News provided by MSNBC.com
Rodgers expects to know by Friday, Saturday if he'll play
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers expects a decision to be made by Friday - or Saturday tops - whether he'll be cleared to return to face the Atlanta Falcons.
Rodgers has missed a month with a fractured left collarbone. He is back at practice on a limited basis, but doesn't want to speculate if he'll be medically cleared this week.
He also says it wouldn't be fair to Matt Flynn for the backup to wait until game time to determine whether he'll start. Rodgers says Wednesday he thinks the decision on his status would come the day or two before Sunday's game.
At least one man thinks Rodgers is a go: Falcons coach Mike Smith says he's preparing as if Rodgers is playing.
Wed, 04 Dec 2013 23:00:00 +0000
NBA game in Mexico City postponed due to smoke
MEXICO CITY (AP) The game between the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves was postponed Wednesday night because of smoky conditions inside the Mexico City arena.
The matchup will be made up in Minnesota at a later date.
The arena was evacuated about 45 minutes before the scheduled 9:30 p.m. EST tipoff when a generator malfunction outside the arena sent smoke pouring into the building, according to NBA spokeswoman Sharon Lima.
Mexico City Police said in a statement there was a fire in the generator room on the fourth floor of the modern glass-clad arena that opened in 2012.
"What happened was provoked by a short circuit in the room of generators," the statement said in Spanish.
About 15 minutes after the scheduled start, the Spurs bus pulled away from the building. The Timberwolves bus followed soon after.
While the teams were warming up for their regular-season matchup, lights went out in parts of the arena and smoke began coming out of vents in the upper deck. The court quickly became cloudy.
"I thought they were practicing fireworks, Spurs TV analyst Sean Elliot said. "A lot of teams do that before introductions. But then the smoke just kept creeping and it wasn't white smoke. It was like a brown dark smoke and it started taking over the whole court. It was surprising."
Fans had not yet been allowed into the arena for the NBA's first regular-season game in the country since Houston and Dallas played in Mexico City on Dec. 6, 1997, when the evacuation was ordered. The teams went to their buses, still wearing their practice gear.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said there was a lot of smoke in their locker room.
Standing outside the Timberwolves' bus in shorts and practice shirt, guard Ricky Rubio had no idea what happened.
"They just told us to leave," Rubio said in Spanish.
Both teams were scheduled to travel home right after the game. The Spurs next host the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.
The Timberwolves, who play the Miami Heat on Saturday night, were coming off a stretch in which they played a franchise-record 18 games before Dec. 1. The postponement gives them a much-needed break.
Coach Rick Adelman was unhappy that his team had to give up a home game in Minnesota. Now, the Timberwolves will likely make up the game after the return of key bench players Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow).
Adrian Perez, marketing manager for the arena, said fans will be reimbursed.
Thu, 05 Dec 2013 04:26:00 +0000
Ryan gives Geno, Jets' rookies an 'A-plus' grade
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Rex Ryan is feeling pretty good about his struggling rookie class.
Sure, Geno Smith has been mistake-prone, and so has Dee Milliner. But Sheldon Richardson has been outstanding, and the fact the New York Jets have five rookies starting, well, the coach thinks that bodes well for the franchise.
"If this is not an A-plus class," Ryan said Wednesday, "I mean, I don't know what you're looking for."
Richardson, the No. 13 overall pick, was the Jets' second draft selection and has had a terrific first season as one of the NFL's top playmakers among defensive linemen. But Milliner, No. 9 overall, and Smith, a second-rounder, have had major issues and been benched at times.
Milliner, the first cornerback drafted, has been beset by injuries and inconsistency, leading to three benchings. Smith, after a solid start, is going through a brutal stretch in which he has thrown just one touchdown and 11 interceptions in his past seven games.
Brian Winters, a third-rounder who's starting at left guard, and fullback Tommy Bohanon, a seventh-rounder have also had some tough games.
The Jets' two other draft picks in April - offensive tackle Oday Aboushi (fifth round) and guard Will Campbell (sixth round) - have been inactive for every game so far this season.
