Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has announced the team have excused quarterback Baker Mayfield from attending their mandatory minicamp set to begin next week.

The move prevents the unhappy former number one overall pick from being subjected to financial penalties by missing the three-day session. 

Mayfield could have been fined upwards of $90,000 by not attending the entire portion of minicamp.

Stefanski told reporters on Wednesday that the decision was mutual and in the best interests of both parties.

"Obviously that was a decision made between our organisation, Baker and Baker’s team. We felt that was the best decision between both sides," he said.

Mayfield’s four-year run as the Browns' starting quarterback essentially came to an end when the team acquired Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans in March and promptly signed the three-time Pro Bowler to a four-year, $160million extension. 

The fiery quarterback reacted strongly and negatively to the move, saying he felt "disrespected" and blindsided during an interview in April.

"I was told one thing and they completely did another," he told the Ya Neva Know podcast. "I’m ready for the next chapter, the next opportunity."

Mayfield previously skipped Cleveland’s recent voluntary organised training activities program and has requested a trade, though he remains on the roster for now. 

The former Heisman Trophy winner is due a guaranteed $18.9m this season in the final year of his rookie contract.

Finding a trade partner has so far proven to be difficult due to Mayfield's fifth-year option price-tag, pending free agency and year-to-year inconsistency. 

The 27-year-old’s 21 interceptions in his first full season as a starter in 2019 ranked second in the NFL, but he bounced back to throw for 26 touchdowns and only eight picks the following season while leading Cleveland to an 11-5 record and the franchise's first playoff appearance in 18 years.

Mayfield struggled to repeat that success last season while plagued by a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder that eventually required surgery.

His passer rating dipped from 95.9 in 2020 to 83.1 last season and he finished with a 17-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Watson's status for the start of the season is also undetermined as he faces a potential league suspension due to civil lawsuits filed by 24 female massage therapists alleging him of sexual assault and impropriety.

Stefanski was non-committal when asked if Mayfield would remain an option if he is still on the roster and Watson begins the season under suspension. 

The Browns do have another experienced backup after signing six-year veteran Jacoby Brissett in March.

"We're just going to deal with it day by day," Stefanski said of the Mayfield situation.

Sebastian Vettel is confident Aston Martin can improve their results after a disappointing start to 2022 amid doubts over his future in Formula One.

The four-time world champion is nearing the end of his contract with Aston Martin and it remains to be seen whether he will continue in the sport beyond this season.

Aston Martin's form has done little to quieten talk of retirement.

Vettel was 12th in the drivers' championship with 43 points in 2021. After missing the first two races of this season with COVID-19, he has claimed only five points from five grands prix.

However, as F1 returns to Baku, the scene of a second-placed finish for Vettel last season, he is hopeful changes to the car - which provoked controversy and questions from Red Bull due to the similarities the two cars now share - can spark an upturn in fortunes.

He told Stats Perform: "Obviously we are not aiming to be where we are now. But yeah let's see, we still have some races ahead of us and the team is pushing hard to improve the car.

"With the new set of regulations, there's always a risk you might get it wrong and I think that we have changed our path with a different car that we have adopted now and we believe that it is a better option for the races in the future.

"At the moment, we are not happy with where we are, we would like to be further up but there's a lot of work going into the project and hopefully we will see some better results soon."

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Australia survived a Wanindu Hasaranga blitz to seal a T20I series win over Sri Lanka.

For the second time in as many days, Sri Lanka produced a disappointing batting showing in Colombo, following up 128 all out in the first game with 124-9 on Wednesday.

Charith Asalanka (39) again impressed with the bat but the Australia attack fired without the injured Mitchell Starc, as his replacement Jhye Richardson and namesake Kane Richardson accounted for seven wickets.

Australia stuttered to 64-4 in reply but were still in cruise control even when Marcus Stoinis departed to leave them 80-5 in the ninth over.

However, Hasaranga gave them hope with his final over, removing Glenn Maxwell and Ashton Agar in successive deliveries before narrowly missing out on a hat-trick.

