New York Giants: DeAndre Baker Just Wanted To Play Madden, Says Attorney

New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

New York Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker made the news and ended up at the center of attention for the Giants unexpectedly last week, but according to one of his attorneys, he had no intention to end up in such a situation. In fact, if Baker’s legal team is to be believed, this all started in quite a mundane way – with Baker wanting to play Madden for a couple of hours and ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Patrick Patel spoke with the New York Post and continued to defend his client, this time saying that Baker wasn’t in the same room that the robbery happened and that his intent was simply to play Madden.

“Far from an individual who’s going somewhere with an alleged intent to rob somebody, an armed robbery, to go there and hook up his ‘Madden’ game, play the game for over an hour and then leave it there and go home,” Patel stated. “And this ruckus blows out in another room in this house. He doesn’t have anything to do with the ruckus. He didn’t even see it. The only thing he sees is out of the corner of his eye a table getting flipped over and everybody running, screaming and yelling. And he’s out. Thank God he bounced.”

Patel also questioned the prosecution by claiming that it took two hours for anyone to call the police after the robbery, and says that his client didn’t lose money gambling – the latter statement contradicting the popular narrative that has been established so far.

“He absolutely, positively, 100 percent guarantees he didn’t gamble no $70,000, didn’t gamble at all with this group prior or during this whole issue,” Patel continued.

But are the arguments from Baker’s legal team true? Currently, it’s impossible to say one way or the other – the evidence isn’t out there yet to either support or debunk these statements. Baker’s defense, however, does intend to look for electronic evidence that Baker was indeed playing Madden at the time of the robbery.

For now, though, the evidence has yet to manifest itself, and whether or not Baker is guilty is still in question. With the offseason rolling on, there will be significant pressure to get to the bottom of the case quickly – before the situation eats into the start of training camp.

MLB: Time is ticking on a deal

It’s now been over a week since the MLB players union began negotiations with the league, and things seem to be at a standstill. We haven’t learned much new information since the first day of talks. With an early July start in mind, time is ticking to get a deal done.

For the season to start in early July, you would need a second spring training to begin in early to mid-June. That feels like a long ways away, but here we are now almost at Memorial Day. If a deal isn’t done soon, the proposed start dates of the season could be pushed back, and the league could be back to the drawing boards.

From what we have heard from players like Trevor Bauer and Blake Snell, the holdup is the money agreement. Owners want to pay the players little to no money when players already agreed on prorated salaries. The owners don’t want to lose money, even if it’s just one season.

Will they lose some money? Absolutely. Will they make it back within a few years? Absolutely. The goal is to have fans in the stands by 2021, and maybe late 2020 if a rapid treatment or vaccine is approved.

Also, you have to have a deal done in enough time to allow for players to report to camp, especially foreign players. With travel restrictions still in place, it will be harder for players to re-enter the country if they left the country to go home.

If everyone wants the MLB to start in July, time is ticking to get a deal done and get the season underway.

New York Giants: Why Xavier McKinney Will Make An Instant Impact

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

The New York Giants have invested heavily in their secondary over the past two offseasons. In 2019, New York drafted three defensive backs. In 2020, the Giants doubled down, drafting three more defensive backs and signing free agent James Bradberry to a large contract.

One of the Giants’ most exciting picks in the secondary came in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. With that thirty-sixth overall pick, the New York Giants selected safety Xavier McKinney out of Alabama. McKinney was projected to be a first-round pick but the Giants were lucky enough to steal him in the second round. McKinney joins the Giants’ youthful secondary as one of the team’s most talented defensive playmakers.

A Potentially Elite Safety Duo

Xavier McKinney joins a young secondary that already featured a talented safety in Jabrill Peppers. Peppers was impressive for the Giants in 2019, prior to suffering a season-ending injury. The former Cleveland Brown totaled 76 combined tackles in 11 games. He also added 3 forced fumbles, 5 passes defended, and 1 interception (a pick-six).

Peppers is an ideal box-safety. He has the physicality and playing style of a linebacker but he has the speed and body type of a safety. Peppers and McKinney are similar in this way. They both have the ability to make an impact in coverage and against the run. They truly have the potential to create an elite duo. But McKinney’s role in the defense will be a bit more diverse than Peppers’s.

A Versatile Talent

Jabrill Peppers is excellent in the box and can play coverage well enough to where he is not a liability. But Xavier McKinney can play coverage well enough to shut down some opposing targets. One of Xavier’s most coveted traits leading up to the draft was his ability to take opposing tight ends out of the game.

