Kelly stays connected. As you can tell, watching is one way Kelly stays connected to the league.

Another has been in the kind of information sharing we discussed last week with Lincoln Riley—working with guys from Rams coach Sean McVay to his old Eagles line coach Jeff Stoutland, to the guy he’s done off-the-books work with since he was at New Hampshire, Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

The coaching community’s pretty tight, and invariably there’s someone on some staff that we’ve crossed paths with, he said. There’s guys on our staff that have coached with guys on 15 to 20 teams—’I coached with him here and now he’s at that place.’ Everybody has connections at different schools and different NFL teams just because of the transient nature of our profession.

And there’s fewer snaps in an NFL game than there are in a college game, so you have to be on point a little bit better. Some of the college games you’re running 80 to 100 snaps, you can afford to have, percentagewise, more bad plays when you’re running more plays. If you’re only running 60, 65 plays, you better be on for those plays.

It should be fun to see Kelly put this to work on Saturdays in the fall. And he’ll have his own fun keeping an eye on what’s happening on Sundays.

Lastly, two of the cheerleaders—Turnbow and Rosa—assert civil rights claims against the Texans. They contend that they were subject to gender discrimination. Turnbow and Rosa intend to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). For more on the process ahead for the two cheerleaders in pursuing a remedy with the EEOC, see my The MMQB article on former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis’s charge of discrimination against the Saints.

The Cowboys doubled-down on their offensive line, the unit that has been their greatest strength the past few seasons. They made Zack Martin the league’s highest-paid guard last week, signing him to a six-year, $84 million extension; drafted Connor Williams in the second round to start at left guard, replacing Cooper; and signed Fleming as a versatile back-up.

In less than a month’s time this offseason, Dak Prescott lost his top two targets, when Bryant was released and Witten retired, so the hodge-podge Dallas receiving corps is going with the prove the world wrong approach, per the Dallas Morning News. But without a clear No. 1 receiver, and the security of a player like Witten, who will be the difference-makers for Prescott to throw to on the outside?

Teams with potential interest: Chiefs, Cardinals, Browns, Colts, Seahawks, Bengals

Scouting report: A touted high school recruit with both safety and cornerback potential, Alexander started his career on special teams and at safety for the Hokies, garnering Freshman All-American accolades. He played cornerback along with Greg Stroman and Brandon Facyson, two current NFL players.

It was the Sunday before the Sunday before the All-Star Game, and the Washington Nationals were holding a news conference. On a podium deep within the bowels of Nationals Park, the three players who were voted into the Midsummer Classic sat behind a long table and fielded questions from reporters.

On the right was Max Scherzer, the two-time defending Cy Young winner whose dominant first half makes him a favorite to be the starting pitcher for the National League in front of his hometown fans. On the left was Sean Doolittle, the bearded southpaw who hasn’t walked anybody in three months and has been as good as any closer in the game. In between Scherzer and Doolittle, in the chair that was literally the center of attention, sat Bryce Harper.

This offseason, the Packers lost another weapon when Jordy Nelson was released before signing with the Raiders. His departure left them with Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison as the only returning veteran receivers.

The Packers also drafted J’Mon Moore (third round), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (fifth) and Equanimeous St. Brown (sixth round) in this year’s NFL Draft. Those guys are all big, talented receivers, but were late picks who will be fighting for a roster spot this season. They may not be ready to make an impact as rookies.

Instead, the Packers have a different solution already on their roster to end their potential wide receiver woes: Ty Montgomery.

Montgomery, a 6-0, 216-pound former third-round pick by the Packers, began his professional career as a wide receiver, hauling in 15 receptions and two touchdowns as a rookie. In between his first and second years, the Packers coaching staff decided they had a greater need at running back than wide receiver, and moved Montgomery behind the quarterback.

Musk was asked by one Lakers player what his take is on preparing for his competition.

Like the mad scientist in the lab, he looks down and shuffles and is pondering the question, Pelinka said. And he said, ‘Well, I know if I am making the greatest rockets in the world, and if I am making cars that can do things that no other cars in the universe can do and drive themselves, be powered by the sun, the competition becomes irrelevant to me.

Up next for Steratore will be a job with CBS where he’s joining as a rules expert, according to Cameron Filipe of Football Zebras.

The last assignment for Steratore was the Philadelphia Eagles’ 41-33 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52. It wasn’t an easy game to call, but the officials got a pair of razor-close plays called correctly and saved the NFL from another catch rule disaster.

