Draymond Green said the Golden State Warriors are "nowhere near a championship team", though the three-time NBA title winner believes they have the pieces to potentially develop into a contender.

The Warriors have failed to qualify for the playoffs in each of the past two years as they prepare to open their 2021-22 campaign against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Tuesday.

It comes after the Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals prior to Kevin Durant's departure, having won championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018 before Klay Thompson's serious injuries.

Thompson is stepping up his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and Achilles injury, while former number two pick James Wiseman is recovering from a knee problem, though the Warriors still boast two-time MVP Stephen Curry.

"I think this team could be very good," three-time Warriors All-Star Green said of Golden State. "But I think this team has to grow.

"We have to put it all together. Is there aspirations to winning a championship? Absolutely. But this team is nowhere near a championship team.

"I think we have a lot of pieces that could grow to be that, I don't doubt that at all, but we also can't get fooled by 5-0 in the preseason and say, 'Oh man, we're a championship team.' We've got a long f****** ways to go."

Golden State averaged 27.7 assists per game last season, leading the league for the sixth time in seven seasons, according to Stats Perform. The Warriors tied the Brooklyn Nets for the most games with at least 30-plus assists, going 24-3 (88.9) in those games.

Green added: "You don't just win a championship because you think the pieces fit. You don't just win a championship because you think you got good talent. You got to make that s*** work.

"And so do I think we have a good chance to be a really good team? Absolutely. But to say we can win a championship, we're so far away from that as is just about every other team in this league except maybe the Milwaukee Bucks because they're coming off that.

"Everybody else has a long ways to go and we're right there in that group that's going to be trying to create separation to be one of those teams that can contend in June."

Curry will play his 763rd game on Tuesday, with the three-time NBA champion on pace to be the second-quickest player in the last three decades to hit 5,000 assists (currently 4,984) and 18,000 points (currently 18,434), behind only Lakers superstar LeBron James (726 games).

Baker Mayfield's troublesome left shoulder popped out of joint twice during the Cleveland Browns' 37-14 NFL loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but the quarterback "absolutely" expects to face the Denver Broncos in Week 7.

Mayfield initially injured his non-throwing shoulder against the Houston Texans on September 19, suffering a partially torn labrum, and the Browns star has worn a brace in subsequent games. 

That extra protection could not save him when Arizona's J.J. Watt hauled him to the ground in the third quarter, forcing a fumble and leaving Mayfield on the ground in pain. 

But Mayfield returned to the game when the Browns got the ball back and finished 19-of-28 passing for 234 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. 

Case Keenum finished the game at quarterback for Cleveland once the score got out of hand, but Mayfield said he was confident he would be cleared to play the Broncos on Thursday, despite meeting the media with his left arm in a sling. 

"It feels like s***," he said of his shoulder, adding: "It dislocated again [on the Watt sack] and then slipped out again on a non-contact play, so just got to figure out a way to get better."

Mayfield was sacked five times as the Browns played without their usual starting tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin. 

"It was just one of those days," Mayfield said. "We couldn't get things going, they had a good plan for us and we got punched in the mouth."

Mayfield and the Browns will have to recover quickly as they face what has become a critical game against the Broncos.

Cleveland entered the year fancied as possible Super Bowl contenders and suffered a tough season-opening loss to reigning AFC champions the Kansas City Chiefs before reeling off three straight wins. 

The Browns now sit at 3-3 after a wild loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5 and Sunday's blow-out defeat. 

"We're going to see what we're made of," Mayfield said. "Our backs are against the wall. I like our chances."

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers told jeering Chicago Bears fans "I still own you" after the reigning NFL MVP inspired a 24-14 victory on the road.

Rodgers was at his brilliant best as he claimed his 22nd win over the Bears, the veteran quarterback throwing two touchdowns and running for another at Soldier Field.

His 22-5 record against the Bears ranks third-best for winning percentage (81.5) by a quarterback against a single opponent since 1950 (minimum 25 starts), behind Tom Brady (91.4 per cent against the Buffalo Bills) and Ben Roethlisberger (87.0 per cent against the Cleveland Browns).

