Why the Jets gave Joe Flacco a new team before Cam Newton signed with one

Another veteran QB found a new home in 2020 NFL free agency who isn’t named Cam Newton. The Jets signed Joe Flacco to a one-year deal, a move announced by his agent. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the contract for the former Ravens and Broncos starter has a base worth of only $1.5 million with incentives maxing out at $4.5 million.

Flacco, 35, is recovering from neck surgery to correct an ailment that cut short his lone season in Denver. The 2007 first-rounder and Super Bowl 47 MVP for Baltimore didn’t want to retire and now can get to stick around in the league for at least another season, if he proves to be healthy enough.

Meanwhile, 2011 No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton, released by the Panthers in March, remains a free agent and still the best veteran QB on the market. So why did the Jets take a flyer on Flacco instead, given that he also carries a level of recent injury history mystery?

DECOURCY: NFL should boot proposed onside kick change right off the planet

First, Flacco, who has made plenty of money in his career and once was the highest-paid QB in the NFL, settled for relative little money to keep playing for someone. Second, after his time with the Broncos proved, pre-injury, that he no longer could be counted on as a starter, Flacco clearly settled on being a willing backup behind 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold in New York.

Flacco’s deal is similar to the last QB of first-round note to sign. Jameis Winston, the 2015 No. 1 overall pick, went from Buccaneers five-season starter to settling for a $1.1 million base salary plus incentives to back up Drew Brees with the Saints late last month.

For Newton, as the 2015 NFL MVP, reports are it’s been difficult for him to accept both a lesser deal and one that doesn’t come with a real chance to compete for a starting job. So far, the Patriots and Jaguars have held firm on rolling with second-year third-day picks Jarrett Stidham and Gardner Minshew, respectively, instead of wanting to bring Newton or another viable veteran alternative into the mix.

The Redskins (Ron Rivera and Scott Turner) and Broncos (Mike Shula) are Newton’s best remaining coaching staff fits. But Washington has Dwayne Haskins and already traded for former Panther Kyle Allen to compete with him, while Denver is gung-ho on Drew Lock, far removed from Flacco, to the point that it doesn’t want him looking over his shoulder.

Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains, who oversee the Jets’ offense as coach and coordinator, needed more of a regular pocket passing type behind Darnold. Before Flacco, the Jets’ best No. 2 option was David Fales. When Darnold had mononucleosis early last season, their backup situation was badly exposed.

Newton as a unknown quantity to teams because of his durability was never really a fit for New York. Jets general manager Joe Douglas also is vary familiar with Flacco’s makeup and skill set. Douglas started as a longtime scout with the Ravens from 2000 to 2014, and Flacco was drafted by Ozzie Newsome in the middle of that tenure.

Is it shocking that Newton hasn’t found a fit with any team, even at the lowest price? Yes. Is it surprising that the Jets would roll the dice with Flacco as a No. 2 instead of considering Newton? In their current situation, not at all.

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MARTIN SAMUEL: Why the relegation guessing game is so pointless

MARTIN SAMUEL: Why the relegation guessing game is so pointless… to predict what happens for the rest of the season when the consequences are so great is beyond brutal

  • Premier League clubs will vote on how to decide the season if it can’t be finished
  • But the favourite appears to be a resolution called Weighted Points Per Game 
  • However the team currently in 16th place, West Ham, would end up relegated 
  • To guess what happens for the rest of the campaign would be beyond brutal 

Next week or maybe even sooner, Premier League clubs may make real that old sporting cliché: the six-pointer. They will introduce four-pointers, five-pointers and many other matches measured by decimal places up from and below three. They will introduce a system so grossly unfair it beggars belief. Yet plenty does in football these days. 

On May 28, Premier League clubs will vote on a means to decide the season if the games cannot be completed. Favourite is a resolution called Weighted Points Per Game. The league will take each club’s home and away record separately, and work out both average points totals. It will then multiply those numbers by the respective games left, home and away. This will give them a projected end of season total and league positions will be decided by that. 

As it stands, there is one headline: the team currently in 16th place, two positions clear of relegation, go down. Yet let’s start at the top, and work from there. Liverpool have a 100 per cent record at Anfield. They have won every game. Their WPPG at home, then, is unquestionably three. And as there are only three points available in any game, that would appear to be the end of it. But, no. The away team will also have a WPPG calculation for their games on the road. And Liverpool’s next home game is against Aston Villa. 

Premier League clubs will vote this month on how to decide the season if it can’t be completed

So while Brighton, Bournemouth, Watford, West Ham and Norwich went to Anfield, lost — in some cases by the margin of a single goal — and came away with nothing, Villa will lose, because Liverpool get the maximum three points, but still come out with 0.53 points. It’s a 3.53-point game. 

