SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Aaron Rodgers took advantage of the undermanned San Francisco 49ers rather than sympathizing with the team that dominated his Green Bay Packers twice last season.
Rodgers threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns and the Packers overwhelmed the depleted 49ers 34-17 on Thursday night.
“They’re a different team on paper for sure,” Rodgers said. “They’ve had some tough injuries to some really key players, but no one’s feeling sorry for anybody in this league. That’s the way it goes. Nobody’s feeling sorry for us. We’re dealing with injuries.”
Rodgers connected on deep shots to Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and a short toss to Marcedes Lewis in the first half to get the Packers (6-2) out to a 21-3 lead over the Niners (4-5).
It was quite a reversal from the two meetings last season when San Francisco outscored Green Bay by a combined 50-0 in the first halves on the way to lopsided wins in the regular season and NFC title game.
The rematch looked nothing like those games in part because the Niners were missing almost all their key pieces from the game because of injuries and a positive coronavirus test for receiver Kendrick Bourne that also sidelined three of his teammates for “high risk” contacts.
That left San Francisco without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle), All-Pro tight end George Kittle (foot), NFC title game star running back Raheem Mostert (ankle), receivers Deebo Samuel (hamstring) and Brandon Aiyuk (COVID-19 list), left tackle Trent Williams (COVID-19 list) and key defenders Nick Bosa (knee), Dee Ford (back) and Richard Sherman (calf).
“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We knew at the start of the week it would be a challenge. Losing those three guys yesterday would be a bigger challenge. I still thought we could have a game. … I know we could have done better.”
Rodgers and the Packers, who were missing three players on the COVID-19 list, took advantage of the opportunity.
Rodgers capped the opening drive with a 36-yard shot to Adams, who made an acrobatic catch over Emmanuel Moseley in the end zone for his league-leading eighth TD reception of the season.
Nick Mullens had an apparent TD throw to River Cracraft wiped out on replay for San Francisco and then threw an interception to Raven Greene after backup left tackle Justin Skule got beat for a pressure from Preston Smith.
That mistake led to Rodgers’ 1-yard throw to Lewis and the Packers took control when Valdes-Scantling got behind the defence for the 52-yard catch late in the first half.
“I know they were missing some creatures on both sides of the ball, but that’s one of the better defences I think that we’ve played despite missing some of those guys,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “On offence it’s always difficult going against Kyle and that staff.”
Rodgers added a second TD pass to Valdes-Scantling and the rout was on.
Adams finished with 10 catches for 173 yards, making him the first Packers player with three 150-yard receiving games since Donald Driver in 2006.
“We’re definitely in a groove right now,” Adams said. “I don’t have much to say about it, I don’t want to sound conceited or nothing, sound bad, but obviously when you start getting in a rhythm like that, it does get a lot easier.”
Rodgers’ TD pass to Adams gave the Packers an opening drive score for the eighth straight game to open the season. The only other team to do that since 2000 was New England in 2007. The Patriots streak stopped after eight games. The Packers have four TDs and four field goals on opening drives for a league-best 40 points.
Packers star running back Aaron Jones returned after missing two games with a calf injury. He made an immediate impact, touching the ball on the first four plays to gain 37 yards. He finished with 15 carries for 58 yards, along with five catches for 21 yards.
The lone bright spot for the 49ers was the performance of receiver Richie James Jr., who had nine catches for 184 yards and a TD. James entered the game with 295 yards receiving in 32 career games.
The run of injuries and coronavirus rules left the 49ers with a shell of a roster, especially on offence. They became the first team since the 1970 merger to play a game without its starting QB and six of its top seven players in yards from scrimmage, outside of the 1987 replacement player games.
Packers: CB Jaire Alexander (concussion), T Rick Wagner (knee), LB Krys Barnes (calf) and RB Dexter Williams (knee) all left the game and didn’t return.
49ers: CB K’Waun Williams (ankle) and S Jaquiski Tartt (toe) left the game and didn’t return.
Packers: Host Jacksonville on Nov. 15.
49ers: Visit New Orleans on Nov. 15.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
NHLPA weighing options if NHL cancels season – TSN
The NHL Players’ Association’s lawyers are investigating whether to file an unfair labour practice complaint with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or pursue a grievance with an arbitrator if the NHL decides to cancel the upcoming season, two people familiar with the matter told TSN.
If the league decides against playing the 2020-21 season, a complaint to either the NLRB or an arbitrator would be the process the NHLPA would follow to try to get players paid.
The season hangs in the balance of talks between the NHL and NHLPA – most notably the financial burden players will shoulder this season and the remaining five years of a collective bargaining agreement extended in July through 2025-26.