Additionally, McKinney has received tons of praise for the work he does as a pass-rusher. According to Pro Football Focus, McKinney earned an 89.2 coverage grade as a junior while also recording 10 pressures. In the past two years, Xavier recorded 21 pressures across 71 pass-rushing snaps. The Giants needed someone to rush the passer and someone to guard tight ends. McKinney will fill both of those roles.

While coaching the Miami defense in 2019, Graham blitzed on 35% of their snaps, which ranked seventh in frequency among all NFL teams. On third down, the unit blitzed 41% of the time, which was the third-highest rate. Graham utilized linebackers and safeties significantly on blitzes and to drop back in coverage. Both Peppers and McKinney will be used heavily in that role and likely interchange to keep defenses on their toes. – via Alex Wilson of Empire Sports Media

Plenty of fans wanted to see the Giants draft Isaiah Simmons with the fourth overall pick. Simmons possesses elite versatility as a linebacker, lining up all over Clemson’s defense. The Giants opted to go a different route but ultimately landed the next-best-thing in the second round of the draft with Xavier McKinney. In college, Xavier McKinney played over 200 snaps at three different positions; 323 snaps in the box, 227 in the slot, and 271 deep (PFF).

Xavier McKinney is an extraordinary talent. He can do so many different things on the football field and he does all of them well. McKinney is also a perfect fit in Patrick Graham’s scheme which places a large emphasis on man-coverage and disguised blitzes. Combining his talents with this scheme will lead to instant success for the Giants’ new safety.

New York Rangers legends John Davidson and Mike Richter featured on MSG Network

New York Rangers, Mike Richter

Former New York Rangers goaltenders Mike Richter and John Davidson will be guests on MSG Networks “MSG 150 at Home” on Wednesday night.

As part of “Goalie Week”, Madison Square Garden Network will have a roundtable discussion hosted by Steve Valiquette. Richter and J.D. will share some of the fondest memories of their time wearing the famous Rangers sweater. From NHL debuts and rookie seasons, players they looked up to growing up, staying connected to others during this pause, and more.

John Davidson

Davidson talked about the time when he was traded to the Rangers in June 1975.

“My second year I played so well that I got traded to the Rangers after the season. And that was the best thing that happened to me. Aside from my family, that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was blown away when I got to New York. I had never seen anything like this. Madison Square Garden, New York City, the busy streets, oh baby. It was quite something.”

Davidson was part of the great team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in. 1979 where they lost the series to Ken Dryden and the Montreal Canadiens.

The president of the Blueshirts also talked about the current team and how he has been staying connected with the scouting staff and some of the prospects thanks to platforms look Zoom.

Mike Richter

Stanley Cup Champion Mike Richter was asked about his NHL playoff debut during the 1989 playoffs.

“It was good to get the opportunity to play. I’m indebted to Phil Esposito who gave me it. I didn’t expect that I was necessarily going to get in there. I didn’t expect it. I was so thrilled and excited. I had so much energy.”

Esposito was the Rangers General manager at the time but was fired following the team’s elimination for the playoffs in May 1989.

Richter also spoke of the players he looked up to in the NHL, namely Eddie Giacomin. Richters idol was the team’s goalie coach when he was called up to the Rangers.

Two of the last three goalies to reach the Stankey Cup Finals in the last 41 years (Henrik Lundqvist was the third) talk about the great memories playing for this original six franchise.

The show will air Wednesday night at 5:00 p.m. an again at 7:30 p.m.

NASCAR: Ryan Preece looking to capitalize on big opportunity

Ryan Preece’s NASCAR career has defined by hard knocks, but the Connecticut native is looking to make the most of a rare opportunity.

In Sunday’s exciting return to NASCAR action, The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway provided late-race drama that a sports-starved nation has salivated over while live events are put on hold. With three circuits to go in the 293-lap event, a dramatic pass was made to secure first-place. The beneficiary then held off a furious challenge over the remaining turns to secure the victory.

Now, this battle did not take place at the front of the pack. Kevin Harvick’s healthy two-second interval was more than enough to hold off Alex Bowman for the win.

But so crazy are our modern times that a battle for 20th in one race wound up determining the leader in the next.

