NABC ALL-AMERICAN BASKETBALL TEAMS

FIRST TEAM

Udoka Azubuike, Kansas, 7-0, Senior, Center, Delta, Nigeria

Luka Garza, Iowa, 6-11, Junior, Center, Washington, D.C.

Markus Howard, Marquette, 5-11, Senior, Chandler, Ariz.

Payton Pritchard, Oregon, 6-2, Senior, Guard, West Linn, Ore.

Obi Toppin, Dayton, 6-9, R.-Sophomore, Forward, Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

SECOND TEAM

Devon Dotson, Kansas, 6-2, Sophomore, Guard, Charlotte, N.C.

Malachi Flynn, San Diego State, 6-1, Junior, Guard, Tacoma, Wash.

Filip Petrusev, Gonzaga, 6-11, Sophomore, Forward, Belgrade, Serbia

Myles Powell, Seton Hall, 6-2, Senior, Guard, Trenton, N.J.

Cassius Winston, Michigan State, 6-1, Senior, Guard, Detroit, Mich.

 

THIRD TEAM

Jared Butler, Baylor, 6-3, Sophomore, Guard, Reserve, La.

Vernon Carey Jr., Duke, 6-10, Freshman, Center, Miami, Fla.

Tre Jones, Duke, 6-3, Sophomore, Guard, Apple Valley, Minn.

Jordan Nwora, Louisville, 6-7, Junior, Forward, Buffalo, N.Y.

Jalen Smith, Maryland, 6-10, Sophomore, Forward, Baltimore, Md.

 

Dayton double: Flyers’ Toppin, Grant claim AP top honors

Obi Toppin and Anthony Grant spent the season transforming Dayton from an unranked team that wasn’t even picked to win its conference into one of the nation’s best, complete with the most wins in program history.

The pair behind the Flyers’ remarkable rise claimed The Associated Press’ top individual honors: Toppin is the men’s college basketball player of the year and Grant is the coach of the year.

“Our team is very appreciative of what we accomplished,” Toppin told the AP, “just because we made history at our school.”

Indeed. Dayton (29-2) went from being picked to finish third in the Atlantic 10 to

, matching the program’s best poll finish, first set in 1956. The Flyers went unbeaten in league play and in road games, leaving them positioned to claim a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament that was canceled amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Now Dayton has its first winners of the AP’s top awards, joining St. Joseph’s in 2004 (with Jameer Nelson and coach Phil Martelli) as the only programs in the past 40 seasons to claim both in the same year.

“In the 31 games that we played, our guys did a heck of a job of playing consistent and taking advantage of the opportunities that were in front of us,” Grant said. “What we did accomplish in the shortened season is something I think that hopefully will be remembered.”

The 6-foot-9, 220-pound Toppin followed his unanimous selection to the

by appearing on 34 of 65 ballots from Top 25 voters, who submitted ballots after the

.

Iowa junior Luka Garza was second in the balloting, earning 24 votes after averaging 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds for the Hawkeyes. Fellow All-Americans Markus Howard of Marquette, Payton Pritchard of Oregon and Udoka Azubuike of Kansas split the remaining votes.

It wasn’t that long ago that Toppin was a 6-foot-2 high school junior who had never dunked in a game and then a senior lacking any Division I scholarship offers, sending him to prep school before ending up at Dayton. But he has blossomed as a redshirt sophomore into an efficient scorer who made regular appearances on TV highlight-reels with

.

He averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 63% from the field and 39% from 3-point range, leading a season-long surge by the Flyers that

shaken by devastating tornadoes and a deadly mass shooting in the past year.

Dayton grabbed national attention early, taking Kansas to overtime in a loss in the

. Their only other loss came in December on a

in overtime against Colorado. The Flyers had won 20 straight games when the season ended.

“Honestly, if you had asked me, I swear we could’ve won a national championship and our team was so ready to play in the tournament,” Toppin said. “We were so locked in. But because of this virus, things happened. It’s just going to be a what-if for the rest of our lives, but it’s something we’re going to have to live with.”

Grant earned 30 of 65 votes to claim the AP coaching award in his third season at his alma mater. Baylor’s Scott Drew, who guided the Bears to a 23-game winning streak and five weeks at No. 1, was second with 13 votes.

San Diego State’s Brian Dutcher was third with 12 votes after leading the Aztecs to a 26-0 start, followed by Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton – who earned six votes after leading the Seminoles to their first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title.

Grant, a former Dayton player, said he has some of the same what-if thoughts as his star player. Still, he said he prefers to be grateful for “a special group” that deftly handled the added attention and pressure that came quickly amid the Flyers’ steady climb up the rankings.

“I thought our guys’ ability to stay focused on the things they could control really told the story of our year,” Grant said. “I think from the beginning of the year to the end, there was a consistency that our guys played with, which as a coach makes me really proud.”

PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTING

Obi Toppin, Dayton (34)

Luka Garza, Iowa (24)

Markus Howard, Marquette (3)

Udoka Azubuike, Kansas (2)

Payton Pritchard, Oregon (2)

COACH OF THE YEAR VOTING

Anthony Grant, Dayton (30)

Scott Drew, Baylor (13)

Brian Dutcher, San Diego State (12)

Leonard Hamilton, Florida State (6)

Mark Few, Gonzaga (2)

Steve Pikiell, Rutgers (1)

Bill Self, Kansas (1)

 

A virus rages, a flame goes out: Tokyo Games reset for 2021

Not even the Summer Olympics could withstand the force of the coronavirus. After weeks of hedging, the IOC took the unprecedented step of postponing the world’s biggest sporting event, a global extravaganza that’s been cemented into the calendar for more than a century.

The Tokyo Games, slated for 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries and at a reported cost of $28 billion, had been scheduled to start July 24. They will now be pushed into 2021 on dates to be determined.

They will still be called the 2020 Olympics – a symbolic gesture that the International Olympic Committee hopes will allow the games to “stand as a beacon of hope,” as it stated in delivering the news Tuesday.

“I don’t think anybody was really prepared for this virus happening,” said American sprinter Noah Lyles, who had been primed to be one of the world’s breakout stars in Tokyo. “You look over the history of the Olympics and see that it’s usually war that’s stopped the Olympics from happening.”

Only World War I and World War II have forced the Olympics to be canceled; they were scrubbed in 1916, 1940 and 1944.

Now, a microscopic virus that is wreaking havoc with daily life around the planet, to say nothing of its sports schedule, has accomplished what no other virus (Zika in 2016), act of terrorism (the killing of Israelis in Munich in 1972), boycott (1980 and 1984), threat of war (frequent) or actual world war itself has managed to do: postpone the games and push them into an odd-numbered year.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The global pandemic has sickened at least 420,000 people and killed more than 18,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Four-time Olympic hockey champion Hayley Wickenheiser, the first IOC member to criticize the body’s long-held, dug-in refusal to change the dates, called the postponement the “message athletes deserved to hear.”

“To all the athletes: take a breath, regroup, take care of yourself and your families. Your time will come,” she wrote on Twitter.

When will that time be?

Nobody knows yet. It was a big part of the reason the IOC refused to announce a postponement that was becoming more inevitable with each passing day. Major sports organizations, including World Athletics and the gymnastics, track and swimming federations in the United States, were calling for a delay. So were major countries, including Canada, Brazil and Australia.

Even more compellingly, athletes were raising their voices. They were speaking to the unfairness of not being able to train, fearful that a trip out of the house could put them, or someone in their hometown, in jeopardy. And what of their competitors, some living halfway around the world, who might not have as many restrictions, and could be getting a leg up? There were fears about the eroding anti-doping protocols caused by virus-related restrictions and qualifying procedures that were disintegrating before their eyes.

“A bittersweet victory for athletes,” one group, Global Athlete, called the decision. “On one hand, their Olympic dreams have been put on hold. On the other hand, athletes have shown their power when they work together as a collective.”

With IOC President Thomas Bach guiding the process, the committee had said as recently as Sunday that it might take up to four weeks for an announcement to come. It took two days.

But make no mistake, there are still weeks of difficult planning ahead.

Many of Tokyo’s arenas, stadiums and hotels are under contract for a games held from July 24 to Aug. 9. Remaking those arrangements is doable, but will come at a cost. There are also considerations beyond the top-line price tag. Among them: The $1 billion-plus the IOC was to receive from broadcast partner NBC; the millions in smaller athlete endorsement contracts that are now in limbo; the budgets of the individual national Olympic committees; the availability of the 80,000 volunteers who signed up to help.

“People are having a problem calling off weddings, and calling off little tournaments, so imagine with all the billions of dollars that’s gone into this,” five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings told The Associated Press. “They have a grieving process to go through. They have so many moving parts to think about.”

There’s also the matter of the international sports schedule. Nearly all 33 sports on the Olympic program have key events, including world championships, on the docket for 2021. Hayward Field at the University of Oregon was rebuilt and expanded at the cost of around $200 million to hold next year’s track and field world championships. Now that event will likely be rescheduled.

“Of course there’s going to be challenges,” said Paul Doyle, an agent who represents about 50 Olympic athletes. “At the same time, this is what had to happen.”

It came together during a meeting Tuesday among Bach, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a handful of other executives from the IOC and Japan’s organizing committee.

Among the first casualties of the IOC’s impeccably curated timeline was the torch relay. Organizers were planning to start the journey through the host country in the northeast prefecture of Fukushima on Thursday, albeit with no fans and no torchbearer. Instead, the flame will be stored and displayed, with its next move to be determined later.

Just one of hundreds of difficult changes the IOC leaders have to make in the upcoming weeks and months.

But the most difficult decision is behind them.

The unspoken irony in it all is that when Japan was awarded the games in 2013, it came on the strength of a campaign in which it positioned itself as “the safe pair of hands.” It was a time when the world was still emerging from the Great Recession, and the Olympic movement was especially sensitive to the runaway expenses the Summer Games were incurring.

Japan, like every host before it, had trouble sticking to the budget. Nevertheless, seven years later, and through no fault of its own – in fact, Japan is one of the countries that appears to be avoiding the worst of the coronavirus – Tokyo residents are watching their grand plans for 2020 implode.

So, onto 2021. As far as the Olympic world – and perhaps the world at large – is concerned, it can’t get here soon enough.

 

HCAC Announces Winter Academic Teams

CARMEL, Ind. – The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) has announced the winter honorees for Tom Bohlsen Academic All-HCAC.  Academic All-Conference selections have at least a cumulative 3.5 GPA and are varsity athletes.

