Browns give Kareem Hunt 2nd chance, hope he stays inbounds
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, February 12
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The lasting visual of Kareem Hunt’s second NFL season wasn’t him stiff-arming a linebacker, shedding a tackle or barreling over a cornerback at the goal line for a touchdown.
It was Hunt pushing a young woman and then kicking her while she was defenseless on the floor.
That moment caught on a surveillance camera mortified the sports world and led to the Kansas City Chiefs parting ways with one of their best players, a move universally admired.
The Cleveland Browns found it offensive as well. However, they also believe it was a random act by a good-hearted young man who feels remorseful and deserves another chance.
On Monday, the Browns, who seemed to finally emerge from years of gloom, doom and dysfunction by winning seven games behind rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield this past season, signed Hunt to a one-year contract.
The shocking signing came while the league continues to investigate Hunt’s behavior in an incident that took place in a downtown hotel lobby last February. It came just weeks after Cleveland’s turnaround season following a 0-16 calamity that resulted in the hiring of new coach Freddie Kitchens, whose appointment created more momentum for a franchise that has spent the last 20 years spinning its wheels.
The Browns feel they’re doing the right thing. Time will tell. Hunt remains on the commissioner’s exempt list and could receive a significant suspension.
General manager John Dorsey, who drafted Hunt in the third round in 2017 while he was with Kansas City, said the decision to sign the 23-year-old was rooted in his Christian faith. Hunt has shown contrition, sought counseling and treatment, and vowed to never make the same mistake.
That’s enough for Dorsey, who said nothing is guaranteed and that he will have zero tolerance for further wrongdoings by Hunt.
“You guys always hear me talk about men of character,” he told reporters, who met with the GM in a conference room for 25 minutes not long after the team announced Hunt’s signing. “I’ll stand by that. I see a lot of men of character who commit egregious acts. But at the end of the day, they learn from those acts, moved forward and became better people. Again, I believe in second chances.”
Dorsey was adamant that the Browns completed a “thorough” investigation — the league’s inquiry is still not complete — before signing Hunt and that owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam approved the decision to add another troubled player (see Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon) to Cleveland’s roster.
However, Dorsey said the team’s diligence did not include speaking with the woman seen on the tape.
Later, standing in the lobby of the team’s headquarters in front of a generic backdrop and not one that would typically feature one of the team’s corporate sponsors, Dorsey was asked what his message would be to any female employees of the Browns.
“I think we’re all appalled by it. It is an egregious act,” he said. “We all understand that. But after doing our research, extensive research, analyzing the situation, we came to the conclusion that, you know what, I am willing to help a man from a second chance moving forward to be a better person, and that’s all you can ask for in society, and that’s all I’m trying to do.”
But the decision to bring aboard Hunt raises other questions:
Why now? Why not wait until the draft to find another running back? Are the Browns equipped to handle Hunt? And is Dorsey confident he really knows Hunt as a person?
“I am,” he said.
But Hunt fooled the Chiefs. He lied about what happened before he was released, and the Browns are counting on the Cleveland native to be straight with them and be a model citizen when he returns to play for his hometown team.
Hunt released a statement saying he regretted his actions and vowed to change.
“I would like to once again apologize for my actions last year,” he said. “What I did was wrong and inexcusable. That is not the man I was raised to be, and I’ve learned a great deal from that experience and certainly should have been more truthful about it after the fact. … I am committed to following the necessary steps to learn and to be a better and healthier person from this situation.
“I also understand the expectations that the Browns have clearly laid out and that I have to earn my way back to the NFL. I’m a work in progress as a person, but I’m committed to taking advantage of the support systems that I have in place to become the best and healthier version of myself.”
Dorsey insisted the Browns didn’t feel pressured to sign Hunt out of fear he would go to another team.
Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn said the team evaluated Hunt and didn’t feel comfortable trying to sign him because of numerous issues.
“I want good players and I want good people in this organization,” Quinn said.
The Browns are trusting Hunt can be that for them.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Kyler Murray chooses NFL over baseball and A’s
By CARRIE MUSKAT
Tuesday, February 12
MESA, Ariz. (AP) — When Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma last season, the Oakland Athletics knew there was a chance he might chose football over baseball.
That is exactly what happened.
On the day the A’s started spring training workouts, Murray said he will pursue a career in the NFL.