What a terrible shame for all those other clubs who visited Anfield with just three points on the table. West Ham, who only succumbed to an 81st-minute winner; Brighton and Bournemouth, who suffered narrow 2-1 defeats. 

A 3.53-point game could really make a difference to their final standing in this imaginary league with very real consequences; particularly as, when Brighton travel to Norwich, they will only be splitting 1.8 points, less than the minimum gleaned from a real game.

Aston Villa would lose the game at Anfield according to WPPG, but also still gain 0.53 points

Brighton and Bournemouth have five home matches remaining with the potential for 15 points if they win them all. Yet, given the opposition, the most that can be awarded in home matches involving Brighton is 14.04 points; for Bournemouth’s home programme 12.25. That isn’t right. How can both Manchester City and Liverpool get more than two points each when they meet; yet West Ham play Aston Villa for 1.6 on the final day of the season? 

Even if two teams fail to achieve the point of the game by scoring a single goal between them, even if 22 players determinedly kick the ball into the main stand out of spite for 90 minutes, the smallest total the teams can split is two points; just as the highest that can be awarded whether winning by one goal or 30 is three. 

WPPG conjures outcomes that are mathematically impossible in the real season. It would be like factoring all of the information around the remaining Six Nations games into a computer and coming out with a succession of 2-2 and 4-4 draws. It can’t happen. 

WPPG makes one very big call in its calculations, too. It has West Ham dropping into the bottom three and, as the Premier League appears hell bent on the destruction of three shareholders this season come what may, suffering relegation.

Adopting WPPG would see West Ham dropping into the bottom three and suffering relegation

That’s an interesting one. Demoting a club who are not in the relegation places now, and would not be even if Aston Villa were awarded three points for their game in hand, is a bold move. Certainly for lawyers because given what is at stake it might be an idea to test that one in court, whoever it affects. 

For while if there is no restart West Ham are currently the ones to suffer, WPPG — or its less sophisticated sibling PPG, which does away with home and away weighting and just calculates an average points per game throughout the season — is also being proposed as a way to end the season if it is curtailed at any time. 

Meaning, five games in it could be another club who are plucked from 16th position and dropped carelessly into the Championship. Bournemouth may think WPPG saves them, but what if they are saving themselves only to suddenly come out on the wrong side of the formula when the pause button is hit again? 

This is what is so unfair about the 2019-20 campaign. Not relegation. Play the campaign out and the devil takes the hindmost, as always. Yet to have a guess about what happens across the remaining matches when the consequences are so great? That is beyond brutal and anyone who comes up with such a plan deserves to see it tested, at enormous expense, in court. 

To guess what happens across the remaining top flight matches would be beyond brutal

Take League One, whose chairmen will vote on a way to decide the season today. The owners want the gravy of the play-offs — because the league can flog them to television, forget all the talk of fairness — but this means agreeing to relegation. 

Bolton and Southend are adrift and unlikely to survive, but Tranmere are within three points of AFC Wimbledon, with a game in hand. Win that and only goal difference places them in the bottom three with 11 games to play. Even in a conventional season it would seem a harsh judgment to presume relegation from there but now consider a report at the weekend that clubs in League Two are considering a merger with the National League and a regionalised fourth-fifth tier. 

Tranmere could suddenly end up in a competition with Fylde, Chorley or King’s Lynn Town, depending on promotion and relegation issues. So, too, would Bolton, who were playing Sporting Lisbon in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup as recently as 2008. 

Less cost, more derbies is the logic behind a lower tier mash-up — but was Chorley v Bolton at 3,700 capacity Victory Park, or King’s Lynn v Tranmere, an eight hour, 400-mile round trip for the visitors really what the protagonists had in mind? 

Bolton faced Sporting Lisbon in 2008 but may end up in a competition with Fylde or Chorley

The Conference leagues have a strange geographical make-up, too, with southern clubs significantly over-represented, which is how Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire came to be playing in the northern division in 2011-12, where their opponents included Workington, Blyth Spartans and Gainsborough Trinity. 

The fate of Bolton, Tranmere or even West Ham may seem inconsequential to those clubs aiming for greater glory or even to those who are safe, for now. Yet, aside from the exalted few, anyone can have a bad season, or even a rotten few months, and who knows where a club might be the next time Covid presses stop? Could be a few weeks, could be a few months, could be a year or so from now. And by then precedent might be established. 

Who among the Premier League’s current middle rump would have voted for an average points per game relegation after 29 matches before a ball was kicked? Southampton? Crystal Palace? Burnley? Who would be happy to take the fall that way next season, if a midwinter spike occurs — and stake their future on a real 1.6-pointe 


If you didn’t catch RB Leipzig versus Freiburg on Saturday, you missed a decent match. Not a classic, nothing special, just a proper football match. That was the charm. It had the energy of a good game, even without a crowd. The sport, minus the show, endured.  

