The NFL will soon welcome the final Gronkowski brother

The Gronkowski family might go down as one of the great football families of our time. Three of the brothers have already played in the NFL, and another one may soon join them.

Glenn Gronkowski, the youngest of the five, declared for the draft earlier this year. Though all of the Gronkowski siblings have nearly identical builds — “jacked beyond belief” is the technical term — the similarities between them as football players are difficult to find. Rob Gronkowski has ascended to superstardom ever since the Patriots drafted him in the second round in 2010, but his older brother, Dan, flamed out after four seasons. Chris Gronkowski only lasted four seasons, too, after the Dallas Cowboys signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2010.

It’s unfair to compare the other Gronkowski brothers to Rob, but that’s the price of being born into the family. Given all of the other perks, it seems to be a fair trade-off.

“I value blocking more than anything,” Elliott told reporters at the NFL Combine in February. “When I first started playing football I was a fullback, my first job was to block. When I first got to Ohio State I realized I wasn’t going to be the biggest or fastest guy, I was only 17 playing with a bunch of 22- and 21-year-old guys, so I was trying to find something that would set me apart. And that day I realized it was just effort.

“Not everyone is willing to go out there and play with a lot of effort. And blocking is another thing that running backs aren’t really willing to do. That’s a part of my game. I really made it important to me to become very good at.”

Elliott succeeded at becoming very good at it. According to Pro Football Focus, Elliott never allowed a sack, hit or hurry in the 103 times he was asked to pass block in 2015. Sometimes his ability to block left other Ohio State players with nothing to do, like when he took Notre Dame’s All-American defensive lineman Sheldon Day away from left tackle Taylor Decker in the Fiesta Bowl:

But Elliott’s pass blocking didn’t yield a highlight reel of pancakes. Instead, most pass-blocking snaps for Elliott are rather forgettable. While lunging into a blitzer a la Maurice Jones-Drew on Shawne Merriman is the best way to make it on SportsCenter, Elliott is so successful as a pass blocker because of his patience.

Play after play at Ohio State, he just sat back, squared up a pass rusher and then stoned him with ease:

If there are highlights of Elliott’s blocking, it’s usually the work he did in space as a run blocker. On Braxton Miller’s flashy spin-move touchdown against Virginia Tech, Elliott managed to spring the receiver by completely taking out two separate defenders. Given a head of steam, he also had no problem running through defenders or chopping down more athletic ones in space.

The Astros did claim Norichika Aoki on waivers from the Mariners

There are six teams on both lists: Astros, A’s, Yankees, Braves, Dodgers and Phillies.

I think we can rule out the A’s for obvious reasons, and the Braves are locked in with Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis in the corners. The Yankees could certainly use better lineup balance, and they have Aaron Judge ready for a chance in right field. Conceivably, they could look to trade Brett Gardner and then acquire McCutchen to play left, but it seems like they want to get younger with any moves they make.

Linebacker Pernell McPhee carefully avoided the subject when asked on Wednesday whether players had discussed the election results.

“I’ve been talking to God all day,” McPhee said. “I don’t know about everybody. I talk to him all day every day. I talk to [linebacker] Sam [Acho] sometimes and a lot of my teammates, but my main focus was talking to God and thanking him for the day.”

His father, 59-year-old Gerald Sr., was home during the incident. He suffered a broken wrist when confronting the burglar, who was identified as Justin J. Frazier, a 17-year-old runaway with arrest warrants in Hillsborough County and Polk County in Florida.

“Just a lost kid,” said McCoy, a father of four, who was in meetings at the team hotel in Tampa, when Frazier entered his home through an unlocked door at 3:58 p.m. “[He] probably just needs some guidance. Ain’t nothing to be upset over. It happens.”

After a scuffle with McCoy Sr., Frazier fled on foot, leaving behind a backpack with an Xbox One taken from McCoy’s home, along with an Airsoft-style gun and other stolen property. According to police, Frazier pulled one of the pellet-style guns on McCoy Sr.

McCoy Sr. is back in Oklahoma and may attend his son’s game Sunday. McCoy said his father was in good spirits when they talked on the phone the other day. McCoy Sr. had gone to church and even played the drums, despite the injury. McCoy himself seemed to be in better spirits.

