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Panthers hire former QB Reich as head coach

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Frank Reich is returning to the Carolina Panthers as their coach, more than 27 years after starting the franchise’s first game at quarterback in 1995.

The Panthers announced Thursday they’ve agreed to terms with Reich to become the sixth head coach in franchise history. An introductory news conference was set for Tuesday.

Reich was chosen among nine candidates who interviewed for the job, including former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and this season’s interim head coach, Steve Wilks.

Reich received a four-year deal from the Panthers, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team does not release details of coaching hires.

The 61-year-old Reich joins the Panthers after spending the past four-plus seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, where he went 40-33-1 as head coach before being fired on Nov. 7 after a 3-5-1 start. The Colts went to the playoffs twice as a wild-card team under Reich, going 1-2 in the postseason.

Before joining the Colts, Reich worked two years as the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, helping them win the Super Bowl in his second season under head coach Doug Pederson.

NFL analyst and former Panthers general manager Bill Polian, who brought Reich with him from Buffalo to Carolina in 1995 to help mentor first-round draft pick Kerry Collins and provide quarterback stability, called Reich “as fine of a person as you’ll ever meet” and a head coach with “a great football mind.”

“I think he will fit in perfectly in Carolina,” Polian said. “This is where he wants to be. He literally knows the building and has been there as a player. He will bond with the players and put together a great staff. There is a still a lot of building to do with this team, but he will work great with (general manager) Scott Fitterer.”

Polian added that Reich is low key but detail-oriented.

“He’s inspirational when he needs to be,” Polian said. “And he’s very rationale and honest and straightforward with his players.”

Wilks, who is Black, was already part of a lawsuit that included Brian Flores alleging racist hiring practices by the NFL.

Douglas Wigdor, the lawyer who is representing Wilks in the lawsuit, said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday “we are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the head coach position by David Tepper.”

Wigdor continued: “There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days.”

Reich inherits a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2017 — and hasn’t won a postseason game since winning the NFC championship in 2015 with league MVP Cam Newton at quarterback.

The Panthers have been searching for stability at quarterback ever since Newton began struggling with injuries shortly after the team’s 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. The Panthers cut Baker Mayfield this season and Sam Darnold is an unrestricted free agent, so Reich will have a key say in the future of the team’s quarterback situation.

Reich becomes the first Panthers head coach to come from an offensive background.

The Panthers finished 29th in the league in offense and 29th in passing this season after struggling with quarterback play.

Reich is no stranger to dealing with a revolving door of quarterbacks.

In his four full seasons at Indianapolis, the Colts had three top-10 scoring offenses with three different quarterbacks — Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz.

Reich has also served as Peyton Manning’s position coach.

He also knows a little bit about winning big games as a quarterback, too. Reich spent 14 seasons as an NFL quarterback. In the 1992 AFC playoffs, Reich orchestrated the biggest postseason comeback in league history when the Buffalo Bills rallied from a 35-3 deficit to beat the Houston Oilers.

Panthers owner David Tepper has been eager to establish a winning program since purchasing the team for a then-record $2.3 billion in 2018 from Jerry Richardson, who sold the team amid allegations of sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

The Panthers are 29-53 since Tepper purchased the team and have never won more than seven games in a season.

Reich follows Dom Capers, George Seifert, John Fox, Ron Rivera and Matt Rhule as the franchise’s sixth full-time head coach.

Rivera is a minority, but the Panthers have never hired a permanent Black coach. They’ve had two Black coaches who’ve worked on an interim basis — Perry Fewell and Wilks.

Wilks went 6-6 last season. He took over for Rhule, who was fired by Tepper less than three seasons after giving him a seven-year, $72 million contract. Rhule was 11-27 overall, and the Panthers were 1-4 when he was fired.

Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and Wilks also received strong consideration for the job.

The others who interviewed for the position were Payton, former Detroit Lions and Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero and NFL offensive coordinators Shane Steichen from Philadelphia, Ken Dorsey from the Buffalo and Mike Kafka from the New York Giants.

The Panthers are now expected to turn their attention to Reich hiring his own staff.

The Panthers already have interviewed for that position is Vic Fangio, the former head coach of the Denver Broncos. Fangio was the Panthers’ defensive coordinator in 1995 when Reich was the quarterback.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Tiger Woods had a tough opening round at The 152nd Open Championship

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Tiger Woods encountered difficulties during the opening round of The 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon, finishing with an 8-over-par 79. Despite a promising beginning, including a birdie on the third hole, Woods struggled to find consistency throughout the round. His iron play and putting were particularly problematic, contributing to a series of bogeys and double bogeys.

Woods’ performance saw him slightly above average off the tee and around the green. However, he lost over two strokes to the field in both approach play and putting, ranking near the bottom in these categories. This marks a significant challenge for the 15-time major champion, especially considering the competitive field and the demanding conditions at Royal Troon.

