Titans quarterback, entering third NFL season, suffered broken leg in December
By TERESA M. WALKER
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marcus Mariota insists he feels fine and is fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered in December. That’s not stopping the Tennessee Titans from giving the 23-year-old quarterback from Honolulu as much protection as possible.
As the Titans kicked off training camp Saturday, Mariota took part in team drills after being limited to individual and 7-on-7 passing work during the offseason.
Fans eager to see Mariota really take off running likely will have to wait until the season opener Sept. 10 against the Oakland Raiders.
Delanie Walker sums up the Titans’ concerns, even though the veteran tight end says he can’t tell watching that Mariota ever broke his leg.
“Every play I’m asking him, ‘Are you good?’ ” Walker said. “He’s like, ‘I’m straight.’ ‘OK, I’m just making sure. I can’t tell.’ And I know he’s a fighter, and he probably wouldn’t say nothing if he didn’t feel good. That’s why I’m always checking on (him) like, ‘You good?’ At the end of the day, he’s out there making the throws, running around, so I feel like if he says he’s good, he’s 100 percent.”
Mariota had his second NFL season come to an end Dec. 24 when he broke his right leg in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He arrived in this year’s camp at 218 pounds, about six pounds lighter than last season, and said he couldn’t be happier to be back at work.
“When we left in June, I was in a good spot,” Mariota said. “But I think I got better every day, and to be able to be out here today and to run around and do some of the things the coaches wanted me to do felt really good.”
Mariota passed for 3,426 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 15 games last year, and ran for 349 yards and two scores. This season, he will have some new targets.
Corey Davis, the first wide receiver taken in this year’s draft, at No. 5 overall, agreed to terms Saturday. He was the last draft pick to get his contract wrapped up.
“It’s huge. Huge,” Mariota said of getting Davis into camp.
The Titans also signed veteran Eric Decker after the offseason program ended in June, and Mariota started building chemistry with Decker a couple of weeks ago when several receivers joined the quarterback working out around Nashville. Davis, busy with a wedding, missed out.
“He’s savvy,” Mariota said of Decker, who has three 1,000-yard receiving seasons in a seven-year career spent with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets. “He understands routes. He understands how to find ways to get open, create separation, so I think the way he was able to come out today and make some plays says a lot about him. And again, we’re excited.”
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Sylvia Fowles had 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting and added 12 rebounds to help the Minnesota Lynx beat the Seattle Storm 93-82 on Sunday night for their sixth straight victory.
Maya Moore had 24 points, and Rebekkah Brunson added 20 for WNBA-leading Minnesota (19-2). Jia Perkins, starting with Seimone Augustus out for personal reasons, had a career-high seven assists and a season-high six rebounds.
Breanna Stewart’s layup trimmed Seattle’s deficit to 44-40 early in the third, but Fowles scored 14 points in the quarter — including a personal 10-7 run in which she converted two offensive rebounds into four second-chance points — and the Lynx went into the fourth leading 69-57. Moore had 12 points in the final quarter and her 3-pointer with 1:35 to go gave Minnesota its biggest lead, 91-65.
Jewell Loyd led Seattle (10-13) with 26 points, and Breanna Stewart added 24. The Storm have lost three of four.
Minnesota shot 52.2 percent (36 of 69) from the field and had 25 assists.
MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Xavier Rhodes arrived at Florida State as a skilled offensive player, a running back and wide receiver from the football-rich Miami area.
He was quickly switched to cornerback, and he didn’t like it.
“At that moment, I thought I wasn’t going to be here,” Rhodes said. “It was a blessing that it happened. I was upset at first, but now I see the coaches saw something in me at corner. I trusted them. I believed. Now I’m here.”
Rhodes signed a five-year contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday , keeping him under the team’s control through the 2022 season and making him one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league. According to NFL Media, the deal is worth a maximum of $70 million with $41 million in guaranteed money.