"For us to criticize or be critical of a draft class that has five starters in the National Football League, as rookies?" a defiant Ryan said. "I understand it's New York media, but this might be a little tough. This is a bit of a stretch to criticize this draft class.
"This class is about as strong a class as I've ever seen."
Ryan has a point, that it's way too early to truly know what they have in any of the seven drafted players. But, the early overall returns - other than Richardson - haven't been great.
Smith became the starting quarterback when Mark Sanchez was lost for the year in the preseason with a shoulder injury. He had four winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in his first seven games, the only player to accomplish that feat since the 1970 merger.
Things have gone bad for Smith since, and the team went from alternating wins and losses for an NFL-record 10 weeks to a three-game skid that has them nearly out of the playoff picture. Smith's shoddy play has been a major factor, and he was benched last Sunday in favor of Matt Simms in the Jets' 23-3 loss to Miami.
"Like I expressed to my coaches and teammates, I never want to come out of a game, never, no matter what," Smith said. "It did motivate me. I think, like I said, in hindsight it could be a good thing later on down the road."
Ryan gave Smith another opportunity to work himself out of his funk, naming him the starter earlier this week for the team's home game against Oakland on Sunday.
"We've got a lot of young guys on this team, especially on offense," Smith said. "We've just got to continue to get better and just move on and use a lot of these tough stretches as motivation. It's all about learning and that's something that we're learning as a whole."
Ryan acknowledged that Milliner has had rough moments this season, but also refused to say he is disappointed in the former Alabama star.
"Dee, I understand has had some struggles, and I'm not making excuses for him, but he's a rookie corner," Ryan said. "I don't know any other rookie corner that's come in the league, outside of probably (Darrelle) Revis, that jumped right in. I think we've been a little spoiled here with the corner play."
Meanwhile, Richardson has been a force, tag-teaming with Muhammad Wilkerson to give the Jets one of the league's most dynamic defensive duos on the line. Richardson leads NFL rookies in backfield stops with 3 1/2 sacks and 8 1/2 tackles for loss, and was selected as the NFL's defensive player of the month for November.
"I don't know how many other rookies are getting drafted and actually starting on teams right now, but it's not that many," Richardson said.
Winters became a starter after Vladimir Ducasse, the team's second-rounder in 2010, lost the job after four games. Ryan, however, believes Winters could be a 10-year starter in the NFL.
Bohanon has been up and down with his blocking, and is ranked last among the league's fullbacks by ProFootballFocus.com, a stats-based site that analyzes and grades players. Ryan defended Bohanon, a former college teammate of general manager John Idzik's son at Wake Forest, as a "good player" - especially for being the team's last draft pick.
"I think this class is an outstanding class, top to bottom," Ryan said. "Will they all make it? I don't know. When you watch them, I see improvement. ... I think it's going to be a real strength for this franchise moving forward."
Thu, 05 Dec 2013 00:05:00 +0000
George leads Pacers over Jazz, 95-86
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) A game after he scored a career-high 43 points, nothing seemed to be going right for Paul George.
Fighting a cold, his chest was burning and he couldn't seem to catch his breath. To make matters worse, his reliable shooting stroke was faltering.
"It was so hard to find my wind but I didn't want to make any excuses. I tried to play through it and find a way to will us to a win tonight," said George, who scored 19 points as the Indiana Pacers returned to their defensive ways in beating the Utah Jazz 95-86 on Wednesday.
George and Pacers primarily did it with defense as they usually do.
"We struggled but we stuck with what we do best," said George, who had a key steal and dunk moments after the Jazz got within two points midway through the final period. "We made those guys take tough shots and, over time, those shots start to get a little short or a little long. Our defense played a huge part in us getting this win."
Lance Stephenson scored 15 points, Luis Scola had 14 and Roy Hibbert added 13 points to win in Utah for the first time since an 84-60 victory on Nov. 29, 2005.
The Pacers were coming off their first back-to-back games of the season in which they allowed their opponent to reach 100 points - L.A. Clippers and Portland. But Indiana outscored the Jazz 27-19 in the fourth quarter and parlayed 14 Utah turnovers in 20 points.
