NHL US sports

NHL: Buffalo Sabres name Chris Hajt as assistant coach

New Buffalo Sabres head coach Phil Housley hired Chris Hajt to serve as one of his assistants, the team announced Monday.

Hajt, 39, spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate. When the Kings’ AHL affiliate was the Manchester Monarchs, he helped guide them to a Calder Cup championship after the 2014-15 season. The team also made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons as the Ontario Reign, including a division title in 2015-16.

The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native is the son of former NHL defenseman Bill Hajt, who was Housley’s teammate in Buffalo in the 1980s. Housley was named the 18th head coach in Sabres history on June 15.

“It’s been a process with that because we’re trying to do a thorough search for really good candidates and there’s a lot of really good coaches out there,” Housley told the Buffalo News last week of his coaching search. “But you wanna just make sure you do the right thing and look at everybody. We still have the coach that we’re looking at and trying to fill that position.”

Chris Hajt also served as an assistant coach for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League from 2008 to 2014.

A former defenseman, Hajt played six NHL games for the Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals, adding 91 points (20 goals, 71 assists) in 477 career AHL contests.

The Sabres also announced that assistant coach Tom Ward will return for the 2017-18 season. Ward spent the past two seasons as an assistant under Dan Bylsma, who was fired in April after the Sabres missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

On July 5, the Sabres hired another assistant coach from the Kings organization, Davis Payne, as their associate coach. He spent parts of three seasons as head coach of the St. Louis Blues from 2010 to 2011 and has been an assistant with the Kings for the past five seasons.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers place DE Jacquies Smith on PUP list ahead of training camp

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) passes up the center with Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith (56) rushing during the second quarter at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed defensive end Jacquies Smith on the physically unable to perform list Wednesday ahead of training camp as he recovers from a torn ACL last season.

The Bucs open camp on Friday morning.

The 27-year-old Smith suffered the injury to his right knee while attempting to cover a punt in the first quarter of a season-opening win at Atlanta last season.

The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Smith recorded 13.5 sacks in 27 games during the 2014-15 seasons.

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Minnesota Vikings give contract extension to DE Everson Griffen, make two other moves

The Minnesota Vikings announced several moves Wednesday, including the extension of veteran defensive end Everson Griffen.

Griffen’s new deal is for four years. He’ll make $58 million through 2022, according to NFL Network. The pact includes $34 million in guarantees.

Griffen, 29, made his second consecutive Pro Bowl last season after tallying 48 tackles, eight sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and a touchdown. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of USC. Griffen had 12 and 10 sacks in 2014 and 2015, respectively. He was recently ranked No. 92 on the NFL’s Top 100 players of 2017.

He was the NFC Player of the Week during Week 3 of the 2016 NFL season after he had three sacks and three tackles for a loss against the Carolina Panthers. Griffen has only missed one game in the last six years.

“I’m excited man, first and foremost I want to thank God, without him none of this would be possible,” Griffen told reporters, according to the Vikings.com. “My wife for always being there for me and Rob and Rick and my agent Brian Murphy at A1 for making this happen right before camp so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.”

“Something special is going to happen here,” Griffen said. “We have to believe it and they have to believe it. You gotta believe it in your heart and we got go out there and do work. “

The Vikings also announced the signing of rookie cornerback Sam Brown out of Missouri Western State and waived second-year offensive tackle Arturo Uzdavinis. Uzdavinis signed with the team on Monday, after spending some time this offseason with the Detroit Lions. He signed with the Houston Texans after the 2016 NFL Draft and spent time last season on the practice squads of the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Brown spent the 2016 offseason with the Baltimore Ravens and the final three weeks of the 2016 season on the franchise’s practice squad.

Minnesota is also negotiating with cornerback Xavier Rhodes for a new contract, according to NFL Network.
(Alex Butler)

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Jason Pierre-Paul says it’s possible for the Giants to go undefeated in 2017

The New York Giants finished 11-5 in 2016 and made the playoffs, but they’re thinking much bigger in 2017. Jason Pierre-Paul thinks even a perfect season is within the realm of possibility.

“I feel with the players we have, as long as we work together we’ll be undefeated,’’ Jason Pierre-Paul told the New York Post.

That’s a bold statement by any stretch and even more so considering the schedule that the Giants will have to contend against. The Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East in 2016 with a 13-3 record, but New York handed Dallas two of those three losses.

Giants players aren’t worried about a repeat performance from the Cowboys in 2017.

“It’s over with,” Giants safety Landon Collins told ESPN. “They’re not going to win, I can tell you that much.”