The NHLPA declined to comment when asked how it would respond to a cancelled season.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday in an interview during a virtual sports business conference that the NHL wants to play the 2020-21 season. But Bettman and NHL team owners want players to agree to raise the cap on salary escrow this year and also to defer the payment of more of their salaries.
The NHLPA wants the NHL to live up to the collective labour agreement the two sides agreed on in July. The NHL and NHLPA agreed in the deal to keep the salary cap at $81.5 million through the 2020-21 season. Ten per cent of player salaries are to be deferred and 20 per cent placed in escrow – an increase of more than 50 per cent from escrow payments during the 2019-20 season, which was delayed and shortened because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bettman on Wednesday said the NHL is “not seeking to renegotiate,” the six-year labour agreement that was ratified unanimously by NHL team owners.
“We’re not actually having negotiations and we’re not seeking to renegotiate,” Bettman told FOX Business host Liz Claman. “We made a number of assumptions collectively over the summer, most of which are not applicable anymore.”
In an effort to force the NHL to pay the salaries of its players even if games are not held, several labour lawyers said in interviews with TSN that the NHLPA could either file a complaint with the U.S. NLRB (players on Canadian franchises would be included in such a filing) or file a grievance with an arbitrator. Both moves have their advantages, the lawyers said.
“Clearly this would be a high-stakes case,” said Jim Quinn, a New York sports lawyer who has worked for the NFL and NBA players’ associations. “The stakes don’t get any higher.”
Both the NHL and NHLPA could argue that the language in the CBA favours its side.
Article 5 of the CBA says the league is within its rights, “to determine when, where, how and under what circumstances it wishes to operate, suspend. …” a season.
Article 7, however, says the NHL cannot lock out players.
“Neither the league nor any club shall engage in a lockout during the term of this agreement,” the CBA says.
In his interview on Wednesday, Bettman was asked about the possibility that the 2020-21 season could be cancelled over the financial impasse.
“There are letters in the agreement, which we don’t have to get into, that were put in for our benefit in the event things got out of control as well. And so we each have rights which we could adhere to,” he said.
Jodi Balsam, a former NFL lawyer who now teaches sports law at Brooklyn Law School in New York, said NHL players would seem to have a strong legal case to pursue if the league cancels the season.
“They signed this CBA in July 2020 and that was hardly a promising month,” Balsam said. “The pandemic had subsided, but every source of medical and scientific knowledge was predicting a resurgence in the fall. And if the NHL failed to prepare for that in the latest CBA then that’s on them. The big question is whether the NHL players stay unified and insist the NHL follow through with the deal they bargained for.”
Players are set to receive 72 per cent of their salaries during the 2020-21 season. Twenty per cent of player salaries are being given back to owners to repay their revenue shortfall from 2019-20’s paused season. A further 10 per cent is to be deferred and paid out over three seasons.
The NHL is asking players to defer another 16 per cent in 2020-21 and has also asked to raise limits on escrow in future years of the CBA.
Balsam said if the NHLPA wanted a clear-cut decision that the league must pay players their 2020-21 salaries regardless of whether there are games, then the union would be better off pursuing a claim with the NLRB.
“Arbitrators tend to want to look for leeway to find a compromise solution,” she said. “They’re incentivized to find a solution because they can be fired by either the league or union.”
The NLRB was created in 1935. While it has a mandate to protect the rights of employees and to improve their wages and working conditions, Balsam said under U.S. president Donald Trump it has made decisions that favour employers.
Balsam said making that argument would be a “long shot” for the NHL, and noted that even though the NLRB has four of its five board member slots filled with three Republicans and one Democrat, president-elect Joe Biden will have the opportunity to name a Democrat chair of the board immediately following his Jan. 20 inauguration. (Trump appointed current NLRB chair Peter Robb in September 2017, eight months after his inauguration.)
Quinn, who has worked in the past for players associations in hockey, basketball and football, said he would advise the NHLPA to consider taking their complaint to an arbitrator.
Unlike the courts, or even the NLRB, arbitration cases can be decided quickly. Rules for introducing evidence in arbitration are not as strict. While there are exceptions, such as when an arbitrator in 2018 forced NHL player Dennis Wideman to produce text messages in his dispute with an NHL referee who Wideman had hit on the ice, the parties tend to have less power to demand the production of emails and other documents from the other side, and rules for conduct can be fashioned to suit the case.
“The NLRB is very slow, and it’s going to take ages to get a decision out of them,” Quinn said. “You may get an injunction quickly but if you’re pursuing damages, like the players’ salaries for a season, that could take five years for the board to resolve.”
Currently, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed on three arbitrators to decide on disputes: Richard Levie, a retired U.S. District Court judge in Washington who also works for the NBA and NBPA to resolve differences related to players and agents; Katherine Forrest, a former U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York who was hired by NHL and NHLPA last year; and Shyam Das, who has decided player discipline-related cases.
