Five moves each AFC East team should make

Mario Williams, Chris Ivory

The NFL season ended less than two weeks ago, but teams are already making moves in advance of the new league year. And with the NFL combine sprouting up in Indianapolis next week, vacations are already over for many. In addition to the scouting bonanza to come, front offices are figuring out their free-agent plans and identifying which players they’ll want to retain from their own rosters heading into the new league year on March 9.

A good offseason, naturally, starts with a good beginning. That’s where we come in. Teams like the  Broncos and Panthers probably don’t need our help, but that’s never stopped us before in this space. Over the next few days, we’ll run division by division and detail the five moves each NFL franchise should make to kick off the offseason in a positive fashion. That can include anything from cutting a longtime contributor to making a splash in free agency — or, in some cases, staying out of the pool altogether.

Some teams should be more active than others, so there are a few teams whose five moves extend all the

Tobias Harris is worth Detroit’s time

Tobias Harris on a rookie contract was a curiosity — a super-young, position-less pile of skills. Skeptics saw a tweener jack-of-all-trades who wasn’t actually good at any of them, and hogged the ball on offense. The intrigued saw a shape-shifting puzzle piece who could evolve into a perfect modern NBA forward, provided he could learn at least a few of those trades at a B-plus level.


Either way, at that price, he was worth betting on.

Tobias Harris earning $64 million over four years is a wager placed, and on Tuesday, the Magic decided they had made a bad bet in dealing Harris for two veterans who might be gone from Orlando in five months. The reeling Magic needed a change, and as I wrote in July, there had been rumblings that Harris’ shot selection annoyed his teammates. Heck, Harris knows what he needs to work on. “It’s always, ‘Oh, why doesn’t he pass more?'” he told me over the summer. “And I’m not the best defensive player. I’m not gonna tell it to you like that.”

Dealing Harris clears the power forward slot for Aaron

World Cup’s road to Brazil remains bumpy

  • Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, which was visited by FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke on Tuesday, is one of 12 stadiums that are scheduled to host World Cup games starting in June.
Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, which was visited by FIFA secretary general… (Hedeson Alves / EPA )

RIO DE JANEIRO — In 50 days the best athletes in the world’s most popular sport will convene in Brazil, one of soccer’s sacred spiritual homes, for the game’s most important tournament.

It will be a powerful, uplifting tribute to the “beautiful game” that Brazilians have shaped for decades and the new status of a confident, rising global power in Latin America. Locals and foreigners will marvel at shiny new stadiums and glide across the continent-sized country on upgraded infrastructure.

That, at least, is what the government and organizers are hoping will happen given that the price tag for

Pablo Sandoval says he never weighed himself during offseason

In a bizarre interview Sunday morning upon arriving at the Fenway South complex, Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval said no one from the team ever asked him to lose weight in the offseason, that he hasn’t weighed himself since October, and that he has something to prove but isn’t affected by his disastrous 2015 season.

Other than that, it was a quiet morning in the clubhouse.

Although manager John Farrell said in January that Sandoval was “roughly 20 pounds lighter than the last game he played for us in 2015,” Sandoval didn’t appear that much lighter Sunday.

“I don’t weigh. I don’t weigh in at all,” Sandoval said after being asked how much weight he had lost. “I just do my work, try to do everything I can out there. I don’t weigh at all in the whole offseason. I just try to get better, be in a better position and, like I say, be an athlete.”

His contention that no one from the team asked him to lose weight was curious, given that Farrell, coach Torey Lovullo and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski all have said that the team

For Dodgers fans, just call this new channel Sports ‘Nyet’ L.A.

If you’re a Dodgers fan, you know somebody like Brian Gadinsky. Chances are, you may even be like Brian Gadinsky.

The TV producer moved to Los Angeles on an October day in 1988. The next night, Kirk Gibson hit the home run, and Gadinsky has been hooked ever since.

He has season tickets on the reserved level. He is neither famous nor entitled, he is just an average guy with a powerful passion about a team that has come to represent his love for his city.