Collins was a first-team All-Pro during the 2016 season and is feeling as good about the Giants’ chances as Pierre-Paul is.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2007 New England Patriots are the only two teams that have ever finished the NFL regular season unbeaten. The Dolphins went on to win Super Bowl VII and end the year 17-0, but the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII to the Giants and finished 18-1.

During the 2016 season, the Giants allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL, but were near the bottom of the league in points scored. The team addressed its offensive struggles in the offseason by signing wide receiver Brandon Marshall and offensive lineman D.J. Fluker in free agency, and drafting tight end Evan Engram in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

“I think the key is we added a lot of guys and people are like ‘Wow, this year has to be a team that goes to a Super Bowl this year,’” Pierre-Paul said. “But it’s all about the hard work.”

Another double-digit win season would likely be enough to get the Giants in the postseason again, but apparently the team is thinking much bigger than that.

(Adam Stites)

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2017 NFL training camp: When every team starts and which players to watch

After a long offseason, football is back. Or at least football practices are back. Five teams have already welcomed their rookies to training camp, and soon the rest of the league will join them.

First-year head coaches like Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan will finally get their first cracks at incorporating their philosophies. You’ll also get to see rookie quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky compete for starting gigs.

Each team will begin training camp by the end of the month. Here’s when every team starts, and which players you should keep an eye on before preseason action kicks off:

Arizona Cardinals

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

Rookies report: July 21

Rookie to watch: Haason Reddick, a first-round pick who may start right away.

Veterans report: July 21

Veteran to watch: Blaine Gabbert, the newcomer at quarterback who will battle Drew Stanton for backup duties.
Atlanta Falcons

Where: Atlanta Falcons Training Facility, Flowery Branch, Ga.

Rookies report: July 26

Rookie to watch: Takkarist McKinley, a pass rusher who has already made an impression with his big personality.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Dontari Poe, the gigantic nose tackle who joined Atlanta as a free agent.
Baltimore Ravens

Where: Under Armour Performance Center, Owings Mills, Md.

Rookies report: July 19

Rookie to watch: Tim Williams, a promising pass rusher who could help Terrell Suggs get after the quarterback.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Jeremy Maclin, a dangerous deep threat who was surprisingly cut by the Chiefs.
Buffalo Bills

Where: St. John Fisher College, Rochester, N.Y.

Rookies report: July 26

Rookie to watch: Tre’Davious White, the guy replacing Stephon Gilmore.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Shaq Lawson, a first-round pick in 2016 who missed his first training camp due to shoulder surgery.
Carolina Panthers

Where: Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.

Rookies report: July 25

Rookie to watch: Christian McCaffrey, a do-everything weapon who is electric with the ball.

Veterans report: July 25

Veteran to watch: Julius Peppers, a former Panthers star back to finish his career in Carolina.
Chicago Bears

Where: Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.

Rookies report: July 19

Rookie to watch: Mitchell Trubisky. He probably won’t start but all eyes will be on the No. 2 pick.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Mike Glennon, the guy who got a contract that made people say “what?!”
Cincinnati Bengals

Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Rookies report: July 25

Rookie to watch: John Ross, the fastest NFL Combine participant ever.

Veterans report: July 27

Veteran to watch: Vontaze Burfict, a contentious linebacker entering a contract year.
Cleveland Browns

Where: Cleveland Browns Training Complex, Berea, Ohio

Rookies report: July 23

Rookie to watch: Myles Garrett, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Cody Kessler/Brock Osweiler, the veterans battling to start at quarterback.
Dallas Cowboys

Where: Marriott River Ridge complex, Oxnard, Calif.

Rookies report: July 19

Rookie to watch: Taco Charlton, a much-needed pass rusher on a team that’s struggled to find one.

Veterans report: July 22

Veteran to watch: Jaylon Smith, a linebacker who still hasn’t been on the field due to a knee injury suffered in college.
Denver Broncos

Where: UCHealth Training Center, Englewood, Colo.

Rookies report: July 23

Rookie to watch: Chad Kelly, the Mr. Irrelevant of 2017 with a real chance at making the roster.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Paxton Lynch, a quarterback who was drafted to be the starter of the future, but has to beat out Trevor Siemian first.
Detroit Lions

Where: Detroit Lions Training Facility, Allen Park, Mich.

Rookies report: July 24

Rookie to watch: Jarrad Davis, an instant starter at linebacker.

Veterans report: July 29

Veteran to watch: Greg Robinson, the former Rams bust who may have to start in Taylor Decker’s place.
Green Bay Packers

Where: St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wis.

Rookies report: July 26

Rookie to watch: Jamaal Williams, a fourth-round running back who can contribute on a team with no running backs.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Martellus Bennett, another weapon to make Aaron Rodgers more dangerous.
Houston Texans

Where: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

Rookies report: July 25

Rookie to watch: Deshaun Watson, a rookie who will compete to start but is an underdog vs. Tom Savage.

