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Sources: Ravens fear Edwards, Peters tore ACLs

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens fear they lost running back Gus Edwards and cornerback Marcus Peters to season-ending knee injuries Thursday, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Ravens believe Edwards and Peters tore their ACLs during Thursday’s practice, sources tell Schefter. Both players are undergoing testing to confirm the initial diagnosis.

This continues a horrid run of injuries for Baltimore and delivers a major blow to the Ravens’ Super Bowl aspirations.

Edwards becomes the third running back to suffer a season-ending injury in a span of 12 days. J.K. Dobbins tore the ACL in his left knee the preseason finale Aug. 28, and Justice Hill hurt an Achilles tendon Sept. 9.

Ty’Son Williams, a practice player from a year ago who doesn’t have an NFL carry, becomes the Ravens’ lead back. The other two running backs on the roster — Trenton Cannon and Le’Veon Bell (practice squad) — only started practicing with the Ravens on Wednesday.

The loss of Peters would represent the most significant injury to the defense this year. The Ravens have depth at cornerback, but it will be difficult to replace Peters’ playmaking ability. His 31 interceptions leads the NFL since he entered the league in 2015.

Anthony Averett, a fourth-round pick in 2018, would be a candidate to replace Peters and start opposite Marlon Humphrey.

The Ravens open the season at the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football.

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Reed ‘likes’ disparaging tweets aimed at Stricker

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Steve Stricker’s at-large picks for his U.S. Ryder Cup team did not include Patrick Reed, one of the few American players with a winning record in the competition that has frustratingly seen Europe capture nine of the last 12 events.

The decision drew plenty of complaints on social media and a good bit of support for Reed, the 2018 Masters champion who has been dubbed “Captain America” and relished his role in the U.S. Cup competitions.

Several of the tweets were critical of Stricker, one referring to him as a “coward,” and others basically chiding the captain for leaving Reed out. Reed or whoever runs his Twitter account “liked” more than a dozen of those tweets, including the ones that were disparaging of Stricker.

He has not tweeted since the start of the Tour Championship last week.

Reed, 31, is a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour who has been involved in several rules controversies. He also chided the decision in the aftermath of the 2018 Ryder Cup in France that separated him from partner Jordan Spieth — a decision that Reed said caught him by surprise.

Last month, Reed was hospitalized with bilateral pneumonia and said at the Tour Championship his life was in danger. He was able to play — he tied for 17th in the Atlanta — but was forced to drive from his home in Houston to Atlanta because doctors feared flying would be difficult on his lungs.

“Patrick Reed … that was a very, very difficult call,” Stricker said. “Kind of lost sleep over that one. He’s a tremendous competitor. He brings a lot of match-play golf. His record at the Ryder Cup is pretty darned good. It was a very difficult call. It was just the uncertainty of his health and really the lack of play that led to our decision down the stretch.”

Reed has a 7-3-2 record in three Ryder Cup appearances, with three singles victories. But none of his team victories came without Spieth, who played all four team matches in France with Justin Thomas.

Reed went 1-2 in France and was 1-3 in Melbourne at the 2019 Ryder Cup.

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Saints complete trade for CB Roby, sources say

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The New Orleans Saints have finalized their trade for cornerback Bradley Roby, sending a 2022 third-round draft pick and a 2023 conditional pick to the Houston Texans, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

In order to facilitate a trade to the Saints, the Texans converted $7.6 million of Roby’s base salary into a signing bonus, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates. When Roby officially gets traded to New Orleans, his base salary for 2021 is now $1,862,645, which fits into the Saints’ salary-cap space.

Roby was a first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2014. He spent the past two years in Houston and has started 49 career games with 10 interceptions.

The 29-year-old Roby is entering the second year of a three-year, $31.5 million extension that he signed with the Texans last year. He will miss the first game of the season, however, as part of a six-game suspension that began in 2020 for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The Saints have identified cornerback as a “must-fill” position ever since they released former starter Janoris Jenkins in March as part of a massive salary-cap purge and then lost one potential starting contender, Patrick Robinson, to a surprise retirement early in training camp. They even attempted to trade up nearly 20 spots in the NFL draft to land top prospects Jaycee Horn or Pat Surtain II.

