Unhappy with kickers, Falcons recall 44-year-old Matt Bryant

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons are bringing back 44-year-old kicker Matt Bryant after failing to find his successor during preseason.
The team has agreed to terms with Bryant, who made 20 of 21 field-goal attempts in 2018. Bryant holds the franchise record with 1,122 points since joining the Falcons in 2009. When injuries shortened his 2018 season, Giorgio Tavecchio emerged as the possible long-term replacement.
Bryant was released in a cost-cutting move after the season. He returned for a workout Friday. Tavecchio and Blair Walsh could not win the job in the preseason.
Bryant has been extremely reliable for Atlanta, including on long-distance kicks. He made four of five attempts from at least 50 yards last season, including a 57-yarder against Tampa Bay.

’Bows open with upset of No. 21 San Diego

The Maui News

The University of Hawaii women’s volleyball team started the season by knocking off a nationally ranked team.

Oregon transfer Jolie Rasmussen had a team-high 19 kills as the Rainbow Wahine came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat No. 21 San Diego in five sets in a Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic match Friday night at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.

After winning the first set, UH dropped the next two to the Toreros before rallying to the 25-19, 20-25, 16-25, 25-19, 15-10 victory.

Hawaii next plays St. John’s today before wrapping up the tournament against No. 13 Washington on Sunday.

Mariota, Winston, Carr among QBs in prove-it years

By JOSH DUBOW

The Associated Press

ALAMEDA, Calif. — While outsiders keep speculating when the Oakland Raiders will cut ties with Derek Carr and search for a new franchise quarterback, Carr tunes out all the outside noise.

He ignored all the pre-draft talk whether the Raiders would select his replacement and has paid so little attention to the talk about his long-term security that he has already bought a house in Las Vegas — where his new neighbor when the Raiders arrive in Sin City next year will be coach Jon Gruden.

“We are next-door neighbors,” Carr said. “We will be, yes, but that’s for the future. That’ll be fun. Hopefully a lot of knocks on the door. Maybe we can carpool. That would be good for us.”

Carr might be the only person so confident in his job status with the Raiders. After a promising start to his career that featured a 12-win season and MVP talk in 2016 when Oakland ended a 13-year playoff drought, Carr’s performance has lagged the past two years, thanks in part to switching play callers and diminished talent around him.

If he can’t succeed this season after the Raiders added the NFL’s most prolific receiver in Antonio Brown, a dangerous deep threat in Tyrell Williams, first-round running back Josh Jacobs and elite pass-blocking tackle Trent Brown, Carr might need to look for a real-estate agent. And for a new job as the Raiders can get out of his five-year, $125 million contract three years early with almost no penalty.

“Let’s just get through this year first and then we’ll play that game again,” he said. “I’ll probably have some more fun with it, but I’m not going anywhere. This is my team and it will be for the next however long I want to play.”

Carr is one of several QBs in a prove-it season, along with 2015 top-two picks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, who are playing out their fifth-year options in Tampa Bay and Tennessee without long-term deals; Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton; and Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco.

Most of those teams can get out of commitments to players they once had hoped would be franchise quarterbacks without major salary cap implications. Winston and Mariota are set to be unrestricted free agents if they don’t get new deals or franchise tags. Dalton will enter the final year of a $96 million, six-year contract in 2020 with no dead money on his deal. The 49ers can get out of Garoppolo’s with a cap charge of just $4.5 million.

Matthew Stafford could be in a similar situation with the Lions, although making a change in Detroit would come with a hefty dead money charge of $26 million according to overthecap.com, probably giving him security.

Garoppolo was viewed as the savior in San Francisco after winning his first five starts to end the 2017 season following a midseason trade from New England. That led to a $137.5 million, five-year contract in the offseason, but things soured from there. Garoppolo struggled in the first three games last season and then went down with a season-ending knee injury.

He’s back healthy this summer, still trying to prove he’s worthy of that deal and durable enough to make it through an entire season after starting just 10 games and getting hurt twice in five seasons in the NFL.

“It’s crazy what a year can do,” Garoppolo said. “I have so much motivation in myself and I push myself so much that that’s all I need. All the noise on the outside, you kind of just tune it out. … It’s always going to be there.”

The questions about Winston, Mariota and Dalton have taken longer to form. Winston and Mariota came into the league as the top two picks in 2015 but haven’t lived up to that billing.

Winston has thrown for a franchise-record 88 touchdowns in four seasons, but also has 58 interceptions in 56 career games. He hasn’t shown the consistency needed to thrive in the NFL. Last season, he was suspended for the first three games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, then benched briefly for ineffectiveness after throwing eight interceptions in his first three starts.

