Eagles DT Jernigan could return vs. Saints

Philadelphia defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan could play for the first time this season on Sunday when the Eagles take on the New Orleans Saints.

“Still optimistic, we’ve got to get through today and tomorrow obviously with him and see where he’s at,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said before Friday’s practice. “It’s just a matter of day-by-day and getting through the practice and seeing where he’s at.”

Jernigan returned to practice last week for the first time since having surgery in April to repair a herniated disc in his back.

The Eagles must decide by Nov. 26 whether to activate Jernigan from the non-football injury list and add him to the 53-man roster. If they do not, he will not be allowed to play this season.

Jernigan, 26, tallied 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks and started 15 games in his first season in Philadelphia in 2017. He added two tackles during the postseason for the Super Bowl LII champions.

He spent the previous three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, who selected the Florida State product in the second round in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Pederson also said tight end Richard Rogers, who was also recently returned from injured reserve, is in the same boat as Jernigan.

Adding either or both would require the Eagles to make room on the roster. Cornerback Ronald Darby, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury recently, would be an obvious candidate.

Pederson was more confident in the return of right tackle Lane Johnson, who sat out last week with an MCL sprain, and cornerback Sidney Jones, who has missed three games with a hamstring injury.

“He’s a lot closer, he’s had a really good week of practice, feels a lot better health-wise,” Pederson said regarding Johnson’s status. “I would expect him to (play), yes.”

—Field Level Media

Nuggets name WNBA’s Bird to front office role

Veteran WNBA star Sue Bird will join the front office of the Denver Nuggets, the NBA team announced Friday.

She will have the title of basketball operation associate, according to Tim Connelly, the president of basketball operations.

“We are very excited to have Sue join our organization,” he said. “Her resume certainly speaks for itself and as a still active player she will offer an extremely unique perspective.”

Bird recently completed her 16th WNBA season, all with the Seattle Storm, who made her the No. 1 overall pick in the league’s 2002 draft. She is an 11-time All-Star and five-time All-WNBA first-team selection. She has won three WNBA titles and ranks first in the league in career games (508), first in career minutes played (16,173), first in assists (2,831), seventh in points (6,154), third in made three-pointers (855) and fifth in steals (652).

“I’m really excited to join the Denver Nuggets organization,” Bird, 38, said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity and look forward to learning from some of the best.”

—Field Level Media

Federer’s words of wisdom help Zverev see the light

LONDON (Reuters) – Shortly after German wunderkind Alexander Zverev trudged off court having lost to Chung Hyeon at this year’s Australian Open he was treated to a few kind words from Roger Federer.

Whatever the Swiss great said apparently had some effect because scroll forward to the end of the year and the 21-year-old tops the Tour match wins chart with 56.

He has three titles to his name this season, including winning a third Masters 1000 in Madrid, and on Saturday he will become the first German for 15 years to contest a semi-final match at the season-ending ATP Finals.

The man he will face is none other than 20-times Grand Slam champion Federer who is chasing a seventh ATP Finals crown.

World number five Zverev, now under the watchful eye of eight-times Grand Slam champion, and former coach to Andy Murray, Ivan Lendl, does not attribute his great season to Federer’s words of wisdom. But they certainly did no harm.

“That chat was more for then in that time. I was very upset about my third-round loss,” Zverev told reporters after his 7-6(5) 6-3 win over John Isner to seal a last-four spot.

“I had a tough match, another tough loss at a Grand Slam. He was more talking about that, that I shouldn’t get too upset. He made his first quarter-final much later in his career, as well.”

Zverev, tipped to lead tennis forward in the post Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Murray era, finally reached a Grand Slam quarter-final at this year’s French Open — at the 15th time of asking. Federer did it in his eighth.

There are signs, though, that Zverev is beginning to harness his natural power and foot speed into a complete package. Beating Federer on Saturday at the 02, one of the world’s biggest tennis stages, would send out a statement.

“It’s going to be a very difficult match,” Hamburg native Zverev, already beaten this week in group play by world number one Novak Djokovic, said.

