Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn joined fellow members of the NFL franchise in a peaceful protest on Sunday after George Floyd's death.

There have been nationwide protests in the United States after Floyd – an African-American man – died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

A police officer was filmed kneeling on Floyd's neck during an arrest after he was crying out for help as he was handcuffed and pinned to the ground.

Quinn took part in the march to the governor's mansion in Atlanta amid efforts to eradicate racial injustice, and he was joined by Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

Assistant coaches Bernie Parmalee and Doug Mallory were also involved, as well as players like Ricardo Allen, LaRoy Reynolds, Tyeler Davison and Mykal Walker.

"What I've learned about leadership is that it is about other people, and we have to hold ourselves accountable to help those around us," Quinn said via ESPN. "That's what I wanted to do today."

Dimitroff added: "I've always believed we are all created equal and should be treated as such but have passively held back my voice. I've decided it's time for me to step up and take action.''

The Atlanta Falcons will decline the fifth-year option on the contract of defensive end Takk McKinley, making the 2017 first-round pick a free agent at the end of this coming season. 
 
McKinley, the 26th overall selection in the 2017 draft, led the Falcons with seven sacks in 2018 but had just 3.5 in 14 games this past season before landing on injured reserve with a shoulder issue. 

He would have earned a salary of approximately $10.1million in 2021 had the option been picked up. 
 
The 24-year-old's 16.5 sacks in 45 career games ranks third among members of the 2017 draft class, behind the Pittsburgh Steelers' T.J. Watt (34.5) and the Cleveland Browns' Myles Garrett (30.5). 

Watt was taken four picks after McKinley at No. 30 overall. 
 
"We have decided to not move forward with a fifth-year option for Takk and at this time are taking a wait-and-see approach in terms of future contracts," the Falcons said in a team statement on Wednesday.

"Takk has shown the ability to produce at a high level and we look forward to his production in 2020." 
 
McKinley's medical history may have factored into the Falcons' decision.

He missed the final two games of 2019 with a left shoulder injury that required surgery and he also underwent shoulder surgery shortly prior to Atlanta trading up to take him in the 2017 draft.  

The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft returned some normalcy to the sports world, even if commissioner Roger Goodell's basement does not quite exude the same glitz as the Las Vegas Strip. 

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the draft to be held remotely with NFL general managers, coaches and scouts isolated in their homes instead of inside team complexes, the virtual draft ran smoothly – and without much drama early on Thursday.

In what has been widely expected for weeks, and possibly months, the Cincinnati Bengals selected LSU Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall pick.

Burrow led LSU to the national title last season, completing 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards and an FBS-single season record 60 touchdowns to just six interceptions. 

The second pick also went exactly like how many draft experts had predicted for weeks, with the Washington Redskins drafting Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young. 

Young led the FBS with 16.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2019, and was regarded to be the most talented player in the draft class – even ahead of Burrow. 

If not for Burrow's incredible 2019 season and because of Tua Tagovailoa's injury concerns, the latter may have challenged for the top spot in the 2020 draft. 

Tagovailoa became the second quarterback off the board when he was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the fifth pick.

One pick after Tagovailoa, the Los Angeles Chargers took Oregon QB Justin Herbert – just the third time since the 1970 merger three quarterbacks were chosen in the top six picks. 

Three teams that had selected quarterbacks in the first round of the last two drafts, used the 2020 draft to beef up their offensive lines to protect their young, franchise QBs. 

The New York Giants (Daniel Jones at six in 2019) picked Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas at fourth overall, the Cleveland Browns (Baker Mayfield at one in 2018) selected Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. with the 10th pick, and the New York Jets (Sam Darnold third in 2018) used the next pick to select Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton. 

After this run on tackles, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took part in the first trade of the draft to insure their new – and aging – quarterback would also stay upright. They moved up one spot in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to select Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs at 13 to shore up the offensive line in front of Tom Brady. 

The next trade came 10 picks later as Brady's old team, New England Patriots, dealt pick 23 to the Chargers – who selected Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. The Patriots received a second and third-round pick from the Chargers and now have five of the first 100 picks of the 2020 draft and 13 overall. 

While it is possible New England could use one of those picks to draft Brady's replacement, the Green Bay Packers have chosen the heir apparent to 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers, trading up from 30th to 26th to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. 

