The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Big names with huge impacts — by not playing.The NFL could put together a talent-packed all-star team of players who missed most or all of this season because of significant injuries or coronavirus opt-outs.From Dak Prescott to Christian McCaffrey to Saquon Barkley to Odell Beckham Jr., this All-Absent Team has enough star power and playmakers that it might beat some actual NFL squads — the Jets and Jaguars? — right now.Bad shoulders, knees and all.Here’s a position-by-position look at this year’s star-studded squad, which includes players who have participated in half of their team’s games or less this season — while also likely ruining some fantasy owners’ fortunes in the process:QUARTERBACK— Dak Prescott, Cowboys. He was off to a fast start, becoming the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 450 yards in three straight games. But he suffered a compound fracture and dislocated right ankle in Week 5 against the Giants and missed the rest of the season. Prescott signed a $31.4 million franchise tag before the season, and the Cowboys can do so again this off-season if they don’t agree to a long-term deal.— Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers. A year ago, Jimmy G was leading San Francisco on a Super Bowl run. Now, there are questions about his future with the 49ers. Garoppolo played just six games because of two high ankle sprains, and wasn’t playing particularly well when he was healthy. He’s scheduled to count $26.9 million against San Francisco’s salary cap next season and $27 million in 2022.RUNNING BACK— Christian McCaffrey, Panthers. The 2019 All-Pro was a popular No. 1 overall pick among fantasy owners, and for good reason. He was the third player to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season and it earned him a four-year, $64 million contract extension that made him the highest-paid running back in NFL history. But he was limited to six games, first because of a high ankle sprain, then a shoulder sprain and then a hip ailment.— Saquon Barkley, Giants. His season lasted just six quarters as he tore the ACL in his right knee in Week 2 against Chicago and had the meniscus repaired, too. His loss was a big blow to first-year coach Joe Judge and quarterback Daniel Jones — and those who drafted him high in their fantasy leagues.— Joe Mixon, Bengals. Cincinnati was excited about teaming the running back with No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. But both got hurt and ended the season on IR. Mixon played only six games because of a foot injury.WIDE RECEIVER— Odell Beckham Jr., Browns. Cleveland has a chance to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and could do it without one of the league’s most dynamic receivers. Beckham played in only seven games before a torn ACL put him on the sideline for the rest of the season.— Julian Edelman, Patriots. The 2019 Super Bowl MVP had 13 catches for 236 yards in his first two games before slowing considerably with just eight receptions in his next four games. Edelman was placed on IR with a knee injury on Oct. 31 and won’t be back this season — and maybe not again for New England. The 34-year-old receiver could be an off-season cap casualty.— Courtland Sutton, Broncos. He had a breakout second season last year with 72 receptions for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns. But Sutton missed the season opener with a shoulder injury, returned in Week 2 and had three catches before tearing an ACL.TIGHT END— George Kittle, 49ers. He returned last week and had four catches for 92 yards after missing six games with a broken foot. He also sat out the first two games with a knee injury, so it has been a bit of a lost season for the league’s highest-paid tight end.OFFENSIVE LINE— Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, guard, Chiefs. The first NFL player to opt out for the season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Coming off a Super Bowl win, Duvernay-Tardiff — who has a doctorate in medicine — worked at a long-term care facility during the pandemic.— Larry Warford, guard, Free Agent. He was one of the most sought-after offensive linemen after being released by New Orleans in the off-season, but decided instead to opt out over COVID-19 concerns.—Mike Pouncey, centre, Chargers. The four-time Pro Bowl selection missed the entire season after having hip surgery in September.— Tyron Smith, offensive tackle, Cowboys. The two-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl pick played in only two games before having season-ending surgery on his neck.— Nate Solder, offensive tackle, Giants. Another O-lineman who opted out due to family concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.— Taylor Lewan, offensive tackle, Titans. The three-time Pro Bowl selection was lost for the season when he tore an ACL in Week 6.DEFENSIVE LINE— Nick Bosa, 49ers. Last season’s AP Defensive Rookie of the Year played in only three games before tearing his ACL and being sidelined for the rest of the season. Linemate Solomon Thomas also was lost for the season with the same injury, two plays after Bosa was hurt in Week 3.— Jadeveon Clowney, Titans. Where he’d end up was an ongoing storyline throughout the off-season and training camp before he finally signed with Tennessee right before the season. He played just eight games because of a knee injury with no sacks, and will be a free agent again this off-season.— Danielle Hunter, Vikings. One of the league’s most consistently productive pass rushers — he had 48 1/2 sacks the last four seasons — missed all of this year after having surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck before the opener.