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Brady to Tampa only tip of NFL's changing landscape – TSN

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Upheaval is everywhere in the NFL. It won’t likely end soon.

A free agency frenzy that has seen steady player movement — yes, players beyond Tom Brady have changed addresses — has been the focal point. With little to nothing else going on in sports, the NFL has grabbed headlines with business deals between players and teams.

Those transactions have changed the league landscape. But so have many other moves involving the draft, off-season programs and perhaps the upcoming season itself as the new coronavirus pandemic affects every aspect of our lives.

Here’s a look at all of those elements in America’s most popular and lucrative sport.

FREE AGENCY

Awkwardness might be the keyword. The NFL barred players from visiting teams courting them and banned club personnel from travelling to meet with the free agents — both wise and necessary moves.

Physicals on which contract agreements are reliant could only be performed locally or by doctors mutually agreed upon between franchises and players. Signed contracts must be registered with the league before anything becomes official and players can get paid on their new deals.

That led to dozens of leaks of deals without teams being able to confirm them when the NFL business year began last Wednesday.

Through all that, million-dollar pacts emerged everywhere — some of them still unannounced by teams.

Brady leaving New England has been the mind-blowing move, naturally. Suddenly, a franchise that hasn’t seen the post-season in a dozen years has some cachet. And the most dominant team of the past two decades, with Brady leading the Patriots to six championships in nine Super Bowl trips, has lost its essence.

And the other relocations through free agency and trades will require some studying up by fans. The most impactful moves so far, and with several big names still on the market, seem to be:

—All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins dealt to Arizona by Houston.

—QBs Teddy Bridgewater to Carolina and Philip Rivers to Indianapolis as free agents.

—Standout cornerback Darius Slay leaving Detroit for Philadelphia, which released star safety and leader Malcolm Jenkins, who returned to New Orleans.

—WR Stefon Diggs dealt by the Vikings to the Bills, who haven’t had such an accomplished receiver in years.

—Todd Gurley, merely the league’s best running back from 2015-17 but now with knee issues, cut by the Rams and landing in Atlanta.

Calais Campbell, one of the best edge rushers around, dealt by Jacksonville to Baltimore.

THE DRAFT

With the huge extravaganza the draft has become scrapped, the NFL soon will announce its altered format.

Look for something resembling a studio TV show with much of the information (and misinformation) flow fans are accustomed to. There’s even chatter about prospective picks being asked to allow camera crews in their homes for reactions to being selected.

By far the biggest effect of the pandemic on the draft is the elimination of pro days at various schools. While some see those as outings manufactured and managed by the collegians and their representatives, many NFL teams find significant value in them.

As for Las Vegas, it will get another draft, perhaps the 2022 selections that are unspoken for right now. Next year will be in Cleveland, 2023 in Kansas City.

OFFSEASON PROGRAMS

Losing OTAs and minicamps in the spring would seem minor — most everything about the machinations of sports right now can feel that way — but they are important to teams in several ways.

If a new coaching staff is in place, those get-togethers are when players begin grasping new playbooks and philosophies and strategies. Not to mention getting to know the coaches they’ll be working under. And new teammates.

Team chemistry begins to build during those sessions. Fitness can be gauged. So can dedication and perseverance.

Out-of-shape players will be the norm this summer, and getting them back into football fitness will present a real challenge.

THE SCHEDULE

The schedule might not be in flux for the regular season set to begin on Sept. 10, probably in Kansas City. But the preseason, from when training camps can open and what restrictions exist — caused by the new coronavirus or by the labour agreement that went into effect this month — to actually playing exhibition games could be in question.

We’ve already seen how shoddy September contests can be with so many regulars sitting out August games. What if the NFL needs to cancel preseason games?

Then again, many fans might applaud that, eager for the real stuff, no matter how sloppy it might be early on.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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The Olympics and Paralympics have new dates – Canadian Cycling Magazine

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The spread of COVID-19 has rapidly turned into a global pandemic and events have been called off throughout the world. As gatherings of all sizes have been cancelled or rescheduled, the future of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, one of the year’s biggest gatherings, has been a hot topic of discussion. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japan initially announced they would make a decision about the future of the Games by April.