The opening round concluded with the defending Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs selecting the first running back to bookend the first round with LSU picks, taking Clyde Edwards-Helaire – the 14th player drafted out of the SEC. 

Wide receiver is considered to be the deepest position in the draft, and six went in the first round – but none until 12, when Alabama's Henry Ruggs III became the first player ever selected by the Raiders in their new home of Las Vegas. 

While Las Vegas was not able to host the draft festivities this year, Goodell announced that the city has been awarded the 2022 draft, with the commissioner saying, "We think you deserve another shot".

 

First round selections:

1. Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals)
2. Chase Young (Washington Redskins)
3. Jeff Okudah (Detroit Lions)
4. Andrew Thomas (New York Giants)
5. Tua Tagovailoa (Miami Dolphins)
6. Justin Herbert (Los Angeles Chargers)
7. Derrick Brown (Carolina Panthers)
8. Isaiah Simmons (Arizona Cardinals)
9. CJ Henderson (Jacksonville Jaguars)
10. Jedrick Wills Jr. (Cleveland Browns)
11. Mekhi Becton (New York Jets)
12. Henry Ruggs III (Las Vegas Raiders)
13. Tristan Wirfs (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
14. Javon Kinlaw (San Francisco 49ers)
15. Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos)
16. A.J. Terrell (Atlanta Falcons)
17. CeeDee Lamb (Dallas Cowboys)
18. Austin Jackson (Miami Dolphins)
19. Damon Arnette (Las Vegas Raiders)
20. K'Lavon Chaisson (Jacksonville Jaguars)
21. Jalen Reagor (Philadelphia Eagles)
22. Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings)
23. Kenneth Murray (Los Angeles Chargers)
24. Cesar Ruiz (New Orleans Saints)
25. Brandon Aiyuk (San Francisco 49ers)
26. Jordan Love (Green Bay Packers)
27. Jordyn Brooks (Seattle Seahawks)
28. Patrick Queen (Baltimore Ravens)
29. Isaiah Wilson (Tennessee Titans)
30. Noah Igbinoghene (Miami Dolphins)
31. Jeff Gladney (Minnesota Vikings)
32. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs)

Michael Vick entered the NFL 19 years ago on Tuesday, a quarterback considered to be so talented that the Atlanta Falcons traded up to land him in the 2001 NFL Draft.

Future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson was also drafted on April 21, 2001 and record-breaking quarterback Drew Brees became his team-mate at the San Diego Chargers.

Bayern Munich delivered one of the most devastating first-half displays in Champions League history, while Philip Humber pitched the third perfect game in Chicago White Sox history.

We take a look back at the major events that occurred on this day in previous years.

 

2001 - Vick becomes new Falcons quarterback

Vick only played 20 games in college at Virginia Tech, but the Falcons had seen enough to send second and third-round selections, and wide receiver Tim Dwight, to take the top pick off the Chargers' hands.

In six seasons with Atlanta, Vick was named to the Pro Bowl three times, twice taking the Falcons to the playoffs. However, in 2007, Vick admitted to financing a dogfighting ring and was jailed for 23 months. Upon his release, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles, retiring in 2017 after spells with the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Chargers spent their first pick - the fifth overall - on running back Tomlinson, while they grabbed Brees in the second round, though it was with the New Orleans Saints where he would emerge as a truly elite quarterback.

 

2012 - Humber's perfect game

White Sox pitcher Humber had an MLB record of just 16-23 and was yet to complete a game when he came to the mound against the Seattle Mariners.

What followed was the 21st perfect game in MLB history across 96 pitches as Humber joined the likes of Cy Young, Sandy Koufax and Roy Halladay.

Humber, who received a congratulatory call from noted White Sox fan US President Barack Obama, finished with nine strikeouts, while the other batters were retired with five groundouts and 13 flyouts.

2015 - Bayern batter Porto

Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich were on the brink of being eliminated from the 2014-15 Champions League at the quarter-final stage when they lost 3-1 to Porto in the first leg.

However, back in Bavaria, they soon turned the tie on its head by scoring five times in the opening 40 minutes, eventually cruising to a 6-1 success - and a 7-4 aggregate victory - to reach the last four.

Guardiola's old side Barcelona would beat Bayern in the semi-finals, though, going on to lift the trophy by defeating Juventus in the final.

