Johnny Manziel turns in mediocre performance in Spring League game

Johnny Manziel has returned to the football field, but he’s a long way from a return to the NFL.

Manziel completed nine of 15 passes for 82 yards with one touchdown and three sacks in his first game for The Spring League, a minor league that Manziel is hoping will showcase his talent to NFL scouts.

After the game, Manziel admitted that his team’s offense was sloppy at times but said he was glad to be playing football again.

Two additional distinctions from the NFL and college product:

Every drive will start at the offense’s 25-yard line with no kickoff. As for onside kick attempts . . .

“If a team elected to onsides kick at any point in the game, they get the ball on their 35-yard line with fourth-and-10,” Polian said. “It’s do-or-die. If you make it, you keep going. If you don’t, the other team gets the ball on your 35-yard line.”

There will be just four possible replays per game two per team with no “Big Brother” like the NFL’s officiating headquarters at 345 Park Ave. in New York.

“You continue to be a fan and I will continue being the man,” Sanders told Byard.

Yesterday, as the Titans unveiled their redesigned uniforms, they posted a video that showed the players reacting as they saw their new jerseys for the first time. One of the players featured in the video was Byard, who wore a shirt with “Just a Fan” printed on it.

Byard is clearly using Sanders’ slight as offseason motivation, aiming for another All-Pro selection in 2018. Perhaps by then Sanders will know who he is.

None of this is fair to Beckham. Whether it’s Cris Carter or Ray Lewis, criticism from prominent former players could be rooted in the fact that Beckham has decided not to kiss the ring. Lewis specifically equates Beckham’s troubles to the fact that they made a connection and Beckham eventually ended it. Who’s to say that Beckham didn’t simply decide after some of their interactions that Lewis was making no sense and, in turn, providing no benefit?

True significance of new helmet rule remains unknown

More than a week after the NFL passed a new rule that appears to represent a seismic change to football as we know it, it’s still not clear to media and fans what the rule will, or won’t, be. It’s also not clear to coaches as to what the prohibition against lowering the helmet to initiate impact means.

“I think it’s a work in progress,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said during a Wednesday visit to PFT Live. “I know that we had great meetings. For me, it was one of the best owners meetings that I’ve been to in the five years I’ve been the head coach here.

“Last year, there were five or six plays where you could say that that the head was used as a weapon,” O’Brien said. “There weren’t a ton of plays. We have to continue to work towards taking the head out of the game. That’s really something that we’re doing with the way we teach, with the way we officiate, the way we scheme. Everything that we do we’re thinking about those things. I think we’re on the right track, but I think it’s going to take a while to get that over the next 60 to 90 days get that rule written exactly the way we want it so that the officials can officiate it properly.”

“There was no fighting, there was no pushing,” attorney Rusty Hardin told NJ.com. “The entire thing is ludicrous. That’s what I think we’ll find when it’s all over.”

The charge Bennett is facing is serious: It’s injury to the elderly, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Bennett is accused of pushing his way onto the field in Houston to celebrate after his brother, then-Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, and his team won the Super Bowl. In the process, the authorities allege, Bennett injured an elderly paraplegic woman who was working on the event staff at the game.

But Hardin said Bennett is not overly concerned because he knows he’s innocent and believes that when all the evidence comes to light, the charges will be shown to be trumped up.

Vontae Davis “able to do everything” after groin surgery

Right after signing with the Bills as a free agent in early March, cornerback Vontae Davis said he wasn’t sure what his workload would be during the team’s offseason program.

Davis had groin surgery after being released by the Colts last November and said he would “probably be limited” when the Bills got to work. Davis revisited the issue more recently, however, and his outlook regarding what he’s ready to do has changed over the last month.

Grizzlies: MarShon Brooks, who averaged nearly 24 points over his first five games with the team since joining last month fresh from the Chinese league, missed 12 of 16 shots against tough defense from Butler and finished with 14 points.

“Just going out there playing hard, making them work for everything,” Brooks said.

Timberwolves: Backup center Cole Aldrich, who has logged just 49 minutes all season, was honored before the game with the Flip Saunders Legacy Award for community service in honor of the team’s late executive and coach. Aldrich had an assist in the final minute.

The Bucs made him a fifth-round pick in 2012, and he played in three games as a rookie before joining the Eagles. In his career, Goode has played 64 games with four starts.

He has 42 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack and four pass breakups in his career. Goode also has contributed 42 special teams tackles as a core special teams player.

