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Rashad Jennings retires from NFL

Rashad Jennings officially announced his retirement from the NFL on Friday and was in East Rutherford to do it as a member of the New York Giants.

“Obviously, I want to retire as a Giant because I feel that’s where I made my staple as an NFL player on and off the football field,” he said. “The history that this organization has, to be a part of that, is very rewarding and something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

Jennings added that the reason for his retirement now is basically because no team signed him, but he is ready to move on to other things in his life.

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Jennings is known for his three seasons with the New York Giants. He rushed for 2,095 of his 3,772 career rushing yards with the Giants, and 12 of his 25 touchdowns came with the franchise.

Jennings said in July during his 180 Weekend in Lynchburg that playing for Giants presented him opportunities in “the fashion world, acting, TV commentating, TV personality stuff, having my own cartoon [and] writing books.”

“It’s opened up doors that a degree wouldn’t allow just solely,” Jennings added. “I’m fortunate enough to play with a great franchise like the New York Giants and that door will always be open and welcoming. It became my home in the NFL and where I was known to play at.

The Forest native is the Flames’ all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 42 and is third in the record books with 3,633 rushing yards on 633 carries. His breakout 2008 season with 1,500 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns are both single-season bests.

Jennings was released by the Giants following the conclusion of the 2016 season. He remained in playing shape by participating in the 24th season of Dancing With The Stars. Teamed with professional dancer Emma Slater, Jennings defeated former Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross in the finals.

The 32-year-old Jennings said he will hold a press conference with the Giants to announce his future plans.

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Nets get Okafor in trade with 76ers

Okafor got his wish when the Philadelphia 76ers finally traded the No. 3 overall pick of the 2015 draft to the Brooklyn Nets. The deal ends the stalemate that had kept Okafor on the bench for all but two games this season.

Team president Bryan Colangelo said he reached a deal with a team he declined to name to trade Okafor last season until it fell apart at the last minute. That led to an awkward situation where Okafor didn’t even travel with the team during the trade deadline. Okafor led the Sixers in scoring as a rookie with Embiid out with injuries.

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Okafor played 55 games last season and never really meshed with the franchise center. Okafor started piling up DNP-CDs and those stretched into this season, where the Sixers will chase a playoff berth without him.

“He can go play basketball again,” coach Brett Brown said.

The Sixers also sent seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2014 draft, and a 2019 second-round pick to the Nets for forward Trevor Booker. Booker, the 23rd overall pick of the 2010 draft by Washington, averaged 10.1 points with the Nets.

Okafor gave the Sixers plenty of headaches in his rookie season out of Duke with his off-court conduct, which included his role in Boston street fight that earned him TMZ scrutiny and a two-game suspension.

He was widely mocked last year for a lackadaisical defensive effort where he stood still and failed to contest shots in a game against Miami.

“I think like anybody that comes into our organization, we need to defend the basketball,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I think that will be a challenge for both of them. We need those guys to be two-way players.”

“This trade provides us with a good opportunity to bring in two young players who were high picks in recent drafts and give them a chance to succeed in our system,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said.

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Eli Manning back as Giants’ starter

Eli Manning is back as the Giants starting quarterback, the team announced Wednesday.

The Giants are 2-10 heading into a Week 14 matchup with the Cowboys. On Sunday, Manning missed a start for the first time in 210 consecutive games and Geno Smith was under center for New York. The Giants lost to the Raiders 24-17 as Smith went 21-for-34 for 212 yards and one touchdown.

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When the Giants made the decision to bench Manning for Smith, there was tons of reaction from across the league as players, former players, former coaches and media questioned the move and speculated on what it meant for the two-time Super Bowl MVP’s future.

“I just wanted him to know that I do want to play. I want to be the starting quarterback,” Manning said. “So, I’m happy that he went with that decision and he has the faith in me, we can go win this football game with me as the quarterback.”

