Packers have a tough decision to make

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Packers have a tough decision to make

From Comcast SportsNetGREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers are sticking with Mason Crosby, although that decision has as much to do with their personnel philosophy as it does with their faith in the struggling kicker.After missing a pair of field-goal attempts during the Packers' 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Crosby is 17 of 29 (an NFL-worst 58.6 percent) this season and has botched at least one kick in the past eight games. Nevertheless, coach Mike McCarthy remained steadfast in his support of Crosby, saying no change is in the offing."Mason Crosby is an accountable man. He needs to perform better," McCarthy said Monday. "I'm disappointed in the way he performed yesterday. There's more that goes into it as far as when you evaluate players and everything around each player at their position. So, at the end of the day, Mason will be our kicker and that's my focus."While Crosby was having another rough outing, two other players the team chose to keep around -- despite uneven production or injury issues -- were delivering for them: Sixth-year wide receiver James Jones and third-year defensive end Mike Neal."I think it's clear what we think about the players that we draft," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "We want to develop them and do well. Mason's had some bumps and he needs to get it right."Crosby, a 2007 sixth-round draft pick out of Colorado, signed a five-year, 14.75 million contract extension that included a 3 million signing bonus in July 2011 and responded with the best season of his career last year, making 24 of 28 field-goal attempts.He has a base salary of 1.65 million this season and has three more years left on his deal, at 2.4 million in 2013, 2.65 million in 2014 and 2.8 million in 2015.Asked after Sunday's game if he was worried about the Packers cutting him, Crosby replied, "That's not even on my mind. ... I'm not even going to think about that."While Crosby has missed at least one kick in each of the Packers' last eight games, the team is 7-1 during that stretch."Obviously, it's frustrating whenever you're not making kicks," Crosby said. "But the biggest thing is that I'm not making the kicks to put this team up by two touchdowns. That was my thing. That was six points there and if we're up two touchdowns, it's a different end. But the result is the same. We won the game, just a little different ending."The Packers can only hope that Crosby rewards their faith the way Jones and Neal have.Jones struggled with inconsistent play and dropped passes earlier in his career, but was re-signed to an economical three-year deal before the 2011 season. After catching three touchdown passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Jones leads the NFL in TD receptions with 12. He enters this Sunday's game against Tennessee with a career-best 51 receptions for 622 yards.Neal, who endured two injury-plagued seasons and then opened this one serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, registered 1 sacks on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and was praised by outside linebacker Clay Matthews for helping him get his two sacks on stunts. Neal has 3 sacks this season, second on the team to Matthews (11)."It's the core of the philosophy of how we operate here. The core philosophy is draft and develop, and the development is about growth," McCarthy said. "Now, let's not act like there's not times when things are not moving in the right direction. Any time you hit a situation that's not favorable, you don't have production or the result is not what you intended it to be, you have to choose which direction you're going to go. The direction right now is we're sticking with Mason Crosby as our kicker."However, it does appear that Crosby's struggles are affecting McCarthy's decision-making. The Packers twice went for it on fourth down against the Bears, converting a fourth-and-2 from the Chicago 37-yard line in the second quarter instead of trying a 55-yard field goal and converting a fourth-and-6 from the Bears 26 instead of attempting a 44-yard kick.The first conversion didn't lead to points because Crosby missed a 43-yard attempt wide right on a fourth-and-6 from the Chicago 25, while the second conversion led to Jones' third touchdown, on the opening drive of the second half.Crosby's other miss came when McCarthy decided to try a 42-yard kick on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 24, and Crosby clanged it off the left upright."It wasn't an ideal day to kick but I thought he should have made both the field goals that we attempted," Slocum said. "The thing I'm disappointed in is not taking his preparation into the game. And he's got to do that. He had a great week of practice last week and was good in pregame warmup. He needs to make those field goals and trust what he's done during the week in preparation and move forward."I think he is really trying to get the ball through the uprights and I look forward to him doing it. And that's where we are."Asked if sticking with Crosby despite his misses might create an issue with other players, to whom accountability is constantly emphasized by the coaching staff, McCarthy acknowledged that was a possibility."That's a great question for the locker room," McCarthy replied. "I'm not going to sit here and act like everyone's not watching how the situation's being handled, there's no question about it. Evaluation of everybody is an ongoing process as you prepare to win each game."Definitely, no one's happy with the number of kicks that Mason has missed. As we stand here today on who's going to line up and kick, it's Mason Crosby. I don't know how to continue to answer this question. He needs to be accountable for his performance, but as far as what happens between the evaluation of the game or the past games and how he's performed and how we move forward into the next game, there's a number of different factors. Mason Crosby is our kicker."

