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Billy Joe Saunders wants ‘big names’ after outclassing Martin Murray to retain title

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Billy Joe Saunders wants 'big names' after outclassing Martin Murray to retain title

Billy Joe Saunders will target the big names in the super middleweight division in 2021 after retaining his WBO title against Martin Murray.

The all-British showdown went the distance at an empty Wembley Arena (and live on DAZN), Saunders recording a landslide points triumph as he extended his unbeaten record to 30-0. 

MORE: Jake Paul calls out Conor McGregor for next fight

Murray was game throughout but was unable to pin down the elusive champion, who was denied what appeared to be a knockdown in the fourth round when the referee ruled a push.

Saunders’ only problem was a warning in the eighth for a low blow, producing the classier work throughout to get a unanimous decision – two judges scored it 120-109 in his favor, with the other card reading 118-110.

Still, the winner was not too impressed with his own performance even after a prolonged absence from the ring, in part due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve been out over the year now, and this was like boxing in a cemetery,” he told Sky Sports. “I like to perform for the crowd, get up for it.

“I tried to set a rhythm, but he’s a cunning old fox. He just knew how to tie you up well. I guess I’m still getting luckier, every fight I get. 

“Let’s see if I can make a big fight, get up for it and put a shift in.”

Saunders was close to signing for a fight with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez earlier this year — promoter Eddie Hearn revealed the COVID-19 situation scuppered the deal at the last minute — but the Mexican remains a target for 2021, provided he gets past Callum Smith on Dec. 19.

“Everyone wants Canelo — I hope Smith beats him, I hope as a fellow Brit he does it. But, if not, that’s a fight I want in the new year,” the 31-year-old said.

“Let’s get the big names out there — obviously Canelo and Smith are fighting, and there’s [Demetrius] Andrade. I need a big fight to get up for it.”

Murray, meanwhile, admitted retirement was likely at 38 after a fifth failed attempt at winning a world title, albeit he did add: “Never say never.”

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Tennessee’s 9 best coaching candidates to replace fired Jeremy Pruitt

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Tennessee's 9 best coaching candidates to replace fired Jeremy Pruitt

Tennessee is reportedly parting ways with Jeremy Pruitt after a three-year stint was doomed from the start.  

Pruitt was a hired after a disastrous coaching search in 2018. He finished with a 16-18 record the last three seasons. The football program is currently under investigation for alleged recruiting violations during Pruitt’s tenure. Athletic director Phil Fulmer also retired as part of the overhaul.

Kevin Steele reportedly will serve as interim coach. If Steele isn’t the answer, then who is? 

Tennessee will need a more-focused coaching search this time to find out. Here is a closer look at the possible candidates:  

MORE: Every college football coaching change in 2020-21

(Getty Images)

Top Tennessee coach candidates 

Gus Malzahn  

Malzahn would be the ultimate safe pick. Auburn parted ways with Malzahn after eight seasons, a run that included a SEC championship in 2013 and SEC championship appearance in 2017. Malzahn won the Iron Bowl three times. Tennessee has not beat Alabama since 2006. Steele joined Tennessee’s staff last week, too. Is this the not-so-awkward transition that keeps Malzahn in the SEC?  

Hugh Freeze  

Freeze might be the more-popular choice in Knoxville. Freeze is a bright offensive mind that led Liberty to a 10-1 record last season. He had success on the field at Ole Miss, a run that included a Sugar Bowl run in 2015. The Rebels, however, were hit with NCAA sanctions that resulted in Freeze’s dismissal. Can Tennessee really hire Freeze while the program is under investigation?  

Joe Brady  

Why not? Brady revamped LSU’s offense in one year, and it led to one of the best seasons of all time. Brady spent last season with the Carolina Panthers, and he’s a sought-after coach at both levels. Brady, 31, has never been a huge coach. It’s a risk, but it would be one worth taking.  

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Group of 5 candidates  

Billy Napier  

Would Tennessee take another chance on a former Saban assistant? Napier is 28-11 the last three seasons at Louisiana, and it’s a matter of time before he takes on a Power 5 job. Napier was rumored to be a candidate for the Auburn job, but he turned that down. Is Tennessee a better fit?  

Bill Clark  

Clark is the other coach from a Group of 5 school that could turn up. He revived UAB into a Conference-USA championship program, and he’s done that with a player-friendly culture that earned him SN Coach of the Year honors in 2018. Clark also was a candidate for the Auburn job. Would be more interested in Tennessee?  

