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Ravens training camp observations on WR Rashod Bateman’s big day, secondary help and more

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Ravens Training Camp Observations On Wr Rashod Bateman’s Big Day, Secondary Help And More
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At his introductory news conference last year, Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman was asked whom he models his game after. The first-round draft pick’s answers made sense: Keenan Allen and Davante Adams, two perennial Pro Bowl wideouts better known for their releases at the line of scrimmage than any scouting combine measurables.

On Saturday, in his best training camp practice since a soft-tissue injury sidelined him a week ago, Bateman seemed to win every repetition within his first few steps. He created the leverage he needed at the line of scrimmage.

In one-on-one work, Bateman toasted cornerback Kyle Fuller with a right-to-left crossover that freed him for an easy completion over the middle. In their second matchup, he accelerated so easily on a vertical route that all Fuller could do to deny a touchdown was grab Bateman from behind, almost tackling him as the ball arrived.

“He’s been looking pretty sharp,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said of Bateman. “He’s been looking good, looking like a receiver [No.] 1, for sure.”

Their connection, which looked out of sync in Bateman’s first days back from injury, was as strong as ever in Saturday’s two-hour practice. Jackson found him early in team drills for a short completion, then delivered a “hole shot” down the right sideline in their next period, firing to Bateman in the soft part of the zone coverage, just behind cornerback Damarion “Pepe” Williams and just in front of safety Tony Jefferson.

Bateman should’ve had a touchdown on a deep shot three plays later, but Jackson’s ball was just late enough to let Daryl Worley catch up. The cornerback’s blind breakup of the falling pass, Worley’s hand extending out to Bateman’s just in time, kept the offense from celebrating.

Bateman, though, just kept getting open. In an 11-on-11 hurry-up period, he plucked a pass from Jackson that whizzed past rookie cornerback David Veeren’s head on a back-shoulder throw. He added two more catches in seven-on-seven work. Then he got behind inside linebacker Josh Bynes on a deep crosser that Jackson nailed with ease in a full-team session.

Two plays after a rare incompletion — top cornerback Marlon Humphrey stuck denied a throw to the back of the end zone in an 11-on-11 red-zone drill — Bateman showed strong hands on an impressive touchdown grab. Despite tight coverage from Jefferson, he snagged a fastball from Jackson in the middle of the end zone. In a camp with occasional drops, there was no bobble this time.

“You have to practice to improve; there’s no question about that,” Harbaugh said of Bateman’s return to action. “You either get better or you get worse; it’s a fact. It’s a football fact and probably a life fact. So he has been out there practicing a lot, as much as he can. He’s doing well with it.”

Attendance

Defensive back Brandon Stephens (soft tissue) returned to practice for the first time in nearly two weeks, while rookie cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis was back after missing Tuesday’s practice and Thursday’s preseason opener. Wide receiver Slade Bolden, who left practice Tuesday with an athletic trainer, was also back.

Running back J.K. Dobbins, who was cleared to practice in individual drills Monday, missed Saturday’s practice. Harbaugh said Saturday and Sunday were “evaluation” days for Dobbins, who tore his ACL last August, and that he’s expected to return Monday.

Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, who missed Thursday’s preseason win over the Tennessee Titans and Saturday’s practice, is working through headache- and migraine-related pain, Harbaugh said. “You don’t mess around with those too much,” he said.

Among those also missing practice were wide receivers James Proche II (soft tissue), Tylan Wallace (knee) and rookie Bailey Gaither, tight end Nick Boyle, center Tyler Linderbaum (foot) and offensive tackle David Sharpe.

Well received

Wide receiver Devin Duvernay’s deep speed might be the best of any Ravens receiver. He glided past cornerback Robert Jackson in one-on-ones for a deep completion, his second win in two matchups. In seven-on-seven work, Duvernay ran past Williams on a slot fade and then under a high-arcing pass from Jackson for an over-the-shoulder grab.

Tight end Mark Andrews, meanwhile, had another quietly efficient practice. Early in the day, in one-on-ones, he drew a flag on safety Chuck Clark on a downfield route and separated easily from rookie safety Kyle Hamilton on a corner route. Later, Jackson targeted Andrews five times, connecting for four completions, during an eight-play span in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 action.