Rhodes is making a little more than $8 million this season, his fifth in the league.
“I was speechless,” Rhodes said after practice. “It was a lifelong dream for me. As a kid, watching guys sign big deals, you always wanted that to be you.”
Rhodes was picked for his first Pro Bowl in 2016, tallying a career-high five interceptions while regularly assigned to cover the opponent’s best wide receiver and frustrating them often .
“In my opinion, as far as covering guys all the way, man to man, following them everywhere, I don’t think there’s anyone better,” safety Harrison Smith said.
A first-round draft choice in 2013, the 25th overall selection, Rhodes has flourished under the tutelage of coach Mike Zimmer, long lauded for his work with defensive backs. Zimmer made Rhodes’ development a priority when he was hired in 2014, though Rhodes didn’t always appreciate the extra attention.
He thought, “Man, he needs to lay off, get off my back.”
But the tough love turned out for the best.
“He was on me each and every play. He always believed in me. He always told me, ‘I’m going to work you hard to be the best corner in the league,'” Rhodes said. “He trusted in me. To this day, I really thank him.”
Rhodes has been a key part in a sound defense that has been dominant at times. He credited teammate Terence Newman for working with him on the mental part of the game.
The Vikings signed defensive end Everson Griffen to a four-year contract extension worth up to $58 million before the team arrived for training camp on Wednesday. Smith signed a five-year, $51 million contract extension last summer.
“Xavier was a high priority coming into the offseason,” general manager Rick Spielman said. “We wanted to make sure we got him locked up to be a Minnesota Viking through most of his career, hopefully ending his career with us.
“One thing I know, reading the tweets , Xavier knows where the money bags emoji thing is. He knows where that button is. Hopefully, it’s the interception button he’s going to be pushing going forward.”
For more NFL coverage: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild have agreed to terms with right wing Nino Niederreiter on a five-year, $26.25 million contract.
The Wild announced Sunday their deal with the restricted free agent, who established career highs last season with 25 goals, 32 assists and a plus-17 rating among several other categories. The 24-year-old Swiss star was one of four players to appear in every game for the Wild last season.
Niederreiter will make $4.6 million this season. The annual average value of the contract is $5.25 million for salary cap purposes.
With a big body in front of the net and a sharp shot, Niederreiter has thrived in Minnesota since being acquired four years ago in a trade with the New York Islanders for Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round draft pick.
More NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Yonder Alonso blames a bad month on him trying to do too much.
The Athletics’ All-Star first baseman is trying a new approach, and it seems to be working.
Alonso homered in the bottom of the 12th inning to lift the Oakland Athletics to a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
“I think for me it was just coming back to the basics, making sure I was getting good pitches to hit, making sure that I was using the whole field and at the end of the day just making sure I get a good pitch,” Alonso said. “I’ve got to get a strike.”
Alonso’s 22nd homer of the season came on the first pitch he saw from Tyler Duffey (0-3) and was his second game-ending home run of his career.
Oakland, which won its second straight after a six-game skid, came in tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the major league lead with eight game-ending hits.
“Our fans have a lot to do with it,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, noting his team made dramatic comeback wins a trademark his first year with the team in 2012. “Once you get a few of them … you have a good feeling about it happening again once we get into the dugout and have a chance to win.”
Josh Smith (1-0) pitched two innings to pick up the win. He was among six A’s relievers who combined for 8 1/3 innings for shutout ball in relief of Jharel Cotton, who gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings, his shortest career start.
The Twins lost for the sixth time in seven games and fell to 1-5 on a disastrous West Coast road trip in which they’ve blown leads in every game.
They lost on game-ending hits for the fourth time this season and the third time on the road trip.
“Today’s game kind of mirrored some of the other ones on this trip,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We did a fairly decent job early in the game pitching and putting some runs on the board, but we got a little stagnant offensively. What we’ve been doing too much of is letting these teams hang around. We had a chance to increase the lead and (did) not take advantage.”
