Football on grass

Tom Brady Rookie Card Sells For Record $2.25 Million

A signed card from Tom Brady’s rookie season, brandished by experts as the ‘Holy Grail’ of football cards, has sold for $2.25 million at an online auction. The sale comes two months after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback picked up his seventh Super Bowl title.

The signed card from Brady’s rookie season in 2000 is one of ‘only a handful ever offered for sale’, according to the auctioneer Lelands, which claimed it was the best Tom Brady card available to the public.

The online sale smashed the previous price paid for a football card at auction. It was another rookie Brady card that already held the record, selling for over $1.3 million in a similar online auction.

“Tom Brady continues to shatter records both on and off the football field. The GOAT, Brady now holds the distinction of having the most expensive football card ever sold,” Lelands President Mike Heffner said in a written statement, brandishing the card “one for the ages.”

Brady picked up his fifth Super Bowl MVP award in February, a feat closest to by Joe Montana’s three between 1982 and 1990. The Bucs’ victory over 2020 champions Kansas City also signaled Brady’s seventh Super Bowl victory, another reason why he is widely considered the greatest to ever play football.

While the Buccaneers made all the headlines for the on-field performances last year, they have been working diligently behind the scenes over the off-season to become the first ever Super Bowl winning team to retain all 22 starters on offense and defense.

Seven key players were due to leave in free agency this spring but the Buccaneers brought everyone back in a move that is usually difficult after winning a Super Bowl, due to increased interest from elsewhere and higher contract demands.

Head coach Bruce Arians has cited the winning culture fostered by Brady and his highly regarded coaching team as perhaps the biggest factor contributing to the Bucs being able to retain the services of those they wanted to.

“I can’t really point to a single factor, but I think everybody wanted to be back,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. “Everybody’s getting paid fairly, but everybody’s very excited to try to (win) it again.

“We’re going to be in good shape if we continue to make sure we make smart decisions and do things right.”

First, the franchise tag was placed on wide receiver Chris Godwin, who undoubtedly would have received a huge contract on the open market. From there, multi-year contracts were worked out with linebackers Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David, as well as kicker Ryan Succop.

One-year deals were also reached with tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and running back Leonard Fournette to keep them with the franchise at least through the 2021 season.

It has not been all good news for the Buccaneers during the off-season, however, as young cornerback Carlton Davis has come under fire this week for sending out a tweet containing an anti-Asian slur.

The 24-year-old has since deleted and apologized for the tweet, claiming he did not realize the term’s hurtful meaning.

“Gotta stop letting g–ks in Miami,” Davis wrote in the tweet.

Davis apologized in subsequent tweets for using the slur and said he thought the term meant “lame.”

“I would never offend any group of people,” Davis wrote in a tweet accompanied by an image from an undisclosed slang dictionary entry. “You reporters can look for another story to blow up. The term was directed towards a producer claiming he ‘ran Miami’ With that being said I’ll retire that word from my vocabulary giving the hard times our Asian family are enduring.

“I used a term that from where I come from has always meant ‘lame’ but I did not realize it has a much darker, negative connotation. I have learned a valuable lesson and want to apologize to anyone that was offended by seeing that word because we need to focus on helping each other during these tough times.”

Hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen nearly 150% across major US cities over the past year, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Several incidents have made national and international headlines over the past few weeks.

“We have been in communication with Carlton regarding his social media post from Sunday evening,” general manager Licht said on the matter. “Carlton has been an active member of our Social Justice Player Board over the past two seasons and has played a key role in our organizational support for finding peaceful and productive ways to bring attention to societal issues that have plagued our country for many years. Words carry weight and it is incumbent upon all of us to have a thorough understanding of the words we choose and the effect they may have on others. We look forward to working with Carlton to find appropriate ways to learn from this experience and continue our joint efforts to put an end to all forms of social and racial injustices.”

NFL Football Player

NFL Owners Expand Regular Season to 17 Games

The NFL has announced that its owners have made the decision to extend the regular season from 16 to 17 games, starting this year. The extra game signals the first change to the NFL schedule since 1978.