Reflecting on his round, Woods admitted, “I didn’t do a lot of things right today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today. I need to shoot something in the mid-60s tomorrow to get something going on the weekend.” He emphasized the need for a strong performance on Friday to make the cut and remain in contention.

Woods, 48, has shown determination and resilience, competing in all four majors this year for the first time since his serious car accident in 2021. Despite physical limitations, he believes he can still contend for major titles under the right conditions. His performance on Thursday puts him in a challenging position, requiring a significant turnaround in the second round to stay in the tournament.

As Woods prepares for Friday’s round, his focus remains on improving his game and making the cut. Fans and analysts alike will be watching to see if he can achieve the remarkable recovery needed to advance and compete over the weekend. Woods’ journey at The 152nd Open Championship continues to be a testament to his enduring skill and competitive spirit.

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NBA Returns to Montreal with Raptors vs. Wizards Pre-Season Game

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Montreal, QC – The NBA is set to make an exciting return to Montreal. The league announced on Thursday that the Toronto Raptors will face off against the Washington Wizards at the Bell Centre on October 6, marking the 10th edition of the NBA Canada Series.

This annual series has featured 15 teams playing 18 pre-season games across six Canadian cities. Notably, this will be the eighth NBA Canada Series game in Montreal, the highest for any city outside the Raptors’ usual home in Toronto.

Last year, Montreal fans witnessed the Detroit Pistons take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, featuring Canadians Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort. The Raptors’ previous game in Montreal was in 2022.

This year’s game will be particularly special as it will showcase several Canadian players. Montreal natives Chris Boucher and Quincy Guerrier are both on the Raptors’ training camp roster. Additionally, Kelly Olynyk and RJ Barrett, who are set to represent Canada at the upcoming Summer Olympics, are also expected to play for the Raptors.

The Wizards bring their own Canadian connection with Kyshawn George, selected in this year’s NBA Draft. George, born in Switzerland, is the son of Montreal’s Deon George, a former member of Canada’s men’s basketball team.

The October 6 game will cap off the Raptors’ Montreal-based training camp, promising an exciting end to their preparations.

For more updates and coverage on the NBA Canada Series, visit Canada News Media

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Fafa Picault Leads Vancouver Whitecaps to Victory Over Sporting Kansas City

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Vancouver, BCFafa Picault emerged as the hero off the bench, scoring in the second half to secure a 2-1 victory for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.

The Whitecaps (11-7-5) dominated the first half, with two goals being disallowed due to offside calls. Vancouver’s breakthrough came in the 34th minute when Kansas City defender Robert Valoder accidentally scored an own goal, giving the ‘Caps a 1-0 lead.

Sporting Kansas City (6-14-5) showed more vigor in the second half, equalizing in the 69th minute with a goal from Willy Agada. However, Picault’s decisive goal in the 76th minute ensured the Whitecaps extended their unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer (MLS) to five games (4-0-1).

Yohei Takaoka delivered an outstanding performance with 16 saves for Vancouver, while Tim Melia made 12 stops for Kansas City, whose three-game winning streak came to an end.

First Half Dominance

The Whitecaps were aggressive from the start, creating several early scoring opportunities. Brian White nearly scored with a header in the seventh minute, but Valoder cleared it off the goal line.

Ali Ahmed had a notable moment in the 27th minute, maneuvering past defenders to set up White for a goal that was disallowed due to offside. The Whitecaps’ pressure paid off in the 34th minute when Valoder deflected the ball into his own net, attempting to intercept a pass from Ryan Gauld to White.

Ahmed seemed poised to increase Vancouver’s lead eight minutes later, but his goal was also ruled offside. Despite these setbacks, Vancouver outshot Kansas City 9-2 in the first half.

Kansas City’s Resurgence

Sporting Kansas City made three substitutions at halftime, revitalizing their performance. Stefan Afrifa, substituting for Alenis Vargas, struck the crossbar in the 63rd minute, and Daniel Salloi’s follow-up shot was expertly saved by Takaoka.

Kansas City equalized six minutes later when Agada capitalized on a rebound after Takaoka’s save, slotting the ball into an open net.

Picault’s Winning Goal

The Whitecaps regained the lead in the 76th minute through Picault’s sixth goal of the season. Sebastian Berhalter, who replaced Ryan Raposo in the 67th minute, delivered a perfect cross to Picault, who headed it past Melia to make it 2-1.

Kansas City had a chance to level the score in injury time, but Erik Thommy’s free kick went over the bar following a foul by Mathias Laborda.

The victory solidifies the Whitecaps’ position as a formidable team in the MLS, with Picault’s performance highlighting their depth and resilience.

Stay tuned for more updates and coverage on the Vancouver Whitecaps at Canada News Media.

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