Bartolo Colon pitched 6 1/3 solid innings in his third start for the Twins, who signed the 44-year-old right-hander after he was released by the Atlanta Braves earlier this month. He gave up three runs and eight hits with one walk and struck out one against his former team. He threw 95 pitches, 69 for strikes.
Colon pitched for Oakland in 2012-13, winning 18 games in ’13 after serving a 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test the previous year. He left to a strong ovation from the crowd of 16,790.
“I felt good. I felt like this is one of my second homes,” Colon said. “I felt good out there and I felt it went well.”
“Unless we bring him back, he’ll go down as one of the few undefeated pitchers in Twins history,” Molitor on trading Jaime Garcia to the New York Yankees six days after acquiring the lefty starter from the Atlanta Braves.
Athletics: Early reports on RHP Kendall Graveman’s rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville are good, but manager Bob Melvin said the A’s haven’t made a decision on when they’ll activate the 26-year-old. Graveman has been out since May 26 with a right shoulder strain. “We haven’t made a definitive decision yet, but there’s at least a decent chance that his next start will be here with us,” Melvin said.
Twins: After a day off, RHP Jose Berrios (9-4, 3.76 ERA) will make his first career start against the San Diego Padres in Tuesday’s series opener.
Athletics: If he doesn’t move in a deadline trade, RHP Sonny Gray (6-5, 3.43) is scheduled to pitch Monday’s Bay Bridge Series opener against the San Francisco Giants.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
NEWTON — Ryan Preece had waited his whole career for a chance to race in a car as strong as the No. 20 Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing.
Preece then went out and proved what he could do with top-notch equipment.
The 26-year-old Preece survived a green-white-checkered finish to win the NASCAR Xfinity race Saturday at Iowa Speedway for his first career victory.
Preece, running the second of a two-race deal with the powerhouse JGR team, started from the pole and held off Kyle Benjamin on three restarts in the final 17 laps.
Preece, the Connecticut driver who is a regular in the lower-division NASCAR Whelen Modified series, crossed the start-finish line less than a car-length ahead of Benjamin.
“To be honest with you, I believed in myself enough to do it,” Preece said of using his Xfinity budget for just two races. “It is very risky. I had multiple people in the business tell me that it was a little (riskier) than they would do.”
The 19-year-old Benjamin was a career-best second, followed by Brian Scott, Brennan Poole and rookie Cole Custer.
William Byron, who began a streak of three wins in five races at Iowa last month, finished ninth and Justin Allgaier was 20th after leading 106 laps.
Preece finished 17th in the series a year ago, with only one top-10 in 33 starts.
For this season, Preece went back to the Modified series — where he won a title four years ago — while striking a deal with JGR to run twice in one of the best cars in the series.
Preece was second to Cup star Kyle Busch in New Hampshire in his first shot with the No. 20 car.
On Saturday, he held off Benjamin to make his season-long gamble pay off.
“I knew what I felt like I had to do to get attention, to make noise, and I felt like these two races were my shot,” Preece said.
It was an encouraging finish for Benjamin, who started on the front row for the fourth time in as many races but finished above 16th for the first time.
“I’m really happy to finish second — I really needed that,” Benjamin said. “But to be as close as we were to winning, it kind of hurts. It makes you think about what you could have done better.
It was another gamble, by Allgaier earlier in the race, which helped put Preece and Benjamin in position for their thrilling finish.
Allgaier won the second stage and was leading when he decided to stay out on a caution about 75 laps from the finish.
The rest of the contenders went in for fresh tires and Allgaier’s No. 7 car, on old tires, quickly fell back while Preece grabbed the lead.
The hope for Allgaier was that a caution would allow him to put on a new set of tires, and thus have the advantage for the finish.
The yellow flag came too late though, as Allgaier was forced to pit for fuel just a few laps before Sam Hornish Jr. drew a caution.
Preece, who spent much of the race battling Allgaier for first, led 141 laps.