The cumulative GPA is the student-athletes GPA at the end of the semester preceding the end of the winter season. The student-athlete must have completed the equivalent of a full academic year and must be a full-time enrolled student at the institution to be eligible for the Academic All-Conference award.

The Winter 2020 HCAC All-Academic list features 215 athletes from the 10 member institutions and showcases student athletes from the winter HCAC sports of men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and diving and indoor track and field.

The award is named after Tom Bohlsen, who served as the HCAC’s first commissioner from 1998 to 2008.

For more information on all things HCAC, visit the websites of any of the participating schools, or go to the HCAC’s home on the internet at www.heartlandconf.org. Be sure to stay up to date on all of your Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference news by following @HCACDIII on Twitter and by liking the “HCAC DIII” Facebook page.

ANDERSON UNIVERSITY

J.D. Bembry SR Men’s Basketball
Lexi Dellinger SO Women’s Basketball
Carly Hackler SR Women’s Basketball
Lauryn Helton SO Women’s Basketball
Ashley Daulton SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Aubrey Davis SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Tori Haessig SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Heather Krapfl SR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Lillia Mitchell SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Noelle Parks SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Jess Pulaski SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Ian Leatherman SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Clayton Wilson JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Krista Franklin SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Rebecca Gregg SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Emily Kelley SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Mariah Murray SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Emily Smatlak JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field

BLUFFTON UNIVERSITY

Jerred Kinnaird SO Men’s Basketball
Zeddie Pollock JR Men’s Basketball
Andrew Renner SR Men’s Basketball
Dale Smith SO Men’s Basketball
Kylie Brock JR Women’s Basketball
Nora Hemminger JR Women’s Basketball
TJ Mills SR Women’s Basketball
Claire Myree JR Women’s Basketball
Abbie Parkins JR Women’s Basketball
Emma Saltzman SO Women’s Basketball
Dakota Frost SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Justin Kauffman SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Alexis Cash SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Arie Cox SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Bailie Barrington JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Remi Bower JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Stephanie Fox JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Kayla Ferguson SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field

DEFIANCE COLLEGE

Matthew Cline SO Men’s Basketball
Sean Tyson SO Men’s Basketball
Briawna Francis SO Women’s Basketball
Elizabeth Martin SR Women’s Basketball
Nysha Speed SO Women’s Basketball
Madison Bowman SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Malia Ferry SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Lisa Maria Markau SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Blake Newman SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Katarina Wicher SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field

EARLHAM COLLEGE

John Sakaleros SR Men’s Basketball
Zoe Curtis SR Women’s Basketball
Kayla Bowling JR Women’s Basketball
Rosie Newhart JR Women’s Basketball
Camryn White SR Women’s Basketball
Cade Orchard SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Ian Shriner JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Tyrique Richardson JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Garris Radloff SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Wesley Smith JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Noah Scherf JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Sarah Dickman SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Lindsey Gearin SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Miette Hennessy SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Mairead Blatner JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Jasmine Lorenzana JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Sophoa Pickering JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Joyce Li SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Summia Tora SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Krishna Cousins SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Shabnam Fayyaz SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Serena Pisacano SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Esther Mano SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field

FRANKLIN COLLEGE

Matthew Krause SO Men’s Basketball
Colin York SO Men’s Basketball
Britney Ballard SO Women’s Basketball
Lindsey Freije JR Women’s Basketball
Cassidy Yant JR Women’s Basketball
Alexander Bowers JR Men’s Swimming and Diving
Kevin Gast JR Men’s Swimming and Diving
Charles Hall JR Men’s Swimming and Diving
Dylan Harker JR Men’s Swimming and Diving
James Hone SR Men’s Swimming and Diving
Noah Tallman JR Men’s Swimming and Diving
Rylee Elder SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
August Hartzell JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Savannah Howerton JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Anna Perkins SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Jacqueline Richard JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Brynna Sental JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Ashley Snoke JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Olivia Walther JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Henry Davidson SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Jordan Johnson SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Matthew Lee SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Grace Esterline JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Sarah Miller SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Taylor Wooten SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field

HANOVER COLLEGE

Carlos Garcia SO Men’s Basketball
Logan Ratts SR Men’s Basketball
Blake Robertson SR Men’s Basketball
Connor Washburn JR Men’s Basketball
Noah Williams SO Men’s Basketball
Amanda Butler SR Women’s Basketball
Brooke Todd SR Women’s Basketball
Davis Guthier SO Men’s Swimming and Diving
Louis Holbrook SO Men’s Swimming and Diving
Alex Maldeney JR Men’s Swimming and Diving
Hailee Holberton SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Olivia Loran JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Sydney Schulok SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Gabe Beatty SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Paxton Caldwell SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Andrew Clegg JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Deacon Fountain JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Reece Hunter JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Ethan Monnin SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Elijah Williams JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Erin Browning JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Sydney Claypoole JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Kenna Hunter SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Emily Jones JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Brianna Medcalf SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Emma Shockley SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Madison Van Winkle SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field

MANCHESTER UNIVERSITY

Keiton Hall SR Men’s Basketball
Miranda Bieghler SO Women’s Basketball
Madison Brown SO Women’s Basketball
Emilee Carder SR Women’s Basketball
Haley Farris SR Women’s Basketball
Macy Miller SR Women’s Basketball
Bridget Nash SO Women’s Basketball
Nicole Weaver SR Women’s Basketball
Shelby Kell JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Daniel Baker SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Dilyn Dewey SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Lucas Fontanez JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Justin Meredith SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Conner Sherwin JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Bella Case SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Fiona Frost SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Dinah Gilbert SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Erica Mohr SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Elizabeth Russell JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field

MOUNT ST. JOSEPH UNIVERSITY

Brady Thomas SO Men’s Basketball
Cedric Woods SR Men’s Basketball
Devin Young SO Men’s Basketball
Aleyah Huff JR Women’s Basketball
Kamryn McCool SO Women’s Basketball
Haley Scott SO Women’s Basketball
Benjamin Gray JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Kayla Gibson SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Ashley Klosterman JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Jamie Lenart SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Andrea Meyer SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Kathryn Nix JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Phuong Phan SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Emma Roth SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Haley Warndorf SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field

ROSE-HULMAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Jacob Back JR Men’s Basketball
Zach Callahan JR Men’s Basketball
Eli Combs SR Men’s Basketball
John Czarnecki SR Men’s Basketball
Taylor Heil JR Men’s Basketball
Michael Lake SR Men’s Basketball
Colin Beach SO Men’s Swimming and Diving
Benjamin Goldstein SO Men’s Swimming and Diving
Alex Ketcham SO Men’s Swimming and Diving
Brendan King SO Men’s Swimming and Diving
Dutch Kipp JR Men’s Swimming and Diving
Zach Tate JR Men’s Swimming and Diving
Parker Brady SR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Hailey Heidecker JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Michelle Reese SR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Hunter Crumly JR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Ben Hall SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Nick Hall SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Chris Jaeger SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Aaron Lannoy SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Stephen Payne SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Nathan Schrader SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Matthew Stevenot SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Jake Untener SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Kristian Zadlo SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Clare Bruns SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Abi Clayton SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Kristin East SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Karen Folz JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Gabrielle Gilbertson SR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Patricia Giraldo JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Claire Perkins SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Taryn Perry SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Brooke Schroeder JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Maggie Sheerin JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Dara Smith SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Christina Rogers SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Danielle Villa SO Women’s Indoor Track and FieldAcad

TRANSYLVANIA UNIVERSITY

Michael Jefferson JR Men’s Basketball
Aiden Pashley SO Men’s Basketball
Shelby Boyle SR Women’s Basketball
Grace Bringard SO Women’s Basketball
Jacob Burnam SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Zach Minion SR Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Bobby Payne SO Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Taylor Allen SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Madison Bell SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Cassidy Kelien SO Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Alli Priebe JR Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Drew Dodds JR Men’s Swimming and Diving
Mattie Fogle SR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Grace Galyon SR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Sarah Haerle SR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Emma Lloyd JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Sarah Offutt JR Women’s Swimming and Diving
Ashleigh Richardson SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Lindsey Seaton SO Women’s Swimming and Diving
Kelsey Stevens SR Women’s Swimming and Diving

 

REPORT: FALCONS RB TODD GURLEY’S ARTHRITIC KNEE ‘VERY BAD’

When the Los Angeles Rams released All-Pro running back Todd Gurley, it was a matter of hours before the Atlanta Falcons scooped him up. While the Falcons are certainly elated to bring Gurley’s talents back to Georgia, it all comes with the risk of a very concerning issue with his knee.

Gurley suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during his junior season at Georgia and it raised concerns for NFL teams when he entered the 2015 NFL Draft. After becoming the NFL’s best running back in recent years, Gurley saw significantly fewer touches during the Rams’ playoff run in 2018. After the season, it was reported he has arthritis in the left knee.

After a disappointing season and with even more money owed to him on a contract that backfired, the Rams released Gurley. Concerns over the knee’s long-term stability were growing and it’s now at the point where his knee is viewed as “very bad”, per The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz.

As a source told Schultz, an arthritic condition in a player’s knee adds a major level of uncertainty for his future, comparing it to a game of Russian roulette where it becomes increasingly risky.

Fortunately for the Falcons, they are only invested in Gurley on a one-year deal. The 25-year-old running back could prove he is still one of the best at his position and returning home and playing in a great offense might be the perfect recipe for a great season.

There are also real risks that come with signing him, though, which might impact how much the Falcons can use him in 2020. Atlanta now has its lead back for next season, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the team spends a Day 2 pick to strengthen its backfield further.

 

Panthers release quarterback Cam Newton

The Cam Newton era is over in Carolina, as the Panthers released the 30-year-old quarterback after nine seasons.

The move became a mere formality after the Panthers made it clear last week they were moving on from Newton by giving him permission to seek a trade and then agreeing to a three-year, $63 million contract with free agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater about 90 minutes later.

On Monday night, Newton posted on his Instagram account that he was “hungrier” now because he is “unemployed.”

“Cam has meant a lot to this organization and the Carolinas,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said in a statement Tuesday. “Everyone saw his performances on the field. I had the privilege of seeing how hard he worked off the field, and his commitment to this team when no one was watching. He’s the ultimate competitor and it physically hurts him to lose. He willed this team to victory on many occasions and will always be considered one of the greatest players in the history of this franchise.”

Hurney added: “His contributions to this team, this community and the game of football will leave a lasting impact on our organization.”