Jamey Chadwell  

Chadwell is going to draw some interest knowing he led the Chanticleers to an 11-1 record this season, which earned him SN Coach of the Year honors. Coastal Carolina played an exciting blend of football on both sides, and Chadwell is moving up the coaching ranks. Is he that different than Napier or Clark?  

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Wild cards  

Lane Kiffin  

Kiffin already laughed at the idea.  

Kiffin had a one-year stint with Tennessee in 2009 before bolting for USC, and the idea of a second chance is laughable, right? Kiffin finished 5-5 in his first season with Ole Miss, where he renovated the offense and won a bowl game against Indiana. Kiffin would be a bold move, but there is no doubt the track record of success.  

Tom Herman  

Herman likely wouldn’t excite the fanbase given the end of his tenure at Texas. Herman compiled a 32-18 record with the Longhorns, and he upgraded the recruiting with the program. Herman, however, lost too many close games, and the pressure in Knoxville isn’t that much different than Austin when it comes to through-the-roof-expectations. Herman would feel more like a consolation prize compared to the other names on this list. 

Scott Satterfield  

Satterfield would have been a good hire the last time. He’s 12-12 the last two seasons at Louisville, but the track record at Appalachian State before that suggests there will be more success on the way. Given the mess he inherited at Louisville, Satterfield set the bar too high early. He would be a good fit at Tennessee.  

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Deshaun Watson trade rumor tracker: Timeline of dysfunction details Texans’ rift with franchise QB

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Deshaun Watson trade rumor tracker: Timeline of dysfunction details Texans' rift with franchise QB

Not so elementary, my dear Watson.

The yearslong odyssey for the Texans to find a true franchise passer culminated in Houston selecting the Deshaun Watson out of Clemson in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but it looks like the pairing will soon come to an end, with tumult surrounding the quarterback and the franchise leading to lots of smoke and trade rumors.

With organizational chaos dooming the Texans in the last two seasons, ownership reportedly over-relying on the voice and opinions of Jack Easterby and reportedly completely ignoring the voice of Watson, it’s hard to fault Watson for wanting out. He’s a top-five quarterback coming off his best season, still young and with a contract that will prove to be a bargain in a few years.

Total organizational instability — from the top down — has led Watson to, reportedly, being incredibly pissed off and ready to move on from the team that drafted him in 2017. Here’s a timeline of reports and other rumors that detail the interworkings of the Texans organization and Watson’s displeasure with the situation.

MORE: Here are Deshaun Watson’s best trade fits, from Jets to Dolphins

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Deshaun Watson trade rumors

Jan. 18: ‘Great lather’ to get Watson out, but leverage in his favor

Source: Josina Anderson, ESPN

Anderson reminds everyone a key point: Watson has a no-trade clause, and it’s not entirely in the Texans’ best interest to trade away a superstar of Watson’s caliber. In any case, it’s a weak argument, especially if the team is going to continue to do poorly by its star player.

Jan. 18: Watson has yet to ask for a trade

Source: Ian Rapoport, NFL Network

Despite all the smoke surrounding Watson and the Texans at the moment, the superstar QB has yet to ask for a trade, per Rapoport. That hasn’t stopped teams from calling to check on Watson’s availability, though, 

Jan. 17: Watson has ‘played his last snap for Houston’

Source: Adam Schefter/Chris Mortensen, ESPN

If the weeks of turmoil and confusion have left any doubt about Watson’s future in Houston, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that some people surrounding the Texans organization feel Watson won’t play another down for the team. A source close to Chris Mortensen added that the only remedy for the situation between Watson and the Texans would be for owner Cal McNair to fire … Cal McNair.

Schefter also added that “Watson’s feelings cannot and should not be underestimated.” Whatever that means.

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Jan. 16: Watson ‘just wants out’ of Houston

Source: Greg Bishop, Jenny Vrentas, Sports Illustrated

Despite the Texans making moves to try and appease their disgruntled quarterback, Watson just wants out of H-Town, per SI. A culmination of the coaching and GM search and general organizational dysfunction has led to Watson taking a hard stance on his status with the team: Just get me out of here.

Jan. 15: A single tweet sets NFL world on fire

Source: Deshaun Watson’s Twitter

Coming from a Schefter report that Watson’s anger was “at a 2, but now a 10,” the Texans QB sends out a single tweet that seems to confirm this. A later tweet would actually indicate that these were actually song lyrics. (Sure, Deshaun.)

