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Jaguars’ Travis Etienne to work out at receiver in rookie minicamp

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Jaguars' Travis Etienne to work out at receiver in rookie minicamp

The Urban Meyer experiment continues to produce interesting results in Jacksonville.

The first-year Jaguars coach told reporters on Saturday that Travis Etienne — the second running back taken off the board and No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft — will take all of his rookie minicamp reps as a receiver.

From NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:

MORE: 2021 NFL Draft grades, from best (Dolphins) to worst (Raiders)

That’s certainly one way to work your rookie into the offense.

While it’s not unheard of for players to change positions once they reach the NFL, it does seem a little strange that it would happen with Etienne, considering his track record of success as a running back. To be fair, he consistently demonstrated excellent pass-catching ability while at Clemson, totaling 102 receptions for 1,155 yards (11.3 yards per catch) and eight receiving touchdowns.

Moreover, Etienne was among college football’s best pass-catching running backs for the 2020 season, per Pro Football Focus. He caught 48 passes for 588 yards — both single-season highs — and two touchdowns. That might work to his favor with the Jaguars, as former Clemson star and No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence will still be his quarterback in Jacksonville.

That said, Etienne’s pass-catching ability makes him a dual threat as a running back; it doesn’t guarantee a successful transition to a full-time wide receiver. It’s unclear whether Meyer considered changing Etienne’s position (5-10, 215 pounds) when he drafted him, but that could have been the case considering James Robinson (1,070 yards, seven touchdowns in 2020) was so effective as an undrafted rookie.

One thing you can say about the move: It’s making people talk. Add Tim Tebow and Meyer’s coaching decisions to the mix, and the Jaguars are one of the most interesting teams of the 2021 NFL offseason.

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Golden years: Olympic team selection of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi reinforces 2021 as prime time for aging athletes

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Golden years: Olympic team selection of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi reinforces 2021 as prime time for aging athletes

When Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi won their first Olympic gold medals, there were no iPhones, Chipotle had a few more than 300 restaurants spread across the country and Netflix still was sending DVDs of motion pictures through the mail.

Oh, my, here we go: Another story of some extraordinary “AARPthletes.”

Bird and Taurasi were named Monday by USA Basketball to the senior women’s national team that will attempt to earn a seventh consecutive gold medal when the 2021 Olympic Games begin July 23 in Tokyo. This will be fifth Olympics for Bird, who is 40, and for Taurasi, who passed her 39th birthday earlier this month.

In a year filled with them, they represent two more examples of athletes extending their excellence well past what had been considered “retirement age” in the past, joining Super Bowl champion Tom Brady (43), PGA champion Phil Mickelson (50) and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (46), as well as soccer star Carli Lloyd, aiming to make her fourth Olympic team at 39 and sprinter Allyson Felix, who qualified for her fifth Olympics by finishing second in the 400-meter dash Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., and will turn 36 in November.

“It’s just been a tremendous journey – playing for that long, and playing aside pretty much family, my friend. It means everything to us,” Taurasi said during the announcement on the Today show Monday. “I think sometimes you get caught up in the history of where this team has been, and we’re trying to take it to the next generation, the younger players. I think we’re just really focused on what we have to do to come home with gold.”

Taurasi and Bird were teammates for two seasons at Connecticut, and in 2001-02, their squad went 39-0 and capture the NCAA championship.

Given the overwhelming strength of the U.S. women’s basketball program and the value of Bird’s experience, she might have been a worthwhile inclusion just to be available in emergencies and to provide leadership through the tournament process and during practices and games.

MORE: Lochte comes up short for in bid for fifth Olympics

That’s not what this is, though. Bird remains among the best point guards in the WNBA, averaging 11.4 points on 52.3 percent shooting and 47.9 percent 3-point accuracy, as well as 6 assists per game, for the team that won the 2020 league championship and is 12-2 and in first place in the Western Conference in the 2021 season.

Taurasi, who can play both backcourt positions, averaged 18.7 points and 4.5 assists last season for the Phoenix Mercury. She has been limited to four games this season because of a chest injury but still has averaged 15.8 points and 3.8 assists.

“I think the most important thing is for the 12 players on the roster to stay healthy,” head coach Dawn Staley said. “There are a lot of players that aren’t on this list that have helped us along the way, This has been a three- to four-year process for us. But you need a great mix.

“When you have the core group of players who have played in multiple Olympic Games, you have to add a mix of youth. And the youth that we’ve added certainly has made it known they want to be a part of the Olympic team, and they put the work in behind it.

“We don’t want to be the team that ends this streak.”

