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Antonio Brown accused of rape in civil lawsuit



Antonio Brown has been accused of sexually assaulting his former trainer, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Southern District of Florida.

In the lawsuit, a copy of which was reviewed by ESPN, Brown’s former trainer, Britney Taylor, accuses the newly signed New England Patriots receiver of sexually assaulting her on three separate occasions in 2017 and ’18.

The first alleged incident came in June 2017, with Taylor saying Brown exposed himself and kissed her without consent at one of his Pittsburgh-area homes. A month later, while at Brown’s home in his native Miami, Taylor alleges in the lawsuit, Brown masturbated near her without her knowledge and ejaculated on her back, then later bragged about it in a series of text messages. In May 2018, after a night out at a Miami-area club, Taylor says she went back to Brown’s home in Miami to use the bathroom and grab some food, and the receiver “forced her down onto a bed, pushed her face into the mattress, and forcibly raped her.”

Brown’s lawyer, Darren Heitner, said in a statement Tuesday night that the receiver and Taylor were involved in a “consensual personal relationship. Any sexual interaction with Mr. Brown was entirely consensual.”

In a tweet on Tuesday, Heitner said that Brown “will leave no stone unturned and will aggressively defend himself, including all of his rights in countersuits.”

Taylor was a gymnast at Central Michigan, where Brown attended college. According to the lawsuit, they met in a Bible study group at the school and stayed friends, then fell out of touch for several years before reconnecting in June 2017, with Brown hiring Taylor to assist in his physical training.

In the lawsuit, Taylor says she believed their relationship was of a “brother-sister” type and acted accordingly.

The alleged incidents have left Taylor suffering “near-daily panic attacks and suicidal ideations,” per the lawsuit. She is seeking in excess of $75,000.

“As a rape victim of Antonio Brown, deciding to speak out has been an incredibly difficult decision,” Taylor said in a statement. “I have found strength in my faith, my family, and from the accounts of other survivors of sexual assault.”

Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowler, spent his first nine NFL seasons with the Steelers before being traded this offseason to the Raiders. After a weeks-long saga with Oakland, he was released Saturday, and he officially signed two days later with the Patriots. He is scheduled to practice with New England for the first time on Wednesday.

There was no immediate comment from the Patriots or the NFL.

Heitner told ESPN’s Michael Eaves that he has “not been in contact with the league regarding this lawsuit.”

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Chiefs slight favorites over 49ers in Super Bowl LIV



The Kansas City Chiefs are tiny favorites over the San Francisco 49ers as the two-week lead-up to Super Bowl LIV begins.

The consensus opening line at sportsbooks around the nation was pick ’em. The point spread had grown to Kansas City -1 late Sunday night at most shops.

According to ESPN Stats & Information’s line archive, no Super Bowl has ever closed with a point spread of pick ’em. Four Super Bowls have had a line of less than two. This year’s Super Bowl appears destined to be the fifth.

Caesars Sportsbook opened the Chiefs at -1.5 on Sunday and took early bets on the 49ers.

“We had the Chiefs a little higher than the 49ers in our power ratings,” Alan Berg, senior oddsmaker for Caesars Sportsbook, told ESPN on Sunday night. “You can make a case for either team, and I expect decent, balanced action from the public.”

Bookmaker William Hill reported taking an early $33,000 bet on Kansas City at pick ’em. At the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, more than 70% of the early bets were on the Chiefs, who, for now, are Super Bowl favorites, just as they were when the season started.

The Chiefs kicked off the season as the consensus favorites to win the Super Bowl, overcame a midseason knee injury to quarterback Patrick Mahomes and mounted consecutive playoff comebacks in wins over the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans to reach the franchise’s first Super Bowl since the 1969 season.

The 49ers were considered middle-of-the-pack contenders to start the season, with 40-1 Super Bowl odds at Caesars Sportsbook. They secured their spot in Miami with a 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

Super Bowl LIV is slated for Feb. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

The favored team has won 34 of 53 Super Bowls. However, favorites of three points or less are 8-7.

The over/under total opened at 51.5 and had grown to 52.5 late Sunday.

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As Jason Garrett heads to the Giants, let’s close out his Cowboys era – Dallas Cowboys Blog



FRISCO, Texas — Turns out, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was right. Jason Garrett will be coaching in the NFL in 2020.

Jones made the comment late last season when Garrett’s future as Cowboys coach was tenuous at best, and it seemed intentional that Jones did not clarify the statement by saying with whom.

Now we all know: Garrett has been named the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants, joining Joe Judge’s staff.

Garrett has always been well thought of by Giants ownership since he spent four years (2000-2003) with the franchise as a backup quarterback. Now, he will help Judge in his first go-round as a head coach.

But first, let’s officially close the Garrett era with the Cowboys.

In Garrett’s nine full-time seasons, the Cowboys never got out of the divisional round of the playoffs. Three times, Dallas had chances to win the NFC East in head-to-head matchups in Week 17 and lost all three. Two other times, the Cowboys made it to Week 16 with a shot at the playoffs and missed out, including the 2019 season that effectively ended with a loss to the undermanned Philadelphia Eagles.

In the end, Garrett’s tenure was not good enough, and that’s why Mike McCarthy is now the head coach.

That does not mean there was not some good from Garrett.

The Cowboys were a 1-7 mess when Garrett took over as the interim coach in 2010 with quarterback Tony Romo out because of a broken collarbone. Garrett earned the full-time job by directing the Cowboys to a 5-3 finish down the stretch with Jon Kitna at quarterback, bringing a level of discipline that fell off late in Wade Phillips’ tenure.