Borussia Dortmund versus Schalke began ponderously, giving rise to fears a game without fans would become a glorified training session. Not to worry. This was a derby between a team chasing a title and their local rivals. In the same fixture in 2017, Dortmund led 4-0 at half-time and drew 4-4. So it was cagey, at first. And then Dortmund ran away with it, because they are much better than Schalke this season. 

Freiburg’s second goal against RB Leipzig was ruled out by VAR after a player strayed offside

Switching over to the Leipzig game after Dortmund’s third, the home side were chasing a 1-0 deficit to maintain their title ambitions and, pleasingly, it resembled any other Saturday. Leipzig had a go in search of an equaliser and, after they succeeded, gave it even more to find a winner. 

Then Freiburg scored a second only for a chap in a studio to rule it out because somebody’s shoulder had strayed into space. So, just like old times really. An enjoyable match, with a thrilling denouement, ruined by technology. As you were. It’s amazing this game got crowds in the first place, given what they’ve done to it. 


The importance of the Bundesliga’s return seemed to elude one person — the director of the Dortmund-Schalke broadcast. When the outstanding Erling Braut Haaland scored Dortmund’s opening goal, all eyes were on the celebration — at which point the director clearly forgot he was detailing a global news event and cut to the face of a sad Schalke defender. 

So we didn’t fully see if they went for a socially-distanced team dance, a self-conscious succession of elbow bumps, or an 11-man writhing human pyramid followed by a stern letter from Angela Merkel and 14 days’ quarantine. Hopefully, we’ll do better when it’s our turn, although we thought that about our Covid-19 response, too. 

The director of the Dortmund-Schalke broadcast cut away from Erling Haaland’s celebration


James Anderson was asked about the prospect of playing cricket behind closed doors. He said, rather obviously, that in front of a big crowd the intensity could drive a player to the top of his game but without an audience, a player had to self-motivate. He said most would know that feeling. ‘It’ll be just like county cricket,’ teased Anderson. 

It’s a fair point, though. There is an awful lot of sport, even elite sport, that takes place in front of relatives or two old boys asleep behind a Daily Telegraph. Hockey, much women’s football, the County Championship, Olympic disciplines, even Test cricket outside this country.

Empty grounds will be a talking point for some sports but may be business as usual for others

The day England rewrote the record books to reach 517 for one declared against Australia in Brisbane, huge swathes of the Gabba were empty. Even for an Ashes Test, Australia do not bother selling advance tickets for the final day. No need, very often, mind. 

So, while empty grounds may be a talking point in the Premier League and a breaking point for clubs in League One and Two, for many it will be business as usual. That’s why so much sport is in financial crisis. 


Earlier in the year it was reported that Ademola Lookman was considering changing allegiance from England to Nigeria. Tunde Adelakun, a technical assistant with the Nigerian team, said the player had completed the necessary paperwork to put in an application. Equally, there was speculation that this was a means of applying pressure on England manager Gareth Southgate and that Lookman was angling for elevation to the senior squad for friendlies in March.

Ademola Lookman is reportedly considering changing his allegiance to Nigeria from England

Those games never took place. And having seen Lookman in action for RB Leipzig at the weekend, when he posed a greater danger to camera operators than the goal, Southgate would do well to resist brinkmanship. Either a player wants to be English or not. Lookman has only played eight games for his club this season and is yet to score. Nothing about him suggests he is ready to be a senior international, with England or Nigeria. Not yet anyway. But if he wants to switch, that’s his call.


Joseph DaGrosa, the former owner of Bordeaux and once interested in buying Newcastle, remains on the lookout for a major Premier League club. He wants to build a portfolio akin to the City Football Group, starting with an anchor English interest. ‘Coronavirus will mean possibilities to acquire some really strong clubs that are financially distressed,’ said DaGrosa. ‘And to add some world-class players at a fraction of what they would otherwise cost.’ Smart. Bet no other really rich guy has thought of that.

Joseph DaGrosa, once interested in Newcastle, is still on the lookout for a Premier League club

As the year crawls on with more talk of global recession, a crisis in the airline industry and quarantines on all travellers bar key workers, could there be a more misconceived idea than the 2021 European Championship spread the width of the continent? Even if fans are allowed to move without being placed in isolation on arrival, the chances of the airline routes being available is greatly reduced. Travel costs will have soared, accommodation, too, as hotels scramble frantically to recoup earlier losses. This is not an idea whose time has come, but a flawed lunacy that should have been long laid to rest.