MORE: Deshaun Watson’s latest tweet sends Twitter back into trade frenzy

Jan. 15: Watson photographed in Falcons gear

Source: Instagram

A curious wardrobe decision by Watson, with a photo on an Instagram story showing Watson in a Falcons jacket, coincidentally, outside of a building in New York City. Watson is a Georgia native and likely grew up a Falcons fan.

It’s just a jacket, but let your imagination run wild.

Jan. 12: Texans request interview for Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy

Source: Ian Rapoport, NFL Network

The Chiefs OC is a hot commodity on the coaching scene, and was even recommended to Watson by some guy named Patrick Mahomes. While the Chiefs hadn’t initially put in an interview with Bieniemy — missing the window in which coordinators can interview during the playoffs — new GM Nick Caserio is interested in speaking with him. Because of tampering policies, the Texans won’t be allowed to speak with Bieniemy until after the Chiefs are eliminated.

Jan. 12: Andre Johnson speaks, offers Watson advice

Source: Andre Johnson via Twitter

In the words of Deandre Hopkins, when ‘Dre speaks, we listen. The former Texans wide receiver took to Twitter to offer Watson some sage advice: Stand your ground. He also roasted the Texans and their devotion to Jack Easterby, who many question 

MORE: Andre Johnson thinks Deshaun Watson is right to turn on ‘pathetic’ Texans

Jan. 10: Watson’s anger reaching boiling point

Source: Adam Schefter, ESPN

Heads exploded when then head coach/GM Bill O’Brien opted to trade star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals, with Watson himself taking the trade in stride. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Watson’s anger vaulted from a “2 to a 10” with the organization opting not to hire ESPN analyst and former front-office exec Louis Riddick to its GM role.

Jan. 10: More details emerge about rift; Dolphins could be a trade destination

Source: Chris Mortensen, ESPN

If Watson were to be moved, then the Dolphins could be a viable destination for a trade, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Miami, who holds Houston’s first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, would reportedly be open to trading quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and trade assets in exchange for Watson, per Mortensen.

(Getty Images)

Jan. 7: The Texans name Nick Caserio new GM

Source: “Literally us, the  Houston Texans.”

A major part of the reported rift between Watson and the Texans surrounded Houston naming a general manager without Watson’s input, a promise that had been supposedly made to Watson during the season. Instead, owner Cal McNair Jr. and Jack Easterby.

MORE: Ranking the NFL’s head-coaching vacancies

Jan. 5: J.J. Watt offers an ominous apology 

Source: JJ Watt’s mouth

After the Texans fell in Week 17 to the Titans in Week 17, NFL cams caught JJ Watt and Deshaun Watson in a candid moment as the two were walking off the field. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Watt said. “We wasted one of your years.” The Texans would finish 4-12.

Oct. 5: Texans fire Bill O’Brien

Source: “Literally us, the  Houston Texans.”

Well, about a year, many losses and one too many trades too late, the Texans decided to fire head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien after a sluggish start to their 2020 season. The team would name Romeo Crennel the interim head coach.

O’Brien’s tenure as HC would be mired in personnel controversies and several lopsided trades that leave the Texans without a first-round pick in 2021. 

April 2019: Jack Easterby hired by Houston

Source: The Texans

“I think the best way to tell the story is by starting at the end, briefly, then going back to the beginning, and then periodically returning to the end, maybe giving different characters’ perspectives throughout.” — “The Other Guys,” 2010

Arguably the genesis of the chaos in Houston was the hiring of Patriots team chaplain — later “character coach,” whatever that is — as its executive vice president of football operations.

Easterby’s meteoric rise to a such a high office in an NFL franchise is met with skepticism from all avenues, and would come back to haunt the team later.

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How long is Patrick Mahomes out? Explaining the NFL’s concussion protocol, Chiefs QB’s status vs. Bills

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How long is Patrick Mahomes out? Explaining the NFL's concussion protocol, Chiefs QB's status vs. Bills

The NFL’s concussion protocol and its very specific timeline and guidelines could determine the fate of the Kansas City Chiefs’ season. Patrick Mahomes is concussed, and his status for the AFC Championship Game is in doubt.

The Chiefs’ superstar quarterback was concussed during the third quarter of Kansas City’s divisional round win over the Cleveland Browns. While scrambling, he was brought to the ground with the tackler wrapped around his neck. Mahomes’ head collided with the ground while his neck appeared to be twisted. Mahomes tried to get up and initially struggled before falling back to the ground. He eventually ran off to the locker room before being ruled out for the remainder of the contest, forcing backup Chad Henne to hold on to Kansas City’s lead.