The breakup did not end well.

After the Panthers announced Newton was free to seek a trade, the QB took to Twitter, posting a message directed at the front office that read, “Stop the word play!! I never asked for it!! There is no dodging this one; I love the Panthers to death and will always love you guys!! Please do not try and play me or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this: You forced me into this.”

Given the inevitable outcome of a Newton-Panthers breakup, it was not surprising that no teams were willing to trade for Newton.

Newton now becomes a free agent and can sign with another NFL team immediately.

The move frees up $19.1 million in salary cap space for the Panthers. They’ll have to absorb $2 million in dead cap money.

Panthers All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey thanked Newton on Instagram Tuesday, posting, “You changed the way I approach the game and put the fun back in it for me. I’ll always owe you for that. I speak for the Carolinas when I say thank you for all memories and smiles you brought us. Love!”

Newton joined the Panthers in 2011 as the top pick in the draft after winning a national championship and the Heisman Trophy at Auburn. He stepped in right away as the team’s starting quarterback and threw for 400 yards in each of his first two starts.

Newton went on to throw a franchise-record 29,041 yards and 182 touchdowns in nine seasons with the Panthers and ran for 58 touchdowns, the most ever by an NFL quarterback.

His best season came in 2015 when he led the Panthers to a 15-1 record in the regular season and an NFC championship when he threw for 3,837 yards and combined for 35 touchdowns en route to earning league MVP honors.

But Newton struggled in a 24-10 Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos and was widely criticized for not jumping on a loose ball after a strip-sack by Von Miller late in the game. Afterward, a downtrodden Newton answered questions about the loss with abbreviated answers before abruptly walking out of the interview session.

Newton became a fan favorite on the field in Carolina early in his tenure, endearing himself to young fans by pretending to rip apart his jersey like Superman during touchdown celebrations and then giving the football away to young fans.

On the field, he used his chiseled 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame to run over defenders in Carolina’s zone-read offense and his strength and elusiveness to turn almost certain sacks into runs for first downs.

But during his tenure in Carolina he was hit more than any quarterback in NFL history – which may have taken a toll on him physically.

He had surgery for a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder last offseason after struggling to throw the ball more than 20 yards downfield in the second half of the 2018 season. He returned to the field last summer in training camp, but injured his foot in the third preseason game at New England. He battled back to start the first two regular-season games, but it was evident he wasn’t the same player and was eventually placed on injured reserve where he had surgery for a Lisfranc fracture.

He lost his last eight starts for the Panthers.

Questions remain about Newton’s health moving forward, which could limit his options in free agency especially with doctors currently unable to put players through medical examinations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“They could’ve did this two weeks ago,” tweeted former Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith. “Terrible timing for a Qb.”

 

AP source: Panthers agree to terms with WR Robby Anderson

A person familiar with the situation says free agent wide receiver Robby Anderson has agreed to terms on a two-year contract worth $20 million with the Carolina Panthers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team hasn’t announced the move since he hasn’t taken a physical.

ESPN was first to report the news.

The 26-year-old Anderson becomes the fourth former Temple player to rejoin coach Matt Rhule in Carolina. Rhule was the Owls head coach from 2013-16.

Anderson joins a young Panthers wide receiving group that includes returning starters D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, adding more speed to an already fast group that will be quarterbacked by Teddy Bridgewater. The Panthers released Cam Newton on Tuesday after nine seasons with the team.

Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016, Anderson made the Jets roster out of training camp. He established himself as a productive and promising – although inconsistent – receiver during his first four seasons.

He was among the top players available at the wide receiver spot in free agency this offseason, and both Anderson and the Jets had talked about staying together – at the right price for both sides.

But he ended up going to Carolina.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Anderson has never had a 1,000-yard season or more than 63 receptions, but he showed marked improvement late last year particularly with contested balls – something that had been a knock on the rail-thin receiver who sometimes struggled against bigger and more physical defensive backs. He finished with 52 catches for 779 yards, both second-best totals for his career, and five touchdowns last season.

Anderson has 207 catches for 3,059 yards and 20 touchdowns in his four NFL seasons.

 

Jaguars, oft-injured TE Tyler Eifert agree to 2-year deal

Oft-injured tight end Tyler Eifert and the Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to a two-year contract in free agency Tuesday night.

Eifert played in 16 games last year for the first time in his seven NFL seasons, all with Cincinnati. He caught 43 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns.

He has 185 receptions for 2,152 yards and 24 touchdowns. His best year came in 2015, when he had 52 catches for 615 yards and 13 scores. But he’s missed more games (34) than he’s played (30) since.

He’s one of the NFL’s elite tight ends when healthy. Before 2019, though, he was limited to 28 games over five seasons. He missed time with a stinger, a dislocated elbow, ankle injuries and twice needed back surgery. He also had a cyst removed him a knee.

Nonetheless, he could provide a big upgrade for Jacksonville. The Jaguars have tight ends James O’Shaughnessy, Josh Oliver and Charles Jones on the roster. O’Shaughnessy is coming off reconstructive knee surgery and Oliver, a third-round draft pick in 2019, played just three games as a rookie because of hamstring and back injuries.

Jacksonville signed Geoff Swaim in free agency a year ago and drafted Oliver a month later in hopes of revamping a position at which the Jaguars previously whiffed on Julius Thomas (2015-16) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (2018).

Eifert will be reunited with former Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who was hired to the same job in Jacksonville after six seasons as Washington’s head coach. Eifert caught 39 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns in Gruden’s last season in Cincinnati, 2013.

Earlier Tuesday, the Jaguars and journeyman cornerback Rashaan Melvin agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth $2.25 million.

Melvin had 68 tackles and 11 pass breakups in 13 games for Detroit last season. The 30-year-old Melvin also has spent time with Oakland, Indianapolis, New England, Baltimore and Tampa Bay during his seven-year NFL career.

He likely will serve as a backup in Jacksonville, which already landed cornerback Darqueze Dennard in free agency. Dennard signed a three-year deal worth $13.5 million. It includes $6 million guaranteed.

The Jaguars are looking to replace 2017 Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye, who was traded to Denver earlier this month for a fourth-round draft pick. They also traded three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey early last season and lost veteran backup Josh Robinson to retirement later in the year.

Melvin is the sixth defensive player to end up with Jacksonville during free agency, joining Dennard, linebacker Joe Schobert, defensive lineman Rodney Gunter, linebacker/pass-rusher Cassius Marsh and defensive tackle Al Woods.

Melvin, Marsh and Woods each landed low-cost, one-year deals with the Jaguars, who are planning to revamp their depleted roster with 12 picks in next month’s NFL draft.

Marsh’s deal includes $600,000 guaranteed, according to NFL Network. Woods will earn $2.75 million in 2020, with $1 million guaranteed.

 

Jets signing Perriman to 1-year deal after losing Anderson

The New York Jets quickly responded to losing Robby Anderson by finding a speedy replacement in Breshad Perriman.

Perriman agreed to terms Tuesday on a one-year deal worth up to $8 million and includes $6 million guaranteed, agent Drew Rosenhaus told The Associated Press.

The 26-year-old wide receiver had his best season in the NFL last year, setting career highs with 36 catches, 645 yards receiving and six touchdowns for Tampa Bay.

The move was first reported by ESPN. It helped soften the blow for the Jets of getting the news that Anderson earlier in the day agreed to terms with Carolina on a two-year contract worth $20 million, a person familiar with the deal told the AP.

Anderson was the Jets’ primary deep threat on offense and had been building a steady rapport with quarterback Sam Darnold. But Anderson decided to join his former Temple coach in Matt Rhule and the Panthers.

New York wasted no time trying to fill the void by bringing in Perriman, who was drafted in the first round by Baltimore in 2015 out of Central Florida.

He spent three seasons with the Ravens, but was released just before the start of the 2018 season. Perriman had a short stint with Washington before signing Cleveland for the rest of that season.

He had his breakout season last year after signing a one-year, $4 million deal with Tampa Bay. The son of former NFL wide receiver Brett Perriman stepped into a starting role late in the season because of injuries to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and finished the year with three straight 100-yard receiving games while becoming a reliable target for Jameis Winston.

Perriman will give the Jets receiving corps a boost, joining Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Quincy Enunwa, who’s trying to return from a neck injury that sidelined him for all but the season opener last year.

 

Trent Williams asks Redskins to trade or release him

Trent Williams wants the Redskins to trade or release him.

The agent for Washington’s longtime starting left tackle released a statement Tuesday asking the team to make a move with Williams. In the statement sent to The Associated Press, Vince Taylor cited “irreconcilable differences” that pushed the relationship between Williams and the team to this point.

“Although Trent Williams will always love and respect Dan Snyder, his teammates, and the Washington Redskins’ fans, he wants to be traded or released,” Taylor said. “It’s time for the organization to act in a manner that is in both Williams’ and the team’s best interest.”

Williams sat out the entire 2019 season because of a dispute with the front office. The Redskins did not trade him before the Oct. 29 deadline, with Taylor saying they were “unable (or unwilling)” to do so.

In November, Williams revealed he had cancer and said that situation led him to distrust the Redskins’ medical staff and organization as a whole. The 31-year-old at the time said “there’s no trust there” with president Bruce Allen, who was fired after Washington’s 3-13 season.

The medical staff also was overhauled, and new coach Ron Rivera took control of football operations. Rivera spoke with Williams and it seemed like there was hope to repair the relationship.

Instead, the Redskins gave Williams’ representatives permission to seek trading partners. So far, nothing has materialized.

“The Redskins have shown no interest in negotiating in good faith, and, in fact, have given inconsistent demands on what it wants in return for a trade,” Taylor said.

Aside from his emotional locker room meeting with reporters in early November, Williams has not spoken much publicly about his situation. Taylor said Williams also has not pursued legal action against the team.

“This seems to not be a successful strategy,” Taylor said. “Players who are outwardly critical of the team do get traded.”

Washington on Monday traded disgruntled cornerback Quinton Dunbar to the Seattle Seahawks for a fifth-round pick.

 

Tom Brady responds to Robert Kraft saying Brady wanted to leave Patriots

Tom Brady spoke with reporters on Tuesday for the first time since he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the six-time Super Bowl champion made it clear that he has no intention of getting into a back-and-forth with the New England Patriots about who was responsible for the divorce.

In a conference call, Brady was asked a number of questions about his decision to leave the Patriots. Robert Kraft said last week that it was Brady’s choice and the Patriots would have worked something out if the 42-year-old wanted to stay, and Brady neither confirmed nor denied that. He did, however, note that he is “not responsible” for how another person might phrase something.

