Meet the richest defensive player in NFL history

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Meet the richest defensive player in NFL history

From Comcast SportsNet
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- New England quarterback Tom Brady might want to watch his back. The Jets' Mark Sanchez, too. After spending the past six seasons harassing quarterbacks for the Houston Texans, defensive end Mario Williams -- one of the NFL's top pass-rushers -- has found new motivation in a whopping contract and a new home in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills. "I'm ecstatic, very excited. I can't wait for the opportunity," Williams said Thursday after signing a six-year deal potentially worth 100 million. "There's no pressure. I've played against great quarterbacks. And I'm looking forward to playing against these quarterbacks, chasing them down and making things happen." Williams' deal, which includes 50 million in guaranteed money, is the richest ever given to an NFL defensive player. It came after two days of talks, which started when the Bills flew the former top draft pick to Buffalo on a private jet Tuesday, shortly after the NFL's free agency period opened. Terms of Williams' contract were provided by the player's agent, Ben Dogra. "We got a lot better," Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix said, noting that the Bills addressed their highest offseason priority by bolstering what had been an anemic pass rush. "Good things come to the people that wait. So you guys have been waiting, and we've got a good thing here." Though the contract was agreed to shortly after noon, the news conference to introduce Williams was delayed by more than two hours as the two sides worked out the final details. The wait was even longer for Nix, who noted the Bills pro scouts identified Williams as their key target since January. "The No. 1 guy for us from Day 1 was this guy," Nix said. "Obviously, you don't do anything until he hits free agency, but it's been a long process. And it's been fun, especially since it turned out right." After quarterback Peyton Manning, Williams has been regarded as one of the top free agents available this offseason. Williams' addition immediately improves a defense that had difficulty applying pressure since Aaron Schobel was released before the 2010 season. Buffalo managed just 27 sacks in 2010, and 29 sacks last season, 10 coming in one game. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Williams is a two-time Pro Bowl starter and had a franchise-best 53 sacks in six seasons with the Texans. Williams was limited to playing just five games last season as a result of a torn chest muscle. He also missed three games in 2010 after having surgery to repair a sports hernia. Williams said he's healthy, and is accustomed to the playing in the spotlight. The Texans were initially questioned for overlooking running back Reggie Bush by drafting Williams with the No. 1 pick in 2006. "The only pressure and motivation I have is to come in here and do what I need to do with my teammates and for us to succeed," Williams said. Coach Chan Gailey is looking forward to seeing Williams help a line that features two solid tackles in Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. Kyle Williams is expected to be fully healthy after having surgery to repair a nagging foot injury. Dareus, the third player picked in last year's draft, is coming off a promising rookie season in which he led the Bills with 5-12 sacks. "I can't put a percentage on how much better we are, but I know we're appreciatively better," Gailey said. "A better pass rush makes a better secondary. A better defense makes a better offense. It all works together." Mario Williams was intrigued by Buffalo, and did his homework after getting the sense the Bills might pursue him in free agency. In the past few weeks, he spoke to players familiar with the city, and his Texans position coach, Bill Kollar, who spent two seasons with the Bills. Then he got a chance to learn more about the city over the past two days touring the region, along with his fiance, Erin Marzouki, who arrived in Buffalo on Wednesday. What Williams discovered is that Buffalo reminded him of his small-town home of Richlands, N.C. "It was just like going back," he said. "I couldn't say no, it's a family atmosphere here." He immediately noted Bills fans' passion for football, and how many came up with colorful ways to urge Williams to sign with Buffalo. The best example was seeing pictures of a local pizza place using pepperoni to spell out "Come Mario 90" on its pies, the 90 referring to Williams' number in Houston. The avid outdoorsman, Williams also found a hunting partner in the get-acquainted process, Bills' Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. Kelly played a role in the recruiting by inviting Williams and Marzouki over to his house in suburban Buffalo. It was during the visit that Williams happened to spot nine deer in Kelly's backyard. More important, Williams believes he can make a difference on a team that got off to a 5-2 start last year before unraveling by losing eight of its last 10. "You saw from the very beginning of last year what is capable here," Williams said. "We're just adding more pieces." And Williams is a big one.

NBA Gameday: Smiling Kings look to pounce on stumbling Hornets

NBA Gameday: Smiling Kings look to pounce on stumbling Hornets

SACRAMENTO -- The new-look Sacramento Kings stunned the Denver Nuggets Thursday night in their first game without DeMarcus Cousins. They look to make it two straight Saturday afternoon when Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets drop by Golden 1 Center for a 2pm matinee.