As he left the field, Rodgers could be heard taunting Chicago supporters: "All my f****** life, I own you. I still own you. I still own you."

Rodgers finished 17-of-23 passing for 195 yards and no interceptions with a 128.0 passer rating as the Packers (5-1) won their fifth straight game.

The Super Bowl winner also reacted to one fan after his touchdown against the Bears.

"Sometimes you black out on the field – in a good way," Rodgers said. "I looked up in the stands and in the front row all I saw was a woman giving me the double bird.

"So I'm not sure exactly what came out of my mouth next."

"I love this rivalry. It's been a lot of fun over the years," Rodgers said. "That's what I told [Bears rookie] Justin [Fields] on the field. I said, 'Enjoy this. It's a special rivalry, unlike any other in our game.'"

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur added: "Listen, all I can say is: A lot of stuff gets said on the field that nobody ever hears.

"It's one of those moments of competition where things get said and ... I don't know what Aaron said about it, I'm sure you guys asked him. ... Again, it's a competitive game, and I think that's one of those moments where you see the competitor in Aaron come out."

In Week 4, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced an AFC East defense and by, their standards, looked out of sync. In Week 5, they faced an AFC East defense and could hardly have looked more impressive.

Freed from the rainy confines of Foxborough and away from the defensive scheming of his old boss Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers routed a Miami Dolphins team whose rebuild appears poised to come crashing down 45-17 to improve to 4-1 on the season.

Back in the Florida sunshine, it was very much a return to business as usual for the Bucs, but, for Tampa Bay, business as usual is looking steadily more remarkable.

Speaking after Sunday's game, running back Leonard Fournette said: "Prior to the third quarter Rich [Richard Sherman] came up to me and said, 'Man, I've never been part of a team with so much talent.'

"And I'm telling him like, and excuse my language, but this s*** is different."

It is tough to disagree with Fournette's assessment of the Super Bowl champions. When performing at their peak, the Bucs appear to be on a different level to almost every team in the NFL.

They were several leagues above their in-state neighbours at the weekend, with the gulf in class illustrated by a rapport between Brady and arguably the NFL's premier group of wide receivers that appears to be growing ever stronger.

Brady heading for more history

Brady finished with 411 yards passing and five touchdowns against the Dolphins for a 144.4 passer rating, tying Peyton Manning with his ninth career game with at least five touchdown passes. Only Drew Brees (11) has more in NFL history.

It was his 36th game with at least four touchdown passes, taking him past Manning (35) and one shy of Brees. Brees (16), Manning (14) and Dan Marino (13) are the only players with more 400 passing-yard games than Brady's 12.

A 62-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown marked Brady's 45th of 50 or more yards, moving him level with Brees and John Hadl for the third most in league history. Johnny Unitas (51) and Manning (46) stand ahead of him in that regard.

Leading the league in passing yards (1,767) and second in passing touchdowns (15) and plays of 25 yards or more (16), Brady will be a strong bet to keep moving up those lists, provided he and his wideouts continue operating at a level that left a Dolphins defense known for producing momentum-stopping takeaways powerless to stem the tide.

Pressure? What pressure?

Brady delivered an accurate well-thrown ball on 81.6 per cent of his pass attempts against Miami. The average for the week heading into Monday was 81.7, but Brady was close to that mark while also averaging 10.53 air yards per attempt.

Only two quarterbacks who averaged more air yards had a better well-thrown percentage. Russell Wilson was accurate on 93.3 per cent with 12.00 air yards per attempt before his injury, and Josh Allen was on target 87.5 per cent of the time with an average of 12.46 air yards.

It was under pressure where Brady stood out in Week 5, as his first of two touchdown hookups with Brown saw him stand in against the interior rush and deliver a perfectly timed ball to the former Pittsburgh Steeler on a crossing route despite falling away from the throw.