The idea that the 2021 European Championships will be spread across the continent is lunacy

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Why next season could be the strangest EVER with no fans or League Cup

A transfer window with a lot less cash and more swap deals, no League Cup and cardboard cutouts in the stands instead of real fans… why next season may be the strangest EVER as officials try to get football back up and running amid the coronavirus crisis

  • The 2020-21 season is shaping up to be unlike anything we have seen before
  • The Premier League could be made up of 23 teams if the season is cancelled
  • The League Cup could be scrapped in order to squeeze in more league games
  • Completing the Champions League and Europa League may cause problems
  • Clubs are likely to use swap and cash-plus-player deals in the transfer window
  • Cardboard fans and crowd noise could be used for behind closed doors games
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

As Premier League officials scramble to resume the season amid the coronavirus crisis, the fate of the 2020-21 campaign appears ever more uncertain.

Last month, all 20 top-flight clubs confirmed their intention to play the 92 games needed to decide the final table, with the title, European spots and relegation places all yet to be confirmed.

The current plan, dubbed ‘Project Restart’, would see matches played behind closed doors from June 8, with the season completed by the end of July.

The Premier League is gearing up to return to action behind closed doors from June 8

However, Sportsmail revealed on Thursday that there are growing fears that it will prove impossible to safely start playing matches again, given the logistical nightmare posed by the deadly pandemic.

A number of clubs believe that the most likely outcome will see no clubs relegated and two or three clubs promoted from the Championship, creating a bigger division next season.

That would have a knock-on effect in terms of scheduling, the number of games played by every team and, potentially, the fate of the League Cup.

The 2020-21 campaign is shaping up to be unlike anything we have seen before, with clubs’ finances hit hard by the coronavirus, TV broadcasters planning for a season without fans inside stadiums and teams playing away from their home grounds.

Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at what football could look like when next season eventually kicks off. 


Although top flight officials remain hopeful about restarting the season, it is believed that an alternative solution would be to cancel it and scrap relegation for a year.

Two or three Championship teams would then be promoted based on a merit-based scoring system, in all likelihood points per game, to create a division of 22 or 23 teams next season. 

The move would increase the number of Premier League fixtures from 38 to either 42 or 44, ensuring the packed calendar is stretched to breaking point. 

The 2020-21 season would then see either five or six teams relegated back down to the Championship, rather than the usual three.

Sportsmail understands that the Premier League see this option as a way of closing the door on any incredibly costly legal challenges from clubs unhappy about being denied promotion or resigned to relegation this term.

Championship leaders Leeds could be handed automatic promotion if the season is cancelled


A bigger top-flight may satisfy the majority of clubs currently in and around the bottom three, but it could have dire consequences for the League Cup.

On Thursday Sportsmail revealed that the competition, as well as the FA Cup, would come under intense pressure to go, either permanently or for one season. 

However, with scrapping the FA Cup not seen as a realistic option, getting rid of the League Cup for at least one season has been discussed by top-flight officials.

The increased number of Premier League games is viewed as an opportunity to get dispose of what, to many, is an unnecessary distraction. 

Whether the competition would return for the 2021-22 season is unknown. 

Raheem Sterling (left) and Kevin De Bruyne pose with the League Cup at Wembley on March 1


UEFA have given Europe’s top leagues the chance to complete their domestic seasons, with the Champions League and Europa League taking a backseat.

Although it is not yet known if the competitions will return in their normal format, it is believed UEFA want both completed by the end of August.

The English teams still in Europe – Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Wolves – would likely play all of their remaining knockout games after completing the current Premier League season at the end of July.

How playing a number of European games in August, the month the 2020-21 season is due to start in, affects those teams involved remains to be seen.

They could all find themselves back in European action just a couple weeks after the finals are held too, with opening group stage matches usually scheduled for mid-September.

Liverpool lifted the Champions League on June 1 last year but this year’s showpiece is delayed


Clubs at every level have taken a financial hit during the coronavirus, losing revenue in the form of gate receipts, merchandise sales and sponsorship.

That is likely to have a big effect on the summer transfer window, which appears certain to be pushed back given the current season will finish over two months later than planned, if it finishes at all.

Sportsmail understands clubs will be able to buy and sell again from mid-August, with the window running until October so that clubs who are struggling financially have plenty of time to cash-in on players. 

Straight swap deals between clubs will become more prevalent, while those with cash available to spend will also use unwanted players to help lower the amount of money they have to part with.

Barcelona, who have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus crisis and could be set to lose around £174million, are determined to trim their squad by offloading players as part of deals for Neymar and Lautaro Martinez.

Paul Pogba could leave Manchester United this summer if a suitable swap deal is offered up

Juventus are in a similar position with a big squad, a huge wage bill and Financial Fair Play regulations to abide by as they look to strengthen this summer.

Manchester United, however, do have money to spend and are ready to back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho are high on his list of targets.

Paul Pogba could finally be on his way out of Old Trafford to Juve or Real Madrid, providing they can offer at least one player Solskjaer wants as part of the deal. 

