Anthony Rizzo says he went to Parkland to support victims

Saying he was there to lend support for victims and their families, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo chastised anyone who claimed he was making a political statement when he returned home to Parkland, Florida, in the aftermath of the school shooting there last week.

I thought the speech was important, to speak with the kids and families that were affected, Rizzo said Monday morning at a news conference from Cubs spring training. I’m really proud to see what Parkland is doing and what the kids are doing and speaking out. And trying to make a difference. I stand behind my community.

The Blackhawks have scored power play goals in six of the last seven games, yet they’re still just No. 29 in success rate at 15.9 percent. That’s how bad they’ve been with the man advantage this season: Even after arguably their best stretch of the season, they’re still among the league’s worst in those situations.

Team USA didn’t claim any additional medals on Thursday, with Mikaela Shiffrin (women’s skiing slalom) and Lindsey Jacobellis (women’s snowboard cross) both finishing just shy of the medal podium, in fourth place. That keeps them at No. 5 among medal-winning countries, but are now tied with Austria and the Olympic Athletes from Russia at eight total medals.

The United States is in position to add some hardware on Friday, though, with Adam Rippon continuing his quest for figure skating gold with the men’s free skate program (8 p.m. ET) and Lindsey Vonn hitting the slops for the women’s alpine skiing super-g medal (9 p.m. ET). The final event of the night could also result in a medal for an American, with Team USA sending a strong delegation to compete in the women’s freeski slopestyle event (11 p.m. ET).

Cordero was the most valuable player and rookie of the year in the Dominican winter league after hitting .323 with 25 RBI in 50 games with Escogido.

Jankowski missed much of last season with a fractured foot after stealing 30 bases in 131 games in 2016.

Szczur played on the Cubs’ 2016 World Series team. Pierla hit .288 with 25 doubles in 83 games after a midseason promotion last year.

This is relevant since the majority of Marte’s contact is of the medium variety. The possibility exists he’ll actually gain some hits. If Lovullo wants to play more small ball, Marte stands to benefit.bears_004

Which prospects will break through and deliver 2018 fantasy value?

It seems oh-so-silly today, but one year ago the main point of conversation and/or contention surrounding Los Angeles Dodgers slugging prospect Cody Bellinger was actually a giant veteran roadblock by the name of Adrian Gonzalez. I put the qualifier on Gonzalez in quotes for emphasis because that is how ridiculous it feels today, a season after the so-called safe, reliable veteran hit all of three home runs before a back injury shut him down and eventually ran him out of town. Meanwhile, all Bellinger did was bash 39 home runs over 132 games. It could have been more games but, well, Gonzalez had to play, right?

That might be a wrong interpretation, but it’s certainly more realistic than concluding a guy who hit .226/.309/.347 as a 29-year-old limited-range left fielder in Class-A is going to get good enough to even match those (terrible) numbers in the majors.

It’s also more realistic than thinking that Alderson — Marine, lawyer, seminal sabermetric figure, World Series champion GM, influential league office executive, plausible Hall of Fame candidate — wants his legacy to be as a second-tier Bill Veeck.

A right-handed batter, Gomez had a .255 batting average with 17 home runs and 51 RBIs last season.

The Dominican Republic native came to Texas as a free agent in 2016 after being released by the Houston Astros amid a seasonlong slump. He rebounded to hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games over the next month as the Rangers won the AL West title. His MLB résumé also includes stints with Minnesota, Milwaukee and the New York Mets. He won a Gold Glove in 2013 while playing center for the Brewers.

An All-Star in 2013 and ’14 with Milwaukee, Gomez has a .257 average with 133 home runs and 504 RBIs in 10 big league seasons.

The move comes a day after Tampa Bay traded Steven Souza Jr. to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a three-team deal with the New York Yankees. The Rays have made a series of cost-cutting moves in recent weeks, also trading pitcher Jake Odorizzi and designating Corey Dickerson for assignment.
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It seems inconceivable that any defense can stop Brady if he decides he’s not going to be stopped.

Just hours before Super Bowl 52, rumors started to swirl that both Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick could retire after Sunday’s game in a somewhat odd report form ESPN.

The speculation started during ESPN’s “NFL Countdown” and according to Dianna Russini, “many in the league have been hearing” the Super Bowl could be final games for the coach and quarterback duo. She added, “Both could be hanging it up. Post game could be incredible tonight if this becomes truth.”

David Steele: The Jaguars, ranked at or near the top of every regular-season defensive category, couldn’t keep it up when it counted in the AFC championship game; neither could the Falcons in last year’s Super Bowl.