Brown was able to collect the pass in stride, racing into open space to find the endzone and give the Bucs a 17-10 lead they never looked like relinquishing.

Arguably as impressive was Brady's 34-yard bomb to Mike Evans. The first of two touchdown catches for Evans, Brady dropped a downfield shot into the bucket despite dealing with late-arriving pressure from the backside and Byron Jones being in phase in good trail position covering the receiver.

Brady was accurate on four of his five attempts under pressure, on which he averaged 9.80 air yards, with his release time of 2.41 seconds on those passes the second-fastest in the NFL.

In a league increasingly dominated by quarterbacks who can escape pressure with their legs, Brady is a 44-year-old statue winning through his mind and his arm operating at a faster speed than everyone else on the field while continuing to demonstrate remarkable placement on throws that seemed beyond him as recently as 2019.

Part of the credit for his success, though, must be attributed to a receiving corps firmly living up to its reputation.

Business booming for AB and Co.

Evans, Brown and Chris Godwin can each be considered elite options at the wideout position, and their status in that regard was further solidified in a game where the Bucs shredded the opposing defense despite Brady being without a tight end in Rob Gronkowski who is averaging a big play on 57.0 per cent of his targets.

Brown finished with seven receptions for 124 yards and his two scores, becoming the fastest player to reach 900 catches as he took his tally to 906 in 143 career games, breaking the record set by Marvin Harrison (149 games).

He also became the fifth player in league history to reach 12,000 receiving yards in fewer than 150 games and, while Brown may never reach the levels he demonstrated during his time in Pittsburgh, he is undoubtedly worthy of Brady's increasing faith in him.

Producing a burn – when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted – 69.0 per cent of the time, Brown is tied-third among receivers with at least 20 targets with his 5.3 burn yards per route.

Evans, meanwhile, is seventh on the list of receivers who meet that same threshold with a big play on 41.7 per cent of his targets, and Godwin – the quietest of the trio versus Miami with seven catches for 70 yards – is fifth in burn percentage for receivers with a 20-target minimum, winning his matchup on 74.4 per cent of targets.

Godwin's average depth of target of 8.3 yards speaks to a receiver who is working more as an underneath option while Evans (14.2) and Brown (13.9) are being relied on to produce the more explosive plays downfield.

Yet when performing at the standard they showcased on Sunday, the nature of their deployment is almost immaterial. With three receivers who could be number one targets on most teams in the NFL and a quarterback whose arm and ability to process are seemingly unaffected by the passage of time, a Bucs offense that is clicking is a near-impossible one to stop.

Any notion of a short stay in Tampa being akin to a Florida retirement home for Brady has long since been dispelled. With an embarrassment of riches at receiver, he is continually polishing a legacy that glistens more than any other in league history. With more offensive performances like his 400-yard blitz of the Dolphins, he may end the year buffing up an eighth Lombardi Trophy.

A Nevada court has recommended a civil case alleging Cristiano Ronaldo committed a sexual assault should be dismissed.

It means the Portugal star is likely to receive confirmation in the near future that the case has been thrown out.

Ronaldo was accused by Kathryn Mayorga of assaulting her in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009, but the footballer has strenuously denied the allegation.

Now at Manchester United, whom he joined from Italian club Juventus in August, Ronaldo initially described the claims, first reported in 2018 by German publication Der Spiegel, as "fake news" via an Instagram video.

No criminal charges were brought, with the Clark County District Attorney's Office announcing in July 2019 that the allegations could not "be proven beyond a reasonable doubt".

Ronaldo's lawyers pushed for the civil case to be dropped, and a United States District Court judge for the state of Nevada has agreed that documents, which emerged via alleged illegal hacks by Football Leaks, should be inadmissible and the action dismissed.

The court criticised Mayorga's legal representatives, Stovall and Associates, for the handling of the case.

"Dismissing Mayorga's case for the inappropriate conduct of her attorney is a harsh result," the court report said. "But it is, unfortunately, the only appropriate sanction to ensure the integrity of the judicial process."

