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Florida Sports

Gasparilla Bowl college football game gets new title sponsor

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Gasparilla Bowl has a new title sponsor.
The annual college football game scheduled to be played this season in Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will be sponsored by Union Home Mortgage.
A date has not been announced.
The game, once known as the St. Petersburg Bowl and played in the home stadium of baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, has undergone several name changes since inception in 2008. It has conference ties with the ACC, AAC, Big 12, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC, in addition to Army and BYU.
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Florida Sports

Flores: Decision to replace Fitzpatrick with Tua was tough

By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) — Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores says he regrets that his players found out about the team’s switch to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa through social media rather than from him.
And Flores says the decision to bench popular veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was difficult.
“Fitz has done a great job,” Flores said Wednesday. “He has been productive. His leadership has been great. But we felt like for the team now, moving forward, this is a move we need to make.”
Tagovailoa, the fifth pick in the April draft, will make his first NFL start on Nov. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams after the Dolphins’ bye this week.
News of the change leaked Tuesday.
“The one thing in this situation that’s unfortunate is that I didn’t get a chance to address the team before this was out in the media,” Flores said. “It’s not the way I or we want to do business. Unfortunately, it’s kind of the way of the world right now.
“I’m not happy about that at all. I’ll address that to the team, and really apologize to them that they had to find out through social media. I don’t think that’s fair to them.”
The timing of Tagovailoa’s promotion was surprising because the Dolphins (3-3) have won their past two games by a combined score of 67-17.
The 37-year-old Fitzpatrick, who is in his second season with his eighth NFL team, has been characteristically inconsistent. He is fifth in the the league in completion percentage but third in interceptions with seven.
He is also beloved by teammates and coaches.
“Fitz has been great for the last year and a half,” Flores said. “I don’t know if there has been anybody more instrumental in trying to instill the culture that we’re looking for. He has made an impact on Tua and a lot of other players on this team. I have a great respect for him, and that made this decision very tough.”
Even so, it was a decision anticipated since the day Miami drafted Tagovailoa as a potential franchise quarterback.
The rookie played during mop-up time last week, his first action since suffering a serious hip injury last November that ended his Alabama career. The cancellation of offseason drills and exhibition games because of the coronavirus slowed his NFL development, and two weeks ago, Flores said Tagovailoa wasn’t ready to start.
Now he is.
“He has gotten more comfortable,” Flores said. “Accuracy, decision-making, all those things have been good in practice. Practice is very different from games, but we’re comfortable and confident he’ll be able to be competitive.”
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Florida Sports

Marlins, Jeter part with exec Michael Hill after 19 seasons

By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) — Miami Marlins executive Michael Hill’s 19-season tenure with the franchise has ended.
Hill was president of baseball operations for the past six years and provided continuity after a 2017 change in ownership, but his contract expired and he will not be back next season, CEO Derek Jeter said Sunday.
“I had to approach this as a new negotiation,” Jeter said. “We had conversations over the last week or so, and I just felt it would be best for the organization at this particular time to move on without Mike.”
The Marlins will cast a wide search for a replacement, but potential candidates are unlikely to include vice president of player development and scouting Gary Denbo, who has been instrumental in the franchise turnaround and is expected to remain in his current role.
“We have a lot of smart baseball minds in our organization, and there are smart baseball minds around the game,” Jeter said. “We’re going to sit down and see what type of person we need in this role.”
Hill joined the Marlins’ front office in 2002, and the next year they won the World Series. But this year’s 31-29 finish was their first above .500 since 2009, and they made the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
Hill helped steer the Marlins through a coronavirus outbreak that nearly derailed their season. The Marlins beat the Chicago Cubs in the wild-card round of the playoffs before being eliminated by Atlanta and exceeded all outside expectations with a young, patchwork roster one year after losing 105 games.
“It was a great step for us as an organization to see some of the progress we have made over the last three years,” Jeter said.
Hill was general manager for six seasons before becoming president of baseball operations, and he retained that title even as Jeter overhauled the organizational structure.
“The roles and the responsibilities have changed since we’ve gotten here,” Jeter said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of building each department of baseball operations.”
Hill had a hand in the record $325 million, 13-year contract Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Marlins in 2014. He later was involved in trading Stanton and All-Stars Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and J.T. Realmuto as the Marlins rebuilt from the farm system up under Jeter.
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Florida Sports