With the NFL Draft three days away, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff insisted Matt Ryan is the team's quarterback. 

Dimitroff, though, is not ruling out the possibility of drafting Ryan's potential successor. 

During a conference call with the media on Monday, Dimitroff addressed reports that the Falcons are looking at quarterback prospects heading into Thursday's draft, where Atlanta owns the 16th overall pick. 

"Look, Matt Ryan is our [quarterback]," Dimitroff said. "We have the big and best faith in him that he’s going be the [quarterback] that we need to take us to where we need to go, plain and simple. 

"I’m always interested in [quarterbacks] coming out of the draft. That is a fact. I’m always trying to continue to work on my skills to make sure that I’m fresh on evaluating them.

"That’s always an important thing, I think, as a team-builder. Of course there are some really interesting guys in this year’s draft."

Ryan has been Atlanta’s starter since the Falcons selected him with the third overall pick in the 2008 draft. 

He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008 and the NFL MVP in 2016, when the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead and lost 34-28 in overtime to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. 

Ryan, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who will turn 35 next month, is the Falcons’ all-time leader in passing yards (51,186) and touchdown throws (321). He is signed through the 2023 season. 

The NFL Draft is a crucial part of the team-building process, with this year as important as ever even though selections will be made remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With a dramatic free agency period now largely complete, contenders for Super Bowl glory in the 2020 season have already emerged.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints are expected to feature prominently in the playoffs once more, with Tom Brady's arrival putting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the mix as well.

All 32 teams understand the draft's importance, though while some of the top rosters may only need to fill one or two needs and ideally select the best player available, others are facing critical decisions that could alter the future of their franchise.

For the following eight teams, the pressure is on ahead of a 2020 draft that could impact their postseason chances, and the job security of those in charge, for many years to come.
 

Las Vegas Raiders

Armed with two first-round selections thanks to the Khalil Mack trade, the Raiders will pick at 12 and 19. Head coach Jon Gruden has had two losing seasons since signing his big-money contract, while Mike Mayock's first draft as general manager, that included three 2019 first-round picks, received mixed reviews on the evidence of last season. 

With question marks over whether Derek Carr will be the long-term quarterback, the Raiders need to give him weapons and will desperately hope to land one of the star receivers, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs.

Secondary help with their other top pick could address another key need, with the Raiders in need of tangible progress in their first year in Vegas following the departures of Mack and Amari Cooper in exchange for draft assets over recent seasons.

New York Giants

The Giants will pick at number 4 this year, having selected at 2 and 6 over the past two years – a sign that all has not been well on the field. Running back Saquon Barkley and QB Daniel Jones have been their previous premium selections. An offensive tackle or versatile safety-linebacker hybrid Isaiah Simmons are seen as the most likely options this time around.

After the firing of head coach Pat Shurmur, pressure is on GM Dave Gettleman to hit with that pick and his selection at 36 for a roster still needing a significant injection of talent under Joe Judge. With no playoff win since their 2011 championship season, fans are growing impatient.

Miami Dolphins

After stripping the roster bare in 2019, free agency saw the Dolphins begin to use the salary cap space they had freed up, with Byron Jones lured from the Dallas Cowboys to be made the NFL's highest-paid cornerback. 

Now it is time for the Dolphins to start making the most of their masses of draft capital. They have three picks in the first round - 5, 18 and 26 – and three more across rounds two and three (39, 56 and 70).

They face a key decision regarding their long-term future at QB, with current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick only a bridge option. If they are happy with his medical reports, the Dolphins could trade up for Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, stay at five to see if he drops, or instead go down a different route by taking Justin Herbert or Jordan Love with one of their three first-rounders.

That is a decision of paramount importance and with so many other selections in a deep class at tackle and receiver, it is a draft that, if they get it right, could catapult the Dolphins into being perennial AFC East contenders after the New England Patriots lost Brady.

Detroit Lions

Just nine wins in two seasons since arriving from the Patriots has Matt Patricia under pressure in Detroit. After trading Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions have been strongly linked with cornerback Jeffrey Okudah at number three overall.

With picks near the top of the second and third rounds too, and number 85 picked up as part of the deal for Slay, Lions GM Bob Quinn has options, including trading down from three. This is a pivotal draft in the team's rebuild.

Atlanta Falcons

The Saints have won the NFC South for three straight seasons and Brady's arrival with the Bucs gives the division another powerhouse. 