In a document released by the court on Thursday, it was stated that the documents were "inherently prejudicial to Ronaldo fairly presenting his defence".

The report, signed by United States magistrate judge Daniel J Albregts, concluded: "It is recommended that Ronaldo's motion for case terminating sanctions be granted. It is further recommended that Mayorga's action be dismissed with prejudice."

The court's decision can be challenged with a written objection within 14 days, it stated.

Ronaldo said on Twitter in 2018: "I firmly deny the accusations being issued against me. Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in."

According to Der Spiegel, Mayorga first made a complaint of sexual assault in 2009 and subsequently reached an out-of-court settlement with Ronaldo. It is claimed by the magazine she was paid $375,000 as part of a privacy agreement, preventing her from going public with the allegations.

Tyson Fury insisted Deontay Wilder's "legacy is in bits" as he vowed to knock out his American opponent in Saturday's trilogy fight.

Wilder suffered a technical knockout defeat to Fury almost 20 months ago at MGM Grand after their drama-filled first fight in December 2018 ended with a split-decision draw.

The pair face off again at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas this weekend as unbeaten Fury makes the first defence of his WBC world heavyweight title.

And Fury continued to goad his rival, who made a string of excuses for the defeat last time out – the first of his professional career – at Wednesday's final news conference.

"You're in denial and you're going to get knocked out and retire," Fury said.

"Your legacy is in bits. All the excuses, you've been destroyed. No one has believed you. They're all laughing at you like a weak piece of s***.

"You're a weak man, you're getting knocked out."

Wilder has remained largely quiet in the build-up to the high-profile bout but he eventually rose to the taunts, insisting Fury is not capable of knocking him out on Saturday.

"You don't know nothing about knocking anyone out. You don't have knockout power. You're not a knockout artist."

Responding to Wilder's "legacy" claims, Wilder said: "When you know the truth, they say the truth will set you free. 

"I have no pressure, there is nothing to lose, everything to gain.

"All the pressure is on him. Your legacy only dies when the man dies, when the desire and fire in your heart dies, when that dies so does your legacy, and I am well alive.

"We have got a lot of things in line, in order, this is what the world needs to know, there is a lot of things I could put out there, but silence is golden."

Both men were set for a traditional stare down after exchanging words, but promoter Bob Arum called it off and the boxers left the stage in opposite directions.

"At the end, we were going to do a face-off and Wilder ran away! Welcome to my world, b****," Fury later told iFL TV.

Giorgio Chiellini says he felt "ashamed" by the racist abuse Napoli players were subjected to by Fiorentina fans during Sunday's Serie A game at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Kalidou Koulibaly, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Victor Osimhen were targeted during leaders Napoli's 2-1 victory in Florence.

Koulibaly called for those guilty of the abuse to be banned for life and Italy captain Chiellini demanded that strong action must be taken.

The Juventus centre-back said: "It is unacceptable. We need laws and rules that are applied, this is the most important thing.

"I was ashamed, as an Italian and a Tuscan, also because Italy is not a racist country for me.

"Something more must be done, otherwise from outside we give a bad image of ourselves "

Defender Koulibaly was targeted by spectators as he was interviewed on the pitch after the game.

According to reports by II Napolista, Fiorentina's director general Joe Barone went to Napoli's changing room to apologise personally.

Osimhen slammed the perpetrators in a tweet, writing: "Speak to your kids, your parents, make them understand how disgusting it is to hate an individual because of the colour of their skin. NO TO RACISM."

Koulibaly followed suit on Twitter, where he said he was called a "monkey".

He added: "They called me that. These people have nothing to do with sport. They must be identified and kept out of the stadiums. Forever."

Serie A has had issues with racist behaviour from supporters already this season.

Milan last month filed an official complaint to the Federal Prosecutor's Office following Tiemoue Bakayoko's claims that he and Franck Kessie were abused by a section of Lazio fans.

Kalidou Koulibaly has called for permanent bans for the fans who targeted himself, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Victor Osimhen with racist abuse in Sunday's match between Napoli and Fiorentina. 