But Matthew Wade kept his composure, scoring an unbeaten 26 to steer Australia over the line and secure an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series with a three-wicket win.

Relentless Richardsons

Starc suffered a hand injury in Australia's 10-wicket win on Tuesday but his absence mattered not thanks to the efforts of Kane and Jhye Richardson.

Kane Richardson claimed 4-30 and Jhye Richardson 3-26, the latter dismissing Kusal Mendis (36) hit wicket and removing all-rounder Hasaranga (12) in the penultimate over.

 

Wow-nindu

Hasaranga was 0-27 for his two overs in the first game but bounced back in style with 4-33.

He looked to be turning the game in Sri Lanka's favour in the 12th over, deceiving Maxwell (19) with a googly and then bowling Agar through the gate. Hasaranga came agonisingly close to drawing an outside edge from Jhye Richardson, who denied him a hat-trick.

Matt Targett has made the switch to Newcastle United on a permanent basis after the Magpies signed the defender from Aston Villa on a four-year deal.

The 26-year-old spent the latter half of last season on loan at St James' Park under Eddie Howe, and played a major role in their remarkable revival from being in great danger of suffering relegation.

Full-back Targett has now returned to Tyneside as Newcastle's first signing of the transfer window.

"I'm absolutely delighted to sign a four-year contract with this club," Targett told the club's official website.

"For me, it was an easy decision to make the loan permanent after the welcome I had from my fellow players, the staff, the supporters and the owners so I'm really happy to be here."

Newcastle boss Howe said: "Matt had a fantastic impact after joining on loan in January and made a big contribution to some excellent team performances.

"He is a great lad and a top professional who undoubtedly makes us stronger, so I'm delighted he sees his future here."

Targett made 16 appearances for the club last season and is expected to be the first of several new faces for the ambitious Magpies.

Cam Newton remains unsigned as NFL teams begin ramping up preparations for the upcoming season, though the 2015 league MVP still feels confident he can be an impact player despite two straight difficult campaigns.

Speaking as a guest on ESPN’s ‘The Pivot Podcast,’ the quarterback attributed his struggles in 2020 and 2021 to putting himself in tough situations during his short stint with the New England Patriots as well as last year’s return to his original team, the Carolina Panthers.

"Before I sit up here and allow the narrative to be made that Cam ain't got it no more, Cam is taking full responsibility and saying Cam put himself in a [messed] up situation, which then had a ricochet effect to how people think of me," Newton said.

"There’s not 32 [quarterbacks] better than me. If you think I couldn't be on somebody's team right now, you're a damn fool."

Newton's career has experienced a downturn since shoulder and foot injuries led to the Panthers releasing their then-franchise face following a 2019 season in which he was limited to just two games.

He signed with the Patriots shortly before training camp opened in 2020 and started 15 games in New England’s first year of the post-Tom Brady era, with mostly mixed results.

The three-time Pro Bowler finished 2020 with eight touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, the first time in Newton’s career he had more picks than TD throws when starting three or more games, and the Patriots went 7-8 in his starts to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Newton said he was never fully able to grasp a new offense on account of joining New England just two months before that season’s start.

"The New England experience was a [messed up] situation," he remarked. "I was still learning the offense seven to eight weeks into the season.

"It was just brain overload. It was times I was going to the line and I'm still thinking, 'Did I know it?’ Yes. To the degree that I needed to know it to show the world that I'm still Cam Newton? No. But I put myself in that situation."

The Patriots released Newton just prior to the start of last season after turning the offense over to rookie quarterback Mac Jones, and he spent nine weeks as a free agent before rejoining the Panthers in November.

Following a dazzling return in which he rushed for two touchdowns off the bench in Carolina’s Week 10 victory over Arizona, Newton was named the starter the following week but was never able to recapture his early-career form. The 33-year-old lost all five of his starts while completing just 54.1 per cent of his passes and recording a 61.4 passer rating.

"I signed on Thursday. I played on Sunday," Newton said of his Carolina comeback. "At what point did you think you was going to be successful? The next week, I started. That's still under 10 days of you being on the team. And you’re still trying to learn the offense."

Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said last month that the team has kept in contact with Newton and has not ruled out bringing him back. It’s unclear if the veteran quarterback would agree to another reunion, as he stated h'’s looking for a scenario where he would have sufficient time to learn an offense while surrounded by a strong support system.

“If you’re asking to run this show without your supporting cast upholding their end of the bargain, then you’re always going to be left alone." Newton said.

Rishabh Pant will captain India for the first time against South Africa after KL Rahul was ruled out of the five-match Twenty20 International series.

Rahul was due to lead India in the absence of the rested Rohit Sharma, but the batter has sustained a groin injury.

That has opened the door for Pant to step up, with Hardik Pandya named vice-captain after leading Gujarat Titans to the Indian Premier League title in his first tournament as captain.

Delhi Capitals skipper Pant is relishing the opportunity to lead his country in a series that starts at Arun Jaitley Stadium on Thursday.

The wicketkeeper-batter said: "It's a great feeling, especially getting an opportunity like this in your hometown.

"There is nothing bigger than this. It didn't come under very good circumstances but I will try to make most of it and give my 100 per cent."

Pant came under fire for costly mistakes he made during a must-win IPL encounter with Mumbai Indians last month, but says he will learn from such experiences.

"I think it [captaining in the IPL] will help me a lot because when you keep doing the same thing over a period of time, you tend to improve," the 24-year-old said.

"I am someone who keeps on learning from my mistakes and that's something which is going to help me in the coming days as well."

Spinner Kuldeep Yadav has also been ruled out of the series after taking a blow on his right hand in the nets on Tuesday, while Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah have been rested along with Rohit.

India will become the first men's team to win 13 T20I matches in a row if they take a 1-0 lead over the Proteas.

The tourists are also in excellent form, having been victorious in 11 of their past 12 games in the shortest format - their only loss during that time coming against Australia in the T20 World Cup last October.

 

Malik to be unleashed, Karthik returns

Umran Malik has been rewarded for a hugely impressive IPL by being called up for India duty for the first time.

The 22-year-old paceman was the fourth-highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 22 for Sunrisers Hyderabad and is a hugely exciting prospect. 

Dinesh Karthik has not played for his country since 2019, but the 37-year-old wicketkeeper-batter is back in the fold with the World Cup on the horizon.

Nortje back, Van der Dussen closing on landmark

South Africa have brought a strong squad to India and are boosted by the return to fitness of Anrich Nortje.

Nortje had been sidelined by a hip injury, but played in the IPL and is set to fire in a hostile South Africa attack.

The Proteas also have a dangerous batting line-up and Rassie van der Dussen needs only 67 runs to reach the 1,000 landmark in T20Is. If he scores those runs in his next innings, he would be the joint-fastest to reach that figure along with Faf du Plessis (32 innings).

Aaron Rodgers has confirmed he intends to finish his storied career as a Green Bay Packer, though he was less definitive on exactly how long he plans to keep playing.

Speaking to reporters following Tuesday's first practice of mandatory minicamp, the two-time reigning NFL MVP revealed he was taking it year by year as he enters his 18th season.

That is despite Rodgers signing a three-year contract extension in March that runs through 2026.

"The conversations I've had with [general manager] Brian [Gutekunst] have been very honest and direct, and that's not going to change," Rodgers said. 

"We'll sit down after the season, hopefully after a championship, and figure out what the next step is."

Rodgers left no doubt, however, when asked if he wants his final game to come with the only team he has played for since entering the NFL in 2005.

"Yes, definitely," he said. "Unless they trade me. When I made the decision [to return], that's 100 per cent in. 

"But it doesn’t mean you don’t think about the other side. This is my 18th season. Of course you think about the next chapter and what is next in your life all the time. 

"It doesn't mean you’re not fully invested."

Rodgers' stance is in stark contrast to that of a year ago, when a public rift between him and Gutekunst prompted the star quarterback to skip minicamp and reportedly request a trade. 

The two ultimately patched things up, and Rodgers went on to produce one of his best statistical seasons in 2021 to earn the fourth MVP award of his brilliant career.

