Aldon Smith has confirmed he has signed for the Dallas Cowboys, five years after he played his last NFL snap.

The 30-year-old defensive end, a first-round draft pick for the San Francisco 49ers nine years ago, had 33.5 sacks in 2011 and 2012 - the most of any player across their first two NFL seasons.

However, off-field problems blighted Smith and he was arrested for driving under the influence three times during his time with the Niners, who cut Smith in 2015.

He signed for the Raiders and played nine games in his first year, but Smith was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse and personal conduct policies, and he sat out the entire 2016 and 2017 seasons.

In 2018, shortly after Smith was named as a suspect in a domestic violence incident, the Raiders released the defensive end.

However, Smith is now set to return to the NFL having agreed a reported one-year, $4million contract with the Cowboys.

Smith would need to be officially reinstated by the NFL before that contract can begin, though Dallas are reportedly confident that hurdle can be cleared.

In an Instagram post where he was pictured signing his contract, Smith wrote: "Life is good. I'm thankful. I'm blessed. I'm a Cowboy."

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton labelled himself a "big dummy" after sparking talk Drew Brees was retiring after next season.

Brees, 41, reportedly agreed to a two-year contract with the Saints last month, with the 2020 season to be his 20th in the NFL.

There was fresh talk over Brees' future when Payton told ESPN on Tuesday that Brees was returning for a "final season".

But the Saints coach said he misspoke, insisting the veteran quarterback was going year by year.

"I'm a big dummy. Yesterday we got chatting on ESPN and I think the way I worded it was that he's coming back for his last year," Payton told a conference call on Wednesday.

"I think, I honestly do not know if it is his last year. I think the thing he's done and we've all done is taken it year by year and man that thing blew up on me."

Brees and the Saints reached the playoffs last season before losing in the Wild Card game.

Payton said he respected Brees for taking his time in deciding whether he wanted to return for another season.

"This year he spent some time, he spent a lot of time really making sure he was ready to come back, not only physically, but mentally," he said.

"Obviously that was my fault and it's not like a big secret that I let out of the bag, but it was more or less first, he's back again for another year and probably in my mind really, started with the idea that this year was unique in that he spent some time thinking about, 'Hey, am I ready to come back for another season?'

"Before we deal with the year after this season, I know the focal point for us will be this season."

With the frenzy of free agency in the rear-view mirror, the attention of the 32 NFL franchises is now primarily focused on the 2020 draft.

Most of the big names on the open market have found a new home, though there are still a couple of high-profile free agents who could impact teams' offseason plans.

The draft has already had to be drastically altered by the coronavirus outbreak. Initially slated to take place in Las Vegas with prospects riding boats to a stage on the Bellagio fountains, the draft is now set to be a low-key event closed to the public.

But how will what happened in free agency alter how teams approach their draft selections? Here we look at the biggest dominoes to fall in free agency and how they will likely impact the draft.


The DeForest Buckner trade

One of the most surprising moves of the free agency was the San Francisco 49ers deciding to pay Arik Armstead, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, over fellow defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, who was promptly traded to the Indianapolis Colts for the 13th overall pick.

All-Pro Buckner has been a more consistent performer than Armstead and his departure is a blow to a 49ers defensive line that was the best in the NFL last season.

Armstead will earn an average of $17million a year with the 49ers while Buckner's contract is worth $21m a year.

It is a move that made financial sense for a Niners team in need of salary cap space, but the return they received from Indianapolis is what provokes the most intrigue.

The Niners now have two picks in the first round (13 and 31) and, with the former, they are well placed to land one of Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III, considered the top three wide receivers in the draft.

San Francisco made it to the Super Bowl without a true number one receiver. The prospect of the 49ers adding one to Kyle Shanahan's explosive offense is mouth-watering.

Brady to the Bucs, Rivers to the Colts

The biggest domino in free agency took some time to fall, but it did so 12 days ago when Tom Brady signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady's arrival in Tampa Bay not only saw the Buccaneers move on from former first overall pick Jameis Winston, but it also took them out of the quarterback discussion in the draft.

With Brady under center, it is unlikely the Bucs will be focused on finding their quarterback of the future with the 14th overall pick.

Having traded their first-rounder for Buckner, the Colts - who had previously been regarded as potential quarterback suitors in the draft - signed Philip Rivers to a one-year deal following his Los Angeles Chargers exit.

