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No matter where quarterback Kirk Cousins signs, and given the attention his contract situation has received, there’s a clear directive: He’d better win. He knows that as well as anyone. And in every interview, Cousins has repeated how important winning will be to his choice.

If that’s the case, then some teams make a lot of sense and a handful of teams do not.

Minnesota tops the list of the teams that make the most sense — if it decides not to keep any of the three unrestricted free agents from its 2017 roster at the position. Thing is, the Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game (with a much less expensive Case Keenum), so the expectations would be set awfully high for Cousins. Still, if it’s about long-term success and the Vikings are interested, then they’re the easy choice — even if it means rejecting bigger deals elsewhere.

The Redskins didn’t want to pay Cousins a certain amount because they believed it would be harder to build around him. Minnesota’s roster is already built. The Vikings could afford to overpay a guy if they view him as the final piece, one who could help them now and for a few years while in that Super Bowl window.

Jacksonville makes sense too, depending on what the Jaguars decide to do with Blake Bortles.

But there are some teams for which, if he signs, he’ll need help and hope the organization can provide what’s necessary.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals have a new coach in Steve Wilks. But they also need a lot of help and don’t have much cap room (approximately $23 million). There’s another potential problem: They play in the NFC West, the same division as two of Cousins’ former coaches — the Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan. That doesn’t mean Cousins couldn’t play in Arizona and win, but he’d also enter four games each year facing two coaches who know him as well as anyone, especially what makes him uncomfortable. Cousins did play well enough in a victory over the Rams last season and he threw for 330 yards in beating the 49ers (winless at the time). But it makes winning harder.

New York Jets: With approximately $75 million in cap space, they can pay quite a bit for Cousins if they want; they can free up another $15 million or so with cuts. But signing Cousins doesn’t solve all their issues. Quarterback Josh McCown wasn’t the problem in the 13 games he played last season, throwing 18 touchdowns to nine interceptions with a passer rating of 94.5. He wasn’t a Pro Bowl player, but he played well and the Jets were 5-8 in games he started. New York lacks offensive playmakers; finding one with the sixth overall pick won’t be enough. They need a running back, tight end and offensive line help. They need to fix their defense, which ranked 22nd in points allowed and 25th in yards allowed.

Money alone has never solved problems in the NFL. Still, the Jets could always structure Cousins’ contract so it’s front-loaded, allowing them to build for the next several years. Then the question becomes: Can they? If Cousins signs here, it will test the belief that he wants to win. Sometimes a team offers so much money, it convinces players to believe that, yeah, they can win here (see: Redskins, 2000s). Having a coordinator in Jeremy Bates who has a reputation for being highly detailed — and who coached with Mike Shanahan, Cousins’ first coach — helps. Cousins met him once and he knows the system he runs. Winning in New York could make Cousins a king; losing there after signing a huge deal would do the opposite. Cousins would be betting on himself again, this time that he could elevate a franchise. He’d also be betting on the Jets to get him what he needs. Those are big bets.

Denver Broncos: If the Vikings and Jaguars don’t bid, then it could come down to the Broncos or the Jets. Denver has shown it can build a winner. The Broncos also have a good running game, ranking 12th in yards per game last season. They have a defense that ranked third in yards (but 22nd in points allowed). There’s a base to build around, plus they have the fifth overall pick. The problem for Denver will be creating necessary cap space. The Broncos not only don’t have a lot of room now — $25 million – they’re also in tough shape for 2019 (currently 29th in available space). Denver could release or trade players to create more room, but one of them would be receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Also, coach Vance Joseph ended his first season with rumors he could get fired. It’s a storied franchise, but it’s another gamble. And both sides will have to wonder the same thing: Given their cap situation, would signing Cousins prevent them from building for long-term success?

Cleveland Browns: This has never made sense for either side and there’s a good chance the Browns won’t even bid on Cousins. They have a chance to grab the best quarterback in a draft with several good prospects who, in a couple of years, could surpass Cousins. And they’d be much cheaper. From Cousins’ perspective: The Browns are a combined 1-31 and have the same head coach. End of story.