Preece’s pass of Bubba Wallace on lap 291 secured him the pole position, meaning he will lead the field at the start of Wednesday night’s Toyota 500 (6 p.m. ET, FS1). The resulting front row starting spot is part of NASCAR’s efforts to feasibly return during the ongoing health crisis, which eliminates qualifying and practice sessions. The first 20 positions were determined by inverting the top finishers from Sunday’s return event, The Real Heroes 400. It was the premier NASCAR Cup Series’ first competition since shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic nearly two months prior. The remaining 19 positions were determined purely by finishing order, relegating Wallace to starting 21st.

The 29-year-old native of Berlin, Connecticut told Terrin Waack of NASCAR.com that he knew what was at stake with that fateful pass.

“I knew we were in 21st in the last 10 laps,” he said. “We had a really good car to begin with, so it created the opportunity to get back by Bubba (Wallace). But that’s why I was really pushing the issue to get by him because that was the difference of 20 spots, right? It’s going to make you push that much harder.”

It’s a bit of an unusual position for Preece, the driver of the No. 37 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. The team is perhaps NASCAR’s equivalent of, say, the Memphis Grizzlies…a relatively low-budget team that occasionally musters a name or a win on its docket, but never truly a threat for a championship. One of the team’s owners is former top overall NBA draft pick Brad Daugherty and the spoils of five NASCAR national series victories reside in their trophy case (one at the premier Cup Series level when AJ Allmendinger won the 2014 Watkins Glen race). JTG’s most recent prestigious days came last season when Chris Buescher mustered 16 consecutive finishes in the top 20. Buescher would play that success into a more prestigious ride, taking over the No. 17 Ford at Roush Fenway Racing.

This is Preece’s second year of both full-time Cup racing and with JTG Daugherty, albeit his first under No. 37 branding. He ran his rookie campaign in the team’s No. 47, whose 2020 duties went to Roush castaway Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He has paid his dues at NASCAR’s lower levels, first making a name for himself on the prototype Whelen Modified Tour with a 2013 championship before earning a pair of national Xfinity Series wins with Joe Gibbs units. Preece was able to provide the team with some much-needed good news during the coronavirus pause by building momentum on NASCAR’s simulated iRacing Pro Invitational Series. The virtual No. 37 earned four top ten finishes over the seven-race exhibition slate held on the iRacing platform. That included a runner-up spot at the Texas Motor Speedway recreation, where Preece fell just short (0.050 seconds) of beating out Timmy Hill for the win.

With the middling budget provided at JTG Daugherty, Preece has done what he can with what he has. His debut with the team, for example, was an eighth-place finish at the 2019 Daytona 500. Since then, however, bad luck has drafted with the team and has refused to back off.

A good follow-up of Atlanta after the opening was ruined by a pit road incident with BJ McLeod. Last October’s Talladega race saw him involved in three big wrecks alone. He was battling Denny Hamlin for the win at the most recent Daytona 500, but a fiery wreck that ate up multiple cars ended his chances with two laps to go.

Preece knows there’s an opportunity to be had on Wednesday night. Part of his Cup Series woes could stem from poor starting position. His best start to date was a 14th-place posting the Charlotte Roval race last fall (he brought the car home 21st that afternoon).

“Track position…is so hard to get,” Preece said. “So if you have a good race car and you already have that track position, then it’s just about everybody executing the way they need to. Staying up front and keeping that clean air right in the front half, front third of the pack, it’s a big deal. That can pretty much set the tone for your race.”

Tough finishes in the early going have created a lot of ground for Preece to make up if he wants to get a JTG Daughtery machine back into the NASCAR playoffs. Their last, and only such endeavor came in the aforementioned 2014 when Allmendinger was able to get to the postseason with the Watkins Glen win as his ticket (the No. 47 finished 13th in the standings that season). Preece is currently 61 points out of the final playoff seed.

Keeping the position won’t be easy. Starting immediately behind Preece in Wednesday’s 228-lap event will be the elite Fords of Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer. 19th-place finisher and Preece’s front row companion Ty Dillion will be equally hungry for track position as he is in a similar budget crunch with Germain Racing’s No. 13 Chevrolet.

“We know we have a fast race car,” Preece said Waack. “It’s a bittersweet type of thing because I really felt like we had a much better car than 20th last week. Just circumstances out of your control really is what it is. But at the same time, it gives us an opportunity to rebound on that and have a solid day. Start us off on the right foot when it comes to it on Wednesday.”

For the full starting lineup for Wednesday’s race, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

Yankees’ great Tino Martinez thinks players would adapt to all rules except for this one

New York Yankees

Because of the current, ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, if baseball is to return this season, certain healthcare standards and conditions would need to be met. Yes, we miss the New York Yankees, but some things are bigger than sports, and public health is one of them. Now, there is a possibility that the game returns sometime in June or July, but players would need to cooperate for that to happen.

