Monthly Archives: December 2017

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, amid allegations of workplace misconduct, announced Sunday night in a letter on the team website that he plans to put the NFL team he founded up for sale after the 2017 season.

The letter came after Sports Illustrated published a story saying the Panthers settled with at least four former employees regarding inappropriate workplace behavior by Richardson.

“I believe that it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership,” Richardson wrote. “Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of this NFL season. We will not begin the sale process, nor will we entertain any inquiries, until the very last game is played.”
The SI article detailed accusations made against Richardson that include sexual harassment of multiple women and the use of a racial slur toward a scout who has since left the team.

The NFL on Sunday announced that it was taking over the investigation into the allegations that the Panthers announced they were conducting on Friday.

Richardson, 81, allegedly made verbal comments about women’s appearances, inappropriately touched female employees and made advances to women that included asking whether he could shave their legs and for them to give him foot rubs.

Along with the allegation of using a racial slur that led to a settlement with the scout, SI notes comments made by Richardson about black players’ appearances and his threat to discipline players who addressed social issues. According to SI, Richardson and the Panthers reached confidential settlements with complainants that included nondisclosure and nondisparagement clauses. The SI report describes the settlements’ value as “significant.”

Sean “Diddy” Combs, who earlier this year was estimated by Forbes to be worth $820 million, quickly expressed interest in buying the Panthers. Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, who went to high school in Charlotte and college in Davidson, North Carolina, also weighed in.
Bruton Smith, the owner of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns Charlotte Motor Speedway and other tracks on the NASCAR circuit, said last year that he would be interested in purchasing the team. Forbes placed the value of the Panthers at $2.3 billion in September. Richardson and investors paid $206 million for the team in 1993.

Richardson was awarded the franchise in October 1993. The Panthers played their first season in 1995. Richardson previously had a plan in place that called for the team to be sold within two years of his death. Richardson reached a deal with Charlotte officials in 2013, when the city agreed to pay $87.5 million in upgrades to Bank of America Stadium that would keep the Panthers there through June 2019.

Charlotte-based sports marketing executive Max Muhleman, who helped Richardson bring the team to the Carolinas through the sale of personal seat licenses (PSLs) that financed the stadium, said he was sad to hear the news that the team was being sold.

“If that is his wish, he will leave one of sport’s most remarkable legacies for, hopefully, generations of Carolinians to come,” Muhleman told ESPN.com.

The Panthers are 10-4 after Sunday’s 31-24 win over Green Bay and tied with New Orleans atop the NFC South. They are only two years removed from a 15-1 2015 regular season in which they lost Super Bowl 50 to Denver 24-10.

Carolina also reached the Super Bowl following the 2003 season, losing to New England.

Richardson promised when he purchased the team to bring the Carolinas a Super Bowl victory. He reiterated that in the letter.

“I hope everyone in this organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on just one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl,” Richardson wrote. “While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers’ Number One fan.”

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers has been medically cleared.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback made it official on Tuesday night, on the eve of the first practice in advance of Sunday’s game at Carolina. Rodgers made the announcement in an Instagram post after a long day of discussion with medical personnel led by team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie.
One day earlier, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers underwent tests to determine how much his surgically repaired right collarbone had healed.

“It is now in the evaluation stage,” McCarthy said late Monday afternoon. “Dr. McKenzie is reviewing it. There’s a number of medical opinions that will be involved in a decision, so at this time, I do not have a clean decision for you or an update. That’s where it stands.”

The matchup with the Panthers is the first game for which Rodgers is eligible to return, according to injured reserve rules, since he broke his right collarbone against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 15, when Anthony Barr hit him and landed on him following a pass.
It had been an on-schedule recovery for Rodgers following his Oct. 19 surgery in California, where he had screws and plates inserted into his right clavicle. Rodgers was placed on injured reserve the next day, ensuring he would have to sit out at least eight games. He returned to practice on Dec. 2, the day he turned 34.