It was also announced that every team will play at least one international fixture every eight years, with pre-season cut from four to three games to balance out the extra regular season fixture.

“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”

An increase to the regular season schedule has been on the cards since the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was agreed upon by the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association last March.

Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL was required to negotiate at least one new media contract before they could make the move to expand to 17 regular season games.

March 18 saw the NFL announce new media deals through 2033, paving the way for the decision of an extra game every year to be made.

With the drop in salary cap across the league for the 2021 season because of the pandemic, the increased schedule is expected to lessen the effects of less money available, as well as creating new revenue.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the new media deal and subsequent extension of the schedule will trigger the ‘media kicker’ in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, increasing the players’ share of all revenue to greater than 48%.

Each NFL team will now take part in an additional interconference game, with the opponent determined by division standings from the prior season and on a rotating division basis with the AFC teams as the home squad for the extra games in 2021.

With news of the newly structured international format also released this week, the English Football Association (FA) confirmed to Sky Sports News that they were in ongoing discussions with the Jacksonville Jaguars over hosting future games at Wembley Stadium.

The FA said: “We remain in ongoing, positive discussions with the Jacksonville Jaguars about hosting future games at Wembley Stadium, so are not in a position to comment further.

“The FA maintains good relationships with the NFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars having enjoyed over a decade of hosting games at Wembley Stadium.”

The Shahid Kahn-owned Jaguars, who have played one game every year at the UK’s biggest stadium since 2013, had agreed to play two regular season games at Wembley in 2020 before the pandemic forced the NFL to cancel all international obligations last year.

In a statement, the team said: “The Jaguars currently do not have agreements with the NFL or Wembley Stadium to play a home game per season in London.

“Our annual home games in London have strengthened our franchise, helped to forge relationships between Jacksonville and UK businesses, and established the Jaguars as the team to follow and support in London, the UK and throughout Europe.

 

“For those reasons and many more, we’re hopeful that the Jaguars’ tradition of playing one home game each season in London can continue well into the future. We continue to have discussions with the Football Association and staff at Wembley Stadium, where our experiences have always been excellent.”

Kahn has previously told Sky Sports that he would only allow the Jaguars to play games in the UK at Wembley, and that he had an offer to buy the 90,000-capacity stadium accepted in 2018 before the deal eventually fell through.

The NFL currently has an agreement in place with Tottenham Hotspur to stage at least two regular season games per year at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium through 2025. This week, it was reported that any games the Jaguars volunteered to play in the UK would be in addition to the announcement that the NFL will play four international games per season from 2022.

Elsewhere in the NFL, wide receiver Tyler Lockett has signed a four-year $69 million extension with the Seattle Seahawks in a deal that includes $37 million in guarantees. The 2015 third-round pick had signed a three-year deal ahead of the 2018 season that keeps him with the team until the end of this season, and he is now set to stay with Seattle until 2026

Seahawks selected Lockett in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and he impressed enough as a returner to be named to the Pro Bowl that season.

Despite two fairly quiet seasons in 2016 and 2017, Lockett broke out as a receiver in 2018, amassing 965 yards and 10 touchdowns on 57 catches. That year, quarterback Russell Wilson achieved a perfect 158.3 passer when targeting Lockett – the first time that has ever happened in an NFL season.

Football on grass

Lawyer Of Deshaun Watson’s Accusers Speaks Out Against ‘Hush Money’ Claims 

Tony Buzbee is the lawyer representing the women who accused Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct. Buzbee recently fired back at the NFL player’s attorney who recently claimed that Ashley Solis, one of the accusers, demanded “hush money” before filing a civil lawsuit against Watson. Buzbee posted an email that he wrote to Scott Gaffield, the General Counsel at the Athletes First agency in California, onto his Instagram to express his distaste in these claims. 

“The latest and ever-changing Watson defense is that our legal team is somehow compromised because we tried to settle or resolve issues with one client before putting all of these women through the current media circus we knew would result, because the alleged perpetrator is a famous quarterback. I can and have confirmed we tried to resolve these issues without a lawsuit. That fact was public knowledge almost three weeks ago. We attempted to settle without fanfare or press,” Buzbee wrote.