The three Napoli players were the subject of racist chants from some sections of the Fiorentina support during the game.

Koulibaly, who helped Napoli to a 2-1 win, was also targeted by spectators as he was interviewed on the pitch by DAZN after the game.

According to reports by II Napolista, Fiorentina's director general Joe Barone went to Napoli's changing room to apologise personally.

Osimhen hit out at the perpetrators in a tweet, stating: "Speak to your kids, your parents, make them understand how disgusting it is to hate an individual because of the colour of their skin. NO TO RACISM."

Koulibaly followed suit, revealing the fans called him a "f****** monkey".

"'Monkey of s***. F****** monkey'", Koulibaly's tweet began.

"They called me that. These people have nothing to do with sport. They must be identified and kept out of the stadiums. Forever."

Serie A has had issues with racist behaviour from some supporters already this season.

In September, Milan filed an official complaint to the Federal Prosecutor's Office following Tiemoue Bakayoko's claims that he and Franck Kessie were abused by a section of Lazio fans.

Tyson Fury says he was "absolutely wounded" by Anthony Joshua's defeat to Oleksandr Usyk last weekend.

Usyk claimed Joshua's IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles on Saturday, outclassing the champion at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The 19-0 Usyk mastered Joshua, earning a unanimous points decision to leave the prospect of a unification fight between Fury and his fellow Briton in tatters.

With Joshua now looking set for a rematch with Usyk, Fury will put his WBC belt on the line when he faces Deontay Wilder for a third time at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on October 9.

Fury revealed he was rocked by the second defeat Joshua has suffered in his career.

He said: "Did I watch the fight? Yes I did. Was I absolutely wounded that he won? Yes I was. I was hoping Joshua could win the fight, but he couldn't – and that’s none of my business.

"The only thing I'm bothered about is beating Deontay Wilder, and that's the most dangerous heavyweight out there. In my opinion, Wilder beats Joshua, Usyk, all the rest of the division, comfortable – but he cannot beat me."

Fury stated that he has "no interest in slating anybody or kicking anybody while they are down".

He added: "It ain't my style. I like to pick on someone who is doing well, successful, on top of the game – I don’t like picking on people who are down and probably at their lowest point and probably mentally unstable and unwell with a big loss after such a long reign.

"Usyk did his job, he had to do what he had to do, and that's that, and Joshua has got to do what he has got to do."

Fury is focused on beating Wilder for a second time rather than who he might fight after doing battle with the American.

"I don't care about anybody else – they are not on my radar, only the 'Bronze Bomber', aka the big dosser," he said.

"After him, we will talk, the promoters will do their job, and I will always do mine. Never worry about the 'Gypsy King' fulfilling his end of a bargain – I will always f****** fight until there's not a fight left in me.

"You just worry about the other people doing their end of the bargain."

Fury warned Wilder he has no chance of gaining revenge.

"I'm in fantastic shape, fit as a fiddle. I'm absolutely ready, today, tomorrow and forever. I'll always be ready, and I'll never make excuses," he said.

"When I beat Wilder, I'll be on to the next one, so on and so forth. It's never about the opponent. It's the Tyson Fury show until I hang those gloves up. Until that day, it's all about me, and the roadshow continues. All these years, 2008 to 2021, and I'm still undefeated.

"There ain't a man out there born from his mother that can stop me or beat me. I haven't seen one yet anyway. Maybe he’s not born, or maybe he is but he hasn’t got the guts to come and fight me."

An emotional Rory McIlroy claimed he should have done more to help his European team as they were crushed by the United States in the Ryder Cup.

Defending champions Europe entered the final day at Whistling Straights 11-5 down and required the biggest comeback in the history of the competition to get their hands on the trophy.

That rarely looked like happening, though, with the USA guaranteeing they would win back the trophy when Collin Morikawa secured a half point against Viktor Hovland, enough to give the host nation an unassailable lead, reaching 14.5 points with the promise of plenty more points to come.