Golden Tate’s sudden-death flip is best of Week 9

Detroit is making a comeback. The phrase oft-utilized to predict the Motor City’s industrial resurgence could easily apply to its cardiac football team. The Lions pulled off yet another fourth-quarter comeback on Sunday, thanks to Matthew Stafford’s golden arm, Matt Prater’s rocket leg and an in-your-face catch-and-run-and-flip from a Detroit receiver in the midst of his own comeback.

“In many respects, he was a big brother to Ali,” Smith said. The film shows how an older Brown personally intervened in dealing with an out-of-control gang problem with his Amer-I-Can program, and how he still remains a powerful force on many social issues.

“His principal legacy is going to be what he accomplished as a football player,” said Dr. Harry Edwards in the film. “But Jim Brown was not principally a great football player. Jim Brown was a great man who just also happened to play a great game of football.”

Brown, though, isn’t without his flaws. The film deals with his arrests for domestic violence matters. He served four months in prison in 2002. Smith said he told Brown, “If we tell the life story, you have to tell the whole life story.”

Brown opened up during two separate interviews totaling nearly four hours. Even though Brown is 80 and needs a cane, Smith said he still has “an intimidating presence.”

“Jim Brown still is Jim Brown,” Smith said. “As we got late into the interviews, you could see he was getting restless. You knew it was time to wrap it up.”

With the passing of Ali, Smith said Brown remains one of the few legendary athletic figures still alive from “pre 24-hour news cycle.” In making the film, Smith has passages where he uses a montage of photos of Brown to tell his story. Smith thought the snapshots were powerful in capturing moments of an important life that still remains constantly on the move.

“We have a chance to introduce Jim Brown the football player to a new audience of younger fans,” Smith said. “Separate of that, we can show that he has been an important agent of change. In some way, now is the perfect time to reflect on his life. We hope it inspires people.”

Ben Roethlisberger’s Steelers are 4-4 overall following Sunday’s loss to division rival Baltimore

In 2006, he missed only one start after an emergency appendectomy and a June motorcycle accident that left him flying headfirst (with no helmet) into the windshield of a Chrysler New Yorker. In 2012, he missed only three games after suffering a fractured rib that doctors feared could’ve punctured his aorta. In 2015, he replaced the injured Jones against Cleveland and on one good foot set a league record for a reliever with 379 passing yards. Three months later, Roethlisberger ignored a serious shoulder injury that forced him to be carted out of a playoff game with Cincinnati to return in the final minutes and — with his right arm looking like a wet noodle tethered to a bowling ball — lead the Steelers on the deciding drive.

Ben Roethlisberger’s Steelers are 4-4 overall following Sunday’s loss to division rival Baltimore. Tommy Gilligan/.USA TODAY Sports
So yes, the Ravens fully expected to see Roethlisberger on Sunday. “Absolutely,” Terrell Suggs said in his postgame news conference. “He seemed like he wasn’t hurt, right? He was very fluid, he scrambled, he almost shook off a sack. I mean, we broke the guy’s nose [in 2010] and he still continued to play, so I wasn’t fooled. I hope you all weren’t.”

In 2016, however, the NFL turned to a pair of initiatives — mostly in response to an ugly game last season between the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants. It added a rule that calls for an automatic ejection of players who receive two of a certain type of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. And it also intensified efforts to make fighting and other non-football acts subject to immediate ejection if on-field officials believe it is warranted.

We saw one of each on Sunday afternoon.

First, referee Jeff Triplette’s decision to eject Cleveland Browns center Cam Erving and Dallas Cowboys defensive end David Irving came as the result of a fight after a first-quarter play.

Second, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was ejected after a fourth-quarter call by referee Gene Steratore for arguing about a penalty call and then throwing a towel at an official. He received separate unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for each, triggering the auto-ejection rule.

Triplette has led the way among NFL officials, accounting for five of the 10 ejections. Referee Bill Vinovich has ejected two players, while John Hussey, Ed Hochuli and Steratore have done it once each.

The NFL fined Cardinals DE Calais Campbell $18k for the hit Cam Newton complained about

The NFL fined Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell $18,000 for the low hit on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton that Newton called his “breaking point” according to USA Today Sports’ Garrett Bell.