Welcome to the big leagues Willie Cauley-Stein. The second-year big man went off for a career-high 29 points against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets last time out. Highlight reel dunks are becoming the norm for the athletic 7-footer as he tries to fill some of the void left by Cousins’ departure.

The Hornets are on a slide. Losers of 12-of-13, including an overtime stumble against the Pistons on Thursday, Charlotte sits 3.5 games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

OPENING LINE
Hornets by 2.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH
Tyreke Evans vs. Nic Batum -- Evans will likely come off the bench in his second game back in Sacramento. The former top pick of the Kings is still playing himself into game shape after missing most of the first half of the season with a knee injury. He dropped in 15 points, three assists in four rebounds against Denver as a point forward. Batum is a versatile wing that loves to stuff the stat sheet. Walker is the primary scorer, but Batum is the player that make the Hornets go.  

WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 25-33, third place in Pacific

Hornets: 24-33, fourth place in Central

INJURY REPORT
Kings: SG Arron Afflalo (hamstring) out, SG Malachi Richardson (right hamstring partial tear) out, G/F Garrett Temple  (left hamstring partial tear) out, F Rudy Gay (torn left Achilles) out for season.

Hornets: C Cody Zeller (quad contusion) questionable, C Miles Plumlee (calf) out, PG Ramon Sessions (knee) out.

SERIES HISTORY
The Hornets swept the season series 2-0 last season, but Sacramento came away with a 109-106 win in the only matchup this year.  Charlotte holds a 13-11 lead in the all-time series between the two clubs.  

QUOTE
“We’ve got a very solid locker room. Even though a couple people aren’t there, guys have an opportunity to step forward in leadership and hug on each other and there’s lots of smiles and hugs right now and [we got] the first one out of the way. That’s a positive vibe to have just to come to work every day. So I think that’s positive.” -Dave Joerger following the win over Denver

 

Hendriks cites travel, readiness as reasons he withdrew from WBC

Hendriks cites travel, readiness as reasons he withdrew from WBC

MESA, Ariz. — In his heart, Liam Hendriks wanted to pitch for his national team in the World Baseball Classic. In reality, the A’s reliever just couldn’t justify it.

So Hendriks withdrew from joining Team Australia for its first-round games in Tokyo. He becomes the second Athletic to bow out of the WBC after left fielder Khris Davis decided not to play for Mexico. Relievers John Axford (Canada) and Santiago Casilla (Dominican Republic), and starter Sonny Gray (United States) are still slated to play, though Gray wouldn’t join the American squad unless it advances to Round 2 and Casilla still hasn’t reported to A’s camp because of visa issues, so his exact plans aren’t known.

“When I really sat down and thought about it, I’m not quite where I want to be to be pitching in competitive games yet,” Hendriks said Saturday morning. “I’m not hurt or anything like that. There’s no issues, I feel great physically. But it’s one of those things, I’m not quite ready to go into a game, and I know if I get into a situation where if I push it a little bit more, I’m going to overextend myself and I don’t want to do that. And I don’t want to risk this season coming up with Oakland.”

Hendriks told Australian officials he could be available for Round 2, but it will be a joint decision between how he was feeling and whether the Aussie pitching staff needs him.

The right-hander was originally scheduled to pitch in Saturday’s Cactus League opener, in an effort to get him into game shape for the WBC. Now that he’s not playing in the first round, the A’s are slowing him down just a bit. Hendriks will throw on the side a bit more and then throw live batting practice before pitching in an exhibition.

“I could pitch in a game right now … but I’m not confident in all my pitches,” he said. “I’m confident in my spring training pitches, but it’s not midseason form like I’d want to be to be able to perform for that (Australian) team.”

The 30-hour round trip travel to Tokyo also complicated things, with Hendriks saying his throwing schedule would have been thrown out of whack upon his return.

Now 28, Hendriks pointed out that he got to pitch in the 2009 WBC as a wide-eyed 20-year-old, getting his roster spot because a veteran backed out. He’s hopeful another youngster now gets the same opportunity.

Hendriks posted a 3.76 ERA in 53 appearances last season, but pitched particularly well over the second half of the season, setting him up as an important piece of this year’s A's bullpen.

“It’s just a better decision for my career and my season,” he said.