McIlroy, competing at his sixth Ryder Cup, failed to pick up a point during the first two days of action, but he did seal a 3 and 2 victory over Xander Schauffele on the final day.

Fighting back tears, the Northern Irishman said he was not happy with his display and had let down his team-mates.

"I love being a part of this team," he told Sky Sports. "I love my team-mates so much, and I should have done more for them this week.

"I'm glad I put a point on the board for Europe today. I just can't wait to get another shot at this. It is by far the best experience in golf and I hope little boys and girls watching this today aspire to play in this event or the Solheim Cup because there's nothing better than being part of a team.

"No matter what happens after this I'm proud of every single one of the players that played this week, proud of the captain and the vice captains. I wish I could have done a little more for the team.

"It's been a tough week."

Speaking to NBC, the 31-year-old added that the Ryder Cup is comfortably the best event he has ever played in.

"The more I play in this event I realise it's the best event in golf, bar none," he said.

"I've never really cried or got emotional over what I've done as an individual, I couldn't give a s***, but this team and what it feels like to be part of a team is phenomenal."

Alex Volkanovski defended his featherweight belt after overcoming Brian Ortega in one of the most dramatic fights of the year at UFC 266.

Volkanovski withstood two submissions in a brutal showdown with Ortega in Las Vegas, where the Australian champion prevailed by unanimous decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-44) on Saturday.

Ortega (15-2) – largely outclassed – looked to be on the brink of victory after a mounted guillotine and then a triangle choke in the third round left Volkanovski in trouble at T-Mobile Arena.

But Volkanovski (23-1) silenced his critics, emerging from the jaws of defeat to celebrate his 10th consecutive win in the UFC.

"All you doubters, I'm going to prove you wrong time and time again," Volkanovski said in his post-fight interview.

"Bring it. About f****** time [you put respect on my name].

"Keep doubting me. I love it. I'll be underdog to the day I die."

Of the submission attempts, Volkanovski – who has not lost since May 2013 – said: "Some of them were pretty tight.

"For some reason I went to the ground with him. Obviously, he's good. ... I thought I was in his head and he came back even stronger."

Ortega added: "I thought it was done. That's what we trained for my entire camp. ... That little bastard is f****** tough as hell."

In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko completed her sixth straight title defence at the expense of Lauren Murphy.

Shevchenko (21-4) scored a devastating fourth-round TKO against Murphy in the flyweight title showdown.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers labelled criticism levelled at his side for their Week 1 loss as "b******t" after they bounced back with a 35-17 win over the Detroit Lions on Monday.

The Packers were humbled 38-3 by the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 but Rodgers responded by throwing 22 from 27 passes for 255 yards including four touchdown passes against the Lions.

Rodgers was forthright when he spoke to reporters in his post-game news conference, after biting his tongue immediately after the game when speaking to ESPN.

The 37-year-old said it was nice to put in a good performance to "get the trolls off our back", labelling the media attention on his side as an "over-reaction".

"I think people like to say a lot of b******t and it's nice to come back in here after a game like that," Rodgers said.

He added: "I think there's even more now than when I started playing, there's so many over-reactions on a week-to-week basis.

"It's nice to come out and have a good performance and get the trolls off our back for at least a week."

Rodgers, who was the subject of a drawn-out saga about a move away from Green Bay in the off-season, admitted the Packers were "disjointed" in Week 1 but would not getting carried away with one win.

"It's one game. We're 1-1 now. We're 1-0 in the division," Rodgers told ESPN. "So we feel good about things but it's early."

The Packers trailed 17-14 at half-time against the Lions but found their "rhythm" with three second-half touchdowns.

"The rhythm was good," he said. "We got the ball to our playmakers, like this guy [Jones].

"Last week we were really disjointed on offence. The first half went the same way but the second half we came out, got into a better rhythm, got a turnover and put the game away."

The Packers will next take on the San Francisco 49ers, who have started 2-0, on Sunday.