The 38-year-old’s future was again somewhat in limbo this offseason, with Rodgers saying in March he was not sure if he wanted to play the upcoming season with the Packers or another team. 

He later agreed to a three-year, $150million extension that made him the league's highest-paid player in terms of annual salary.

While Rodgers will be back for at least one more season, the Packers did undergo one major change since their loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional playoffs back in January after trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders at the All-Pro receiver's request.

The offense will also have a new play-caller for 2022 after offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was named the Denver Broncos’ head coach, and quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy also departed to become the Chicago Bears' OC.

"The offense has to change," Rodgers remarked. "Last year, when you have a guy who is that talented, it's probably not an exaggeration to say that 80 per cent of the plays in the passing game were designed specifically for [Adams]. 

"So we're obviously going to do some things a little different."

Rodgers is using this week's practices as a chance to get acclimated with a new group of receivers that includes veteran Sammy Watkins and a pair of 2022 draft picks, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, who could play key roles as rookies.

"I like production over potential," Rodgers admitted. 

"We have some production. We have a lot of potential, so we need to temper expectations and heighten the accountability."

Max Verstappen is looking to settle some "unfinished business" at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as he sets out to further extend his lead in the Formula One drivers' championship.

Verstappen is nine points ahead of Charles Leclerc after a chaotic Monaco Grand Prix in which the Dutchman finished third ahead of his Ferrari rival.

Leclerc was apoplectic as a Ferrari miscue that saw them double stack the Monegasque and team-mate Carlos Sainz in the pits cost him the chance of a home victory.

Red Bull have won each of the last four races, with Leclerc's loss in Monte Carlo the gain of the victorious Sergio Perez, who will be out to replicate his 2021 triumph in Baku.

That win for Perez came after a rear tyre failure caused Verstappen to crash from the lead on lap 47, a piece of misfortune for which he is keen to make up.

"I'm looking forward to returning to Baku, we have some unfinished business there after last year," said Verstappen.

"It's a tricky track with big braking zones and a tight run-off, finding the best set-up for the car will be difficult in terms of making sure we get the correct wing level.

"It will also be interesting to see if we can make our one-lap performance better for qualifying as we’ve been lacking a little."

Ferrari have never tasted victory at the street circuit in the Azerbaijan capital, which presents one of the most challenging tests on the F1 calendar.

Leclerc finished fourth from pole last year and failing to back up qualifying performance on race day has been a persistent problem for Ferrari in 2022.

Luckless Leclerc

Leclerc has claimed pole in five of the first seven races this season and could become the first Ferrari driver to record six poles in the opening eight races since Michael Schumacher in 2001.

Yet he has only two victories to his name this campaign, with wins snatched from his grasp in Barcelona and Monaco.

For his career, Leclerc has won just four of the 14 races in which he has taken pole position. His win percentage of 29 per cent in those races is the second-lowest behind Jarno Trulli (25), who won one of the four races he started on pole.

Given the prevalence of fast straights in Baku, this is a track more likely to favour Red Bull, meaning it could be another frustrating weekend for Leclerc even if he continues his dominance of qualifying.

A Perez title push

Perez is himself only 15 points behind Verstappen in the title race and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner recently said the Mexican is "in this championship just as much as Max is".

That statement runs contrary to the call Red Bull made in Barcelona, ordering Perez to let Verstappen through en route to victory there.

Perez made his dissatisfaction in Spain clear, and Verstappen's father Jos expressed his irritation after Monaco that the Red Bull strategy went against the reigning world champion.

"Max was not helped by the chosen strategy. That was disappointing for me and I would have liked it to be different for the championship leader," he wrote on Verstappen.com.

Should Perez triumph again in Baku, any talk of Red Bull playing favourites may have to give way to an in-team title tussle.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 125
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 116
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 110
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 84
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 83

Constructors

1. Red Bull 235
2. Ferrari 199
3. Mercedes 134
4. McLaren 59
5. Alfa Romeo 41

Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood on Wednesday faced a grilling over their participation in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series that they hope will not end their Ryder Cup days.

