Switzer snagged it. And he paid the price.

Switzer says he’s his own player. But he also acknowledges that those guys helped open gates for his NFL shot.

“The last 10 years there have been guys my size or smaller doing incredible things in college and the NFL,” Switzer said. “So I think that they’ve done the work, they’ve paved the way for guys like me to have success.”

Ask Switzer which play best sums up his play, and you won’t get a show-stopping touchdown grab or an electrifying punt return, despite the many he has to choose from.

Instead, it’s a simple first down from a regular-season game in 2014 against Virginia Tech.

Switzer was running across the middle of the field, briefly open. Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams saw him and threw across his body. The throw was going to leave Switzer vulnerable.

Switzer snagged it. And he paid the price.

“I took the hardest hit that I have ever taken in my career. It was something, wow, I can still feel it,” Switzer said. “But I completed the catch, I stood back up. I think that just shows the resilience that I have, the toughness.”

Budda Baker, DB, Washington: Baker offers some versatility in the secondary with the ability to cover and tackle. He’s explosive and quick, though undersized at 5-10, 195. He can be a free safety or a nickel corner thanks to a high-motor work ethic, instincts and excellent ball skills that all led to a team-high 71 tackles, 10 for loss, with two interceptions and six passes defensed last year. nike_cardinals_1944

Jim Kiick, member of ’72 Dolphins, reportedly has ‘gaps’ in his brain

Former Dolphins running back Jim Kiick displays medical evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, according to an NFL-approved neurologist (via Sports Illustrated).

Kiick has been suspected of having CTE over the last few years as he displayed gaps in his memory and started to drift into dementia. He was put into assisted living last year after he was found to be “living in squalor, failing to take care of either himself or his apartment and consuming an alarming amount of medications.”

But in the last few days his condition became clear, and it became more clear because of the medical research Dr. David B. Ross did on the two-time Super Bowl champion.

“Jim actually had signs of contusion: bruises,” Ross told Sports Illustrated. “You can see it clearly: It’s called ‘encephalomalacia’ — wasting or hardening; there are areas of the brain where there are gaps, and that’s where a specific brain injury occurred. It’s the stuff you see after significant localized head trauma or stroke. He has holes in his brain.”

Ross went on to explain that this is not dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s but a clear sign of brain trauma.

While Kiick is often the forgotten member of the ’72 Dolphins’ backfield alongside Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, the impact he had on the game was enormous. Kiick was one of the first running backs to truly be a dual-threat in the running and receiving games.

In a nine-year career, Kiick finished with 3,759 rushing yards in addition to 2,302 receiving yards. But in a time when the equipment was not nearly as safe as it is today, Kiick took plenty of shots to the head as did teammate Nick Buoniconti and is now suffering the consequences.

“There’s no question that he suffered significant brain trauma,” Ross said.
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Arizona’s season ended with an upset loss to 11th-seeded Xavier in the Sweet 16.

Trier immediately became Arizona’s primary offensive option upon his return. He was brilliant during the Wildcats’ run to the Pac-12 tournament championship, scoring 20 points to beat No. 3 UCLA in the semifinals and 23 points to defeat No. 5 Oregon in the tournament title game.

Arizona’s season ended with an upset loss to 11th-seeded Xavier in the Sweet 16. The future of the roster was very much in question. Lauri Markkanen had an easy decision to declare for the NBA draft, and fellow freshman Kobi Simmons followed him out the door. Rawle Alkins, Miller’s third freshman star, has also declared for the draft but elected not to sign with an agent, leaving the door open for his return.

Trier was the biggest question mark. He was projected as a second-round pick, but has decided to return to school without even testing the NBA waters. He’ll hope to be next season’s Buddy Hield or Justin Jackson: A veteran college player who boosts his NBA stock by returning to school and having a monster season.

The Pacers lost Game 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, but it was close — a 109-108 loss that came down to a final missed shot at the buzzer. For a minute, though, it looked like Cleveland was pulling away. At the end of the third quarter, the Cavaliers led by eight, and they immediately expanded that lead to 10 points by making the first shot of the fourth quarter.