New Orleans signed veteran Desmond Trufant on Monday to compete with Ken Crawley and rookie Paulson Adebo for the No. 2 starting cornerback job across from Pro Bowler Marshon Lattimore. However, Roby now becomes the front-runner to lock down that job following his suspension.

ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report.

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Giraffe named after QB Burrow dies after illness

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A young giraffe named after Cincinnati Bengals quarterback and former LSU star Joe Burrow died Wednesday, a day after falling ill.

Officials at the Baton Rouge Zoo said in a release Thursday that the 20-month-old giraffe named Burreaux had died after developing a sudden onset of symptoms Tuesday, including a severe cough and overall agitation.

“The Zoo’s veterinary staff took immediate measures to help, including swiftly administering medications to stabilize,” the statement said. “As well, he underwent constant staff evaluation to optimize his chances of recovery. The Zoo’s team reached out to numerous zoological veterinarians throughout the nation — none of which had experienced a giraffe with comparable symptoms.”

The Burreaux name had been chosen in a fundraiser run by the zoo and came after Burrow spelled it that way on the back of his jersey for the Tigers’ Senior Night in 2019.

The zoo said an LSU veterinary team has performed a necropsy to determine the possible cause of death. The official results are expected in about 30 days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Olympic gold medalist Steveson signs with WWE

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Gable Steveson, the heavyweight freestyle wrestler who won a gold medal at the Olympics last month, has signed a multiyear deal with WWE, Stevenson told ESPN.

The 21-year-old signed an NIL deal with WWE that will allow him to attend University of Minnesota for his senior year and defend the Division I National Championship at heavyweight. WWE will set up a remote training facility for Steveson near campus where he’ll be able to learn the finer points of in-ring work with WWE coaches.

He’ll also have access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, where his brother, Bobby Steveson, currently trains. After Gable graduates in May, his multi-year talent contract with WWE begins; he’ll be a full-time performer with the company (but also appear on WWE programming during the school year.)

“I’ve been on WWE since I was really young,” said Stevenson, WWE’s first gold medalist since Kurt Angle. “I was on guys like Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman for a very long time. So growing up watching them, me being an entertainer on the wrestling mat, it just felt like it was the right choice.”

The 6-foot-1, 265-pound Stevenson held talks with the UFC and also contemplated pursuing a career in the NFL; he was a hot commodity coming off the Olympic gold-medal win in Tokyo, a last-second victory over Geno Petriashvili that he celebrated with a backflip.

Sources told ESPN’s Marc Raimondi the UFC wanted Stevenson to gain experience on the regional MMA scene before potentially bringing him onto Dana White’s Contender Series to compete for a contract. The formula would have been similar to what the UFC did with former NFL All-Pro Greg Hardy. Stevenson said “we never talked about that so I have no clue.”

“We all saw his physical ability prior to and at the Olympics,” said Nick Khan, WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer. “What we also saw was that Gable has as much charisma as he does ability. Marketability and ability are both of great importance to us.”

“This is just the starting line and nowhere close to the finish line,” Khan added. “So our investment is based on how much we think of Gable now and how much bigger we think he can become.”

WWE has a rich history of transforming top freestyle wrestlers into main-event Superstars. Angle won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and parlayed that success into a long run as both a WWE champion and headline act. Lesnar, who like Stevenson, won the national championship at the University of Minnesota, is currently signed with WWE where he’s featured as one of the biggest stars in the company.

Stevenson calls the former UFC heavyweight champion a “great mentor to me,” and envisions a WrestleMania match against Lesnar in the not-too-distant future.

“Being able to learn how to take bumps and with the wrestling background I have right now, I think I can adapt to all of it really quick,” Stevenson said. “I think with the charisma and the confidence and the attitude that I bring to the wrestling mat, it will translate over to the WWE really fast and I feel that I can … go on screen and have a good role and know what to do perfectly.”

In the meantime, Gable will focus on the college wrestling mat, where he’ll defend his national championship while completing his studies. He grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota, watching Triple H spit water in the air at WrestleMania as a member of D-Generation X. Now, he’ll learn the craft of a WWE Superstar, and that same man will be integral to his development.