On Monday, ESPN’s Ed Werder learned from a league source that the NFL had reviewed the play and determined the officials should have thrown a flag.

Campbell did apologize to Newton after the hit. A source with knowledge of the situation told Bell that Campbell will appeal the fine.

After the Carolina Panthers’ 30-20 win over the Cardinals in Week 8, Newton said the hit could have torn his ACL. It prompted him to approach NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the hits he’s been taking throughout the season.

During Bradford’s rookie season in 2010, he was sacked 34 times, but still managed to complete 60 percent of his passes. Bradford broke the record that year for completed passes by a rookie with 354, averaging just 6 yards per attempt. It was still enough to help boost the Rams from a 1-15 team in 2009 to a 7-9 record a year later. Bradford won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award that season.

Apple has never been one to withhold her opinion — something the Giants should’ve been aware of before the team drafted her son, Eli, with the No. 10 overall selection in the 2016 NFL draft. On Wednesday, in another column for Sports Illustrated, Apple said she was livid with the Giants not only for Mara’s comments or for the team’s handling of Brown, but also because the team tried to get her son to quiet down his mother.

“I felt they were leaning heavily on a 21-year-old kid in an effort to control what his mother says,” Apple wrote. “That’s not fair. I know the NFL is a business. I get it. But where in business school is showing basic human compassion and accountability not a good thing?”

Eli Apple has been in a bit of a precarious position of juggling his rookie season along with what seems like a battle between the franchise and his mother.

After botching the handling of Brown and receiving a tremendous amount of criticism as a consequence, the last thing the Giants should be doing is making an effort to silence a mother and domestic abuse victim from speaking out. But Eli Apple insists that’s not what is happening.

Since the Saints’ Bountygate saga, the NFL has adopted a no-tolerance approach to dealing with teams who reward players for knocking opponents out of games with injuries, which is precisely what Baldinger was suggesting the Eagles do to Elliott.

Apparently that no-tolerance approach applies to all employees, as well. Baldinger will be suspended for six months without pay.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr warns: ‘Talent is not going to be enough’

The Golden State Warriors’ 122-114 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night featured Anthony Davis, a superstar whose rise is in need of assistance, against Kevin Durant, the superstar who just received the world.

On Wednesday, Davis scored 50 points and the Pelicans lost. It started as a game against the Denver Nuggets and ended as a symbol for his time in New Orleans. Davis is bereft of help — due to injuries, due to roster construction. On Friday, he delivered another powerful performance, claiming 45 points, 17 rebounds and, again, an unfair loss.

Durant is not so much bereft of help. If anything, he — and his costars — might even have too much of a great thing. The Warriors have so many scorers, so many playmakers, that their offensive actions appear awkward. On many possessions, it’s as though thought is overwhelming instinct. In the early stretch of Friday’s game, center Zaza Pachulia (4-of-6 for eight points) was finding money at the rim as his All-Star teammates sought out a rhythm. Eventually, Durant (30 points), Stephen Curry (23 points) and Klay Thompson (28 points) established themselves.

“Your mind immediately goes to Memphis,” adds Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick, referring to the “grit ‘n’ grind” moniker the Grizzlies have adopted to describe their defensive-minded style of play.

“We will continue to review all of our options and we reserve our rights to petition for cert to the Supreme Court,” the union said. Brady has also reportedly authorized the NFLPA to follow through with its appeal, if it decides to go that route.

It feels like the only way Goodell will ever relinquish any of his disciplinary power is with some convincing from the highest court in the land. It may be the union’s last chance to gain leverage in its quest to curtail the commissioner’s unilateral authority and give the NFLPA a leg up going into the next collective bargaining agreement negotiations in 2021.

Size still matters in basketball. A lot. We haven’t been very warm or nurturing to the 7-foot set in recent years — scrubbing centers from the All-Star ballot is one prominent example — but look around. Highly skilled and freakishly agile bigs are emerging in so many different cities and bringing some balance back to this world gone trey crazy.

So keep an eye on them.

The suspicion among numerous league observers is that the Blazers’ non-stop spending this past offseason was asset collection as much as anything. Scan through all those names again and it’s clear Portland has no shortage of options to thrust itself into all kinds of trade talks as GM Neil Olshey continues to shape the roster around backcourt bedrocks Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

The Warriors will win a game by 60 points.