“I am firmly and fully committing my life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback,” Murray tweeted . “Football has been my love and passion my entire life. I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating 100 percent of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships. I have started an extensive training program to further prepare myself for upcoming workouts and interviews. I eagerly await the opportunity to continue to prove to NFL decision makers that I am the franchise QB in this draft.”
Murray passed for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns last season as the Sooners landed a second straight College Football Playoff berth. He ran for 1,001 yards and another 12 scores, posting the second-best passer efficiency rating in Bowl Subdivision history.
He declared himself eligible for April’s NFL draft last month. He is not a prototypical NFL quarterback at just 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, but his skills make him an intriguing option.
The A’s thought so, too.
Murray was the ninth overall pick in last June’s baseball amateur draft, and the outfielder agreed to a minor league contract with Oakland for a $4.66 million signing bonus. The deal called for him to receive $1.5 million after approval last summer by Major League Baseball and $3.16 million on March 1. Murray must return six-sevenths of the money he received, or $1,285,714. While there is a provision for a team to get an extra draft pick in the following draft if it fails to sign a player selected prior to the fourth round, there is no such provision for a player who signed and then decided not to play.
Oakland had a locker with a No. 73 jersey waiting for Murray at its facility in suburban Phoenix.
“We took the best athlete on the board and who we thought was probably the best baseball player on the board, too,” Athletics general manager David Forst said. “We’ve known all along this was a possibility. We knew he had a great option in the NFL, so we’ve known for a while that there was a chance this was going to happen.”
Murray showed off his skills taking batting practice at the Coliseum in an A’s uniform back in June, greeted by “WELCOME TO OAKLAND” on the big scoreboard with his photo. That was before he led the Sooners to the Big 12 Conference title behind his blazing speed and pinpoint throws.
Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders played both football and baseball, but Jackson was a running back and Sanders a cornerback.
“Quarterback is a very demanding position, as is being a Major League baseball player,” said Billy Beane, Oakland’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “To say somebody could or couldn’t, I’m not here to say that. Something like that is something that is part of our private discussions.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin added: “He’s one of those rare athletes, who I think any sport that he played, he’d probably excel at.”
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Cavs send Knicks to franchise-record 17th straight loss
By STEVE HERRICK
Tuesday, February 12
CLEVELAND (AP) — The New York Knicks’ franchise-record 17th straight loss might have been the toughest one to take.
The Knicks erased a 17-point deficit in the second half and had several chances to take the lead or tie the game in the final minute before falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-104 on Monday night.
“It’s incredibly hard,” said guard Dennis Smith Jr. “No one wants to lose, especially 17 in a row. Tonight would’ve been major for us if we’d have pulled it out.”
Collin Sexton, who led Cleveland with 20 points, hit two free throws with 17 seconds remaining to put the Cavaliers up by three.
John Jenkins missed a 3-pointer from the right corner, but Smith grabbed the rebound and dribbled to the left corner. He also missed a 3-pointer and Larry Nance Jr. tapped the rebound to midcourt as time ran out.
Luke Kornet, who hit a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch, missed a wide-open 3 with 21 seconds remaining that would have put the Knicks ahead.
“When you’ve got a chance at the end, if you don’t win, it hurts,” coach David Fizdale said. “We had a shot — actually two — and we got the look we wanted. It just didn’t go down. And before that, we got a real good look from one of our best shooters in Kornet.”
Nance had 15 points and 16 rebounds, while Jordan Clarkson scored 15 points. Kevin Love had 14 points and nine rebounds in his second game since returning from foot surgery. The All-Star forward played 16 minutes, all in the first half. Love was 4 of 10 from the field, including two 3-pointers, and had nine rebounds.
Love played Friday against Washington after missing 50 games. He scored four points in six first-quarter minutes.
“I felt like the last game I wasn’t able to open up my lungs like I was tonight,” Love said. “It felt pretty good to get out there and feel like I got in some sort of rhythm.”
Love said he thinks he’ll play Wednesday against Brooklyn in Cleveland’s final game before the All-Star break.
“He’s doing some things that we’ve really missed over his absence,” coach Larry Drew said. “You can put him in the post and he can manufacture a shot and get to the free throw line. He moves out to the 3 against a bigger guy. He looks good. He’s moving very well.”
Kadeem Allen scored a career-high 25 points for the Knicks. New York (10-46) has the worst record in the league, and has lost 25 of 26 and 30 of its last 32 games.
Cleveland (12-45) broke a four-game losing streak.