IYER: Why Chiefs have edge over Bills in AFC championship game 

With the win, the Chiefs set up an AFC Championship matchup with the Bills for the right to play in Super Bowl 55. But because of the NFL’s five-step concussion protocol, Mahomes’ availability may not be known until late in the week ahead of the Sunday, Jan. 24 game. 

After Sunday’s game, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “He’s doing great now, which is a real positive as we looked at this. He passed all the deals that he needed to pass, so we’ll see where it goes from here.”

Mahomes himself tweeted twice after the game, first writing “#HenneThingIsPossible” and then telling Browns linebacker Mack Wilson, who had the tackle that injured Mahomes, “All good brother!” 

How long is Patrick Mahomes out?

There is no set timetable for a player’s return from the NFL’s concussion protocol, at least in terms of number of days. Mahomes’ return to practice and game action will depend on how quickly he moves through the five steps of the league’s protocol.

According to The Athletic, the median time for the 29 quarterbacks who suffered a concussion between 2015-2019 to return was seven days. But that’s just the central length among the sampling of 29, which includes both longer and shorter absences.

It’s also important to note that concussion recovery doesn’t necessarily follow the same line for each individual. Just because Reid said Sunday that Mahomes was “feeling good,” and just because Mahomes tweeted a couple times after the game, doesn’t specifically point to how fast he may get back from his concussion.

Mahomes has had one recorded concussion in his college/NFL career, which came in 2014 while he played quarterback for Texas Tech. He didn’t return to the game he was injured in, and the Red Raiders had a bye the next week. When Texas Tech played again 14 days after the injury, Mahomes was back.

The process for Mahomes getting through the NFL’s concussion protocol starts with a concussion evaluation Monday, the day after the injury. From there, he’ll have to pass each of the five steps of protocol and be cleared by both the Chiefs medical staff and an independent neurologist before he can play. 

NFL concussion protocol, explained

In order to handle head injuries with standard procedure, the NFL has a five-step concussion protocol that every team must follow when a player is diagnosed with a concussion. This ensures that no team/player receives preferential and potentially dangerous treatment in being rushed back to action from a head injury. 

The NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee developed the protocol in 2011, and it’s reviewed each year by independent and NFL-affiliated physicians and scientists to ensure that identification, diagnosis and treatment of concussions is up to current medical standards. 

The following five steps of concussion protocol feature the NFL’s official wording from its July 2020 revisions to the Return-to-Participation Protocol:

Step 1: Symptom Limited Activity

The player is prescribed rest, limiting or, if necessary, avoiding activities (both physical and cognitive) which increase or aggravate symptoms. Under athletic training staff supervision, limited stretching and balance training can be introduced, progressing to light aerobic exercise, all as tolerated. 

Step 2: Aerobic Exercise

Under direct oversight of the team’s medical staff, the player should begin graduated cardiovascular exercise and may also engage in dynamic stretching and balance training. Neorocognitive and balance testing can be administered after completion of Phase Two and the results should be interpreted as back to baseline.

Step 3: Football Specific Exercise

The player continues with supervised cardiovascular exercises that are increased and may mimic sport-specific activities, and supervised strength training is introduced. The players is allowed to practice with the team in sport-specific exercise for 30 minutes or less with ongoing and careful monitoring.

Step 4: Club-Based Non-Contact Training Drills

The player continues cardiovascular, strength and balance training, team-based sport-specific exercise, and participates in non-contact football activities (e.g. throwing, catching, running, and other position-specific activities). Neurocognitive and balance testing should be completed no later than the end of Phase Four with the results interpreted as back to baseline.

Step 5: Full Football Activity/Clearance

Upon clearance by the Club physician for full football activity involving contact, the player must be examined by the Independent Neurological Consultant (INC) assigned to his Club. If the INC concurs with the Club physician that the player’s concussion has resolved, he may participate in his Club’s next practice or game.

Who has to clear Patrick Mahomes from concussion?

As can be seen in step five above, Mahomes has to be cleared by two separate entities to return to full practice and game action. First, the Chiefs’ medical staff must clear Mahaomes, essentially saying that he’s progressed through the first four steps of concussion protocol and passed all the testing along the way.

Once the Kansas City medical staff clears Mahomes, he also has to be cleared by an Independent Neurological Consultant, essentially a brain expert who isn’t employed by the team and thus can make decisions independent of how they impact that Chiefs on the field. If Mahomes is also cleared by that independent consultant, he can return to full practice and game activity. 

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