Report: Steelers' offer for Dont'a Hightower was bigger than Patriots'

Report: Steelers' offer for Dont'a Hightower was bigger than Patriots'

Dont'a Hightower left money on the table in New York and in Pittsburgh, and instead took a smaller deal to return the New England Patriots, according to CBSSports' Jason La Canfora.

The Jets' offer was previously reported to be $12 million per year, including incentives. La Canfora reiterated that report. But he also detailed Pittsburgh's offer, as the Steelers also outbid the Patriots with over $9 million per year.

Instead, Hightower settled for $8.7 million per season with New England, and will play under Bill Belichick in a Patriots jersey for the sixth season in 2017.

Hightower traveled a great deal during free agency, and ended up garnering interest from the Steelers, Jets, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins.

The 27-year-old linebacker finished the 2016 season with 65 tackles tackles, 2.5 sacks, two pass deflections and one forced fumble. He also had a game-changing strip sack on Matt Ryan in Super Bowl LI that shifted the momentum of game.

Kelly Olynyk's 3-point game is helping him produce all over floor

Kelly Olynyk's 3-point game is helping him produce all over floor

Waltham, mass. – Kelly Olynyk is in a good place right now. 

He’s playing a key role on one of the top teams in the NBA, doing more than just stretch the floor with long-range jumpers and 3-pointers. He has been a solid positional defender most of his time in the NBA, but lately he has become one of the team’s best rebounders … really!

But more than anything, Olynyk is in the best shape of his career both mentally and physically, delivering strong play in several categories.

“When he plays aggressive and with confidence, that’s when he’s at his best,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. 

And lately, the best of Olynyk has been in steady rotation for the Celtics who will host the Phoenix Suns tonight. 

Olynyk attributes his recent strong play to seizing his opportunity to help the Celtics in what has been a season-long area of weakness. The fourth-year big man is a threat to score from 3-point range whenever he’s on the floor. Because of that, teams are overly concerned about his long-range shooting which has allowed him to be an effective driver into the paint and finisher around the rim. 

He has also benefited by being healthy, something he could not say was the case on the eve of the Celtics’ postseason run last season which ended in the second round to the Atlanta Hawks. Olynyk was hampered by a sore right shoulder injury that limited him in the playoffs against Atlanta, and later required surgery which sidelined him for the start of this season. 

But those pain-filled days where he gave more thought to his shoulder rather than shouldering a greater load for the Celtics, are behind him now. 

“It’s something that I had to deal with and I had to get surgery,” Olynyk said. “Now it feels better than it has. I feel strong, confident, ready to roll.”

Boston has won five of its last six games, and the play of Olynyk off the bench has been among the reasons for the team’s latest run of success. In those six games, Olynyk has averaged 10.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting a team-high 64.9 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range in 20.5 minutes per game – all better than his season average in those respective categories. 

And among Celtics players who have averaged double-digit minutes in that span, Olynyk has a team-best rebounding percentage of .170 in addition to an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .689 which is also tops among Boston players during their last six games.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens isn’t surprised to see Olynyk playing as well as he has now that he’s injury-free.

“I don’t think there’s anything more important than playing with clear minds and fresh legs,” Stevens said. “I just think that, and not being injured is a big part of that.”

For Olynyk, part of the challenge he has had since coming to the NBA was finding that balance between being aggressive and assertive, while making sure he got teammates involved when the opportunity presents itself.

“There’s definitely a fine line between being aggressive, forcing things, over-aggressive and create and open things up for others,” Olynyk said. “It’s kind of a balance, kind of like a yin and yang; just go out and play basketball the way you know how to play it. That’s what’s going to make you the best version of yourself and your team the best version they can be.”

Olynyk’s teammates encourage him often (Avery Bradley and Thomas are probably the two most consistent in his ear) to be more assertive, but they recognize he tends to be hesitant far too often for a player with his skillset.

“When he’s second-guessing and … shot-faking when he should have shot, just not being the aggressive player that we need him to be … we don’t need him to be like that,” said Thomas. “We believe in him. He just has to remain confident at all times. When he’s confident and aggressive, he’s a hell of a player.”