The respective moves for Brady and Rivers indicate the Bucs and Colts are in win-now mode. The future at quarterback can wait for both of those franchises. If the Chargers, who select sixth overall, also decide to look to another position, it could mean a slide down the board for quarterbacks not named Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa.

As a result of the late-career changes of scenery for the two veterans, the likes of Justin Herbert and Jordan Love could face a long wait to learn where their pro careers will start.

Yannick Ngakoue receiving the franchise tag

The knock-on effects of this decision are still to be revealed, however, given Ngakoue's desire to move on to pastures new, the star edge rusher receiving the franchise tag appears destined to have a significant impact on how the draft plays out.

Ngakoue does not want to play under the tag and has made it clear he has no wish to sign a long-term deal with the Jaguars.

By slapping the tag on him, the Jaguars ensured they can at least get something in return for Ngakoue, rather than losing him for nothing in free agency.

Unsurprisingly for a player with 37.5 sacks in four seasons, Ngakoue is said to have drawn trade interest from several teams looking to acquire him and sign him to a long-term extension.

The starting point for negotiations for Ngakoue would likely be a first-round pick. If he is to be traded, either before or during the draft, it will likely be a deal that shakes up the opening round.

DOMINOES STILL TO FALL

Jadeveon Clowney

Durability concerns and a lack of sacks appear to have depressed the market for the 2014 first overall pick.

The Seattle Seahawks are seemingly keen to re-sign Clowney, having traded for him last offseason.

However, no agreement has been reached and, if Clowney - one of the most disruptive edge rushers in the league when at his best - signs elsewhere, that could drastically impact the draft plans of an NFC contender.

Cam Newton

Newton's slide from 2015 MVP to being released by the Carolina Panthers is one of the more dramatic falls from grace in recent NFL history.

The fact the Panthers ended up cutting Newton indicates he had little in the way of the trade market after two consecutive injury-hindered seasons.

However, when healthy Newton has proven himself a top-tier starting quarterback worthy of an opportunity with a new team.

If the Chargers, who currently appear comfortable going with Tyrod Taylor in the position, decide to give him that chance, it would take another team out of the quarterback discussion and end talk of them potentially trading up for Tagovailoa.

NFL owners on Tuesday officially approved the expansion of the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams.

The new structure was agreed during a conference call after the Annual League Meeting was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Three quarters of the 32 NFL owners had to give the green light for the altered format for the changes to come into effect.

From the new season, there will be an extra playoff team in each conference, with only the top seeds in the AFC and NFC securing a postseason bye.

AFC and NFC Wild Card games will see the second seed host the seventh seed, the third and sixth seeds do battle and the fourth and fifth seeds lock horns.

NFL Wild Card Weekend will feature three contests on Saturday January 9 and as many the following day.

Tom Brady will wear the number 12 jersey for the Buccaneers after accepting an offer from team-mate Chris Godwin to have it.

Quarterback Brady opted to end his long and successful association with the New England Patriots earlier this month, signing with Tampa Bay in the NFL's free agency period.

The 42-year-old has worn 12 throughout his two decades in the NFL, becoming synonymous with the number as he won six Super Bowl rings as a Patriot.

Now he will do the same for his new team thanks to Godwin, who has had the number for the Bucs since 2017 but had made clear his willingness to give it up for Brady.

The wide receiver - who has caught 179 passes for 2,700 yards and 17 touchdowns during his time with the franchise - will instead switch to 14 for the 2020 campaign.

After creating waves with the arrival of one of the game's greatest players, Tampa Bay will be hoping Brady will continue to combine so smoothly with Godwin on the field.

The three-time NFL MVP - who will turn 43 in August - joined the Bucs on a two-year deal.

The Cincinnati Bengals released long-serving cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on Tuesday.

Kirkpatrick spent eight years with the Bengals after he was selected by the team in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

The 30-year-old played 99 games for Cincinnati, with 67 starts, but his contract has now been terminated.

"Dre was a part of the Bengals' organisation for many years, and displayed passion, energy and competitiveness both on and off the field," said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor.

"We appreciate his many contributions to our team and community over the years and wish him the best moving forward."

Kirkpatrick has made 291 career tackles, 10 interceptions, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

His exit comes after the Bengals signed cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander during free agency.

 

Reports in the UK this week suggested there is growing support to void the current Premier League season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin admitted the 2019-20 campaign might have to be scrubbed from the records, after Euro 2020 was moved back 12 months.