From the first time he was seen doing some drills off to the side a month ago to his first public throwing session before the Nov. 26 game in Pittsburgh to running the scout team in practice last week, Rodgers has impressed his coaches and teammates along the way. Clay Matthews even joked that Rodgers looked so good during the rehab process that the Packers shouldn’t have put him on injured reserve.

“Well if he comes back, like I’ve been saying, arguably the best quarterback in the league, back to your team, everyone is going to get better,” Matthews said after Sunday’s overtime win at Cleveland. “Not only him being out there, but also the shot in the arm as we talk about him coming back. Watching him in practice and what he’s been able to do these past couple weeks, getting more and more reps in practice and throwing on the pads, I think it’s a good sign. I’m not going to speak on his behalf, but we sure hope he’s ready and if he is, we’re going to expect the Aaron of old.”

Rodgers was off to one of his best starts before his injury at Minnesota. Through five weeks, he led the NFL in touchdown passes (13) and had thrown just three interceptions. He engineered a comeback victory in overtime to beat the Bengals at home in Week 3 and did it again with a last-minute touchdown pass to Davante Adams at Dallas two weeks later to lead the Packers to a 4-1 start.
The Packers lost at Minnesota when Brett Hundley took over following Rodgers’ injury, but Hundley won three of the next seven games to keep the Packers alive in the playoff race at 7-6.

“My No. 1 thought going into it was keep our hopes alive to make the playoffs and we’re still in it,” Hundley said.

Rodgers missed seven games when he broke his left collarbone in 2013, and the Packers went 2-4-1 in his absence. He did not undergo surgery that time and returned for the regular-season finale at Chicago, a game the Packers had to win to make the playoffs. Rodgers threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the final minute to win the NFC North at 8-7-1.

“We’ve got a chance,” Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “We know what the magic number is. We still have everything in front of us, so when he comes back, we’re in playoff football. We’ve already talked about that, and these games matter. It’s go time.”

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LOS ANGELES — The Philadelphia Eagles are concerned that quarterback Carson Wentz tore his left ACL, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Manual testing revealed that the ACL was loose. In such cases, the likelihood of a tear is high, which is why the team fears that the ligament is torn.

Wentz was seen walking inside the locker room with a heavy, black brace on his left knee. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI tomorrow in Philadelphia.

Wentz exited the Eagles’ 43-35 win against Los Angeles Rams late in the third quarter Sunday and was ruled out.

Wentz addressed fans on Twitter after the win, which clinched the NFC East and a playoff sport for the Eagles.
He came up limping after absorbing multiple hits on a touchdown run that was negated by a holding penalty. Wentz stayed in the game for the remainder of the drive, which he capped with a fourth-down touchdown throw to Alshon Jeffery that gave the Eagles the lead.
Following the series, Wentz went to the trainers tent to be evaluated, and he was taken indoors a short time later.

Nick Foles immediately began practicing snaps with center Jason Kelce on the sideline in anticipation of going in.

“We got the win for him. We’re going to move on and whatever happens, happens. Next-man up mentality,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said afterward. “That’s been the story of us this entire season. We’re not going to miss a beat at all and we’re just going to keep this thing rolling.”

Wentz had four touchdowns on the day. He passed Sonny Jurgensen for the most touchdowns in a single season (33) in franchise history, a record that had stood since 1961.

“He was the first person greeting everyone in the locker room on the way in,” Eagles safety Malcom Jenkins said. “I don’t know what to tell a man in that situation; I just told him I loved him as a teammate, loved him as a friend, obviously everyone is feeling for him.”

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PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier will remain at University of Cincinnati Medical Center for a second consecutive night Tuesday while doctors monitor his back injury.

A joint statement from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s director of neurotrauma David Okonkwo and chief of neurosurgery for UC Health Joseph Cheng said Shazier has undergone a series of tests to evaluate his spine injury.

“He will continue to be monitored and treated by the neurosurgery experts at UC Medical Center until he has been cleared to return to Pittsburgh,” the statement said. “It is expected that Ryan will undergo additional tests and evaluation over the next 24 to 48 hours, and he will then return to Pittsburgh to receive further evaluation and care at UPMC.”
Okonkwo is also a neurosurgeon on the Steelers’ medical staff.

