Aqib Talib excited about the Rams’ confidence level

Cornerback Aqib Talib played for three different franchises that reached varying levels of success over his first 10 NFL seasons and those experiences have left him with some thoughts about what a team needs in order to have a winning season.

Talib is now on his fourth team after being traded to the Rams this offseason and he believes head coach Sean McVay has set the foundation for that kind of year in Los Angeles.

What can we expect? The Bucs open the season with the Saints, Eagles and Steelers, and they face the Falcons after their Week 5 bye, so we should know very early on what to expect from this team. Last offseason was about the offense and this one was about the defense. If it doesn’t come together for Tampa Bay in 2018 and the Bucs finish last in the division for the seventh time in eight years, head coach Dirk Koetter probably won’t see a fourth year at the helm.

With the end of his contract looming, will the Falcons lock up Jarrett with an extension this year? The defensive tackle, who has continued to improve since his career game in Super Bowl LI, is keeping his hopes up.

As characterized by an article appearing on the Lions’ official website (and of course that means nothing at all . . . other than it appears on the sliver of the Internet owned and operated by the Detroit Lions), Abdullah is on the roster bubble as training camp approaches.

The top of the depth chart will consist of veteran LeGarrette Blount, rookie second-rounder Kerryon Johnson, and third-down-specialist-plus Theo Riddick. Abdullah will need to win the fourth roster spot (or leapfrog one of the other three) in order to remain.

That makes special teams a key for Abdullah, since any running back buried that deep will need to be able to do other things. And, as noted in the article, Abdullah spent time as the kick returner during offseason workouts.

Of course, that could be part of an effort to suggest to the rest of the league that Abdullah will make the cut from 90 to 53, and that if another team (like the Cardinals or the Bills, who may at some point have a need) is interested, they’ll need to make a trade, not file a waivers claim. (Abdullah is under contract through 2018, at a salary this year of $876,000.)

Longtime WWE Wrestler Big Van Vader Dead at 63

Former WWE wrestler Leon White—known by his ring name Big Van Vader—has died after years struggling with heart problems. He was 6

Vader was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in November 2016 and given just two years to live but kept on wrestling, including a series of shows in Japan in April 201He underwent open-heart surgery this April, which was deemed a success.

Cousins paints a similar picture of Shanahan’s adaptability. When I came to Washington and Kyle installed the offense, he explained that we throw hot [routes], so we don’t need to deal with changing the protections very often, just let the system work for you. But I heard that when Kyle went to Atlanta, Matt Ryan said, ‘You know, I’d like to have sight adjustments [a sibling of hot routes]. They sort of went back and forth on it, and ultimately Kyle relented. Kyle didn’t want to do [sight adjustments] in the past, but he was willing to adjust because it was something Matt had done before.

For both Peters and Talib, joining the Rams will likely mean less man coverage; the Chiefs and Broncos last year were in man 62.6% and 57.2% of the time, respectively, while Phillips’s Rams were in man just over 50% of the time, per SIS. It’s not too much different, Talib says. Wade’s going to run his defense. He may switch things up depending on his personnel, but he’s been the same on defense everywhere he’s been.

Having Aaron Donald is pretty similar to having Von Miller, where you have a guy that’s a real disruption up front, and he forces quarterbacks to make quick decisions and they start making mistakes.

The thing that excites me about this team is the confidence and the work ethic that’s in that building. It starts with McVay. You can tell the work he puts in because he knows everything. He knows the whole defense and the whole offense. I think that confidence breeds success. All the successful teams I’ve been on have had great, hard-working offseasons and a super confident bunch of guys.

Panthers ‘contractually obligated’ to keep Jerry Richardson statue at stadium

Jerry Richardson may be gone, but his presence will remain.

During Tuesday’s introductory press conference, new Panthers owner David Tepper revealed he is contractually obligated to keep the statue of the former owner outside Bank of America Stadium as it stands.

Obviously, the NHL has grown exponentially in the past 25 years, not only in popularity — Daly happily conceded the NHL is in a much better place than it was in 1992 — but in geographic reach. It’s like putting the Winter Classic in a place like Notre Dame: It’s the preseason home to the Chicago Blackhawks, so you know those fans will travel to watch the team one state over. And they can slap a shamrock on a bunch of merchandise, so you know Boston fans will show up too.

Use the outdoor game model of geographic relevance. The expanded map means fewer places without two teams in the vicinity. So you can put games in Ohio and expect Columbus Blue Jackets fans to make the journey. Or the Nashville Predators vs. Carolina Hurricanes in Charlotte. Or games in the Southwest with the California teams plus the Coyotes and Golden Knights nearby. Plus, the time-honored neutral site traditions of the potential expansion fashion show (Portland, Houston, Quebec City) and those former NHL cities to whom you can throw a bone (Kansas City, Hartford). Hit some ECHL towns like Jacksonville, Orlando and Tulsa.