— Jurrell Casey, Broncos. His first season in Denver after nine in Tennessee was limited to three games because of a torn biceps.— Josh Allen, Jaguars. An impressive rookie season was capped by a Pro Bowl appearance. But his second season ended after just eight games — and only 2 1/2 sacks — because of a knee injury.LINEBACKER— Von Miller, Broncos. The three-time All-Pro dealt with COVID-19 in the off-season, then dislocated an ankle tendon a week before the opener and has missed the entire season. His 10-year run in Denver could be over, too, since the Broncos could save $18 million on the cap by releasing him.— C.J. Mosley, Jets. The middle linebacker opted out of this season, citing family concerns about the coronavirus. Since signing a five-year, $85 million deal with New York in March 2019, Mosley has played in just two games.— Dont’a Hightower, Patriots. Like Mosley, Hightower was an opt-out for the season, and New England’s defence sorely missed him.— Chandler Jones, Cardinals. After a career-high 19 sacks last season, Jones had just one in five games before suffering a torn biceps.CORNERBACK— Richard Sherman, 49ers. The three-time All-Pro missed nine games after injuring his calf in the season opener, and played in four more games before dealing with calf soreness that will keep him out of the final two games. He’s due to become a free agent in the off-season.— Trae Waynes, Bengals. He signed a three-year, $42 million contract with Cincinnati, but tore a pectoral muscle early in training camp and missed the entire season.SAFETY— Earl Thomas, Free Agent. The three-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection hasn’t played this season after being released by Baltimore in training camp for behaviour that “adversely affected” the team — including punching then-teammate Chuck Clark during practice.— Patrick Chung, Patriots. One of Bill Belichick’s most consistent and productive performers on defence was one of New England’s NFL-high eight players to opt out for the season because of the pandemic.— Landon Collins, Washington. The playmaking safety played in seven games before tearing his Achilles.KICKER— Josh Lambo, Jaguars. He injured his hip in Week 2 and missed five games before returning in October. Lambo kicked a career-best 59-yard field goal, tying the Jacksonville record, but later re-injured his hip on an onside kick attempt and was lost for the season.— Adam Vinatieri, Free Agent. Sure, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,673 points is 48 and had his lowest field-goal percentage of his career (68%) last year with Indianapolis, but it seemed as though he’d kick forever.PUNTER— Chris Jones, Cowboys. A core muscle injury that required surgery limited the longtime Dallas punter to just eight games.___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFLDennis Waszak Jr., The Associated Press
The absurdity of medal ceremony mask-wearing at the Tokyo Olympics – Yahoo Canada Sports
TOKYO — The International Olympic Committee on Sunday reminded athletes to keep wearing masks, especially at the one time when mask-wearing is completely unnecessary.
Dozens of athletes have now stepped up onto podiums here at the Olympics. They’ve draped medals around their necks, and listened to national anthems, with nobody within six feet of them. And in perhaps the proudest moment of their lives, with emotions washing over their faces, their families, forced to watch from home, haven’t been able to see those faces, because they’re covered by masks.
And when pictures circulated of a few swimmers posing on podiums with masks off?
A reporter asked IOC spokesman Mark Adams whether there’d been a relaxation of COVID-19 rules that require mask-wearing during medal ceremonies. “There is no relaxation,” Adams responded. “We would urge and ask everyone to obey the rules.”
But at the Tokyo Aquatics Center on Sunday, Olympic officials made a mockery of those rules. A non-story became a story because pictures circulated of swimmers arm in arm with masks off. But multiple athletes said after their competitions that they’d been directed to remove their masks for photos.
“Someone in the front was holding a sign that said, ‘Don’t wear a mask,’” said gold medal-winning American swimmer Chase Kalisz. “So, um, I can’t speak for what the proper protocol was, but he had a sign that said ‘mask off’ and ‘mask on.’”
Hours later, silver medal-winning Canadian diver Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu confirmed: “At one point they said to take off masks for a picture.”
And then, after the medal ceremonies, swimmers and divers alike paraded around the pool deck, stopping for more pictures, arm in arm with their fellow medalists, masks sometimes on, sometimes off. They hugged coaches. One German diver put her mask on the ground, then in a pocket.
There are all sorts of protocol violations here. On the first night of competition, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe took her mask off for an interview with a dozen reporters in the post-match mixed zone. On Sunday, Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui lined up for an impromptu video interview against a wall outside the Aquatics Center after his improbable gold medal. Reporters surround him. A Tunisian Olympic committee official literally pulled Hafnaoui’s mask off, so cameras could see his beautiful face.
Protocols are enforced inconsistently. And yet, at the most prominent moment of virtually zero danger, with swimmers who’ll soon hug maskless separated by several feet, and with nobody in their immediate line of breath, the IOC and Tokyo organizers have decided that they must wear masks. At most of more than a dozen medal ceremonies tracked by Yahoo Sports thus far, including those in archery, judo, taekwondo and fencing, athletes have been masked up.
