The Canadian Press
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings missed the playoffs by one game in a season with two losses by one point and two other one-score defeats.This finish, though, was hardly a close call.The prevailing feeling from the Vikings in bidding a not-so-fond farewell to 2020 was a full realization they weren’t good enough to keep playing even with the NFL’s addition of a third wild-card spot. Their recovery from a 1-5 start to stay in contention until the second-to-last week was admirable, but all the Vikings had to show for their final six games were three wins against bottom-eight teams in the league — by a total of six points.“We’ve got a lot of work to do. I’ve got a lot of work to do,” said coach Mike Zimmer, whose seventh-year record was the same as his first: 7-9.In a not-so-subtle pitch to stay on the job, Zimmer concluded his postgame video conference with reporters on Sunday with a reminder of how inexperience and injuries had ravaged his defence.“Under the circumstances and everything that went on, maybe it’s the best we could have done,” said Zimmer, who received a three-year contract extension prior to the season.The stumble on defence was traceable back to pre-pandemic times when cornerback Xavier Rhodes and nose tackle Linval Joseph were released for badly needed salary-cap space. Minnesota’s top free-agent signing, nose tackle Michael Pierce, opted out of the season with COVID-19 health concerns. Defensive end Danielle Hunter needed neck surgery and never played a down. Linebacker Anthony Barr tore a pectoral muscle in the second game and was lost for the year.Barr, Hunter, Joseph and Rhodes have a combined 11 Pro Bowl selections. Their replacements either weren’t ready or weren’t capable. Zimmer, who has coached in the NFL for 27 seasons, went so far as to declare this the worst defence he’s ever had.The Vikings gave up the third-most points (475) in their 60-year history and were fourth-to-last in the league with an average of 29.7 points allowed per game. Last season, they were fifth-best in that category. The damage would’ve been worse had it not been for a goal-to-go touchdown allowance rate of 65.9% that was the third-best in the NFL.“The greats, regardless of what the situation is, they know how to adapt. At the end of the day, if you don’t have the ideal guys in there, you make do with what you’ve got,” defensive end Ifaedi Odenigbo said.NO PRESSUREThere was no more damning evidence of the deteriorated defence than the pass rush. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who played in only six games before being traded to Baltimore, still led the team with five sacks. The Vikings had 23 sacks for the season, just one more than Jared Allen’s individual franchise record from 2011 and their fewest since the NFL began recognizing sacks as an official statistic in 1982. The only other time in their history the Vikings had a lower total was in 1961 as an expansion club with 16 sacks in 14 games.MORE SHUFFLINGThe starting defensive line of Odenigbo, Shamar Stephen, Jaleel Johnson and Jalyn Holmes could all wind up being replaced. Defensive end D.J. Wonnum, one of eight rookies who had playing time on defence this year, flashed some potential with three sacks.Safety Anthony Harris is the most prominent player with an expiring contact, with linebacker Eric Wilson set up for a big payday in free agency after deftly filling in for Barr. Cap-space casualty candidates include Barr, tight end Kyle Rudolph and left tackle Riley Reiff.ON THE BRIGHTER SIDEThe offence, meanwhile, produced the third-highest scoring season in team history with 430 points, trailing the NFC runner-up teams from 1998 and 2009. The Vikings set a franchise record with 383 first downs and were fifth in the league in yards per play.Justin Jefferson set the NFL rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards. Dalvin Cook, despite missing two games, had the second-most yards from scrimmage (1,912) in Vikings history.“It’s nice to have positive statistics, but ultimately that’s not what it’s really about,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “You want to win games, and that’s where my focus is.”CONFIDENCE IN COUSINS?The rash of interceptions from Cousins was a significant factor in the team’s rough start, but his performance after the bye was largely stellar with a 113.2 passer rating over the final 10 games.Cousins built on his first career win in the playoffs last season with more late-game success, yet still left the Vikings needing more out of crucial moments in a handful of narrow losses. For all the production by the offence, there were nagging failures on short-yardage plays and in hurry-up situations. Though he posted a career-high 35 touchdown passes, the second-most in Vikings history, Cousins still carries a 51-51-2 record as a starter in the regular season.“Week in and week out, it was a different reason each time we lost,” Cousins said, adding: “If you had not had those turnovers earlier in the year, maybe you don’t start 1-5.”KICKING THEMSELVESSpecial teams failures abounded, from the returners to the coverage units to the long snapping to the punting, but the most glaring trouble developed with kicker Dan Bailey. His field-goal percentage ranked second-to-last in the league, and he was last in extra-point percentage.“You’ve got to go out there and do your job,” Bailey said, “and if you don’t do it to the standard that’s needed, there are plenty of other people out there on the street or on a practice squad somewhere that are champing at the bit to get an opportunity.” ___More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFLDave Campbell, The Associated Press
You Can Take Shawn Mendes or Dolly Parton on Your Walk With New Apple Fitness+ Feature – Billboard
“I’ve loved walking ever since I was a little girl in the Smoky Mountains,” Parton said in the official Apple press release. “I think it’s so important to be able to get out and walk if we can during this time. I do my best thinking when I walk. And while many of us feel confined during this time, I’m hopeful that people will take a walk down memory lane with me and we can all feel a little more freedom taking the time to walk together.”
“Taking a walk is a great way to clear your mind,” Mendes said in the release. “It’s the most simple thing you can do to calm the body and soul, reflect, and slow down. I hope people get to feel the same sense of calm I do while walking and can bring that to their own experiences.”