Kevin Knox scored 13 points while DeAndre Jordan had 12 points and 10 rebounds for New York.
Both teams are in the running for a prime spot in the draft lottery, which takes place May 14. The three worst teams in the league will have a 14 percent chance of getting the first pick in the draft and a shot at grabbing Duke center Zion Williamson.
Phoenix (11-47) and Chicago (13-44) are also possibilities for a top-three pick.
The Cavaliers led wire-to-wire and jumped to an 8-0 lead, leading Fizdale to use a timeout less than 90 seconds into the game.
The Knicks, who traded injured star Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas on Jan. 31, have their longest skid within one season. New York lost 20 in a row over two seasons, March 23-Nov. 9, 1985.
Knicks: Jenkins was signed to a 10-day contract earlier in the day. He scored seven points in nine minutes. .. G Emmanuel Mudiay (strained left shoulder) and G Frank Ntilikina (sore groin) remain out.
Cavaliers: F Tristan Thompson (sore left foot) likely won’t play until after the All-Star break. He has missed the last 12 games. … F Cedi Osman (sprained right ankle) was out for the fourth straight game. …. C Ante Zizic (sore lower back) was a late scratch.
THAT’S A LONG STREAK
The Knicks’ loss gives them the 34th losing streak of at least 17 games in NBA history and the longest skid since the Memphis Grizzlies dropped 19 in a row last season.
New York hasn’t won since a 119-112 victory over the Lakers on Jan. 4.
Cleveland won for the first time this season with Love on the floor. He played the first four games in the Cavaliers’ 0-6 start and returned for Friday’s loss in Washington.
Knicks: Host Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Cavaliers: Host Brooklyn on Wednesday.
Mickelson finishes off a 5th win at Pebble Beach
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
Tuesday, February 12
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Phil Mickelson is closing in on three decades on the PGA Tour and a half-century on Earth, and he still feels his best golf is good enough.
He was at his best at Pebble Beach, and no one had a chance.
A Monday finish brought on by rain and a freak hail storm was only a minor inconvenience for the 48-year-old Mickelson. He played two holes just as well as the previous 16 and polished off his bogey-free final round with one last birdie for a 7-under 65 and a three-shot victory over Paul Casey in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Mickelson won at Pebble Beach for the fifth time, matching the record set by Mark O’Meara. He has gone 28 years since his first PGA Tour victory and his 44th, and he joined Tiger Woods as the only players to surpass $90 million in career earnings.
“It’s a lot more work and effort to play at this level,” Mickelson said. “And I have believed for some time that if I play at my best, it will be good enough to win tournaments. The challenge is getting myself to play my best. It’s a lot more work off the course, it’s more time in the gym, it’s more time eating, it’s more time focusing, it’s all these things that go into it.
“And so it’s gratifying to see the results and to finish it off the way I did.”
Making it even more special is Pebble Beach, where he made his pro debut at the U.S. Open in 1992, where he won the first of his five titles in another Monday finish in 1998, this one in August because of rain. It’s where his grandfather, Al Santos, was among the first caddies when the course opened in 1919, and Mickelson still uses as a marker the 1900 silver dollar his grandfather kept in his pocket to remind him he was not poor.
There was plenty of sunlight for the Monday morning finish, just no drama.
Mickelson, who started the final round three shots behind, never came close to a bogey and built a three-shot lead through 16 holes on Sunday night when it was too dark to finish, no matter how hard he lobbied to keep going.
The final round Sunday had been delayed at the start by one hour because of rain, and then sunshine quickly gave way to hail that covered the greens in a sheet of white and led to a two-hour delay.
Mickelson said he could “see just fine” even after sunset, knowing darkness falls quickly on the Monterey Peninsula. Casey could barely see the 3 feet of grass between his ball and the cup on the 16th hole and said there was no way to complete two holes in six minutes. Mickelson was on the 17th tee, shaking his head when he heard the siren to stop play.
On Monday morning, he had a change of heart and said he thanked Casey for standing his ground.
“Paul made the tough call, but it was the right decision in that he protected himself and myself for the competition,” Mickelson said. “I just get in my own little bubble and I don’t see the big picture.”
It worked out well in the end.
Mickelson finished at 19-under 268. Casey needed Mickelson to make a big blunder on the two closing holes, and there was little chance of that. Casey at least birdied the 18th for a 71 to finish alone in second, the difference of $152,000.
He also won the Pro-Am with Don Colleran, the chief sales officer for FedEx.