“I appreciate all the support that the fans have given me this past week, it’s been overwhelming. And I appreciate them so much for all the texts, the letters, the way they expressed their appreciation for me, so I’d appreciate it if they came out on Sunday and cheered the team on,” Manning said.

Manning has already suffered the indignity of having to watch Smith, a flop with the New York Jets and a guy who seems unlikely to be a Giant beyond this season, start in his place last week. He has to be aware of the calls to look at Webb, even the curiosity of co-owner John Mara. He has to be cognizant of the possibility the Giants would draft a quarterback with their first pick in the upcoming draft.

Manning has two years beyond this one left on his Giants contract and said he has “no retirement plans.” He told Steve Serby of the New York Post that “I want to be the starting quarterback next year.”

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Djokovic hires Stepanek as coach

Former world number one Novak Djokovic said on Thursday he had added close friend Radek Stepanek to his coaching team and was excited to be working with the Czech. Djokovic, a 12-time major champion, and Stepanek announced their partnership during a joint appearance on Instagram Live on Thursday.

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What was not immediately clear was how Stepanek and Andre Agassi, who began working with Djokovic on a part-time basis at the French Open in May, will divide their coaching duties. Djokovic split from longtime coach Marian Vajda shortly before bringing aboard Agassi, and stopped working with Boris Becker a year ago.

Djokovic hasn’t competed since a loss at Wimbledon in July, citing a right elbow injury.

Stepanek retired as a player in November and turned 39 on Monday. He was ranked as high as No. 8 in singles and No. 4 in doubles and won two Grand Slam men’s doubles titles. He also won a bronze medal in mixed doubles for the Czech Republic at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

”I‘m honored to be a new member of Novak’s team,“ said Stepanek. ”It is a new and exciting challenge for me, which I‘m looking forward to, and I believe that as a team we can help Nole (Novak) reach his goals.

Djokovic, 12th in the world rankings, is due to start his comeback at the Abu Dhabi exhibition event in December.

Radek Stepanek spoke about his new relationship with the 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic. The former world no. 8, who earned $11 million in his career as prize money, admitted that in some ways he was attracted by money: ‘It took me a little time to think about the offer, which is financially interesting.’ However, Stepanek also quickly specified, ‘But, the money in this case is not the main motive.

It is not only a great honor for me to work with Novak, but it is also a great responsibility.’

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Packers place Kevin King on IR

The Packers officially sent rookie corner Kevin King to IR today, ending his season, In a corresponding move, activating Demetri Goodson from the PUP list.

This is a disappointing end for King, who showed great promise early in the season before suffering a lingering shoulder injury that will likely require off-season surgery. King struggled at times, but he also has impressive games against some great receivers, including Atlanta’s Julio Jones, and he is the best tackler among the corners. He hasn’t been as effective since suffering the injury and shutting him down is probably the right move, but it is still a blow to the Packers’ already dwindling playoff hopes.

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King will miss out on development time, and this injury may impact his growth as a player into next season. Injuries to Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins negatively impacted their sophomore seasons, and seeing this happen again is certainly disconcerting. In the meantime, Goodson will provide some depth at the position.

He played in nine games this year, starting five, and collected 21 tackles and five pass deflections. King has been dealing with this shoulder issue since tearing his labrum during his freshman year at Washington, though he labeled it as “not a concern” in August.

Despite the injury, head coach Mike McCarthy was pleased with the work King did this season.

“I can’t give him enough credit for fighting through what he has,” McCarthy said. “These injuries are a challenge for every team, and that’s something that we’ve had to deal with a lot this year.”

The rookie closed out his first season as a pro with 28 combined tackles, including a season-high seven in a Week 3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

On Sunday, Green Bay will travel to Cleveland as the Packers look to grab a win while keeping the Browns out of the win column.

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Knicks’ Hardaway out two weeks

Tim Hardaway Jr. missed the past two Knicks games due to injury, and he’s now in line to miss even more. The Knicks announced Tuesday that he is currently rehabbing for a stress injury in his lower left leg, which will likely sideline their second-leading scorer for at least two weeks.