“Gable impressed us well before he became a U.S. Olympic gold medalist,” said Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE EVP, Global Talent Strategy & Development. “He has all the tools to be a generational talent: a world-class athlete with size, speed, determination – and the ability to captivate an audience with his incredible charisma.

“The introduction of NIL allows us to create a more direct path from college to WWE, a benefit to athletes as well as the WWE Universe as Gable will have an immediate presence with our company while working towards earning his degree and defending his national championship. The future is bright for him in WWE.”

Stevenson said his breakthrough moment “might come sooner than you think.” And as for that all-important finishing move?

“I think I got one in mind,” he said. ” … It’s crazy how long I’ve been following them and now I’ve reached that point where I’m going to be walking out in front of WrestleManias and SummerSlams and people are going to do my signature look when I’m an old man, too.”

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Olympic gold medalist Stevenson signs with WWE

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Gable Stevenson, the heavyweight freestyle wrestler who won a gold medal at the Olympics last month, has signed a multi-year deal with WWE, Stevenson told ESPN.

The 21-year-old signed an NIL deal with WWE that will allow him to attend University of Minnesota for his senior year and defend the Division I National Championship at heavyweight. WWE will set up a remote training facility for Stevenson near campus where he’ll be able to learn the finer points of in-ring work with WWE coaches.

He’ll also have access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, where his brother, Bobby Stevenson, currently trains. After Gable graduates in May, his multi-year talent contract with WWE begins; he’ll be a full-time performer with the company (but also appear on WWE programming during the school year.)

“I’ve been on WWE since I was really young,” said Stevenson, WWE’s first gold medalist since Kurt Angle. “I was on guys like Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman for a very long time. So growing up watching them, me being an entertainer on the wrestling mat, it just felt like it was the right choice.”

The 6-foot-1, 265-pound Stevenson held talks with the UFC and also contemplated pursuing a career in the NFL; he was a hot commodity coming off the Olympic gold-medal win in Tokyo, a last-second victory over Geno Petriashvili that he celebrated with a backflip.

Sources told ESPN’s Marc Raimondi the UFC wanted Stevenson to gain experience on the regional MMA scene before potentially bringing him onto Dana White’s Contender Series to compete for a contract. The formula would have been similar to what the UFC did with former NFL All-Pro Greg Hardy. Stevenson said “we never talked about that so I have no clue.”

“We all saw his physical ability prior to and at the Olympics,” said Nick Khan, WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer. “What we also saw was that Gable has as much charisma as he does ability. Marketability and ability are both of great importance to us.”

“This is just the starting line and nowhere close to the finish line,” Khan added. “So our investment is based on how much we think of Gable now and how much bigger we think he can become.”

WWE has a rich history of transforming top freestyle wrestlers into main-event Superstars. Angle won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and parlayed that success into a long run as both a WWE champion and headline act. Lesnar, who like Stevenson, won the national championship at the University of Minnesota, is currently signed with WWE where he’s featured as one of the biggest stars in the company.

Stevenson calls the former UFC heavyweight champion a “great mentor to me,” and envisions a WrestleMania match against Lesnar in the not-too-distant future.

“Being able to learn how to take bumps and with the wrestling background I have right now, I think I can adapt to all of it really quick,” Stevenson said. “I think with the charisma and the confidence and the attitude that I bring to the wrestling mat, it will translate over to the WWE really fast and I feel that I can … go on screen and have a good role and know what to do perfectly.”

In the meantime, Gable will focus on the college wrestling mat, where he’ll defend his national championship while completing his studies. He grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota, watching Triple H spit water in the air at WrestleMania as a member of D-Generation X. Now, he’ll learn the craft of a WWE Superstar, and that same man will be integral to his development.

“Gable impressed us well before he became a U.S. Olympic gold medalist,” said Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE EVP, Global Talent Strategy & Development. “He has all the tools to be a generational talent: a world-class athlete with size, speed, determination – and the ability to captivate an audience with his incredible charisma.

“The introduction of NIL allows us to create a more direct path from college to WWE, a benefit to athletes as well as the WWE Universe as Gable will have an immediate presence with our company while working towards earning his degree and defending his national championship. The future is bright for him in WWE.”