The English duo will tee off at Centurion Golf Club when the first event of the controversial breakaway tour starts on Thursday.

Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson this week quit the PGA Tour after agreeing huge offers to join the LIV Tour.

Westwood and Poulter were quizzed over their morals as they became the latest players to be asked about Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

When asked if he would play in a tournament organised by Russian president Vladimir Putin, Poulter said: "I'm not even going to comment on speculation" before refusing to answer when quizzed if there is anywhere he would not play on a moral basis.

Westwood then replied "you're just asking us to a hypothetical question there and I'm not going to your answer" after being asked if he would have played in Apartheid South Africa.

Signing up to the LIV Tour has led to uncertainty over whether Ryder Cup stalwarts Westwood and Poulter were ruling themselves out of representing Europe again.

Poulter said: "We don't know [if they could be involved in the Ryder Cup]. I'd like to think it wouldn't [prevent them from being involved], all the golf I've played around the world in all the different countries and tours I don't see why this should be any different.

"It's an unknown risk, we don't know how DP World Tour will view it, it's obviously a factor."

Westwood, who pointed out that he has played on European Tour events in Saudi Arabia, said: "It's something I have to take into account. I'm not sure about the playing days, I'm 50 next April. The captaincy could be in jeopardy as well, but Ian pretty much covered it all.

"What I will say is myself and Ian have been members of the PGA Tour while we've been on the European Tour and that's had no effect in the past on whether people have been captains.

"LIV Golf is another tour so why should it be any different?"

Queensland survived a late rally from New South Wales to claim a tense 16-10 victory in this year's State of Origin opener in Sydney.

New South Wales went into Origin I having won three of the last four series, and Jack Wighton crashed over in the 14th minute at Accor Stadium to give them a 4-0 lead.

But the Blues could not build on that advantage and the Maroons overturned it in the 34th minute when Dane Gagai pounced on Selwyn Cobbo's grubber kick and Valentine Holmes added the extras.

Junior Paulo looked to have quickly restored the Blues' lead, only for Cameron Murray to be penalised for obstruction and Queensland took control after the restart.

Daly Cherry-Evans side-stepped his way over as first receiver from the scrum eight minutes into the second half and Kalyn Ponga fed Holmes for Queensland's third try five minutes later.

Murray gave New South Wales hope nine minutes from time, but Queensland held on with a great defensive effort led by Man of the Match Cameron Munster, who helped secure the win for former Melbourne Storm and Maroons team-mate Billy Slater in his first Origin game as head coach.

Luka Modric has agreed to extend his trophy-laden Real Madrid stay to over a decade by signing a one-year contract extension.

The European and LaLiga champions on Wednesday confirmed that Modric will remain at the Santiago Bernabeu for another season.

Modric joined Los Blancos from Tottenham in August 2012 and has made over 400 appearances for the club.

The 36-year-old midfielder pulled the strings as Carlo Ancelotti's side completed a Champions League and LaLiga double in a glorious 2021-22 season.

Modric has won the Champions League five times, three LaLiga titles, lifted the Club World Cup on four occasions and the Copa del Rey once during his long spell in the Spanish capital.

The Croatia captain also has three European Super Cup winners' medals and has celebrated Supercopa de Espana success four times.

Modric, who won his 150th cap for his country in a 1-1 Nations League draw with France on Monday, will go in search of more honours next season after putting pen to paper on a new deal.

Tottenham have reached an agreement to sign Fraser Forster on a free transfer.

The 34-year-old will join at the start of July on a two-year deal once his Southampton contract officially expires.

Forster has spent the past eight years at St Mary's, albeit with a season on loan at Celtic in 2019-20, and made 134 appearances for the club in the Premier League.

That includes 19 top-flight outings last season when conceding 35 goals and keeping three clean sheets.

Tottenham confirmed the six-cap England international's imminent arrival on their official website on Wednesday.

The agreement comes a week after Spurs agreed terms with Ivan Perisic, who will also arrive on a free from Inter.