“(There were) five or six times in a four- or five-month period where I spent a full 24 hours at (Collins’) office, working with him until he felt comfortable giving me the green light,” said Cravens, who was cleared to resume football activities in December.

With all of that, though, Washington clearly was motivated to get closure. After picking Cravens in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft and seeing him play himself into the team’s long-term plans as a rookie when he was healthy, Washington a year later ended up netting a fifth-round pick, a conditional sixth-rounder and earlier picks in this year’s fourth and fifth rounds for him.

Gray, Yankees bounce back against Orioles, win 8-3

Gray (1-0) dodged trouble with his final batter thanks to newcomer Jace Peterson, who was signed to a major league contract before the game. With runners on second and third and two outs, Peterson snagged Pedro Alvarez’s hard-hit liner on the run, slamming into the left-field wall after making an acrobatic catch.

“You’ve got to prepare to be ready for this opportunity always, no matter what happens in the spring or what happens the day before,” said Peterson, who had played just 40 of his 383 big league games in left field before Saturday. “I was fortunate to run it down and make the play.”

David Robertson entered in the seventh with one out and runners on second and third, fanning the dangerous Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop to preserve the 5-3 lead. Robertson struck out four of the five batters he faced.

For Hurst, there’s no new information to obtain. Doctors flagged the heart problem and prevented him from working out at the Scouting Combine. He later received separate clearance to participate in the Michigan Pro Day.

It’s not uncommon, either as to internal or orthopedic issues, for players to be prevented from working out in Indianapolis. Given that the Combine workouts are lower on the list of priorities than medical examinations or interviews, the folks in charge of the Combine will err on the side of caution when it comes to potentially letting an overly-competitive player assume a risk that, objectively speaking, is unnecessary.

For heart problems, there’s a separate component to the decision to keep players from working out. If the worst-case scenario happens at a time when doctors know or should know there’s a problem, there could be moral, and legal, responsibility.

Calgary entered the night in an offensive funk, having mustered only nine goals over the previous nine games, eight of them losses. The seven goals was the club’s biggest offensive outburst since a 7-4 victory over St. Louis on Nov. 13.

“It’s one of those things. Tonight, for some reason, everything bounced in and I think we could have had even more,” Flames captain Mark Giordano said. “It’s nice to end it on that note, but it’s been a tough year and obviously a disappointing year.”

Before the game, players from both teams and the officials formed a circle at center ice for a moment of silence for the 15 people who lost their lives in the Humboldt Broncos bus accident.

“You have those guys, that community, the team, on your mind all day,” Giordano said. “We’re one big community, the hockey community, there’s a lot of people feeling this one.”

Afterward, the Saddledome crowd broke into a chant of “Broncos! Broncos!”

Aside from Shohei Ohtani, which rookies impressed the most in week 1?

Tristan H. Cockcroft:It’s Jack Flaherty – yes, a guy now in the minor leagues – for me, which probably says more about how uninspiring the besides-Ohtani rookie class has been through 11 days than anything. That’s no knock on Colin Moran, Brian Anderson or Tyler Mahle, each of whom has had his moments, but Flaherty’s nine-strikeout performance against the Milwaukee Brewers on the road (at that hitter-friendly ballpark) stands above the rest as the key Week 1 takeaway.

That said, it’s Yonny Chirinos who gets my nod. The Tampa Bay pitcher, part of manager Kevin Cash’s “No. 4 starter collective,” took the mound twice over the first week of the season, holding the Boston lineup scoreless for nine full frames — striking out seven and allowing just four hits. The injured Brent Honeywell may have been the one getting all the hype, but it was Chirinos who was named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year for 2017.

The Rays *should* just place him in the rotation and see what he can do. He’s not likely to continue to outscore the likes of Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco, but he absolutely needs to be on more than just 2.1 percent of rosters, even if Cash continues to use him in his current capacity.

As of Monday morning, the Cowboys were the NFL’s only club not to officially sign a free-agent or re-sign one of their own players since the marketplace opened five days earlier. It’s quite the statement considering even franchises that traditionally are loath to dip into free agency, like Green Bay and Cincinnati, have done just that.

Dallas is hamstrung because of previous decisions that left the Cowboys with less salary cap room (around $2 million) than any other team heading into the NFL’s calendar year. Two recent transactions — cornerback Orlando Scandrick’s release and the restructuring of center Travis Frederick’s contract — have given Dallas a bit more space for moves like the re-signing of long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, which reportedly will happen Monday. Reports say Dallas will be meeting with New England tackles Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle. The arrival of either could pave the way for La’el Collins’ return to left guard.

