Rashad and I meet twice for lunch at the Ritz Carlton in downtown Cleveland.

He greets me with a smile, and my first thought is that he’s bigger than he appeared on TV. He’s 6’2 and well built, even now at 6He still has the big doe eyes, the square jaw and an earring in his left lobe. Rashad tells me about the time he found himself in a crowded elevator with his friend Muhammad Ali. This was in 1996, when Ali was in the throes of Parkinson’s and he could barely speak. Ali leaned over and whispered in Rashad’s ear, You know, we two pretty motherf——.

Pick almost any celebrity from the 1970s, ’80s or ’90s, and Rashad has a story. I feel like I know a lot of people, he says. But I must’ve made an impact on them, for them to want to know me, too.

Then the thing expands, Rashad says. You end up knowing who he knows. I never stopped to try to figure that out. It helped that he spent his NFL off-seasons living in Los Angeles. His circle grew to include everyone from Arthur Ashe to Sammy Davis Jr. to Sidney Poitier. They bonded initially over sports, then over life.

Rashad’s friends say he has a wide-eyed curiosity and youthfulness about him, as if he’s forever the little brother, tagging along. He’s sort of a boy, in a funny way, says Murray, one of his closest friends. He looks kind of ageless anyway. And he can giggle. He can just start laughing—he’s got a lot of different laughs, actually—but when you get the big, deep laugh, he really sounds like a kid. Phil Knight, the Nike founder, puts it like this: He never pays and everybody still likes him.

5. I think seeing the efficiency of the World Cup replay system reinforced to me that the NFL really needs to look at what college football does, having replay officials in the booth with the power to make calls. The biggest problem I have, and I think most people have, with the current system is how clunky it can be. Having an official or two dedicated to it would amend that.

The season-ending injury Samuel sustained during the third quarter of South Carolina’s loss to Kentucky last September was, to put it simply, a huge bummer. Samuel appeared on the way toward putting together a sensational redshirt junior campaign; he’d already run back two kicks for touchdowns, recorded 250 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns, and notched one rushing score. If he can recapture the form that made him one of the biggest stories in the SEC last September, Samuel should spend conference play grilling opposing defensive backs and coverage units. An uptick in junior quarterback Jake Bentley’s accuracy—among qualifying passers, he finished seventh in the SEC in efficiency and tossed 12 interceptions last season—would further Samuel’s cause.

Cowboys WR battle: Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns ease separation from Dez Bryant

When the Cowboys parted ways with Dez Bryant this offseason, his release set in motion some overdue changes at wide receiver around quarterback Dak Prescott.

Dallas was right to cut Bryant. He had lost a lot of effectiveness going into his age-30 season, and proof lies in the fact that he remains unsigned in free agency. The Cowboys also chose not to re-sign little used deep threat Brice Butler.

Whether he likes it or not, all eyes will be on Bryce Harper during the Midsummer Classic. Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports
Not really, Harper says when asked if he has been doing anything differently the past few weeks. Just trying to get good pitches over the plate. I’ve been saying it all along. If I get a pitch over the plate, I can do damage on it. If not, then I take my walks.

As he talks, he methodically cleans out his double locker. It’s the Sunday before the Sunday before the Midsummer Classic, and the Nats are headed out of town for a one-week road trip. When they return, they’ll find their cubbies and folding chairs inhabited by the best players in the NL. As such, gone from Harper’s locker are the boxes of extra batting gloves. Gone are the five different-colored mitts he typically displays on the top shelf — red, black, gray, white and blue. Gone is the bottle of Master Brew Kombucha.

Tepper’s first public words as Panthers owner were directed at Steven Drummond, Carolina’s director of communications. Tepper glanced down toward Drummond’s feet as the latter walked off the stage after introducing his new boss.

For a man worth roughly $11 billion, Tepper’s demeanor is laid back and casual. His playful, ice-breaking question to Drummond he wasn’t wearing socks on this day, by the way serves as proof, as does Tepper’s decision not to wear a neck tie to his introductory press conference. Tepper even brought up a Spiderman reference in response to a question later in the session.

For about 30 minutes Tuesday morning, Tepper answered media questions on topics ranging from Panthers football operations to his plans for the franchise’s development in the Carolinas to the biggest problems the NFL faces today. Below are his answers on each topic.

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In most goal line defenses, there isn’t a third defensive back, commonly known as a nickel defender. But to match with the Seahawks’ personnel, the Patriots added an extra corner to the mix. They were in man coverage so they could blanket all the possible pass options. The corners have the wide receivers, the backers have the tight end and the running back.