Rookie Makai Polk and third-year veterans Jaylon Moore and Binjimen Victor were the most productive of the Ravens’ on-the-bubble receivers.

Extra points

  • Ravens defensive linemen deflected four passes, continuing their disruptiveness at the line of scrimmage.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Travis Jones, coming off a strong preseason performance, barreled over reserve center Jimmy Murray as he looked to track down one red-zone scramble late in the practice.
  • Humphrey had one of the more impressive one-on-one wins of camp, closing hard on tight end Isaiah Likely’s short route and punching the ball loose as Likely brought it to his body. Likely split his two repetitions against Hamilton, but was closely covered on both.
  • Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh and defensive tackle Michael Pierce provided the defensive highlights of the Ravens’ one-on-one pass-rush drills. Oweh unbalanced right tackle Morgan Moses with a power move before shedding him, while Pierce dipped out of guard Ben Cleveland’s reach before ripping through as Cleveland tried to recover.
  • Offensive tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith ended up running two laps as punishment for a pair of presnap penalties. Rookie tackle Daniel Faalele was sentenced to one lap.
  • The Ravens released undrafted rookie wide receiver Devon Williams and undrafted rookie cornerback Denzel Williams and signed outside linebacker Trent Harris on Saturday. Harris, who spent the past two seasons with the Giants, has two sacks over 19 career games with the Miami Dolphins and New York.

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Ex-Vikings star humbled by Diane & Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge at marathon

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Ex-Vikings Star Humbled By Diane &Amp; Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge At Marathon
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Former Vikings star Alan Page will be at his usual spot at the corner of Knox and Douglas in Minneapolis playing the sousaphone when the 2022 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon gets underway at 8 a.m. Sunday. But this race will be a bit different.

Page is humbled by marathon organizers having unveiled The Diane & Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge. The challenge honors Page along with Diane Page, his late wife, for having been dedicated fans cheering along the marathon route.

“The neat thing is they’re doing it in Diane’s and my name,’’ Page said Saturday. “That’s kind of special.”

The defensive tackle played in the NFL from 1967-81, including 1967-78 with the Vikings, and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. He later served as an associate justice for the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1993-2015.

Page and his wife, who died in 2018, were longtime runners who began in the late 1980s to stand along the marathon route each year to cheer on the runners. Page, who had run about 10 marathons up until the late 1980s, got plenty of publicity for playing sousaphone, a large tuba-like instrument.

For this year’s event, marathon organizers decided to honor the family by inviting local groups to join The Diane & Alan Page Community Cheer Challenge. There were 46 groups that signed up, and $3,000 will be donated to charities chosen by groups that emerge as winners.

“I was quite moved that they wanted to do that, but most importantly that they wanted to include Diane,’’ Page said. “It’s really kind of neat the organizations that will be out there that will be cheering on the runners. Hopefully, this will become an annual event.”

More than 9,000 participants will take part in the marathon and nearly 11,000 in the 10-mile race, which gets underway at 6:54 a.m. More than 300,000 are expected along the route, which runs from U.S. Bank Stadium to the State Capitol, and cheer zones will be at various spots along the route.

“(Page is) so recognizable and respected and inspiring in the community that we thought he was the natural person to connect to our event,’’ said Dean Orton, president of Twin Cities in Motion. “Really rooted in it is the amazing dedication that both him and his late wife have had with the marathon. … They would go out and rally the community and cheer on everybody. He generally understands the importance of community coming together and the beauty of the human spirit.”

There will be five divisions of cheer groups, which are neighborhood association or on-course resident, run club or run store, non-profit organization, community group and sponsors or corporations. Judges have been assigned to vote on the best cheering groups, and race participants also will be able to vote. The overall winning group will receive $1,000 for charity, and four other category winning groups will each get $500.

The marathon is in it’s 40th year. One difference is that a Vikings game for the first time will be going on at the same time. The Vikings will face the New Orleans Saints in London in a game that kicks off at 8:30 a.m., but Page doesn’t expect that will take away many race fans.

“They can enjoy the marathon and get home and catch some of the game or they can just dial the game up on their phones,’’ he said.