When Frank McCourt’s regime began to slowly burn, Gadinsky angrily canceled his tickets. When the former owner invited Gadinsky to lunch in hopes of regaining his support, Gadinsky refused. When that story was told in this column, it marked the beginning of the Dodgers’ fan revolution.

When Stan Kasten arrived with the new ownership group, he invited Gadinsky and other grass-roots fans back to the stadium. Gadinsky showed up, listened to a presentation, and decided to give the Dodgers another chance.

“The Dodgers are a religion,” he said Tuesday.

But he said it with a sigh, because less than a month from

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi wins Ballon d’Or award for world’s best player for fifth time

The Barcelona and Argentina forward finished ahead of Ronaldo and Brazil forward Neymar as he scooped the award for the fifth time overall, having previously won it four years in a row from 2009 to 2012.

Messi helped Barcelona to a Spanish league, domestic cup and Champions League treble plus the Club World Cup and also led Argentina to the Copa America final, where they lost to Germany.

“It’s incredible, much more than anything I dreamed of as a kid,” said Messi as he received the award.

“I want to thank my team-mates, without them none of this would have been possible.”

Barcelona’s Luis Enrique was voted coach of the year.

United States World Cup winner Carli Lloyd, who scored a hat-trick in the final against Japan, was named women’s player of the year.

Ronaldo ended last season trophyless with Real Madrid, although he helped Portugal qualify for Euro 2016.

Neymar won a treble alongside Messi at Barcelona but had a less happy time with Brazil, receiving a four-match international ban after he was sent off during the Copa America.

Brazilian footballer Wendell Lira received the Puskas Award for best

Sports Using Olympic Profits to Fund Programs

Actor Hunt Block is to be commended for his efforts to “Save School Sports” (“A Plea to Give Schools a Sporting Chance,” Feb. 12). A substantial increase in funding is sorely needed all over Southern California and little appreciation is given to the fact that sports provide the incentives for our most marginal and disadvantaged children to stay in school.

But when Block speaks to turning to Nike and Mayor (Richard) Riordan for help, he overlooks one of those hidden treasures that some politically focused readers may recall that candidate Ross Perot was always discussing. Perot often pointed out that funds were readily available for lots of projects but were not used because their current use was to embellish someone else’s nest.

The case of Southern California sports is a classic example. The 1984 Olympics produced a sizable profit. According to the 1984 L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee, the excess funds were to be used to promote youth sports programs throughout Southern California and were to be fully expended for those purposes by the year 2000. That is, both the $90 million placed in the fund (yes, folks, that’s right–$90 million, and

Potential Landing Spots For Mark Richt

For 15 years, Mark Richt coached the Georgia Bulldogs football team. He had plenty of success over that span, including two SEC Championships. Richt has managed 10 or more wins in nine seasons. With a win in a bowl game this year, Richt can make that an even 10 seasons with double-digit wins. But no matter what happens in the Bulldogs’ bowl game this year, Richt will be leaving town afterwards.

Georgia’s athletic director, Greg McGarity, has informed Richt that his time as Georgia’s head football coach is up after this year’s bowl game. The catalyst was this disappointing 9-3 season, which saw the Bulldogs fall from preseason favorites to regular-season also-rans in the SEC East. Ending the season with four straight wins wasn’t enough to make up for a disappointing 5-3 start that included losses to SEC rivals like Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee.

Richt may be done in Georgia, but he’s already on the record saying that he’s not through with coaching. Plenty of big-name programs are sure to get on the phone with him. So where will Richt end up? Here are our top picks.

Florida State

Most of Richt’s likely

Sports Executive Rays Should Give Away Entire Season of Tickets

When the Tampa Bay Rays gave away 20,000 free ticketsto their regular season home finale, many in the sports world were confused. No matter what your attendance is, how could you ever give away your product?

Al Messerschmidt | Getty Images

Well, one sports executive, whose organization actually gives away all its tickets, thinks that the Rays should give away tickets to every game next year if it wants to increase revenues.