Yet this Eagles defense, fresh off of a lockdown of the Vikings in the NFC title game, has what it takes to finish the job. More important, the Eagles offense, Nick Foles and all, can handle the hard work of keeping Brady off the field, exploiting the Patriots’ defense, holding and maintaining a lead, and keeping a foot on the Patriots’ throats. The Patriots are historically great, but they’re not infallible, and this will be proof. Eagles 26, Patriots 24.

But the Pats didn’t get to their third Super Bowl in four seasons by luck, and they’ll utilize their strengths: a defense that has 11 postseason sacks, four more than second-place Jacksonville, and Brady, who has an NFL-leading five touchdowns this postseason. The Eagles may jump out to a lead, but pressure from the Patriots and another terrific performance from Brady gives New England yet another Lombardi Trophy. Patriots 28, Eagles 24.

Bill Bender: If the Eagles can get off the field on third down, then they’ll have a chance. Philadelphia had the third best third-down defense in the NFL this season, and it allowed just 10 of 26 conversions in two playoff games. But this is Brady.

Look for the Patriots to come out aggressive this time and build a lead to put the pressure on Foles. It could be just as tight as the last time these teams met in the Super Bowl, but it will come with an almost identical result. Patriots 30, Eagles 24.bills_036

Watch Bud Light’s ‘Dilly Dilly!,’ ‘Bud Knight’ Super Bowl commercials

Bud Light is continuing its hugely popular Middle Ages-themed “Dilly Dilly!” ad campaign for Super Bowl 52.

The beer brand will air two Super Bowl commercials — “Ye Old Pep Talk” and “The Bud Knight” — to complete a trilogy for the campaign, which started with “Wizard.”

“He’s played a long time,” Brees said while speaking with Sporting News before last year’s Super Bowl. “He’s about to wrap up his 17th season. In those 17 years, it’s 14 division championships, 11 AFC championship games, seven Super Bowls, potentially five Super Bowl wins. That’s quite remarkable, that level of consistency for that period of time.”

In only three years during his career has Brady has won nothing. In one of them, 2000, he was a developmental rookie backup to Drew Bledsoe as a sixth-round draft pick. In another, following a 16-0 regular season in 2007, he suffered his lone major injury, to his knee, in Week 1 of 2008.

In the history of the Super Bowl there have been only five players to receive the game’s Most Valuable Player award more than once, and all of them are quarterbacks. In fact, quarterbacks have won the award 28 times.

The Patriots’ Tom Brady (four Super Bowl MVP awards), of course, is on the list of players with multiple Super Bowl MVP awards, along with Bart Starr (2), Terry Bradshaw (2), Joe Montana (3) and Eli Manning (2). Brady broke a tie with Montana when he won his fourth MVP award in Super Bowl 51.

When you look across sports at potential GOATs, including Jordan, Jim Brown and Wayne Gretzky, the others were phenoms who came in as can’t-miss chosen ones. Like LeBron James now, they experienced success at every level. Pro awesomeness felt like the natural progression.

That Incognito, college man, very likely is a career creep would be far more shameful if he wasn’t just the latest in a long, ceaseless series. It’s not, after all, as if the NFL or NCAA long ago determined to dam the flow or even plug a leak.

What were Incognito’s deterrents to being a creep? It couldn’t be what college did for him. It couldn’t be the NFL. It couldn’t be TV. It couldn’t be Ray Lewis, who now, as if ESPN couldn’t anticipate such grotesque farce, appears on TV to make shame-shame at players accused of misconduct.bills_013

The league is going to find out, because all evidence suggests no NFL team is going to sign Kaepernick.

“Our hearts are broken for them,” Pearl said.

But he doesn’t want sympathy right now. Would they be a better team with Purifoy and Wiley? “We would,” he said, while insisting that he isn’t focused on that.

“Two man down, not just man down,” he says. “It forced everybody to pick it up.”

Can they keep it up?

On the eve of rivalry week, Pearl seemed keenly aware of his team’s slim margin for error. He shouted at one of his assistant coaches down the hall for some numbers.

Auburn, he’s told, ranks 305th out of 351 Division I basketball teams in average height. Its next two opponents, Alabama and Georgia, are both in the top 30.

Pearl raised his eyebrows. This two-game stretch could expose his squad as a paper Tiger or signal that despite everything going on, this team could be in line for a good seed in the NCAA tournament.

While there’s no doubt Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs can beat Philadelphia’s secondary on intermediate routes, their quarterback must have time to make the required drops. If he’s bailing as soon he plants that back foot, no bueno.

It may be time to admit, if not accept, that NFL teams will not permit Kaepernick back into the league.