Steratore is also an NCAA basketball referee within the Big Ten. He’s officiated the NCAA tournament, and he’s reffed 12 different playoff games in the NFL. He was also chosen as an alternate for Super Bowl XLIV after the 2009 season. But Super Bowl LII marked the first time Steratore actually officiated the championship game.

Jacksonville rose from its nine-year malaise to win its first division title of the millennium behind a ferocious defense, but the rising tide of the AFC South — and sticking with Blake Bortles at quarterback — could make a repeat difficult. The Titans, Texans, and even the Colts (assuming Andrew Luck returns to full health) are all roadblocks on Doug Marrone’s path to a second straight division title.

The biggest challenge could come from Houston, which will return both J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson from injury. Watt is a three-time defensive player of the year and Watson was an electric playmaker as a rookie, and getting either back at full strength could make the Texans a playoff team, let alone both. But Watt has only played eight games the past two seasons and Watson’s year one success may not be sustainable. Even so, Houston is a tremendous candidate to put together the league’s biggest turnaround in 2018.

The San Francisco 49ers family has suffered a tremendous loss today with the passing of Dwight Clark.

We extend our condolences and prayers to Dwight’s wife Kelly, his family, friends, and fans, as we join together to mourn the death of one the most beloved figures in 49ers’ history. For almost four decades, he served as a charismatic ambassador for our team and the Bay Area. Dwight’s personality and his sense of humor endeared him to everyone he came into contact with, even during his most trying times. The strength, perseverance, and grace with which he battled ALS will long serve as an inspiration to so many. Dwight will always carry a special place in our hearts and his legacy will live on as we continue to battle this terrible disease.

The fanciful dream that politics have never entered the realm of sports is just that — fictive, imaginary. That has been proven yet again now, as the president uses all of his platform and power to strike down protest, disinviting Philly’s football champions from his gates, and banishing a notion that America would endorse such dissent.

Trump cancelled a lawn party that was likely to be imbued with the fiery spirit Philadelphia often brings, to substitute residents for constituents, fans for interns. It’s seen as a powerful move only to the naive. The Eagles weren’t even mentioned in the president’s four-minute speech, the catalyst that brought us here. He visibly stumbled over the words of his precious anthem and God Bless America, unable to properly perform his performative version of patriotism.

Someone took a knee.

There was one recorded protestor at the event who booed when the president walked to the podium. Another was kneeling during the national anthem.

The White House has not issued a statement on whether their ceremony was a success. The NFL brought this issue on themselves, and now have become a reliable way for the president to excite his base at the league’s expense.

The president finished and ignored questions from waiting reporters, instead shaking hands of constituents in awe of his might. Why answer questions when his message was complete, his stance overt? The audacity to not care about offending or lying was rendered endearing by those cheering him on.

The streets in front of the White House cleared of performers during the display. For minutes it was only Trump’s voice, along with the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America. The entire scene was striking. Why would the most powerful man in the world —as Puerto Rico melts, as trade agreements grow riskier, as the world waits on his call — force policy down the throats of players protesting for the black and brown Americans who are regularly murdered with the force of the state?

Joe Pendry will serve as Birmingham AAF G.M.

The eight AAF teams have locations and coaches, and the Birmingham installment now has a General Manager.

Wyshynski: It’s been indicated that the Islanders don’t have much interest in Robin Lehner, which is confusing because he’s arguably the best goalie available on the UFA market. If I were Lou Lamoriello? I’d sign Jonathan Bernier, who had a career reawakening with the Avalanche, to a one-year deal. I’d hope that Thomas Greiss can figure himself out. And then a pray that either Ilya Sorokin or Linus Soderstrom is ready to make the jump in the next two seasons.

Kaplan: First, I’d hesitate to give any of the goalies on the market a more than a two-year deal. The available crop is damaged goods, and the Islanders have been saddled by too many bad goaltending contracts to be fooled again. That said, I’d look to a known commodity: Craig Anderson. The 37-year-old still has plenty of good hockey in him and the Senators are shopping him. Anderson is under contract for two more seasons — a perfect bridge deal for the Islanders’ transition — and hey, his $4.75 million cap hit is certainly manageable, especially if the team finds itself with extra cap space if a certain center decides to sign elsewhere.