One report claimed the Patriots were willing to offer Brady the same contract as the one he signed with the Bucs, which would indicate Brady was intent on leaving New England from the start. But on Tuesday, Brady claimed he did not make a final decision until the night before he announced it.

Brady has almost always taken the high road when discussing controversial comments throughout his career, so it’s no surprise he doesn’t want to get into a “he said, she said” with Kraft. All indications are that the split between Brady and the Patriots had been brewing for quite some time, but Brady almost certainly would have re-signed with the Pats if they made more of an effort to keep him.

 

Report: NFL not moving Draft despite concerns from teams

The NFL plans to keep the date of the 2020 draft the same despite concerns from some teams.

The league’s general manager subcommittee made a unanimous recommendation to commissioner Roger Goodell to move the draft, ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Dianna Russini reported on Tuesday.

Teams have concerns about being able to gather information on prospects considering team facilities are currently closed and there are limits on travel and large gatherings as the world combats the coronavirus pandemic. There is especially great concern that teams in states like California and New Jersey that have statewide shelter-in-place restrictions would be at disadvantages compared to teams that can meet.

If several owners voice concerns and opposition to keeping the draft from April 23-25 as scheduled, the league might consider making changes. But for now, it sounds like they plan to keep it the same dates.

The league is moving the draft away from Las Vegas and reportedly has plans to make it a TV studio show.

 

NFL MOCK DRAFT 5.0

*denotes projected trade

  1. Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow | QB | LSU

Despite rumors to the contrary, this has been set in stone for quite a while. Burrow won’t make trouble about playing in Cincy, and the Bengals finally get the franchise quarterback they so desperately need.

  1. Washington Redskins

Chase Young | EDGE | Ohio State

This is another no-brainer pick. Unless Washington gets a huge offer from a QB-needy team trying to jump ahead of everyone else on the board, this has to be the selection. Young is the best overall prospect in this year’s class, which makes him a steal anywhere else but No. 1 overall.

  1. Miami Dolphins (from DET)*

Tua Tagovailoa | QB | Alabama

It seems a foregone conclusion that the Lions will move out of this spot, selling the pick to the highest bidder that’s in search of a quarterback. If Miami ends up in a bidding war with the Chargers, don’t be surprised if they have to give up the higher of their two additional first-rounders to land their franchise quarterback.

  1. New York Giants

Tristan Wirfs | OT | Iowa

Any of this year’s top four offensive tackle prospects could make a strong case to go here, which is good news for the Giants, who need a franchise player at the position. Wirfs is a rare athlete for his size, and has as much upside as any other tackle in the class. He’s ready to protect Daniel Jones from Day 1.

  1. Detroit Lions (from MIA)*

Jeff Okudah | CB | Ohio State

This is the ideal scenario for the Lions, who move back a couple of picks and pick up another first-rounder, still landing the player they likely would have taken anyway. After trading away Darius Slay to avoid paying him a huge extension, Detroit needs to replace him with a shutdown artist like Okudah, who is by far the top corner in this class.

  1. Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert | QB | Oregon

Landing a franchise quarterback without having to trade up would be an ideal outcome for the Chargers, who let Philip Rivers walk and will be comfortable with Tyrod Taylor as their bridge. That said, Herbert is polished and experienced enough to take over sooner than later.

  1. Carolina Panthers

Isaiah Simmons | LB | Clemson

The retirement of Luke Kuechly took the NFL world by surprise, and left the Panthers with a gaping hole in their defense that they weren’t planning on having to address this offseason. While a presence like Kuechly is not easily replaced, landing a rare athlete and playmaker like Simmons to help fill the void is far from the worst possible outcome. No matter where Simmons lines up at the next level, he’s going to be a game-wrecker.

  1. Arizona Cardinals

Mekhi Becton | OT | Louisville

After trading for DeAndre Hopkins, the Cards aren’t likely to spend a top-10 pick on another pass-catcher, no matter how much Kyler Murray might like to throw to CeeDee Lamb again. Instead, the Cards opt to improve the protection for their young quarterback. Becton is a massive mountain of a man with ideal length and surprising athleticism for his size.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Derrick Brown | DL | Auburn

I’m sure Jags fans are sick of their team spending first-round picks on defensive linemen, but considering they can’t seem to retain their best veterans, they have to keep reloading. Yannick Ngakoue seems to be headed elsewhere, so it’s a good thing they took Josh Allen last year. Marcell Dareus won’t be back to help a dismal rush defense, so that’s where Brown comes in. A rare athlete for his size, Browns is a dominant force who can wreck opposing offenses all by himself.

  1. Cleveland Browns

Jedrick Wills | OT | Alabama

The Browns are in a perfect spot to address their biggest need and get ideal value at this spot. Any of the top four offensive tackle prospects would be a fantastic pick for Cleveland, and it’s Wills in this scenario, a player who could easily be a top-five pick. Even with the addition of Jack Conklin, adding another bookend like Wills is necessary to keep Baker Mayfield protected.

  1. Denver Broncos (from NYJ)*

Henry Ruggs III | WR | Alabama

With no receivers off the board, but two receiver-needy teams coming up in the order, the Broncos pull the trigger and move up to get their man. While it may surprise some to see Ruggs come off the board before Lamb and Bama teammate Jerry Jeudy, his elite speed and explosiveness is worthy. In return for one of their three third-round picks, Denver gets a big-play machine for Drew Lock.

  1. Las Vegas Raiders

Jerry Jeudy | WR | Alabama

Even with Ruggs off the board, this is still a great scenario for the Raiders, who desperately need a true No. 1 receiver after the Antonio Brown debacle blew up in their faces. While a strong case could be made for Lamb, Jeudy is the most polished and complete pass-catcher in this year’s loaded class, giving him the edge here.

  1. San Francisco 49ers (from IND)

CeeDee Lamb | WR | Oklahoma

George Kittle is Jimmy Garoppolo’s No. 1 target, but the 49ers need to give him an elite wide receiver prospect to balance out the target share. Lamb is a complete player who excels after the catch, capable of turning every touch into a huge play. The 49ers made a big trade for this pick, and they need someone who can make an immediate impact.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Andrew Thomas | OT | Georgia

Tampa Bay desperately needs a starting-caliber tackle at this pick, which means they may get nervous and have to move up to make sure they land one of the top four. Thankfully in this scenario, that doesn’t prove necessary. Thomas is talented enough to not only start at right tackle immediately, but could even push longtime starter Donovan Smith at left tackle.

  1. New York Jets (from DEN)*

CJ Henderson | CB | Florida

Moving back costs the Jets a top tackle prospect, but they still have a big need at a premium position on defense. Not only do they add an extra Day 2 pick, but they also land one of the best pure cover corners in this year’s class. Henderson needs to improve as a tackler, but he’s a ready-made No. 1 cover man.

  1. Atlanta Falcons

K’Lavon Chaisson | EDGE | LSU

This entire defensive front needs help in a bad way, outside of Grady Jarrett. This scenario gives the Falcons multiple options to address either the interior or the edge rush, and they really can’t go wrong either way. South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw is a worthy candidate, but I’m guessing the Falcons would opt instead for a high-upside edge defender like Chaisson. He’s got size, length and athleticism, and can handle all three phases of playing on the edge.

  1. Dallas Cowboys

Kristian Fulton | CB | LSU

After letting Byron Jones walk in free agency, the Cowboys need to find themselves a corner who can fill his shoes. While that’s a tall task, Fulton has all the physical tools to quickly develop into that kind of player. His experience in press-man coverage and going up against top talent in the SEC on a weekly basis has Fulton ready to make an immediate impact.

  1. Detroit Lions (from PIT via MIA)*

Javon Kinlaw | DL | South Carolina

Another big win for the Lions here, who fill another huge need on defense with a player who should have been long gone. This defensive front desperately needs a versatile, powerful defender who can wreck opposing offenses, and Kinlaw checks every box in those departments. He’s a huge bargain at this point in the first round.

  1. Las Vegas Raiders (from CHI)

Kenneth Murray | LB | Oklahoma

The Raiders got the perfect pick for their offense at No. 12 overall, and here, they get the exact same thing for their defense. This unit desperately needs a difference-maker at the heart of the action, and Murray has both the physical traits to be that three-down playmaker, and the leadership ability to transform the identity of the entire defense. He’ll make an instant impact, and the Raiders leave the first round with a cornerstone player on each side of the ball.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR)

Trevon Diggs | CB | Alabama

In just a couple of years, the Jags have gone from having one of the league’s most promising corner tandems to trading away both Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. With two first-round picks in this year’s draft, they absolutely have to use one of them to find a starting-caliber corner. Diggs has the height, length and cover skills to shoulder that responsibility from Day 1, and he’s been tested by some of the most talented pass-catchers in the country.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles

Denzel Mims | WR | Baylor

After filling their biggest need on defense by trading for Darius Slay, the Eagles free themselves up to do the same for their offense with this pick. Mims backed up his strong film by blowing up the NFL Scouting Combine, showing off the size and athleticism it takes to be a top target at the next level.

  1. New Orleans Saints (from BUF via MIN)*

Jordan Love | QB | Utah State

Teddy Bridgewater is gone, Drew Brees can’t play forever, and Taysom Hill may never be a full-time starting quarterback. If Love is still on the board here, don’t be surprised if the Saints deal a fourth-round pick to the Vikings to jump ahead of the Patriots to land this high-upside passer. He’s still plenty raw, but learning behind Brees for a year or more would be an ideal situation.

  1. New England Patriots

Xavier McKinney | S | Alabama

Quarterback is obviously the big question mark for New England, but with Love off the board, there’s no other passer worth taking here. Instead, look for them to address their need for a youth movement in the secondary, particularly on the back end. McKinney is a smart, instinctive defender who loves to lay the hammer down on any ball-carrier, and has the range and athleticism to make plays all over the field.

  1. Minnesota Vikings (from NO)

Josh Jones | OT | Houston

After moving back a couple of spots and picking up an extra pick, the Vikings are still able to land a difference-maker at a premium position. The rebuild of this offensive line continues with Jones, a Senior Bowl standout who gives the Vikings a long-term solution at either tackle spot.

  1. Minnesota Vikings

Jalen Reagor | WR | TCU

In trading away Stefon Diggs, the Vikings lost a polished route-runner and explosive playmaker from their passing game. It only makes sense for them to use one of their first-round picks to fill that void with a similar player, and Reagor has the skill set to be the perfect fit.