Stevenson said his breakthrough moment “might come sooner than you think.” And as for that all-important finishing move?

“I think I got one in mind,” he said. ” … It’s crazy how long I’ve been following them and now I’ve reached that point where I’m going to be walking out in front of WrestleManias and SummerSlams and people are going to do my signature look when I’m an old man, too.”

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Wilson, Darnold focus on opener, not each other

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Zach Wilson and Sam Darnold met for the first time last offseason at a training facility in San Clemente, California, Darnold’s hometown. At the time, Darnold still was the New York Jets‘ quarterback.

Their next meeting will have greater meaning.

On Sunday, Wilson will face his predecessor, now the Carolina Panthers‘ starter, in a season opener thick with storylines. Both players insisted Wednesday they’re not focused on outdoing the other.

“That’s definitely not something I think about,” Wilson said. “He’s doing his own thing now. He’s got a great situation going for him. I think the organization already decided to go one way, and it’s not because Sam isn’t a good football player. It’s just that they wanted a fresh start.”

Darnold, speaking to reporters in Charlotte, North Carolina, downplayed the significance of the matchup. When it was suggested that it’s not just another game, Darnold replied, “But it is.”

After months of speculation, the Jets traded Darnold to the Panthers on April 5, receiving in return a 2021 sixth-round pick, plus second- and fourth-round picks in 2022. It was a major, if not stunning shift by the Jets, who drafted Darnold third overall in 2018. They once considered him their long-term answer, but he struggled last season. With a new coaching staff in 2021, they decided to start over.

At the time of the trade, they already were focused on Wilson, whom they wound up picking second overall. The Jets actually considered keeping Darnold and drafting Wilson.

“(That idea) went pretty far,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “Obviously, you see how far in the process Sam was traded. I’ll go ahead and say it: We pretty much knew we were taking the young kid, so the discussion with Sam was if somebody was going to make an offer we couldn’t refuse.”

Wilson has impressed on an off the field. On Wednesday, he was announced as one of their five permanent captains, as voted by the players. It’s unusual for a rookie to receive that honor. In 2018, Darnold wasn’t a rookie captain.

“It’s a role to take seriously,” Wilson said.

Saleh took notice upon receiving the voting results.

“I was like, ‘Oh, look at that,'” he said. “I think it’s more of a testament to him, the way he has been able to conduct himself here. You go to the cafeteria and he’s hanging out with the O-linemen. He’s got an infectious personality. It’s a credit to him and the way he’s handled himself so far.”

When Wilson and Darnold met before the draft, they had no idea their careers would be intertwined. They exchanged pleasantries that day in California.

“He’s a super-cool guy,” Wilson said. “We just talked about life in the NFL.”

Darnold admitted after the trade that he was stung by the move, saying he always envisioned his entire career with the Jets. Now he has a chance for a small measure of redemption.

“Honestly, we’re all excited in the locker room to play football — play in front of a crowd, especially here in Charlotte,” he said. “Just to have the fans back that’s amazing. We’ve all been looking forward to it a really long time. I’m excited to play the Jets and see what this football team can do. I’m excited to just play consistent and play within myself.”

NFL Nation Panthers reporter David Newton contributed to this report.

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WCWS gets NCAA OK to expand to 9-day event

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The Women’s College World Series will expand to a nine-day event beginning in 2022, the NCAA announced on Wednesday.

The event’s expansion by two days eliminates the need for doubleheaders for teams that lose on the first day of the tournament.

Teams that advance to the finals will also get an extra day’s rest.

Sandy Atkins, the committee chair and deputy director of athletics at Troy, said in a statement that the new format prioritizes players’ “rest, recovery and preparation” while also allowing for more options when it comes to potential weather delays.

“The engagement from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, particularly the active coaches who have participated in the Women’s College World Series, helped identify the day off before the championship series and minimizing doubleheaders as key recommendations to improve the championship,” Atkins said.

“That focused feedback helped us narrow in on this alternative format that targets those priorities, while still preserving the format components that allow for a competitive series and quality experience for teams and fans.”

Softball coaches have long suggested extending the tournament much like the Men’s College World Series, during which teams usually have a day off between games.