If it proceeds with an arbitration complaint, the NHLPA chooses which arbitrator will take its complaint. Forrest, who has yet to oversee an NHL/NHLPA arbitration, would be a strong candidate to hear a prospective case, a person familiar with the matter said.
Michael Lotito, a San Francisco-based labour-law attorney at Littler Mendelson who represents employers before the NLRB, said he can envision the NHLPA both filing a complaint with the board and also pursuing a complaint through a grievance.
“We’re a country of messaging not fact,” he said. “For the union, this may be an opportunity to send a message to players that, ‘We’re fighting for you every way we can.’”
Lotito said that while the NLRB tends to handle broad complaints, arbitrators are more likely to consider the “nitty gritty” of CBA negotiations.
“An arbitrator can look at the notes both sides might produce showing details on the back-and-forth talks leading up to the CBA being signed,” Lotito said. “Maybe those notes would show clearly that an issue like ‘no fans in arenas’ was clearly on the table and discussed as a possibility before a deal was done.”
James Harden Preferred Playing With John Wall Over Russell Westbrook – RealGM.com
James Harden preferred to become teammates with John Wall rather than run it back with Russell Westbrook. Harden still wants to be traded by the Rockets either way.
“He had a preference of John Wall over Westbrook,” said Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN Thursday morning. “Although in the last couple of years, Harden has moved teammates in and out. Brought Chris Paul in, moved him out. Same with Russell Westbrook now.
“Whether that’s going to be enough to convince him to want to be there long-term, the Rockets aren’t sure about that. They do have a cushion to work with. Remember, James Harden is under contract for two more years. So they’re going to start the season with Harden and Wall, and they’re hopeful that John Wall can get back to that All-Star form. A five-time All-Star, a former No. 1 overall pick. If they can get John Wall back playing at a high level, they’re hopeful that will help to make a case to James Harden.”
Harden and Westbrook were also teammates previously with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Both point guards wanted to go to the other team,” said Wojnarowski of Wall and Westbrook..
Blue Jays: Two interesting names emerge from non-tenders – Jays Journal
The MLB non-tender deadline passed with 56 players being non-tendered by their respective teams, however, a couple of names should be of some interest to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays also were involved in the action yesterday non-tendering both Travis Shaw and reliever A.J. Cole. Former reliever Ryan Tepera also saw himself let go by the Chicago Cubs amidst all the movement around the league.
There are a number of familiar somewhat unlikely names that saw themselves non-tendered including Kyle Schwarber, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, Maikel Franco, Nomar Mazara, and Carlos Rodon to name a few.
However, it is outfielder David Dahl formerly of the Colorado Rockies, and pitcher Archie Bradley that Toronto should focus their sights on in the coming days. Both players still have some upside and could improve the Blue Jays 2021 contingent at their respective positions.
Dahl is just 26 and a former first-round selection, 10th overall in the 2012 amateur draft. The young outfielder battled injuries early on in his career but managed to play 100 games in 2019. Dahl hit .302/.353/.524 with 48 extra-base hits including 15 home runs and 61 runs batted in for the Rockies.
Last season, the outfielder struggled offensively hitting just .183/.222/.247 with no homers in 24 games. His overall body of work in the majors doesn’t represent last season’s stat line, Dahl is a career .286/.334/.494 hitter with 38 home runs and a 0.9 WAR in 264 games over four seasons in the majors.
Dahl is typically a corner outfielder but does have 71 games in centrefield on his resume including 40 games in 2019. The Blue Jays have been in search of someone who can step in and take over the centrefield responsibilities on an everyday basis.
The outfielder earned $2.475 million last season and was not earmarked to hit free agency until 2024 prior to his non-tendering.
Pitcher Archie Bradley is another name that the brain trust should be prioritizing on their offseason to-do list. For some reason, the Cincinnati Reds did not want to keep the reliable reliever in their plans for 2021 and I personally don’t get it.
The 28-year old hurler has both starting and relief experience and can also close out games accumulating 28 saves in his career this far. Last season, he sported a 2.95 earned run average with six saves and an 8.8 SO/9 rate in 16 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Reds.
The Reds acquired Bradley at the trade deadline last season and he posted an impressive 1.17 earned run average in six relief appearances leading to his non-tendering. The right-hander earned $4.1 million last season and would still be considered a value even with a raise for the 2021 campaign.
In 2019, Bradley went 4-5 with a 3.52 earned run average and 18 saves while fanning 87 in 71.2 innings of work for the Diamondbacks. He is still a serviceable backend of the bullpen arm who can consistently get major league hitters out.
The Blue Jays could benefit from landing either of these two talents, both have enjoyed success at the major league level and have some upside still left in the tank.
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