Although the likes of runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool would understandably despair at such a prospect, there are other clubs enjoying seasons to forget who might enjoy the escape clause.

With that in mind, we took a look back at the teams and individuals who might like to expunge an ignominious season or period of time from history.

 

MANCHESTER UNITED 2013-14

The seven years since Alex Ferguson's retirement have not exactly gone swimmingly for United, but that ill-fated first season remains the real low point. 

David Moyes lasted just 10 months as Ferguson's replacement as the reigning Premier League champions finished seventh in 2013-14, suffering truly humiliating defeats to top two Manchester City and Liverpool along the way. A wretched 2-0 loss at Moyes' former club Everton proved the final straw.

At least they won the Community Shield in August 2013. 

NOVAK DJOKOVIC 2017

When Novak Djokovic defeated familiar foe Andy Murray to win the 2016 French Open, the modern-day legend was in possession of all of tennis' grand slams. The question was, who can stop this man? Well, the answer was actually himself.

A round-three exit at Wimbledon followed a month later and, although he reached the US Open final that year, a barren 2017 followed. Djokovic did not go beyond the quarters at any slam that year and reached just one final at the Italian Open, which he lost. Djokovic rediscovered the winning habit in slams at Wimbledon in 2018, beginning a run of five triumphs in the past seven at tennis' big events.

DETROIT LIONS – 2008

The Lions secured an unwanted place in history when they became the first NFL team in the 16-game season era to go 0-16. They went 7-9 in 2007 and were then undefeated in preaseason, meaning few would have thought a historically bad campaign was on the cards.

Detroit started three QBs over the course of the campaign - Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and Daunte Culpepper - all of whom struggled with form and injuries despite the presence of star receiver Calvin Johnson, but worst of all was their woeful defense, which gave up 517 points.

Team president and CEO Matt Millen was fired after four weeks, while head coach Rod Marinelli was shown the door at the end of the season and has not led a team since.

TIGER WOODS - 2014-2017

Tiger Woods' standing as one the greatest, if not the greatest, golfer of all time is in no doubt. By the end of 2013, Woods was standing again atop the world rankings after winning five times during the year, earning the prestigious PGA Tour Player of the Year award. 

It would take five years for Woods to win again as the American great endured a horrendous time with debilitating back injuries and loss of form. At one stage it looked as though he may have to retire and his world ranking had plummeted to a scarcely credible 1,199th in December 2017. But just a year ago Woods was back in major-winning form as, at the age of 43, he became Masters champion for a fifth time.

BARCELONA 2002-03

Years of drift since the 1999 LaLiga title came to a head in 2002-03, as Barcelona endured a miserable season that saw Louis van Gaal sacked as coach and led to the departure of president Joan Gaspart. 

Barca ended up sixth in the league – their worst finish in 15 years – as the Real Madrid Galacticos ruled. They also exited the Copa del Rey in the first round and lost in the Champions League quarter-finals. 

After that season, in came Joan Laporta as president, Frank Rijkaard as head coach, and a certain Brazilian called Ronaldinho. And things got a bit better. 

ENGLAND – 2013-14 ASHES

England made it three Ashes victories in a row with a 3-0 home triumph in 2013 – the first time they had enjoyed such a run of success against old enemies Australia since 1977-1981. However, a rejig of the international cricketing schedule meant a swift return Down Under. The Mitchell Johnson-inspired hosts exacted brutal vengeance on their way to a 5-0 whitewash as a great England team fell to pieces.

Off-spinner Graeme Swann retired mid-series and Kevin Pietersen's tempestuous exit from the international stage was set in motion, while Andy Flower – the head coach he despised – stepped down. Of the XI that started the concluding 281-run loss in Sydney, Pietersen, Michael Carberry and debutants Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin would never play red ball cricket for England again.

REAL MADRID 2008-09

In Spanish football's great rivalry, Real Madrid or Barcelona doing well is only half the deal. Success is truly sweet if the other half of El Clasico's enduring grudge are having a tough time. Madrid won LaLiga in 2007-08, with Barca a distant fourth as the Rijkaard-Ronaldinho era disintegrated under the weight of its own excess.

However, the tables flipped spectacularly next time around – Barca stormed to an unprecedented treble under rookie coach Pep Guardiola, Lionel Messi leaped from exceptional talent to generational superstar as Madrid were walloped 6-2 by their sworn foes at the Santiago Bernabeu and a dynasty was born.