Hardaway first missed time in a loss to Orlando on December 3. He missed the next game as well — also a loss — but both games did not feature Kristaps Porzingis.

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When Hardaway signed his contract offer from New York over the offseason there was a strong reaction to it due to how much he was making. While it’s debatable on if he’s met the standards set by that contract, he’s so far proven to be a suitable player for the Knicks — averaging a career-high 17.8 points per game — and one they rely on. That said, the bigger loss the last two games has been Porzingis. The Knicks would rather have Hardaway playing than not, but they should be able to survive the two weeks without him.

“We’ll figure it out,” Michael Beasley said. “We did at the beginning of the season when Tim was in his slump. So hopefully it’s not long-term with Tim. I wish him all the best. We love him. Just got to figure it out as a team.”

The “slump” Beasley referenced was Hardaway shooting just 26% in the first four games of the season. The Knicks won just one of those games. Following criticisms about his robust contract, Hardaway quickly demonstrated his improvements on defense and with his playmaking. He leads the team in minutes per game (34.1), a career high.

The Knicks will likely split his minutes between a group of players for as long as the setback forces him out of the rotation. Doug McDermott, Damyean Dotson and Lance Thomas could all see an uptick in playing time.

Ultimately, New York should have enough wing depth in order to fill a short-term void. An extended absence would create a bigger issue, however, especially since Hardaway has been playing more like the Knicks expected when they drafted him in the first round in 2013.

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Steelers’ Shazier hospitalized after spinal injury

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier remained hospitalized in Cincinnati on Tuesday afternoon, still being evaluated for a back injury suffered during Pittsburgh’s 23-20 win over the Bengals on Monday night.

Coach Mike Tomlin had no update about the extent of Shazier’s injury during his regular weekly news conference on Tuesday afternoon. He said that Dr. David Okonkwo, a Steelers team doctor, was still on site with Shazier at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

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The Steelers released a statement early Tuesday morning, saying that Shazier does not need surgery “at this time” and is continuing to improve. The team was hopeful that he could return to Pittsburgh later Tuesday.

Shazier lowered his shoulder and tackled receiver Josh Malone in the first quarter. He landed on his chest, reached for the middle of his back, and then rolled over. He lifted his arms, flexing his right hand and calling for help, but otherwise did not appear to move much as he was removed from the field on a backboard and a cart.

“Right now, we’re just happy that he’s getting the necessary medical attention that he deserves,” Tomlin said.

Oft-injured early in his career, Shazier has played in 25 consecutive games (including playoffs) and had rarely missed a defensive snap in that time. He did, however injure his ankle late in the Steelers’ game last week against Green Bay. Shazier missed two practices this week but started Monday night.

Tyler Matakevich initially replaced Shazier – but Matakevich later suffered an injured left shoulder, so L.J. Fort finished the game at left inside linebacker.

“It’s extremely tough to concentrate when you’re thinking about your teammate like that, but you’ve just got to do your best to stay focused and come back to worrying about your brother when the game’s over,” Fort said.

“Coach T did a good job of getting everyone focused and back in the game.”

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Rob Gronkowski with one game suspension

The NFL has suspended New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski one game for a late, gratuitous hit to the head of Buffalo defensive back Tre’Davious White.

White was lying face down on the sideline after intercepting a pass Sunday when the 265lbs Gronkowski body-slammed him, driving his forearm into White’s back and head. Gronkowski was called for unnecessary roughness, but because of retaliation from the Bills there was no penalty assessed. White was later evaluated for concussion, a particular concern given the issues around brain trauma suffered by NFL players.

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This was a deserved suspension, and he’s very lucky that it’s just a one-game suspension. Gronkowski apologized for the play after the game and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick condemned his player for his actions too.