Veterans report: July 25

Veteran to watch: J.J. Watt, a star returning from injury.
Indianapolis Colts

Where: Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Indianapolis, Ind.

Rookies report: July 24

Rookie to watch: Malik Hooker, a dangerous centerfielder who can up the Colts’ interception count.

Veterans report: July 29

Veteran to watch: Andrew Luck, whose health is somewhat of a mystery.
Jacksonville Jaguars

Where: Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields, Jacksonville, Fla.

Rookies report: July 19

Rookie to watch: Leonard Fournette, the bruising running back who will handle the load for the Jacksonville offense.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Blake Bortles, the often erratic quarterback who is the biggest reason why the Jaguars aren’t considered contenders.
Kansas City Chiefs

Where: Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, Mo.

Rookies report: July 24

Rookie to watch: Patrick Mahomes II, the first quarterback drafted by the Chiefs in the first round since 1983.

Veterans report: July 27

Veteran to watch: Bennie Logan, a nose tackle who has to fill the void left by Dontari Poe.
Los Angeles Chargers

Where: Jack Hammett Sports Complex, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Rookies report: July 29

Rookie to watch: Forrest Lamp/Dan Feeney, the pair of guards who will battle for starting roles.

Veterans report: July 29

Veteran to watch: Joey Bosa, the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016 who missed most of camp last year due to a contract dispute.
Los Angeles Rams

Where: University of California, Irvine, Irvine, Calif.

Rookies report: July 26

Rookie to watch: Cooper Kupp, an ultra-productive receiver in the FCS.

Veterans report: July 28

Veteran to watch: Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick in 2016 who didn’t do much as a rookie.
Miami Dolphins

Where: Baptist Health Training Facility, Davie, Fla.

Rookies report: July 20

Rookie to watch: Charles Harris, the heir apparent for Cameron Wake.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Ryan Tannehill, the starting quarterback who suffered a partially torn ACL in 2016.
Minnesota Vikings

Where: Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minn.

Rookies report: July 23

Rookie to watch: Laquon Treadwell, a first-round pick in 2016 who had one catch as a rookie.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Teddy Bridgewater, who may not even play in 2017 but is worth watching closely anyway.
New England Patriots

Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.

Rookies report: July 24

Rookie to watch: Derek Rivers, a defensive end who racked up 41 sacks at Youngstown State.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Brandin Cooks, Tom Brady’s shiniest new toy.
New Orleans Saints

Where: New Orleans Saints Training Facility, Metairie, La.

Rookies report: July 19

Rookie to watch: Marshon Lattimore, the first cornerback drafted.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Adrian Peterson, a seven-time Pro Bowler no longer wearing purple.
New York Giants

Where: Quest Diagnostics Training Center, East Rutherford, N.J.

Rookies report: July 27

Rookie to watch: Evan Engram, a hybrid tight end who could be a nightmare in the red zone.

Veterans report: July 27

Veteran to watch: Brandon Marshall, a big wide receiver on a team with little receivers.
New York Jets

Where: Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Florham Park, N.J.

Rookies report: July 28

Rookie to watch: Jamal Adams/Marcus Maye, the tandem of safeties taking over in the New York secondary.

Veterans report: July 28

Veteran to watch: Josh McCown, the quarterback who will probably start for the Jets in 2017.
Oakland Raiders

Where: Napa Valley Marriott, Napa, Calif.

Rookies report: July 24

Rookie to watch: Obi Melifonwu, a safety the Raiders hope will be their very own Kam Chancellor.

Veterans report: July 28

Veteran to watch: Marshawn Lynch, who will usher the Raiders out of Oakland in style.
Philadelphia Eagles

Where: NovaCare Training Complex, Philadelphia

Rookies report: July 23

Rookie to watch: Donnel Pumphrey, a diminutive running back who gets to follow in Darren Sproles’ footsteps.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Alshon Jeffery, the team’s big free agent acquisition who needs to develop chemistry with Carson Wentz.
Pittsburgh Steelers

Where: Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa.

Rookies report: July 27

Rookie to watch: James Conner, the running back with the NFL’s top-selling rookie jersey.

Veterans report: July 27

Veteran to watch: Le’Veon Bell, who still hasn’t signed his franchise tender.
San Francisco 49ers

Where: SAP Performance Facility, Santa Clara, Calif.

Rookies report: July 27

Rookie to watch: Reuben Foster, an All-American who will compete to start as a rookie.

Veterans report: July 27

Veteran to watch: Brian Hoyer, who faces the impossible task of scoring points with the 49ers’ offense.
Seattle Seahawks

Where: Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Renton, Wash.