Manchester City will invest in new players after a disappointing season, but Arsenal and Tottenham cannot afford to spend big when the window reopens. 


The Premier League’s plan to resume this season involves games being played behind closed doors with no fans and potentially just 300 people – players, staff, medical personnel, media – in attendance.

A number of games on the continent, particularly in Italy and in the Champions League, were played without fans prior to football being shut down, but at the time it seemed as if it would be a temporary measure.

That is no longer the case, with the remainder of this season certain to take place in empty stadiums with no atmosphere.

And with no details from the government about when the lockdown will be eased and social distancing guidelines relaxed in the UK, at least some of next season appears certain to played out under the same strict rules.

On Thursday, The Times even claimed that the entirety of the 2020-21 Premier League season could go ahead without fans in attendance if the government’s policy on mass gatherings is dependent on the discovery of a coronavirus vaccine.

Neymar and PSG beat Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors in the Champions League 


One of the issues being discussed at Friday’s shareholders meeting is the use of ‘approved stadiums’, with all 20 top-flight grounds unlikely to be used to finish the the current season.

Clubs would prefer to host games in Premier League stadiums, but it is understood they could be convinced to play at club training grounds and neutral venues such as England’s base, St George’s Park.

The Premier League will choose grounds which conform to hygiene standards in a bid to create as sterile an environment as possible.

There will be guidelines on where players get changed pre and post-match, while the customary pre-match handshake will be dropped.

The same rules seem certain to be in place for at least part of next season, meaning clubs could go well over six months without playing at home.

England’s St George’s Park base could be used to host Premier League games from June 8


Sportsmail revealed last month that drive-in screenings of games, digital viewing parties and cardboard cutouts of supporters were among the ideas under consideration by Premier League clubs in order to ‘maintain fan loyalty’.  

Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach have filled their Borussia Park stadium with cutouts depicting the faces of supporters and Premier League clubs are considering a similar move. 

There has also been talk of Sky and BT using CGI crowds during their coverage of games in order to cover up the empty stands.

inews claim that the use of computer generated images of supporters is being seriously considered by TV companies as they look to improve the look and feel of behind closed doors games.

Sky Sports will also give viewers the chance to listen to crowd noise via the red button in a bid to create an artificially enhanced atmosphere.

Meanwhile, Premier League clubs are likely to keep using online ‘viewing parties’ when football restarts after having success with archive matches during lockdown.

Digital programmes, sent via email or downloadable through club websites, could also be made available for supporters in a bid to keep them engaged. 

Danish side FC Midtjylland have installed giant screens in their stadium’s car park for a mass broadcast of matches, although that may prove impossible in England if social distancing measure are still in place next season. 

Borussia Monchengladbach placed cardboard cutouts of fans in their stadium last month

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‘It’s the people’: Why Joe Burrow’s connection to Ohio means more than ever ahead of NFL Draft

Joe Burrow played at two powerhouse college football programs in Ohio State and LSU — winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship at the latter — and is projected to be selected No. 1 in the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday.

Despite all those accomplishments, it’s Burrow’s connection to southeast Ohio that continues to define the quarterback’s legacy. He showed that again this week by reaching out to Lowe’s employees in Athens, Ohio for a series of video chats. For Burrow, it’s the close-to-home-call that still means the most.

“It’s people like the people that I played against and played with in high school,” Burrow told Sporting News. “There is just a certain toughness about this area of the state and the country. It’s a unique area that not a lot of people get to experience. People always ask me, ‘What was it like growing up in Athens?’ I don’t know what to tell them.”

Burrow stops for a second, then finds his go-to answer.

“It’s the people,” he said. “They are so loyal and so willing to give. I just want to repay as many people as I can from this area who helped me get to this moment.”

As I look forward to getting a call I’ll never forget later this week, I wanted to call a few special people at @loweshomeimprovement in my hometown to thank them for everything they do for our community, staying strong in good times and bad. It’s hardworking folks like these who make me so proud to be from Athens, OH #HomeUnitesUs #LowesPartner

A post shared by Joe Burrow (@joe_burrow10) on

That’s not just a line; Burrow lives by the message. The spread of COVID-19 has led to a shelter-in-place order in Ohio. Burrow has stayed home in Athens for the past month to prepare for the NFL Draft, and he encouraged residents to stay home.

On Monday, he took time out again to speak with Lowe’s employees in the area. Burrow talked about one conversation in particular with Jason Lowery, a military veteran, single father and nearby Glouster native. For Burrow, however, Lowery is another member of that southeast Ohio family.

“He told me stories about when he watched me in high school with his sons,” Burrow said. “I think it brightened his day a little bit, and it definitely brightened mine.”

