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October 17, 2013

By DAVE CAMPBELL

AP Pro Football Writer

 

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Your turn, Josh Freeman.

Freeman was named the latest starting quarterback for the scuffling Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday. Freeman’s second week with the team will culminate on Monday night with him leading the offense against the New York Giants.

“It really hasn’t been that difficult. Any time you step into a situation where you’re the new guy, there’s always kind of an awkward getting-to-know-you phase,” Freeman said. “But I think that goes back to the character of this organization just from top to bottom: a lot of quality people that are dedicated to winning first and foremost but also being quality human beings off the field. So it’s been a smooth adjustment.”

Coach Leslie Frazier also said that Christian Ponder will be the backup, not Matt Cassel, assuming Freeman makes it through the week without problems.

“I like the things he’s done in his career, along with what he’s done since he arrived here with our football team, the time he put in, how well he’s adapted to our system,” Frazier said. “He’s done enough for us to say we want to give him this opportunity, which is something we had in mind when we acquired him. I think now is the time.”

Freeman will be the third starter in the last four games for the Vikings (1-4) and the 11th since Daunte Culpepper’s season-ending knee injury in 2005. Freeman was cut by Tampa Bay on Oct. 3 and signed by Minnesota to a one-year contract five days later.

“We’re just going to make plays for whoever’s in there and just make it as easy as possible,” wide receiver Jerome Simpson said.

Freeman started 59 games over four-plus seasons with the Buccaneers. The 25-year-old former first-round draft pick threw for 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2010, his first full season as a starter, but has been up and down since. The Vikings were on the wrong end of one of his best games last year, a 36-17 victory at Minnesota when he passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

“The underlying questions I’ve been getting from a lot of people: ‘Do I have a chip on my shoulder?’ I’m sure I do,” Freeman said. “But I think it’s more deeply rooted than just the past six months, 12 months.”

Frazier said he was impressed by Freeman’s first practice with the team.

“From the moment he stepped in the building, he wanted to learn. And the way he handled himself in that practice, it changed my mindset about the possibilities,” Frazier said. “We had a timeframe in mind originally but watching what he did from the day he arrived, that cemented it for me that sooner was a possibility.”

Frazier said he hasn’t considered a scenario in which Ponder wouldn’t still be on the roster for the rest of the season. Ponder said he wasn't sure about his future here. The trade deadline is Oct. 29. He’s under contract with the Vikings through at least 2014.

“I have to figure out what’s best for me and everything and for this team. I don’t know if that’s staying here and going somewhere else,” Ponder said.

Ponder started the first three games until he broke a rib. Cassel took over and led the Vikings to their only victory. Frazier said he preferred to keep the factors in his decision to put Ponder ahead of Cassel on the depth chart private.

The coach also said he had full authority to make Freeman the starter. He acknowledged, though, that owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf and general manager Rick Spielman were consulted.

“When you’re talking about the quarterback position, which affects your entire franchise, this is not a decision you make alone,” Frazier said.

Running back Adrian Peterson was missing from practice because of a personal matter. Frazier said he expected him back on Thursday. The coach declined to specify whether his absence was related to the situation in South Dakota regarding his 2-year-old son, who died last week by alleged abuse. A man is in custody in South Dakota.

Safety Harrison Smith was also not present for the beginning of practice reporters were allowed to watch. With the game on Monday this week, the Vikings aren’t required to produce an injury report until Thursday. Smith suffered a turf toe injury to his left foot on Sunday. Frazier said he’d provide an update on Thursday.

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October 17, 2013

By SCHUYLER DIXON

AP Sports Writer

 

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Jay Ratliff's mysterious and rapid decline with the Dallas Cowboys has ended with his release.

The Cowboys unloaded the apparently disgruntled defensive tackle on Wednesday, saying he failed a physical after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. He was eligible to be activated this week.

Ratliff missed the last six games of 2012 with a groin injury that required surgery. The four-time Pro Bowler injured his hamstring during the conditioning test before training camp in July and never practiced for the Cowboys this season.

The ninth-year pro wasn't seen by reporters in the locker room all season after hinting there was tension with the Dallas medical staff, and agent Mark Slough said his relationship with team doctors was ''strained.''