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“In fact, I’ve attached the last email we had with the Watson team before we filed the first lawsuit. This email was sent when we represented only one victim, before we represented what is now 23 women, alleging the same thing.”

Buzbee continued on to discuss how “the current back and forth reporting about the ego of the lawyers involved is not appropriate, or helpful. These cases are about those who were subject to the conduct alleged. Please review the video of Ashley Solis today, from the press conference; she had the courage to go in front of national media to tell her story. STRONG!! Now, that’s a hero! That’s who we should be talking about!”

The excerpts above are also taken from an email sent from Buzbee to Gaffield on February 19th, 2021. The first sexual misconduct claim against Watson surfaced on March 16th, nearly one month after. 

“We made a legit demand. You rejected it. We won’t be making another or bid against ourselves. We also won’t be having an extended dialogue about why you think your client did nothing wrong or how you want this to be a ‘learning’ experience for your ‘high-profile athlete,’ as you refer to him. This is Houston, Texas. Perhaps you should find him a lawyer here so you can apprise both you and your client of the landscape here and who you are dealing with. Talk soon.”

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Solis revealed herself as one of the Jane Does making a claim against Watson in a press conference this week, in which she claimed that Watson exposed himself during a massage session back in March 2020. Rusty Hardin, Watson’s attorney, claims he has emails to prove Solis was looking to get money out of Watson. 

Buzbee currently represents nearly two dozen women who have come out against Watson, however, Gaffield responded to the email by claiming that the NFL “doesn’t believe that the alleged facts show that Deshaun did anything wrong. We believed then – and fully believe now- that Deshaun learned a lesson about putting himself in this type of situation by interacting with people he does not know.”

“As the emails show, we were willing to continue discussions on Deshaun’s behalf to explore ways to prevent a lawsuit and a public spectacle. But Mr. Buzbee informed us that he was unwilling to do so. We expect that this matter will be resolved in court.”

Watson is currently not facing any criminal charges, but Houston police have launched an investigation into the allegations after another complaint was filed this Friday.

Football 2

Giants Sign Golladay to $72 Million Deal as Free Agency Continues

The New York Giants have agreed to sign former Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay to a four-year, $72 million deal as teams continue to bolster their roster via free agency.

NFL Network reported that the deal includes $40 million guaranteed with a total maximum value of $76 million.

It seemed as though Golladay confirmed the news on social media following the report by retweeting an NFL post that read: “Big plays coming to the Big (apple emoji).”

2017 third-round pick Golladay has 183 receptions for 3,068 yards and 21 touchdowns in 47 games (39 starts) over his NFL career. The former Lion made the Pro Bowl in 2019, leading the NFL with 11 TD catches that year.

He caught 20 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns in five starts last season.

AFC East side Miami Dolphins also strengthened at the wide receiver position, reportedly agreeing a one-year deal in excess of $10 million with former Houston Texan Will Fuller.

26-year-old Fuller set career highs across the board with 53 receptions, 879 yards and eight touchdowns in just 11 games in 2020.

He missed the final portion of the season after receiving a six-game suspension for violating league policy on performance-enhancing substances, meaning he will also miss Week One of the 2021 season.

The wide receiver news continued with the Steelers announcing that JuJu Smith-Schuster is returning to Pittsburgh after signing a new one-year deal with the team.

No financial terms of the deal were revealed, but reports suggest that Smith-Schuster gave the Steelers, struggling with salary cap space, a hometown deal, turning down bigger offers from other franchises to stay with the team he has been at since being selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft.

NFL Network reported that the USC wide-out will receive a $7 million signing bonus, a $1 million base salary and four voidable years that lower the 2021 cap hit of the deal to just $1.6 million. It was also reported that the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens offered more money.

“Can’t say it enough, I love you Pittsburgh,” Smith-Schuster tweeted on Friday afternoon. “Came in here a young 20 year old and you guys embraced me from the moment I got here. So much love. Had my back thru everything, all the struggles and success. So hard to leave. See you this Fall in Heinz WE’RE GOIN CRAZY!!!”