Madrid finished a distant second, were thrashed 5-0 on aggregate by Liverpool in the Champions League last-16 and coach Juande Ramos followed predecessor Bernd Schuster out of the exit door.

PAULA RADCLIFFE – 2004 OLYMPICS

After setting a new world record in London in 2003 and having won the 2004 race in New York, Radcliffe was favourite for marathon gold at the 2004 Olympics. 

However, after struggling badly to continue, Radcliffe withdrew 23 miles in and was taken for a medical check-up. She later competed in the 10,000 metres but again retired.  In a tearful appearance on British TV, Radcliffe refused to blame the heat and humidity in Athens and admitted she was "desperately trying to find a reason for what happened". 

A year later, she was back winning and breaking the world record at the London marathon - despite a brief toilet break by the side of the road - before taking gold at the World Championships in Helsinki.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2019-2020

After a fifth straight NBA Finals appearance in 2019, things went rapidly downhill for the Golden State Warriors. All-Star duo Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins left in free agency, while 'Splash Brothers' Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been out injured – the latter is yet to play this season. 

The Warriors sit bottom of the Western Conference and have the worst overall record in the NBA at 15-50. An improved chance of getting the first pick in the 2020 draft is their only solace.

MANNY PACQUIAO 2012

After losing to Erik Morales in 2005, Manny Pacquiao went on sensational 15-fight winning streak that established him as an unprecedented seven-division world champion. The Morales loss was twice avenged via stoppage, with the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto similarly dispatched. A mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr awaited, only for the wheels to fall off in 2012.

Timothy Bradley halted Pacquiao's streak when he was – somewhat farcically – awarded a split-decision verdict over the Filipino great. Juan Manuel Marquez knew all about scorecard controversy from his previous three meetings with Pacquiao and duly took them out of the equation, chillingly leaving his rival face down and motionless on the Las Vegas canvas that December. The Mayweather bout had to wait until 2015, but that is one of only two losses suffered since by Pacquiao, who reigns as WBA welterweight champion at 41.

CHELSEA 2015-16

Chelsea won the Premier League title in 2014-15 and 2016-17. What came in between was nothing short of a complete shambles. Jose Mourinho had returned for a second spell in charge and collected a third winners' medal in England's top flight but the Portuguese's famously abrasive tendencies then appeared to wear his players down at an alarming rate.

Beginning with the 2-2 draw against Swansea City that ignited Mourinho's sapping spat with club doctor Eva Carneiro, Chelsea won only one of their opening five Premier League fixtures. That form was far from a blip and they were 16th when Mourinho was sacked in the wake of a 2-1 December loss to would-be champions Leicester City. Caretaker boss Guus Hiddink restored a modicum of respectability with a 10th-place finish before Antonio Conte arrived and the Stamford Bridge faithful were soon wondering if it had all just been a bad dream.

SERENA WILLIAMS 2006

Williams started the year by losing her Australian Open crown with a third-round exit to Daniele Hantuchova, before injuries forced her to miss tournaments in Tokyo and Dubai. Come April, she had dropped out of the WTA top 100 for the first time since November 1997, and it came as little surprise that she competed at neither the French Open nor Wimbledon. 

After a fourth-round exit at the US Open, Williams ended a title-less year 95th in the world. It meant she returned to the Australian Open in January 2007 as an unseeded player. She won it. 

Heading into the 1998 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts had what was deemed to be a tricky choice to make.

Armed with the first overall pick, new team president Bill Polian had two quarterbacks to choose from: Peyton Manning – the son of a former NFL player who starred at the University of Tennessee – or Ryan Leaf, the big man with a strong arm who had decided to leave Washington State a year early to enter the league.

History, of course, tells us the Colts made the correct call.

Manning spent 14 seasons in Indianapolis, his hugely successful spell with the team including leading them to glory in Super Bowl XLI. His jersey number (18) was retired by the franchise, while there is a statue of him at the team's Lucas Oil Stadium.

The San Diego Chargers, meanwhile, claimed Leaf at two. Their marriage did not run so smoothly – or last too long (three seasons, to be precise). He played just 25 games in a career that also included a stop in Dallas, throwing 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions, and is regarded as one of – if not the – biggest draft busts.

But what if Leaf had gone first instead? Let's start at the beginning…

 

THE COLTS

Having the first pick was the ideal building block for Polian, who was always going to hand new head coach Jim Mora a rookie QB to work with.