That leaves the Falcons in a difficult spot, given they have underwhelmed since their Super Bowl collapse at the end of the 2016 season. The Falcons are not rebuilding, and the clock is ticking for them with QB Matt Ryan now 34 and star wideout Julio Jones 31. 

Unlike many of the other teams in this list, the Falcons are not blessed with extensive draft capital, with only number 15, 47 and 78 in the top 100. GM Thomas Dimitroff may have to pull off something special if his team are to keep pace with divisional rivals led by Brady and Drew Brees.

New England Patriots

All eyes are on the Patriots after Brady's departure. Bill Belichick has given little away, this draft will tell us if he plans to draft an immediate successor, with his other options being rolling with Jarrett Stidham at QB in 2020, and potentially beyond, or signing a free agent like Cam Newton.

The Patriots have a pick at 23 that is prompting huge debate, given they are not scheduled to make another selection until number 87. If they go QB in the first round, it will leave the roster without star offensive weapons, one of the factors that frustrated Brady towards the end of his tenure.

Belichick has praised the depth and quality of the QB class and could wait to see if a developmental option under center is available in the middle rounds while selecting an immediate contributor at another position in round one. Or, he could do nothing and build around Stidham or a veteran recruit.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are one of the most intriguing teams in this year's draft with picks at nine and 20, as well as a second-round selection at 42. Trading away Nick Foles appeared to indicate Gardner Minshew will be unchallenged at QB, but would that remain the case if the team have a high grade on Herbert or Love and either fall into their lap?

Jacksonville's defense is in a complete rebuild after last season's Jalen Ramsey trade was followed by the offseason exits of A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell, while more receiving options for Minshew are also needed.

Two frustrating seasons have followed their AFC Championship berth and the pressure is on - this draft must set foundations to move the team towards contending again.

Minnesota Vikings

While Kirk Cousins' big-money contract extension removes any questions about the Vikings' future at quarterback, they go into the draft with some glaring needs.

The evaluations on whether they were wise to trade away Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills will be based on how they replace him with a historic class of a receivers to choose from. Cornerback reinforcements are a key requirement on the defensive side of the ball.

Having renewed their commitment to Cousins and with the Green Bay Packers to chase down in the NFC North, the Vikings - who pick at 22 and 25 in the first round - need to hit at those priority positions if they are to compete this year.

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." 

Todd Gurley has admitted he did not see his Los Angeles Rams release coming.

The running back was cut by the Rams on March 19 and promptly signed on a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons in a homecoming move, having spent his college career with Georgia.

Gurley had signed a four-year, $60million deal with the Rams in 2018 but the contract became an increasing burden and his hasty release came hours before $10.5m would have become guaranteed.

The number 10 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft was Offensive Player of the Year in 2017 and while his fortunes had dipped as he contended with a knee injury, the Rams' decision came as a surprise to the 25-year-old.

Gurley still took it in his stride, joking on social media about being fired on his day off.

"I didn't see it coming, but obviously I've seen the process over the years, so I understand the business and I understand how it goes,'' Gurley said, per ESPN.

"But I'm also the same type of person, when someone else is getting cut, I'm joking on them. So I can't get mad if somebody jokes on me. 

"I joke on myself all the time. If you knew me, you know that's me. And it's all jokes. It's some truth to every little joke but I'm still just having fun with it and that's the only thing I can do. 

"Stuck in the house all day. I know people are drinking and having fun, so I'm going to have fun with y'all."

Following his superb 2017 season, Gurley racked up 21 total touchdowns in 2018 as he helped the Rams to the Super Bowl.

But he was limited to five touches in the NFC Championship game and 11 in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots, while in 2019 his 223 rushing attempts represented the lowest total in his NFL career.

Asked about his reduced role, Gurley added: "I don't know what happened. I try not to press the issue about nothing, I kind of just sit back and do my job.

"It's not my job to tell who to give me the ball, so if it happens, it happens. I'm not going to b***h about anything. 

"I'm just going to keep quiet and do my part. But when I get the ball, you know I'm going to do good with it for the most part, especially when stuff is going good. All I know is I'm with the Falcons now.''

The Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons each invested in the running back position during free agency with the signings of Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley.