  1. Miami Dolphins (from HOU)

Austin Jackson | OT | USC

After trading up to make sure they got their franchise quarterback of choice, the next order of business for the Dolphins is protecting their investment in that passer. With five offensive tackles already off the board, the Dolphins opt for the next best one, setting their sights on Jackson. He still needs some refinement, but he’s got limitless potential.

  1. Seattle Seahawks

Antoine Winfield, Jr. | S | Minnesota

Gone are the days of Earl Thomas roaming the Seattle secondary, but if the Seahawks want to try and recreate that kind of presence for the future, Winfield is about as close as they can get. The son of a Pro Bowler by the same name, Winfield was a one-man wrecking crew for the Golden Gophers, and he could instantly bring the swagger back to what was once one of the NFL’s most feared defensive backfields.

  1. Baltimore Ravens

Jonathan Taylor | RB | Wisconsin

Mark Ingram’s absence was painfully evident when injuries kept him out of the lineup in 2019, which means the Ravens need to find a succession plan for their veteran runner. They get their pick of some talented runners in this scenario, and Taylor’s performance at the NFL Combine proved he’s more than worthy of being the first running back off the board. He would make the NFL’s best rushing attack even better from Day 1.

  1. Tennessee Titans

Yetur Gross-Matos | EDGE | Penn State

The Titans are built for sustained success, which should allow them to play the “best player available” game here. Thankfully for them, this scenario gives them a fantastic balance of value and need. Gross-Matos is the prototype for today’s NFL edge defender, and his strong finish to the 2019 season proved he’s still worthy of first-round consideration.

  1. Green Bay Packers

Justin Jefferson | WR | LSU

This pick simply has to be another weapon for Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers have some fantastic options in this scenario. Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault, Jr. would be solid picks, but after Jefferson’s combine performance, he may have just leapfrogged those names on some draft boards. He’s a polished, complete player who would pair extremely well with Devante Adams.

  1. Indianapolis Colts (from SF)*

Jacob Eason | QB | Washington

These two teams have already done business on a first-round trade this year, so why not make it happen again? The 49ers need more picks, and the Colts need a long-term solution at quarterback. For a fourth-round pick, the Colts move up three spots and get that fifth-year option on a quarterback prospect with impressive arm talent and tons of potential.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

A.J. Epenesa | EDGE/DL | Iowa

Another team that probably wouldn’t mind trading back, the Chiefs can also just wait for the value to fall to them. That lines up with their biggest needs in this situation, as a versatile defensive linemen like Epenesa would be a huge boost to a front that needs to reload with some youth. Despite disappointing at the combine, Epenesa’s film should still prove him to be a first-round pick.

 

Steelers TE Eric Ebron responds to criticism from scout

Eric Ebron was not pleased to see a scout’s anonymous criticism of him.

Ebron has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a two-year, $12 million deal. Pittsburgh radio host Andrew Fillipponi of 93.7 The Fan tweeted a quote from an anonymous scout on Tuesday about Ebron.

The scout said Ebron doesn’t block and doesn’t keep quiet. That led to a sarcastic response from Ebron.

Ebron was the No. 10 overall pick by the Detroit Lions in 2014. He didn’t quite develop into the player they hoped he would, but then he put up big stats after leaving and joining the Colts. Ebron had 66 catches for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018 with Indianapolis but dropped off to 31 catches for 375 yards last season.

Ebron sometimes does run his mouth a bit as the scout said, like when he took a jab at the Patriots last year.

 

Trevor Lawrence clarifies that NCAA did not block coronavirus fundraiser

The NCAA received negative attention on Tuesday after a charity fundraiser page started by Trevor Lawrence and his girlfriend was shut down. But the Clemson quarterback now is saying the NCAA was not the reason for the shutdown.

In a message on his Instagram story, Lawrence said that Clemson’s compliance department shut down the page as a precaution to stay within NCAA rules that prevent a player from using their name, image or likeness for fund raising.

Lawrence said the NCAA granted him and Marissa Mowry permission to relaunch the fundraiser.

Lawrence said they would take some time to think about how to start back up. Their original aim was to provide relief and support for families impacted by COVID-19, with money going to Meals on Wheels and No Kid Hungry.

Lawrence won the national championship at Clemson last year and his Tigers lost in the championship game to LSU this year. He was in his sophomore year before schools shut down to the coronavirus. Lawrence has passed for 66 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions during his college career.

 

Mets star pitcher Noah Syndergaard needs Tommy John surgery

Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard became the latest big-name pitcher to need Tommy John surgery, joining the Yankees’ Luis Severino and Boston’s Chris Sale.

New York said Tuesday that Syndergaard needs reconstruction of his ulnar collateral ligament and will miss the season that’s been put on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak. Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek will operate on the right-hander on Thursday.

“After experiencing discomfort in his elbow before spring training was suspended due to the pandemic, Noah and our health and performance department have been in constant contact,” Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said in a statement. “Based on the persistence of his symptoms, Noah underwent a physical examination and MRI that revealed the ligament tear.”

Syndergaard, the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in the major leagues last season, received a second opinion from Los Angeles Dodgers head team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

“While this is unfortunate, we have no doubt that Noah will be able to return to full strength and continue to be an integral part of our championship pursuits in the future,” said Van Wagenen, Syndergaard’s former agent.

Altchek operated Feb. 25 on the right-handed Severino. The Red Sox said last Thursday that Sale, their hard-throwing left-handed ace, will have Tommy John surgery.

Since Major League Baseball announced on March 12 that opening day will be delayed because of the virus, San Francisco right-hander Tyler Beede and San Diego right-handed reliever Andres Munoz also were told they needed the reconstruction procedure.

Openers have been pushed back until mid-May at the earliest. Tommy John surgery usually requires a recuperation period of 12-18 months.

Nicknamed Thor, Syndergaard was projected as the No. 2 starter in a strong rotation behind two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. New York has for now sufficient starters to make up for Syndergaard’s absence, with Marcus Stroman, Michael Wacha, Rick Porcello and Steven Matz.

Syndergaard turns 28 in August and currently is eligible to become a free agent after the 2021 season. He agreed in January to a $9.7 million, one-year contract.

Syndergaard was acquired in the December 2012 trade that sent NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto. An All-Star in 2016 when he went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA, Syndergaard has an ERA that has climbed to 2.97 in 2017, 3.05 in 2018 and 4.28 last year, when he was 10-8 in 32 starts.

He averaged 98.1 mph for his four-seam fastball last season, tops among qualified pitchers and just ahead of Gerrit Cole (97.4) and deGrom (97.2).

Syndergaard made three spring training starts, the last on March 8. He pitched a total of eight innings and allowed four runs – three earned – and five hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks.

This is his fourth straight injury-hampered season. He didn’t pitch between April 30 and Sept. 23 in 2017 because of a partially torn right latissimus dorsi muscle; was sidelined between May 25 and July 13 in 2018 because of a strained ligament in his right index finger; and was out between June 15-30 last year with a strained right hamstring. He also missed a start in 2018 because of hand, foot and mouth disease.

 

76ers issue apology after exploring possible salary cuts for employees

The Philadelphia 76ers were considering the idea of asking some of their salaried employees to take a pay cut while the NBA season remains suspended, but the team has quickly reversed course.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the 76ers were meeting with their salaried employees (those making $50,000 or more per year) to discuss a possible 20 percent decrease in pay amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Not surprisingly, the report was met with a great deal of criticism. After the 76ers were torn to shreds on social media, team owner Josh Harris issued a statement saying there will be no salary cuts. Harris apologized for considering the idea.

Harris is one of the managing partners of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which is the group that owns both the Sixers and New Jersey Devils. He has an estimated net worth of $3.7 billion.

We live in an era where social media can clearly influence major decisions from powerful people, and this was yet another example of that. No NBA owner wants to have their net worth being shared all over the internet while they cut salaries during a global pandemic. With star players having pledged money to help arena workers and other team staff members during the coronavirus outbreak, we’re not sure what other reaction the 76ers thought they were going to receive.

 

Donovan Mitchell expected to sign max extension with Jazz before next season

Donovan Mitchell has just one more year left on his rookie deal, but Utah Jazz fans probably will not have to worry about him going anywhere.

In a mailbag article this week, Tony Jones of The Athletic said that Mitchell “genuinely loves playing for the Jazz” and “will sign a max contract extension at some point before next season.”

The 23-year-old Mitchell has emerged as a franchise cornerstone for the Jazz, making his first All-Star team this season with averages of 24.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. He has also been Utah’s leading scorer in each of his first three NBA seasons.

It’s not terribly surprising that a young All-Star would sign a max extension to keep him with his current team upon the conclusion of his rookie contract. But in any case, this news will probably ease concerns about Mitchell’s ability to co-exist in Utah with teammate Rudy Gobert in light of recent events.

NHL extending isolation period for players and staff

The NHL is extending its recommendation for players and staff to self-isolate and stay away from team facilities during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Tuesday confirmed the NHL has asked that players and staff extend their self-quarantine 10 days beyond the original March 27 timeline to April 6 – further pushing back the earliest team facilities can reopen.

The league over the past two days has held conference calls with its Board of Governors and general managers to inform them about and take questions regarding the current situation. Daly told The Associated Press by email the calls provided updates on various issues.

There is still no clarity on when the NHL might resume its season, though the CDC’s recommendation of no gatherings of 50 or more people until mid-May is expected to factor into timing. The league and Players’ Association told players they could go home and self-isolate until the end of March.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently the decision to resume play would be made in accordance with health officials. The league is working on various scenarios about what a potential return to play could look like.

Bettman remains optimistic about resuming this season and awarding the Stanley Cup. That could mean playing games deep into the summer or early fall.

The NHL plans to stage a full 2020-21 season, even if it means starting as late as November.

Two Ottawa Senators players tested positive for COVID-19, and six others were tested with results pending. The league has said its medical experts do not recommend mass testing for players or staff unless they exhibit symptoms.

 

Ballmer to buy Forum, clearing way for new Clippers arena

Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is buying the Forum for $400 million, ending the billionaire’s legal fight with the Madison Square Garden Company and clearing the way to build a new arena for his NBA team down the street in Inglewood, California.

Ballmer announced his cash purchase of the venerated arena Tuesday. Ballmer, the former Microsoft executive, and Clippers vice chairman Dennis Wong are making the transaction through CAPSS LLC, a newly formed entity that will continue to operate the Forum as a live music venue.