Manning started from the outset with the Colts. There were early teething problems and he finished his debut season with a 3-13 record, throwing more interceptions (28) than touchdowns (26).

However, the chance to learn on the job aided his development. The Colts went on to make the playoffs in the next two seasons and while 2001 was not so successful, a 6-10 campaign led to the arrival of Tony Dungy as head coach and, well, the rest is history.

Whether Leaf would have developed in the same circumstances has to be considered doubtful with how his career panned out, but Indianapolis would have at least afforded him time in which to prove himself.

They also had two rather useful pieces to help, as a running back by the name of Marshall Faulk and a wide receiver called Marvin Harrison were already on the roster.

Had Leaf still flamed out in a similar timeframe with the Colts – it should be pointed out he missed his second season in San Diego through injury - they may well have used the 2001 draft to find a replacement. The Chargers did exactly that, using the 32nd pick on Drew Brees.

THE CHARGERS

Here is where an alternative NFL timeline gets seriously interesting.

Manning as a Charger may not have blossomed in time to keep head coach Kevin Gilbride in a job – he was fired midway through the 1998 season, his second at the helm – but he may well have been the key to keeping the team in San Diego.

Owner Dean Spanos moved the Chargers to Los Angeles after an unsuccessful attempt to get a new stadium built. A failure to secure tax-payer funding led to relocation in 2017.

Surely, though, the presence of Manning could have made a difference. On-field success - perhaps even a Super Bowl triumph like the one the Colts enjoyed - could have led to them getting the backing required to stay put.

Instead, L.A. is now home, though they have so far struggled in competition with the Rams to attract fans. There have even been rumours that the Chargers could move again soon, this time overseas to become the NFL's permanent residents in London.

And what of Brees? Manning's presence would have made picking another QB a waste of draft resources. In 2001, the team to next take a player at the position after the Chargers were the Cowboys, meaning Drew could well have gone on to become a star in Dallas instead.

THE 2004 DRAFT

Of course, there is another Manning whose career would have changed if you take a sliding doors approach to the '98 draft.

After life with Leaf failed to pan out, the Chargers had better luck with Brees before then moving on to Philip Rivers.

However, they selected Peyton's younger brother Eli with the first pick in 2004, rather than Rivers, even though the former Ole Miss quarterback never had any intention of playing for them.

Eli ended up in New York with the Giants in a trade that saw Rivers, who was drafted at four, head in the opposite direction. The next QB taken that year? Ben Roethlisberger, who went to the Pittsburgh Steelers at 11. The Buffalo Bills also used their first-round pick on the position, opting for J.P. Losman after moving up to 22.

Yet had Peyton's place been in San Diego, several notable signal callers selected early in 2004 could have ended up in different locations to begin their pro careers.

There was a limit to what Bill Belichick was going to pay Tom Brady to stay with the New England Patriots, according to Charlie Weis.

Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency and Weis believes the superior supporting cast on offer in Florida was another key driver in the quarterback’s decision to leave New England.

Weis was Offensive Coordinator with the Patriots for the first three Super Bowls won by Belichick and Brady.

While the head coach and QB are not "beer buddies", he insists there is a significant level of respect between them.

Weis told ESPN on WEEI: "Really at the end, it comes right down to that Bill felt there was only so much money they were going to pay for Tommy and Tommy looked at it and said, 'Really, I've had enough of this shtick'.

"He's still got plenty of gas left in the tank, but I think he got to the point where you look at these other places you talk about, you look at the Buccaneers, you look at the Chargers.

"You look at some of these places and say, 'Were they better options for him with the abilities of the players around him?' The answer was, emphatically, yes.

"Both Tommy and Bill have a great respect for each other but they are not beer buddies. They are not going to go out, sit down and go out socially. It wasn't about that. 

"Relationships are irrelevant. It's not a business where you are worrying about whether people like you or not. It’s all about respect and there definitely was mutual respect."

Despite understanding the reasons behind Brady's move to the Bucs, Weis was still taken aback when the news emerged.

"I was surprised - as a matter of fact, my comment at the time was that I was a little stunned," he added.

"Even though the further it went on, the more likely it was, I had a tough time imagining that was the way it was going to end."

While more than five months remain before the new NFL season, the Patriots appear ready to give second-year pro Jarrett Stidham the chance to succeed Brady, who is the latest in a long line of star veterans Belichick has allowed to leave.

"That is the way the building works," said Weis. "They never are afraid to let somebody go, even if they've still got gas left in their tank, because it's all about business. 