Denver reportedly gave Gordon a two-year, $16million deal after five seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers.

Atlanta did not use as much of their salary cap space on Gurley, signing him to a reported one-year, $6m contract.

Both marquee names, Denver and Atlanta will each be hoping the acquisitions can provide an injection of quality into their respective ground games.

However, both were well short of their best in 2019 and their numbers reflect that.


DENVER BACKS IN DECLINE

Gordon held out in search of a new contract from the Chargers last season and missed the first four games of 2019.

His output only served to further vindicate the Chargers' decision not to bow to his demands.

After averaging 5.06 yards per rush in 2018, Gordon ran at 3.78 yards per attempt in 2019.

According to Stats Perform data, his drop-off was the biggest dip in yards per rush from a running back to have had at least 150 carries in each of those seasons.

Worryingly for the Broncos, Phillip Lindsay - an undrafted free agent gem who starred in 2018 - was fourth on that list. His average dropped from 5.40 yards to 4.51.


TODD'S DOWNWARD TRAJECTORY

A knee issue derailed the back end of a 2018 season in which Gurley reached the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams.

By the postseason Gurley was scarcely on the field and looked a shadow of his former self when he did earn playing time.

There was no sign of a revival in 2019 as the Rams missed the playoffs.

Indeed, Gurley was second on the list for the largest dip in yards per attempt from 2018 to 2019. His average went from 4.89 yards to 3.84.

He did not have a single 100-yard rushing game in 2019, with his longest run a mere 25 yards.

Could a return to familiar scenery bring about a revival?


A GLORIOUS HOMECOMING?

Gurley came into the NFL in 2015 after a stellar collegiate career at Georgia.

By joining the Falcons, he will be going back to the state where he made his name and his history suggests he will be an upgrade on what the Falcons have had at the position in the past.

He has 70 touchdowns in his pro career. The second-most in NFL history for a player aged 25 or younger behind the great Emmitt Smith (75).

Having played 73 games in his career, Gurley's rate of 0.96 touchdowns per game is the second-best all-time, for those who have played at least 50 games, behind Jim Brown's average of 1.07.

The Falcons running backs - which included the likes of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, though both have now moved on - have not come close to matching his production in recent years.

Gurley has three seasons with 1,000+ rushing yards (2015, 2017, 2018).  The Falcons have only had two such seasons from their running backs since 2012, both coming from Freeman (2015, 2016).

Additionally, since 2017, Gurley has averaged more yards per carry than the Falcons backs - 4.5 to 4.2, scored more rushing touchdowns - 42 to 29, and ran for nearly 82 per cent of their total rushing yardage by himself. Gurley has 3,413 yards in the last three seasons while the Falcons backs have 4,166.

Gurley also has 24 rushing plays of 20 yards or more since 2017. The Falcons have just 31 as a team.

All those signs point to Gurley being an improvement on what the Falcons have had at running back in recent years. For him to realise that possibility, however, he will need to reverse a trend that makes his signing look a very questionable one.

Luckless Liverpool are in limbo as they bid to become champions of England for the first time in 30 years.

The Reds are 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League, needing only two more wins to clinch the title, yet the season has been suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Jurgen Klopp's dominant side should have been sealing silverware on Saturday in their match against Crystal Palace but now instead must wait to see if the campaign can be completed at all.

Liverpool supporters might well feel they are cursed, and former goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar agreed last year as he splashed urine on the Anfield goalposts in an attempt to lift an apparent hex.

Such hoodoos are relatively commonplace in sport, though. We take a look at some notable examples.
 

LIVERPOOL (1990-present)

It seemed inconceivable when Liverpool won their 18th title in 1990 – an 11th in 18 seasons – that number 19 would not swiftly follow. But when Reds supporters mocked rivals Manchester United after their eighth success in 1993, with a banner that read, 'Come back when you've won 18', they were made to eat their words.

The Old Trafford club had 20 championships by the time manager Alex Ferguson departed, a 2009 United banner teasing: 'You told us to come back when we've won 18 – we are back'.

Indeed, Liverpool were runners-up to United in 2008-09, as Rafael Benitez infamously went public with criticism of Ferguson. Even when the Scot retired and United slumped in 2013-14, Liverpool collapsed on the home straight and were pipped by Manchester City, who denied them again last season.

This is surely now their year – as long as the campaign does indeed resume.

