also reiterated his commitment to staying in Buffalo on a long-term basis. He spoke after taking part in his first on-ice session with numerous teammates in Buffalo, a little over a week before the Sabres open training camp. The 20-year-old is entering the final season of his three-year rookie contract, and is in line for what is projected to be a lucrative contract extension. A person with direct knowledge of talks told The Associated Press last month that both sides have discussed a contract spanning an NHL-maximum eight seasons . The same person told the AP on Tuesday that negotiations haven't stopped since the two sides formally opened talks in June. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because negotiations Adidas Authentic Daniel Alfredsson Youth Jerseyhave been private. Buffalo selected Eichel with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, one spot behind Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid, who earned NHL MVP honors last season. In July, McDavid cashed in by signing eight-year, $100 million contract, which will make him the league's top-paid player on a per-season basis for the start of the 2018-19 season. Eichel is not surprised he hasn't yet agreed to contract extension, and has instead spent the summer focusing on hockey. "I looked at my summer as preparation for the biggest year of my career so far," he said. "And that's the way I'll continue to look at it." This season represents a fresh start for Eichel and the Sabres, who underwent an offseason overhaul after extending their franchise-worst playoff drought to a sixth year. General manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma were fired in April and replaced by Jason Botterill and Phil Housley. Eichel was frustrated over last season's finish, and acknowledged he needs to be better in various aspects, including leadership. "I look at myself to be one of the leaders on this team, and a guy who's going to push this organization to the next level," he said. "If that's going to be the case, then I've got to be a guy that everyone leans on. And I've got to be better in all aspects of hockey, on or off the ice." Eichel led Buffalo with 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists) in 61 games last year despite missing the first 21 games of the season with a sprained left ankle. He is looking forward to playing for Housley, the Hall of Fame defenseman and former Sabres player. Housley intends to introduce a high-tempo, puck-possession approach similar to that of the Nashville Predators, with whom he spent the previous four seasons as an assistant coach.

Astros' brief homestand was momentous for players and city

At the height of Hurricane Harvey, with flood Lucas Johansen Authentic Jersey waters pushing past the sidewalk and the giant old oak tree out front about to give way, before losing power, or worse, Katie Bracamonte called to update her husband, longtime Houston Astros bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte, who was riding out the storm with the rest of the team in Florida. "The water's coming," she told him. "Be safe," they repeated to each other. A few hours later, the water inching closer, Katie and her two groggy daughters piled into a closet for safety after a string of tornados threatened the area. In the dark, Katie noticed her half-asleep teenager squeezing something in her hand. "What's that?" she whispered. "It's a Sharpie," the girl replied. "We're supposed to write our names and Social Security numbers on our arms ... so they can identify us." IT'S SATURDAY AFTERNOON, just minutes before the first pitch inside Minute Maid Park, where the Astros returned to face the Mets in a post-Harvey series meant to bring a glimmer of hope and a moment of normalcy back to a town still in shock after one of the worst storms in U.S. history. Despite the two feet of water dumped down by Harvey, the Bracamontes and most of the Astros were Authentic Malcolm Butler Youth Jersey spared excessive property damage, and now dad is back safe in the bullpen and the rest of the family let me tag along as they helped, along with other team family members, collect donations for storm relief before the Mets opener. (Folks were supposed to donate nonperishable goods, but a family from Huntsville couldn't help themselves and brought a tray full of fresh homemade brownies for the Astros' bullpen crew.) Dressed in a white home jersey and a black baseball hat with Astros spelled out in silver sparkles, Bracamonte is telling me her storm story while weaving through the crowded, narrow team office hallways, picking up donations from the Astros' staff. The first two people she passes are team owner Jim Crane and his wife, Whitney. After a warm embrace -- Javier has been with the Astros since 2001 -- the three of them engage in what will become familiar Harvey shorthand for the Astros family reconnecting inside Minute Maid Park. "Ya'll good?" "Didya get water?" "Need anything?" The answers aren't always positive. There were stories exchanged in this hallway of houses with 14 feet of water in them, storm surges so strong they swept away huge concrete traffic barriers like twigs in a stream, and neighborhoods hit with such destruction and despair that people were nailing their house keys to the front door with notes that read: You can have it. "It's just incredibly sad," outfielder George Springer says. "To see people holding trash bags of all they have left in the world. Whatever our role is, even if it's just a diversion for a few hours, it just makes me want Chris Tierney Authentic Jersey to run through a wall for this town if it will help even a little." As we carried the bags of food and paper products back to the center field collection point outside Minute Maid, Bracamonte summed up the Astros' role in post-Harvey recovery as such: "I think the Astros provide something everyone needs after a catastrophe like this: the feeling that no matter what, you're not alone." Before I could even get back to the press box, the Astros were already up 7-0 on the Mets, a rally that included a few close plays at the plate. (They all went Houston's way, of course.) That was kind of the theme to this entire, impossible and emotional post-Harvey baseball weekend in Texas. The Astros safe, at home. MANY OF THE Astros became emotional when talking about flying back to Houston on Thursday. Their flight path from Florida took them directly over the path of the storm, and as they approached Houston, there was a face pressed against every window on the team plane. It looked as if the coast line had been moved 100 miles north. "I think everyone just sat there quiet and stunned and overwhelmed," says pitcher Collin McHugh. Landing only made it harder. Most players and staff called home as soon as they touched down to share what they had seen, but most couldn't find the words. "When we landed it was 75 degrees and breezy and sunny, and it was just strange for me emotionally," says pitcher Charlie Morton. "There was just such a detachment and isolation from what had actually happened here. It makes you feel guilty that you weren't here to do something." Yet if there's a blueprint for a sports organization to respond to such an unspeakable tragedy, well, the Astros came as close as any team has. On Friday, when the team visited evacuees at the George R. Brown Convention Center, manager A.J. Hinch said, "It's our humane obligation to make another person smile today." They pitched in. They raised money and lifted spirits. They allowed themselves to be emotional and vulnerable while keeping their role in perspective: not saviors, but a three-hour diversion from reality.

