Is TJ Watt signed?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed their All-Pro edge rusher to a new deal. PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally inked All-Pro edge rusher T.J. Watt to a contract extension, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. ... The extension makes Watt the highest-paid pass-rusher in the NFL, annually. Sports IllustratedReport: Steelers Sign T.J. Watt to Record-Breaking Contract Extension
Who is the highest paid defensive player in the NFL?
T.J. Watt became the NFL's highest-paid defensive player just hours before the 2021 NFL season kicked off. He signed a four-year deal worth an excess of $112 million. His $28 million annual salary is the most for a defensive player in NFL history. Sporting NewsThe NFL's highest-paid players on defense in 2021 salary, guaranteed money and total contract value
10 September, 2021 - 04:10pm
You have to be at practice. You earn everything when you’re on a football team.
Brian: OK, so this isn’t exactly a question. You got me. But it is something I’d like to explore a bit, and it’s my weekly mailbag, which means that’s exactly what we’ll do.
First, the facts: Watt is the first Steeler who was a captain one year but not the next year since kicker Chris Boswell, a 2018 special teams captain, was replaced by Roosevelt Nix in that regard in 2019. Which is kind of interesting, because if you’ll recall, Boswell had a miserable 2018 while carrying that honor. He bounced back with a much more accurate season in 2019.
Anyway, if you take the revolving door of special teams out of the equation — Derek Watt is now the fourth captain in four years for that unit — T.J. Watt is the first Steeler since William Gay in 2017 to not be voted a captain after having that label the year before (or, in Gay’s case, two years).
Not sure what happened there, but at any rate, guys generally earn captaincy with the team and hold onto it until they leave — especially those who are the caliber of player Watt is. Ben Roethlisberger has been voted a captain every year since 2008 except for one, 2010, the year he was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Maurkice Pouncey was voted a captain in 2013, went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1, then wasn’t in that role again until 2018. One other case was defensive end Brett Keisel being captained in 2012 and 2013, then not in 2014, but Keisel was late to re-sign with the Steelers that preseason on Aug. 19.
Why did Watt not get enough votes from his teammates this year? Mike Tomlin could’ve explained Wednesday that the Steelers were simply paring down from five to three captains this year, given Pouncey’s retirement, but instead said, “Those guys vote and their votes speak. I’m not interested in interpreting it. I just report the news.”
Maybe there’s not much to it. But maybe there’s also something to be said for the optics of a player being voted a captain when he hasn’t logged a single full practice and is perhaps even in danger of sitting out some or all of the season, if that is indeed what some of his teammates feared. Players pull for players — that’s basically an immutable truth — but they’re also keenly aware of who is and isn’t practicing on a daily basis. And to feel like a coworker isn’t putting in the same amount of work as you — even if he or she is more talented or more highly compensated — and thus doesn’t deserve special recognition is probably human nature.
Cam Heyward, who is a captain on defense for the sixth straight year, summed it up thusly Thursday morning: “I was surprised, but we have plenty of leaders on this team. Just because I get the title of captain doesn’t mean I’m the only one who speaks. T.J.’s been a leader, Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu. All these guys have had a say in our defense and are leaders in our defense and the community. It’s just a title. It doesn’t change anything with how we do business.”
Brian: No, I don’t think Roethlisberger should’ve muzzled himself on this topic Wednesday. Did it create another distraction and add to what’s already a cloud of drama? Yeah, pretty much. But is Roethlisberger an 18th-year veteran who wants to have his guys’ backs publicly? Also yes.
It is kind of a funny quote when you think about the math of it, and it’s easy to clown the quarterback for that one, but he’s speaking in generalities rather than specifics. The whole point of reducing his cap charge, or any player’s cap number, is to have more wiggle room for roster building. Sometimes that means adding to the top, middle or bottom of the roster, but other times it means keeping a superstar happy and locking him up for the long-term future.
Anyway, if this deal does get done with Watt before Sunday, someone at Steelers headquarters needs to lighten the mood by posting a photo of Roethlisberger handing Watt a $5 bill while the two shake hands and smile for the camera.
@BigEdBarr71: Hey Brian! Question for the mailbag. How concerned should we be about the offensive line? It's a very big task to ask this team to go into Buffalo and get the win. Not feeling very confident.
Brian: Very concerned, Ed. Not too confident. Here’s a sampling of who the Bills are running out there on the defensive line Sunday, barring injury: Jerry Hughes (22 sacks since 2018), Mario Addison (at least five sacks seven years in a row), Ed Oliver (No. 9 pick in 2019), Star Lotulelei (6-foot-2, 315-pound tackle, No. 14 pick in 2013), A.J. Epenesa (second-round pick last year) and Vernon Butler (6-4, 330 pounds, first-round pick in 2016).