“This is an unprecedented time, but we believe in our collective future,” Ballmer said. “We are committed to our investment in the City of Inglewood, which will be good for the community, the Clippers and our fans.”

Apparently fearing competition for concerts and other big events, MSG has been aggressively attempting to thwart Ballmer’s desire to build a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat home for the Clippers just a few blocks down Prairie Avenue from the Forum. The two arenas would be separated only by the lavish SoFi Stadium complex being built by Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

MSG, which bought the Forum for a reported $23.5 million in 2012, has sued the Inglewood city government, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature in its various attempts to slow the approval process for Ballmer’s privately financed arena project, which is currently undergoing environmental review.

The Forum purchase abruptly wraps up the litigation fight and allows the Clippers to move ahead on their goal to open a new arena when their Staples Center lease expires in 2024. The Clippers currently share the downtown arena with the Los Angeles Lakers and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.

Ballmer wants to build a $1.2 billion arena on 28 acres of land just south of the SoFi Stadium complex. The addition of the Clippers’ new project would put four significant arenas – SoFi Stadium contains a 6,000-seat performance venue in addition to the main football stadium – within one mile of each other on Prairie Avenue.

Ballmer said the Forum and the Clippers’ new arena will be able to coordinate event schedules while under the same ownership, mitigating the impact of so many people in such a small area of the Los Angeles suburbs.

Chris Meany, a principal in the development company overseeing the Clippers’ new arena project, acknowledged the importance of traffic management in the deal.

“While we have gone to great lengths to provide an unprecedented traffic-management plan for the new basketball arena, this acquisition provides a much greater ability to coordinate and avoid scheduling events at the same time at both venues,” he said.

MSG revitalized the once-Fabulous Forum, which had fallen into disuse after the Lakers and Kings left for Staples Center in 1999. The building was famously home to the glitzy “Showtime” Lakers, who won five championships and reached eight NBA Finals during the 1980s. Kobe Bryant began his 20-year Lakers career in the arena.

MSG spent a reported $50 million on renovations to the arena and re-opened it as a well-regarded venue primarily used for major concerts and combat sports.

 

Red Sox minor leaguer tests positive for virus, complex shut

A minor league player for the Boston Red Sox has tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the team to close down its training complex in Fort Myers, Florida.

The Red Sox made the announcement Tuesday, a day after the positive diagnosis. The team didn’t identify the player, but said he was doing well.

Earlier this month, the New York Yankees said two of its minor leaguers had the virus. Those were the first two players affiliated with a big league organization known to test positive.

Major League Baseball has postponed opening day until at least mid-May because of the virus outbreak.

The Red Sox said their affected player was most recently at the spring training site on March 15. Boston said based on the timing of his test, it believed he most likely got the virus after leaving Fort Myers.

The Fenway South/JetBlue Park complex was closed Tuesday for at least two weeks and will undergo a “deep cleaning.”

The Red Sox said any players or staff members who came into close contact with the affected minor leaguer should self-quarantine for two weeks.

 

TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY-1934

AUGUSTA, Ga. – There was a long roar late today as a four-foot putt dropped on the home green at the Augusta National Club for a par 72 and Horton Smith stood up and grinned. He had won the Masters’ invitation golf tournament and the $1,500 first prize with a score of 284 for seventy-two holes. The tall Missourian, pro at the Oak Park Club at Chicago, drove in this tournament better than ever before in his career. He was using a club strange to him, a Bobby Jones model driver borrowed from third-place finisher Paul Runyan the day the tournament began.

In a tie for thirteenth place was Jones himself, grand-slam champion of 1930, who returned to competition for this tournament. Jones finished with a total of 294, ten strokes behind the winner. Jones, finishing the tournament, congratulated the winner, who was the last man to defeat him in open competition, and then announced that he was not returning to competition in any national event. “I have no idea of returning to open competition,” he said. “I hope to have this masters’ tournament an annual affair and I will limit my competition to playing in it for the fun I get out of it.”

The tournament was a tremendous success. The course, modeled after several in England, tested the players very well. Tremendous crowds tramped after Bobby on each round, with scores advising him, slapping his back, asking questions, urging him on. It was a wonder the Georgian was able to play as well as he did. Smith knew what he had to do to win today and his performance, under this pressure, was highly creditable. His chances appeared to be lost on the seventeenth when a seventy- five-yard approach pitch on the third shot failed to run as far as he expected and left him with a ten-foot putt. But he rammed it home for a birdie 4. It was a dramatic moment.

The eighteenth saw him blast a long shot from the tee, a tremendous wallop, and then pitch to within twenty-five feet of the pin. He was a bit short with his putt and left himself a four-footer. It meant the difference between victory and a tie. But Smith, after studying the lie coolly, dropped it in for the 284, which gave him a 1-stroke margin over Craig Wood. “I feel that I am back on my game after three years of trying,” said Smith when it was over. Smith never has won a major tournament. His victory today probably is his greatest one.

 

TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY

1910       Hugh Chalmers, the president of the Chalmers Motor Car Company of Detroit, announces his Model 30, one of the most luxurious autos of its day, will be awarded to the player with the highest batting average this season. The prize will lead to controversy when Cleveland infielder Nap Lajoie beats out seven bunts, thanks to the Browns’ Red Corriden purposely playing deep at third base, to go 8-for-9 on the last day of the season, raising his average to .384 in an attempt to surpass Ty Cobb for the batting title.

1914       Babe Ruth makes his first start of his professional career when he defeats the world champion Philadelphia Athletics, 6-2, in an exhibition game played in Wilmington, N.C. The 19 year-old Red Sox rookie left-hander had faced 29 batters in relief, allowing just six hits to earn a spot in manager Jack Dunn’s rotation.

1935       The Cubs sell Pat Malone to the Yankees. The right-hander will go 12-4 in 1936, but will post only a 19-13 record in his three years with the Bronx Bombers.

1945       Tryouts are granted to pitcher Terris McDuffie and first baseman Dave Thomas when a group of blacks appears at the Dodger offices in Brooklyn. The two players will work out at Ebbets Field in front of Branch Rickey on April 7.

1959       Infielder Bill White, along with third baseman Ray Jablonski, is traded to the Cardinals by the Giants in exchange for pitching prospect Don Choate and right-hander Sam Jones. Although southpaw ‘Toothpick Sam’ will have three solid seasons in San Francisco, including a 20-win season, the Redbirds’ new first baseman will become a perennial All-Star and Gold Glover during his eight-year tenure in St. Louis.

1962       Elvin Tappe is named as the Cubs’ first head coach of the season in the team’s college of coaches plan. Chicago hasn’t had a manager since 1960.

1963       The Reds sell journeyman pitcher Johnny Klippstein to the Phillies. After going 7-7 over two seasons with Philadelphia, the 37 year-old box salesman will help the Twins win the pennant in 1965, posting a 9-3 record.

1981       The Phillies trade Bob Walk to the Braves for outfielder Gary Matthews. The team’s new center fielder will play outstanding defense along with three solid seasons at the plate for Philadelphia, while Atlanta’s new right-hander will compile a 12-13 record with a 4.85 ERA during his three-year tenure with the club.

1985       It’s bad news for the Cubs when Circuit Court Judge Richard L. Curry rules laws banning night games are constitutional. The Cubs brought suit after having to give up a home playoff game last season due to the lack of lights at Wrigley.

1989       The Pirates and Indians swap shortstops with Jay Bell going to the Steel City and Felix Fermin joining the Tribe. Pittsburgh’s new slick infielder will serve as the team’s starting shortstop for the next eight seasons.

1997       The Indians send Kenny Lofton (.317, 14, 67) and Alan Embree (3-1, 2.79) to the Braves for Marquis Grissom (.262, 10, 57) and David Justice (.337, 30, 88). The deal saves $5.8 million in salaries for Atlanta and helps the team to sign hurlers Greg Maddux ($57.5 million, five-year) and Tom Glavine ($34 million, four-year).

2006       Acknowledging he may never play again, Jeff Bagwell announces he will start the season on the disabled list and will seek consultation to find out if removing bone spurs from his shoulder would be beneficial in prolonging his career. The 37 year-old first baseman must stay on the injured list all season for the Astros to collect $15.6 million of the $17 million guaranteed contract from an insurance claim filed in January.

2008       At the Tokyo Dome in Japan, the Red Sox beat the A’s, 6-5, in the earliest major league opener ever played. Manny Ramirez’s tenth inning double gives the victory to Hideki Okajima, who used to pitch in this stadium for the hometown Yomiuri Giants.

2008       Miguel Cabrera (.320, 34, 119), acquired by the Tigers in a trade at the winter meetings with the Marlins, agrees to a $152.3 million, eight-year deal to play with the team. The All-Star third baseman had previously agreed to an $11.3 million, one-year contract in January.

 

WORLD SERIES HISTORY-1907

The 1907 World Series once again, featured the National’s Chicago Cubs going up against the American’s Detroit Tigers, who had just edged out the previous year’s champion Philadelphia Athletics in a fierce pennant race. The opening contest rewarded fans on both sides of the field with neither team backing down. After twelve innings, the game was called because of darkness. Tigers 3, Cubs 3. Although Detroit had clearly started Game 1 with more momentum, Chicago showed it’s resolve and snatched the victory from the Tiger’s grasp. The Cubs seemed inspired by their stunning loss to the underdog White Sox in the last years Series and had obviously learned from their mistakes. It was only the beginning as Manager Hugh Jennings’ Tigers would fail to recapture the initial fire and fail to score more than one run in any of the remaining Series games. Chicago’s Jack Pfiester dominated Detroit, 3-1, in Game 2 and Ed Reulbach continued the streak beating American League champs, 5-1, the next day.

The Tigers showed some signs of life in Game 4 when they seized a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning as an up-and-coming twenty year-old named Ty Cobb, having just won his first batting championship, slammed a triple and scored on a Claude Rossman single. Unfortunately that was all they could muster and went down to a 6-1 defeat against Orval Overall. Game 5 was Detroit’s last chance at turning the series, but Mordecai Brown threw a seven-hitter clinching the 2-0 triumph and a Cubs sweep of the Series. Chicago’s boys from the West Side had dominated the entire contest and made amends for the Series loss to their cross town rivals the previous year.

