Category Archives: Sports

Green Bay Packers sign former Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

The Green Bay Packers didn’t land former All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore but may have found help for their defense after all in former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Smith signed with the Packers on Thursday, with his agent, Doug Hendrickson of Wasserman, telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter it is a one-year deal.

The move came a day after news broke that the Packers were a potential suitor for Gilmore shortly before he was traded from the New England Patriots to the Carolina Panthers for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick. But the Packers did not have enough salary-cap space to get Gilmore in a trade because they would have to inherit the remaining $5.8 million of his base salary on this year’s salary cap.

The Packers started Thursday with about $6.5 million in cap space and still need room for the in-season moves that injuries might necessitate. Smith, however, fits under the cap because the Cowboys are on the hook for the entirety of his $7.2 million base salary this campaign as a result of veteran termination pay rules.

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He filled the roster spot of outside linebacker Chauncey Rivers, who was placed on injured reserve.

Rivers tore an ACL on the second-to-last play of practice Wednesday, a source told ESPN.

“Nothing’s official yet, but I go back a long time with Jaylon,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who coached Smith at Notre Dame, said before the signing was announced.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for him, not only as a football player but as a man. He was one of my favorites when I was at Notre Dame. I just think a veteran guy who’s played at a really high level and just can bring kind of a mentality and leadership to our defense.

“Certainly, he’s going to be behind quite a bit, being the fact we’re heading to Week 5 and it’s a totally different system, so there’s going to be a lot of work that needs to be put in, not only from him but from our coaching staff to get him up to speed. But we’ll let him kind of come in here and compete to play.”

With the Packers, Smith could work his way into the starting lineup alongside De’Vondre Campbell, who has been one of their biggest playmakers this season, or simply offer backup depth.

Second-year pro Krys Barnes opened the season as the other starting inside linebacker; he missed last week’s match versus the Pittsburgh Steelers because of a concussion he suffered the previous week against the San Francisco 49ers.

Without Barnes, the Packers used a combination of Ty Summers and Oren Burks next to Campbell.

LaFleur said it was unlikely Smith would play Sunday at the Cincinnati Bengals.

Smith, 26, saw his role with the Cowboys diminish with the addition of first-round pick Micah Parsons, the production from Leighton Vander Esch and the return of Keanu Neal from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Smith was a second-round pick by the Cowboys in 2016 even though they considered it unlikely for him to play for a year given the knee injury he suffered in his final college game.

He made his debut in 2017 and has played in every game since.

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Title battle too close for comfort, says Mercedes boss Toto Wolff

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff expects the Formula One title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull rival Max Verstappen to rage deep into the 2021 campaign, with the gap between the pair too close for comfort.

The 36-year-old Hamilton turned a five-point deficit to his 23-year-old Dutch rival into a two-point lead in the overall standings after racing to a landmark 100th victory in the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The duo have been engaged in a fierce battle all year long, with Hamilton aiming to become the first driver to win eight Formula One titles, as Verstappen hunts down his first championship triumph.

Thirty-two points is the widest the gap between the two has been, with the overall lead changing hands four times this year and three times in the last five races. There are seven races to go.

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“I think neither driver or neither team can have any comfort in the current situation because there is just no gap in terms of points,” Wolff, whose team is 33 points clear of Red Bull in the team standings, told reporters via video conference on Sunday.

“I think this is going to go very long.”

The 2014 Olympic Park venue that hosted Sunday’s race and Monza, scene of the Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago, have traditionally been tracks that have played to Mercedes’ strengths.

While Hamilton seized back the overall lead in Russia and kept his team’s undefeated run in Sochi intact, he and Mercedes would have hoped to have come away with more.

The points difference between Verstappen and Hamilton was unchanged after the pair put each other out of the race in Monza.

In Russia, Verstappen concluded second, despite having started last after taking on a new engine.

Of the seven races to come, only Turkey, where Hamilton clinched his seventh title last year, appears to be a clear Mercedes favorite.

Hamilton may also need to take on a new power unit, which like Verstappen in Russia, would trigger penalties, sending him to the back of the grid.

“I’ve stopped trying to anticipate whether it’s a historically strong race for us or not because with the new regulation everything has changed so much,” said Wolff.

“But definitely we knew that Monza and Sochi would be coming more towards us and the reality is that we are where we are.”

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Twins bump Blue Jays back in wild card race, as Gurriel hurt

Nick Gordon drove in four runs and Michael Pineda won his third consecutive start as the Minnesota Twins beat Toronto 7-2 on Thursday night to bump the Blue Jays back in the AL wild-card race.

The loss was especially costly for Toronto, which fell a full game behind New York for the second spot and three games behind wild-card leader Boston.

Left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. exited in the fifth inning after teammate Randal Grichuk accidentally stepped on his right hand in the outfield.

Blue Jays starter Steven Matz (13-8) lost for the first time in eight turns, finishing just three innings with seven hits and two walks permitted. He needed 80 pitches to get that far, and Toronto — with manager Charlie Montoyo serving a one-game suspension — turned the game over to the bullpen trailing 2-1.