Garrett, 53, helped set the Cowboys’ agenda in his first NFL draft as coach when Tyron Smith was selected in the first round in 2011. Before taking Smith with the No. 9 overall pick, the Cowboys had not selected an offensive lineman in the first round since 1981. In 2013, the Cowboys took Travis Frederick in the first round. A year later, they drafted Zack Martin.

Smith has been named to the Pro Bowl seven straight years. Frederick was named to his fifth last month. Martin has been named every season, in addition to being a first- or second-team All-Pro.

Perhaps Garrett’s most memorable moment as Cowboys coach came in 2012 before his second straight 8-8 finish. Hours before the team boarded a plane to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a December game against the Bengals, Cowboys practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a car accident in which teammate Josh Brent was driving.

The Cowboys won on a last-second field goal to keep their playoff chances alive. After the game, Garrett spoke for nearly six minutes straight about Brown, about Brent, about his players. He was emotionally spent, as were the players.

“Football is very different than life,” Garrett said then. “We try to make that very, very clear to our team. This is a life situation. We lost a 25-year-old young man who had his whole life in front of him, a teammate, a friend. It’s a real tragedy. All we asked our team last night was to understand as best they could what happened, somehow, someway to try to channel all the emotions they have into honoring Jerry today in their performance, and that’s a hard thing to do.”

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K.J. Wright shows he’s ‘a hell of a football player’ for Seahawks – Seattle Seahawks Blog



RENTON, Wash. — K.J. Wright‘s only goal for 2019 was to play in every game. He did, no small feat for a 30-year-old linebacker who missed most of 2018. And on top of making 16 regular-season starts plus two more in the playoffs, Wright set career-highs in tackles, interceptions and passes defended.

With a season like that, there wouldn’t be much question whether the Seattle Seahawks will bring back their longest-tenured player for the second and final year of his contract if not for his $10 million cap number.

Wright did everything he could to convince them it would be money well spent.

“I thought he had a terrific season,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I thought he had a terrific finish to the season. The last two months of the season were his best play of the year. We really worked hard to make sure, coming off his stuff from last year, to keep him healthy and keep him strong through the year. He got stronger as the year went on. It just became more impacting, and he made a ton of plays. Really great leadership and good toughness. It really showed up a lot. I was really fired up for him.”

The Seahawks let Wright hit free agency last offseason after he missed 11 games because of a knee injury that required surgery. He returned on a $14 million deal that included $6.5 million in first-year guarantees but none beyond that, meaning he had to prove himself in 2019 in order to be back in 2020. Wright responded with a season every bit as productive as the one he had in 2016, when he made his lone Pro Bowl.

Wright’s 132 tackles edged out his previous career best from 2016. His three interceptions matched his total from his first eight seasons combined, including playoffs. His 11 passes defended were five more than his previous best, a spike that occurred as Wright was thrown at more than any other linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus, the five touchdowns Wright allowed on his 99 targets were tied for third-most among linebackers who played at least 250 coverage snaps, while his 91.6 passer rating against was 14th best.

“K.J. was amazing this year,” said All-Pro Bobby Wagner, who combined with Wright to form one of the league’s top linebacker tandems of the past decade. “It was really, really amazing to see because … there was a lot of people writing him off last year, a lot of people thinking that he was done, thinking that he wasn’t going to come back to the form that he was after the injury, and he came back and had a career year all over the field, whether it’s interceptions, tackles, pass breakups, leadership, just being a guy that the young guys and myself can go to and lean on.

“He was an amazing person before, and just watching him battle through that, I definitely have even more respect for him. I didn’t think I could have more. So he’s an amazing person, amazing teammate, amazing friend.”

That Wright was so frequently targeted was partly a product of how often he was on the field. His 997 defensive snaps were second on the team to Wagner’s 1,054. That put Wright at well above the 80% playing time threshold he needed to achieve a $1.5 million escalator that raises his 2020 base salary from $3.5 million to $5 million.

It raises his cap number from $8.5 million to $10 million, now the fifth-highest figure on the team behind Russell Wilson ($31 million), Wagner ($14.75 million), Duane Brown ($12.5 million), Justin Britt ($11.67 million) and Tyler Lockett ($10.25 million). Wright counted $5.5 million against the 2019 cap.

The Seahawks aren’t hurting for cap room — ESPN’s Roster Management System has them at more than $60 million for 2020 — but they also have 23 unrestricted or restricted free agents.

They spent a third-round pick last year on Cody Barton, who looks like the most viable starting option among their backup linebackers. But they might need him to take over on the strong side depending on what happens with pending UFA Mychal Kendricks, who’s coming off a torn ACL and is scheduled to be sentenced March 30 in his insider trading case. Shaquem Griffin and Ben Burr-Kirven are the other two backups.

In determining whether to bring back Wright, the Seahawks will weigh all of that, plus the intangibles he brings as a 10-year veteran who’s beloved in the locker room.

Of the $7.5 million that he can earn in 2020, $1 million is in the form of a roster bonus due on the fifth day of the league year, which is March 22. If the Seahawks feel that Wright’s cap number is untenable, they have a $1 million incentive to do something about it before that date. Releasing him would save $7.5 million in cash and cap space (with $2.5 million in dead money). They could alternatively sign him to an extension that lowers his cap number.

Or they could simply let him play out his deal and hope he proves again what he proved last year, which was …

“That I’m a hell of a football player, hell of a teammate, hell of a leader and I’m someone that’s dependable,” Wright said. “So just got to take this season, appreciate it and just do it again next year.”

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