Most fans were not surprised by Chicago’s supremacy. The Cubs were quickly becoming baseball’s first “dynasty” making their second (soon to be third) post-season championship appearance, getting there by winning one-hundred seven games and finishing seventeen games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Detroit never had a chance as the Cubs aggressive play on both sides of the plate stole the show. They had outstanding offense from Steinfeldt and Evers, who batted .471 and .350, respectively (with Steinfeldt getting seven hits in the last three games of the Series and Evers getting seven in the first three games). They ran with reckless abandon against the Tigers, stealing seven bases in Game 1 and finishing the Series with eighteen. Most importantly, Chicago’s pitching staff held a potentially threatening Tigers line-up to forty-three scoreless innings out of forty-eight and shut down the American League’s top hitters of 1907, Cobb and Sam Crawford. Cobb managed only a .200 average in the Series after batting .350 in the regular season; Crawford hit .238 after a .323 season.

 

BASEBALL’S BEST PLAYERS-LUIS APARICIO

The name Luis Aparicio is closely linked with Venezuela. Both Luis Aparicio Ortega (Ortega) and his son, Luis Aparicio Montiel (Aparicio), had a significant impact on bringing the game of baseball to new heights in Latin America. For that reason, many say that when talking about one, you can’t help but think of the other.

The younger Aparicio was much more than an outstanding baseball player whose endurance, defense, and speed during an 18-year old major-league career earned him a spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame. He was a symbol of the growth and development of the game of baseball in Latin America — specifically in Venezuela and in his hometown of Maracaibo. Aparicio’s place among the greatest players in baseball signified the climax of a cycle of progress for the game of baseball, which has become the national sport of Venezuela and an intrinsic part of its cultural heritage.

To fully understand the significance, impact, and legacy of Aparicio’s career, one needs to take a journey back into the first steps of the game in Maracaibo.

The emergence of baseball in Maracaibo began around the turn of the 20th century when an American businessman, William Phelps (who later became a media mogul and philanthropist), opened the first department store in town, the American Bazaar. While he imported baseball equipment from the United States, he also saw the need for educating local children about the game in order to sell his merchandise. Phelps became a baseball enthusiast and taught schoolkids the rules of the game, which they quickly understood. He served as the first umpire of documented games and built the first baseball field in the coastal city of Maracaibo.

From the sport’s inception around 1912, baseball quickly became a favorite pastime of people of all classes. Several fields were created throughout the small urban area, and both adults and children were fascinated with the sport. In just a few years, the game spread throughout the region and it was soon established as a professional game. People fell in love with the game, and were willing to gather and pay to watch the best players and teams. They called it “the game of the four corners.” The game of baseball had found its stage in the country.

Through the years, the region had a constant flow of American workers from oil companies who helped shape the identity of the city as well as the influence of American culture. Baseball was no exception. By 1926, a heated rivalry between Vuelvan Caras and Santa Marta was catching the attention of followers and local sports media. In fact, the first big hero of local professional baseball was a shortstop from Vuelvan Caras, Rafael “Anguito” Oliver. Early on, the media shone a spotlight on the role of the shortstop.

Oliver became an icon and two brothers were some of his biggest fans — Luis and Ernesto Aparicio Ortega. The Aparicio Ortega brothers (in the Latin American custom, they used their father’s and mother’s surname) were also natural athletes; Luis enjoyed soccer but ended up practicing baseball with Ernesto. Both became quality infielders. Luis, however, became the big star, the super athlete, while Ernesto, who had great playing tools, concentrated on learning the game as a science. He became a successful manager, coach, and team owner, transmitting his knowledge over generations.

Luis gained fame for his great plays and intelligence in the position of shortstop. He became a reference, a master, and a key player sought by many teams throughout the country. He played in both professional leagues in the country, in Caracas and Maracaibo. He became the first player “exported” from Venezuela when he signed with Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Republic in 1934.

Also in 1934, Ortega and his homemaker wife, Herminia Montiel, welcomed their son Luis Ernesto Aparicio Montiel. By the time Aparicio was born in Maracaibo on April 29, his father was shining as one of the first baseball superstars of Venezuela and Latin America. Ortega was an All-Star player and one the most famous players ever of Venezuelan baseball. “An artist in the shortstop position,” many called him.

Uncle Ernesto became a mentor to Luis. In Gavilanes, where his father also played, little Luis got his first job in baseball: batboy. His father and uncle taught him the secrets of the game. He also had the chance to learn from players of all nationalities, including Cuban, Dominican, and American players.

Baseball was his life. Aparicio recalls his mother washing baseball uniforms for his team and talking about baseball all day. From the age of 12, when he played shortstop for a team called La Deportiva, Aparicio displayed the grace and elegance he learned from his father. From then on, Aparicio was a member of several teams in Maracaibo, Caracas, and Barquisimeto. He was constantly moving with his family, depending on the time of year and which team his father was playing for.

That was his life: baseball, the stardom of his father, the knowledge of his uncle and whatever the game brought to the family table.

In 1953, Caracas hosted the Baseball Amateur World Series, and Luis Aparicio, then 19 years old, was selected to represent Venezuela. It was his first big tournament, and he played shortstop, third base, and left field. Although Cuba won the tournament, Aparicio was recognized both in the stands and in newspapers as the most electrifying player, who made great plays and showed security and maturity in all positions. Fans waved white handkerchiefs during this tournament, praising the teenager with great speed and a solid glove. All eyes were on him for the first time, but the name of his famous father would always be on his shoulders if he chose to be a professional player.

Soon after the Amateur World Series, the day arrived. Aparicio had to tell his parents he was quitting school to become a professional baseball player. His mother was not happy with the decision. His father, on the other hand, told him something that would stand out in his mind for the rest of his career. “Son, if you are going to play baseball for a living, you will have to be the number one always,” said his father. “You will never be a number two of anybody, always be the number one.”

That winter, the best four teams in Venezuela played in the country’s first national tournament. The teams — Gavilanes and Pastora from Maracaibo, and Caracas and Magallanes from Caracas — rotated their games in four cities and it was the first tournament played under the umbrella of major-league baseball.

Aparicio signed with Gavilanes and his debut was scheduled for November 17, 1953, in Maracaibo. That day it rained, and his debut was postponed until the next day, November 18, which is a special holiday in Maracaibo. The city celebrates the day of its lady patron, the Virgin of Chiquinquirá, and festivities are held all around. Among them is the special baseball game between the crosstown rivals Pastora and Gavilanes.

Aparicio’s father, Ortega, who also played for Gavilanes, led off the game against Pastora’s Howie Fox, a major-league veteran. After the first pitch, Ortega went back to the dugout and pointed to his son with his bat, signaling it was time for Luis to take his father’s bat and replace him at home plate for his first official at-bat.

The crowd of 7,000 gave a 15-minute standing ovation to this simple but magical gesture. They were recognizing Ortega — known as “The Great of Maracaibo” — for his outstanding career, his talent as the best shortstop in Venezuelan baseball, for his dedication on the field, and for more than 20 years of contributing to the development of the game in Maracaibo. At the same time, people were showing Luis the huge burden he had on his shoulders for carrying his father’s name, and for the responsibility he had on the field from that moment.

Aparicio Jr., at 19 years old, understood the situation and embraced it with maturity. “I knew the responsibility on me. I knew about the expectations people had everywhere I stepped on a field. I just had to be great as my father, otherwise people would consider me a total deception,” he said in later years. “It was destiny.”

Panorama, the local newspaper, wrote the next day: “Aparicio´s son’s debut was patronized by the Virgin herself.” For a very Catholic-religious region, this was a big deal.

Aparicio ended up being named the best shortstop of the tournament. By December, the Cleveland Indians were negotiating with him. Gavilanes manager Red Kress, who was a coach for the Indians, spoke with general manager Hank Greenberg about signing Aparicio, but Greenberg replied that he thought Luis too small to play baseball. Chico Carrasquel, who was playing for Caracas and Chicago at the time, talked to Chicago White Sox general manager Frank Lane and told him about Luis, asking him to sign the youngster before someone else did. Caracas’s manager, Luman Harris, also talked to Lane. Soon after, Lane sent an offer and a contract for Aparicio with a $10,000 check. Young Luis became a member of the White Sox.

Aparicio’s days in the minor leagues were hard. His English was very limited. He knew he belonged in the majors, but the learning process was strict. Carrasquel was the big-league shortstop. After spring training in 1955, Aparicio was sent to Memphis in the Double-A Southern Association. He thought about going back to Venezuela and quitting the White Sox, but both his father and Carrasquel convinced the novice of his potential and explained to him the process of reaching the majors, a road even tougher for Latinos, especially in those years. Carrasquel, who was the big baseball idol in Caracas, became Aparicio’s mentor and a father figure for him. Aparicio also recalls meeting a singer that season in a small bar in Memphis, a young man named Elvis Presley.

In October 1955, the White Sox traded Chico Carrasquel to the Cleveland Indians, leaving the door open for Aparicio. When Lane announced the trade, a Chicago journalist said: “You are trading your All-Star shortstop? You will need a machine to replace Chico.” Lane replied, “Yes, that’s precisely what we have — a machine, and his name is Luis Aparicio.”

Aparicio was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1956. He was the first Latin American player to win the award. He finished with a .266 batting average and a league-leading 21 stolen bases, and also led the league in sacrifice hits. The stolen base as a strategy was becoming less and less used in baseball in those years. Aparicio revived the essence of the stolen base from the moment he reached the majors. He injected the White Sox with the game of speed, the Caribbean game, where speed is a key. He was praised for his defense but during his first season had 35 errors.

Luis needed work on his throw. Venezuelan journalist Juan Vené, who covered Aparicio’s entire career, recalled, “Fans were afraid to sit behind first base and they were really aware of the throw every time Aparicio was fielding a grounder because the ball often ended into the stands.”

His debut met everyone’s expectations at home, but he knew he needed to do more. After his first season, when he returned home with his wife, Sonia, Aparicio said, “By seeing how so many people have gathered to welcome me at the airport just to say hello and congratulations, it makes me realize that I still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to go beyond their expectations. I need to put the name of my country and my people up high; I feel my game represents them.”

In 1958, Aparicio won his first Gold Glove, was named to his first All-Star Game, hit .266, and led the league in stolen bases for the third consecutive year, with 29. Chicago ended up in second place for the second year in a row behind the Yankees. The situation in the American League was tough. The Chicago White Sox was an outstanding club but the Yankees were the Yankees, and in those years they simply dominated baseball. There were no playoffs. To go to the World Series they just needed to finish first in the American League. The White Sox needed to reach one more step, and they did it in 1959.