BOSTON RED SOX (1918-2004)

Liverpool might find some comfort in the knowledge their owner has experience in ending curses for sporting giants.

John W Henry took over the Boston Red Sox in 2002 with the aim of finally ending the Curse of the Bambino, which stemmed from the team's sale of star player Babe Ruth to rivals the New York Yankees some 83 years earlier.

Ruth had featured in three of Boston's five World Series triumphs and went on to win four more with the Yankees. Meanwhile, the Red Sox remarkably did not claim baseball's greatest prize again until 2004.

That miserable run was finally ended under Henry, though, after Boston had overturned a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
 

ATLANTA, GEORGIA (1995-2018)

The city of Boston could at least be comforted by titles for the Patriots, the Celtics or the Bruins. Atlanta's distress crossed several sports in increasingly spectacular fashion.

The Atlanta Braves won the World Series just once in 1995 within a stretch that returned 15 straight division titles. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons lost two Super Bowls, including a record-breaking collapse against Tom Brady's New England Patriots after leading 28-3. Even the University of Georgia ceded a big advantage to lose the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Atlanta United finally provided some respite with MLS Cup glory in 2018, and president Darren Eales told Stats Perform: "It was great to break the curse.

"It's been a long time since 1995 when the Braves won a championship. I'd heard so much in the week up to the game about Atlanta's curse in sport. I didn't get too excited until the referee blew his whistle."
 

DRAKE (2013-2019)

One of the more bizarre apparent curses of recent years related not to a team or a city but to a sole individual: Drake.

The Canadian rapper found an awful knack for backing athletes before big defeats. Serena Williams suffered a huge upset against Roberta Vinci at the US Open, where she had his support, while Anthony Joshua was pictured with Drake prior to his shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr.

The Toronto Raptors fan came up with a solution for the 2019 NBA playoffs, however. Drake turned out in Philadelphia 76ers shorts as they dramatically lost to the Raptors, seemingly reversing the curse, before Toronto went on to beat the Golden State Warriors in the Finals.
 

BENFICA (1962-present)

Liverpool's is not the only ongoing 'curse' – and Benfica's is not set to end for another 42 years!

Head coach Bela Guttmann led the Portuguese giants to back-to-back European Cup successes in 1961 and 1962 but then left the club after reportedly asking for a pay rise. It is alleged he declared "not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion".

So it has proven, as Benfica lost European Cup finals in 1963, 1965, 1968, 1988 and 1990 and then came up short in successive Europa League finals in 2013 and 2014.

Todd Gurley has agreed a deal with the Atlanta Falcons following his release from the Los Angeles Rams.

Just one day on from being cut by the Rams after five seasons and three Pro Bowl selections, the running back found a new home in a move that is pending a successful physical.

Gurley, 25, replaces Devonta Freeman, who was released by Atlanta this week, on a one-year contract, per widespread reports.

He will look to improve a Falcons rushing attack that ranked 30th in the NFL last season, averaging a paltry 85.1 yards per game.

The swift move from the Falcons came after they were among the teams linked with a trade for Gurley prior to his Rams departure.

Gurley had signed a four-year, $60million deal less than two years ago but the contract became an increasing burden and his hasty release came hours before $10.5m would have become guaranteed.

Signing for the Falcons is a homecoming for him after spending his college career at Georgia prior to being selected by the Rams as the number 10 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Gurley moved with the team from St Louis to Los Angeles and was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2017.

He helped the Rams to the Super Bowl in the following season, though his lack of usage in that defeat to the New England Patriots was a topic of much speculation.

Debate has surrounded the extent to which Gurley has been battling to overcome a knee injury and he leaves the Rams having managed 72 starts, 5,404 rushing yards and 70 all-purpose touchdowns.

Fellow Rams standouts Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey both indicated their displeasure with Gurley's release on social media.

The Falcons have also added pass rusher Dante Fowler and tight end Hayden Hurst, while Austin Hooper left in free agency and cornerback Desmond Trufant was released along with Freeman.

Elsewhere, the Dallas Cowboys have agreed a one-year deal with safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, while guard Stefen Wisniewski has joined the Pittsburgh Steelers on a two-year contract.

A day after Tom Brady's exit from the New England Patriots was confirmed, a deal was struck to send the last quarterback to defeat him in a Super Bowl to pastures new.