Fitness+ subscribers can enjoy Time to Walk episodes on their Apple Watch with AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones. New episodes will automatically appear on the Workout app on Apple Watch and on the Fitness+ tab in the Fitness app on the iPhone. Apple Watch users who use a wheelchair will have access to Time to Push, which automatically starts an Outdoor Wheelchair Walk Pace workout.
Apple shifts hardware execs as mysterious new project looms – MobileSyrup
Dan Riccio, who has worked as Apple’s senior vice-president of engineering since 2012, is stepping back from leading Apple’s hardware division.
In a recent press release, Apple confirmed that Riccio is working on a mysterious “new project” and will continue to report directly to Tim Cook, its CEO. Riccio has worked on several notable projects, including Apple’s ARM-based M1 processor, the AirPods Max, the iPhone 12 and even the original iMac.
“Working at Apple has been the opportunity of a lifetime, spent making the world’s best products with the most talented people you could imagine,” said Riccio in a recent press release.
“After 23 years of leading our Product Design or Hardware Engineering teams — culminating with our biggest and most ambitious product year ever — it’s the right time for a change. Next up, I’m looking forward to doing what I love most — focusing all my time and energy at Apple on creating something new and wonderful that I couldn’t be more excited about.”
John Ternus will take on Riccio’s former role of senior vice-president of engineering. Ternus has served as Apple’s VP of hardware engineering since 2013 and played a significant role in the release of the first iPad and, more recently, the first-generation AirPods.
Apple’s ‘Time To Walk’ Reveals Monopoly Power – Forbes
It was harder to start a workout on my Apple Watch this morning. Not much harder, maybe just 5% or so, but harder. And a bit more annoying.
Today Apple launched Time to Walk, a podcast series with famous people about walking. It’s included with Apple Fitness+, a subscription service that costs $80/year, and I learned that it launched by not being able to start a walking “workout” the ordinary way on my Apple Watch. Instead of a list of possible workouts in the Apple Watch workout app, there’s now a big “Time to Walk” image with musician Shawn Mendes at the top of the list. The Apple Fitness+ video podcast series will include episodes with Golden State Warriors player Draymond Green, country music legend Dolly Parton, and Emmy award-winning actor Uzo Aduba.
Somewhat disconcerting, when you don’t expect it.
To select the workout you want, of course, you simply have to scroll past it. As I did again at lunchtime for my strength training workout. And as I’ll have to do again this afternoon for another walk. And 10 or 12 more times this week.
Hopefully, if I don’t use it, Time to Walk will go away. But I have no idea if it will or won’t: there’s no option to remove it or delete it.
Big deal? Not really, to be honest.
Unless you’re a podcaster doing fitness-oriented episodes. Or a fitness app competitive to Apple’s Fitness+. Now you’re not only competing with the owner of the platform that you’re delivering your services to (which is hard enough) you are also competing with some aspects of that platform owner’s service mixed in with potential customers’ everyday experience of that service in places most wouldn’t expect.
(At least, I didn’t.)
I think I have Fitness+ for three months free due to purchasing a new Apple Watch. Or I’m on a free one-month trial. Or maybe I bought it. I honestly don’t really remember: I must have hit “Yes” somewhere. (That alone, of course, is another competitive challenge for anyone offering a non-Apple fitness subscription, app, or experience on iPhone: the ability for Apple to just start a service on an iPhone as a result of a hardware purchase, or offer it with a single-click assent.)
Apple says that Time to Walk is “an inspiring new audio walking experience on Apple Watch for Fitness+ subscribers, created to encourage users to walk more often and reap the benefits from one of the healthiest activities.”
That’s great. It really is. I absolutely 100% agree with Apple that walking is therapeutic and healthy. As my mother never fails to remind me, it’s “good for your body and good for your soul.”
For once, Apple agrees with mom.
“Walking is the most popular physical activity in the world, and one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies,” Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director of Fitness Technologies, said in a statement. “A walk can often be more than just exercise: It can help clear the mind, solve a problem, or welcome a new perspective.”
But I’d much rather experience it intentionally as the result of a choice.
The way to launch a new service like this is simple: a notification on my phone or watch that Apple has a new service, with details about what it does and where it lives, insight into why Apple is sending this to me (example: “you’re getting this notification because you have the Apple Fitness+ one month free trial”), and how I can ignore it, opt out, or delete it after trying it.
It should not just show up, unannounced, undeletable, unskippable, on my device.
Small detail? OK: you’re not wrong if you think so.
But sometimes the small details are important, especially when you want to maintain a level playing field on your platform, silence the growing monopoly chorus, and simply be user-focused rather than push-all-the-subscriptions focused.
Apple competes with Amazon Halo, Google’s Fitbit premium memberships, Peloton, and dozens if not hundreds of other fitness, wellness, and health services. All of them should compete, as much as possible, on a level playing field. That’s not always 100% possible, but in an ideal world, an Apple service on an iPhone should be as easy to access and use as an Apple service on an Android.
And vice versa.
Again, not totally realistic for plenty of software, hardware, and ecosystem reasons. But certainly an ideal to aim for.
Saskatchewan-raised WHL player Kyrell Sopotyk paralyzed in snowboarding accident – CBC.ca
You Can Take Shawn Mendes or Dolly Parton on Your Walk With New Apple Fitness+ Feature – Billboard
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