"For people who want to make it personal and want to talk about egos and all that, do those things come into play? Yes, they do. But really, from Bill's standpoint, it's all about business."

It is exactly 35 years since Wrestlemania I took place and never has the mantra 'the show must go on' been more apt than in the world of WWE.

While the globe has been ground to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic, Vince McMahon's global sports entertainment behemoth has continued with its weekly television shows Raw and Smackdown filmed in the absence of live audiences at the company's performance center.

Indeed, WWE's flagship event Wrestlemania is going ahead in the same fashion despite the breakout of COVID-19, which curtailed hosting the show at the original location of the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Fan favourites including John Cena, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Charlotte Flair, Edge, Randy Orton and Bill Goldberg are scheduled to appear on a bumper card shown over Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

But there will also be the presence of former NFL star Rob Gronkowski, who is slated to serve as host of Wrestlemania 36.

The ex-New England Patriots tight end – who helped his buddy Mojo Rawley win the 'Andre the Giant Battle Royal' during the Wrestlemania 33 pre-show – is not the first athlete to show up in WWE. Here we take a look at some others.

WAYNE ROONEY

England and Manchester United's record goalscorer had a run-in with Wade Barrett during a November 2015 edition of Monday Night Raw.

Preston fan Barrett, incensed by what he felt was a dive by Rooney in an FA Cup tie between his team and United nine months prior, said the now Derby County midfielder embarrasses his son "every time you step on a football pitch". Rooney retaliated with a slap.

RONDA ROUSEY

"Ronda's gonna kill ya..." was the chant emanating around Levi's Stadium as the fearsome Ronda Rousey stepped between the ropes at Wrestlemania 31.

Accompanied by WWE great Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, now a worldwide movie star, UFC icon Rousey was involved in a spat with the legendary Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon.

Three years later, Rousey partnered Olympic gold medallist Kurt Angle to defeat 'The Game' and 'The Billion Dollar Princess'. In January 2018, she became an in-ring regular and won Raw's women's title, which she dropped to Lynch a year ago.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL

Better known for slam dunks, former Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal got in a choke slam at Wrestlemania 32.

The four-time NBA champion had a stare down with the Big Show, before the two combined to slam the 'Big Red Machine' Kane.

RICKY HATTON

Ricky Hatton earned hordes of fans throughout a brilliant boxing career.

In November 2009, 'The Hitman' stepped into a different kind of ring to host an episode of Raw from Sheffield Arena.

Hatton even donned the gloves to land a knockout punch on Chavo Guerrero Jr., with whom he had feuded on the evening.

FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has beaten them all in the boxing ring, as his 50-0 record proves.

But it was a true case of David vs Goliath when Mayweather, approximately 5'7" and 150lbs, came up against the 7'2", 500lb giant The Big Show at Wrestlemania 24.

Despite the notable size advantage, Big Show was distracted by a member of Mayweather's entourage hitting him with a chair and 'Money' delivered a telling blow, albeit while wearing brass knuckles, to knock out his huge opponent.

PETE ROSE

Pete Rose is a legend of the baseball world, holding MLB's all-time hits record and winning the World Series on three occasions.

Rose was part of the 1970s Cincinnati Reds team that earned the nickname 'The Big Red Machine'.

But his run in with WWE's own 'Big Red Machine' Kane during the late 1990s and 2000 have become the thing of wrestling folklore.

On one such occasion at Wrestlemania 15, Rose was disguised as a chicken and earned a beatdown from Kane, including his devastating tombstone finishing manoeuvre.

MIKE TYSON

'Iron' Mike Tyson is no stranger to a WWE ring.

'The Baddest Man on the Planet' had an infamous showdown with 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, one of the all-time greats in WWE, on an episode of Raw and had seemingly sided with one of the company's most famous stables D-Generation X before one of its members Shawn Michaels faced Austin at Wrestlemania 14.

However, during the event Tyson showed his true allegiance, counting the pin for Austin and clocking Michaels. Some 12 years later, Tyson buried the hatchet with his DX foes, unveiling a shirt with their logo on and knocking out Chris Jericho during a Raw segment.

MUHAMMAD ALI

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee - did you know this boxing legend starred in WWE?

Okay, sure, back then it was known as WWF when Ali was one of the guest referees at the first Wrestlemania at New York's Madison Square Garden for the main event between 'Hollywood' Hulk Hogan and A-Team star Mr. T versus 'Mr. Wonderful' Paul Orndorff and 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper.