But Ratliff tried to put a happy face on his departure in a statement issued by Slough, thanking ''the best fans in the NFL'' and giving owner Jerry Jones credit for ''taking a chance'' on a seventh-round pick from 2005 who went to four straight Pro Bowls.

''I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Cowboys and it was always my desire to begin and end my career here in Dallas,'' Ratliff said. ''But I understand this business and now it's time to move on, turn the page and begin again.''

The team said Ratliff had sports hernia surgery and expected him to be ready in 2013, but Slough said doctors told him the injury was far more serious and could take up to a year to heal. He described the injury as muscles tearing away from bones in the pelvic area.

Slough said he and Ratliff ''never felt the need'' to clarify his injury, even with his client getting criticized over the slow recovery time.

''If it doesn't bother my guy, then I guess it doesn't bother me,'' said Slough, who said several teams have already contacted him about Ratliff, but that the 32-year-old won't play this season.

The agent also said Ratliff wasn't leaving the Cowboys on bad terms. Slough said Jones called Ratliff to tell him about the release.

''There's no ill will,'' the agent said. ''Jay's not upset. He's not mad. He's not angry. I've been with him quite a bit over the last two days, he and his wife both. He and his wife both talking about the possibility of what might happen today.''

Ratliff made the Pro Bowl as recently as 2011, but ended up missing 10 games last year. A sprained ankle kept him out of the first four, followed by the groin problem.

After his injury-filled 2012 season, Ratliff was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in January, just weeks after teammate Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter following a car accident that killed practice squad player Jerry Brown.

In his four-year stretch of Pro Bowl appearances, Ratliff twice had a career-high 83 tackles and 19 of his 27 career sacks.

But he had just two sacks after signing a five-year, $49 million extension in 2011. He will count $7 million against the salary cap next season even after agreeing to have his deal restructured this past offseason. Ratliff will be off the books in 2015.

With star pass rusher DeMarcus Ware battling a quadriceps injury, it's likely Hatcher will be the only one of the four projected starting defensive linemen on the field Sunday when Dallas visits Philadelphia. Anthony Spencer, the end opposite Ware, is out for the season after knee surgery.

One of the primary backups, Tyrone Crawford, was lost for the season to a torn Achilles tendon in the first full workout of training camp. The defensive front is relying so heavily on patchwork replacements, Jones has started calling it the ''no-name group.''

And now they know Ratliff won't join them.

''It's unfortunate that he didn't have the opportunity to play in this new defense because I think he would have done well,'' Slough said. ''I know the Cowboys thought he would flourish in that defense. They felt like it would extend years on his career. But the injury got in the way, and that happens in the NFL.

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October 10, 2013

Wire Service

 

Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Byron Scott shared his experiences as a professional athlete and spoke about the importance of a college education, Monday, September 30, in Centennial High School’s library. Sponsored by nonprofits Hitting the Right Note and Musication, Inc., the hour-long program provided over 30 students, many of them young athletes, with the opportunity to interact and learn from the NBA great. Students listened as Scott, who recently coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, discussed growing up in Inglewood, how he was mentored by Centennial’s Principal Jesse Jones, and realizing the value of an undergraduate degree.

Principal Jones said he is proud of Scott’s success and wanted his students to learn the realities of the sports business. “I wanted them to hear about how much hard work, sacrifice, and intelligence it takes to make it as a professional athlete,” he said. “Centennial is grateful to have Byron here, and on a personal level, it means a lot to reconnect with one of my former students from my days as principal at Morningside High School in Inglewood.”

Jones added, “I think that because Byron comes from a community much like Compton, it enables these kids to relate to his experiences. It helps them see the potential within themselves.”

For Scott, who will begin a new career as a broadcaster alongside former Lakers player Luke Walton on Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet, any opportunity to give back to local communities is time well-spent. “Mr. Jones was my principal in Inglewood. Today was a reunion for us, and it was great to see him again. He taught me so much when I was one of his students,” he noted.

“The biggest thing for me was to come here and educate these young people, especially the ones who are athletes trying to make it where I’ve been. I wanted to let them know what it takes to get there, what it means to be there, and what it takes to stay there.”

Scott said he credits his education with his professional success, and encouraged all students in attendance to find a subject they would like to major in.

“I wanted to motivate them to fulfill their dreams, but also to let them know that they should never forget about their education. They need to know that the most important thing right now is to graduate high school, go to college, get a degree, and everything after that is gravy,” he said. “I went to Arizona State University, where I majored in telecommunications. It all applies to everything I do. I want Centennial’s students to understand that.”