The Bears haven’t won more than six games in a season since going 8-8 in 2013, but over 6.5 wins in 2018 is a minus-140 favorite. Can new head coach Matt Nagy do what John Fox couldn’t and win when favored? Fans in Chicago hope so, as the team lost outright in seven of its eight games as a favorite during the Fox era.

Last season was all about exceeding expectations for the Saints, who went 11-5 en route to winning the NFC South, despite entering 2017 as the division long shot at 6-1. New Orleans is no long shot in 2018. The team is favored to win the NFC South, but history suggests that a division title is no guarantee. In the three most recent seasons the Saints entered as division favorites (2012, 2014 and 2015), they failed to win it each time.

The Falcons have won at least 10 games in each of the previous two seasons, despite entering with single-digit win totals both times. Can Atlanta do it again? Fans and those who back the Falcons this season will be hoping for a fast start. After their season opener at Philadelphia, where they are a 4.5-point underdog, the Falcons are currently favored in eight of their next nine games.

Marco Gonzales was looking for some retribution against the Kansas City Royals.

Gonzales (8-5) pitched a six-hitter for his first career complete game in the Seattle Mariners’ 4-1 victory on Friday. The left-hander struck out seven and didn’t issue a walk while throwing just 96 pitches.

Our goal is to get our house in order. Develop the foundation, Mills said. And we are not going to be players [in free agency] this year. If we sign guys it’s going to be for a one-year deal because we are going to have room for a max contract in the following year. We’ll be able to make room for a max guy.

Mills was asked if the Knicks will be star searching next summer, referencing a term that Philadelphia 76ers coach and acting top executive Brett Brown used to describe the Sixers’ approach to free agency.

We feel like we’re going to put ourselves in a position where stars are going to want to come to us, Mills said. That’s what we think.

The downside here is Denver pushing deep into the luxury tax after bringing back Barton on a deal that appears more lucrative than the four-year, $42 million extension (the most the Nuggets could offer at the time) he turned down during the season. Assuming the deal is for the full $54 million, as reported by ESPN’s Chris Haynes, and contains standard 8 percent raises, that means Barton will make about $12 million in 2018-19, which puts Denver’s total payroll at $22 million above the luxury-tax line for 14 players under contract (including first-round pick Michael Porter Jr., who has yet to officially sign).

The biggest takeaway is that trading the expiring contracts of Darrell Arthur ($7.5 million) and Kenneth Faried ($13.8 million) now won’t be enough for the Nuggets to dodge the tax after replacing them on the roster. Locking in Barton for at least three years — he also managed to secure a player option on the final season, a coup in a market where few free agents will get so much guaranteed money — could encourage Denver to deal incumbent starting small forward Wilson Chandler, making $12.8 million in the final season of his contract.

However, since Plumlee’s contract extends into 2019-20, I suspect he would be more difficult to trade than Faried or Arthur despite the fact that he provides more value on the court.

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski won’t be hanging around for more OTAs

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski were there last week for the mandatory minicamp.

But neither of them are going to volunteer to hang around.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Patriots stars won’t be attending this week’s voluntary OTA sessions, including a team field trip.

That means their next appearance will be when players report for training camp on July 26, with practices to begin the next day.

We started going back and forth on it. There were two major numbers that I couldn’t believe. One was about 80 million people stopped watching sports on the weekend when football goes off the air. That’s one. The second one though that was even more intriguing to me was a minimum of 20 million people stop playing all forms of fantasy sports the day football goes off the air.

The Rockies have allowed a major league record three or more home runs in five consecutive home games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Colorado also has given up 10 or more hits in 11 consecutive games since May 28. That’s the longest in the majors since Seattle’s 11-game streak in August of 2008 and the longest in the National League since the Dodgers had a 12-game streak from Aug. 23-Sept. 5, 2006.

Diamondbacks: OF Steven Souza Jr. (right pectoral strain) took live at-bats against injured starters Robbie Ray (strained right oblique) and Jorge De La Rosa (right Achilles bursitis) on Saturday. Ray threw two innings and De La Rosa one. Both will take Sunday off. … A.J. Pollock (fractured thumb) will have a CT scan next week. … RHP Shelby Miller (Tommy John surgery) will throw 85-90 pitches for Double-A Jackson on Sunday.

There’s zero doubt in his mind: Concussions are to blame.

Lewis offers two more startling takes before leaving. Heck yeah, his boys will play football. Eight-year-old Jazz already has, and Dad half-jokes that he needs to get tagged.