Rob Gronkowski also re-signed with his franchise on a one-year deal, agreeing terms with the Buccaneers exactly a month after winning a Super Bowl with the team. The extension keeps Gronkowski with long-time team-mate Tom Brady, who recently signed one of his own.

Starting every game in the regular season, Gronkowski played three quarters of the Bucs’ offensive stats as he tied for third on the team with 45 receptions, producing figures of 623 yards and seven touchdowns.

The postseason mainly saw him take a blocking role as the Bucs rediscovered their run game, but the tight end exploded in the Super Bowl, making six receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ 31-9 win over Kansas City.

“In addition to his contributions on the field, Gronk has quickly become one of the most beloved guys in our locker room,” said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. “His ability to perform at a championship-calibre level week after week, while also uplifting everyone around him, makes him an invaluable presence in our building. Rob’s accomplishments speak for themselves and make him one of the greatest to ever play the game at his position. We are thrilled to have him back with us as we pursue another title in Tampa.”

“I feel like I can play another full season right now if we started,” said Gronkowski himself after signing the deal.

“So I feel really good. Everything that I’ve changed throughout my career is definitely paying off and it feels great. It’s great to see everything pay off. I feel really good right now. I feel light, I feel flexible, I feel like I can go out and just play some football. Just go out and not be thinking and just play football and run routes and do what I’ve got to do out there on the field. I definitely feel like I’m ready to go, play another full season coming up this year and just take it a year at a time like that.

“I would say about halfway through the season I felt like I was very comfortable,” said Gronkowski. “Just throughout the whole entire process of knowing the plays, feeling good out there on the field – it just all came together, I would say, about halfway through. It just felt good, too, when everything starts clicking like that, when I break the huddle and I don’t even have to think about the play. I just go out there and do it.”

American Football NFL

NFL Free Agency Round Up

With the 2021 NFL season officially kicking off this week, the usual free agency frenzy is upon us as teams begin to build their rosters for opening weekend in September.

One of the stories of free agency so far is the New England Patriots, who fell to a record of 7-9 in their worst season since 2000. Head coach and general manager Bill Belichick clearly felt the need for an overhaul of his team as the Patriots, predicted to have the second most in cap space ahead of free agency, have been the busiest team in free agency by far.

One of the biggest moves of free agency so far was announced when the Patriots agreed a four-year, $56m deal including $32m over the first two years with former Baltimore Ravens pass rusher Matthew Judon.

Judon posted 50 tackles and six sacks in 14 games last year as he was named to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year, finally leaving the Ravens after being franchise tagged last year.

The defensive improvement continued for the Patriots as they revealed news of a four-year, $24m deal with former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills. Earlier in the day the Patriots also agreed a two-year, $16m deal with former Miami Dolphins nose tackle Davon Godchaux, a fifth-round pick out of LSU in 2017.

The Patriots, not normally this active in free agency, continued their spending spree with big deals for receivers Nelson Agholor, who caught eight touchdowns for the Raiders last year, and 25-year-old Kendrick Bourne, who had seven touchdowns in the last two seasons with the 49ers.

Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dealt with the period in the opposite manner, re-signing their key free agents to long-term deals. One of the biggest question marks for the world champions was pass rusher Shaq Barrett, set to break the bank on the open market.

But Barrett was signed to a multi-year deal, as was veteran linebacker Lavonte David. Quarterback Tom Brady also signed an extension that cleared much-needed cap space. Wide receiver Chris Godwin had been predicted to make a lot on the market but was tagged by the Bucs as general manager Jason Licht looks to bring the gang back together.

Pass rushers Bud Dupree, Trey Hendrickson and Yannick Ngakoue all found new teams on day one of the new league season. Dupree, formerly of the Steelers, made one of the biggest headlines of the day as he signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Tennessee Titans.

25-year-old Ngakoue signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. The former Jaguar has 45.5 sacks and 18 forced fumbles in 78 games (70 starts) over five NFL seasons.