Burrow’s name pops up frequently in Ohio, given the possibility the Bengals might use their No. 1 pick to draft him. That’s the next stop in a journey that started at Athens High School, where he compiled a 37-4 record as a starter from 2012-14. He passed for 63 touchdowns and just two interceptions in 2014, leading the Bulldogs to the Division III state championship game.

Burrow won the Mr. Football Award — an award he unapologetically compares to the Heisman Trophy he won at LSU in 2019. He recalls the looks he saw at media day for the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 11 when he reflected on that high school career.

“Some of the people were probably like, ‘What is this guy talking about? Why is he talking about his high school team and a state championship?'” Burrow said. “But it did mean that much to me. It’s like that when you have really, really good teams — the ones that can win championships. It just feels different. It’s hard to explain, but it felt the exact same in a different place (at LSU). It all felt the same.”

Burrow transferred from Ohio State after the 2018 season and, after an up-and-down first season at LSU, took off to college football stardom with the help of passing game coordinator Joe Brady, hired by Orgeron from the Saints. Burrow led LSU to a 15-0 record with 5,671 passing yards and 60 passing touchdowns to six interceptions. He broke several FBS single-season records and had an unforgettable two-game run in the College Football Playoff where he accounted for 1,035 total yards of offense.

“That led Joe Burreaux” to becoming a celebrity in Baton Rouge, La. He credits the ability to make that transition away from home to his high school days in Athens. It wasn’t just about being a small-town quarterback.

“Our school was very diverse,” he said. “Not so much racially but socioeconomically. I got a lot of practice connecting to a lot of different people, and that helped me on my journey. As a quarterback, you have to be the leader. You have to be able to connect, and I got practice with that at a very young age.”

That socioeconomic conscience prompted Burrow to focus on southeast Ohio — and the need to help others — in his Heisman Trophy speech. More than $500,000 in donations poured into the Athens County Food Pantry afterward. For Burrow, that was validation in terms of knowing his fan base.

“I thought it showed exactly what I thought about this area and the area I was playing in,” Burrow said. “Most of the donations came from people from this area who were financially able or people from Louisiana. It kind of validated what I thought about both areas. I have so much love for people for both areas.”

That’s what makes Burrow one of the more interesting franchise quarterbacks in recent memory.

He is beloved by Ohio State fans despite never starting a game there. He’s a cult hero at LSU on the level of Billy Cannon. He’ll be a franchise quarterback at the next level, tasked with leading a team to the Super Bowl next.

Burrow will go to that next stop with the same approach that made him successful from the start.

“Wherever you go, people are going to respect people that are loyal and people that work really, really hard,” Burrow said. “Those are two things that I have always prided myself on. People gravitate toward that. I think that kind of connects all of us.

Burrow plans on keeping that connection in Athens, no matter where he lands in the NFL. That legacy figures to grow with each season, too.

“We have some things I’ve been thinking about to give back to people in the area,” Burrow said. “Obviously, there are donations that can be made, but things that are made impactful when I’m able to spend time with people in the area. The more I can do that, the more fulfilling this will be.”

Burrow partnered with Lowe’s, who is using the 2020 NFL Draft to launch a new campaign dedicated to the 300,000 associates that serve their communities. “I think it is great what they are doing,” Burrow said. “I hope everyone appreciates it as much as me and my family do. I just wanted to show them some gratitude.”

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The final straw: Why V’landys sided with NRL clubs over his own executive team

If, and it’s probably safer to say when, several members of the NRL executive team are marched out of League Central in coming weeks, it will be come to be seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

A line-in-the-sand moment that this column understands could even see Todd Greenberg's tenure brought to an end as early as this week, coinciding with the announcement of the 2020 season resumption.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg and ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys.Credit:AAP

V’landys was "apoplectic", as it was described to this column by a club official, when he found out that someone at head office went against his directions – and those of his board – last month to distribute funding to each of the clubs.

V'landys, who is a "man-of-my-word" type of guy, promised clubs a $1.21 million guarantee for the next three months to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic that forced the shutdown of the competition.

So you could imagine his anger when he was inundated with phone calls from club chief executives wondering why the game wasn’t delivering on his promise.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys is losing trust in the NRL executive team.Credit:Rhett Whyman

Club bosses raised another issue with the calculations coming out of NRL headquarters.

For the last two and a bit years, since the start of the new broadcast cycle in 2018, the clubs had been putting aside about $187,500 per year into the NRL operated distress club fund for a rainy day.

Now that it was flooding, the NRL had agreed to redistribute those funds. Although clubs were once again short-changed more than $30,000.

The NRL paid the clubs for the previous two years, as well as for November, December and January in the latest rugby league financial year. A total of $421,875.

It was less than clubs were anticipating. They were told that the fund had been exhausted, only problem was they had also paid for February and March and told V'landys they were entitled to $453,125.

A few angry phone calls later and the $31,250 the clubs were still owed was transferred into their coffers.