Now with a respected, offense-minded head coach in Bruce Arians at the helm, and a talented cast led by star receiver Mike Evans, Winston has no excuses.

“I’ve just got to do my job,” he said. “The better I do my job, the better chance we give this team a chance to win.”

Mariota also has had a difficult time, missing at least one game a season and going through three head coaches and five play callers in his brief career. The Saint Louis School graduate is coming off a season when he threw for a career-worst 11 touchdowns with eight interceptions.

But with Derrick Henry at running back and an emerging star in Corey Davis at receiver, Mariota has the best offensive talent around him that he’s had in his career. It’s an opportunity to show he’s worthy of a mega-contract.

“Other people’s opinions don’t matter to me,” Mariota said. “I just got to be the best I can be for this team.”

Many thought the Bengals would move on from Dalton after a third straight year without making the playoffs. Cincinnati made the postseason in each of Dalton’s first five seasons but lost in the wild-card round each time — including in 2015 when Dalton was hurt — and now have taken a step back.

Dalton gets the chance to work with an offensive mind in head coach Zac Taylor.

“Andy is a very fine quarterback,” owner Mike Brown said. “He got hurt last year. I don’t know why, but the public perception seems to be that he wasn’t a fine enough quarterback. If we put the right people around him, he’s proven he can make this thing go well. I think that’s where we are, and I think he’ll do well and we’ll do well.”

Hospitals in Vermont and New Hampshire considering mergers

MONTPELIER , Vt. (AP) — Three hospitals serving Vermont and New Hampshire are considering merging their services.
One of the three, Springfield Hospital, is going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The other two are Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Care in Windsor, Vermont and Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, New Hampshire.
The Valley News reports that Mt. Ascutney CEO Joseph Perras told health care regulators Wednesday the goal is to care for patients in Claremont and southern Windsor County in a more efficient and cost-effective way.
Springfield Hospital Interim CEO Mike Halstead says he was concerned about his hospital’s future, but he feels encouraged by these recent discussions.
Green Mountain Care board member Robin Lunge says she is interested to see where these talks lead.

Pence: ‘The Bible stays’ at veterans hospital facing lawsuit

Vice President Mike Pence weighed in on a First-Amendment lawsuit challenging a Bible on display at a New Hampshire veterans hospital, saying under the current administration, “VA hospitals will not be religion-free zones.”
“We will always respect the freedom of religion of every veteran of every faith,” Pence said in a speech addressing the American Legion National Convention in Indianapolis on Wednesday. “And my message to the New Hampshire VA hospital is this: ‘The Bible stays.’”
The military religious freedom foundation that originally objected to the Bible called the president a “repulsive and repellent fundamentalist Christian” bully.
The Bible became part of the missing man table honoring missing veterans and POWS at the entranceway of the Manchester VA Medical Center. The Department of Veterans Affairs said the table was sponsored by a veterans group called the Northeast POW/MIA Network.
A federal lawsuit was filed in Concord in May by U.S. Air Force veteran James Chamberlain against the center’s director, Alfred Montoya, saying the Bible’s inclusion is a violation of the Constitution. The First Amendment stipulates “that the government may not establish any religion. Nor can the government give favoritism to one religious belief at the expense of others,” according to the suit.
Chamberlain, a devout Christian, said in the lawsuit the table should be a memorial to all who have served, regardless of their beliefs. The suit said the original POW/MIA table tradition was started by a group of Vietnam combat pilots and didn’t include a Bible as one of the items.
A missing man table is usually set up near military dining facilities and is in honor of fallen or missing service members. It’s a table set for one person and features a white tablecloth, single rose, a lit candle and more. In some displays, a Bible is also on the table to represent spiritual strength.
Pence, in his speech, said the lawsuit is no surprise because under the last administration, “VA hospitals were removing Bibles” to be “politically correct.”
“But let me be clear: Under this administration, VA hospitals will not be religion-free zones,” he said.
Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, in a statement called Pence “one of the most repulsive and repellent fundamentalist Christian supremacists and bullies on the scene today” and added that “it is hardly surprising that he is lending his ugly bigotry and pervasive prejudice in support of keeping that Christian bible bolted down on that POW/MIA table at the Manchester, New Hampshire VA Medical Center.”
The medical center initially removed the Bible in January after the foundation objected, saying it got complaints from 14 patients who felt it violated the First Amendment. A variety of religions were represented among the 14.
But the Bible reappeared on the table in February. It was put in a clear case and secured to the table. A Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman said the Bible was put back after the medical center received an outpouring of complaints from veterans and others.