Tino Martinez, a former Yankees’ great and crucial member of the last dynasty, thinks that players will likely adapt to some of the requirements to make baseball return.

The slugging first baseman believes that players are capable of fulfilling most of the things that are needed from them, such as no throwing the ball around after outs, no high fives, no licking their fingers, no fist bumps, no saunas in the clubhouse, no eating at road restaurants, wearing masks in certain places, and more.

The former Yankees’ slugger thoughts on spitting

However, Tino doesn’t think that players are capable of refraining from spitting. “What people don’t realize is when you’re on the field out there daily, your mouth gets really dry from the clay and stuff and you always have a sandy-type taste in your month and you want to spit it out,” Martinez said Monday on Michael Kay’s ESPN New York radio show. “You don’t want to swallow it. That’s why guys spit so much.

“It’s not so much that it’s a phlegm or something like that. It’s dirt in your mouth that you want to get rid of. So that’s going to be a little tough to swallow. I don’t know how they’re going to handle that.”

Martinez, who hit 192 home runs with the New York Yankees and won four World Series championships in seven seasons with the team, said that players should be able to change the way they celebrate in the dugout. “High-fiving is pretty easy not to do,” he explained.

He also thinks players would welcome the fact that post-game showers wouldn’t be allowed. “I think that would be kind of cool,” he said. “I just watched the end of Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance.” I couldn’t believe how when (the Bulls) won in ’98, they jumped on the bus and drove back to their hotel in full uniforms. So I’m sure baseball players could get used to that as well.”

Paul O’Neill says Yankees’ Aaron Judge is more prone to injuries: “He’s not your normal-sized baseball player”

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve

There is no question that, when healthy, Aaron Judge is the New York Yankees‘ best position player. No one in the roster has the 10.0-WAR ceiling of the big right fielder, which makes him one of the very best players in the Major Leagues.

The only blemish in Judge’s young career, which includes a 52-homer season and a Rookie of the Year award in 2017, have been injuries. Physical ailments have robbed the Yankees’ star player more than 100 total games in the last two seasons.

According to New York Yankees’ legend Paul O’Neill, who knows something about playing in right field for the Bombers, injuries will likely keep being part of the Aaron Judge package simply because he is not your average baseball player.

“I mean you look at Aaron Judge, he’s a specimen. There’s no doubt about it,” he said on WFAN’s “Moose and Maggie” show on Tuesday. “He’s not your normal-sized baseball player. So when he dives and he hits, you end up breaking — rib injuries or things like that, hitting a wall, those things are going to happen through the course of your career. Obviously, part of being a superstar is being able to take the field day in and day out.”

The Yankees’ star is nursing a rib issue

Judge is currently rehabbing a rib stress fracture he suffered last season while diving for a ball in the outfield. The healing process has been somewhat slow, and Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman believes Judge will be healthy at some point in the summer.

O’Neill thinks that 2020, that is if there is baseball to play, is such a critical season for Judge and the Yankees. The outfielder is a candidate for a massive contract extension, but being on the shelf will significantly diminish his earning potential.

And his injury issues are not limited to his rib. He has also suffered, during his career, shoulder, oblique and wrist ailments.

“I think it’s a big year for him, once he gets over this injury, to get through even if it’s a half-season,” O’Neill said. “Get the fans knowing that when they go to the ballpark, he’s in the lineup.”

New York Mets: Jeurys Familia is worried about injuries when things resume

For the New York Mets and the MLB in general, the past few weeks have been slow. Most of the players are training at home with the hope there is a season to play. The league, the union and health authorities are still deciding if it is worth playing this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The earliest date, at this point, that the regular season can start would be early July, with a couple of spring training weeks in June.

However, that may be, according to Mets’ reliever Jeurys Familia, pushing things a little bit. The righty, who has been working out with the newly signed Dellin Betances under the close look of Dave Paladino in New Jersey, thinks that he and the former Yankees’ pitcher will be fine, but he is worried about other players.

“I think it’ll cause a lot of injuries,” Familia told Pat Ragazzo of Metsmerized. “Most guys aren’t fortunate enough to have the same level of training as me and Dellin. Thank God Dave is allowing us to use his facility so we can throw every day, stretch out our arms, and get the proper physical training we need to prepare.”