Glasnow, Snell to start first 2 World Series games for Rays

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Tyler Glasnow will start Tuesday night’s World Series opener for the Tampa Bay Rays against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Blake Snell will be on the mound for Game 2 on Wednesday night.
Glasnow, a 27-year-old right-hander, was 5-1 with a 4.08 ERA in 11 starts during the regular season and 2-1 with a 4,66 ERA in four postseason starts. His fastball averaged nearly 98 mph this season.
Snell, a 27-year-old left-hander who won the 2018 AL Cy Young Award, was 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 11 regular-season starts and 2-2 with a 3.20 ERA in four postseason starts.
Clayton Kershaw appeared to be the likely choice to start Game 1 for the Dodgers.
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Florida Sports

AP source: Jets agree to trade McLendon to Buccaneers

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — A person with direct knowledge of the move says the New York Jets have agreed to terms on a trade that sends veteran nose tackle Steve McLendon to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay will also acquire New York’s 2023 seventh-round draft pick in exchange for the Buccaneers’ sixth-rounder in 2022, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither team announced the trade.
The deal that was agreed upon Sunday night will reunite McLendon with Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who was the Jets’ head coach from 2015-18. McLendon will add depth to Tampa Bay’s defensive line, which lost Vita Vea to a season-ending broken ankle on Oct. 8
“Sometimes it takes 5-10 years to get that 1 year that changes your life,” McLendon wrote on Instagram on Monday. “This journey has been nothing but great to me. I have the pleasure of meeting so many new friends, teammates, brothers, loved ones but most (of) all family.
“I want to thank you all for your constant support and with you all God doesn’t make any mistakes. As one road comes to (an) end, another one begins.”
The 34-year-old McLendon becomes the second veteran player to part ways with the Jets in the past week. New York released running back Le’Veon Bell last Tuesday after he and coach Adam Gase didn’t see eye to eye on how he was being used in the Jets’ struggling offense.
With the Jets 0-6 for the first time since 1996 and the NFL’s only winless team, New York could be far from finished dealing and selling off players and reshaping its roster before what will likely be a busy offseason.
McLendon spent his first seven NFL seasons with Pittsburgh before signing a three-year, $12 million contract with New York in 2016. He quickly became one of the team’s locker room leaders, with several of the young defensive players, including Quinnen Williams, crediting McLendon with helping them adjust to life in the NFL. McLendon was re-signed to a one-year deal by the Jets in March 2019, and then given a one-year extension last October. He was scheduled to become a free agent after this season and was unlikely to be re-signed by New York.
McLendon has been one of the league’s most consistent run stuffers during his 11-year NFL career. He has 226 total tackles, 12 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles.
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Florida Sports

Jaguars on verge of NFL record with ‘crazy’ kicking carousel

By MARK LONG
AP Pro Football Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Quarterback Gardner Minshew wouldn’t even try to name every kicker who’s suited up for the Jacksonville Jaguars this season.
He surely would have missed one or two — or more.
The Jaguars (1-4) will set an NFL record by using their fifth kicker in as many games when they host Detroit (1-3) on Sunday. Only four teams have used five or more kickers in a single season, with the Los Angeles Chargers (2017) doing it most recently.
The others: New Orleans (1978) and Washington (1987, 2000). But none of them switched it up as much as Jacksonville has been forced to do because of injuries.
“It’s crazy,” Minshew said. “You hope everybody that comes in can hang for a while, but you know that isn’t always the case.”
It’s been a revolving tee for the Jaguars since Josh Lambo injured his hip in a Week 2 loss at Tennessee. Lambo landed on injured reserve, and Jacksonville turned to rookie Brandon Wright against Miami for Thursday night football. Wright joined a small list of Black placekickers in league history, a group that includes Gene Mingo, Donald Igweibuike, Obed Ariri, Cedric Oglesby and Justin Medlock.
But Wright’s tenure was short-lived. He missed an extra point, injured his groin and was waived four days later.
The Jaguars worked out and signed veteran Steven Hauschka for Week 4. But Hauschka reported soreness in his leg a day later and was unavailable at Cincinnati. Jacksonville called up Aldrick Rosas from the practice squad to fill in. Rosas was cut by the New York Giants after he was charged with three misdemeanors for an alleged high-speed hit-and-run that led to his arrest in June.
Rosas was wide left from 48 yards against the Bengals. He rebounded by making his next four field goals and an extra point, but he injured his hip/groin and was placed on the practice squad injured list.
Hauschka was seemingly healthy enough to take his turn last week at Houston. But he missed two field goals in the final minute of the first half, pulling a 24-yarder wide left and then coming up well short from 49 yards.
The Jaguars cut him Monday.
Now it’s Jon Brown’s turn. A college soccer player turned football kicker, Brown was promoted from the practice squad and will make his NFL debut against the Lions. He will join Wright in the league’s small fraternity of Black kickers.
“I can’t remember anything like this,” coach Doug Marrone said. “I don’t think anyone has been though anything like this as far as the people here. It’s unfortunate. I mean, obviously, you want to be able to do a better job of coming in there when you have an opportunity, but I think there’s a lot that goes into it.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the other players that we’ve had have been injured or have gotten injured, which is crazy in that regard.”
Marrone has been admittedly spoiled with Lambo, who made 74 of 78 field goals (94.9%) and 66 of 71 extra points (93%) since signing with Jacksonville in 2017. Lambo is hoping to return next week at the Chargers.
“We’re ready to have Lambo back,” Minshew said. “He’s awesome.” Until then, Marrone will keep hoping to find a fill-ins who doesn’t miss. “The one thing about that position that I’ve kind of learned through my experience is you can go out there and look good in practice, but I think it’s a whole different ball game when you go out there on a Sunday and then the pressure (gets) involved,” Marrone said. “Being able to go in there and relax yourself and kick and put it through the uprights is more difficult than going in your backyard and just trying to kick a field goal.
“I think there’s a great appreciation for that and I think we’ll see how Jon does because he hasn’t done that before.”
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Florida Sports