“I mean, him on this surface, indoor court, he’s an unbelievable player.”

Former world number one Mats Wilander believes the appointment of Lendl could be a key decision for Zverev.

“He is going in the right direction,” the Swede told Reuters. “He’s made big steps in his ranking which is good and small steps in terms of his game. He is not panicking any more.

“There is still room for improvement. It won’t be overnight but it’s going to help him tremendously to have someone like Ivan with his experience. Lendl made just small changes with Murray and he ended up winning a bunch of majors.”

Zverev acknowledged there are areas to work on.

“All of you guys keep thinking that my forehand is absolute crap, to be honest,” he told reporters. “I don’t know why.

“Of course, it needs improvement. But every other shot in the book kind of needs improvement.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond

Zverev sets up tasty Federer clash at ATP Finals

LONDON (Reuters) – Alexander Zverev’s long-predicted arrival at the summit of men’s tennis is taking too long for some impatient observers but he took another significant step forward by beating John Isner to reach the last four at the ATP Finals on Friday.

His 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over the American meant the 21-year-old became the first German since Rainer Schuettler in 2003 to reach the semi-finals of the prestigious year-ending tournament and the youngest since Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in 2009.

Zverev’s second group victory earned him the runner-up spot behind world number one Novak Djokovic and he will now aim his range of baseline weapons at six-times champion Roger Federer in a Saturday afternoon clash of the generations.

“It’s obviously great getting to the semi-finals. But the tournament isn’t over,” Zverev, 21, said. “There’s only good opponents left. There’s only the best in the world.

“I don’t want to really be thinking about ‘I’m in the semi-finals now, I’m satisfied’. That’s not how I work.”

The other semi-final will be between five-times champion Djokovic, who beat Zverev comfortably earlier this week, and South African debutant Kevin Anderson.

Djokovic completed group play later on Friday when he beat Marin Cilic 7-6(7) 6-2 in a dead rubber to stay on course for the $2.7 million on offer for an undefeated champion.

Not easing up despite having sealed top spot in the group, Djokovic won 31 consecutive points on serve during the match.

  • Federer’s words of wisdom help Zverev see the light

REAL CONTENDER

While not a Grand Slam tournament — in which Zverev has yet to go beyond the quarter-final stage — the ATP Finals are regarded in some quarters as a ‘fifth’ major.

The floppy-haired, gold chain-wearing Zverev looked every bit a real contender for the game’s biggest prizes as he fired down 140mph serves and thrilled the packed crowd with spectacular groundstrokes, especially from his lethal backhand.

One Hollywood effort early in the second set, struck for a clean winner from almost in the front row seats, revealed the showman in Zverev as he conducted the rapturous applause.

There have been questions about his mental toughness including last year here in London when a loss to Jack Sock cost him a semi-final berth and this year at the Australian Open when, seeded four, he lost the fifth set of a third-round clash against fellow young gun Chung Hyeon 6-0.

But with Andy Murray’s former coach Ivan Lendl and strength conditioner Jez Green now in his team, Zverev, younger brother of experienced Tour player Mischa, appears to have developed a tougher streak to handle the big moments.

He faced a set point at 5-6 in the first set and survived it with a massive ace. Then, at 5-5 in the tiebreak with Isner throwing the kitchen sink at a return, he produced a superbly improvised shot, played on the half-volley from almost under his feet on the baseline, to catch his opponent by surprise.

Isner, whose hopes of reaching the semi-finals required a straight-sets win and a Djokovic victory over Cilic, netted a forehand to drop the set and there was only ever likely to be one outcome after that.

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Despite knowing his hopes were over, Isner remained competitive in the second set until dropping serve in the eighth game — the only break in a match of high-quality serving.

“If Sascha serves like that, he could have a very good shot at winning (against Federer),” Isner said. “I do believe it will be a very close match tomorrow between those two.”

Zverev last played Federer a year ago, losing in three sets at the O2 Arena, while Djokovic has beaten Anderson twice this year, most notably in the Wimbledon final — since when the Serb has been almost unbeatable, winning 34 of his last 36 matches.