Basically, this isn’t another edition of the Lions playing against the first-team Steelers offense. Not only that, but if you listen closely, no one’s really throwing too much overblown praise on this offensive line. Now, that might just mean there’s a quiet confidence in these guys, but the most Tomlin or offensive coordinator Matt Canada can usually muster is to say something along the lines of “we’re still trying to figure out the best five.” When Roethlisberger was asked about the group, specifically the two rookies set to start Sunday, about the best he could do is compliment them was on how angry they get when they make a mistake.
If the Steelers’ offensive line plays well, it will be a surprise, and for good reason. They’ll deserve credit, as would the coaching staff and front office, but we’ll cross that bridge if we get to it.
First Published September 9, 2021, 2:38pm
09 September, 2021 - 08:13pm
J.J. Watt sent his brother T.J. a funny tweet teasing the Steelers star about his new contract.
T.J. on Thursday agreed to a four-year, $112 million contract extension with Pittsburgh. The deal includes $80 million guaranteed.
After seeing T.J. cash in, J.J. teased his brother about how it was time for him to be reimbursed.
.@_TJWatt should I send those outstanding IOU’s to your accountant or do you want to just Venmo me?
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) September 9, 2021
T.J. definitely has the money to pay back any and all debts at this point.
This sort of tweet from J.J. is nothing new. He sent something similar to T.J. after his brother signed a rookie contract with Pittsburgh in 2017.
J.J. also showed some clairvoyance with a tweet he sent last year.
J.J. will have earned over $115 million as of this season. T.J. still has some ways to go to match his brother in that department.
This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.
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After spending the 2020-21 season playing their home games at Amalie Arena in Tampa due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Raptors will be returning home for the 2021-22 campaign. The franchise’s preseason schedule, which was formally announced today, includes a pair of home games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. A team spokesperson confirmed to The Canadian Press (link via Sportsnet.ca) that the Raptors have received government clearance to play at home this season. The move had been expected due to the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines in both the United States and Canada, as well as the loosening of restrictions at the border. Other Toronto-based sports franchises, including the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) and Toronto FC (MLS), had resumed hosting U.S. teams at their respective home fields in recent months. It remains unclear how many fans will be permitted to attend NBA games in Toronto to start the season, according to The Canadian Press. The Raptors’ spokesperson said the club is optimistic about holding full-capacity events at Scotiabank Arena, but those discussions are presumably ongoing. The team spokesperson also stated that anyone entering Scotiabank Arena as a spectator or media member will be required to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a medical exemption. The Raptors’ first regular season home game will be on October 20 vs. Washington. It will be the first time the club has played a regular season game at Scotiabank Arena in nearly 20 months.
Kansas City Chiefs three-time First-Team All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu has been on the NFL's reserve/COVID-19 list since Sept. 1 after he reportedly tested positive for the virus and hasn't practiced ahead of Sunday's regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium. Per Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk, Mathieu was once again not spotted at practice Friday. This implies the 29-year-old is, at best, questionable for Sunday's home matchup against what is perceived to be a fellow playoff contender. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo suggested Thursday he has a "plan A" and "plan B" depending on Mathieu's status by Sunday afternoon. Multiple previous reports said Mathieu is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, so he can be cleared to return to team activities if he produces two negative virus tests 24 hours apart and isn't dealing with any symptoms. Daniel Sorensen, Armani Watts and Juan Thornhill will be asked to handle additional duties if Mathieu can't play against a high-powered offense that includes quarterback Baker Mayfield, star running back Nick Chubb and a plethora of impressive pass-catching options.
Fantasy football owners can go ahead and pencil New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley into their lineups ahead of Sunday's regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos. All may, however, want to wait at least one more day before locking in such selections. Per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, Giants head coach Joe Judge said that Barkley still has "one more hurdle" to clear to be available to be in the Big Blue backfield at MetLife Stadium Sunday afternoon: The 24-year-old who went down to a torn ACL roughly 12 months ago was limited in practice Wednesday, but offensive coordinator Jason Garrett told reporters Thursday Barkley was "100%" recovered from the injury that prematurely ended his 2020 campaign in less than six full quarters of action. Judge and company managed Barkley cautiously throughout the spring and summer, so it's no surprise they want to make sure the electric ball-carrier endures no setback ahead of the weekend. It seems, though, that Barkley would start if the Giants-Broncos showdown happened Friday night rather than two days after Judge's update.