“The Rays averaged 23,000 fans per game this year,” said Kenny Nowling, president and CEO of the American Drag Racing League, which averaged 68,000 fans to each of its first 10 races this year by giving away its tickets away for free. “If I took over the ticketing department and we gave away all the tickets, I’d easily have standing room for at least 50 percent of the games and no game would draw less than 35,000.”

After multiplying the revenue from parking, concessions and souvenirs, Nowling said the Rays revenue will soar.

“The business is about the bottom line,” Nowling said. “I have a great deal of confidence that their bottom

Time to celebrate the star of sports at the All-Star break — baseball

We’re circling the sidewalks around Chicago’s Wrigley Field on a recent summer night, the Cubs out of town (perhaps banished, perhaps disowned), and I’m explaining to my 9-year-old how the very best ballparks have their own recognizable sets of acoustics.

The murmur of Wrigley is different from the strumming of Fenway, I tell him, which are both different from baseball’s other vintage opera house, Dodger Stadium.

“They are as different,” I tell him, “as root beer and wine.”

When all of a sudden the little guy and I come across groundskeepers replacing the Wrigley Field grass. Great gobs of discarded sod rest in dumpsters outside the heavy Sheffield Avenue gates.

“Nothing is as obnoxious as other people’s luck,” F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, as if summarizing the zeitgeist of a baseball fan.

Now finally, we have a little good fortune of our own.

So we smuggle away a small rug of the sod and plant it in my sister’s suburban Chicago yard, kick it, water it, spritz it with holy water Old Style beer.

For ever after, this will be her Zen garden, a symbol of

Masters is so much more than golf, and that’s the way it should be

It was a quiet, nondescript moment deep in the pine trees at the end of a sunny practice round. It was a moment unspoiled by smartphones or smart alecks. It was the perfect Masters moment.

At a spot where fans could cross the 18th fairway Wednesday afternoon, the marshals did not spot any oncoming golfers and dropped the ropes. But the fans didn’t move. In the distance, they could hear a shuffling and a whistling, and so they waited. And waited.

Finally, coming down the hill, with no caddie or entourage, accompanied only by his twirling golf club, was smiling former Masters champion Angel Cabrera.

He was close enough for fans to touch him, but nobody did. He could have easily heard any sort of heck or cheer, but nobody said a word. The fans politely watched him pass, and then carefully crossed the fairway behind him.

It’s like that here. It’s forever 1950. It’s the last major American sporting event dominated not by bluster, but respect.

This week’s 78th Masters at Augusta National is not about the players, as it will continue in earnest with

With ‘The Simpsons,’ it helps to be a good sport

For a town without a major league sports franchise, the fictional home of “The Simpsons” sure does attract a lot of big-name athletes.

From former Lakers star Magic Johnson to Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady, more than three dozen sports figures have turned up over the last two decades in Springfield, the setting for the longest-running comedy in television history and now a blockbuster motion picture too.

In animated form, of course, a who’s who of athletic giants has rubbed elbows with Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie — from former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier and action-sports icon Tony Hawk to world champion figure skater Michelle Kwan and future baseball Hall of Fame member Roger Clemens.

“Generally, we say, ‘Who would we like to meet?’ ” says Al Jean, a sports fan and key creator on the show, “and then we write them into the script.”

Some decline the invitation — Joe Montana, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali come to mind, Jean says — and others are barely worth the trouble. “Rhymes with Manseco,” Jean has said of one particularly troublesome guest.

But many have

Sports scheduling requires all the right moves

The ball teetered on the lip of the 16th hole at Augusta National Golf Club.

It was 2005, and after Tiger Woods’ now-famous chip shot fell in for a birdie and Woods went on to win the Masters for the fourth time, Jim Michaelian made a decision.

With Woods’ popularity and Tiger-driven television ratings soaring, Michaelian was convinced that the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach should not be run on the same day that the winner of a golf major was being fitted for a green jacket.

“That was sort of the capper,” said Michaelian, president and chief executive of the Grand Prix Assn. of Long Beach. “We said, ‘We’ve got to make sure we run on the third weekend of April and avoid it.'”