BROCK LESNAR

Few men strike fear in their opponents quite like Brock Lesnar, who is as well known for his two stints in WWE as he is for being a former UFC heavyweight champion.

Lesnar is a multi-time champion in the organisation and will defend his WWE title against Drew McIntyre this weekend.

TYSON FURY

'The Gypsy King' recently crowned his own personal road to recovery by knocking out Deontay Wilder to become the WBC heavyweight champion.

The big-talking Briton warmed up for that bout by enjoying a short run in WWE, feuding with 'The Monster Among Men' Braun Strowman, which resulted in Fury in earning a count-out win over his huge opponent at WWE's Crown Jewel pay-per-view last October.

New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater insisted the standards remain the same for the storied NFL franchise, despite the loss of Tom Brady.

Brady swapped the Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers via free agency, after winning six Super Bowl titles in Foxborough.

The exit of the legendary quarterback following a glorious two-decade run in New England leaves an obvious void, but Slater backed his team to step up.

"I don't think the goals change at all. The standard doesn't change at all. The pillars that we stand upon, they don't change at all," the 34-year-old told reporters on a conference call on Monday.

"If you go into the season with a defeatist mindset, then you can't expect to be successful. We have a great opportunity. We have a lot of good football players. We have a tremendous coaching staff. ... We have to go into the season expecting more from ourselves than anyone outside the building expects from us.

"We have to go in with the same drive, the same focus, the same determination. If we don't, you shouldn't even step foot in the building, because we're already going to be beat."

On Brady's departure, Slater – a three-time Super Bowl champion – added: "When you talk about Tom and everything he's meant to this organisation, and our team, a lot of our identity over the last 20 years has been centred around him. Any time you transition away from a player like that, it's a tall task.

"You have to find a way to deal with that personally and process it. I think as a team, obviously, we're going to have to process that Tom is gone. Do it in a healthy way, and be able to move on.

"We're going to have to be able to find a new identity for ourselves. I think part of that identity is going to be built upon things we've always stood for and will continue to stand for as long as this organisation is led by the people it's led by. That's going to be selflessness, hard work, doing what's best for the football team, serving one another, not having any level of expectation that things are going to be handed to us."

Drew Brees might not have to dodge defensive linemen and free blitzers any time soon, but Sean Payton would rather he steered clear of rattlesnakes too.

Veteran quarterback Brees recently agreed a new two-year deal to return to the New Orleans Saints, who have suffered playoff heartache in three successive seasons under Payton.

However, the quarterback-and-head-coach duo appear primed for another run at a Super Bowl next season having delivered the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy a decade ago.

Yet given the importance of Brees - the NFL's all-time leader for passing yardage, pass completions and touchdowns thrown, Saints fans would rather he avoided any potential dangers this offseason.

The 41-year-old uploaded a picture of a rattlesnake onto his Instagram account alongside the caption: "The baby rattlesnakes were out today... Saw them on the late afternoon walk with the dogs."

At a time when people the world over are being encouraged to remain at home and limit their social interactions, the thought of Brees having a close shave with a snake prompted his head coach Payton to offer some advice.

In a reply to Brees on Twitter, Payton wrote: "Let's find a different route. Ok?" 

Payton was the first person in the NFL known to have tested positive for coronavirus when it was revealed he had COVID-19 on March 19.

Less than a week later he said he had been "cleared" of the illness and was "doing well".

Tom Brady may have won six Super Bowl rings, but Jason Licht has revealed the quarterback still felt the need to state his case to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during free agency.

Veteran Brady chose Tampa Bay as his next destination after bringing an end to a glorious two-decade run in New England, where he added six Lombardis to the Patriots' trophy cabinet.

The Buccaneers have not been to the playoffs for 12 successive seasons but general manager Licht, a former Patriots staffer, and head coach Bruce Arians did not need to pitch Tampa Bay as an ideal landing spot for Brady.

Instead, Licht has detailed how 42-year-old quarterback Brady tried to sway the Buccaneers' top brass in a phone call on March 18, the first day of free agency.

"We had a great conversation - Bruce and I - we talked to him for over an hour and a half," Licht told ESPN.

"And he made it clear in the conversation that he was very, very interested.

"It was almost like a recruitment on his part, telling us why it would make sense for him to come to Tampa Bay. The next call we made, we signed him, but it was at that phone call that we realised, that we felt like we had him."