Player leaders voted to keep DeMaurice Smith as the NFLPA head, as Mark Maske writes. The main upshot is that Smith will lead the union in the next round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations. There was some intrigue in the voting. From Maske’s story:

If the Redskins aren’t forced to spend their first-round pick (13th overall) on a quarterback, that would free them to use it on a top defensive lineman for a second consecutive year. In doing do, they’d adhere to the philosophy former general manager Scot McCloughan ushered in of building the team in the trenches. It would also please former Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot, a firm believer in prioritizing linemen.jaguars_087

The season-opening loss by Bill Belichick’s Patriots leaves room to wonder which team is the NFL’s best

The defense was very good against the Bengals. It’s exactly what the Ravens envisioned when they spoke during the preseason about their infusion of young pass rushers and the depth and experience in their secondary. The running game was productive in Cincinnati but more will be needed at some point from QB Joe Flacco and the passing game.

So much so that Kizer should be the regular-season starter. Partly because he’s been the Browns’ best passer throughout the preseason, partly because the organization needs to know whether Kizer is the long-term solution at the position. And if he’s not, the team can turns its efforts to (again) finding its next franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, which could be one of the best classes to come along in a decade.

In simple terms: As long as a franchise is without its franchise quarterback, losing will become commonplace. Neither Osweiler nor Cody Kessler changes that in 2017, though Kizer might in the years to come.

Murray has already been ruled out, so Henry will get a chance to take it to the Patriots’ weak run defense. If the Titans have any hope of upsetting the Patriots, they need Henry to experience a productive outing so that they can use lengthy drives to keep Brady away from the football.

The Eagles are (historic) underdogs against the Falcons, even though they’re the top seed and they’re playing at home. They’re underdogs because Carson Wentz is out for the season with a torn ACL and as a result, their starting quarterback is Nick Foles. As a consequence of their quarterback change, Eagles WR1 Alshon Jeffery has disappeared.

In three games without Wentz, Jeffery caught five passes for 57 yards and one touchdown. Against the Falcons, the Eagles need to do a better job of getting their top receiver involved in the offense. Jeffery has always been the kind of receiver who doesn’t need to gain separation to be considered open. Foles just needs to give him a chance to come down with some contested catches, because it’s something Jeffery excels at.
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Can the Falcons make another run in defense of their NFC title?

Will Sean McVay’s offensive sorcery translate in the playoffs? Could Rodgers scare the daylights out of a top seed? (If the Packers can win out behind the presumed return of Rodgers next week, they have a 93 percent chance to make the playoffs, per the New York Times’s playoff odds calculator.) The Eagles will be pursuing the franchise’s first Super Bowl title and first appearance in more than a decade. The Vikings will be vying to be the first team to play the Super Bowl at its home stadium.

Further injury, as this season has so harshly reminded, could still spoil the NFC playoffs. For now, they are the league’s best hope to salvage an unpleasant year.

According to sources, the meeting was held without knowledge of anyone else in the organization. Allen notified the Trail Blazers’ basketball operations and business branch afterward.

In the weeks leading up to the meeting, Allen feared Lillard would request a trade, sources said, but a trade request was not made. The two-time All-Star made it clear, though, that he has championship aspirations and wanted to fulfill those lofty goals during the remaining years of his prime window.

Portland, winners of three of its past four, is currently 25-22 and stationed seventh in the Western Conference standings. The 2012-13 Rookie of the Year has led his team to the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, but has yet to advance past the second round.

It’s not unprecedented for Allen to meet with marquee players of his franchise. He is also the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and frequently has sit-downs with some of the key players, a source said.

Forcing players to stand isn’t the answer, according to the Eagles’ Chris Long. A native of Charlottesville, he has endowed two scholarships at his high school alma mater in the wake of violence there in August and has stood with teammate Malcolm Jenkins as he has protested during the anthem.

Trump’s awareness of Parks’s legacy goes back at least 30 years to when both he and Parks were among 80 people honored at the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations first awards ceremony on Ellis Island in 1986 by William Fugazy, Trump’s real estate broker, according to HuffPost.

Trump was photographed beside the activist at the event, but years later, he appears to believe that activists protesting racism don’t deserve honor.jaguars_024

A concussion prevented Freeman from practicing Thursday and he is reportedly not going to play in Week 11.

“It’s in Trae’s hands to make a read and decision and create,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We did that all night, really. He made a good play to find Christian and Christian jumped in there and knocked it down. Brady did the same thing on the next possession. Two big shots.”

Matt Forte, RB, Jets: New York’s backfield situation has been frustrating for Forte owners as well as for those who own Bilal Powell. Each has had good performances and seemingly has grabbed the No. 1 role for the Jets, only to be hit with injuries in subsequent weeks. In Forte’s case, it appears his knee injury is serious. New York is on a bye this weekend, but once Week 12 rolls around, Powell likely takes on the bulk of the backfield duties.

Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots: Hogan continues to be sidelined by a shoulder injury and is looking like he will miss another week. While it’s bad news for Hogan owners, Danny Amendola and Rex Burkhead owners should rejoice as both players should see a good amount of targets.