The concept gained scientific rigor when Duckworth tested West Point cadets using the “grit scale” she created. Despite not having a relationship with academic achievement in high school or SAT performance, grit proved a better predictor of which cadets would drop out of grueling basic training.

Tyler Eifert says he’ll never play in the Pro Bowl again after ankle injury

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert required surgery to repair the ankle injury he suffered in the Pro Bowl and he’s clearly not happy that he suffered the setback during an exhibition game. On Friday, Eifert promised that he’ll never play in another Pro Bowl, regardless if he’s selected or not.

Eifert, 25, led all tight ends with 13 touchdowns in 2015, but may miss the beginning of the 2016 season after undergoing surgery in May. The injury is a tough one for the Bengals to deal with, especially after losing receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency. Rookies Tyler Boyd and Cody Core were added to a wide receiver corps that already features A.J. Green so the Cincinnati passing game is far from devoid of talent, but there are few tight ends on the roster with experience after Eifert.

Although it wasn’t the long-term deal that Fitzpatrick was asking for, he’s now the 12th-highest-paid quarterback in base salary and could add another $3 million by reaching incentives during the 2016 season. He’s also the highest-paid player on the Jets’ offense in 2016 and second on the team behind only Darrelle Revis.

Still, the contract isn’t one that shows the Jets believe Fitzpatrick is anything more than a short-term fix while younger players on the roster develop. But it’s starter money and there’s no doubt who the team has penciled in at the top spot on the depth chart.

“It’s Fitzpatrick’s job,” Jets head coach Todd Bowles said on Thursday.

But what does that mean for Smith?

The 2013 second-round pick was less than 24 hours away from opening training camp as the Jets’ starter, but now it’s entirely possible that he never takes another snap for the team.

Why the Jets should cut ties with Geno Smith
The Jets have four quarterbacks on the roster and all of them represent a significant investment. Fitzpatrick is due to make $12 million, Smith was a second-round pick in 2013, Bryce Petty was a fourth-round pick in 2015 and Christian Hackenberg is a rookie who was picked in the second round in April.

Smith isn’t even guaranteed the backup job.

“It’s just not worth it,” Eifert told Geoff Hobson of shortly after vowing to skip on all future Pro Bowls. The 2013 first-round pick is still in a walking boot, but told reporters that it will come off in a week.

There are plenty of problems with the NFL’s annual all-star game, including the risk of injury. But the game still draws enough viewers to warrant its place on television, meaning the NFL likely isn’t going to scrap the exhibition any time soon.

In 2007, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees suffered a dislocated elbow in the Pro Bowl but it didn’t cost him any playing time in the following season.

How close are the Browns to the 2017 No. 1 overall pick?

Tuesday is going to be a memorable night for Cleveland sports fans.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers open the 2016-17 NBA season at 7:30 p.m. ET at Quicken Loans Arena. They will celebrate their 2015-16 NBA championship, the first in franchise history, before tipoff.

Right next door, Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians host Game 1 of the World Series at Progressive Field at 8 p.m. ET. The Indians have a chance to win their first World Series title since 1948.

Moving forward, FPI projects Cleveland to have the No. 30 offense, No. 30 defense and No. 31 special teams unit.

The Browns’ FPI rating is negative-9.4. That means FPI projects they would lose to an average team on a neutral field by over nine points.

The difference between the Browns at No. 32 in FPI and the Rams at No. 31 is 4.5 points. That gap is larger than the gap between the Rams at 31 and the New York Giants at No. 17.

A deep dive into Rodgers’ season reveals why.

One of them is a receiver — Terrelle Pryor (with five). The other five are “pure” quarterbacks — Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, Charlie Whitehurst and Kevin Hogan.

According to Elias, the Browns are only the third team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to have that many players throw at least five passes in a season. The 1984 and 1987 Bears are the only other teams to do it.

This week’s candidate would be Joe Callahan, who was claimed on waivers on Monday from New Orleans. He is the sixth quarterback on the roster this season.

Determining whether that is a record is difficult. Thus, ESPN Stats and Information combined with Elias to come up with the five-pass minimum designation.