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Rusty Hardin – Deshaun Watson never engaged in acts with plaintiffs that weren’t ‘mutually desired’



HOUSTON — Deshaun Watson‘s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, acknowledged during a Friday news conference that there were some “consensual encounters” between the Houston Texans quarterback and some of the 22 women who have filed lawsuits against him, but said at no point did Watson engage in any acts that were not “mutually desired.”

“In some of these massages there’s going to be no question,” Hardin said when asked to clarify his comments about Watson taking part in sex acts with some of the women who have filed lawsuits against him alleging inappropriate behavior and sexual assault. “We’ve never run from it.”

Watson has publicly denied any wrongdoing, and Hardin has emphasized since he began representing the quarterback last month that he believes “any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false.”

“I’m not going to go into what it is or the nature or the numbers or with whom,” Hardin said Friday regarding any consensual encounters between Watson and some of the plaintiffs. “But I think you can rightfully assume that. The question always that we have always been emphasizing: Never at any time, under any circumstances … did this young man ever engage in anything that was not mutually desired by the other party.”

Earlier Friday, two judges ruled that most of the plaintiffs suing Watson must identify themselves. The rulings from two hearings Friday cover 13 of the 22 lawsuits filed against Watson alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct, while the attorneys also agreed to release a 14th name later in the day.

Court records show Hardin has filed motions asking that the remaining women who have not revealed their names also make their identities public.

Prior to Friday, only two women had been publicly identified.

During Friday’s first hearing, in the 270th District Court, Hardin had accused the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Tony Buzbee, of using the women’s anonymity to “kill the reputation of our client.”

Buzbee argued that allowing anonymity is common in cases dealing with allegations of sexual assault. Buzbee said Ashley Solis, who publicly identified herself earlier this week, had received death threats, and during the second hearing he shared an example of a threatening message sent to Solis.

After the hearings, Buzbee released a statement saying the other women suing Watson have been “emboldened” by Solis going public with her experience.

“They are ready to be identified,” Buzbee said. “In lawsuits sometimes we push hard for something that may turn out to not be helpful. As I said in Court, ‘be careful what you ask for.’ Identifying these women at this point adds even more credibility to the allegations being made, and I am proud to stand with these brave and courageous women.”

Buzbee and Hardin also agreed that the 22 lawsuits could be consolidated in the 113th District Court for any pretrial matters.

In a statement Tuesday, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy called the allegations against Watson “deeply disturbing,” noting, “We take these issues very seriously.”

McCarthy said the league launched an investigation under its personal conduct policy last month after the first allegations and that the NFL is “continuing to closely monitor all developments in the matter.”

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DMX tributes pour in from LeBron James and others in the sports world



Earl Simmons, the rapper, songwriter and actor known as DMX, died Friday at the age of 50.

DMX, who rose to fame in the early 1990s, died after having a heart attack earlier last week.

“We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one, DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, passed away at 50-years-old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days,” his family said in a statement. “Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end.”

DMX’s songs were often used by teams, athletes, stadiums and arenas, and were known for their deep-cutting, aggressive lyrics and catchy bass-filled beats. His signature raspy voice was instantly recognizable on his hit songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here).”

Athletes took to social media to express their condolences about DMX’s death, including LeBron James and former NFL star Torrey Smith.

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Brain of Phillip Adams, former NFL player who killed five, to be examined for CTE



COLUMBIA, S.C. — The brain of Phillip Adams – the former NFL player who killed a South Carolina physician, three family members and a repairman before fatally shooting himself – will be tested for a degenerative disease that has affected a number of pro athletes and has been shown to cause violent mood swings and other cognitive disorders, according to a news report.