But as for those top players who were initially available in free agency, that first wave has crested. The Cowboys’ top unsigned player was part of it, as linebacker Anthony Hitchens surfed to a five-year, $45 million deal with Kansas City; Dallas simply could not match.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the only outside marquee talent Dallas reportedly tried to sign, also went to the Chiefs.

Broncos to acquire DB Su’a Cravens in trade with Redskins

Su’a Cravens is getting a fresh start.

The Washington Redskins are trading the 22-year-old safety to the Denver Broncos, a person with knowledge of the deal told USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the deal.

After initially announcing in the preseason that he intended to retire for medical and personal reasons, Cravens missed all of last season on the reserve/left squad list. In December, his agent, Fadde Mikhail, announced that Cravens had been medically cleared to resume all football activities.

Football evolution is a history of offensive innovation leading to defensive adjustment. O’Brien has little choice but to stay ahead of the curve before brilliant defensive minds adjust — as they’ve done in the past with dual-threat quarterbacks operating in heavily schemed attacks.

The Giants have hitched their wagon to Manning for at least one more season, and it’s ludicrous for them to believe they have a better chance of maximizing the two-time Super Bowl winner’s window without Beckham. Next, even if New York’s plan is to instead draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick and move on from Manning in 2019 when his cap savings will be $17 million, then keeping Beckham is still the most logical option. Paying $20 million to a receiver is a lot more palatable when your starting quarterback is locked into a cheap rookie deal for the foreseeable future

Plus, what better gift could you give to a developing young passer than a game-breaking receiver who’s proven himself capable of carrying an offense And while some may balk at the prospect of paying a non-quarterback/pass-rusher that amount of money, the NFL clearly is valuing receivers more than ever. Beckham’s draftmate Sammy Watkins, who has one 1,000-yard season on his resume, was just given $16 million per season. Paul Richardson received a contract worth $10 million annually, and he has three fewer career receiving yards than Beckham produced in his rookie campaign alone.

Johnathan Hankins visiting Jets

The Jets are hosting defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins today, Dan Graziano of ESPN reports.

Hankins, 26, also has visited Washington.

The Colts, who are converting to a 4-3, cut Hankins last month. He had signed a three-year, $30 million contract, with $10 million guaranteed, a year ago.

Trocheck’s empty-netter with 1:23 left made it score 4-2. O’Reilly’s power-play tally with 15.8 left closed the gap to 4-3.

The Panthers took a 1-0 lead when Huberdeau deflected in a shot from Trocheck during a 5-on-3 power-play at 3:04 of the first. Sceviour made it 2-0 when he deflected a shot by Frank Vatrano at 10:59. Bjugstad then slid a puck under Johnson at 13:39.

Retiring Panthers F Radim Vrbata played his last game. Vrbata played 1,057 career games, including 42 with the Panthers. “I’m glad I got a chance to play and have my family here. My wife, my sons, they got to see me one more time.” … O’Reilly set the NHL record for faceoff wins in a single season with 1,269 — passing Rod Brind’Amour (1,268 FOW in 2005-06). “It’s special. It’s something I take a lot of pride in,” O’Reilly said. … A moment of silence was observed before the game in memory of the lives lost in a traffic accident Friday night involving the Humboldt Broncos, a youth hockey team from Canada.

“I’m not opposed to coming back to Green Bay,” Evans said. “I loved my last year in Green Bay. Green Bay was great. I loved the coaching staff, I loved the locker room. I loved the organization, the community. It was awesome. It was a great fit for me. My goal is, I wanted to win another Super Bowl. I still do. So that’s my focus right now. But, you know, it’s still early. We’re sitting in the first week of April right now. So it’s very early.”

The Packers have talked about having Justin McCray, Lucas Patrick and a potential draft pick compete for the job at right guard, but could change their plans once they see everyone on the field. Evans would likely be able to get up to speed quickly if that’s how things play out and his experience would likely serve him well when it comes to acclimating to any team that might want to add him at some point down the road.

“We’re going back to the original iteration of replay where it was designed to only deal with the most egregious and consequential plays,” said Polian, a longtime member of the NFL’s rule-shaping Competition Committee.

Raiders Restructure Marshawn Lynch’s Contract, New Deal Worth Up TO $9.25M In 2018

Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that the Raiders and RB Marshawn Lynch agreed to a restructured his contract last weekend before his $1 million roster bonus was due.

Lynch’s new contract reduced his base salary to $5.5 million for the 2018 season, but essentially guaranteed him $4.5 million of this figure when had previously had no guaranteed money remaining. In total, Lynch can earn up to $9.25 million total with incentives.