So far, Mississippi State has been outstanding. Vivians led the way Sunday with 24 points and nine rebounds as No. 3 Mississippi State won 71-52 at No. 6 Tennessee.

The Bulldogs are 20-0 overall and 6-0 in the SEC. They are now just one of two remaining unbeaten teams nationally, along with No. 1 UConn, after No. 2 Louisville fell 50-49 to No. 12 Florida State on Sunday. The Bulldogs are sure to move another notch up the rankings when the Associated Press poll comes out Monday.

Mississippi State has never won an SEC regular-season or tournament title in women’s basketball, but this season the Bulldogs could win both. Of course, there are still several big games ahead, including with Mississippi State’s nemesis, South Carolina, which has beaten the Bulldogs 11 consecutive times, including in last season’s NCAA final and SEC tournament title game, plus the regular-season matchup.
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The Chiefs should’ve let Derrick Henry score to have a chance at overtime

Titans running back Derrick Henry converted an enormous first down on third-and-10 as Tennessee was trying to run the clock out with a bit under two minutes left. The Chiefs tackled him. Huge mistake.

There are so many small things. The crucifix around Fitzpatrick’s neck is always centered. As he traveled the South to pick up individual honors this month—among others, he won the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s best defensive player—he had the Alabama staff call ahead to make sure the hotel spas could accommodate treatments for his sore left hamstring. When he took photos with each trophy, he adjusted his hands so as not to cover the plaque’s face. He corrects his mother when she mixes up there and their in texts. He follows his siblings and two-year-old nephew around his dorm when they visit, straightening up whatever they knock over.

Twice in the first half, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan lobbed a pass into coverage that could’ve been intercepted by the Eagles if not for Jones making a pass breakup.

“Be your own man,” Aron implored his son. “Never be a follower.” And Stefon would define himself by those words—even more than by his ability to change direction at top speed or execute ankle-breaking stutter-steps. At Good Counsel (Md.) High he ran a small business selling custom jeans, splattered with colorful paint and snipped up with scissors. Today he drives a silver Jeep with a football-sized Jurassic Park decal slapped across the driver’s side door, and throughout this season he wore cleats designed to honor Eminem, Kobe Bryant and SpongeBob SquarePants. In warmups he’s prone to skip around the sideline in skintight short-shorts, playing catch with children in the stands.

But this wasn’t any normal interception by Myles Jack. He looked like a wide receiver by looking the football in and making sure he got his feet in bounds:

The last time these two teams played, Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. On Pittsburgh’s second drive Sunday, he’s got one more.patriots_112_8a74ff4bcdd79766-180x180

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie dances like nobody’s watching in the locker room after beating the Falcons

The Philadelphia Eagles came into Saturday’s Divisional Round against the Falcons as underdogs. They won, 15-10, after the closest finish of the postseason thus far.

However, referees said they were reviewing the previous play, and so that play did not count. The play was then ruled incomplete, and the clock would be reset to 14 seconds as opposed to just five.

After an incomplete pass to Sammy Watkins and a holding that moved them back 10 yards, the Rams decided to play it safe, and took a field goal to go into the half down 13-10.

But it was a weird end to the half, to say the least.

Way back when Ben McAdoo was running this offense, Beckham was indispensable. McAdoo’s offense is iso routes all the time, requiring receivers to win their battles without the help of being schemed open. Beckham was not only capable of winning against double teams, but he required a double on every snap, allowing the rest of the receivers (and they had some awful ones in 2016) to work against single coverage.

What an incredible finish to the Saints-Vikings game! As if dishing out the game-winning touchdown pass wasn’t enough, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum took the moment to bask in the comeback victory.

He got the crowd started with a celebratory skol Vikings chant. And from there, the fans at U.S. Bank Stadium joined him in unison. As soon as he clapped, the fans nearby clapped. Then once they clapped, more and more fans started clapping and chanting until the entire stadium joined in. Just like Keenum, you should also take a second and just get lost in the thunderous festivities.

He’s kinda lucky he didn’t get penalized for it. Last season, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas gave a referee a hug and got called for a penalty.

To be fair, Thomas’ hug was a surprise, and much more aggressive, than Peters’.

Mularkey, 56, took over as the Titans’ interim head coach in the middle of the 2015 season after Ken Whisenhunt was fired, and he had the interim tag removed in January 2016.

Tennessee has seen improvements under Mularkey, who coached the team to a 9-7 record last season, their first winning record since 2011. However, they did not make the playoffs last season.

The Titans barely made it into this season’s playoffs by winning Week 17 against the Jaguars, which secured the team a spot in the postseason for the first time in nine years.patriots_096_4ec9c9e7da293581-180x180