Moments earlier, sipping buttermilk coffee inside his downtown Atlanta office, Lewis pointed to the north, said those kids had options, and then pointed to the south. Those kids did not. Those kids don’t give a s–tabout concussions. Holding out a fist, Lewis then dramatically, sternly listed the reasons one finger at a time.

Hell, where I grew up, you take a lot of risk. You risk your kid going out hanging with the wrong crowd, selling drugs. You risk your kid hanging out with the wrong crowd, getting killed. You risk your kid hanging out with the wrong crowd, joining a gang. So, which one are you going to take? I’ll take football any day out of all of that.

It’s not you you’re worried about, he says. It’s your kids you’re worried about. It’s your family you’re worried about. You not being able to talk. You not being able to move around. … You don’t know when it’s going to hit you. You can manage but there’s only so long you can manage. At the same time, what are you going to do?

He takes a deep breath. A rusting car zips by and honks its horn, and Lewis waves back.

He can sense the sadness creeping in again and stops it.

I can’t live in the fear of ‘Oh, one day…one day….’ You can’t do that, because that day might never come. You might be one of the lucky ones. There might be something that comes out to help cognitive issues. You can’t live in fear.

Mike McCarthy on drafting three WRs: Always looking for bigger targets

The Packers said goodbye to a longtime member of their receiving corps this offseason when they released Jordy Nelson and there will be plenty of new blood vying for a chance to fill his snaps.

Green Bay added former Missouri wideout J’Mon Moore in the fourth round, former South Florida receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the fifth round and ex-Notre Damer Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth round as they closed out the draft by repopulating the depth chart at wideout. Moore is the shortest of the three rookies at 6’3″ so they bring a different look to a group fronted by the shorter Davante Adams and Randall Cobb.

This year NFL Network’s coverage on Thursday and Friday night was simulcast on FOX, while ESPN’s coverage on Saturday was simulcast on ABC in most markets.

After ratings of NFL games have declined for the last two seasons, the league was looking for something to bolster the viewership of its biggest offseason event, and the addition of network TV partners made a big difference.

But Browns General Manager John Dorsey said Thursday during a radio interview on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland that he had the players graded equally on his board, which led them to make a needs-based pick.

“We’ve totally upgraded the secondary there with unrestricted free agent acquisitions and trades,” Dorsey said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “And then we attacked it also in the draft. I’m very pleased with Denzel Ward, great kid, loves the game of football, wonderful family. Now he’s got the physical features you look for in a shutdown corner.

“I know exactly what they said, and exactly why they said that,” Mayfield said, via quotes distributed by the team. “That is a veteran that has been in the league, a guy that I can sit behind and learn from. When I say those types of things, it is because I am competitive. If I came in with the mindset of just being happy that I got drafted and just to settle for a backup job, that wouldn’t be myself. I am going to come in and compete but also with the hunger to learn from a guy that has been in the league that has seen things that I haven’t seen.”

“Report” of Gronk trade was a joke lacking any actual humor

Every once in a while in this business, the time comes to get a stick and scrape from feces from the bottom of the Foot-Joys. It’s not a pleasant task, but it has to be done, lest the feces get tracked all over the place.

The Bears were wise to keep Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator and retain starting cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller. But at the second level of their base 3-4, they could use a dynamic, versatile playmaker who can thrive inside or outside. Fangio, formerly of San Francisco, can get his Patrick Willis/NaVorro Bowman-type here.

Speaking of San Francisco, Robert Saleh, its defensive coordinator formerly of Seattle, can get his Earl Thomas-type here for the secondary. Richard Sherman and Akhello Witherspoon will hold down the corners, and Jacquiski Tartt has a bright future at one safety spot. James would allow Sherman to shepherd a sequel to the Legion of Boom for the Seahawks’ biggest rivals.

Teams with new coaches can start their offseason workout programs this week, and the Cardinals and Bears will be the first to report, with Steve Wilks and Matt Nagy getting their teams to work tomorrow after the holiday weekend.

The Lions, Colts, Giants, Raiders, and Titans will begin next Monday, with the remaining 25 teams starting on April 16.

The nine-week offseason program is broken into three phases. The first two weeks (phase one) include strength and conditioning and rehabilitation work only. In phase two, which lasts three weeks, players can work out on the field in individual instruction drills and team practice on a separate basis (i.e. just the offense or just the defense).

When phase three of the program kicks in, teams can hold 10 days of OTA practices. Those can’t include live contact, but can include 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills.