49ers

NFL team to play 4 home games in London

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NFL team to play 4 home games in London

From Comcast SportsNet
JACKSONVILLE, Florida (AP) -- The NFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars announced Tuesday that the small-market franchise will play one home game in London for four consecutive seasons beginning in 2013 -- a step the team believes will broaden its fan base and take some pressure off locals who have mostly failed to fill the stands in recent years. "I passionately believe the big growth now is going to come from overseas," owner Shad Khan said. "We've got to go where we can leverage and take advantage of some of those things. You've got to fish in ponds where you've got fish in there. We're going to a pond where there are no fishermen." The Jaguars will play at Wembley Stadium, which has hosted one NFL game annually since 2007. "We want to create an identity, a bold, ambitious franchise that is aggressive and forward-thinking on the field and away from the field," Khan said. "We want to be the kind of franchise players want to belong to, sponsors want to be part of, and Jacksonville is proud of. ... The key point is to sell Jacksonville to the world. We are a well-kept secret, but after today, that's not going to be the case." By all accounts, the Jaguars are the NFL's least popular team. They rank at or near the bottom of the league in website hits as well as Twitter and Facebook interactions. Although Jacksonville is the largest city in the continental United States in terms of land mass, it is home to just 1.3 million people -- and that includes several surrounding areas; London alone has 8 million people. Missing the playoffs in 10 of 12 seasons has made attracting fans a problem in Jacksonville. The team used to pack the stands regularly, even though it plays in a stadium built to house large crowds for the annual Florida-Georgia college football game. But in 2005, the Jaguars decided to cover up nearly 10,000 seats with tarps to reduce capacity and limit television blackouts. Even though the Jaguars haven't blacked out a home game since 2009, they still have struggled to fill EverBank Field. Playing an annual game in London will reduce season-ticket prices by 10 percent, possibly making the remaining package a more affordable and enticing option. Reaction, though, was mixed among the fan base. Some supported the decision and others questioned the team's motives. After all, if the Jaguars become England's team and continue to have issues back home, what's to stop the NFL from moving them across the pond for good? "You can't fault them if anyone is mad about this," kicker Josh Scobee said. "We can only ask for their support in going over there and ask them to watch it on TV." The St. Louis Rams had been scheduled to play in London in 2013 and 2014, but they pulled out last week, citing a need to focus on lease negotiations and ease fan discontent. The Jaguars scooped up the available games -- plus some. "It's just good for the Jaguar brand," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "It's exciting to go over there and put ourselves on the map worldwide. When I got drafted in 2006, there were some of my family members who didn't even know who the Jaguars were." Players recognized the major pitfalls -- traveling overseas and giving up home games -- but no one knocked the decision publicly. "We know football is the greatest sport in the states, so for fans in other areas who don't get to watch it first hand, it's good for them to experience and see what we all brag about," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined Khan for the announcement, which fittingly came on a gray, rain-soaked day in Jacksonville -- typical London weather. Goodell reaffirmed his commitment to expanding to multiple games in England and eventually establishing a franchise there. "The big issue for us was finding a community that understood that this could be great for the community, wrap their arms around it and say this is a win-win situation," Goodell said. Khan said the Jaguars are committed to playing all four years at Wembley, even if the team becomes a Super Bowl contender and a hot ticket in Jacksonville. "I think if you make a commitment, you stick with it," said Khan, who bought the team in November for 770 million. "To me, we're all in." Khan added that he would consider playing more games overseas after the deal expires in 2016. He also acknowledged that the payoff probably won't be seen immediately. He suggested that Londoners could fall in love with the Jaguars and decide to visit Jacksonville regularly. The ultimate goal, though, would be to have European companies spend millions in Jacksonville. "If somebody builds a container port, if somebody makes an investment out of Germany or England or Netherlands and they chose Jacksonville, that would be a huge return from my viewpoint," Khan said. "You could have people come here -- we've got beautiful golf, weather -- instead of vacationing in Miami or some place and they come up here and watch a game or two. That would be a huge return for me." Coach Mike Mularkey and cornerback Aaron Ross have made the trip before -- Ross with the New York Giants in 2007, and Mularkey with the Dolphins that year -- and both praised the fans and the experience they gained from making the trip. "I know Shad's been trying to have people recognize what's going on here in this town," Mularkey said. "I think this is a great opportunity to get it. Obviously going overseas, that's making a statement."

Hoyer, Shanahan earn praise from Broncos All-Pro DBs

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AP

Hoyer, Shanahan earn praise from Broncos All-Pro DBs

SANTA CLARA – The reviews of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Brian Hoyer from within the organization have all been positive this offseason.

That’s not a surprise, of course, considering the 49ers have yet to play a meaningful game and hope abounds during every NFL training camp.

But, on Thursday, Shanahan and Hoyer received unsolicited praise from two Denver Broncos All-Pro defensive backs who went up against the 49ers’ offense during two days of practices.

“Going against Kyle Shanahan, he’s a great offensive mind and a great offensive coach,” Broncos defensive back Chris Harris said. “So it was a great week. You never know, we might see a team that has this type of offense. But on the schedule -- I looked at the schedule -- we don’t and I’m kind of glad we don’t.”

Unlike the past two summers when the 49ers and Broncos held joint practices, it was difficult to proclaim a winner this week. The 49ers at least held their own on both sides of the ball after being clearly beaten the past two years.

For the Broncos, going against the 49ers’ offense gave them a better challenge than they experienced in the past. The teams meet Saturday night at Levi's Stadium in the second exhibition game for both teams.

“He (Shanahan) makes it work,” Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib said. “He makes you use all of your adjustments. He makes things gray, so you don’t know if you need to check or if you’re going to check. He moves you left and right. They’re great with their bootlegs. All in all, it’s a pretty great offense.

“It gives us a different look than we’ve been seeing. It’s a solid offense. Any time you can practice against a solid offense, no game plan, just go out there and play your technique, that’s always great work.”

Hoyer, 31, enters his 10th NFL season with his seventh different team. He has been anointed the starter for the first time in his career at this stage of the season. General manager John Lynch said has been pleasantly surprised since signing Hoyer to a two-year, $12 million contract. He can earn as much as $18.5 million if he reaches all of his incentives.

Hoyer's starting job has never been in doubt from the moment he signed with the 49ers on the first day of free agency.

“We’ve said from the beginning we want a franchise quarterback around here and a lot of people are making assumptions as to what Brian’s role is,” Lynch said. “Is he a bridge? Is he all those things? Our response to Brian and to everybody is he’s got the first crack of being that guy. And I love the way he’s embracing that opportunity each and every day, and really has been a tremendous leader for our group. I think, probably exceeded my expectations of how I thought he could play.”

That kind of public praise from within the organization is not uncommon. But Hoyer's play even opened eyes on the Denver side. Talib said he was impressed what what he saw from Hoyer and the 49ers’ passing game. The 49ers have ranked no better than 29th in yards passing over each of the past four seasons.

“He looks good. He runs the offense well,” Talib said. “Shanahan has a hell of an offense. Hoyer is doing a great job running it. They get the ball out fast. They move you left and right. It takes a polished quarterback to run an offense. He’s doing a great job.”

Players Voice Awards: Draymond not the 'Best Defender'

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USATI

Players Voice Awards: Draymond not the 'Best Defender'

The players have spoken.

The 2017 Players Voice Awards pick for "Best Defender" goes to...

Kawhi Leonard.

On June 26, Draymond Green took home the Defensive Player of the Year award at the first annual NBA Awards Show.

He received 73 first-place votes, 22 second-place votes and three third-place votes. (Yes, he was left off of two ballots entirely)

Rudy Gobert was the runner-up with 16 first-place votes, 53 second-place votes and 30 third-place votes.

Kawhi finished in third with 11 first-place votes, 23 second-place votes and 58 third-place votes.

While the media recognized Draymond as the best defensive player in the NBA last season, his peers don't agree.

In 2015, Draymond finished runner-up and was left off 42 ballots.

In 2016, he finished runner-up and was left off nine ballots.