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis/Ed Osmond/Ken Ferris

Lightning G Vasilevskiy out with broken foot

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy will miss four to six weeks with a fractured left foot, the team announced Friday.

Vasilevskiy suffered the injury during practice on Wednesday and was evaluated by doctors on Thursday.

Vasilevskiy, 24, is 9-3-1 with a 2.30 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 13 games this season.

Vasilevskiy was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalkeeper last season when he went 44-17-3 with a 2.62 GAA and .920 save percentage. He tied for the league high in victories and in shutouts (eight).

Louis Domingue will fill in as the primary starter during Vasilevskiy’s recovery period.

The 26-year-old Domingue is 4-2-0 with a 3.36 GAA and .890 save percentage in six games.

“I always said it would take a lot for this guy not to play, injury-wise,” Domingue said of Vasilevskiy. .”.. The guy is a horse and it’s pretty amazing to see. But it’s unfortunate how it happened, but that’s something that happened before on our team. We lost some big-time players and guys jumped in.”

Domingue was in goal for Thursday night’s 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. He made 28 saves.

Edward Pasquale was recalled from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Thursday to serve as the backup.

Pasquale, who turns 28 on Tuesday, has never appeared in an NHL game. He was 4-2-0 with a 2.85 GAA in seven games for Syracuse this season.

—Field Level Media

NFL notebook: Steelers actually secured Bell’s belongings

Unable to lock up Le’Veon Bell to a new contract, the Pittsburgh Steelers are making sure they at least lock up his belongings. Even if it is a day too late.

A day after video surfaced showing Steelers players purportedly raiding their former teammate’s locker, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Thursday that most of Bell’s items were actually “packed up and placed in the back of team headquarters, with former teammates scoring a few pairs of cleats and not much more during Wednesday’s raid.”

Bell did not sign his $14.5 million tender before Tuesday’s deadline and will sit out the remainder of the season. On Wednesday, teammates reportedly removed Bell’s nameplate from his locker and treated themselves to numerous items in his locker, including cleats, CDs, shirts and a suit.

But center and team captain Maurkice Pouncey told Fowler that Bell’s items will likely be shipped directly to Bell, which is customary when a player is no longer with a team.

—Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins returned to practice and there’s a “pretty good chance” he will play against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night, coach Andy Reid said.

Watkins, who played with the Rams last season, missed last Sunday’s win against the Arizona Cardinals with a foot injury.

Watkins has 39 receptions for 515 yards and three touchdowns this season, including 100-yard games against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 and the Denver Broncos in Week 8.

Linebacker Anthony Hitchens (ribs) also returned to practice. Center Mitch Morse (concussion) did not participate.

—Former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Tim Green, later a broadcaster for Fox Sports, was diagnosed with ALS.

“While the football field is far away, I find myself in a formidable struggle,” Green wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “For the past five years I’ve been coping with some neurological problems in my hands. At first the doctors thought the damage I’d done to my elbows in football was the culprit, so they operated to release the nerves, but the issue persisted and my voice began to weaken as well. That’s the only reason I’ve had to stop visiting schools to talk with kids. Finally, I was diagnosed with ALS.”

Green started 71 games in the NFL and retired in 1993. He worked for Fox and on Good Morning America, penned a book, “The Dark Side of the Game: My Life in the NFL,” and earned his law degree. Green was a two-time All-American at Syracuse and the 17th overall draft pick in 1986.

—The Indianapolis Colts signed former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins to their practice squad.

Collins, 25, has served multiple league suspensions since the Falcons drafted him in the second round out of LSU in 2015. Atlanta released him last November and he was suspended for the first 10 games in 2018. Collins has played in 24 games (eight starts) and registered 43 tackles and two interceptions.

In a corresponding move, the Colts released quarterback Phillip Walker from the practice squad.

—Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick, diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome before the start of the season, said he has regained feeling in his hands for the first time in months.

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“It’s starting to come back in my hands a little bit here, which is good,” the four-time Pro Bowl player told the Dallas Morning News. “Now it’s more just numbness, no tingling, and it’s more in the tips.”

