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Jon Gruden gave a hint as to his plans for Marshawn Lynch next season, but the returning Oakland Raiders coach would not fully commit to Lynch coming back to the team, either.

Not with the CBA prohibiting most contact between coaches and players at this point of the offseason — April 9 is a big day for Gruden, who is returning to the sidelines for the first time since 2008 — and with Gruden and his staff still wading through the roster and the front office analyzing the salary cap situation.

“He’s still a beast, that’s hard to bring down,” Gruden said Wednesday of Lynch at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. “And one of the reasons I’m excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch. But we’ll see what happens. Obviously, we have to take a look at the entire roster. But I’m counting on him. I’m counting on him being a big part of our football team.”

After taking a while to get going following a year off in retirement, Lynch was the Raiders’ best offensive player in the second half of last season. He rushed for 625 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry with five rushing touchdowns in Oakland’s final eight games. This after rushing for 266 yards and averaging 3.7 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns in seven games before serving a one-game suspension for making contact with an official.

Lynch turns 32 on April 22 and cutting him would save the Raiders more than $5.9 million against the cap. Oakland currently has about $19.5 million in cap room, per ESPN Stats & Information.

And if Lynch does return, Gruden would also like to see a healthy Jamize Olawale, who missed four games last season, at fullback to complement Lynch.

“I like Jamize,” Gruden said. “I mean, he didn’t play much last year. He had some injuries. I think that hurt the offense as well, He gives the offense some deception because he can run. He’s a fullback with speed.

“I would like to have a fullback. They’re a dying breed in football but I think it does give your running game a lot of deception. And if Marshawn Lynch is the feature back, I think it would be nice if we serviced him with a fullback.”

Gruden mentioned Michael Robinson serving in that role for Lynch in Seattle.

“And you need a blocking tight end,” Gruden added, and yes, Lee Smith will be a free agent for Oakland, “if you’re going to slam the ball with a beast.

“So those are two things that I’m looking for.”

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Indianapolis Colts extend RT Braden Smith with $72.4 million contract



WESTFIELD, Ind. — The Indianapolis Colts have signed right tackle Braden Smith to a four-year, $72.4 million contract extension, with $42 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

“We want to take care of our players,” general manager Chris Ballard said earlier this week.

Smith, a second-round pick in 2018, spent the majority of his college career at Auburn playing guard. But the Colts developed him into a right tackle after selecting him, and he became the full-time starter at the position early in his rookie season. He’s helped the Colts have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL playing alongside center Ryan Kelly and guards Mark Glowinski and Quenton Nelson.

“I mean yeah, any time you work at a position for three years you are going to feel pretty good at it,” Smith said in May. “I definitely feel comfortable and every day getting more comfortable getting the reps, getting the technique down and just keep improving every year.”

Signing Smith is the start of what should be several contracts the Colts give out to what turned out to be an impressive 2018 draft class.

Darius Leonard, who has become one of the top linebackers in the NFL, is also in line to get an extension. He has 416 tackles, 15 sacks, seven interceptions and nine forced fumbles in three seasons.

Nelson, who was the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft, has a very good chance of becoming the highest players at his position when he does get his extension. Nelson has been named an All Pro in each of his first three seasons in the NFL.

“Let me say this, we’ve had a great back and forth,” Ballard said. “Mike Bluem has done tremendous, as all the agents we’ve been working with. They’ve been tremendous. It goes back and forth. Getting these early extensions done are not always easy but we’ll continue to work through it.”

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Sources — Lamar Jackson dealing with issue related to COVID-19, will miss Baltimore Ravens practice



Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is not practicing Wednesday because of issues related to COVID-19, sources told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and Adam Schefter.

The NFL flagged Jackson’s latest COVID-19 test and is still trying to process and evaluate the results, sources told Hensley and Schefter. The Ravens also are seeking clarity regarding Jackson’s test results and are awaiting answers from the league, according to Hensley and Schefter.

With Jackson absent from practice, Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley will take a majority of the snaps at quarterback. Kenji Bahar, who spent time with the Ravens in minicamp, has been re-signed and is practicing as the third quarterback.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh is expected to address Jackson’s status after practice Wednesday, the opening workout of Baltimore’s training camp.

Sources told Hensley on Tuesday that Ravens also will be without running back Gus Edwards, who tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the start of training camp.

Jackson, 24, tested positive for COVID-19 last Thanksgiving and missed the Ravens’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 2019 league MVP was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list less than two weeks later and returned for Baltimore’s next game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Jackson was one of 20 Baltimore players who spent time on the reserve/COVID-19 list last season, as the Ravens endured an outbreak from late November to early December during which at least one player tested positive on 10 consecutive days.

Jackson has led Baltimore to the playoffs in each of his first three NFL seasons, compiling a 30-7 regular-season record as the Ravens’ starting quarterback. He passed for 2,757 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season and also has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons.

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Patrick Mahomes autographed card sells for $4.3 million, most ever for a football card



A Lombardi trophy wasn’t at stake this time, but Patrick Mahomes has dethroned Tom Brady.

With the National Sports Collectors Convention beginning just outside Chicago on Wednesday, PWCC Marketplace announced that a Mahomes 2017 Panini National Treasures 1-of-1, NFL shield, autographed card has sold for $4.3 million, the most ever paid for a football card and the fourth-largest sum fetched by a sports card all time.

“People see Mahomes as the next Brady,” PWCC director of business development Jesse Craig said. “He’s 25, he already has a Super Bowl and an MVP award. So, the sky’s the limit for him … and his card values.”

“It’s the perfect storm,” Craig added. “It’s a 1-of-1, the NFL shield an on-card auto, a rookie. You have someone betting on Mahomes’ career [and] this is as good as it gets.”

With this series, the full NFL logo from a player’s game-used jersey is ensnared in a card, enhancing its uniqueness.

The buyer betting on Mahomes is LJ’s Card Shop of New Albany, Ohio, originally a digital store for single cards, boxes, cases and memorabilia which recently opened a brick-and-mortar shop.

“Our goal at LJ’s has always been to build the best modern-day card collection,” a store spokesperson said. “We’re continually hunting for cards that add to our collection in a meaningful way [and] the Mahomes is truly a piece of art. We’re honored.”

The Mahomes card will be on display at the NSCC before returning to the PWCC Vault for safekeeping.

“I believe it’s going in their long-term portfolio,” Craig said. “[It] probably won’t see the light of day for quite some time.”

The card carries an 8.5 grade from Beckett Grading Services, enhancing the value.

This sale outpaces the previous record of $3.1 million, set in a June Lelands auction, where a Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket Autograph card sold. The card — which carried a 9 Beckett grade with a 10 signature — was numbered 8/100. It does not feature a memorabilia swatch.

“There weren’t 1-of-1s when Brady was a rookie in 2000,” Craig said. “And, look, there’s inherently more risk whenever you invest into a player who is still active and young. Mahomes could get injured tomorrow. He could also win another MVP and Super Bowl.

“What we realized about modern players, is that [fans] like to feel invested in them when they step on the field or court.”

PWCC Marketplace has now brokered three of the four top sports card sales of all-time, all since January: The $5.2 million sales of the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle; the 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection LeBron James RPA (rookie patch autograph); and the Mahomes.

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