But the final day, and all week, was about the ageless Mickelson.
This was the fourth time that Casey had a 54-hole lead of at least two shots on the PGA Tour and failed to win. The other three times he was 2-over par or worse in the final round. This time, he closed with a 71 and lost to Mickelson’s 65, which matched the low score of the final round.
“A phenomenal round of golf,” Casey said.
Mickelson’s longest putt for par was 4 feet. He played the final 26 holes in cold, damp and windy weather without a bogey.
How it bodes for the rest of the year — particularly in June when the U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach — was of little concern to Mickelson. The U.S. Open remains the final piece of the career Grand Slam for Mickelson, who already holds the record with six runner-up finishes. He finished three shots behind Graeme McDowell in 2010, the last U.S. Open at Pebble.
And while the fairway lines already have been cut much tighter at Pebble, the conditions were so soft that balls plugged in the fairway when they landed and greens easily held shots even from the rough.
“It’s nothing like the course we’ll see,” Mickelson said. “I’ll deal with that in six months.”
Mickelson lives for the moment. He says he had as much fun winning at Pebble Beach as when he finished one shot behind in the Desert Classic three weeks ago.
It’s the thrill of competition. And even at 48, that never gets old.
South Dakota ranked for first time in school history
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
Monday, February 11
NEW YORK (AP) — South Dakota has been on the rise since moving up to Division I in 2008.
Now the Coyotes can add an appearance in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll to their achievements.
Riding a nine-game winning streak, coach Dawn Plitzuweit’s team entered the AP Top 25 at No. 25 on Monday for the first time in school history.
“Certainly it’s an exciting day for our team and program, our fans and our university,” Plizuweit said. “It speaks volumes to the hard work our young ladies have done to get to this point. It’s certainly not the end goal of our program.”
The Coyotes (22-3), who are off to their best start as a DI school, have five consecutive 20-win seasons. The team is 74-19 in Plizuweit’s three years at the school. She took over a team that won the WNIT title in 2016.
“When you receive a ranking like this it speaks volumes to the young ladies and coaches that have been there before and what they did to build the program.” She said
The Coyotes’ first game as a ranked team will be on Saturday at Western Illinois. The team was off practice Monday.
“Today we can celebrate it without focusing on being on the court then get back to work,” Plizuweit said. “This group is really hungry and on a mission right now to be the best they can be.”
South Dakota already has win this season over Iowa State and Missouri when the Tigers were ranked.
Here are some other tidbits from the AP Top 25 this week:
FALLING IRISH: Notre Dame fell out of the first five for the first time in 31 weeks. The Irish were last out of the top group on Nov. 20, 2017, when they were also sixth.
RISING TO THE SUMMIT: South Dakota became the third Summit League team ever to be ranked, joining rival South Dakota State and Oral Roberts. South Dakota State had a 11-week run from middle of the 2008-09 season to the final poll that year. Oral Roberts was in for one week in 1983 before the school joined the Summit.
TOP 25 SHOWDOWNS: UConn will host South Carolina on Monday night in the final non-conference tuneup for both teams. Oregon State will play at Oregon on Friday night in a huge Pac-12 clash.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg
Danes test out ski slope on top of incineration plant
By JAN M. OLSEN
Tuesday, February 12
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Alps it’s not. But Danish skiers and snowboarders are testing out an artificial ski slope above an incineration plant that doesn’t emit toxins and rises 85 meters (279 feet) above the flat landscape of Copenhagen.
The lower half of the slope at the Amager Resource Center opened to the public on a snow-less Tuesday for two days of test runs to coincide with the week-long winter Danish school holiday.
Eventually, the entire run will be divided into three slopes with a green sliding syntheticsurface, plus a recreational hiking area and an 80 meter (264 foot) climbing wall.
The 4 billion kroner ($516 million) project, which sits on top of a plant that has been producing heating for homes since 1970, began in 2013. It has been delayed by scandals, including alleged misuse of taxpayer money, and no opening date has been set.
The plant now processes waste from 550,000 residents and 45,000 businesses and produces electricity and heating to approximately 150,000 households.
Once the whole project is completed, the roof will contain ski slopes, green spaces and hiking trails. The slopes will have ski lifts to take people up to the top of the runs.
Denmark is famous for its flat landscape. Its highest point is in the west at Yding Skovhoej, which is 174.5 meters (572 1/2 feet) above sea level.