"They pushed us off our spots," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They put pressure on us a little bit and threw off our rhythm."
Gordon Hayward's 3-pointer cut the Indiana lead to 79-76 before the Pacers scored nine straight points, capped by West's 20-foot jumper that just beat the shot clock, and never looked back.
"We made the better plays down the stretch. We got what we wanted, getting open shots because we executed in the fourth quarter," West said.
Derrick Favors led Utah with 22 points and 13 rebounds and Enes Kanter had 20 points and 10 boards for the Jazz, who had won three of their last four games.
Hayward and George, who have worked out together in the summers and were picked ninth and 10th in the 2010 draft, both struggled with their shooting against each other's tenacious defense.
"It's always fun playing against Gordon because he's one of the few guys in this league that never lets up. I know I always have my hands full when I face him," George said.
When George finally made a 3-pointer - his first in eight attempts - with 53 seconds left, he paused and pointed skyward in relief at seeing one drop.
"I pointed up to the basketball gods and thanked them. It was just a relief. I wasn't able to shoot the ball well and I was just fatigued out there," said George, who finished 7 of 20 from the field after an acrobatic layup with 21 seconds remaining.
Hayward made only 3 of 14 shots and finished with 12 points.
"They are good defensively. They challenged a lot of shots at the rim and forced us to shoot over the top and we just couldn't knock them down," Hayward said.
Behind 10 points each from Kanter and Favors, the Jazz built an 11-point lead in the first half that evaporated to 48-47 by halftime. Led by Stephenson, the Pacers used an 18-4 run bridging the second and third quarters to move in front.
The Pacers are the top defensive team in the league - holding opponents to 39.5 percent shooting and 87.6 points per game - but they allowed the Clippers to score 100 points in a win and the Blazers 106 points in a loss on the current five-game road trip.
"It was a really good win for our guys, kind of a grind-it-out type of game," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said.
Power forwards Marvin Williams (foot) and Jeremy Evans (flu) sat out the game for the Jazz but Utah attacked the Pacers for three quarters and led 69-68 after Kanter's layup to open the fourth quarter.
But the deeper into the fourth period they went, the more difficult it was for the Jazz to score. The Pacers disrupted the Jazz offensive sets and when Utah found open looks they misfired down the stretch.
"The altitude and my asthma kicked me in the rear to begin with. But I got my second wind and I was trying to be a defensive presence," said Hibbert, who blocked two shots and altered several others.
The Pacers' tough trip concludes with a back-to-back set against San Antonio on Saturday and Oklahoma City a day later.
NOTES: Jazz rookie Trey Burke had a career-high nine assists. . Stephenson, upset with an offensive foul call in the fourth quarter, threw the ball over his shoulder and got a technical foul. . Kanter looked as if he threw Hibbert to the floor in the final two minutes but Hibbert gave a sly smile, indicating he may have helped sell the call. . Though he traveled with the team, Danny Granger has only played five games this season for the Pacers due to a strained calf and is still inactive.
Thu, 05 Dec 2013 05:41:00 +0000
NFL fines Steelers coach Mike Tomlin $100,000
PITTSBURGH (AP) Here's another adjective Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin can call his ill-timed two-step onto the field last Thursday night against Baltimore.
The NFL fined Tomlin $100,000 on Wednesday for interfering with Baltimore's Jacoby Jones on a kickoff return in the third quarter of a 22-20 loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving night.
The fine is the second-highest ever levied by the league on a head coach, behind only the $500,000 the NFL docked New England's Bill Belichick in 2007 for spying on an opponent's defensive signals.
There is also the chance the Steelers have a draft pick taken away "because the conduct affected a play on the field." Though he was not penalized, the league said the Steelers should have been flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
All that from what Tomlin called an "embarrassing, inexcusable" case of being "mesmerized" while standing in a restricted area that separates the sideline from the playing field and staring at the video board during Jones' 73-yard return.