It was a good plan, but it wasn’t foolproof because of another scheduling maxim observed by auto racing promoters: Never run on Easter.

So after seven consecutive years of avoiding it, Sunday’s 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be run on the final day of the Masters.

Woods is sidelined, recovering from back surgery, but the situation highlights

When athletes get tripped up by Mom and Dad

Somewhere, lost in the sleaze that all so often defines what college basketball has become, are the overlooked culprits. Mom and Dad.

We in the media rant on and on about AAU coaches and summer leagues and slimeball agents (is that redundant?). We harp on coaches who cheat to get the blue-chip player and college administrators who look the other way.

We make fun of the NCAA because it is so big and pompous and obtuse and full of itself and makes so much money off the pimpled backs of teenagers. Plus, it is an easy target, kind of like coming out against cancer. We know the NCAA is a bureaucratic stink bomb. We just can’t get close enough to be sure exactly where the stench is coming from.

We even focus on the kids, the players themselves, although we tread more carefully there. We characterize them as pawns for the evil-intentioned, win-at-all-costs adults. But in so doing, we leave reputational scars that never go away.

Some of that is deserved. Ignoring it would be a bigger sin. Did O.J. Mayo come to USC to

Menifee Heritage hurdler Torrey Atkins is set to fly without fear in Arcadia

The Arcadia Invitational will be filled with terrific athletes. It has become one of the best high school sporting events in Southern California.

Hurdlers must have a fearless gene in their body, and junior Torrey Atkins of Menifee Heritage High shows every indication he has one.

He attacks each hurdle with a focus and determination that allow him to fly over obstacles as if they weren’t in his way.

“I feel I’m shooting out like a rocket,” he said.

Two weeks ago, he ran a personal-best time of 14.17 seconds in the 110 high hurdles at the Mt. Carmel Invitational. He’ll be one of the athletes to watch at the Arcadia Invitational on Saturday at Arcadia High.

He started his career as a freshman at Long Beach Poly. Friends were trying the hurdles, and he joined them.

He moved to Hemet as a sophomore to live with his father and started training on his own, studying video and working out as much as he could. He ran in all-comers meets and tried to learn the fundamental techniques required to excel.

“I was dropping crazy times that

Teenage prodigies aren’t limited to glamour sports

They exist among us, teenage sports prodigies, and they don’t play football, basketball or baseball.

They are the reason to celebrate what makes living in Southern California so wondrous. Whether on the golf course, in the pool or at the beach, they’re preparing to become college standouts, Olympians or even professional athletes.

Orange County was the home of Tiger Woods, and it’s the place where Patrick Cantlay of Anaheim Servite is proving to be one of the best 18-year-old golfers in America. He’s ranked No. 2 in the nation by Golfweek magazine.

He has become the standard for excellence in Southern California golf. If you want to win a high school tournament, you have to beat Cantlay, who shot a 68 last week to win the Southern Section individual title by four strokes. Last season, he went 22 under par for the last four CIF tournaments.

His parents are big USC fans, but he signed with UCLA, which made Bruins golf Coach Derek Freeman ecstatic.

“He’s a very accomplished golfer and keeps getting better and better every event,” Freeman said. “He just doesn’t make

Sports news seems as if it’s on steroids

Our sports news cycles have become spurts of normality, squeezed between stories about athletes and drugs.

Sometimes, we can go for a couple of months. But then — wham, bang — there is Floyd Landis, telling all. Or Brian Cushing, saying he didn’t think what he was taking was wrong. Or Floyd Mayweather Jr., pointing his finger at Manny Pacquiao.

They used to be called sports pages. Now it’s the pharmaceutical section. Rite Aid is missing some great advertising opportunities.

Don’t misunderstand. This is not a rant against the media. Media serve as the messenger of stories that need to be told so that people buying the tickets and the goods hawked on TV during sports broadcasts can have at least some idea of what their entertainment dollar is purchasing. Do you write that $4,000 check for season tickets when Manny Ramirez is going to sit out 50 Dodgers games for enhancing his performance with stuff that isn’t Advil?