Jags acquire LB Correa from Titans for 6th-rounder in 2021

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars acquired linebacker Kamalei Correa from the Tennessee Titans on Wednesday for a late-round pick.
The Jaguars sent a sixth-round selection in 2021 to the Titans for Correa and a seventh-rounder.
Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said earlier in the day the team was preparing to release Correa, who was activated off the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list before Tuesday night’s game against Buffalo. He was inactive for the victory after spending two weeks on the COVID list.
“Now, things change, someone may reach out and that would be another situation that could happen,” Vrabel said. “But as of now, I think we’ll plan on going in another direction and moving on.”
Jacksonville did, looking for depth at the linebacker position. The Jaguars (1-4) played without starter Myles Jack (ankle) last week at Houston and lost backup Dakota Allen (foot) in the team’s fourth straight loss.
Tennessee (4-0) re-signed Correa in March after he tied for second on the team with five sacks in 2019. But he became expendable with the addition of veteran pass rushers Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney.
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Florida Sports

SEC postpones LSU-Florida game as Gators deal with outbreak

By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — No. 10 Florida and defending national champion LSU are now scheduled to play in December. Unfortunately for coach Dan Mullen, the stadium still won’t be packed.
The Southeastern Conference postponed Saturday’s LSU-Florida game a day after Mullen had 19 players and coaches test positive for COVID-19. Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said Wednesday the number is now up to 21 positives with considerably more in quarantine because of contract tracing.
Those players likely would have been unavailable against the Tigers, leaving Florida with fewer than 50 scholarship athletes and less than the SEC’s threshold (53) for holding games amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The game was tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 12, the league’s built-in bye week before its annual championship. It’s the second SEC game bumped this week, following Missouri-Vanderbilt.
Florida hosts Missouri next, on Oct. 24, and that game also could be in jeopardy.
“Hopefully we don’t have any more positives and we’re able to get on the other side of this and then we can get everyone back in a situation where you can go compete again,” Stricklin said.
Florida paused team activities Tuesday after seeing a spike in positives. Mullen said two assistant coaches also tested positive. The Gators have since moved to everyday testing and and halted meetings and practices indefinitely.
Stricklin suggested traveling to Texas A&M may have been the root of the team’s outbreak, with two players who later tested positive telling team doctors they had symptoms before getting on a plane last Friday. One had a runny nose, the other a headache.
Neither told anyone, which Stricklin said would be addressed. He also hinted at potentially looking at tweaking travel protocols.
“I really think it could be as simple as not understanding symptoms,” Stricklin said, pointing to Florida having 10 positives over the previous 11 weeks. “I know people personally who have had the sniffles and a friend of theirs was COVID positive, so they went and got tested and found out they had it. They thought they just had something pretty common. …
“As a college student, you have those things and it’s not uncommon. But in a COVID environment, it’s so important that we are hypersensitive to being diligent on that front. I don’t know that this was a situation where someone goes, ‘I don’t feel well, but I’m going to power through it.’ I think this is a situation where someone felt like, ‘I’ve got a sniffle, I need a Kleenex and I’m ready to play a game.'”
Florida’s shutdown came three days after Mullen’s comments about wanting to pack 90,000 fans inside Florida Field to create a better home-field advantage against the Tigers. Mullen didn’t double down Monday, but he didn’t back down, either.
He brushed aside criticism and praised his guys for how well they have handled COVID safety protocols.
He finally backtracked two days later, apologizing “if I offended people or anybody out there.”
“One of the things I want to encourage was whatever our local health officials come and out say, ‘This is the number of people that we’re going to allow at the game right now,'” Mullen said. “I want to encourage those people to come in, bring the energy, bring the excitement into the stadium and help our team to win and bring that energy that they bring of what makes the Swamp such a special place to go play in.”
Stricklin made it clear Wednesday that Mullen overstepped his area of expertise and added that the plan for the rest of 2020 would be to allow up to 17,000 fans (25% capacity) at Florida Field for home games.
“That number will change one day. I don’t know when they’ll change,” Stricklin said. “But until that changes, this is where we’re going to be.”
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Florida Sports