In moving on from Jameis Winston, who led the NFL in passing yardage in 2019, to Tom Brady, the Buccaneers are going from a gunslinger to a far more risk-adverse QB.

However, there have been fears that Brady, who turns 43 in August, does not possess the requisite arm strength to thrive in Arians' offensive system, which favours taking big shots downfield.

Arians believes Brady still fits the bill for that type of quarterback, and Licht sees no sign of decline either.

"The tape showed to us that he had plenty of arm," Licht added.

"In fact, we thought that he had an ideal arm for Bruce in his system.

"He can still throw it deep. We felt like the mobility was still the same as he's always had, which, he's never been able to outrun anybody, but he certainly is good in the pocket in terms of eluding pressure and with his poise and his instincts.

"We did not see a decline in his arm talent whatsoever. And, in fact, we feel like he could still play for over two years for us, and hopefully that's the case."

Tyrod Taylor believes the Los Angeles Chargers will "turn a lot of heads" if he is their starting quarterback in 2020.

The Chargers went a disappointing 5-11 in 2019, which proved to be the last campaign of Philip Rivers' time with the franchise as the veteran QB departed after 16 seasons.

Though there was reported interest in Tom Brady, who chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as his next destination, the Chargers are yet to acquire another signal caller in free agency, leaving Taylor at the top of their depth chart.

Los Angeles could still select a quarterback with the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft next month, though Taylor is confident he can turn their fortunes around if he is under center in Week 1.

"We have a lot of talent on our team," he told the Orange County Register.

"If I am the guy that would be calling the shots, I know for sure that we'll go out and turn a lot of heads."

Taylor was the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback for three seasons and then began the 2018 campaign as the Cleveland Browns' starter, but he has still yet to shake the impression held by many that he is just a solid backup.

Entering his 10th year in the league, Taylor says that gives him extra fuel.

"It's motivating just for the highs and lows of my career," he explained.

"To be drafted in the sixth round, walking into my 10th year, there's definitely a lot of motivating factors in there being from my time when I was in Buffalo and when I played in Cleveland."

Taylor has spent the early stages of the offseason working with quarterback coach Jeff Christensen, who also happens to be working with free agent Cam Newton.

The 2015 NFL MVP has been linked to the Chargers following his release from the Carolina Panthers and those rumours only grew when Taylor was pictured practicing with Newton.

"It's just two guys working on their craft trying to get better," claimed Taylor, who has also worked out with Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson recently.

"I wasn't implementing or trying to say anything with the photos. We were just out there working and the photos got sent. So no regrets, I posted it.

"We're really good friends and we're going to continue to remain friends, and we're going to continue to push each other and try to find ways to get better."

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank believes the NFL will be able to put on a full 16-game season despite complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

After a dramatic free agency went ahead despite the spread of COVID-19, the draft is also scheduled to take place in April, although public activities around it have been cancelled and teams are likely to conduct their business from remote locations.

Amid speculation over whether the regular season, due to start in September, will be affected, Blank hopes disruptions are mainly limited to offseason activities and training camps.

"If I had to speculate now, and I use the word speculate because that's really all it is, I would say yes," Blank said to NBC Sports' Peter King when asked about whether a 16-game season would be possible.

"Only because it's so far away from where we are today. I could easily see camps being shorter, players being tested on a daily basis, things of that nature. No fan attendance. Things like that. 

"We may have fewer preseason games, which probably wouldn't be the end of the world. But I think by September, my hope is by the time the regular season starts, that we'll be able to bring people together in some form or fashion in a safe manner and play."

At a time of global strife, Blank believes NFL action is needed more than ever, and he added: "I do think we need football now.

"It's hard to turn on any device you have today, almost any site, television, PCs, laptops, phones - without the first thing popping up being something on the virus. And that's appropriate. 

"However, I also think that people want a diversion. People want to be optimistic. People want to think about things that are really good times for themselves and their families and their loved ones and their communities. 

"To have that kind of hope and aspiration mixed into your daily life is important."

Despite his optimistic outlook, Blank acknowledges alterations are likely to be required.

"I think the NFL’s going to be fine," he said. "I don't mean it won't be changed. It is being changed now [with] how it will impact things like training camp, the OTAs.

"Training camps will probably affected in some way. And of course, your point about the stadiums, with 50,000 to 70,000 people, whatever it may be, it's just too early to tell.

"Of course we have to be able to provide a safe environment for fans. That's the most critical thing." 

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