Dámaso Blanco, a former infielder for the San Francisco Giants, remembers 1959: “I went to Chicago in August 1959 with the Venezuelan baseball team for the Pan Am Games and they took us to Comiskey Park to watch the White Sox and Luis Aparicio. It was my first MLB game ever and I was very anxious. Aparicio hit a single on his first at-bat and we all noticed that people started to yell: ‘Go! Go! Go!’ At first we did not understand what was happening and then our guide explained people were actually rooting for Aparicio to steal second base. I can’t really describe how proud we felt listening to a full Comiskey Park rooting for a fellow Venezuelan and the team leader of the ‘Go Go White Sox.’ ”

That season, the White Sox won 94 games and finally won the pennant. Among the keys to their success were Aparicio’s base-stealing skills and his defense along with his double play partner and close friend, Nellie Fox. For Chicago it was a magical era. It was their first trip to the World Series since 1919. This team was the complete opposite of the Black Sox. It was fun to watch. Aparicio remembers: “We were so close, like a family. We enjoyed our game and the fans of Chicago so much during 1959. Having guys in the team like Ted Kluszewski, Jim Rivera, Sherm Lollar, and Early Wynn was just amazing. We just had to win the league because we were good, having fun in the field, and playing very seriously.”

Aparicio ended up second to his double-play partner Fox in the voting for the American League’s Most Valuable Player. He stole a career-high 56 bases that year. He realized no one in baseball was better than him at stealing. His speed was a key to victory. He led the team in runs with 98. “Before the season Al Lopez, our manager, told me he wanted me to focus on my base stealing,” Aparicio said long after his career ended. “They wanted me to spice things up in the club and that was going to be our key to win games that season.” After their great season, the White Sox lost the World Series to the Dodgers in six games. Aparicio hit .308 (8-for-26), and although he was thrilled to participate in the fall classic, he was deeply frustrated in not winning the Series. “The people were very excited in the city, because they waited 40 years to see their team in a World Series. They were disappointed, but at the same time they treated us like winners,”10 he recalled. This first trip to the Series made Aparicio realize how important it was to be a winner and how hard a team needed to work to win it all.

Hoping to return to the World Series in 1960, the White Sox instead slipped to third place. They fell to fourth place in 1961 and fifth in 1962. The Sox wanted to rebuild their team, and in January of 1963, Aparicio and veteran outfielder Al Smith were traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Ron Hansen, Pete Ward, Dave Nicholson, and Hoyt Wilhelm.

The trade was a jolt to Luis, but he was moving to a contending team built around a foundation of power and pitching. Aparicio added speed to the Baltimore lineup, winning two more stolen base titles in 1963-64 to give him nine consecutive seasons as the American League stolen base champion, an all-time record. More importantly, he helped solidify the Oriole defense. Luis and future Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson formed one of the best shortstop-third base combinations of all time.

In 1966, the Orioles won the American League pennant, and Aparicio once again faced the Dodgers in the World Series. Although his offense was not as solid as it was in 1959, he still contributed with four hits and great defense during the series, which the Orioles swept in four games. It was first and only championship ring of his career. He came back to Maracaibo as a hero, dedicating his part of the title to his parents, who were his biggest supporters.

In November of 1967, Luis was traded back to the White Sox. As a veteran player, he became the team leader and mentor. During his second stint in Chicago, his glove was still his great tool, though his speed was not the same. He worked on his offense and in 1970, at the age of 36, batted a career-high .313.

Before the 1971 season, Aparicio was traded to the Boston Red Sox and played with them for three more seasons. In two of them was he was selected to the All-Star Game. In 1973, at the age of 39, he batted .271 in 132 games and stole 13 bases in 14 attempts.

Vené remembers March 26, 1974: “Luis was in the Red Sox spring camp when he got the notice that he was being released. He wanted to play one more season; he was 40 and still felt he had it. When he went back to the hotel he had a letter from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. It was an open contract that had a note saying: “You put in the amount to play for the New York Yankees.”

Aparicio sent the envelope back with a note that said: “Dear Mr. Steinbrenner, thank you very much for your offer but I just get released once in my lifetime.”11 That was the end of Aparicio’s playing career. He went back to Maracaibo that day with his family.

From 1956 to 1973, no other shortstop was more dominant in his position than Luis Aparicio, who won nine Gold Gloves. He was a profound influence on the game during his era with his speed, helping to revive the stolen base as an offensive weapon. He was selected to 10 All-Star teams. He played in two World Series and won one, and he set the most significant personal record for himself: No player had played more games at his beloved position in the major leagues than he (2,583). (The record has since been broken by Omar Vizquel.) He finished his career with 2,677 hits, a .262 batting average and 506 stolen bases.

After 10 years of eligibility and a huge crusade by many Hispanic journalists pushing his candidacy for the Hall of Fame, he was elected to the Hall in 1984, becoming the first Venezuelan to ever receive this form of baseball immortality. “This is a triumph of Venezuela for all Venezuelans,” said Aparicio when he heard of his election.

His biggest regret is that his father didn’t live long enough to see his son elected to the Hall of Fame. Luis Aparicio Ortega died on January 1, 1971. After his death he was honored with his election to the Hall of Fame of Venezuelan Sports. The Maracaibo baseball stadium was officially named Luis Aparicio Ortega “El Grande de Maracaibo.” After the creation of the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the Aparicio Ortega brothers, Ernesto and Luis, were also inducted.

After retirement, Luis moved back to Venezuela and worked during the Venezuelan league in winter as manager. He managed Caracas, Zulia, Lara, La Guaira, Magallanes, and Cabimas. He was a celebrity and his retirement was not easy for him. They were hard times, not economically because he was very organized financially, but emotionally. He spent more time with his family and was part of many local projects of many kinds.

In the early 1980s he became a television commentator for Radio Caracas Television during the Venezuelan League. In fact, when he got the notice about his selection to Cooperstown, he was working with RCTV. Although he enjoyed it for a while, television was not his passion, but at least something to stay close to the game, if he was not managing.

In the 1990s Luis was back to the field with Tiburones de La Guaira in the winter league as a manager and coach. Aparicio moved to Barquisimeto. He enjoyed spending time with his family and especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His family suffered a big setback when his daughter Sharon was the victim of a crime in Venezuela. After this incident, he concentrated even more on his family. He continued to enjoy and follow baseball and kept his participation in baseball and Hall of Fame events with the help of his son Nelson.

After his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Aparicio’s status of celebrity increased greatly. He became known as the most important and influential Venezuelan athlete of all time, the most revered and followed. He also made several trips a year to the US to participate in autograph sessions, fan festivals and former player activities. He was a constant supporter of Hall of Fame gatherings, including All-Star games and Cooperstown induction weekends.

His solid and impeccable image and personality caught the attention of ESPN International and ESPN Deportes who invited him as a special color analyst for the international broadcasts of Venezuelan baseball from 2011 to 2013, alongside veteran and famed Spanish-broadcasters such as Emmy-award winning Ernesto Jerez.

Aparicio has since become an active baseball follower and his voice is present through his social media accounts, where he has provided opinions and personals perspective of issues around baseball. Most notably in 2017 he was invited to participate in a ceremony honoring the Latino members of the Baseball Hall of Fame prior to the 2017 All-Star Game in Miami, Florida. Aparicio respectfully declined the invitation and publicly stated: “Thank you for the honor @mlb, but I cannot celebrate while the young people of my country are dying while fighting for freedom”.

Aparicio did not attend the 2017 Hall of Fame induction for the same reasons and actively became a strong opponent of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro and the regime that has ruled Venezuela since 1998.

Maracaibo still remembers every November 18 as part of the festivities around the Virgin holiday, the anniversary of Luis Aparicio’s debut. At the Aguilas del Zulia game, Aparicio has made the ceremonial first pitch. Every year the Luis Aparicio Award is given to the best Venezuelan player of the major-league baseball season. It was a tribute to his career and to the memory of his father.

In 2006 the Chicago White Sox unveiled the Luis Aparicio statue at the U.S. Cellular Field in the center-field concourse and created by artist Gary Tillery. Aparicio attended the event with Sonia celebrating 52 years of marriage and with his son Luis Jr and daughter Karen. The sculpture is part of a two-player series depicting Aparicio waiting to catch a ball from his longtime double-play partner Nelly Fox, whose widow, Joanne, also attended the ceremony. “This is my biggest moment in baseball. I thank the White Sox organization for giving me the opportunity to play baseball, and I thank God for giving me the ability to play this game. The only thing I can say is baseball is so much of me, I even met my wife playing baseball.”

The 2014 season of the Venezuelan Winter League was played in honor to the 30th anniversary of Aparicio’s induction to Cooperstown and he was honored at every ballpark of the league and the league reinforced and emphasized the biggest honor ever made to a Venezuelan baseball player: the retirement of his number 11 from every team in the country.

Much more than a great player, Aparicio was recognized as a great human being. Most people knew Luis for his playing feats, but ignored his great heart and family values. During his career the integrity he brought to the game was one of his strongest assets. He gave everything he had to win and help his teams. He played simultaneously for 19 years in Venezuelan baseball, doubling the amount of work year round. As a major-league player he played fewer than 130 games in a season only once.

Maybe his greater value was how he embraced and understood his position and his significance on and off the field for the people of Venezuela, a country filled with social problems that universally celebrates the achievements of its people. He was much more than an icon.

People always expected the best from him, and he gave nothing but the best both as a player and as a human being, working hard enough and using his abilities to be among the greatest players of all time. He had huge shoes to fill under the shadow of his father and he never let this issue pressure him during his life. Luis Aparicio assumed a social responsibility and went beyond expectations.

Aparicio was named the Athlete of the 20th Century in Venezuela. Beyond his recognition for being the best player ever born in the country, his integrity and family values always accompanied him. Moreover, he is the role model for future generations and the “godfather” of the dynasty of Venezuelan shortstops in the history of the major leagues. Panorama published a letter Aparicio sent to his mother in March 1956: “To Herminia de Aparicio, Maracaibo. Dear Mom: You are finally the mother of a big leaguer. Try to figure out what it means to me to become ‘a big leaguer.’ Today I’ve cried alone, when they told me they were sending my luggage to Chicago because I had made the big league team. Tears came out by themselves and I just thought about Dad. Mom, please tell Dad that my debt with him is finally paid. Kisses, your son, Luis.”

Luis has said: “When my father asked me to be always a number one, I always kept that on my mind. I think I didn’t disappoint him. I wanted him to be proud of me, and I know he definitely was. That’s the achievement of my life.”