Obviously, Darnold is confident in his ability to deliver in the rain. And if he’s going to wind up in a market like Cleveland, New York or Buffalo, that’ll come in handy.

If it’s raining Wednesday in Los Angeles, there’s an even higher chance Darnold’s pro day performance will make or break him as a potential top pick.

Despite this, the Bengals say they have no intention of releasing the embattled linebacker.

It’s not ideal, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin told The Cincinnati Enquirer. The situation he has put us in is not ideal. We are a player-oriented business. Players that can make a difference are important and we recognize that. The more he’s not available to us the more it hurts us.

It sounds like Cincinnati is simply providing another warning to Burfict without doing anything of substance. When asked if the team has had conversations about releasing Burfict, Tobin responded in the affirmative with a pretty strong caveat.

Trading so-so offensive tackle Cordy Glenn to the Cincinnati Bengals was a coup for the Buffalo Bills, who are better off with 2017 second-round pickDion Dawkins at left tackle and now hold the No. 12 selection in the draft.

Mejia won’t turn 23 until nearly the end of the 2018 season, so there’s plenty of time for him to develop.

The 11th-ranked prospect on MLB’s list and the top-ranked catching prospect in baseball, Mejia jumped from Double-A Akron to the majors last season. In September, he got the call, but with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez in front of him Mejia didn’t get much opportunity to showcase his skills with the bat. He had only two hits, both singles. However, Mejia is unquestionably the real deal, and his minor league track record speaks for itself.

And with the aforementioned logjam at catcher, he might start at Triple-A this year, but there’s a hint of a possibility that Mejia might find a way to force himself into the lineup at another position.

He carries a $24 million cap hit in 2018, which leaves Minnesota with just over $26 million for the rest of its free-agency needs and to structure contract extensions this offseason.

Cousins earned $44 million playing under the franchise tag in each of his past two seasons in Washington and was a rare commodity as a proven, sub-30-year-old quarterback with very little injury history when he hit the open market.

I asked Laird whether the hype level for Kiyomiya is similar to what he saw with Ohtani the past couple of years. He laughed.

“Oh, yeah. Definitely. I mean, you go out to the back fields and you know where he is. The media’s all over there,” Laird said. “You’ll hear all the pictures getting taken. I mean, he’s supposedly the real deal. To hit 111 home runs in high school over the three years, that’s unheard of.”

This is the third year in a row the Fighters have held a spring camp in Arizona, but their first at Salt River Fields. I was there for an intrasquad game Monday, but didn’t get to see this legendary slugger swing the bat. He’s working his way back from an injured right thumb (he’s close to being back at full strength), so for now it’s just defensive work and soft toss in a cage. He looked fluid and natural with the glove at first base.

Crabtree would fill the possession receiver role that the Ravens had envisioned for Grant.

Johnny Manziel Married Bre Tiesi In Private Wedding Ceremony

Johnny Manziel is officially a MARRIED MAN — tying the knot with Bre Tiesi in a very quiet private ceremony, TMZ Sports has learned.

Manziel had popped the question to Tiesi in March 2017. The 25-year-old has credited Bre with turning his life around and getting him cleaned up after years of craziness.

This is a full-circle move for Robinson, who was a first-round pick of the Saints in 2010. Re-emerging as one of the NFL’s best slot cornerbacks, Robinson now gives New Orleans a stellar option with Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley manning the outside spots. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has other options waiting in the wings with second-year cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. 

Julius Peppers will return for a 17th NFL season and re-sign with the Panthers, per The Charlotte Observer.

Peppers just turned 38 but is coming off yet another strong season (11 sacks) and is certainly still a force as a pass-rushing specialist. With six more sacks he will pass Hall of Famer Kevin Greene, who has 160, for third place in NFL history. 

Hideki Kuriyama, who was Ohtani’s manager with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, watched from near the backstop (his Fighters are finishing up a spring training trip of their own, up the road in Scottsdale). The list of important, happy people went on and on.

That unpredictable weather Wednesday seems like a fitting beginning to a season that figures to be full of unpredictability for Ohtani and the Angels. It’s not that anyone doubts Ohtani’s baseball talents. His right arm is a thunderbolt on the mound. The baseball jumps off his bat at the plate. These things are undeniable.

Only two other times have proven veteran quarterbacks become free agents in the salary-cap era: in 2006, when Drew Brees transitioned from the Chargers to the Saints, and again in 2012, when Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos.

Brees became a free agent months after he suffered a serious shoulder injury.