Frederick, 27, said he still has no sensation in his feet, but he remains optimistic about a full recovery. He has been with the Cowboys since they drafted him in the first round out of Wisconsin in 2013. He started all 80 regular season games and three playoff games in his first five seasons.

—Field Level Media

Team owner Leonsis open to sports betting, but focused on wins

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For Ted Leonsis, seeing his basketball and ice hockey teams win is far better than any revenue that could come from legalized sports wagering.

“Winning a Stanley Cup, winning an NBA championship, is much more important than getting a piece of the handle,” he told Reuters in an interview on Thursday, referring to the total pot of wagers placed in a local market on sporting events.

Leagues, teams and players are considering whether and how to claim their piece of the emerging sports betting market in the wake of a May U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows states to legalize, regulate and tax the activity.

Several partnerships between leagues and companies have sprung up in recent weeks.

Leonsis, chief executive and majority owner of Monumental Sports Entertainment, said his company has invested in fantasy sports provider DraftKings Inc and data company Sportradar AG. MSE already owns Capital One Arena in downtown Washington, home to several of MSE’s professional teams, including the Capitals, winners of the National Hockey League’s 2018 Stanley Cup.

MSE also owns the National Basketball Association’s Wizards team, Women’s National Basketball Association’s Mystics team, and other assets.

The company may start charging fans for game data, Leonsis suggested. “Why are we giving all of this information for free?”

Leonsis said he would not want to be seen as interfering with coaching decisions by controlling betting odds and spreads.

“I don’t ever, ever want somebody coming up to me and saying, ‘You rested this player for the playoffs and the coach pulled the starters and you didn’t cover the line,’” he told Reuters after a sports-betting conference co-sponsored by Sportradar.

“That’s why you don’t want to touch the money,” he said. “But I could see us partnering with a DraftKings, or an MGM, with a FanDuel. They’ll have the book, they’ll stand behind the money, and we would activate it and promote it.”

Casino operator MGM Resorts International has partnered with the NBA and NHL as an official sports betting partner. The NHL has partnered with fantasy sports provider and bookmaker FanDuel Group, a unit of Paddy Power Betfair PLC, which has also struck a deal with an NHL team, the New Jersey Devils.

“We want to put a lot of chips on a lot of tables because we don’t know what the final answer is,” Leonsis added. “And this pie, as it grows, it’s big enough to generate a lot of revenues for a lot of companies.”

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Additional reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Richard Chang

Mookie Betts crowned AL MVP winner

Mookie Betts added an American League Most Valuable Player trophy to his World Series championship on Thursday.

The Boston Red Sox right fielder was a runaway MVP winner in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, beating runner-up Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and third-place finisher Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians.

Betts garnered 28 of the 30 first-place votes, with the others going to Trout and to fourth-place finisher J.D. Martinez of the Red Sox.

Betts, who was listed second on the two ballots in which he wasn’t listed first, wound up with 410 points in the voting. Trout, who got 24 second-place votes, had 265 points. Ramirez, who got one second-place vote, 10 third-place votes and 11 third-place votes, had 208 points.

Betts, 26, led the AL with a .346 batting average, a .640 slugging percentage and 129 runs. His .438 on-base percentage ranked second to Trout’s .460 mark. He displayed power and speed, hitting 32 home runs and stealing 30 bases.

“It means a lot,” Betts said on MLB Network of winning his first MVP honor. “Definitely a special award. Something I’ll cherish. The most important thing is we won a World Series and got to bring a trophy back to Boston.”

He spoke while holding his 9-day-old daughter, Kinley, who slept through the cheering that went up when Betts’ name was announced as the winner. The baby’s birth came days after the Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games to win the World Series.

“It’s been a pretty good 2018,” he said. “I’ll enjoy these moments while I can. In 2019, hopefully we can make it better.”

Betts is the first Red Sox MVP winner since Dustin Pedroia in 2008. The list of Red Sox MVPs also includes Mo Vaughn (1995), Roger Clemens (1986), Jim Rice (1978), Fred Lynn (1975), Carl Yastrzemski (1967), Jackie Jensen (1958), Ted Williams (1946, ‘49), Jimmie Foxx (1938) and Tris Speaker (1912).