Trey Hendrickson left the New Orleans Saints as he agreed to a four-year, $60m contract with the Cincinnati Bengals, according to reports.

Journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Ron Rivera-led Washington Football Team. Reports suggest Fitzpatrick will be in contention for the starting role on week one.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones was the point of a lot of controversy as he head into free agency without a tag, but the Packers eventually took the star back off the market, agreeing a four-year, $48 million contract to stay with the team.

“Not being relevant in 2020 clearly did not sit well with the New England Patriots and they have made a busy start to the negotiating period with impending free agents. Within the first few hours, the Pats have agreed deals with tight end Jonnu Smith (Tennessee), edge rusher Matthew Judon (Baltimore), cornerback Jalen Mills (Philadelphia) and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (Miami),” NFL analyst Neil Reynolds said of the New England Patriots.

“At first glance, these look to be very nice moves. Smith is talented, athletic and productive, Judon can be a difference-maker and Mills offers the kind of versatility that Bill Belichick covets. But as is always the case in free agency, there are no guarantees. Smith won’t have the luxury of being in an offense with Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and AJ Brown; and Judon is the latest in a long line of edge rushers out of Baltimore who must prove the grass is greener on the other side of free agency.

“The Patriots have made the kind of big free agency splash that those chasing them for all those years were forced to make. Have they turned into the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins? I think these moves have improved them, but I also think they have overpaid (a free agency norm).

But all the moves in the world mean nothing without a quarterback who can be relied upon week in and week out. The Patriots do not currently have such a player, even following the recent re-signing of Cam Newton.”

Professional Swimmer

Singer Cody Simpson’s Unexpected Bid To Compete In The 2021 Tokyo Olympics 

Cody Simpson is gearing up to compete at next month’s national championships for swimming in his home country of Australia. The singer will be going up against the nation’s top swimmers before June’s Olympic trials. 

The international singer has always been a competitive swimmer, however, his career as a teen pop icon obviously distracted from that fact. Simpson claims that Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe are among his biggest mentors. His 6.9 million Twitter followers and 3.9 million Instagram followers only recently discovered that one of their favorite performers was also a junior Queensland state champion for swimming. 

According to sources close to Simpson, he began competitively swimming again around five months ago, and has been training non stop in the United States with former Australian Olympian Brett Hawke, who also posted daily updates of Simpson’s progress to his Instagram. 

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Simpson went public with his re-entry into the competitive swimming world back in December, when he revealed to fans his 100 meter butterfly time of 54.7 seconds. That time is below the 56.87 second qualifying mark for the Olympic trials and would have been the 11th fastest time if Simpson competed at the 2019 Australian championships. 

“I just qualified for my first Olympic trials. I’d love to share this personal milestone and let you in on my current journey as an athlete that I’ve kept relatively low key until now. Growing up competing, and then inevitably having to cut my career short as 13-year-old Australian champion when I received an opportunity in music that I couldn’t refuse,”  Simpson wrote on Instagram in December.

Simpson continued to discuss how after years of “touring around the world, releasing albums, performing as a leading man on Broadway, publishing a work of poetry, travelling with and speaking at the United Nations on environmental and oceanic matters, I was fuelled by the silent fire in my stomach to return to swimming.”

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Hawke also recently spoke with the media regarding Simpson’s return, claiming that they “kept it under wraps” for a while so he wouldn’t feel any additional pressure from his millions of fans to succeed. 

“We could’ve said something a little bit earlier but we just didn’t have any swim meets because of Covid … when a swim meet popped up on the radar we thought, ‘let’s go down and have a splash and get off the blocks for the first time … ’ and first swim he gets a qualification for the Olympic trials. It kind of took us all by surprise,” Hawke claimed. 

Hawke then went on to discuss how this is just the beginning for Simpson’s swimming career: “Our goal is to be as fast as we can possibly be this year and just keep building on that. He’s looking at this as a four-year plan, he’s committed to four years. He had a conversation with Michael Phelps, and Michael told him, ‘you can’t do anything in under four years, you’ve got to commit to that’ … so he’s looking at from the age of about 23-27 here, and that’s prime for anybody. I think that’s the best chance he’ll have, to try and make an Olympic team four years from now.”