The annual Uni Watch NFL season preview

It's a turbulent time in the uni-verse. The Sean Mannion Youth Jersey NBA is switching from Adidas to Nike, and the NHL is switching from Reebok to Adidas, which means all 30 teams in each league will have new uniforms, while MLB has been dressing its players in garishly colored jerseys with nicknames. Compared to those situations, the NFL uni scene is a relative oasis of calm. Or so it would appear at first glance. But it turns out that there's also a lot of churn in the world of NFL uniforms this season because most teams are upgrading to a new Nike tailoring template. You'll be hearing a lot about how the new template is lighter and tighter, how it has fewer seams and so on. But from a visual standpoint, the most obvious -- and they're almost all for the better -- can be seen around the jersey collars. Some quick background: When Nike took over as the NFL's uniform supplier in 2012, many people expected a wide-ranging makeover of the league's look. That didn't happen, but Nike did put one prominent mark on NFL jerseys: the Flywire collar. That's the collar format with those annoying shiny bands, which Authentic Knile Davis Youth Jersey have been a visual blight on the NFL landscape for five seasons now. Flywire supposedly makes the collar area stronger or some such, but it's really a Nike branding element -- a way for Nike to say, "Hey, don't forget that we made this jersey." It has never been a mandatory uniform element, but 23 of the league's 32 teams began using it in 2012, and 22 of them were still using it last season. This year, however, teams can upgrade from Nike's Elite 51 uniform template to the Vapor Untouchable template (yes, the names are ridiculous, but try to ignore them), and most have done so. The good news is that the new template is Flywire-free; the bad news is that the new collar has its own mildly annoying Nike branding element: a little triangular badge at the base of the neckline. But that looks way, way better than the Flywire. Of the 22 teams that were Flywire-clad last year, 19 have upgraded to the new template. They've swatted the Flywire! So we'll call them the Flyswatter Brigade -- a term you'll be seeing a lot throughout the rest of this column. Thanks to these teams, the league will look a whole lot better this season. Of course, there's plenty of other uni-related news as we move toward the kickoff of the 2017 NFL season. Here's our annual team-by-team rundown of what you can expect to see on the gridiron this fall, broken down by division. In addition, the Dolphins will wear their aqua throwbacks for their final two home Authentic Giancarlo Stanton Youth Jersey games of the season -- Dec. 11 against the Patriots and Dec. 31 against the Bills. (That noise you hear in the background is the sound of millions of NFL fans shouting, "They should wear those full time!") You can see their full home jersey schedule -- something every team should post publicly, though only a handful do -- here. Meanwhile, the Texans have released their home uniform schedule. As usual, they'll wear solid white for their home opener Sept. 10 against the Jaguars. They'll also wear their red alternate jerseys on Dec. 10 against the 49ers. It's also worth noting that the Texans haven't yet announced whether they'll be adding a patch or helmet decal related to Houston's recovery from Hurricane Harvey, but it seems highly likely that the team, and maybe the entire league, will make some sort of uni-related gesture. Stay tuned. • There has never been an anniversary patch for a uniform design (that would be very meta, right?). But it's tempting to think that the Broncos should wear one for their uniform, which marks its 20th anniversary this Love it or hate it, it was revolutionary when it debuted in 1997, and there's still nothing quite like it in the NFL. Thanks to some judicious use of the Flyswatter, it will look better this year than it did last year. The Chargers have also posted their home jersey schedule for 2017. In a development that will have NFL fans giving serious thanks as they reach for the gravy, the schedule calls for the Bolts to wear their powder blue alternates -- considered by many the best look in league -- on Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys.