Brady is expected to be announced as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer after deciding to end his 20-season association with the Patriots.

However, his change of scenery is far from the only transaction affecting the NFL landscape. Here, we wrap up the significant moves reported to have been agreed as the new league year began on Wednesday.

 

Nick Foles, who got the better of Brady in Super Bowl LII, is reportedly headed to the Chicago Bears after the Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to trade him in exchange for a fourth-round pick.

The Jags are parting with Foles just a year after signing the former Philadelphia Eagle to a four-year, $88million contract. He will now provide competition for Mitchell Trubisky, whose role as the Bears' starter is under threat after a disappointing 2019.

Foles' departure allows Gardner Minshew to step in as the starter in Jacksonville. Sixth-round pick Minshew outplayed Foles, who was limited to four games because of injury, last year and will now get the chance to prove he is the Jaguars' franchise quarterback.

Brady's last game as a Patriot came in a playoff defeat to the Tennessee Titans, who made the surprising decision to deal defensive lineman Jurrell Casey to the Denver Broncos in exchange for a seventh-round pick. Casey has at least five sacks in each of the last seven seasons.

The Detroit Lions were also involved in the trade market, acquiring safety Duron Harmon from the Patriots. Detroit agreed to a two-year deal with defensive linemen Danny Shelton. Both players have a connection with Lions head coach Matt Patricia from his time as New England's defensive coordinator.

Another former Patriot, center Ted Karras, is staying in the division, signing a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins.

The New Orleans Saints are said to have agreed a deal to bring back safety Malcolm Jenkins after he was let go by the Eagles. Jenkins was drafted by the Saints in 2009 before leaving for the Eagles in 2014.

Their NFC South rivals the Carolina Panthers released safety Eric Reid, while the Atlanta Falcons inked edge rusher Dante Fowler to a three-year contract.

Leonard Floyd will fill the void Fowler's exit left for the Los Angeles Rams, who have re-signed guard Austin Blythe and veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

Elsewhere in the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks have brought back former first-round pick Bruce Irvin, the pass rusher who played a key role in their Super Bowl-winning 2013 season. Reigning NFC champions the San Francisco 49ers re-signed center Ben Garland to a one-year deal.

The Los Angeles Chargers may have missed out on Brady, but they have bolstered their defense with the signing of defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Cornerback Chris Harris also intends to sign with the Chargers.

Cornerback Eli Apple will play a part in the Raiders' first season in Las Vegas, while safety Sean Davis is headed to the Washington Redskins on a one-year deal.

Derrick Henry will be remaining in Tennessee after the Titans placed the franchise tag on the running back, according to reports.

The decision to keep the 26-year-old is hardly a surprise after he led the NFL in rushing in 2019, finishing the regular season with 1,450 yards and 16 touchdowns as Tennessee made the playoffs.

Henry also played a pivotal role in their run to the AFC Championship Game, going for 182 and 195 yards respectively in upset road wins over the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens.

The Kansas City Chiefs ended their Super Bowl hopes, but the Titans have opted to retain the core of their offense.

They announced on Sunday that quarterback Ryan Tannehill has signed a four-year contract extension, a move that not only seemingly ends speculation linking them with Tom Brady but also cleared the way for them to use the tag on Henry.

While Henry is staying put, fellow running back Devonta Freeman is now a free agent after being released by the Atlanta Falcons.

Freeman recorded 1,000-yard seasons in 2015 and 2016 but has struggled since signing a five-year, $41.25million contract in 2017.

He played just two games in 2018 due to injury, while his final campaign with the Falcons saw him finish with a career-low average of 3.6 yards per carry as part of a rushing attack that struggled.

As well as Freeman, Atlanta are also cutting cornerback Desmond Trufant. The moves will save them just under $8.5m in cap space ahead of the 2020 season, which officially starts on Wednesday.

 

 

If the San Francisco 49ers have a big lead in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday, their coaching staff are unlikely to let minds drift to thoughts of confetti, parades and rings.

They may have been forgiven for doing so three years ago when the Atlanta Falcons led the New England Patriots 28-3 late in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI.

Lady Gaga, the half-time act that year, had long finished singing. But it turned out the fat lady had not.

