Cameron Meredith is way ahead of schedule in his rehab

Cameron Meredith did not participate in team drills Thursday, but Sean Payton said the Saints receiver is way ahead of schedule in his return from a knee injury that kept him out all of last season.

I made a comment to [Saints’ director of sports medicine] Beau [Lowery] two days ago during the walk-through, Payton said, via Amos Morale III of the Times-Picayune. Just watching him move around and, you guys saw him, he’s way ahead of schedule. And certainly where our doctor our doctors had hoped and even better.

So he’s going to factor in this year. He’s a player that we’ve got a real clear vision for.

Lightning management, we’re told, was unhappy all season with the team’s play in the defensive zone. Hence, the decision to dismiss associate coach Rick Bowness.

But associate/assistant coaches aren’t rogue operatives. They impart and install the head coach’s vision and system. The Rangers’ breakdowns weren’t the fault of Ulf Samuelsson in 2015-16, weren’t the fault of Jeff Beukeboom in 2016-17, and weren’t the fault of Lindy Ruff in 2017-18.

Which is to say, the clock has started on Jon Cooper.

At least they admitted it.

Via Albert Breer of SI.com, there was a clear sense at this week’s owners meetings that the reaction/taunting by Donald Trump at rallies and online (an inevitably on his favorite TV show) was a factor. The league’s new policy requires all players and personnel on the field to stand for the anthem, but it allows players to stay in the locker room if they choose.

Asked if Trump came up in their discussion, Packers president Mark Murphy replied with a laugh: Oh yeah. It was more how [Trump] might react, anticipating that. Also, how the fans will react, how the media will react. That’s what we tried to think through. . . . No matter what we did, [Trump] would probably try to get involved one way or the other—either criticizing us or taking credit for the change.

That seems obvious, and this morning’s appearance on FOX News will doubtless include a victory lap.

One owner said Trump’s name came up three times during the discussion, but not at length.

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Watch: Twins turn rare triple play on ground ball

All eyes were on Angels slugger Albert Pujols in his attempt to hit 600 career home runs Thursday, but instead he became a part of Twins history in a rare triple play at Angel Stadium.

With Pujols on second base and Yunel Escobar on first, Angels first baseman Jefry Marte hit a sharp ground ball to Minnesota’s Miguel Sano.

The Twins third baseman stepped on his base and fired the ball to second baseman Brian Dozier, who completed the 5-4-3 triple play when he threw to Joe Mauer at first.

On Thursday night, Tebow had exactly one ball hit in his direction all game, an eighth-inning line drive toward the left-center gap that he easily cut off on a couple of hops. He fumbled the ball momentarily, though it didn’t matter. The runner from second was going to score easily anyway and Tebow picked up the ball and quickly threw it in, holding the hitter to first base.

At the plate, he’s still stiff, but he looks more comfortable than in the field. He has muscles upon muscles, which translates into solid power when he makes solid contact. Breaking balls remain an issue, though coaches say he’s improving. The idea of Tebow trying to adjust to the one-two combo of Max Scherzer’s fastball and curveball is, well, kind of amusing.

Look, I’m not a scout. I’ve played and watched and covered baseball my entire life, though, so I’ll throw out a couple of observations. Feel free to ignore them.

Tebow plays baseball very much like a guy with an adequate level of talent trying extremely hard to do everything the exact right way. There’s very little smooth in his game. Tracking baseballs in the outfield, he takes shorter, make-sure steps when others glide to a spot. Everything he does in the field — running, catching and throwing — feels mechanical and calculated.

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