The Bills running back took to social media Tuesday to deny accusations of domestic violence, child abuse and animal cruelty after a graphic Instagram post that has since been deleted surfaced.

McCoy asserted the totally baseless and offensive claims were completely false.

The Bills released a statement later Tuesday, saying the team is aware of the situation.

An unidentified Instagram user shared an explicit photo of a woman, identified as McCoy’s on-and-off girlfriend Delicia Cordon, with cuts and bruises on her face Tuesday morning alleging McCoy struck her. The user added McCoy hit his son for wetting the bed, beat his dog into kidney failure and used drugs.

The world needs to know what type of an animal you really are, the caption read, in part.

She later removed the graphic post, but followed up with an explanation that said Cordon’s lawyer told her to remove the images.

So let’s just recap: Cleveland had one of the best bullpens ever last season. The Indians brought most of it back. They have one of the worst bullpens ever this season. We have identified what might be the cruelest part of the modern game.

The Los Angeles Rams found a fitting way to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday.

Special teams coordinator John Fassel is about to become a father for the third time, so the Rams put together a field goal at the end of practice to reveal the sex of the baby on the way.

For those keeping score, that’s three girls and no boys for the Fassel family.

Fassel, 44, has been the Rams’ special teams coordinator since 2012 and took over as interim head coach when Jeff Fisher was fired in 2016. While new coach Sean McVay overhauled the team’s coaching staff, he kept Fassel because the Rams have excelled on special teams in recent years.

Fittingly, the reveal was a well-executed play by the Rams’ special teamers.

For Ridley, that means a soft landing zone like Fuller had with the Texans in 2016, soaking up targets when teams ganged up on Hopkins in coverage. The Notre Dame product wasn’t as well-rounded as Ridley coming out of college and in his first year had to work with quarterbacks who are a significant downgrade from Matt Ryan: Brock Osweiler, and Tom Savage. That clears a path for Ridley to put together a better season than Fuller’s 47-catch, 635-yard rookie campaign.

Moore’s runway isn’t as clear, as he’ll have to rely on a quarterback coming off the two least efficient passing years of his career. Is Cam Newton’s downturn the result of an inconsistent approach that has led to up-and-down passing performances throughout his career? Or were those disappointing aerial returns tied to a limited array of receiving talent in Charlotte? By investing in the Maryland wideout with their first-round pick, the Panthers are betting its the latter.

And then there’s the Browns, who have obliterated top prospects en route to a miserable existence as an NFL franchise.

But the Browns weren’t alone. The Packers have built a perennial postseason contender behind a roster-building strategy that prioritizes homegrown talent over free agents, but Green Bay has had its share of high-profile draft misses. The franchise has six designated busts — including zero-year starters like Jamal Reynolds, Datone Jones, Derek Sharrod, and Justin Harrell — but the metric also includes Pro Bowler Javon Walker, who had only two seasons with more than seven starts under his belt. As mentioned before, the method isn’t foolproof.

Romo was one of the biggest free agents on the market after he got Wally Pipped by Dak Prescott.

The Cowboys ended up releasing their longtime quarterback, who seemed destined to sign with a team in desperate need of veteran help under center, like the Broncos or the Texans. Romo later revealed that Houston was the team that interested him the most. Instead, he chose to set a new standard of what retired NFL players could be as on-air football analysts (no pressure, Jason Witten).

But what if … dramatic pause … he hadn’t?

He comes downhill, man, and that’s something you can appreciate as a nose tackle and a defensive tackle. That means those centers and those guards have got to make decisions really fast. If not, he’ll be in the backfield and he’s a smart guy. I’m just excited to get in an actual game with him because I know those guys on the line, they have to respect what he brings to the field, so that should open up a lot for me.

Well, obviously, Halapio was a guy who was on the practice squad last year, who worked his butt off. And you can tell the coaching staff likes him a whole lot, just because of his aggression, he’s a strong guy.

Having Manning on board allows the Titans to focus on building their defense in the offseason, although the team is also able to add Wes Welker in free agency. The improvements and Manning’s stellar play, now two years removed from neck surgery, are enough to overtake the Indianapolis Colts for the division crown.

But the New England Patriots’ roster is just much better, and the Titans are dispatched from the playoffs with ease.

In Denver, John Elway is sick of building a roster that has stars on defense but a quarterback with a completion percentage hovering around 50 percent. After landing Geno Smith near the end of the first round in the 2013 NFL Draft, Elway trades Tebow to the New York Jets, where his career fizzles and eventually ends.

The addition of Smith doesn’t fix things for the Broncos. His inconsistent play keeps Denver from winning the AFC West, which now belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs after the team traded for Alex Smith. Elway is harshly criticized by fans who can’t stomach the replacement of Tebow with Geno Smith.