Rob Gronkowski will make his case to the NFL against his one-game suspension following his late hit on Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White. According to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe, the Patriots tight end will appealing his one game suspension on Tuesday. Volin notes that former Buccaneers linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks will serve as Gronkowski’s appeal officer and that appeal will be done over the phone.

The 28-year-old apologized after the game and told reporters that his frustrations boiled over from officials not calling infractions being done to him specifically on that play where White held him at the top of the route and, he says, pushed him prior to making the interception.

If his one game suspension stands, Gronk will miss out on New England’s Monday Night Football matchup with the Dolphins down in Miami. Given the impact that Gronk has in this Patriots offense, Brady knows that his team will have to get creative and others will need to step up.

“We’ll try to put together the best plan we can and we’ll see how well it goes,” Brady told Westwood One’s Jim Gray about possibly playing without Gronkowski in Week 14. “Other guys are going to have to step in and do that spot. We’re going to have to do that well. It’s going to be tough game anyway and we’re going to do the best we can do.”

On the year Gronk has totaled 55 receptions, 849 yards and seven touchdowns through Week 13.

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Aaron Boone named Yankees new manager

The Yankees have a new manager. One month after cutting ties with Joe Girardi, New York has hired former player and current ESPN analyst Aaron Boone to be the franchise’s 28th skipper. Boone beat out five other final candidates, including Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens and the recently retired Carlos Beltran, to earn the top job.

The pressure is going to be high for the new skipper, replacing someone like Girardi and inheriting a win-now roster full of young stars like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino. He has no previous managerial or coaching experience, but clearly impressed team brass during his interview.

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Boone spent one half of a season with the Yankees during his playing career in 2003, the year he was an All-Star and ALCS hero before the team fell to the Marlins in the World Series. In his 12-year career, he spent time with the Reds, the Yankees, the Indians, the Marlins, the Nationals, and the Astros, posting a career 10.00 fWAR, a .327 wOBA and a 93 wRC+. His career ended in 2009 after he underwent an open heart surgery for an existing condition, and he signed on with ESPN, where he’s been since, that offseason.

When the search for a new manager began, general manager Brian Cashman laid out a list of qualities he was looking for, and while no one candidate had a perfect resume, several possessed multiple pieces. What worked for Boone was his openness to utilizing analytics and an emphasis on communication, the latter of which Cashman defined as a problem during Girardi’s tenure.

Boone will replace Joe Girardi, who went 910-710 in 10 years as Yankees manager and led the team to its most recent championship, in 2009. Girardi had been a major league coach and manager when he replaced Joe Torre a decade ago. Boone has not been in uniform since retiring as a player eight years ago, but his hiring continues a trend around the majors.

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Spurs’ Kyle Anderson with knee injury

San Antonio Spurs forward Kyle Anderson suffered a left medial knee sprain in Sunday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team announced. Kyle Anderson went down with a knee injury in the third quarter of the Spurs’ game against the Thunder. It didn’t look good, as Anderson’s knee appeared to twist and he went down screaming in pain.

The 24-year-old is on pace to have a career year in the NBA, showcasing the all-around game that led San Antonio to select him with the 30th overall pick in the 2014 draft.

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Entering Sunday, Anderson was averaging 9.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists. He was also shooting 36.4 percent from beyond the arc. The 24-year-old Spurs forward had undergone x-rays that came back negative.

The injury could lead to Spurs head coach Greg Popovich to consider putting veteran forward Rudy Gay in the starting lineup moving forward. Gay has been relegated to bench duties averaging 12.0 points on 47.2 percent shooting from the field with 5.0 rebounds in 22.0 minutes per contest in 21 games played.

“This has been a good opportunity for him,” [Gregg] Popovich said before the game. “He has a high basketball IQ and does a lot of things well. He’s not what you’d call a typical NBA athlete. He just has a really high basketball IQ and that helps a team.”

The Spurs are entering a stretch where they’ll play four games in six days, so the team will likely remain cautious with Anderson, and he should be considered questionable-at-best to play in Monday’s game against the Pistons.

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