There is so much of it now. Mea culpas from Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire. Shane Mosley, back in the ring with questions about the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative scandal

In some Olympic sports, the U.S. just doesn’t make the grade

He was the face of the Los Angeles Police Department, and forever frozen in a where-were-you moment, grimly stepping up in front of a media throng on that June afternoon in 1994.

That’s when LAPD Cmdr. David Gascon braced himself and announced that O.J. Simpson was a fugitive and that the department was “very unhappy” with the activities surrounding Simpson’s failure to surrender.

He pledged that the LAPD would find Simpson, and by nightfall, Simpson was taken into custody, which, of course, is the shorthand version of one of the wilder days in Los Angeles.

And so, who better than a career veteran of the LAPD to try to bring order and stability to a long-struggling sports governing body … in this particular case, USA Team Handball?

First, a question with a question.

“What in the world is the former second-in-command of the LAPD doing running a national governing body?” said Gascon, who is doing it on an unpaid, interim basis. “It’s because of the sport and because of all the issues around team handball and failings of team handball. We’re all of the mind-set that

Chris Christie upset with decision on sports betting in New Jersey

If you want to bet on the Super Bowl or the World Series or the Indianapolis 500, don’t go to New Jersey.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp upheld a law prohibiting sports betting in all but four states, dealing a setback to New Jersey’s attempts to revive its struggling casino industry by allowing gambling on sports. The ruling drew an unhappy reaction from Gov. Chris Christie.

“We believe firmly in the principles of our position on sports betting and that the federal ban is inequitable, violates New Jersey’s rights as a state and is unconstitutional,” Christie said in a statement. “Even the trial judge has noted that he was not likely the final arbiter in the matter. We are confident that the federal court of appeals will conclude that New Jersey should be treated equally with other states.”

State Sen. Ray Lesniak, the prime sponsor of the sports-betting bill, said New Jersey would appeal.

“This is a huge disappointment for all of us who continue to believe that New Jersey should have the right to allow sports betting,” Lesniak said. “Along with online gaming, sports betting would

Charles Barkley and friends range beyond sports

You may think there are too many television talk shows. It’s not even fun to mock ABC’s “The View” anymore. ESPN’s “Around the Horn” might as well be over the moon.

It just feels over.

But wait. There’s more.

On Sunday night at 7 p.m., the HLN network (which until recently was CNN Headline News) will premiere a one-hour show called “With All Due Respect.” The panel? Charles Barkley, Dennis Eckersley and Kyle Petty with host Robin Meade. Basketball star, baseball star, auto racing star. Talking stuff. Sports, entertainment, world news.

It’s kind of an audition. The show might become more regular.

“Hope so,” Barkley said.

And what luck. Still hot in the news is golfer Tiger Woods — the scandal, the aftermath.

What do you think? That Barkley might have an opinion on Tiger?

“Clearly Tiger was wrong in this situation,” Barkley said in a Thursday telephone interview. “But there is something very sinister about women keeping text messages for two or three years waiting on something bad to happen.

Eckersley said that if the panel had been paid

Mission Viejo’s Max Redfield is a sports multitasker

Three-sport high school standouts exist mostly in the history books. They’ve vanished along with rotary telephones and transistor radios.

That makes senior Max Redfield of Mission Viejo old-school. Football is his primary sport, but with encouragement from Coach Bob Johnson, he’s also a major contributor for the basketball and track teams.

“I love that he plays three sports,” Johnson said. “I’ve been a proponent of that forever. I like the attitude of going from one to another.”

So does Redfield, who played four sports as a freshman; he was on a club soccer team while playing football, basketball and track for the school.

His 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame, combined with speed, strength and power, makes him one of the best athletes in Orange County. And there are few better at free safety.

Redfield’s instincts, ability to close on a ballcarrier, leaping ability and toughness are just a few of the qualities Johnson and others admire. Redfield had two interceptions as a junior and caught 32 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns playing receiver.

“It’s kind of a feeling where you think the ball