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Chicago Bears sign kicker Michael Badgley with Cairo Santos still questionable for the Week 4 road game

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Chicago Bears Sign Kicker Michael Badgley With Cairo Santos Still Questionable For The Week 4 Road Game
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The Chicago Bears will have a new kicker for Sunday’s Week 4 road game against the New York Giants.

The team announced it signed Michael Badgley to the practice squad Saturday morning and he will be elevated to the gameday roster as Cairo Santos did not travel with the team.

Santos missed practices Thursday and Friday for personal reasons and the team designated him as questionable for the game. He was ruled out before the team’s early-afternoon flight to New Jersey.

The Bears were prepared for the possibility, holding a tryout Friday afternoon at Halas Hall that Badgley won. He beat out Brian Johnson and Josh Lambo.

The team announced more roster moves as well. Running back Darrynton Evans has been elevated from the practice squad to the active roster, while defensive end Andre Anthony goes on practice squad reserve/injured.

Santos made field goals from 47 and 50 yards before hitting the 30-yarder on the final play of a 23-20 win over the Houston Texans last Sunday at Soldier Field. He’s 4-for-4 on field goals for the season and rebounded from two missed extra points during a driving rainstorm in the Week 1 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

He set a franchise record in 2020 when he made 30-of-32 field goal attempts (93.8%), earning a $9 million, three-year contract. Santos followed it up by going 26-of-30 on field goals in 2021, and has connected on 89.7% of his field goals since taking over for Eddy Pineiro at the start of 2020.

Badgley, 27, was most recently with the Jacksonville Jaguars in August. He had a tryout earlier this week for the Kansas City Chiefs. He made 18 of 22 field goals in 12 games with the Indianapolis Colts and one with the Tennessee Titans last season.

He spent the first three years of his career with the Los Angeles Chargers but left after the 2020 season when he made 24 of 33 field goals.

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Heat’s Erik Spoelstra on so many wanting to start, ‘You need ambition’

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Heat’s Erik Spoelstra On So Many Wanting To Start, ‘You Need Ambition’
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Ask Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about more than half his roster believing they should be starters and he smiles the wryest of smiles.

“I don’t mind it in terms of players’ ambition,” he said, with the Heat breaking camp Saturday after five days at the Baha Mar resort. “We should have a lot of players that feel like they can start. And we probably do have eight to 12 starters.

“Either they can start on this team right now or they can start on another team or at some point they’ve been starters. Or could start with a little bit more development a year or two or three years down the line.”

The givens in the first five are Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry. The contenders for the other two berths are Caleb Martin, Max Strus, Tyler Herro, Victor Oladipo and perhaps even Duncan Robinson, Omer Yurtseven or Haywood Highsmith. About the only members of the 14-player standard roster not directly in the conversation are Gabe Vincent, Dewayne Dedmon, 42-year-old mentor Udonis Haslem and 19-year-old neophyte Nikola Jovic.

“I think you need talent in this league, you need ambition,” Spoelstra said. “I want to leverage all of that.

“At some point, to be a part of something special, you have to embrace that concept of sacrificing and sharing in the game.”

So, yes, sacrifice is back as a core tenet.

“It’ll be really important for this team to understand that each guy will have to sacrifice a little bit to be able to unlock the talent that we have,” Spoelstra said. “Once you embrace that, all of this is bigger than each one of us, and you can really connect the dots on the concept, you can find more purpose and gratification out of great team basketball. So we’re laying that foundation right now.

“The magic happens when everybody can get to a place where you’re vulnerable and giving up something for the betterment of the team. We have a lot of firepower, have a lot of talent, have a lot of defensive versatility. There’s a lot of encouraging things about our roster makeup and our depth. And we fully intend on using all of that. How that’s going to play out right now? I don’t know, but I do like the possibilities.”

Closing time

With the Heat wrapping up their stay in New Providence, with Saturday including a youth clinic at the makeshift courts at the resort’s convention center, Haslem summed up the experience.

“A great way to finish my last training camp, in paradise,” said the veteran power forward who is retiring after this 20th Heat season. “Well loved, always much love when I come here in the Bahamas. Just like being in Miami for me. The love is unmatched and I appreciate it a lot.”