“The clubs have got enormous faith in Peter because when things like this are raised with him, he takes the issue into consideration and delivers a solution," one club boss told the Herald.

"That hasn’t always happened in the past."

When broken down, it doesn’t sound like much in the overall scheme of things. But both decreased transactions would have denied the clubs a combined $1.6 million had they not turned to V'landys.

For the game's leader, who he can trust is of far greater concern.

Early Frizell exit could be win-win

Tyson Frizell felt disrespected by the Dragons throughout contract negotiations and in turn signed with the Knights for 2021, but it's not beyond the realms of possibility he jumps ship beforehand.

Tyson Frizell’s immediate future may become the centre of great debate if the Dragons struggle at the resumption of the 2020 season.Credit:Getty

Frizell has given his commitment to the Dragons for the rest of the year, but if the Dragons continue to struggle it may make financial sense for the club to let him leave early and save about $300,000 in the salary cap if he was to leave before the June 30 deadline.

No formal discussions have been had yet but you can be assured it'll be a topic of great debate if the Dragons' winless start to the season continues in the opening rounds. The Knights still have a spot on their roster and a little bit room in the cap for this season.

Agents sweat on Sharks boss's report

Player managers will be a little concerned at the moment. The NRL has asked Cronulla Sharks chief executive Dino Mezzatesta to compile a report into the state of affairs around the agents, with discussions around decreasing their potential earnings.

Most NRL player agents earn six to seven per cent of their clients' contract. The NRL want to head towards the AFL model, which is closer to four per cent. There's also a push to stop player agents from representing coaches, as well as potential to cap the number of players per agency.

Sonny Bill Williams during his last stint in rugby league playing for New Zealand.Credit:Getty

Last month this column conducted a poll of club chairs and CEO's, with 25 per cent of respondents selecting “player agents” as the biggest issue facing the game.

November Tests on the cards

The International Rugby League board has voted to suspend the representative window, with NRL and Super League clubs under no obligation to release their players at the end of the year.

However high-level discussions are being held about using October and November as a period for international football.

One idea being tossed up is a three-game series between Tonga and New Zealand that would run parallel to a proposed State of Origin series after the NRL season. A potential Sonny Bill WilliamsJason Taumalolo showdown would generate enormous interest.

Coaches in the gun

A football cap committee has been formed to look at how much money clubs will be allowed to spend on its coaching staff next season. At the moment clubs are allowed to spend around $6m.

The early suggestion is that could drop about 20-30 per cent to around $4.5 m in 2021. The likes of Craig Bellamy (highest paid coach at $1.5m a year) could be forced into a substantial pay cut.

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Joao Felix reveals why he chose £113m Atletico Madrid move

‘I think it will give me the best conditions to progress in my career’: Joao Felix reveals why he chose £113m Atletico Madrid move as starlet reflects on tough start to life in LaLiga

  • Atletico Madrid starlet Joao Felix has revealed his reasons for joining the club 
  • The 20-year-old playmaker has endured a difficult start to his LaLiga career 
  • But Felix believes he chose the correct move despite a host of interested clubs 
  • And Felix hopes that playing for Atletico will help him progress to the next level 

Joao Felix believes that he was correct to join Atletico Madrid last summer in a £113million move, and is adamant that the LaLiga club will allow him to continue improving.

The 20-year-old playmaker has endured a difficult start to life in the Spanish top flight, having been recruited as the fourth-most expensive player in the world, but hopes that Atletico will help him progress his game to the next level.

Felix’s stellar form meant that Atletico were forced to fend off a host of other interested parties, reportedly including both halves of Manchester, to snap up the starlet.

Joao Felix believes he was correct to join Atletico Madrid last summer in a £113million move

Having netted 11 goals and created eight more in Benfica’s final 16 top-flight matches last term, Felix established himself as one of the sport’s most coveted young talents. 

And after the departure of Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona, Atletico were tempted into sealing an exorbitant swoop.

Despite his struggles, Felix had identified the club as his preferred ideal destination and has laid out his reasons.

He told Benfica TV: ‘It is a dream for any player to be able to play in one of the best teams in the world. Atlético is one of them.

‘I had several clubs chasing me but I ended up choosing Atletico because it was the one I liked the most and I think it will give me the best conditions to progress in my career. We work very well together and that is positive.’

Felix has endured a difficult start to life in LaLiga but believes the club will help him to improve

Felix netted six goals in 24 appearances under Diego Simeone this campaign, and his maiden season in Madrid has been further disrupted after a string of dogged muscle injuries.

But the youngster is keen to simply enjoy his time on the field, waving away speculation that one day he would be able to emulate fellow countryman Cristiano Ronaldo.

He added: ‘I just play to have fun. You don’t have to think you’re going to be the next Ronaldo or that you’re going to win this or that. 