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Bryson DeChambeau explains US Open meltdown: ‘I didn’t have the right breaks happen at the right time’

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Bryson DeChambeau had to fly back to Wells Fargo Championship after thinking he missed weekend cut

For a moment, it looked like the reigning U.S. Open champion would make it a second straight title. 

Bryson DeChambeau shot a birdie on the par-3 eighth hole during the final round to put him at 5-under par and move him into the lead with 10 holes remaining. It all fell apart from there. 

Bogeys on both the 11th and 12th holes, and a double-bogey and quadruple-bogey in the 13th and 17th holes, respectively, sunk DeChambeau’s chances of winning, ultimately leading to him falling to 3-over during the U.S. Open and tying for 26th overall. 

After the disappointing finish, DeChambeau said that it wasn’t a poor effort on his part, but rather a product of bad luck. 

“I didn’t get off the rails at all. It’s golf,” DeChambeau said, according to the Golf Channel. “People will say I did this or did that, and it’s just golf. I’ve had plenty of times where I hit it way worse than today and I won. It’s just one of those things where I didn’t have the right breaks happen at the right time.”

MORE: The best moments from Brooks Koepka vs. Bryson DeChambeau rivalry

On the 13th hole, he slipped on the drive to slice the ball into the right rough before later slipping again trying to save himself from too much damage on the hole. It resulted in a double-bogey seven that all but took him out of the running for the championship. 

The struggles on the 13 came right on the heels of a pair of bogeys. 

Later, on the 17th hole, his tee shot hit the ravine and his third shot sailed into a bunker. He overshot out of the bunker and sank to an 8 on the par-4 hole. 

“I hit a great second shot — well, third shot, and the ball just spun too much,” DeChambeau said, according to ESPN. “The wind died down and it landed short and came back off of that front edge into a really, really bad lie. I tried just chopping it out, and I caught the hosel just from a weird line.”

Perhaps even worse for DeChambeau was that when he was leading, rival Brooks Koepka was just a shot behind him. When it was all over, Koepka remained tied for fourth at 2-under for the tournament. 

But DeChambeau said he wasn’t worried about his lackluster performance down the stretch. 

“Right now, I don’t even care. I’ve changed a lot, attitude-wise and everything,” DeChambeau said, according to the New York Post. “It’s frustrating in the moment when it’s happening, but afterwards for me now, I don’t really care as much. I’ve already won [a U.S. Open].’’

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Ben Simmons admits he ‘wasn’t there’ offensively in 76ers’ Game 7 loss to Hawks

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Ben Simmons' free throw struggles contribute to 76ers' blown chance to sweep Wizards

There is plenty of blame to go around for why the No. 1 seeded 76ers fell to the No. 5 seeded Hawks in Game 7 to miss out on the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, but Ben Simmons is stepping up to take some of it. 

Simmons, a former No. 1 overall pick and a huge part of “The Process,” had a disappointing effort in the final game of the series, scoring just five points, and drawing criticism in particular for passing up a dunk late that could have tied the game up and given his team some momentum. 

After the game, Simmons said he just wasn’t playing his best basketball during the pivotal playoff game. 

“I ain’t shoot well from the line this series,” Simmons said, according to ESPN. “Offensively, I wasn’t there. I didn’t do enough for my teammates.

“There’s a lot of things that I need to work on.”

MORE: Ex-NBA player Josh Smith rips Doc Rivers in offensive tirade

Simmons contributed beyond the point column, racking up eight rebounds and a game-high 13 assists. But he attempted only four shots and made two of them. For a player that averaged 14.3 points per game during the regular season, the expectation was certainly that he would attempt more shots than just four when his team needed him. 

With 3:36 to play and the Sixers trailing by two, Simmons was free in the paint after a spin move. But he passed to Matisse Thybulle, who drove and was fouled. Thybulle made one of two, keeping the Sixers down one. Atlanta then went on a 5-0 run to push the lead to 93-87. 

That missed dunk opportunity was not only a focal point of criticism for fans, but also one mentioned by his teammates. 

“Man, I will be honest. I thought the turning point was, you know, when we, I don’t know how to say it, but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and they came down and scored,” Embiid said. 

And Embiid, who scored 31 points with 11 rebounds, didn’t just wait until after the game to show his frustration. 

Simmons explained that he thought Danilo Gallinari was right behind him and that John Collins was coming out of the lane, which would leave open a chance for Thybulle to dunk it, according to ESPN. 

Now the biggest question in Philadelphia is whether Simmons will be a 76er by the time the next season rolls around. For Simmons, the offseason will begin for him by trying to get over this postseason. 

“The first thing I’m going to do is clear my mind and get my mental right,” Simmons said in ESPN’s report. “You got to be mentally tough. You can’t take games for granted. Especially in the playoffs. Every game matters. Every possession matters.”

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