Allison Williams will not be on the sidelines for college football games this season, and the ESPN reporter took to social media this week to explain why. Williams announced on Twitter Thursday that she has decided to take the 2021 season off. She said she met with her doctor and a fertility specialist and determined she is not going to get the COVID-19 vaccine at this time, which is why she does not feel comfortable working. Here’s the full statement: Williams, 37, does sideline reporting for college football and basketball with ESPN. She said the network has been supportive of her decision and that she looks forward to returning to work.
Cam Newton promised to share thoughts about his release from the New England Patriots with a "Funky Friday" video, and he delivered on that promise. The former MVP sat down with his father for a conversation about his final days in New England, including the days of practice he missed after a COVID-19 protocol misunderstanding while away from the team. There was initial speculation that the Patriots released Newton because of the protocol misunderstanding and because he's not vaccinated against COVID-19. However, that doesn't appear to be the case. Newton told his father that he thinks he would've been released whether he was with the team for those five days or not. "Do I think this would have happened without me being away for five days? Honestly, yes," Newton said. "It was gonna happen. Did it help ease the decision? Yes." Those comments led to the question about why he got released when final roster cuts were made last month. Newton said he began to receive fewer first-team reps in practice than rookie quarterback Mac Jones, which signaled the team's eventual decision. The 32-year-old added that he would have "absolutely" been fine backing up Jones and even told the Patriots that was the case but was confused when he realized he was being cut in a meeting with Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia. Newton went on to explain that he believes he was released because it would have been uncomfortable for Jones to have a seasoned veteran looking over his shoulder, which would have put unnecessary pressure on the Alabama product. "The reason they released me is because, indirectly, I was going to be a distraction without being the starter," Newton said. "Just my aura... That's my gift and my curse. When you bring a Cam Newton to your facility, when you bring a Cam Newton to your franchise, people are interested." Newton added he thinks the Patriots would be winners with either quarterback calling the shots, but sticking with him would have made it more challenging to switch to Jones later in the year. Belichick and the Patriots will see if they made the right decision this weekend when Jones makes his NFL regular-season debut against former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins.
The Baltimore Ravens continue to have absolutely brutal luck heading into the regular-season opener at the Las Vegas Raiders Monday night. ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted Thursday that Baltimore fears starting running back Gus Edwards suffered a season-ending torn ACL in practice: Fellow Baltimore running backs J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill were previously lost for the campaign, and the news somehow continued to get worse for the Ravens after two-time First-Team All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters went down: Assuming the reports are accurate, 2020 undrafted rookie and unproven commodity Ty'Son Williams would presumably become RB1 for at least Monday evening. The Ravens recently added Trenton Cannon, more so known as a special-teams player than a running back during his stint with the Carolina Panthers, to the 53-man roster. Veteran and three-time Pro Bowl selection Le'Veon Bell was signed to the practice squad earlier this week and could be activated by Monday.
Matt Stajan is on his way back to Calgary. The WHL’s Calgary Hitmen have announced that Stajan will serve as an assistant coach this season, starting the next chapter in his hockey career after retiring as a player two years ago. He is replacing former assistant Joel Otto, who is dealing with a hip injury and can no longer provide on-ice instruction. Hitmen GM Jeff Chynoweth released a statement on the hire: "We are so pleased to be able to add a well-respected former player such as Matt Stajan to our coaching staff; his NHL playing experience is innumerable and will be a great asset to our club. At the same time, we want to thank Joel for his many years of service with the Hitmen." After spending the early part of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Stajan played nine seasons with the Calgary Flames, reaching the 1,000 games-played mark for his career in 2017-18. He spent one last year playing overseas, where he racked up 33 points in 52 games for EHC Munchen, but then announced his retirement in 2019. An extremely well-respected teammate during his playing days, Stajan hit a career-high of 19 goals and 57 points in the 2009-10 season but carved out a role as a valuable two-way center for nearly a decade afterward. Now 37, he’ll start a coaching career that always seemed likely, given the way he carried himself during his days on the ice in the NHL. It is important to note that the Hitmen are actually owned by the same group as the Flames and have been a proving ground for future Flames coaches in the past. Dave Lowry, for instance, worked his way up from assistant, to associate, to head coach of the Hitmen before making the jump back to the Flames bench in 2009. There’s obviously no guarantee that Stajan will follow the same path, but it certainly seems possible.