The Mets’ reliever have been in touch with the team trainer

Betances made the news early in the spring because his velocity was somewhat down. However, he says he is over the issue now. Familia told Ragazzo that the two relievers have been in constant touch with the New York Mets’ trainer.

“We’ve been in contact with the team trainer, so we come here every day to work on what they give us to do,” he said. “We’ve been staying physically and mentally prepared. That’s the key for us.”

Mets’ pitching coach Jeremy Hefner made a priority for his pitchers to keep throwing and preparing themselves to jump right in when things restart.

“I think the biggest thing that Hef has told me is keep the same intent,” Steven Matz recently said via the Mets about Hefner’s instructions. “Everything should have a purpose while you’re working out or throwing. Keep up the game speed. Act as though this is what you would be doing if the season was going on.”

Familia is eager to return to form in 2020 after an ugly season in 2019. He lost weight and reported to spring training in tip-top shape.

New York Jets: Chris Herndon preparing to finally break out in 2020?

New York Jets, Chris Herndon

The New York Jets have one playmaker ready to make a comeback:

During his rookie season 2018, New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon was one of the most polarizing players at the position. As a fourth-round pick, he earned 39 receptions with four touchdowns. He tallied 502 receiving yards, trailing behind only Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens, who was having a career season. Herndon has the pass-catching potential to be an elite option of the NFL level, but injuries and suspensions have hurt his young career.

In 2019, he played in just one game, logging one reception for 7 yards. Going into his third season in the NFL, the Jets have high expectations for the 24-year-old tight end. They also have Ryan Griffin, who excelled at the position in his absence. Griffin posted 320 yards and five touchdowns, compiling an 82.9% catch rate, which is unbelievably high for any position player.

Playing a lot of 12 personnel could be in the future for the Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, who will now have two more than capable tight ends.

Conor Hughes of The Athletic stated that the Jets can’t wait to unleash Herndon in 2020.

“The team had sky-high expectations for their tight end entering last season, but a league-imposed suspension and injuries limited him to just one healthy quarter.”

Ultimately, he can feature as one of their primary playmakers from a blocking standpoint in the run game to receiving option in the passing game. His versatility makes him extremely exceptional in all facets, but remaining healthy has been a challenge for him up to this point. He finished 2019 on injured reserve with a rib injury.

Nonetheless, the Jets should have a rebuilt offense with a brand new offensive line and protection scheme. The hope is that the line can hold up in pass protection, giving Herndon and Griffen the freedom to run routes frequently and not block to compensate for weak tackle-play. Drafting Mekhi Becton should help Darnold’s blind-side significantly.

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard’s career is on the line after concussion riddled 2019

New York Giants receiver, Sterling Shepard.

The 2019 season was a problematic one for New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Having signed a four-year, $41 million extension last off-season, Shepard was expected to make a significant impact moving forward, but injuries could derail his career prematurely.

Extending Shepard was a byproduct of trading away Odell Beckham Jr., along with signing Golden Tate, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018. Last season saw many negatives and positives, but one of the major deficiencies was the loss of Shepard on two separate concussions, forcing him out for six total games.

Why the New York Giants should be concerned over Sterling Shepard:

After taking a hit to the head in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, Shepard missed the following game with a concussion. Fast forward to week five, And he suffered another head injury, missing the next three games. He was cleared by an independent neurologist but eventually succumbed to more concussion symptoms and was forced out for another two games.

While Shepard was able to return to the field and finish the season, these concussions are quickly adding up and could become too significant to ignore. Shepard has suffered concussions in the past, notably at Oklahoma and in high school, and with two young daughters, risking his long-term health is risky.

Moving forward, the New York Giants will have to find a way to better protect their top slot receiver, which could indicate more reps and targets for Darius Slayton and Tate. We can also expect a heavy dosage of Saquon Barkley in the run and passing game after his recovery from a high ankle sprain. They also have Corey Coleman on the back end of the wide receiver unit, who could make his presence felt after tearing his ACL during training camp last season. He was re-signed to one year deal, and while this is probably his final chance at leaving his mark in the NFL, he could supplement some of Sterling’s reps.

However, Shepard is an integral part of the offense, and his chemistry with Daniel Jones is an essential factor in the offense’s success. I don’t anticipate them limiting Shepard over the long run, but one more concussion could spell the end of his career. This is a genuine issue that we’ve seen impact players down the road and hurt their families in the process. Avoiding this reality is for the betterment of his life and should be prioritized over the game.