NFL

NFL Franchise Tag Recap as Deadline Passes

A total of ten NFL players were tagged before the Tuesday deadline this week as teams start to build their rosters for the 2021 season, including star wide receivers Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson.

Players and the teams that signed them to a franchise tag now have until the middle of July to reach an agreement over a long-term contract extension, or else the player will be playing the upcoming season under the one-year tender.

Organizations had the option to use three different tags: the exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag.

A team opting to place the exclusive franchise tag on a player pays them either the average salary of the top five highest-paid players at his position or 120 per cent of his previous year’s salary, whichever is greatest. If a player receives such a tag, they are unable to negotiate with other teams, they can either sign the franchise, sign a long-term deal, or hold out.

The non-exclusive franchise tags results in the same salary implications, but other teams are able to try and poach the tagged player. If a new team agrees on a contract with the player, the original team has the option to match the offer and take on the new contract themselves. Alternatively, the player signs for the new team and rookie picks are sent the other way as compensation. This is the most commonly used tag.

When a player is transition tagged, that player receives the average salary of the ten highest-paid players at his position for one year. The player is able to negotiate with other teams for a longer contract and the original team still has the option to match such an offer, but if they do not, no compensation is given.

There has been a lot of debate so far this offseason whether or not Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be able to keep all of their key players entering free agency this year. Two of their biggest stars, Chris Godwin and Shaq Barrett, were due to hit the free market and only one could be signed on a franchise tag.

In the end the Bucs decided to go with Godwin for the tag, most likely because this way has a smaller hit ($15.8 million) than if Barrett had been tagged.  Despite facing injury issues, Godwin made 65 receptions for 840 yards and seven touchdowns last year in a star-studded Tampa offense.

“He brings so much more than targets,” said Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians. “When you look at what he does as an outside receiver and a slot receiver, he’s so unique in that regard. And then you put his blocking in there, so he’s a huge part of what we do offensively. It’s more than stats. It’s also what the guy brings to the huddle. I think with all these guys, each and everyone is so different because of what they bring into the huddle. But Chris is very, very unique.”

Similarly, 27-year-old wide receiver Allen Robinson signed a franchise tag deal with the Chicago Bears, who are in the market for a fresh start at quarterback.

Robinson has previously said he would not welcome the tag, but with the Bears looking to make a splash elsewhere this offseason, they have tied up the consistent playmaker in the most team-friendly method possible.

On the other side of the ball, safety Justin Simmons was franchise-tagged by the Denver Broncos for the second straight year as it is believed that the two sides are working to put a multi-year deal together ahead of the July deadline.

The 27-year-old Pro Bowler finished last season with 96 tackles, five interceptions and nine passes defensed.

“Designating Justin with the franchise tag is a procedural move that allows us to continue working on a long-term deal,” Paton said in a statement Friday. “We are completely focused on making sure Justin remains a big part of the Denver Broncos for many years to come.”

Safeties Marcus Maye and Marcus Williams were also franchise-tagged, by the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints, respectively.

The Saints’ decision surprised some but most were expecting the non-exclusive tagging of veteran safety Marcus Maye, who will earn around $10.5 million in 2021 as a result of the decision.

“Marcus is a valuable member of this organization,” Douglas said. “Someone that started his career here, someone that’s been a pro’s pro. He’s smart, reliable and has provided outstanding leadership. Our plan hasn’t changed. We’re in the process of working to have Marcus be here long term.”

Also tagged were Taylor Moton and Cam Robinson, offensive tackles for the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively. Four-time Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff, guard for the Washington Football team, was tagged for the second consecutive year and star D-lineman Leonard Williams was tagged by the Giants.

Dak Prescott was also tagged by his team as he signed a long-term deal.