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October 17, 2013

OXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) —New England linebacker Jerod Mayo will miss the rest of the season with the latest serious injury to a Patriots defensive star.

The team placed the two-time Pro Bowl player on injured reserve Wednesday, three days after he was hurt in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 30-27 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Mayo joins defensive tackle Vince Wilfork on IR. Wilfork tore his right Achilles tendon Sept. 29 in a 30-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons. He and Mayo are defensive co-captains.

After tackling Darren Sproles on Sunday, Mayo got up and reached for the upper right area of his chest. Mayo's agent, Mitch Frankel, did not respond to a request for comment on a report that Mayo had undergone surgery for a torn chest muscle. Rookie Jamie Collins, the Patriots’ first-round draft choice, and Dane Fletcher are expected to fill in for Mayo, who has missed just five regular-season games.

Mayo is the NFL’s leading tackler since 2010 with 546 and has led the Patriots in tackles in each of his five seasons.

“I think I’ve been on record many times talking about Jerod,” coach Bill Belichick said. “He does a lot for us on the field, off the field. But we’re just going to have to move on.”

The Patriots also announced that they re-signed defensive tackle Andre Neblett and signed cornerback Travis Howard to the practice squad.

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October 10, 2013

By Kenneth Miller

Assistant Managing Editor

 

If Timothy Bradley walked into the grocery store, would you know who he is?

But, you would know who Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather is!

Bradley is the other guy. The other prominent Black fighter who has won multiple world championships in the welterweight division.

The other undefeated champion that few people are talking about.

Bradley in essence has taken Mayweather’s seat with Top Rank as its signature fighter, and on Saturday Oct. 12, he will defend his WBO welterweight championship against Juan Manuel Marquez at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Both Bradley and his opponent have done something that Mayweather will probably never do. They have both defeated Manny Pacquiao.

Bradley (30-0, 12 KOs) beat Pacquiao in a disputed split decision in June 2012 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

In a fight that brutally under delivered on its prominence, Bradley walked away from his greatest boxing achievement feeling rather shameful. Observers felt that he clearly lost the fight.

After talks of a rematch failed, Bradley went about his business in the manner in which he always has—with class and dignity.

Marquez knocked out Pacquiao cold six months later and has gained all of the fame that has eluded Bradley.

In March, Bradley retained his WBO title by winning a unanimous decision against Rusian Provodnikov at the Home Depot center is Carson.

Mayweather will probably scoff that even if Bradley beats Marquez, it’s not enough to put him on the same plateau.

However, Bradley also has a victory over a guy that Mayweather wouldn’t fight in Devon Alexander.

Bradley is six years younger than Mayweather at age 30, and their styles are contrasting both in and outside the ring.

Bradley is considered a brutal brawler, a fighter who will take way more risk than he should to land a punch. During his last fight, he was knocked down and nearly out before surviving and retaining his belt. His moniker is ‘Desert Storm.’

Born in Cathedral City, California and raised in Palm Springs, he came from very humble beginnings. He used to work as a waiter and dishwasher before he decided that he wanted to become a champion fighter.

While he loves cars, they are not like the ones that Mayweather owns, and instead of flaunting his wealth with fancy jewelry and gifts to sexy women, he is diplomatic, polite and reserved. He is also happily married to his high school friend, Monica Manzo.

“I have come a long way, and when I am in training, I am zoned out,” Bradley told the Sentinel during his final preparations last week.

When he finds himself in trouble he said that he will gain the inner strength from his family and the hard work that he puts into training before fights.

He listens to rap music of such artist as Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake while running 8-10 miles through the desert hillside.

A father of three, including his two adopted children through his marriage, the California native is willing to do what ever it takes to win a fight within the rules.

When he steps into the ring against Marquez in their HBO Pay-Per-View confrontation, he will be meeting a man who has more knockouts than he has fights. Marquez is 55-(40 Kos)-6-1.

He is also 40-years old.

They both have victories over “The Man.”

Marquez is ranked as the No. 3, pound-for-pound fighter in the world according to ESPN. Bradley is ranked 9th, way out on the fringe.

A victory Saturday night could change all of that, but chances are it will not change who Bradley is. He’s the Man!

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