RELATED: Live blog: How coronavirus is affecting cycling right now

Unsatisfied with the announcement, and unwilling to put the health and safety of athletes at risk, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee announced the country would not participate in the Games if they were to take place in 2020. Other nations such as Australia and Brazil quickly followed suit, pulling out of the Olympics and urging the IOC to make a decision on the postponement of the 2020 Games.

RELATED: Canada won’t send athletes to 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

On Mar. 24, Japan’s Prime Minister officially announced the postponement of the Games. The IOC and Japanese government agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan, as a “beacon of hope”. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

RELATED: Tokyo 2020 Olympics officially postponed

New dates

On Mar. 30, the IOC announced the new dates for the event. The Olympics will run from July 24 to Aug. 8, 2021 and the Paralympics will take place between Aug. 24 and Sept. 5, 2021.

“I am confident that, working together with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Government and all our stakeholders, we can master this unprecedented challenge,” says IOC president Thomas Bach. “Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

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Tavares thinking of New York friends ‘right in the fire’ of COVID-19 crisis – Sportsnet.ca

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In his 11th year as an NHLer, John Tavares grasps the importance of each spring that passes without a deep playoff run. You only get so many chances.

Yet even as the COVID-19 pandemic puts another shot at realizing his Stanley Cup dreams in jeopardy, Tavares has taken a Zen approach to the indefinite pause on league action and life as we used to know it.

The Toronto Maple Leafs captain has savoured the unexpected extra time he’s had to help his wife Aryne care for their six-month-old baby, Jace, reading books on parenthood and opting for Nexflix’s new Babies docuseries over Tiger King — a “mindboggling” show Aryne has been streaming.

“Enjoying time with my son. Having that time with him has been fantastic,” Tavares said Monday, on an NHL-run Zoom conference Monday alongside Brady Tkachuk, Dylan Larkin and Zdeno Chara. (Tavares joked that the only reason he joined the call was to steal training tips from Chara.)

Tavares has poured time into his passion for cooking, and weather in his High Park neighbourhood on the west side of Toronto has been warm enough to fire up the barbecue.

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Yes, he’s been keeping fit with the training equipment he keeps at his house — a few dumbbells and kettle bells, some resistance bands, and a bicycle — but with a return to action more likely months than weeks in the future, there will be plenty time to ramp back up into game shape.

“I think with the uncertainty, it’s a good time to kind of disconnect and relax as well,” Tavares, 29, explained. “We are fortunate with in the world we do live in, in terms of the social aspect and technology and the ability to stay in touch and communicate with loved ones.”

This week, Tavares’s thoughts are with New York, his home for nine years. A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds arrived Monday in New York City as the number of deaths in the state from the outbreak has climbed above 1,200.

Tavares made a point to send well wishes to Islanders fans, staff and former teammates who are quarantined in a much more dangerous city.

“I know a few people that are really right in the fire of it and seeing kind of how it’s spreading and really making the impact that it is in New York,” Tavares said.

“I really hope everyone there is staying safe and following all the health recommendations, doing everything they can to stay healthy and to slow the spread and help all the people that are on the front line doing everything they can to keep everyone safe and taking a lot of risk themselves.”

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It should go without saying that squeezing in more hockey playoffs falls a distant second to a world on alert. Tavares will be 30 when 2020-21 kicks off, and at the time of the pause, his Leafs were on a collision course for what could be an enticing Round 1 series versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“In Toronto, we certainly miss playing in front of our fans and going to Scotiabank Arena and competing to play in the playoffs and the opportunity that we had in front of us,” Tavares said.

“It’s a real special thing to be a Maple Leaf — and we never take that for granted and certainly miss it — but more importantly for everyone to stay safe and healthy and continue to follow all the recommendations from the experts and from the local authorities.