New York Giants head coach Joe Judge has been clear since the spring that star running back Saquon Barkley would not return to the lineup to face a live defense coming off the torn ACL he suffered nearly 12 months ago until he took some contact from teammates in a practice and was deemed to be 100% recovered from the setback. Barkley checked the first box a week ago, and New York offensive coordinator Jason Garrett may have intentionally or not unveiled the 24-year-old could be good to go for Sunday's regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos. It should be noted Garrett's comments do not necessarily make Barkley a lock to play. Judge and company always planned to reevaluate the electric ball-carrier following Thursday's practice session, and it wouldn't be shocking to see the coach wait until Friday or even the weekend to confirm Barkley will start Sunday afternoon in the Big Blue backfield. As has been the case since the Labor Day holiday, though, all signs seem to point to Barkley playing against Denver at MetLife Stadium.
After a long eight-year wait, Chris Webber is finally heading to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. As he waits for Saturday's induction, Webber told The Athletic's Shams Charania that the Michigan Fab Five will be joining him on his special day. The Fab Five, which included Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Webber, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King, was one of the most iconic teams in NCAA history. They took the nation by storm, winning it all during the 1988-89 season. Webber, Rose and Howard all went on to have successful NBA careers. Webber also told Charania that he would love to see retirement banners at Michigan for the Fab Five, which the program says it has already looked into. Webber's NBA career spanned 15 years. He was a five-time All-Star and was named to an All-NBA team five times. The 48-year-old was one of the most dominant big men of his time, averaging 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists during his career. Webber spent most of his career with the Sacramento Kings, but also played for the Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors and Detroit Pistons.
Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd was scratched from Friday’s scheduled start due to recurring soreness in his left elbow, tweets Jason Beck of MLB.com. Boyd was on the injured list from June 15 through Aug. 29 with discomfort in his left arm. He will be placed back on the injured list, tweets Evan Woodbery of MLive.com. It’s a tough blow for both Boyd and the Tigers. The 30-year-old southpaw has had a nice rebound from an awful 2020 season, pitching to a 3.89 ERA in 78 2/3 frames this season when healthy enough to take the mound. Boyd didn’t look great in his return from his recent IL stint, however, as he pitched just eight innings across two starts and yielded a total of seven earned runs. Had Boyd remained healthy, he would’ve been one of the most asked-about players on this summer’s trade market — at least the second time in his career he’d have held that distinction. Clubs have looked into the possibility of trading for Boyd for several seasons now as the Tigers have been mired in a lengthy rebuild, but a deal has never come together. Interest in Boyd was likely at its peak in 2019, when he got out to a dominant start with a 2.85 ERA, a 30 percent strikeout rate and a 5.1 percent walk rate through his first dozen starts (72 2/3 innings). That showing was all the more impressive given the home-run boom that stemmed from what was widely believed to be a juiced ball during the ’19 campaign. With more than three years of team control remaining at that point in 2019, the Tigers put an understandably sky-high price on Boyd, whose performance began to deteriorate in June and July. Boyd was still missing bats in droves and limiting walks, but like so many pitchers around the league, the home-run ball began catching up with him as the weather warmed. From June 1 through the trade deadline that year, Boyd notched a brilliant 90-to-15 K/BB ratio but yielded 15 home runs and was tagged for a 5.28 ERA in 59 2/3 innings. The Tigers didn’t find an offer to their liking and held on to Boyd. It was defensible at the time, given that Boyd could be shopped in the offseason or even at any of the subsequent trade deadlines. No deal came together in the 2019-20 offseason, as Boyd never really regained his footing down the stretch that year. Any hopes of capitalizing on a strong few months to open the 2020 campaign were dashed both by the COVID-19 pandemic shortening the season and by Boyd’s rough first few starts of the season. This year, it was an injury that prevented a deal from potentially coming together. Given the uncertainty surrounding Boyd’s health now, it could prove tough to find a significant return in a trade even if the renewed elbow issue proves minor. Given the Tigers’ shift from a rebuilding club toward contending — owner Chris Ilitch has already suggested the team will spend this offseason — it’s perhaps likeliest that Boyd returns for what he and the club can only hope will be a healthier 2022 season. Boyd’s lifetime 4.96 ERA and 4.66 mark over the past few seasons don’t exactly jump out, but he’s frequently shown all the pieces necessary to take his game to a new level. Boyd has regularly shown the ability to miss bats and limit walks, but he’s typically been rather home-run-prone. This season, he looked to have the home-run issues curbed, but his strikeout rate dipped to 19.9 percent — his lowest mark since 2017. There are undoubtedly teams that view Boyd as a candidate to put everything together and break out as a strong mid-rotation arm (if not more). Being able to showcase that in a healthy 2022 campaign is now the best-case scenario for Boyd, however.