Trout, the 2014 and ‘16 AL MVP, wound up in second place for a record-tying fourth time. The other four-time runners-up were Stan Musial (a three-time MVP), Williams (a two-time MVP) and Albert Pujols (a three-time MVP).

A right fielder won AL MVP for the 11th time, but for the first time since Vladimir Guerrero was honored in 2004.

—Field Level Media

NBA roundup: Harden, Rockets top depleted Warriors

James Harden scored 12 of his team-high 27 points in the third quarter, and the Houston Rockets rode a balanced offensive attack to a 107-86 victory over the visiting Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

Harden shot just 8 of 23 overall but was 3 of 5 in the third, including 2 of 4 from behind the arc. His steady play in that frame provided cover for a ragged shooting effort from the Rockets, at least until Houston opened the final period with an 18-2 run that extended the lead to 97-65.

James Ennis III chipped in 19 points while Eric Gordon scored 17 off the bench for the Rockets, who announced pregame that they have parted ways with veteran forward Carmelo Anthony.

Kevin Durant paced the Warriors with 20 points but produced only two assists. With guard Stephen Curry sidelined for a fourth consecutive game with a groin injury, Golden State appeared disoriented on offense. Its defense, solid for most of the game, finally wilted late.

Nuggets 138, Hawks 93

Juancho Hernangomez scored a season-high 25 points, Paul Millsap had 18 points and nine rebounds against his former team, and host Denver routed Atlanta. The Nuggets had seven players score in double figures while posting their biggest winning margin this season.

Gary Harris also scored 18 points, and Nikola Jokic had 12 points and nine rebounds to help Denver end a four-game losing streak.

Jeremy Lin scored 16 points and Kent Bazemore had 14 for Atlanta. The Hawks have lost six in a row and 10 of their past 11. They had won three straight in Denver before Thursday.

Clippers 116, Spurs 111

Lou Williams scored 23 points off the bench, including nine over the final four minutes, and Danilo Gallinari added 19 as Los Angeles held off visiting San Antonio down the stretch.

The Clippers have now won five of their last six games, including consecutive home victories over the Golden State Warriors, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Spurs. Los Angeles also has won its past seven home games. The Spurs lost their third consecutive game, all on the road, and have dropped five of their past six.

Los Angeles-area native DeMar DeRozan scored 34 points for San Antonio, the ninth time in 14 games he has scored at least 25 points. Rudy Gay added 19 points for the Spurs.

Field Level Media

Golf: Grillo leads in Japan as Koepka fights back at Dunlop Phoenix

(Reuters) – Argentine Emiliano Grillo grabbed the halfway lead in persistent rain as two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka rallied late to stay within striking distance after the second round of the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in Japan on Friday.

Grillo shone in gloomy conditions, shooting a second consecutive four-under-par 67 at Phoenix Country Club in the southern city of Miyazaki.

The 26-year-old posted an eight-under 134 total, one stroke better than Japan’s Yuki Inamori (68) after 36 holes of the Japan Golf Tour event.

Koepka (68) trod water for much of the day, before vaulting within three shots of the lead thanks to consecutive birdies on the final three holes.

First round leader Koumei Oda, however, had a day to forget as he plunged five shots behind after a 73.

Leader Grillo, the world number 48, has been in good form recently, tying for second at the PGA Tour CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur last month, before tying for 14th at the WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai two weeks later.

Koepka, meanwhile, was going the wrong way after a bogey at the 12th, a lapse he attempted to rectify with an aggressive play on the short par-four 13th, where he tried to drive the green.

His tee shot, however, clattered around in the trees guarding the dog-leg, before nestling in a precarious spot on pine needles adjacent to the green.

He somehow threaded his recovery pitch shot through the trees to the edge of the green and proceeded to save par, but bogeyed the next hole before fighting back with the hat-trick of late birdies.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Tokyo; Editing by John O’Brien