Despite concerns on the ice, NHL players still reluctant to donate brains for concussion studies

Dr. Ann McKee, a concussion specialist, wants #12 Joe Namath Authentic Jersey the hockey community to step up its game when it comes to posthumous brain donation. McKee, the chief of neuropathology at VA Boston and director of Boston University's CTE Center, has been at the forefront of football concussion research for years -- but she has yet to see the hockey community donate brains posthumously at the same rate as football. "We're not nearly as far in hockey [research] as we are in football because we just don't have the same numbers," McKee said in a phone interview with Released in late July, McKee's study showed 177 of 202 deceased football players' brains had chronic traumatic encephalopathy -- commonly referred to as CTE. This included 110 of 111 brains of NFL players. According to a Boston University CTE Center research assistant, neuropathology has been completed on just 16 hockey players' brains, nine of which were found to have CTE. All six of the NHL players' brains in the study had CTE. In total, 19 brains from hockey players have been donated to the center. The Canadian Concussion Centre also has completed CTE studies on former NHLers, specifically Brandon Marshall Womens Jersey those of Todd Ewen and Steve Montador. Ewen's brain did not have CTE, but Montador's did. The CCC said it wouldn't release its exact total for donated brains, but it said it has more than 30 and the majority of the donations are from football players. "I think the guys are kind of recognizing the very simple but maybe courageous gesture of just kind of being able to donate the most important organ in your body could potentially benefit others down the road, be it through prevention, diagnosis or treatment or whatever the case may be," former NHL enforcer Stu Grimson said. "I think the awareness is really growing, but it's in its infancy." Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is described by the BU study as a "progressive, degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma." CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously. McKee's findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association According to the website for Boston University's CTE Center, symptoms can include "memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidality, parkinsonism and eventually progressive dementia." Hockey and football often have been linked to head injuries. Also, both the NFL and NHL have been involved in lawsuits with their former players over each league's handling of concussions. The NFL has settled its lawsuit; the NHL's is ongoing. In her experience with hockey players, McKee said she has so far seen CTE but not to the same degree as in football players. "It's not a systematic study, but just anecdotally looking at the players that have come into our brain bank compared to the football players, in general I think the hockey players have less CTE or a milder CTE. But again, this is based on very few numbers and this could change," she said. "But I haven't had the experience of seeing many, many advanced CTE cases in hockey like I have in Braxton Miller Womens Jersey football." Although the level of CTE that McKee has seen in hockey isn't considered as severe, the effects of the disease can still have a damaging impact on a person's life. "They can have very severe behavioral changes, like aggression, violence, impulsivity, disinhibition and even depression and hopelessness and suicidal behavior," McKee said. "That's what we're seeing in the individuals with mild CTE." McKee noted that head hits are basically ingrained in football's fabric, while in hockey, they don't occur with the same frequency, which could in part be why her findings in hockey have been different. Still, that doesn't mean the sport is without both concussion and CTE risk. NHL Alumni Association executive director and former goalie Glenn Healy, who just assumed his position this summer, said in his short time leading the alumni association, brain donation hasn't been a major topic among former "I think it has been more prevalent in football, for instance, because you have 350-pound linemen who are facing off [against] each other and going full speed, and as they stop together, the brain keeps going. Our sport is different, and we do have our issues that we have to address, for sure; but in our circles, it hasn't been a prevalent conversation," he said. "I played 16 years, I worked with the NHLPA, and it's not a conversation I've had with any regularity."An NHLPA spokesman declined to comment when asked about the difference between brain donation rates among hockey players versus football players.

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