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Steelers pick Canadian Chase Claypool in second round of NFL draft –



Canadian receiver Chase Claypool is surprised to be a Pittsburgh Steeler.

The Steelers selected the former Notre Dame star in the second round (49th overall) of the NFL draft Friday night.

Claypool last spoke to Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin at the Senior Bowl in January.

“That would’ve been my last chance,” Claypool said during a conference call. “But that’s how it goes.”

Claypool is the highest Canadian taken since 2011. Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins, a native of Kelowna, B.C., went in the first round (No. 23 overall) to the Philadelphia Eagles and Toronto native Orlando Franklin was selected in the second round (No. 46 overall) by the Denver Broncos out of the University of Miami.

“I am very excited about this opportunity to work with him,” Steelers offensive co-ordinator Randy Fichtner said of Claypool on Pittsburgh’s website. “He is one of those rare types of a combination of size and speed.

“There is no job too small. He will block. He volunteers for special teams. This guy is a football player. He has a lot of unique traits for the position. A lot of things to be really excited about. Gives you a potential red-zone threat. He is an outside position player first and gives you the option of playing in the slot as well.

“He wins an awful lot of one-on-ones. I have never seen him not win a one-on-one type play.”

A second Canadian also was taken Friday, the second day of the three-day draft. Ottawa’s Neville Gallimore, a defensive lineman at the University of Oklahoma, was the 18th player taken in the third round, No. 82 overall, by the Dallas Cowboys.

“In Neville Gallimore, I will tell you one word: vertical,” former NFL defensive lineman Booger McFarland said on the draft telecast. “He wants to get up the field.

“If you double-team him, he knows how to get off and chase sideline to sideline. But in this new defensive scheme that (defensive co-ordinator) Mike Nolan is going to bring, you need a guy that has that lateral ability to chase the ballcarrier down but also in passing situations he can get up the field and push the pocket realizing that you’ve got DeMarcus Lawrence coming off the end.”

Gallimore joins fellow Canadians Tyrone Crawford (defensive lineman from Windsor, Ont.) and long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur of Montreal on the Cowboys’ roster.

Claypool, a six-foot-four, 238-pound native of Abbotsford, B.C., was Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2019 with 66 catches for 1,037 yards and 13 TDs. He registered 150 career receptions for 2,159 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“This man is a touchdown machine that will do well with Ben Roethlisberger and that receiving group,” former NFL star receiver Michael Irvin said on ESPN’s draft telecast.

Prior to the draft, former CFL star quarterback Doug Flutie, a colour commentator for Notre Dame Football on NBC, noted Claypool “matured unbelievably” last season. Claypool credited his stellar production to improved confidence.

“A big part of that was confidence, being put in that situation, knowing you can make those plays,” he said. “I think that was pretty big.”

Claypool raised eyebrows at the NFL combine, covering the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds. He joined former Detroit star Calvin Johnson as the only receivers measuring six foot four and 235 pounds or bigger to run under 4.45 seconds at the combine.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly tweeted the Steelers are getting “a steal.”

“He is going to make an immediate impact on offense and special teams and will continue the legacy he started at Notre Dame,” Kelly wrote.

The six-foot-two, 304-pound Gallimore had 30 tackles, four sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss last season. He appeared in 52 games — 38 as a starter — at Oklahoma, registering 148 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and five forced fumbles.

Gallimore also impressed at the NFL combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.79 seconds, becoming just the third 300-plus pound player to run that fast. He also recorded 23 reps in the 225-pound bench press.

Both Claypool and Gallimore had been pegged as late first-round NFL picks in various mock drafts. They were also among 58 prospects who were invited to participate virtually in the proceedings Thursday (first round) and Friday (second and third rounds).

Draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Daniel Jeremiah saw both as Friday selections. The draft wraps up Saturday with the final four rounds.

Pittsburgh (8-8) missed the playoffs last year after finishing second in the AFC North. Veteran quarterback Roethlisberger, 38, missed most of the season with an elbow injury.

“What a great pickup with Ben Roethlisberger coming back to expand on that receiving group that they have,” Irvin said when discussing Claypool.

Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner also liked the selection.

“When you look at this team, they’re built around so many different things,” Warner said. “They’re good up front on defence, they’ve got the secondary, they’ve go the offensive line and so I love that they add another weapon on the outside.

“Some good, young receivers to build around JuJu Smith-Schuster. Big Ben is going to be happy. He gets healthy, I like where Pittsburgh is at.”

The addition of Claypool certainly gives Pittsburgh plenty of offensive options. He could combine with Jones-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson to give the Steelers four young, solid receivers on the field at one time.

Having Claypool and new tight end Eric Ebron (six foot four, 253 pounds) also gives the Steelers two big red-zone targets. Last year, Pittsburgh was last overall in red-zone TD production (35 per cent) and the NFL’s only team not to score 30 or more points in a game.

Claypool gives Pittsburgh versatility as he could play at either receiver or tight end. He also follows a trend for the Steelers, who took receivers in the second round in 2017 (Smith-Schuster) and ’18 (Washington) before selecting Johnson in the third round last year.