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Texas NAACP files complaint over school song

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AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas chapter of the NAACP and a group of students have filed a federal civil rights complaint against the University of Texas for its continued use of school song “The Eyes of Texas,” which has racist elements in its past.

The complaint filed Sept. 3 with the U.S. Department of Education alleges that Black students, athletes, band members, faculty and alumni are being subjected to violations of the Civil Rights Act and a hostile campus environment over the “offensive,” “disrespectful” and “aggressive” use of the song.

The NAACP and the students want the federal government to withhold funding from the university.

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP and a Texas law school graduate, on Wednesday sharply criticized Texas for requiring the Longhorn Band to play the song at athletic events, and expecting athletes to stand and sing it after games.

“It’s like slave owners making slaves buck dance for their entertainment,” Bledsoe said.

The song was played before and after Saturday’s season-opening football win over Louisiana-Lafayette and was given a full-throated sing-along by a crowd of about 80,000. Many Texas players gathered near the band during the song, as has been tradition for decades.

First-year football coach Steve Sarkisian has said the team will sing the song.

The complaint, which includes statements from several anonymous students, alleges those who oppose the song on campus are being harassed and that Black students feel “humiliated” whenever it is played or sung.

A university spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The Eyes of Texas” was written in 1903 and has a history of performances in minstrel shows with musicians often in blackface. For decades, it has been sung after games and graduation ceremonies, and is a popular sing-along at weddings and even funerals.

Last year, a group of athletes and students called for the school to drop the song amid racial injustice protests after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

School President Jay Hartzell, with the full backing of the university’s Board of Regents, said the song will stay and a school research panel determined there was “no racist intent” behind it.

In April, the university announced the school would create a separate band in 2022 for students who don’t want to play “The Eyes of Texas.”

The complaint argues that forcing students who object to the song into a different band is an attempt to create a “separate but equal” alternative that violates constitutional equal protection standards.

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Coach: Till entered Brunson fight with torn ACL

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UFC middleweight Darren Till went into his main event bout against Derek Brunson last weekend with a torn ACL in his right knee, his head coach confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday.

According to Till’s head coach Colin Heron, Till (18-4-1) completely tore his ACL approximately nine weeks before the fight. The 28-year-old elected to proceed with the fight for a multitude of reasons, despite contrary advice from physicians and Heron. Till ultimately lost to Brunson via submission in the third round, in a grappling heavy affair.

“It happened about nine weeks out, wrestling,” Heron told ESPN. “We got it scanned, looked at properly. The results came back as a completely torn ACL. So, he’s out, isn’t he? That was the advice from me and the doctors. Rest. You can’t do nothing. Surgery is a must. No running, no fast movement, no impact.

“Darren being Darren, he said, ‘Can we give it two weeks and see if I can start running and hit pads?’ And I’m like, ‘No, not really. A torn ACL doesn’t get better by itself. You’re talking surgery and then six months of rehab alone.’ But before you know it he’s talked me into it, as he does. I’ve really only got one option, then: support him, whatever his decision is. If he’s not going to take my advice, I’ve got to stick with him. I can’t disown him. We made the best of it that we could.”

Till, of Liverpool, is still in Las Vegas, where the fight against Brunson took place. He is scheduled to undergo a scan Wednesday, to assess whether he suffered any more damage to either knee during the fight. Heron said a surgery date has not yet been scheduled, but he expects Till to undergo a procedure to repair the knee “the quickest they’re able to.”

Prior to last weekend, Till had not fought since October 2020. He suffered an injury to his right knee during a unanimous decision loss to Robert Whittaker. Till was also forced to pull out of a scheduled bout against Marvin Vettori in April, due to a broken collarbone.

“You can’t criticize his bravery, you can only criticize the decision — the gamble that didn’t pay off,” Heron said. “A lot impacted this. He hadn’t fought in awhile. Then next thing we know, a card was built around him. The rumor was it was going to be in London, and if there was no Till in the main event, there might not be a card at all. He had teammates who wanted to fight on that card. That’s a lot of pressure. He’s one of those guys who says, ‘F— it. Let’s do it.'”

There is no current timeframe for Till’s return. Typical recovery from a torn ACL usually ranges between nine and 12 months.

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