The leagues all have their own data feeds. In the past, they’ve sold access to daily fantasy sites DraftKings and FanDuel, which is how your DFS games are always populated with up-to-the-minute stats you can see on your iPhone. The battle ahead is whether state legislatures and courts will grant the leagues exclusive rights to that data. In the past, American courts have been stingy about granting the leagues total control.

The Orioles improved to 1-15 against the AL West and won at home for only the second time in 19 games since May 13.

Baltimore still owns the worst record in the majors, but there were plenty of smiles to go around on this day.

Orioles: OF Colby Rasmus was held out with an illness. … RHP Darren O’Day said he opted for season-ending surgery on his hamstring because there was no guarantee he would be healthy by September. I need to functionally get it fixed so it just doesn’t happen again, he said. … RHP Chris Tillman (back) will need at least one more rehabilitative start after allowing five runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings for Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday night.

Angels: After taking Monday off, LA faces Seattle on the road to launch a three-game series. Andrew Heaney (4-5, 3.95 ERA) is 0-3 with a 6.14 ERA in seven road starts.

Orioles: Following a day off Monday, Baltimore sends Alex Cobb (2-9, 6.75) to the mound in the opener of a two-game interleague series in Philadelphia.Cubs pound out 20 hits, beat Twins 14-9 at scorching Wrigley

Leonard is a two-time All-Star and was the NBA Finals MVP in 2013-14.

The Jazz took the right player. Then they couldn’t afford him. Wilkins went on to be a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen. So they traded him to the Hawks for aging John Drew and washed-up Freeman Williams. Luckily the Jazz made up for it with two of the greatest picks of all time, John Stockton in 1984 and Karl Malone in 1985.

It’d have been nice for Michael Jordan’s comeback as a player-general manager to be on a better team. Gasol could have spearheaded that, as he had everything Brown had plus everything Brown offenisvely lacks.

Given that the Sonics traded for Chambers two years later and made him an integral, All-Star part of their fun late-1980s teams, this makes a lot of sense. Vranes added little to nothing, and the Sonics could have taken further advantage of their early-1980s success with Chambers and young center James Donaldson, whom they traded for Chambers in the end.

Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto (right elbow strain) made his second rehab start Friday night for Triple-A Sacramento.

Diamondbacks: CF A.J. Pollock (fractured left thumb) made his first rehab start, with Triple-A Reno.

Yoshihisa Hirano set a Diamondbacks record with his 25th consecutive appearance without allowing a run, getting the final two outs of the seventh inning. The Japanese right-hander broke the previous record of 24 shared by Brandon Lyon (2008) and J.J. Putz (2012).

Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece isn’t just one of the top outings in Chicago history, it’s among baseball’s all-time greatest.

I feel healthy, Hendricks said after his team lost 7-5 to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Just terrible right now.

Mariners: Manager Scott Servais said they will monitor RHP Felix Hernandez and his back stiffness over the next few days. Hernandez pitched five innings Saturday night and earned the victory (three runs and six hits) but struggled with back pain and wasn’t able to sit down in the dugout between innings. We’ll keep an eye on it, Servais said. We have the off day (Monday) so he’ll get an extra-day off between starts. …

Servais said he was hopeful RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, who underwent shoulder surgery last September, would be back by now, but Iwakuma’s throwing was shut down again last week. He’s frustrated by that, Servais said. The doctors still are optimistic he’ll get back (this season) but I don’t have any timetable for it.

Royals: RHP Jakob Junis (5-9, 4.67) will make his 17th starts of the season Monday when the Royals return home to start a three-game series with Cleveland. Junis has allowed a major league-high 22 home runs over 96.1 innings.

Mark Murphy: Changes to Packers structure have worked well so far

The Packers made significant changes to their front office and coaching staff this offseason as Ted Thompson stepped down as General Manager and new coordinators were hired on both sides of the ball.

Murphy said he thinks a more aggressive approach in free agency has helped the team and that the draft was run extremely well, although a more meaningful evaluation of everything in Green Bay will have to wait until the results on the field come in this fall.

There is no change to the amount of 11-on-11 work that teams can do, but chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills has spoken to each team in hopes of seeing the number of concussions drop this summer.

It’s not a matter of having five or six recidivistic clubs that we have to discipline into line, Sills said, via This is a leaguewide issue where everyone has to understand it’s on all of us to work on. It might sound trite to say, but any concussion we save is important to us. We want to put the awareness out there … and make sure we’re making it as safe as we can.

First-round pick Calvin Ridley was added to the lineup to give the offense another playmaker with explosive potential on the outside. Given the impact Austin Hopper and Justin Hardy can make as fourth and fifth options in the passing game, the Dirty Birds’ WR corps will be quite imposing this fall.