For those who argue that Seahawks should have run the ball, where would you have liked them to run it? There are eight defenders in the box against six blockers, and they have leverage based on alignment against a possible inside zone from shotgun.

Favre also has the honor of having the most postseason road losses as a starting quarterback, with a whopping seven.

Don’t ask why, but Favre really had it in for the NFC West and in particular, my San Francisco 49ers. Including the playoffs, he beat the 49ers 12 times out of 14 games played against them, and finished his career 36-14 against the NFC West.

Against the NFC North (and previously the NFC Central), he boasts an 84-45 record. He beat the Detroit Lions 28 times out of 37 games. He owns the most regular-season wins by a starting quarterback against a single opponent at home, with 18 wins over the Lions in that scenario. He also beat the Bears 11 straight times on the road, which is another record.

Well Ernie, you had a good run there, but it’s been almost a century. Surely it’s time for ONE of those to fall, and I’ll go with most points in a game. A few players have flirted with it since— Dub Jones (1951) and Gale Sayers (1965) were each responsible for 36 points in a game. In the last 30 years, the closest anyone has gotten is 30 points, a number shared by players like Jerry Rice, Shaun Alexander, Clinton Portis, and Jamaal Charles. But it still belongs to Nevers, 89 years later.

It might be a long shot, but at least it’s more plausible than any player rushing for more than six touchdowns in this day and age. Then again, Nevers say Nevers. — Sarah Hardy

Malcolm Jenkins told the media you aren’t listening in a silent presser Wednesday.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has been an outspoken advocate for social justice, but he made one of his most powerful statements Wednesday without saying anything at all.

Two days after the Eagles were disinvited from a White House celebration of their Super Bowl 52 victory, Jenkins met with a huge crowd of reporters but stood silently and held up signs with messages for the media.

The team that does have incentive to jump in front of Washington is Miami, because its chance of landing Ryan Tannehill is now in jeopardy. Washington needs a quarterback badly, so there’s a small bidding war for the No. 6 pick between Miami and Washington.

Washington won the bidding war for the No. 2 pick, so it’s probably a safer bet to assume it’s willing to part with more to get the No. 6 pick.

Well what do you know, the Buccaneers land at No. 7 after a trade down and get the guy they wanted with a little extra value. Things worked out nearly the exact same way for Tampa Bay.

Here are our big What Ifs from the past few years.

This is probably the biggest hanging question for the Packers in recent years. If Bostick doesn’t try to catch an onside kick attempt in the 2014 NFC Championship Game — it was his responsibility to block for Jordy Nelson, who was to try to field the ball — the Packers advance to Super Bowl XLIX against the New England Patriots. Any number of other situations could have sent the Packers to Arizona for the big game — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s defense on a two-point conversion, the fake field goal, Morgan Burnett falling to the turf instead of trying to return his interception — but this is the most obvious and damning of all.

Had Bostick followed his assignment and had Nelson fielded the football safely, the NFL would have received one of the best Super Bowl quarterback matchups of all time: Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady. In what was one of Mike McCarthy’s all-time great coaching jobs, Rodgers out-dueled Brady in week 13 that year as the Packers won 26-21 on their way to a 12-4 record. With a good enough defense (13th in points allowed and 15th in yards) and Rodgers winning his second league MVP award, the Packers definitely could have defeated New England and earned their second Lombardi Trophy in the McCarthy-Ted Thompson-Rodgers era.

Backup goalies got some decent money and plenty of term during the free-agent frenzy.

Carter Hutton got three years at $2.75 million per season from the Sabres, Jonathan Bernier got three years at $3 million per season from the Red Wings, and Jaroslav Halak got two years at $2.75 million from the Boston Bruins. Cam Ward, meanwhile, got $3 million out of the Chicago Blackhawks for one season, a team that’s already paying Corey Crawford $6 million against the cap next season. It was a good day to be a goalie.

This year’s free-agency period was fun. Next year was supposed to include the most razzle dazzle we’ve seen in a while — except suddenly, things aren’t shaping up that way.

With a gray and blue Thunder snapback pulled tightly over his head, Paul George stepped off a private jet to shake hands with head coach Billy Donovan and GM Sam Presti while a horde of fans behind a chain-link fence baked in the heat of an Oklahoma summer.

