From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says possibly using replacement referees for regular-season games is worthwhile to ensure long-term improvements to officiating.The league and the NFL Referees Association have yet to reach an agreement, and Goodell acknowledged Thursday that time was running out to make the regular officials available for the openers."We're anxious to get a deal done, but it has to get done that it's going to help us for the long term," Goodell said at a fantasy football event in Times Square. "It's not a short-term issue."Of the replacement refs who have been calling preseason games, Goodell said: "We think they'll do a very credible job."Officials probably need a week to 10 days to prepare for the season, Goodell said, and the first game is Sept. 5, 13 days away. The first full Sunday of games is Sept. 9.NFLRA lead negotiator Mike Arnold said Thursday that officials have been training on their own during the lockout and would need less than a week to prep."We're ready to go," he said.While the NFL and officials disagree on some financial matters, Goodell also characterized the differences as "philosophical." The NFL's proposal includes making some refs full-time -- currently all game officials work part-time with outside jobs -- and adding more crews.Arnold said that the union was open to discussing such issues but any proposal to increase the number of officials while decreasing the pay for current refs was not viable.Increasing the pool of officials would allow the league to replace individual officials or entire crews that are not performing well, Goodell said."Then it's based on performance, which is what fans all want, players all want, coaches all want," he said.The replacement officials have been closely scrutinized during the preseason, with any error quickly pointed out by media and fans."It's not our job to judge the replacements, because their performance speaks for itself," Arnold said.Goodell said he wasn't concerned that teams and fans would question the credibility of results if that inevitable first disputed call of the season takes place while replacement officials are on the field."We have controversial calls. Officiating is an imperfect science," he said. "They're not going to be correct all the time, but we have systems in place to try to help. We have instant replay, as an example, to try to help correct those mistakes. ... It's like any game. We get calls every Monday from fans, from coaches, from teams upset about a particular call. That happens. And it will happen going forward regardless of who's on the field."
FOXBORO -- Not long after Cre'Von LeBlanc made a hard-to-fathom, one-handed interception in New England's preseason opener against the Saints, Patriots coach Bill Belichick labeled the play "special." Then he delved a little more deeply into LeBlanc's practice performances with the team to that point.
"Day in and day out, he's been pretty consistent for us going all the way back to the spring," Belichick said at the time. "I'd say his instinctiveness, his ability to be around the ball, his anticipation and ability to recognize routes maybe offset some of the testing numbers that aren't elite . . . Knowing how to play -- he has got some of that. He finds the ball. Or the ball finds him. However you want to look at it."
LeBlanc has seen more preseason targets (20) than any other corner in the NFL thus far, according to Pro Football Focus, and he's allowed nine receptions for 95 yards. His percentage of targets caught (45 percent) is the third-best of any corner with at least 15 targets, and he's allowed a quarterback rating of 38.5 when targeted.
The undrafted rookie out of Florida Atlantic has one pass breakup to go along with his eye-popping pick, and his ability to make plays on the football -- something he flashed in one-on-one drills throughout training camp -- is something that may allow him to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster.
When asked to explain the value of a player who seems to have a knack for finding the football, Belichick said it can be a difficult skill to assess. It may seem, at times, like a player is fortunate to make those kinds of plays at first. But if they happen again, and again, you might just have something.
"It's a valuable skill," Belichick said. "Logan Ryan is another guy that did it in college. He has done it here. Some guys have a real knack for that, other guys not as much. Sometimes it's a little bit acquired, sometimes it's just instinctive.
"The best example I ever had was [former Giants corner] Everson Walls. He didn't technically do hardly anything right from a fundamental standpoint. You would never take another player and say, 'Look, do it the way Everson's doing it. This is the way you would want to do it.' But in the end [he had], I don't know, whatever it was, 56 career interceptions. It was a lot. It was over 50. He did things, but he could find the ball and he had a great instinct for quarterbacks, routes, pattern combinations and so forth. Certainly it wasn't a speed and measurable thing. You would have released him on those measurable. That's whyhe wasn't drafted. But as a football player he's productive.
"When I was in Detroit, Lem Barney . . . same kind of thing. Lem probably had better measurable skills coming out, but at that point he made a lot of plays and he made them on his instinctiveness, ball skills, awareness, etc.
"Ty [Law], I mean Ty was a first-round pick, but Ty had that too. There are a lot of first-round picks that don't have that and he had that.
"It's definitely an important skill, and it really probably separates good from great players or average to good players. It's not the easiest thing to evaluate, and sometimes some of those plays are circumstantial more than they are great instinctive plays. They're fortunate the way they happen. But when a guy starts making enough of them then you know it's something a little special."
Time will tell as to whether or not the Patriots believe LeBlanc has that something special. Final roster cuts are due on Sept. 3. He's been included in our latest 53-man roster projection, but he's competing in what appears to be a deep positional group that includes second-year players Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts as well as fellow undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones.
The NBA’s 38 rookies had their annual photo shoot and were polled by NBA.com with a couple of questions about their class. When asked which rookie was the most athletic among them, the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 pick overall last June, won in a landslide.
Here are the results of that question:
1. Jaylen Brown, Boston -- 38.7%
2. Brice Johnson, L.A. Clippers -- 16.1%
3. Marquese Chriss, Phoenix -- 9.7%
T-4. Malik Beasley, Denver -- 6.5%
Kay Felder, Cleveland -- 6.5%
Gary Payton II, Houston -- 6.5%
Providence guard Kris Dunn, No. 5 pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves was the freshman class’ pick to win rookie of the year honors, with 29 percent of the vote, followed by No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram of the Lakers and No. 1 pick Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers.
BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park:
*The Red Sox got some much-needed contributions from the bottom of the order.
Aaron Hill was 0-for-20 when he came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, but slapped a tie-breaking single to right to put the Red Sox ahead to stay.
Batting ninth was Jackie Bradley Jr. who was 3-for-17 when he singled in the fifth, homered in the sixth and doubled home a run in the ninth, right after Hill's heroics.
The Sox have been carried offensively by the top four or five in their lineup, but that's a tough way to win.
At some point, others in the batting order have to contribute. The timing couldn't have been better than for that to start on Wednesday afternoon.
* Why was Junichi Tazawa throwing fastballs ahead 0-and-2?
Tazawa entered with the bases loaded and Logan Forsythe due. After two quick strikes, Tazawa kept throwing fastballs to Forsythe, who took the second one and lined it back up the middle for a two-run single.
Tazawa's best pitch is his split-finger, and it seemed like that would have been the more prudent choice there -- to get Forsythe to chase a pitch out of the zone.
It's doubtful that there were concerns about a split bouncing in the dirt and getting away from catcher Sandy Leon.
The Rays lost out on a run in the third inning and it changed the game.
With two outs, the Rays had Tim Beckham at second and Logan Forsythe at first when Kevin Kiermaier stroked a line drive to the gap in right-center.
Beckham jogged toward the plate, but at the same time, Kiermaier attempted to stretch a single into a double. His throw arrived in time for a tag to be placed on him as he slid into second.
Worse, from the Rays' standpoint, Beckham hadn't crossed the plate before the tag was applied at second, so what should have been an automatic run was not a run at all for Tampa Bay.