Jones had to swerve to avoid running into the coach and was tackled during a return that might have gone for a touchdown if not for the obstruction. Tomlin briefly stepped onto the field before he jumped back.
Tomlin insists the "blunder" was not intentional but has no plans to appeal the ruling.
"I apologize for causing negative attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization," Tomlin said in a statement Wednesday. "I accept the penalty that I received. I will no longer address this issue as I am preparing for an important game this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins."
Jones didn't blame Tomlin for his own inability to score on the return, but his teammates believe the move put the coach and the league in a difficult position.
"I'm not going to lie, it's tough," Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "I can't say he did it on purpose because I don't know what he was thinking. It definitely sends a message across the league. He stepped across the line, which definitely threw it off."
Tomlin said he was following his normal routine on the play and said standing on the 6-foot wide strip is common practice.
New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't disagree. Coughlin drew a 15-yard flag during the preseason for stepping onto the field during a field goal attempt.
"You find yourself sometimes running down the sideline on the white, but nevertheless, you're not even supposed to be even on the white because the officials have to have access there," Coughlin said. "That is a most difficult thing to absorb."
Tomlin's players leapt to his defense in the immediate aftermath, and safety Ryan Clark allowed he is "always on the field." The 12-year veteran, however, is hardly surprised the NFL is considering taking an extra step of stripping the Steelers of a draft pick.
"It's not supposed to be fair," Clark said. "It's Roger Goodell, so when has he been fair?"
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn't believe Tomlin's near-trip will serve as a distraction for Pittsburgh (5-7), which remains in the playoff hunt as December begins despite an 0-4 start.
"If anything, guys joke about it more," Roethlisberger said. "They're the ones pulling up the pictures online and joking with coach about something. If anything maybe it's a light-hearted fun thing."
The league will not determine whether to take a pick away from Pittsburgh until after the draft order has been set. It would be an unprecedented move for a coach getting involved during a live play.
The NFL fined the New York Jets $100,000 in 2010 when cameras caught strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripping a Miami player on the sideline. Alosi was suspended by the Jets and eventually resigned after the season.
Tomlin is hardly in danger of losing his job, and said Tuesday he had not spoken to team owners Dan and Art Rooney II about the situation.
"I would imagine if the Rooneys thought that I was capable of that or they thought my intentions were that, I wouldn't be sitting at this table talking to you guys," he said.
Tomlin makes $5.25 million a season and the fine constitutes less than 2 percent of his annual salary. He can absorb the relatively small financial hit. He's far more concerned about the uncomfortable position he put the league and the Steelers in after failing to get out of the way with any sense of urgency.
"I will take this as an opportunity to strenuously defend the game of football and the NFL. I won't defend myself," Tomlin said. "The people that know me, I don't need to do that. The people that don't know me, they are going to make their judgments any way."
Tomlin's predecessor, Bill Cowher, raised eyebrows but not the ire of the commissioner's office in 1997 when he feigned tackling Jacksonville's Chris Hudson as Hudson ran back a Pittsburgh field goal attempt for a touchdown on the final play of a 30-21 Jaguars victory.
While Tomlin has no plans to change the way he goes about his business, he plans to do a better job of policing himself. The 41-year-old understands this will stick with him once the furor dies down. His goal is to make sure it doesn't stain the team as well.
"The only thing we can control is our preparation and ultimately our play this week," he said. "That's the now and what's immediately ahead of us. I try to relay that sentiment and attitude to our team, and I think it's something they embrace."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
AP Sports Writers Rachel Cohen in New York, Steven Wine in Miami, Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J. and Dave Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.
Thu, 05 Dec 2013 00:00:00 +0000
(Check to see if we have them!)
|Featured Newbery Medal Winners Selection|
| ||Dear Mr. Henshaw|
by Beverly Cleary
Publishers Weekly This amusing, often touching series of letters from Leigh Botts to a children's book author he admi...
|Featured Caldecott Medal Winners Selection|
| ||Black and White|
by David Macaulay
Book list Gr. 2-6, younger for reading aloud. See Focus, p.1546.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library A...