Fallen officer’s son graduates from police academy

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — The son of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2006 has graduated from the New Hampshire Police Academy.
Mitchell Briggs is the son of Officer Michael Briggs, of Manchester.
The Manchester Police Department tweeted its congratulations Friday, saying it’s “so proud that Mitchell has decided to follow in his father’s footsteps.”
Michael Briggs was shot to death by Michael Addison.
Addison was sentenced to death and is New Hampshire’s only death row inmate.

UMinn freshmen class likely largest in 50 years

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Preliminary numbers show the freshmen class at the University of Minnesota could be the largest in decades.
Vice Provost and Dean Robert McMaster says the 6,200 freshman students this year eclipses the 2017 class as the largest in 50 years. Although the official enrollment number won’t be published until later this fall.
McMaster tells KARE-TV the university extended more offers to prospective students in 2019 after experiencing a slight decrease in applications. The number of applications fell from 44,000 last year to roughly 40,000 this year. He says the offers resulted in the large incoming class.
Out-of-state and international student numbers appear to have increased in 2019. Last year, those figures dropped to their lowest percentage levels in about a decade. The overall class of almost 6,000 consisted of 4.8% international students and about 12% out-of-state students.
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Information from: KARE-TV, http://www.kare11.com

Traffic deaths up 6% in 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — State officials say traffic deaths in Minnesota increased 6% last year.
The Department of Public Safety says 381 people died in crashes in 2018 with speed being the main factor in about a third of the fatalities. The agency’s Office of Traffic Safety says failing to wear seat belts resulted in 96 deaths, while 84 deaths were tied to impaired driving and 29 to distractions.
The deaths included 45 pedestrians and 48 people on motorcycles. So far in 2019, 223 deaths have been reported, compared with 218 at this time a year ago.

Police pursuit ends in crash that kills 2

OWATONNA, Minn. (AP) — A police pursuit has ended in a crash that killed two people in the fleeing vehicle south of the Twin Cities.
Authorities say police responded to a report of a domestic assault in Owatonna Thursday, but a car with a man and woman left before officers arrived. Police spotted the suspected vehicle near I-35 and tried to pull it over, but it sped south on the interstate. Police pursued.
The Minnesota State Patrol says the car crashed head-on into a traffic light pole after exiting the interstate, killing the two. The patrol identified them as 42-year-old Louis Bennett, of Owatonna, who was driving, and his 24-year-old passenger Sauda Abubakar Maani, of Rochester.

Minnesota House Democrats plan 15 cannabis conversations

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota House Democrats are hitting the road for a series of town halls on the nuts and bolts of how the state should go about legalizing recreational marijuana for adults.
“We believe that Minnesota can have the best marijuana laws in the country,” House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said as he kicked off the initiative Thursday at the Minnesota State Fair. “We think it’s vitally important that Minnesotans weigh in directly on this policy change, and we think it’s vitally important that Minnesota gets it right.”
The first three of 15 community conversations dubbed “Be Heard on Cannabis” will be held in Duluth on Sept. 21, Minneapolis on Sept. 25 and St. Cloud on Oct. 12. Future anticipated locations include Austin, Crystal, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Fridley, Hibbing, Mankato, Maple Grove, New Brighton, Rochester, Spring Lake Park and Woodbury. Dates will be announced later.
While Winkler said his chamber will pass a legalization bill in the 2020 session, that’s probably as far as it will get next year. Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he thinks legalization is a bad idea and won’t happen while the GOP controls the Senate. A Senate committee blocked a marijuana bill during this year’s session.
“We’re discouraging kids from smoking. We’re trying to fight the opioid epidemic. And then, at the same time, we want to legalize pot? To me that just doesn’t make sense,” Gazelka said.
That makes legalization in Minnesota unlikely unless Democrats win control of the Senate in the 2020 elections and maintain control of the House. Democrats now have a comfortable 16-vote majority in the House, while the GOP holds a slim three-vote edge in the Senate.
Democratic Gov. Tim. Walz, who supports legalization, has already told his stage agencies to prepare for legalization in case it happens, taking into account how they’ll need to regulate and tax sales, plus the public safety implications.
“There’s a lot to talk about before we decide whether to go forward, and if we go forward, how to go forward,” Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said.
Winkler said Minnesota will have to have to decide whether it wants to catch up with the rest of the nation on the issue. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use.
“As more and more states legalize adult use of cannabis, Minnesota can’t stand on the sidelines and hope it doesn’t happen here,” Winkler said. “That is not a responsible way to address this issue.”