NEW YORK (AP) — This latest hit by Brett Gardner produced another walkoff win for the New York Yankees — without any mishaps, either.
Gardner hit an RBI single with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, sending the AL East leaders over the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 for their sixth straight win.
“Makes me feel good,” Gardner said. “It’s an exciting win for us — a very important game against a tough opponent.”
Gardner won the series opener against the Rays on Thursday night with an 11th-inning home run. That sparked a wild celebration at home plate, and Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge was accidentally hit by Gardner’s helmet and lost half of his front left tooth.
A day after Judge went to the dentist for a fix, he steered clear this time, instead pouring Gatorade on Gardner and nimbly avoiding the happy group.
Chase Headley and Gary Sanchez hit long home runs for New York. The contending Rays lost their sixth straight game at Yankee Stadium.
“That team is on fire right now,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “Seems like a lot of things are going their way. They’re in such a good spot right now as a club.”
With the game 4-all, Brad Boxberger (2-3) walked Headley to lead off the ninth, and pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury stole second.
Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch and Ronald Torreyes tried to put down a sacrifice bunt, but instead reached first to load the bases when infielders Adeiny Hechavarria and Tim Beckham miscommunicated on a ground ball for the second time in the series.
Cash brought in newly acquired left-hander Dan Jennings to face the lefty-hitting Gardner. On an 0-1 pitch, Gardner grounded a ball past the Tampa Bay infield to score the winning run.
“When we needed the huge hit, he got it for us,” New York manager Joe Girardi said.
Aroldis Chapman (4-1) worked around a pair of baserunners in the ninth to earn the victory. The hard-throwing closer threw 11 of his 13 pitches over 100 mph to earn his second win of the series. He’s allowed just two hits and struck out six over his last five innings.
Lucas Duda homered for the second straight game since being traded from the New York Mets to the Rays. He had an early sacrifice, and tied it at 4 with a homer off David Robertson in the eighth.
Peter Bourjos and Steven Souza Jr. also hit home runs for Tampa Bay, which fell for the eighth time in their last 10 games.
Headley snapped a 124 at-bat homerless streak with a pinch-hit, two-run drive that gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead. He connected off Segio Romo, making Headley 6 for 12 lifetime against the reliever.
Rays starter Blake Snell allowed three runs over 5 1-3 innings. He is 0-6 this season and hasn’t won in 14 starts since being the Yankees last Sept. 22.
Rays: 1B Logan Morrison was held out of the lineup for the second straight game (bruised left heel), but singled as a pinch-hitter. Pitcher Austin Pruitt pinch ran for Morrison.
Yankees: SS Didi Gregorius appeared to have been injured on Souza Jr.’s ninth-inning stolen base. Gregorius was attempting a backhanded tag when Souza arrived at the same time, dislodging the ball. After doubling over in pain, Gregorius was checked by the New York medical staff and remained in the game, but was charged with an error on the play.
Jake Faria (5-1, 2.67 ERA) opposes Yankees lefty Jordan Montgomery (7-5, 3.92 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale. Faria will be the first visiting rookie to start in the Bronx on his birthday since Jason Hammel defeated Andy Pettitte on Sept. 2, 2007. Faria turns 24.
Duda became the second player in Tampa Bay history to homer in each of his first two games. Elijah Dukes did it in 2007.
RED WING, Minn. (AP) — A former ski resort and current golf course in southeastern Minnesota will be transformed into an Olympic ski jump suitable for world-class competition.
Bryan Sanders is a former Olympic ski jumper and executive director of the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame and Museum in Red Wing. He told the Post Bulletin that work should begin in late August or early September to turn Mount Frontenac Golf Course in Red Wing into a ski jump facility.
The project is estimated to cost between $6 million and $7 million. Sanders said construction of the facility will occur in two phases. The ski jump will come first followed by downhill tubing runs, zip lines, disc golf and a concert venue.