LSUs’ Orgeron says QB Brennan ‘doubful’ vs. No. 10 Florida

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU quarterback Myles Brennan has not been able to practice this week, placing his availability for Saturday’s game at No. 10 Florida in question, coach Ed Orgeron said Wednesday.
“He’s doubtful,” Orgeron said on the Southeastern Conference’s weekly coaches’ teleconference Wednesday. “Maybe by Friday he’ll come around. I think he’s going to practice toward the end of the week.”
Orgeron added that LSU “may have to” have a freshman quarterback — either Max Johnson or TJ Finley — make his first-career start on the road against the Gators.
“Max and T.J. both had great practices” this week, Orgeron said. “They are both equal right now. Both of those young men are doing a great job, and if we have to start one of them, we’re going to do it and I’m going to believe in them.”
LSU’s quarterback situation could become moot because of questions surrounding whether the game will be played this weekend. That depends on how Florida’s program comes through a recent spike in positive COVID-19 tests that led the program to announce it was pausing team activities on Tuesday. Coach Dan Mullen said the team was awaiting results from another round of testing on Wednesday and didn’t want to speculate on prospects for keeping Saturday’s game on schedule.
Orgeron said Brennan’s injury occurred when he kept the ball along the right sidelined and took a big upper-body hit from two Missouri defenders near the goal line late in the first quarter of last Saturday’s 45-41 loss to Mizzou. Brennan never came out of the game, however.
“He was pretty bruised up,” Orgeron said. “He went in at halftime. He was very sore. It was hard for him to rotate to throw the ball, but he went out in the second half and he didn’t blink, so I was very proud of him.”
As for Brennan’s backups, Johnson was a top recruit out of Georgia. His father is former NFL QB Brad Johnson, who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Finley is from southeast Louisiana and was rated by recruiting analysts as the state’s top high school quarterback in 2019.
“Max is probably more of a runner a little bit. TJ has a strong arm,” Orgeron said. “Both of them are phenomenal young players.”
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Florida Sports

Jets’ Flacco to start again for injured Darnold vs. Dolphins

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Flacco will get his second straight start at quarterback for the New York Jets in place of the injured Sam Darnold.
Coach Adam Gase confirmed Wednesday that the 35-year-old Flacco would be under center Sunday at Miami against the Dolphins. That comes after Darnold missed last week’s game against Arizona with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.
Flacco went 18 of 33 for 195 yards and one touchdown in New York’s 30-10 loss.
Gase said Darnold, who was injured in the Jets’ 37-28 loss to Denver on Oct. 1, would not practice Wednesday. Darnold left the game against the Broncos for a few plays but returned and finished the game. He has not practiced since, though, and it’s uncertain when he will return.
“I think he’s better than what he was last week,” Gase said of Darnold. “The more time we give him, the better he’ll feel. He’s just taking the steps we need him to take to give us an opportunity into next week. We’ll be able to make that decision when we get there.
“I think he’s doing a good job of communicating and letting us know how he feels, where it’s not (just) what I want to hear but he’s being honest as far as his pain tolerance, his range of motion, how he feels.”
Gase said Darnold has been able to work on his throwing motion a bit the past few days.
“That’s a real big positive,” Gase said. “I do think he’s a quick healer and there’s no doubt any of us would ever say he’s anything but tough. We just want to make sure that he’s good before we put him out there.”
In other injuries, rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton was not expected to practice with a shoulder injury that sidelined him against the Cardinals.
“We’ll just kind of see how the week goes,” Gase said. “If there’s an opportunity there … I mean, he’s going through his rehab and we’re just taking this one day at a time.”
Gase also said left guard Alex Lewis (shoulder) would not practice Wednesday, but should be limited Thursday and Friday and be ready to play Sunday.
Wide receiver Breshad Perriman (ankle), cornerback Bless Austin (calf) and defensive linemen Quinnen Williams (undisclosed) and John Franklin-Myers (foot) were expected to be limited at practice.
The fact Perriman is practicing is a positive sign. He has been out since getting hurt against San Francisco in Week 2. Gase said he’s hoping Perriman is trending in the direction of being able to play Sunday against Miami.
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