Back came the Patriots, Kyle Shanahan's offense unable to add further points to their total, and Tom Brady perhaps cementing his legacy as the G.O.A.T by inspiring a 34-28 overtime win that stunned the Falcons.

Shanahan has since left Atlanta, taking the Niners' head-coaching post shortly after, but he admitted this week that Super Bowl scars remain.

The same is true for the staff he brought with him. Those aiming to banish the demons of Houston. Of '28-3'.

"I'm not gonna lie; you still think about it quite a bit," the Niners' passing-game coordinator Mike LaFleur told Omnisport.

Shanahan said the only play he would have called differently in that second half was a second-and-11 pass play that resulted in Matt Ryan being sacked and pushed out of field-goal range.

Yet the Patriots' comeback was a brutal reminder of how even sizeable advantages can be eroded in the NFL.

At Super Bowl LIV, the Niners face a Kansas City Chiefs team that have already overturned 24 and 10-point leads this postseason.

Those who know Shanahan best believe a return to the Super Bowl will not suddenly trigger post-traumatic stress because '28-3' has always been with him ever since it happened.

San Francisco's run-game coordinator Mike McDaniel, who, like LaFleur, worked with Shanahan in Atlanta and at the Cleveland Browns, told Omnisport: "It's just the final game of the season, the stakes are incredibly high but I wouldn’t say that it would venture into Kyle's head any more than any other lesson.

"You'll never forget. Once you lose a Super Bowl like that, you just never feel comfortable with a lead, but that's been every single game since that we've been burying that weight.

"That's a lesson that you'll always be mindful of and you'll lose leads in the future but you'll do your best and better understand and think through how to handle situations - like all coaches that are able to have sustained success like Kyle."

LaFleur is adamant that Shanahan remained an aggressive playcaller in Houston, but he also recognises that, should the Niners find themselves in a similarly dominant position against the Chiefs, no one will be getting complacent.

Not with Patrick Mahomes on the other sideline. Not with '28-3' in their minds.

"I just know up in the box on Sundays, I don't care what the score is," LaFleur added.

"We had numerous times this year where we had big leads and you don't feel comfortable.

"I'm not saying the clock has to hit zero but the knees better be out or a lot of running the ball and the other team not using their timeouts."

Kyle Shanahan's previous Super Bowl experience left him with "scars" and he vowed not to ease up if the San Francisco 49ers find themselves in a similar position this Sunday.

Three years ago Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons when they led 28-3 against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.

However, in one of the most astonishing sporting comebacks of all time, Tom Brady guided the Patriots to a fifth Lombardi Trophy with an overtime win that had some criticising Shanahan's second-half play-calling.

The 40-year-old is now the head coach of the Niners and will hope he can finally win a first ring when San Francisco face the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami on Sunday.

"Everyone asks what I learned from that Super Bowl; I wish I could say there was some easy answer that would have fixed us not blowing that lead," Shanahan said on Tuesday.

"I go back and I'm hard on myself on everything. I know the plays I wish I called differently, especially a second-and-11 pass once we got down there [near the end zone] that led to a sack. That was about it.

"You realise when you're playing good teams, good quarterbacks, that you can never relax.

"No matter what situation I've been in since then - you can ask our players, our coaches - I freaked out at [defensive coordinator Robert] Saleh when he tried to take the starters out against Minnesota

"We were up like three scores with two minutes to go and I freaked out. Then I did the math and I thought it was alright.

"You get some of that scars from that stuff so guys were messing with me with that but besides that, it's about that."

Another of Shanahan's regrets was not drafting quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the man Saleh and the defense must likely stop if the Niners are to win Super Bowl LIV.

Shanahan had just been appointed the 49ers head coach prior to the 2017 NFL Draft when Mahomes came out of college and his team owned the second overall pick.

Yet Shanahan thought San Francisco could wait and acquire Kirk Cousins the following the year, so they passed on future Chiefs star Mahomes, later trading for current starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

On Mahomes, the 2018 MVP and arguably the NFL's best quarterback, Shanahan said: "I didn't look into him, obviously, as much as I should have.

He added: "There's always a risk with that when you spend a first-round pick on a quarterback.

"With the situation we were in, we didn't want to be that risky, especially with the second pick in the draft. We didn't [study Mahomes] as hard. Obviously, he ended up being one of the best players in the league, along with a couple of other quarterbacks that year. He's extremely talented."

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