Phil Jones has revealed how injury hell left him feeling "the lowest I've ever been" and that his career was "finished" as the Manchester United defender at last closes on a first-team return.

The 29-year-old has not played for the Red Devils since January 2020 due to a debilitating knee problem that has dogged him throughout his career.

First identified during his academy years at Blackburn Rovers, Jones had an operation after Euro 2012 to remove the meniscus in his right knee. He was forced to manage the problem for years, playing at "60 per cent" because he would "do anything for United", even though, by 2016, "any resistance against the knee was just agony".

Jones then recovered fitness during the coronavirus-enforced shutdown last year but, when he had to stop running in training, he sought further treatment that culminated in surgery last August. The centre-back has been battling to recover again in the 14 months since and has now played two matches for United's Under-23s, most recently against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Retelling the story of his progress and setbacks to the Times, Jones said the moment his knee gave up again last May left him considering whether the fight was worth it.

He said: "I'd lost my mind completely. I'm thinking, 'I'm finished, can't be bothered with all this anymore'. I went straight to the doc and said, 'Enough's enough. I've had too many anti-inflammatories, too many injections, too many close shaves. I need this sorted.'

"It was the lowest I've ever been as a human being. I used to come back [from the training ground] and be in bits. My head was an absolute mess. I'd be in tears. I'd say to [wife] Kaya, 'I don't know what to do'. I remember us both crying.

"She has kept the ship together while I got my s*** together. I feel guilty because she didn't deserve having to deal with me every day and then look after the kids."

Jones, who has just under two years on his contract, was prompted to speak out when former United team-mate Rio Ferdinand described him as a "waste of time" who was blocking a youth player's passage to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's senior side. Solskjaer himself was angered by Ferdinand's comments.

"Listen, the respect I've got is enormous," Jones said of Ferdinand. "I've shared a dressing room with Rio – great professional. Loved playing with him. Great lad, good humour. Learnt so much off him. But what he said was poor. Really poor. 

"I've done my absolute utmost. From tablets, to my diet, to setting up my house so that every time I get back from training I'm sitting in recovery boots and have my ice machine ready. Nobody can say, 'You didn't do enough'.

"I'll fight for United until someone tells me, 'Go somewhere else'."

Jones, who was also heckled in the street while walking with his infant daughters, added: "In this society we're living in at the minute, all the racism and stuff that affects mental health – I'd just say be careful. You don’t know how it's going to affect players: physically, mentally, emotionally. 

"Listen, my problems are not bigger than the problems someone has to deal with in an office, I know that. But they are problems. Footballers have problems like anybody else, and maybe me talking can help players.

"Every footballer has a tag and unfortunately mine is, 'Let's have a laugh at him'. But – and I say this in the nicest possible way – I know who'll have the last laugh. I'm proud of my career and when it finishes and I'm enjoying my life – and by the way I'm super fortunate that I'll be able to do that, because footballers are fortunate – [the keyboard warriors] will still be in their mum's spare bedroom, sipping Diet Pepsi that's flat, eating a Pot Noodle, sitting in their boxers, tweeting."

Jones, who has only played eight times since the start of 2019-20, won the Premier League title during Alex Ferguson's final season at the club and it was a meeting with his old boss that helped to boost him on his journey back to playing.

"He was just unbelievable for me," Jones added. "I went to the premiere of his film with a few players and he came over, we shook hands and then out of the blue he said, 'Hey, you were f****** terrific against Real Madrid away [in 2013]. F****** marking [Cristiano] Ronaldo.'

"It just gave me so much confidence. To be honest, I didn't even watch his premiere, I was just sitting there thinking about his comment, thinking, 'He remembers it... someone of his magnitude remembers that'."

Taylor Heinicke is determined to establish himself with the Washington Football Team, and his display in the 30-29 win over the New York Giants was hailed as "gutty" by Ron Rivera.

Filling in for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is out with a hip injury and likely not available until November, Heinicke threw two touchdown passes in a game for the first time in his short NFL career.