Forster is expected to be second choice behind Hugo Lloris following loanee Pierluigi Gollini's return to Atalanta last week.

Phil Mickelson will not resign from the PGA Tour and has confirmed he intends to take part in next week's U.S. Open, despite his LIV Golf Invitational Series involvement.

The 51-year-old will end a four-month self-imposed exile from golf on Thursday when the inaugural LIV Golf event gets underway at Centurion Club on the outskirts of London.

Mickelson was met with widespread condemnation after criticising the PGA Tour earlier this year, for which he apologised and vowed to take a step back from the game.

That saw the six-time major champion miss The Masters and the defence of his US PGA Championship, though he is still registered to play at the upcoming U.S. Open.

And while Mickelson refused to confirm whether he has been serving a PGA Tour ban for his controversial comments, he will not voluntarily quit the American circuit.

"I've been a part of the tour for over 30 years and I've had a lot of incredible memories and experiences, tournaments that I've won and lost," he said on Wednesday.

"I've gained a lot, received a lot and I'm grateful for everything the tour has done for me. I've also worked hard to contribute and build and add value to the tour in my time there.

"I worked hard to get a lifetime exemption. I don't want to give that up. I don't feel I should have to. 

"I don't know what's going to happen. I've earned that and I don't plan on just giving it up.

"I've really enjoyed my time on the PGA Tour. I've had some incredible experiences, great memories and I have a lot of strong opinions that it should and could be a lot better. 

"One mistake I've made is voicing them publicly. I will make an effort to keep those conversations behind closed doors moving forward."

Mickelson then confirmed he will compete in next week's U.S. Open in Massachusetts and added: "I'm looking forward to it."

The United States Golf Association, which runs the major, has already announced it will not stop those competing in the LIV Golf series from playing at The Country Club.

Unlike Mickelson, others taking part in the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Golf circuit – such as Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia – have resigned from the PGA Tour.

"I saw that and I think they're making the decision that's best for them personally," Mickelson said.

"I respect that. As a lifetime member I'm not required to play 15 events. I don't have to play any. I can play one. So I don't see a reason for me to give that up."

Mickelson is reported to have been given a $200million signing-on fee to appear in LIV Golf events, but he refused to be drawn on the specifics during a tense news conference.

"Contract agreements should remain private," he said.

Phil Mickelson said he does "not condone human rights violations" but signed up to participate in the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series because he thinks it can do good for the sport.

Mickelson is arguably the most-notable name involved ahead of the first event of a series previously known as the 'Super Golf League', which gets under way at the Centurion Club, near London, on Thursday.

A lucrative breakaway from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, its bankrolling by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) has attracted some big names.

Each regular-season event will have a purse of €25million, which is already $5m greater than the most-lucrative event on the PGA Tour, the Players Championship.

LIV Golf's season-ending championship event will have $50m up for grabs, making it comfortably the biggest purse in the sport.

But funding of the series by Saudi Arabia's PIF has led to significant criticism due to the country's poor humans rights record, with critics labelling LIV Golf another example of "sportswashing" – the practice of improving a tarnished reputation through the hosting or funding sporting events or entities.

Mickelson found himself at the centre of the controversy last year when admitting to being aware of Saudi Arabia's grim record but signed up to LIV Golf anyway because "this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates".

On the eve of the first tournament, Mickelson received a grilling from the media, and he told reporters: "I don't condone human rights violations, I don't know how I can be any more clear.

"I understand your question but again I love this game of golf, I've seen the good it's done and I see the opportunity for LIV Golf to do a lot of good for the game over the world and I'm excited to be a part of this opportunity."

During his news conference, Mickelson again offered his regret at some public comments made in the past.

But he was then asked if he was sorry for "speaking the truth about the Saudis" or for the "shameless hypocrisy of taking their money anyway".

He replied: "I understand many people have very strong opinions and may disagree with my decision, and I can empathise with that."

Following a significant pause, he continued: "But at this time this is an opportunity that gives me the chance to have the most balance in my life going forward and I think this is going do a lot of good for the game."

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