He predicts the facility will draw more than 100,000 visitors annually.
“That hill will be used more in the summer than the winter,” Sanders said. “We’ll probably see training from June to October.”
No local tax money is being used to fund the project, Sanders said. Instead, the nonprofit ski hall of fame has been fundraising.
“We raised $1.2 million in the quiet phase, and have another $1 million in pledges,” he said. “We have several options for financing beyond that.”
While Olympic hill in Park City, Utah, has a ski jump facility of a similar size, there isn’t one in the U.S. that’s located at the altitude of 7,000 feet, he said.
“This helps for training for events that are closer to sea level,” he said, adding that competitors need to practice through the more dense air.
The new venue may allow the U.S. to host World Cup level competitive ski jumping events, said Jed Hinkley, sport development director for USA Nordic, the parent organization of the U.S. Nordic ski teams.
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Adrian Beltre had a single for his 2,999th career hit leading off the fourth inning of the Texas Rangers’ game Saturday night against Baltimore.
That grounder through the left side of the infield in his second at-bat of the game put him within one hit of becoming the 31st player in the major league to reach 3,000 career hits. The 38-year-old third baseman would be the first player born in the Dominican Republic to do that.
Beltre, in his 20th big league season, had nine hits in the first four games of the homestand before Saturday night. This is his seventh season in Texas after previously playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox.
A five-time Gold Glove third baseman, Beltre got loud cheers from a crowd anticipating history when he had a couple of assists in the first inning before his first at-bat when he grounded out. He got a loud ovation each time he was introduced when coming to bat in his 2,770th major league game.
The only other active player in the 3,000-hit club is Miami Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who was 23rd on the all-time list with 3,060 hits going into Saturday night.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw five interceptions in practice Saturday night, quite possibly his worst training camp outing in four years.
Bortles was picked off three times in 11-on-11 drills and twice more in 7-on-7 work. His awful night came under the lights and during Jacksonville’s first practice in full pads. The stands were at full capacity, too, as the Jaguars opened practice only to season-ticket holders.
No one watching this one — except maybe Jacksonville’s defenders — could have felt good afterward.
“I think any time someone doesn’t perform to what you want to do, you’re concerned about it,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “He’s not the only one, you know what I’m saying, that’s out there. There’s some good things.”
Marrone said he would need to review practice video before deciding how many of the interceptions were Bortles’ fault.
“We’re going to go and talk about that as coaches,” he said. “We haven’t talked to the player yet about that, so we’ll go ahead and look at it and, again, continue to get better. Going to want to go back there and look at it from a different view and see what he was thinking and see what was going on.”
Bortles attempted 22 passes in 11-on-11 drills, and ended up with three interceptions. Former Dallas and Miami cornerback Tyler Patmon picked off Bortles twice, and linebacker Telvin Smith got another that he returned for a touchdown. Safety Tashaun Gipson and linebacker Josh McNary got theirs in 7-on-7 work.
The Jaguars have shown strong for Bortles publicly despite a subpar season in 2016. The former UCF standout threw for 3,905 yards, with 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, in his third season. It was a step back after throwing for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015. He has been sacked a whopping 140 times in three years and has the most turnovers (63) of any player during that span.
Nonetheless, Jacksonville exercised the fifth-year option in his rookie contract in May. General manager Dave Caldwell and Marrone decided Bortles needed more help, so they drafted bruising running back Leonard Fournette fourth overall, choose massive left tackle Cam Robinson in the second round and added speedy Oklahoma receiver Dede Westbrook in the fourth. They also traded for two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert in March.
Bortles, meanwhile, spent a big chunk of the offseason working on his mechanics in California in hopes of improving his accuracy and efficiency.
He was sharp the first two days of camp, but reverted to his turnover-prone ways Saturday.
Marrone said he didn’t say anything to Bortles during his struggles, opting to let him try to work it out.
“If I’ve got to do that now, then we’re going to be in trouble,” Marrone said.