The quarterback has had prior spells in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers, but before this season he had tallied just eight games in the league.

Now Heinicke has a chance to play a string of games for Washington, and even though he threw an interception with 2:22 remaining in Thursday night's game, he came good after that, commandeering the drive that resulted in Dustin Hopkins making a match-winning field goal.

Heinicke finished the game with 34-for-46 passing for 336 yards and the two touchdowns, as Washington won their first game of the season.

Speaking on Thursday Night Football, Heinicke said: "Defense came up big and we had a chance to close them out there and throwing a pick is not what you want to do.

"A lot of guys came up to me and said we've got one more chance to do it and fortunately we did. Defense came up and we went down and scored."

Asked whether he considered he had done enough to stay on the team, Heinicke said: "I do, and I have confidence that I can do it. If those guys in the locker room and the facility believe in me, that's all that matters and I think they do, so let's try to keep this ball rolling."

An impressed Rivera was captivated by Heinicke looking to make amends for his error, and by the 28-year-old's overall performance..

"It was very gutty," said the Washington coach. "The thing that was real impressive about him was the way he bounced back after the turnover. Prior to that, he went down and, in what, three plays, he scored a touchdown and turned around, and we were trying to kill the clock, and he made a bad read, made a bad decision.

"But getting that opportunity, he stepped up again."

Heinicke lost his cool and threw down his helmet after the interception, before gathering his thoughts and moving on.

"He was p*****. He was upset at himself, he really was," said Rivera. "He slammed his helmet into the ground. It was just one of those things that you just felt if we can get the ball into his hands...

"He does have the ability to throw the ball, and make all the throws And we've seen that. And he's got a lot of confidence. And when he gets into a really nice rhythm, he can deliver a good ball.

"He's got a little swagger to him and his team-mates feed off of it, they really do."

Barcelona are a structurally better side without superstar forward Lionel Messi, according to head coach Ronald Koeman.

The LaLiga giants were left stunned last month when Messi departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after they were unable to fulfil a new contract that had been agreed.

Messi's exit has left a big void at Camp Nou, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner having scored 672 goals and assisted 265 across his 778 appearances for Barcelona.

Barca have started the post-Messi era with two wins and a draw in their opening three league matches, scoring seven goals in the process, and Koeman believes his side are adjusting to life without their greatest ever player.

"It was a huge blow to lose him," Koeman told Sport. "We had planned for the season with him. 

"We lose so much and it took a few days to get things in order, but we must turn the page and build the team.

"Losing Messi doesn't oblige us to play different tactically but there are things without the ball where the team can improve. 

"We won't have the individual quality of Leo, but in pressing and structuring the team, the team is better now."

 

Antoine Griezmann is another high-profile forward to have left Catalonia last month, the France international returning to Atletico Madrid on an initial loan just two years after swapping clubs.

Koeman understands the club's decision to let Griezmann depart in the final stages of the window, with Luuk de Jong arriving from Sevilla as a replacement.

"The aggravation we had on the last day, with practically no time to find a solution, it was a b****," Koeman said.

"Griezmann had a great contract and if he left it was going to help improve the financial situation of the club. That's why I agreed to his departure."

 

Koeman has repeatedly called on his other attacking players to step up and new recruit Memphis Depay has done exactly that with two goals and an assist in his first three competitive games for Barca.

Depay also scored his first international hat-trick for the Netherlands in Tuesday's 6-1 win over Turkey to move level with Johan Cruyff and Abe Lenstra in Oranje's list of all-time top scorers.

President Joan Laporta revealed this week Depay's number nine shirt is now the biggest seller at Barca and Koeman has backed his compatriot to be the face of the club for years to come.

"Memphis can mark an era at Barca," Koeman said. "He has something that is essential to be a success here: personality and character. 

"There's something different about him and he's really motivated by the challenge of being here."

He added: "There are always things to improve but I'll tell you one thing: if we have everyone available, we can do big things.

"We have a great team. We still have to be realistic, it will be difficult, but I am optimistic and ambitious."

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