In 1984, the Bears had five quarterbacks throw 47 or more passes: Jim McMahon, Rusty Lisch, Steve Fuller, Bob Avellini and Greg Landry. Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton threw eight passes on halfback options. Payton had a better passer rating than Avellini and Lisch.

Buoyed by its well-known defense, that Bears team still made the playoffs with a 10-6 record — and went to the NFC Championship Game, losing to the San Francisco 49ers.

Fuller started both playoff games.

It’s looking like a bounce-back year for NFL Draft busts

If this preseason, or the two weeks of it we’ve played so far, is any indication, it’s going to be a very good year for first-round picks whose star has faded over the last few years for various reasons. In Cleveland, RG3 is making highlight reel plays again. Jadeveon Clowney, the first overall pick in 2014, finally looked like guy who became a legend for destroying that Michigan running back way back when.

Even Christian Ponder made our all-star list for the second week of the preseason.

BROWNS OFFENSE: Breaking down the Browns offense with RG3. Here’s a great look at Cleveland’s second offensive series from Friday night, the one that ended with a 50-yard touchdown throw to Terrelle Pryor.

He led the NFL in interceptions that season with 10, including a three-interception game against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football that made him an instant star. He eventually fell out of favor with the Chargers and was traded to the New York Jets, where he elevated his play and earned a four-year, $32 million contract.

After two Pro Bowl seasons with the Jets, Cromartie was released in 2014 as a cap casualty, spent one year with the Arizona Cardinals and was released by the Jets as a cap casualty again in 2016.

While he’s not the player he once was and could be close to through in the NFL, he’s still a player who has been a starter for eight years and has missed just two games over that span. Cromartie will at least provide depth, which the Colts need in a desperate way.

“It’s not pretty. It’s a little scary right now,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said earlier Monday when asked about the current state of the secondary.

Indianapolis has suffered several injuries at cornerback, including to No. 1 corner Vontae Davis. Davis suffered a sprained ankle last week and could miss the first month of the season.

Mike Mularkey is bad for Marcus Mariota’s career

An early look at Mike Mularkey’s outdated offense with Marcus Mariota. This is not a good thing for Mariota’s career. Mularkey’s offense leans too much on making Mariota run, but the passing game is having a far more deleterious effect on his career. Here’s how Cian Fahey describes it:

“With a great quarterback, someone who can move in the pocket like Mariota does, someone who can manipulate coverages, throw against pressure and read through progressions like Mariota does, it’s not smart to simplify your passing game,” Fahey said. “Great quarterbacks need options. In today’s NFL where the rules heavily favor the receivers, your goal should be to have as many receivers on the field as possible while letting the quarterback keep his eyes on them to find them.”

Hey, that’s not a good thing! If the Titans want to get behind Mariota and play their way back to relevance, they may need a new head coach before it’s too late.

John Clayton says Jeff Fisher is in line for a three-year extension from the Rams. The ESPN reporter suggested the Rams head coach’s new deal would be announced along with Michael Brockers’ contract. It’s possible. At nine losses away from having more coaching losses than anyone else in NFL history, the Rams definitely don’t want to let this one get away.

WEEK 2 PREVIEW: NFL Week 2 preview: Vikings debut Birdkiller Stadium — This week the Uffsides crew previews two Wild Card rematches, two games at “new” stadiums, and one lousy Monday Night Football game. They probably should have talked about Bucs-Cardinals instead.

NO FINES: NFL not expected to fine Titans player who wore 9/11 tribute cleats. Five other NFL players wore patriotic cleats during their games on Sept. 11.

HOSS OF THE WEEK: Leonard Williams wrecks shop no matter where the Jets put him, The Jets’ second-year defensive lineman is Stephen White’s Hoss of the Week.

BROCKERS EXTENSION: Rams, DT Michael Brockers agree to a three-year contract extension. Finally, some good news for the Rams.

MORE OWNERS WEIGH IN ON PROTESTS: Jerry Jones believes that the anthem controversy “really disappointing.” The Cowboys owner is also a big backer of The Shield, go figure. Jones doesn’t speak for all the owners though. Four protesting Dolphins joined by a big fifth — owner Steve Ross. Ross applauded the four Dolphins players who knelt during the anthem.