York County Coroner Sabrina Gast told McClatchy Newspapers on Friday that she had gotten approval from Adams’ family for the procedure to be included as part of his autopsy, which will be performed at the Medical University of South Carolina. The hospital will be working with Boston University, whose chronic traumatic encephalopathy center conducts research on the long-term effects of repetitive brain trauma in athletes and military personnel, according to its website.

Gast did not immediately return phone calls and emails from The Associated Press or respond to a message left in person at her office.

According to police, Adams went to the home of Robert and Barbara Lesslie on Wednesday and and shot and killed them, two of their grandchildren, 9-year-old Adah Lesslie and 5-year-old Noah Lesslie, and James Lewis, a 38-year-old air conditioning technician from Gaston who was doing work there. He also shot Lewis’ colleague, 38-year-old Robert Shook, of Cherryville, North Carolina, who was flown to a Charlotte hospital, where he was in critical condition “fighting hard for his life,” said a cousin, Heather Smith Thompson.

York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said investigators hadn’t figured out why Adams carried out the attack.

Tolson said evidence left at the shooting scene led investigators to Adams as a suspect. He said they went to Adams’ parents’ home, evacuated them and then tried to persuade Adams to come out. Eventually, they found him dead of a single gunshot wound to the head in a bedroom, he said.

A person briefed on the investigation who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly said Robert Lesslie had treated Adams, who lived with his parents not far from the Lesslies’ home.

Tolson would not confirm that Adams had been the doctor’s patient.

It will be months before results are available from the tests for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which can only be diagnosed in an autopsy. The disorder has been found in former members of the military, football players and boxers and others who have been subjected to repeated head trauma. A recent study found signs of the disease in 110 of 111 NFL players whose brains were inspected.

Several years ago, the league agreed to pay $1 billion to retired players who claimed it misled them about the dangers of playing football.

Adams, 32, played in 78 NFL games over six seasons for six teams. He joined the 49ers in 2010 as a seventh-round draft pick out of South Carolina State, and though he rarely started, he went on to play for New England, Seattle, Oakland and the New York Jets before finishing his career with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.

As a rookie late in the 2010 season, Adams suffered a severe ankle injury, resulting in surgery that included several screws being inserted into his leg. He never played for the 49ers again, released just before the 2011 season began. Later, with the Raiders, he had two concussions over three games in 2012.

Whether he suffered long-lasting concussion-related injuries wasn’t immediately clear. Adams wouldn’t have been eligible for testing as part of a broad settlement between the league and its former players over such injuries, because he hadn’t retired by 2014.

Adams’ father told a Charlotte television station that he blamed football for problems his son had, and which might have led him to commit Wednesday’s violence.

“I can say he’s a good kid – he was a good kid, and I think the football messed him up,” Alonzo Adams told WCNC-TV. “He didn’t talk much and he didn’t bother nobody.”

Adams’ sister told USA Today that her brother’s “mental health degraded fast and terribly bad” in recent years and that the family noticed “extremely concerning” signs of mental illness, including an escalating temper and personal hygiene neglect.

Gerald Dixon, a former NFL linebacker who retired in 2001, said that, when he coached Adams in high school, the young player was a team leader, yet also mild-mannered and humble.

Dixon added that he had spoken to Adams a few months ago, and had noticed no signs of depression or other mental health issues. “Anytime I talked to him, he was always happy and just reminiscing about old things,” he said.

Dixon acknowledged that the repeated hits to the head sustained in the game could have affected Adams, as they have negatively affected many of the other NFL players Dixon has known who were later diagnosed with CTE.

“You never know what’s going on in a person’s mind after they’ve went through these concussions,” Dixon said.

Agent Scott Casterline told the AP that Adams did not participate in the physical and mental health programs that are easily accessible for ex-players.

“We encouraged him to explore all of his disability options and he wouldn’t do it,” Casterline said, noting that Adams’ career was undercut by the 2010 ankle injury. “I knew he was hurting and missing football but he wouldn’t take health tips offered to him. He said he would, but he wouldn’t.”

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