There is an argument that doing so models proper behavior, and perhaps that’s what Adams, the IOC spokesman, meant when he said that mask-wearing “sends a strong message.” But there is an obvious counterargument, that behavior modeling must be reasonable, or else the world will see it for what it is: all for show. Hygiene theater is prevalent at these Olympics. Medal ceremony mask-wearing is just another version.
Yahoo Sports’ Jack Baer contributed reporting.
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Vancouver Canucks place Jake Virtanen on waivers for purpose of buying out contract – ESPN
Canucks general manager Jim Benning confirmed the decision in an announcement on the team’s official Twitter account.
Virtanen was placed on leave on May 1 after being accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting a women four years earlier. The organization said at the time that it “does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claims as reported are being treated very seriously.”
The suit, filed in British Columbia, alleges Virtanen took the woman to a hotel in West Vancouver in September 2017 and assaulted her as she repeatedly said no and pleaded with him to stop.
The Canucks said at the time they had “engaged external expertise” to assist in an independent investigation. The NHL said then it would not comment until the investigation was complete.
The Canucks are on the hook for paying a third of Virtanen’s remaining $3 million base salary, while freeing up $2.5 million in cap space.
Virtanen, 24, had five goals in 38 games last season, a year after scoring a career-high 18 goals in 69 games. Overall, Vancouver’s 2014 first-round draft pick has 55 goals and 100 points in 317 games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Felix Auger-Aliassime first-round upset Tokyo Olympics – TSN
TOKYO — It was far from the performance Felix Auger-Aliassime was hoping for in his Olympic debut.
Playing on centre court of Tokyo’s Ariake Tennis Park on Sunday, Auger-Aliassime was eliminated in just under two hours by a player ranked 190th in the world who was not even scheduled to compete.
Australian Max Purcell, replacing the injured Andy Murray, upset the 15th-ranked Canadian in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the first round.
The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime never got into any kind of rhythm, except for a three-game winning streak that saw him go from down 1-3 to up 4-3 in the second set.
The Montrealer’s performance otherwise did not live up to expectations.
“It’s difficult to explain,” said the ninth-seeded Auger-Aliassime a few minutes after the loss. “You have to give credit to Max for playing such a good match. Even if he’s more of a doubles player, he’s dangerous, he serves well.
“Despite everything, I still had chances to do better in this match. I had a very bad service game in the first set, which cost me. After that, I did not find ways to get back into the match. A little in the second set, but it was not enough.”
Purcell broke the Canadian to take a 4-3 lead in the first set and won all four points in the next game to go up 5-3.
“I played with confidence,” said Purcell. “I just had two great tournaments in singles. I won a Challenger just last week.
“I need to make the most every time I get in. I went out there thinking I could win, and I think I had just as much to lose as Felix in my mind.”
The Australian earned another break early in the second set to take a 3-1 lead. Auger-Aliassime then strung together his best tennis of the encounter, winning three games in a row to give renewed hope to his team gathered around the court.
But it was short-lived. The two players exchanged serves until the tiebreaker, where Auger-Aliassime fell flat.
“You always have to try to find solutions, to adapt,” said the Canadian. “It’s difficult, we don’t always play our best tennis. That was the case today.
“My first service game has been good. There was no reason (to struggle today). In training (Saturday), I served well. (Sunday,) I didn’t have a lot of good first serves, I couldn’t find the right pace.
“In the second set I started to serve better, but it was almost too late. He had gained confidence, he was leading the game and I was going through it. I tried to find solutions, but it didn’t work out.”
Auger-Aliassime was supposed to face Murray, but the two-time defending Olympic champion withdrew a few hours before his clash with the Quebecer.
Murray, 104th in the world, suffered a quadriceps injury in his right leg. He is still lined up to play the doubles portion of the tournament with teammate Joe Salisbury.
“It’s not easy for anybody, adjusting at the last second,” said Frank Dancevic, Auger-Aliassime’s coach. “You think you’re going to play one guy and somebody else comes, a different game style than Andy. So it was just a little bit of mental adjustment.”
Auger-Aliassime now turns his attention to mixed doubles, which kicks off later this week, with teammate Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa.
“It doesn’t change that much for me. Whether I play against Andy or Max, I had to play a good game” said Auger-Aliassime. “I would have had to find solutions.
“It for sure hurts. Coming here, I had the possibility of having a better tournament. Leaving so early is a bit unexpected and I am very disappointed. I have to accept it and I will try to bounce back in the mixed doubles.”
Purcell will next face Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, who downed Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.
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