Olympics

Another Tokyo Olympic Official Has Resigned After Making Sexist Comments 

The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games creative director, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned this week after he made demeaning remarks about well-known Japanese celebrity Naomi Wanatabe. This is now the second Tokyo Olympic official to resign after making offensive comments directed at women; nearly one month ago the president of the organizing committee was forced to resign after making sexist comments. 

The Tokyo Olympics are currently scheduled to begin in four months from now with the Olympic torch relay set to start next week in northeastern Japan; 10,000 runners are set to move across Japan for the next four months. 

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Last year, Sasaki suggested to staff members that well-known entertainer Naomi Watanabe could perform in the ceremony as an “Olympig,” an obvious play on words to the word “Olympic,” and an offensive remark regarding Sasaki’s inappropriate, and uncalled for, view of the entertainers body. 

Watanabe is a major female fashion icon in Japan, and is one of the most famous celebrities in the country as well. The story regarding Sasaki’s remarks were initially reported in the magazine Bunshun, and eventually it was everywhere. Considering this story broke less than a month after the organizing committee’s president was forced to resign for commenting that women talk too much in meetings, it makes sense that Sasaki would be just as ostracized just as quickly. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike spoke on these comments to the press this week as well:

“Sasaki’s comments are extremely embarrassing. When we are talking about what we deliver from Tokyo, or from Japan, we shouldn’t be sending a negative and hateful message.”

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Sasaki released a statement this week announcing his resignation: “For Ms. Naomi Watanabe, my idea and comments are a big insult. And it is unforgivable. I offer my deepest regrets and apologize from the depth of my heart to her, and those who may have been offended by this. It is truly regrettable, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

Current president of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, also released a statement this week in a news conference following the resignation. “Sasaki’s replacement would come quickly. I did feel that way but he explained, and his intention was very strong. That is how I felt. For those reasons I decided to accept his resignation. The IOC also received the (magazine) article and they were quite concerned.”

This is yet another hurdle in the multitude of things that the IOC and organizing committee have had to endure when it comes to organizing these Games. Both groups believe that the Games should still go on despite the fact that we are not out of the woods with the Covid-19 pandemic yet, while Japanese citizens have been pushing back. This is officially the most expensive Olympics on record due to the delays and adjustments made within the past year. 

Tokyo Olympics

Japan Confirms Tokyo Olympics Will Happen This Summer Without Foreign Fans

Japan has officially decided to move forward with the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games without foreign spectators, according to government officials who recently spoke with the Kyodo national news agency. The decision comes after weeks of pressure from Japanese citizens who are worried about the multitude of individuals coming into the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Although there are now multiple vaccines being distributed throughout the world, the new variants and lack of consistency regarding vaccine distribution throughout the world tells us that we’re not totally out of the woods yet with this pandemic, so we have to be precautious. Kyodo is the national news source that typically gets its information directly from the government, who reported this week that no spectators would be admitted from abroad to witness the Games this year. 

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Japan overall has handled the Covid-19 pandemic well. The nation in total has registered less than 450,000 cases and 8,000 deaths total; for reference they have a population of about 126 million. Tokyo, where the Olympics will be occurring, accounts for about 37 million people in that population. 

The Japanese public have been voicing their overwhelming opposition to hosting the Games this summer since the end of last year. Many citizens don’t even want them to be postponed again, and instead just want them to be cancelled altogether until the world has truly returned to a sense of normalcy and Covid-19 isn’t even a part of the conversation when it comes to the Olympics. 

About 80% of citizens who were polled stated that they think the Olympics should be rescheduled, moved, or cancelled altogether. The Games were already postponed after last year when the Covid-19 pandemic was first hitting the world. Ever since that initial postponement, Tokyo Olympic officials and the International Olympic Committee have been debating how to pull off the Games this summer, if at all. 

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Tokyo Olympic officials released a 33-page playbook last month that’s full of fuels for behavior for every party involved in the Olympics. This release was to show the public that they’ve prepared adequately to host the event safely. 

The document offered guidelines for behavior for certain groups of people who are going to attend the Olympics, including athletes and their entourages, but it made no mention of foreign fans, specifically.”