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Archer (shoulder) will miss 2020 season – TSN



Right-hander Chris Archer has undergone thoracic outlet surgery in his throwing shoulder and will miss all of 2020, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Wednesday.

Archer, 31, was to head into the final season of his current deal with the Bucs holding an $11 million option for 2021 with a $250,000 buyout.

A native of Raleigh, NC, Archer made 23 starts last season, going 3-9 with a 5.19 earned run average and WHIP of 1.412 over 119.1 innings pitched.

Joining the Pirates in a trade midway through the 2018 season, Archer spent the first six seasons of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays with whom he was a two-time All-Star.

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Report: NBA presents players with 22-team restart plan – TSN



The NBA has told the National Basketball Players Association that it will present a 22-team plan for restarting the season to the league’s board of governors on Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

The teams that will be going to the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex on the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida would play eight games to determine playoff seeding starting around July 31 before the post-season begins, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Wednesday because the league has not released its proposal publicly.

The plan, once approved, would have 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams going to Disney and the cutoff being that teams must be within six games of a playoff spot at this point. Playoffs would start in August, and the NBA Finals will likely stretch into October, the person said.

The Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics already have clinched playoff spots — and, if only eight games are left, that would mean the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets would theoretically have clinched spots as well.

The Dallas Mavericks would be virtually assured of clinching a West spot, holding a seven-game lead over eighth-place Memphis. So that would mean the Grizzlies, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix all would be in the running for the No. 8 seed out West. In the East, Washington is six games behind No. 7 Brooklyn and 5-1/2 games behind No. 8 Orlando — so within range of triggering a play-in series.

“I’m all in from the state’s perspective,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference in Central Florida on Wednesday. “I don’t think you could find a better place than Orlando to do this. I think it’s very exciting.”

DeSantis met by phone with NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum on Tuesday. The governor also said the state helped with the plans to make a golf match last month featuring Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning — one that raised $20 million for coronavirus relief — happen. And Major League Soccer announced Wednesday a plan to restart its season in Orlando.

“Orlando really could be the epicenter of the comeback of professional sports,” DeSantis said.

For an NBA play-in series to happen to determine the No. 8 seed on either playoff bracket, the ninth-place team would have to be within four games of eighth place once the eight-game schedule of lead-in games is completed. If a play-in series occurs, it would basically be a best-of-two — where the No. 9 seed would have to win two head-to-head matchups to take over the No. 8 spot.

There would also be some jostling for playoff positioning happening in the eight-game restart. In the East, Toronto and Boston are separated by three games for the No. 2 spot and Miami, Indiana and Philadelphia are separated by two games for the No. 4 spot. Out West, the Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston are all within four games of one another in the race for the No. 2 seed on that bracket.

There are still some elements of the restart plan that could be changed, and other matters are still being negotiated — such as how much of a percentage of their salaries that players will lose because some regular season games will be cancelled. If 15% of the regular season is not played, which would be the current estimate based on the proposal, players would have to give up roughly $610 million in salary for this season.

It’s also unclear what will happen to the eight teams that would not be vying for a post-season berth under the proposed format — Charlotte, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Cleveland, Minnesota and Golden State. If the 2020-21 NBA season doesn’t start until December at the earliest, which would seem to be a very real possibility, those teams could go about nine months without playing games and some have expressed concerns over what that will mean for player development.

The NBA suspended its season March 11, becoming the first of the U.S. major pro leagues to do so after it became known that Utah’s All-Star centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The list of NBA players who were known to test positive eventually grew to 10 — not all were identified — and Commissioner Adam Silver said that the actual total was even higher.

The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a 255-acre campus with multiple arenas that could host games simultaneously and has been home to, among other things, the Jr. NBA World Championship in recent years. ESPN is primarily owned by Disney, one of the NBA’s broadcast partners.

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Sidney Crosby: ‘What happened to George Floyd cannot be ignored’ –



As the hockey world continues to move through a period of reflection in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has released a statement condemning racial injustice.

“What happened to George Floyd cannot be ignored,” Crosby said via a statement released by his Sidney Crosby Foundation.

“Racism that exists today in all forms is not acceptable. While I am not able to relate to the discrimination that Black and minority communities face daily, I will listen and educate myself on how I can help make a difference.

“Together, we will find solutions through necessary dialogue and a collective effort.”

The hockey world has seen a number of players speak up in the wake of Floyd’s death and the widespread protests against police brutality.

In late May, San Jose Sharks star Evander Kane called on prominent white NHLers to use their platforms to help bring about change, mentioning Crosby by name among those he hoped to see engage in the discussion.

“We’ve been outraged for hundreds of years and nothing’s changed. It’s time for guys like Tom Brady and Sidney Crosby, those type of figures, to speak up about what is right and, clearly in this case, what is unbelievably wrong,” Kane said on ESPN’s First Take at the time.

“Because that is the only way we’re going to actually create that unified anger to create that necessary change.”

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