“From what I’ve seen, people have been really good in my area understanding that. We’re all here to support each other, help each other and do the best we can to get this back to normal as quickly as possible.”

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Tkachuk says Senators who tested positive for COVID 19 are ‘doing well’ – Sportsnet.ca

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Brady Tkachuk is hunkered down with family in St. Louis trying to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ottawa Senators winger has also been also keeping close tabs on a pair of teammates who tested positive for the disease.

“Those guys, they’re doing well,” Tkachuk said on one of the NHL’s video conference calls Monday. “We’re a tight group, so we’re always in contact with one another.”

Two of the league’s four players to test positive since the season was suspended March 12 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak are unnamed members of the Senators.

The team played in San Jose, Calif., against the Sharks on March 7 despite a warning from officials in Santa Clara County against holding large public gatherings. The Colorado Avalanche played at SAP Center the following night, and two members of that team have also since tested positive for COVID-19.

“All of us are concerned about (the Ottawa players) and everybody impacted by it,” Tkachuk added.

Reporters have been asked by the league to submit questions ahead of time for the video conferences calls.

Despite being on one of two teams to have players test positive, Tkachuk was only asked one question on the subject by a member of the NHL’s public relations staff during a 35-minute session that also included a trio of Atlantic Division rivals — Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Detroit Red Wings centre Dylan Larkin.

The Senators said March 17 the first player had tested positive before making the second announcement four days later.

Gord Wilson, the club’s veteran radio colour commentator, revealed Friday he also tested positive for COVID-19.

The Senators had two days off in California following their game in San Jose before meeting the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings on consecutive nights. Ottawa’s contest at the Staples Center on March 11 came 24 hours after the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets — who had four players test positive — played at the same arena against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Avalanche faced off against the Kings at Staples Center on March 9.

COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands of people across the globe, devastated economies and brought about an era of social distancing and self-isolation.

As for the pause to the NHL season, Tkachuk said he and older brother Matthew, who plays for the Calgary Flames, have been doing their best to stay active.

“Been keeping busy with him and my younger sister,” Tkachuk said. “We’ve got the Peloton (bike) downstairs that we’ve been going on. We’ve been just keeping active with basketball and stuff like that. It gets fired up.

“It’s not stuff we’re not used to, but I’m trying to make the most of it.”

Tavares, who’s at home in Toronto with his wife and young son, said it took some time to process this new reality.

“First couple days just try to get an understanding of kind of where things are at and what’s hit us,” Tavares said. “Since then just try to develop some type of routine, some type of structure.”

Select players from the Metropolitan Division and Pacific Division took part in video conference calls late last week, while the Central Division is scheduled to go Tuesday.

Chara provided the funniest moment of his session when he was asked — every player has been lobbed the same question — which teammate he’d least like to spend time with in quarantine?

The answer: Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.

“The way he farts … the smell is awful,” said Chara, who had the other players cracking up. “He likes his chicken wings.”

Turning serious, Chara, whose Bruins sat first in the overall standings when the league paused after falling in Game 7 of last spring’s Stanley Cup final, said it’s important to put everything in perspective.

“It’s one of those situations that you can’t really control,” said the 43-year-old defenceman. “Right now we all have to look after each other and look after our families. Hockey’s secondary.

“Hopefully we will play again and we’ll see when that’s gonna be.”

On a separate call with a representative from the remaining Atlantic Division teams later Monday, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber touched on the public service announcement he did on the importance of listening to public health and government officials during the crisis.

“We’re in this together,” Weber said. “As soon as someone’s messing around or not taking it seriously, that’s when things can turn bad for everyone.

“It’s tough times, but we’ve just got to stick together and come through this together.”

Players were also asked their preference for how the league should proceed if it’s allowed to resume this spring or summer.

“It would be tough to jump straight into playoffs, there’s no question about it,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman said. “But this is uncharted waters for everyone.

“It’s tough to see where this is going to end.”

Added Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel: “We really don’t know what tomorrow holds, never mind a month from now.”

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