‘You just have to have fun and enjoy the moment to the fullest.’  

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'Why are United putting up so much Pogba, he doesn't want to play'

‘Why are Manchester United putting up so much Pogba on Instagram, he doesn’t want to play for us’: Former England midfielder and Red Devils fan Lianne Sanderson hits out at social media promotion of wantaway star

  • The unsettled midfielder has been heavily linked with Juventus and Real Madrid
  • His agent has been less than complimentary about key figures at Old Trafford
  • But Pogba was heavily promoted by the club’s social media accounts this week
  • Outspoken former England forward and Reds fan Sanderson was not impressed

Former England forward and Manchester United fan Lianne Sanderson has hit out at the club’s social media promotion of wantaway star Paul Pogba.

The unsettled midfielder, 27, who has just over a year left on his contract, has been heavily linked with Juventus and Real Madrid despite missing much of the season through injury.

His agent Mino Raiola has stated recently that he wants to bring a ‘great footballer’ to Real this summer, while he has been less than complimentary about key figures at Old Trafford.

Paul Pogba was at the centre of Manchester United’s social media activity this week

Despite doubts about his future at United, Pogba was heavily promoted by the club’s  social media accounts following a podcast on the official website this week.

But the move did not go well with outspoken former England forward and Manchester United fan Sanderson.

She tweeted: ‘Why are Man United putting so much up about Pogba on insta.He doesn’t want to play for us, that’s pretty obvious. 

‘Just because he’s free styling doesn’t mean he wants to play for us

The Reds midfielder took part in a podcast on the club’s official website this week

Several extracts from the podcast were promoted on the club’s social media accounts

‘Please don’t @ me about chances he creates. Him and his agent have caused nothing but headache.’

In the podcast, Pogba says he is ‘more hungry’ to succeed after missing most of the season with injury.

The France international has not played since December 26, having suffered a further setback following an early-season foot problem.

Former England forward and Manchester United fan Lianne Sanderson was not impressed

Pogba told the United Podcast he has been ‘frustrated for a long time’ but will resume training when the club return after the coronavirus pandemic.

‘I’m almost there; I’m just thinking about training with the team,’ he said.

The World Cup winner had surgery in January and has been limited to eight appearances this season.



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Rio Ferdinand reveals why he rejected offer to join Lionel Messi at Barcelona

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand has admitted he ‘came close’ to joining Barcelona after holding talks with the La Liga giants over a move to the Camp Nou.

The England defender became the most expensive defender in the world when United paid Leeds United £29.1million for Ferdinand in 2002.

Ferdinand developed into the finest defender at Old Trafford and the former West Ham centre-back admitted this week that the finest moment of his career came when he captained United to Champions League glory in 2008 against Chelsea.

United had to beat Barcelona in the semi-finals to reach the final and a Paul Scholes goal in the second-leg put Sir Alex Ferguson’s side through to Moscow.

United didn’t concede a goal over 180 minutes against the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi, and United’s defensive performance at the Camp Nou is held-up by supporters as one of the finest of Ferguson’s era.

Ferdinand was colossal in Spain as United kept a clean sheet and he’s revealed that Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard approached him in the tunnel at full-time to make clear that he wanted to sign him.

Negotiations then progressed between Ferdinand’s agent and the La Liga club but the former United captain says he found everything he was looking for at Old Trafford.

‘It came close there were discussions with my agent,’ Ferdinand told BT Sport.

‘Barcelona had touched base. I’d spoken to Rijkaard not about going there but he kind of made his feelings known. It was after the game in Barcelona we drew 0-0 in the tunnel after the game when I spoke to Rijkaard.

‘I always said I wanted to play abroad but the only thing that would stop me was if I was winning and successful on home shores. I was lucky I found a great club at Manchester United it would’ve been almost impossible for me to leave.

Ferdinand would instead stay at Old Trafford for the majority of the rest of his career.

He faced Barcelona a further two times but lost on both occasions as Pep Guardiola masterminded comprehensive wins in 2009 & 2011 finals.

Barcelona morphed into the best side in the world with Guardiola producing arguably the finest club side of all-time.

But Ferdinand insists he does not regret his decision and says the ‘landscape’ was different in 2008.

‘There was calls for me to go to various clubs. When that was on the table those clubs were in transition and it didn’t make sense to go somewhere it might take two or three years to win things.

‘There is an etiquete but you get the gist of what someone is saying I think Frank was a very respectful gentleman. But at the end of the day you know where you’re at after a conversation and then your agent starts to confirm through other channels you understand were you are at at that point.

‘But we beat them and went on to become European Champions so why would I leave them to go to another team. At that point Xavi, Iniesta, Messi was just 20 they were just starting to come through. They weren’t the players they were three or four years later. It was a very different landscape at that time but what a club.’

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