Haslem said camp had a different feel, with 14 players returning from last season.

“We’re ahead of the game, because we had so much time last year. We didn’t lose very much,” he said, with only P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris departing. “We pretty much know everybody. Health is always a major concern, but we’re bonding, we’re enjoying it, we’re here in the Bahamas, paradise, so it’s been a great trip.”

Haslem said he made an effort to leave the resort to sample local fare, and appreciated that teammates were able to take their minds off the game.

“Great week,” he said. “A little bit of rain, but it held on pretty good. So the young guys were able to go on the water slides, some of the older guys able to get some golf. It was a good balance of hard work and a mental break and getting away.”

But that doesn’t mean there also wasn’t a physical toll.

“This week was a crash course for the body,” he said. “Next week, I’ll be better.”

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Mets bats need to wake up in order to clinch NL East crown

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Mets Bats Need To Wake Up In Order To Clinch Nl East Crown
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ATLANTA — The Mets bats have gone cold and they’re running out of time to heat them up.

They failed to capitalize on a late rally Friday night in a 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves. They needed a late rally to beat the Miami Marlins on Wednesday and they got no rallies in the first game of that series.

But this trend goes back even further. A shutout in Milwaukee last week. A sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs earlier in September and only five runs over three games against the Washington Nationals.

Overall, the numbers haven’t been terrible. The Mets actually own the second-highest OPS in the league over the month of September (.770). But there have been some key losses in which the offense didn’t really show up, much like the one Friday night at Truist Park.

The question is whether or not this is indicative of what’s to come in the last five games of the season and in the postseason. Will it cost them the NL East and force them into a Wild Card round?

The problems started when Starling Marte was injured earlier this month. The All-Star outfielder was hitting .292 this season with an .814 OPS and 16 home runs before he got hurt. But Marte is not exactly the engine that makes the Mets offense go. Missing one player like that shouldn’t crater the rest of the offense.

“Without Starling here, we have to force some things we might not normally have to,” manager Buck Showalter said.

The lack of production at the DH position doesn’t help either. With the Mets facing two right-handers this weekend we can probably expect to see Daniel Vogelbach back in the lineup, but he’s had some questionable at-bats as of late. Darin Ruf was placed on the injured list with a neck strain Friday and his struggles have been magnified as the team’s offensive woes have continued.

The Mets don’t seem to have an answer as to why Ruf, who was brought in to hit against left-handed pitching, has been so bad in New York (.152 with a .413 OPS).

“Could be a number of variables,” general manager Billy Eppler said Friday at Truist Park. “Could be timing, could be something material in the swing. Could be a small sample, could be a number of things. So it’s up to us to uncover and that’s some of the questions that we are asking.”

Francisco Alvarez was called up to take Ruf’s spot on the roster. The 20-year-old catcher is one of the top prospects in baseball, even ranked No. 1 overall by MLB Pipeline, and has been absolutely crushing left-handed pitching in Triple-A. He wasn’t the hero the Mets needed Friday night, but they needed much more than a rookie making his debut to come through with so much on the line.

Alvarez faced Kenley Jansen in a key moment in the ninth, with the bases loaded and one out. He struck out on three pitches — all cutters — fouling one off and swinging through two of them. This might not be the same Jansen as five years ago, but that cutter still cuts.

Eppler and Showalter talked about not overwhelming him in his major league debut, but they kept him in because they liked the matchup against Jansen. Showalter called Jansen a “neutral split,” meaning the right-hander has similar results against right- and left-handed hitters, but lefties have had a better results against him this season (left-handed hitters have a .725 OPS against Jansen, while right-handers have a .550 OPS).

“He’s getting close, we thought, on some balls and he’ll learn from it,” Showalter said. “He’s an impressive young man we’re glad he’s on our side.”

So, the Mets need a hero. Who will it be?

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Zack Britton can’t make it all the way back to help Yankees in the playoffs

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Zack Britton Can’t Make It All The Way Back To Help Yankees In The Playoffs
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Zack Britton’s comeback has fallen short. The left-hander who exited Friday night’s game with “arm fatigue” was placed on the injured list Saturday and likely will not pitch for the Yankees again. The 34-year-old had hoped to come back from 2021 Tommy John surgery to pitch in the postseason.