Instead, Stephenson happened. From the moment he checked into the game with 2:11 left in the third quarter to the time he left late in the fourth, he scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting with an assist. They were classic, quintessential Stephenson shots — aggressive pull-up jumpers with no regard for the consequences. Sure, they might not go in. But they probably were, and in that 12-minute stretch, they did.
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Colts sign RB Chris Rainey

The Steelers selected Rainey with the fifth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but released him over the offseason in the wake of multiple run-ins with the law. The final straw was an incident in which Rainey was arrested for allegedly slapping his girlfriend. The girlfriend has since denied that she was assaulted.

Ian Rapoport reports that he expects the sides to reach a “reasonable extension,” but there is no indication on what potential terms would be at this time. Deciding on terms will be complicated by the cash-strapped Falcons, who are expected to have salary cap issues in 2017. White held out the last time they tried to work on an extension, finally settling for a 6-year deal that made him the league’s fifth-highest paid wide receiver.

White is on pace for the worst season of his career. Offensive struggles paired with a series of injuries have created a scenario where it’s unlikely he’ll pass 400 yards receiving this season — a career first. His best game came in a Week 5 matchup against the New York Jets where he caught four passes for 45 yards, but fumbled the ball.

Discussion of extending White could be influenced by the season-ending injury to Julio Jones. Atlanta is in dire need of offensive consistency entering an offseason where Jones will be recovering and tight end Tony Gonzalez is almost certainly retiring.

There’s more to generating pressure than finishing sacks, but against a veteran quarterback it was important for the defense to hit him early and often — ultimately Manning was hit twice on Sunday night, and was not sacked once. Not completing this task is the biggest reason the team lost.
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NFL executives no longer deserve the benefit of the doubt that their decisions are football-related.

Williams did have a scare with a neck injury in 2015, but he rebounded well in 2016. Ross has more durability concerns, though, and Davis is unable to work out at the moment because of an ankle injury.

Now that Williams has run and run well, there is no doubt he has reemerged as the best NFL prospect of the three, with only a little more than a month left the draft process.

So, how does he compare to those other Mike Williamses?

The Mike Williams from USC, who went No. 10 overall to the Lions in 2005, was monstrous at 6-5, 245 pounds, but not much else. The Mike Williams from Syracuse, who went in the fourth round to the Buccaneers in 2010, flashed early as a big playmaker with a nose for the end zone but couldn’t be consistent.

Of course this isn’t about football. It is about maintaining the status quo, or what NFL teams believe that to be. It is about not ruffling feathers, or at least the feathers NFL teams care about ruffling.

Still, it is a long offseason. It only takes one team rowing against the tide. And, again, even the Jay Cutlers were still looking for work, never mind a part-time starter fighting against a scarlet letter.

Now, the Bleacher Report explanation is much more plausible — and NFL executives no longer deserve the benefit of the doubt that their decisions are football-related.

They might be able to get away with them being money-related, except that there is nothing definitive about what Kaepernick wants to get paid. Then again … $18.5 million for Mike Glennon. To be a starter.

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The quarterback battle between Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor will be huge

Player you’ll be buzzing about: LB Ty Powell — Powell was impressive during OTAs, with four interceptions that drew the attention of his coaches. A special teamer to this point, Powell should get a chance to play on defense.

What to watch: The quarterback battle between Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor will be huge, though the Bills have a lot to settle outside of that. They need to find a starting safety with Jairus Byrd and Da’Norris Searcy departing over the past couple of years. Seeing LeSean McCoy running in a Bills uniform should also be high on the list.

Most important position battle: Quarterback — This is no big secret, and it would be silly to go with anything else. The Bills need to figure out who their starting quarterback is.

“I think more running backs will definitely start to run [like Bell],” Gordon says. “You could see it in that Dallas game a little bit. … It’s not really that the players don’t want to do it, it’s more the coaches being comfortable with it. And maybe the coaches will change their mindset as they see [Bell] have more and more success.”

The seeds for Bell’s style were planted way back in youth football in Columbus, Ohio, when Bell’s uncle, Clarence, told him to stop running over the guys who blocked for him. Once Bell started to learn blocking schemes, he couldn’t get enough.

He refined his approach in East Lansing, channeling his inner John Nash during 11-man tests from Michigan State coaches. Bell perked up when asked to identify protections, routes and audibles for each player on the offense from the white washboard. For extra credit, he’d point out the need to abandon his assignment for extra blocking if the defensive end ran free. “He would point out things that most people wouldn’t see or even know to ask about,” Michigan State assistant Brad Salem says. “Just a joy to coach.”