Rookies report: July 29

Rookie to watch: Ethan Pocic, a center at LSU who may start at right guard as a rookie.

Veterans report: July 29

Veteran to watch: Luke Joeckel, a bust in Jacksonville who will try to hold down left tackle duties in Seattle.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Where: One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, Fla.

Rookies report: July 25

Rookie to watch: O.J. Howard, a tight end that Jameis Winston will likely target often.

Veterans report: July 27

Veteran to watch: DeSean Jackson, a deep threat who can have a huge year if the wheels haven’t come off.
Tennessee Titans

Where: Saint Thomas Sports Park, Nashville, Tenn.

Rookies report: July 28

Rookie to watch: Corey Davis, a receiver who can finally give Marcus Mariota someone to throw to.

Veterans report: July 28

Veteran to watch: Derrick Henry, a former Heisman winner who should get more touches in year two.
Washington

Where: Bon Secours Training Center, Richmond, Va.

Rookies report: July 26

Rookie to watch: Jonathan Allen, a nightmare at Alabama who fell in the draft due to injuries.

Veterans report: July 26

Veteran to watch: Kirk Cousins, the most fascinating man of the 2017 offseason.

Kaleel.Weatherly and Adam Stites

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Trai Turner gets extension from Panthers on Marty Hurney’s 1st day as GM

One of the criticisms of Dave Gettleman was that he didn’t place much value on loyalty and didn’t re-sign many of the best players in Carolina Panthers history. On interim general manager Marty Hurney’s first day back on the job, it already looks like he’s getting started on correcting that problem.

On Thursday, offensive lineman Trai Turner announced on Twitter he received a new contract from the Panthers that will keep him with the team for four more seasons.

The extension makes Turner one of the highest-paid guards in the NFL with only Kevin Zeitler and Kelechi Osemele averaging more money per year.

The talks didn’t start with the arrival of Hurney, though. There were reports of preliminary negotiations back in June between the team and Turner, and it’s hard to imagine Hurney bridged the remaining gap a day after he was hired.

But the timing of the deal does seem noteworthy, especially after speculation that stalled contract negotiations for linebacker Thomas Davis and tight end Greg Olsen may have contributed to the abrupt firing of Gettleman — speculation that both players denied:

In Gettleman’s time as general manager, he did reach long-term extensions with core players like Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly and Kawann Short. But Steve Smith, Josh Norman and DeAngelo Williams all left during his tenure and celebrated his firing Monday.

Hurney spent 11 years as general manager of the team before he was fired during the 2012 season. If the goal of his time as the interim GM in 2017 is to settle some of the contract talks that Gettleman couldn’t, it seems like he’s off to a good start.

(Adam Stites)

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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reiterates support for RB Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reiterated his support for Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday in the year-old allegations of domestic violence against the star running back.

Elliott’s status with the NFL remains a major question as the league closes an investigation into the alleged 2016 incident in Columbus, Ohio.

“I found nothing since we were standing here at this time last year,” Jones told reporters on the first day of training camp in Oxnard, Calif. “I knew everything in that report. I knew that this time last year.

“I have reviewed everything and there is absolutely nothing — not one thing — that had anything to do with domestic violence.

“My opinion is there is not even an issue of ‘he said, she said.’ There is not even an issue there.”

Elliott’s accuser issued a statement Saturday in a social media post without mentioning his name.

“Exactly 1 year ago today my life changed forever,” she wrote. “Loving someone as much as I did, putting my all in no matter what happened. I finally got the strength to be the strong woman I was and got myself out of a very toxic relationship. Ladies never think you’re too in love or too scared to leave because at one point that was me. There’s plenty of opportunities out there for you. Love yourself first. Speak up and stop domestic violence.”

The woman accused Elliott of domestic violence on five separate occasions from July 17 to July 22, 2016. Elliott was never arrested or charged and he has maintained his innocence, previously saying the woman was not his girlfriend but a “female acquaintance.”

In July 2016, Elliott was questioned by authorities and he was cleared of any legal wrongdoing after the Columbus city prosecutor’s office determined there wasn’t enough substance to pursue charges after a lengthy investigation. But the NFL began its own probe and declined a status update in January and again in February during Commissioner Roger Goodell’s state of the league address in Houston.

Multiple sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter last week that Elliott could face a one- or two-game suspension, but the NFL denied it made a decision on a course of disciplinary action. Schefter tweeted that Elliott is “bracing for a short suspension. Maybe one game, maybe two games.”

Elliott, the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Ohio State, rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie last season, leading the NFL in rushing yards.
(David Richard/UPI)