André Snellings, ESPN Fantasy: The league has the potential to be imbalanced in a way it hasn’t been since the Boston Celtics traded for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in 2007. In the decade before that deal, the West ruled the NBA with an iron fist. With the Heat and the Cavs, James led the Eastern Conference champions for eight consecutive seasons, winning three titles and always giving his team a puncher’s chance. The East will need the Celtics to step up or the 76ers to grow up quickly to stay relevant in the championship conversation.

Chris Herring, FiveThirtyEight: Mostly that we could really use 1-16 seeding in the playoffs at this point. The best players — and, by definition, best teams — are all in the West. That was already the case before, and now even more so.

The panel of independent arbitrators for PED positive tests consists of lawyers who are jointly selected and compensated by the league and the NFL Players Association. So the player who has a strong argument that the league believes is weak doesn’t have to worry about a league executive or an independent hearing officer who really isn’t independent rubber stamping the league’s position.

As it relates to Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, it means that he had a full and fair chance to persuade a truly independent arbitrator that he shouldn’t be suspended, and that the independent arbitrator didn’t buy the arguments.

Angels reliever Jake Jewell has broken right fibula; season over

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jake Jewell’s season is over after he broke his right fibula in Wednesday night’s game with the Red Sox in Boston.

Jewell will undergo right ankle surgery Friday in Los Angeles. He was making only his third major league appearance Wednesday night.

Jewell was trying to make a play at the plate in the eighth inning. With runners on second and third and Mitch Moreland at the plate, Jewell uncorked a wild pitch.

He raced to the plate to cover and appeared to slip before getting there, with his right ankle getting caught beneath him.

The San Diego Chicken: It was a deliberate act — not bad singing — of desecrating the anthem in contempt.

Barr (press conference, July 27): I feel unprotected by what happened. Everyone there knew for quite a few days that I was going to do it. They must have known I’m not the best singer in the world. If 50 people had called up and said, Don’t do it, I wouldn’t have, but there were none.

Steve VanBuskurk, Veteran of Foreign Wars spokesman (via the Los Angeles Times, 1990): This was an insult to all Americans. Whether it was a joke or just very bad singing, it reflected very bad judgment.

He started 14 games for the Bucs last season and was due to make $6.5 million in 2018.

Sweezy becomes the latest in a list of big-ticket free agents signed by Bucs GM Jason Licht who have not come close to finishing out their contracts. The others include Michael Johnson (five years, $43.75 million), Anthony Collins (five years, $30 million) and Bruce Carter (four years, $17 million) — all gone after one year.

Third-year guard Caleb Benenoch had stepped into Sweezy’s role this offseason after starting five games for them last year and seeing action in 13. The Bucs also selected Alex Cappa out of Humboldt State in the third round of this year’s draft.

A seventh-round draft pick in 2012, Sweezy spent four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, starting 49 games.

Schiraldi: When she did what she did, it was like, Oh, my gosh. Then she came in the dugout. I wasn’t really paying attention. Some of them gave her handshakes. Some just looked at her like, What the hell just happened?

Brewers option SS Orlando Arcia to Triple-A, recall RHP Aaron Wilkerson

The Milwaukee Brewers optioned struggling shortstop Orlando Arcia to Triple-A Colorado Springs before Sunday’s series finale against the Reds.

The 29-year-old Wilkerson pitched in three games for the Brewers in September 2017, going 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA. This is his first appearance with Milwaukee this season.

The Patriots had signed Gillislee to a two-year, $6.4 million offer sheet as a restricted free agent last offseason, and he opened 2017 as the No. 1 option on the depth chart before losing the job to Dion Lewis in Week 6. The Patriots’ locks at running back this season are Rex Burkhead, James White and first-round pick Sony Michel, and the Patriots wouldn’t have any dead money on their salary cap if they release Gillislee. He is scheduled to earn $1.9 million in base salary and count $2.1 million against the salary cap. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s not on the roster.

Kanter, who has also played for the Jazz and Thunder, could still be traded by the Knicks after signing his option, but that doesn’t appear likely.

NBA free agency rumors: Mavs all-in on DeAndre Jordan; Cavs keeping Rodney Hood?

After commissioner Rob Manfred’s comment last week, mlbtraderumors.com ran a fan poll. I would have thought that site’s readership would lean to the analytical side of things, but the results were a virtual dead heat. When I looked around for other polls, I found similar splits. In general, it seems as if there is a slight lean toward no DH, but fans of AL teams prefer to keep it, and NL fans very much don’t want to adopt it.