“I think basically it’s just something that we’re kind of running out of time here,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, “and having a little bit of fatigue last night, it’s like one of those things you don’t want to power through and reach for more and then do some damage as you’re coming back.

“But he’s in a good spot heading into the offseason.”

Britton had the updated version of Tommy John surgery, which places a protective brace or sleeve around the ulnar collateral ligament. That had him and the Yankees hoping he could make a faster comeback. He made his big league debut this season on Sept. 24, just 12 and a half months after the surgery.

‘I’m just appreciative of how hard he’s worked to get to this point and to give himself a chance,” Boone said. “The rehab is going really well. I feel like a lot of things are  lined up. It’s just that final sharpness and at this point in the season just got up against it there. But, yeah, he worked his tail off to put himself in this position and give himself an opportunity and certainly admire that.”

Britton is in the final year of his four-year, $53 million deal with the Yankees. An elite closer with the Orioles, the Yankees acquired him at the trade deadline in 2018. Britton made 136 appearances for the Bombers, mostly setting up for Aroldis Chapman, and pitched to a 2.75 ERA with 15 saves.

Britton made it very clear when he returned that he was not worried about pitching to prove he was healthy for another contract.

“I mean it doesn’t impact my future. I’m healthy. I know if I’m healthy, the future for me will be fine. The reason why I kind of push things is because I want to pitch this year for this team to help them win and for no other reason,” Britton said when he returned. “So there’s no benefit for me personally, other than the fact that maybe I can have an impact on a World Series championship team. That’s really the only goal for me at this stage of my career. I’ve gotten my contract. I am 34 years old. My reasons are much different now than when I was younger. I want [a] ring, that’s why I pushed this hard to come back and be an option for the team.”

With Clay Holmes down because of rotator cuff inflammation, a doubleheader on Tuesday and rain putting the Yankees final two games of the regular season at Yankee Stadium in doubt, the Bombers just needed an arm. They called up Jacob Barnes, a veteran of parts of seven seasons in the big leagues with the Brewers, Royals, Mets, Angels and Tigers and a 6.10 ERA this season.

“He’s got good stuff. Good arm,” Boone said. “We  just wanted that coverage today, with what we’re entering into as far as doubleheaders coming up and some roster situations.”

MONTAS MOVES

Frankie Montas was on the field throwing for the first time since he was shut down earlier this month. The right-hander played a very limited catch at about 25 to 40 feet, another indication that he will not be pitching at least in the first round of the playoffs.

And when he does pitch in the playoffs, it very well could be out of the bullpen, Boone confirmed Saturday.

“I don’t know about the Division Series. I don’t know if that’s gonna be in play,” Boone said when asked if there was enough time to ramp him back up.  “We feel like there’s time to where he could get to a point where he could be an option for us. Maybe not in the Division Series, but more likely beyond.”

Montas is on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, the same issue that had him miss time in Oakland before the Yankees traded for him. The Bombers targeted Montas specifically for the playoff with his past success against potential playoff foes the Astros and Rays. He struggled once he got here, however. Montas has a 6.35 ERA in eight starts with the Bombers.

The Yankees dealt minor league pitching prospects Luis Medina and Ken Waldichuk along with J.P. Sears, who had already contributed to the big league club, for Montas and reliever Lou Trivino (who coincidentally is the only one of the Yankees’ deadline acquisitions who has not been injured).

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Gophers star tailback Mo Ibrahim out vs. Purdue

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Gophers Star Tailback Mo Ibrahim Out Vs. Purdue
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The Gophers had a big, surprise absence during its Homecoming game against Purdue on Saturday.

Star running back Mo Ibrahim was dressed in uniform and participated in some of pregame warmups but did not play against the Boilermakers at Huntington Bank Stadium. Instead, Trey Potts and Bryce Williams stepped into bigger roles.

Ibrahim appeared to injure his left ankle during the 34-7 win over Michigan State last week, but returned to the game in East Lansing, Mich. He also practiced during the week, head coach P.J. Fleck said on KFXN-FM show Tuesday.

Ibrahim had 89 carries for 567 yards and eight touchdowns in four games this season.

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