There have been no conversations so far regarding vaccine requirements for athletes, fans, and other parties who will be present at the Games. Japan itself has only just started rolling out vaccines to its citizens as well, with reports of the first doses being administered in mid-February. 

For now it’s still unclear what the 2021 Summer Games will look like, and with a few months and hundreds of millions of vaccines left to be distributed throughout the world, the guidelines are surely subject to change. 

JJ Watt Signs For Arizona Cardinals

Star defensive end JJ Watt is set to move to the Arizona Cardinals following his departure from Houston after ten years with the Texans.

Watt took the abnormal approach of announcing the news himself, posting a picture of himself wearing a Cardinals top on Twitter alongside the words ‘source: me’.

Early reports suggest that the Cardinals are giving Watt a two-year, $31 million deal that includes $23 million guaranteed. The 31-year-old is linking up in Phoenix with former teammate DeAndre Hopkins, who joined the Cardinals from Houston a year earlier.

After owner Michael Bidwill flew out to pick Watt up and bring him back to Arizona, Watt said he was “just excited to get started, to get to work and get to know the people of Arizona.”

“The one thing I can promise (the fans) is that I’m going to work my ass off every day to make you proud,” Watt added.

Watt has been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year on three separate occasions as well as being a first-team All-Pro five times and winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2017 after raising more than $37 million for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

The defensive end left the Texans as their all-time leader in sacks with 101, tackles for loss (172), quarterback hits (282) and forced fumbles (25). He has 531 career tackles, 61 passes defended and 16 fumble recoveries since the Texans made him the No 11 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Since Watt announced his intentions to leave Houston shortly after the end of the NFL season, rumours of his destination have been rife among fans and the NFL media. Many expected the soon-to-be 32-year-old to move to an obvious Super Bowl challenger, but Watt claimed the Cardinals put together the strongest recruiting pitch.

“The recruiting pitch was strong and heavy (for the Cardinals), but at the end of the day, I told my wife, all signs just kept pointing back here to Arizona,” Watt said.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” he added, “it doesn’t hurt when it is 65 degrees and sunny when I woke up this morning.”

Cardinals cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who spent nine seasons as Watt’s teammate and friend in Houston, said on Sirius XM NFL radio he had multiple conversations with Watt about his free agency and about the Cardinals.

“It’s a perfect situation for him,” Joseph said.

“But make no mistake, I’m here to dominate on the field and help us win games,” Watt said.

With the Cardinals missing the playoffs last year with a record of 8-8, Watt was asked what the team’s expectations are and how far away he thought they were from a Super Bowl.

“How far away? A few months,” Watt said. “You have to get to the season before you get to the playoffs, right? … We have one goal in mind. You don’t set your goal for the championship four, five, six years down the road. You set it for this year.”

Watt has become synonymous with the number 99 after his decade stint in Houston but was prepared to change his jersey number as the Cardinals have retired the 99, in honor of franchise legend Marshall Goldberg.

However, it was announced that 99 will be unretired for Watt after he received permission from Goldberg’s daughter, Ellen Goldberg Tullos, to wear it on the field.

“We had a great conversation,” Watt said. “She was super sweet. She said that she believes her father would be honored, and that he was all about the players. So she thought he would want me to wear it.”

Watt said he plans to make a charitable donation to the Marshall Goldberg Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury Research, which was established because Goldberg dealt with the effect of concussions.

Watt also said he intends to spread awareness about Goldberg’s life, which was impressive to say the least.

“I want to make sure that people know the name, and are aware of Marshall Goldberg and everything he did,” Watt said. “I told (Tullos) I would do everything in my power to honor him and make him proud, and make his legacy proud,” Watt said.

“I would imagine I’ll be following it a little bit more closely than I have in the past,” Tullos said. “My father passed away in 2006, and that was a while ago. Now J.J. is kind of bringing his number back to life.

“I know that (Dad) was a real team player,” Tullos said. “If he had known that somebody had been using the No. 99 throughout their career and it meant something dear to them, and they wanted to continue it and bring it to the Cardinals, I think he would have been just fine with letting them do that.”