Ryan Shazier suffered a scary back injury after his helmet crown collided with Bengals receiver Josh Malone's rib/hip area on Monday.

Ryan Shazier suffered a scary back injury after his helmet crown collided with Bengals receiver Josh Malone’s rib/hip area on Monday.

Shazier was strapped to a board and removed from the field after suffering the injury on a tackling attempt in the first quarter of the Steelers’ 23-20 win over the Bengals. Shazier’s helmet crown collided with Bengals receiver Josh Malone’s rib/hip area. Players were emotional as they crowded around him, with defensive end Cameron Heyward holding his hand.

Sources on Monday night were encouraged that Shazier’s injury would be better than originally anticipated but didn’t know the extent until the process played out.

Shazier spoke to multiple teammates Monday and has remained upbeat about the process. He tweeted out a message of gratitude to fans on Monday.

Thank you for the prayers. Your support is uplifting to me and my family. #SHALIEVE

— Ryan Shazier (@RyanShazier) December 5, 2017
Shazier is one of the Steelers’ best playmakers and is considered among the most likable teammates. He leads the Steelers in tackles (87), forced fumbles (two) and interceptions (three). Shazier also had a streak of four straight games with an interception late last season. He was hopeful to play his first full NFL season before the injury.

Coach Mike Tomlin was among those who visited Shazier early Tuesday morning.

“It was a tough evening. Ryan is a trooper,” Tomlin said. “Had an opportunity to spend some time with him; he is in really good spirits, tough guy. He has great support from family and loved ones there. It was painful to get on that plane last night. That’s life. We realize and understand he is in really good hands and getting expert medical care. He also challenged us to move on with what it is we need to move on, and he is with us as well.”

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Geno Smith’s pregame routine included watching “Sunday NFL Countdown” on ESPN.

Before making just his second start since 2014 and first start as the New York Giants quarterback, Smith caught a whiff of a comment made by his former coach and current analyst Rex Ryan. He didn’t like it.

It came not long after a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen that coach Ben McAdoo could be fired by Monday.

“No, I didn’t see that, and I love Coach Mac. I think we all do,” Smith said before completing 21 of 34 passes for 212 yards with a touchdown and two fumbles in a 24-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders. “I enjoy playing for him. I want to continue to play for him as long as I can.
“But I did see one of my ex-coaches say he didn’t want me to be his quarterback, and that really upset me, you know? A guy that we saved his job in 2013, and we fought our ass for him both years, and for him to come out and say that just shows you how much of a coward he is.”

Smith was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft by the New York Jets. He was Ryan’s starting quarterback his first two seasons in the league.

Smith started and finished his first game since 2014 — when Ryan was his coach — on Sunday in Oakland. Beforehand, Ryan’s comment caught him off-guard.

“I was just sitting in my room watching because we have the time difference,” Smith said. “So I am just watching a little bit of football and, you know, see that happened, and it is like, wow, the guy, first of all, you drafted me. Second of all, you started me. Third of all, I went out there, and I gave you everything I had, and then you go out and say that. It’s unfortunate.”

It’s fair to say that the two won’t be exchanging Christmas cards anytime soon.

“No, I don’t care to speak to him again,” Smith said.
He could be busy preparing for another start. McAdoo said Smith didn’t do anything to lose the opportunity to start again in place of Eli Manning, who saw his string of 210 consecutive regular-season starts come to an end.

The Giants next play Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys. It could be another opportunity for McAdoo and the Giants to evaluate Smith.

Smith, 27, started slowly against the Raiders but flashed at times throughout the final three quarters. He led an impressive drive in the fourth quarter that was capped by a 10-yard touchdown laser to rookie tight end Evan Engram that drew the Giants within three. Overall, he was sufficient.

“We said we’re going to take it one week at a time, and these games are emotional,” McAdoo said. “So to stand up here and make a decision right here after the football game is not a good way to go about [naming a starter]. We’ll take a look at the tape first and put our heads together and see where we want to go with it.”