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Teoscar Hernández tied it in the fourth with his 30th homer off a first-pitch slider from Pineda, but the game unraveled for the Blue Jays in the fifth.

Gordon greeted reliever Julian Merryweather with a three-run homer, but there was significant damage done just before that.

On a double by Mitch Garver — who was 3 for 4 with an RBI — to the gap, Grichuk grabbed the ball to make a quick throw to the infield to keep Josh Donaldson from scoring. As Gurriel crouched down to give him space, Grichuk’s cleat landed on Gurriel’s hand during the follow-through.

Blood was dripping from his middle finger as Grichuk knelt next to him, before a team athletic trainer arrived for assessment and heavily wrapped the hand in a towel before Gurriel walked off.

The Blue Jays said X-rays revealed no breaks, but he needed two stitches.Thomas Hatch, who replaced Matz for the fourth, exited with right hamstring discomfort in the fifth trailing 3-2 right before Gordon broke the game open with his fourth homer of the campaign.

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Anthony Smith dominates light heavyweight bout with first-round submission of Ryan Spann

Anthony Smith stated two years ago after a title loss to all-time great Jon Jones that maybe he’d never get another opportunity to defeat Jones.

But that was OK, Smith said, because he’d simply outlast Jones — and the rest of the UFC light heavyweight division.

Those comments have aged pretty well.

Smith took out another up-and-comer Saturday night, submitting Ryan Spann with a rear-naked choke at 3:47 of the first round in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

Smith dropped Spann twice with punches and then finished the job on the ground with his grappling acumen in an outstanding performance.

Smith has five first-round finishes since 2018, tied with Vicente Luque for the most in the UFC during that stretch, per ESPN Stats & Info.

“He’s got the skills,” Smith said in his postfight interview. “I think I’m better.” After referee Herb Dean stopped the fight following Spann’s tap, Smith started jawing at Spann.

The two men had to be separated by security and their teams. Smith took umbrage with some of the trash talk coming from Spann and his team leading up to this fight. But cooler heads prevailed and the two ended up embracing and exchanging pleasantries.

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Smith stated after the bout he wants another streaking prospect next: Aleksandar Rakic. The two fought in August 2020 with Rakic winning by unanimous decision.

“He’s just sitting around,” Smith said. “He’s not next in line for the title. Either I want that fight or I skip it.”

Rakic tweeted seconds later that he was free in December. To that, Smith responded: “Merry Christmas to me.”

Smith clipped Spann with a left hand behind the ear that dropped him early in the first round during an exchange.

Spann was able to get back to his feet after escaping an armbar attempt.

When the two got into another striking exchange, Smith was able to land a big left followed by a right hand that hurt Spann. Another right put Spann down; Smith took his back in a scramble and then cinched in the choke that ended things.

Smith (36-16) has won three consecutive — all by finish — and was coming off a first-round TKO victory over prospect Jimmy Crute.

The Nebraska native lost to Jones, who has since vacated the belt and left the division, at UFC 235 in March 2019. He is 4-2 since then. Smith, 33, has been very solid since moving up to light heavyweight from middleweight in 2018, going 7-3 with wins over former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, as well as former multiple-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson.

Spann (19-7) was seeking his first real signature win against a top light heavyweight. The Texas resident was coming off a first-round TKO win over Misha Cirkunov in March.

Spann, 30, has won nine of his last 11 fights and is a former LFA light heavyweight champion.

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England’s perfect World Cup qualifying run ended by late Poland equalizer

Poland scored a stoppage-time equalizer to bring an end to England’s perfect start to World Cup qualification and secure an important 1-1 draw in Warsaw.

Gareth Southgate’s side, who lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties in July, had won their opening five matches in Group I.

Harry Kane’s long-range effort in the 72nd minute had them on course to extend that to six games before Damian Szymanski struck in the 92nd minute to earn Poland an unlikely draw.

“An amazing feeling. I’m glad we managed to score that goal in the last minutes. I’m happy,” Symanszki said. “I’ve worked hard for this, struggled with injuries. To play against England, to score a goal, it’s a dream come true.”

This was England’s toughest test in Group I so far with Poland set up to frustrate through defensive play and gamesmanship but the visitors looked set to come through and take a big step towards next year’s World Cup finals.

England’s efforts were frustrated in the opening 45 minutes as they failed to trouble Wojciech Szczesny in goal for Poland.

The hosts’ main threat, Robert Lewandowski, meanwhile, was restricted to one half-chance, which was tidily dealt with by Jordan Pickford.

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A fast-paced but uneventful first-half burst into life just as the referee whistled for half-time with England and Poland players coming together. 

Harry Maguire appeared incensed about something, while Poland defender Kamil Glik was called back by the referee as he tried to leave the pitch. Eventually things settled down and both players were cautioned.

There was an incident just before half-time which has been reported to the FA guys,” Kane said postmatch. “They’re taking care of it and investigating it and we’ll go from there. Allegedly it was something that was done, not said. We haven’t chance to look at the footage and talk to the lad.”

England stepped things up after the break with Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling troubling the Poland rearguard but, again, without really causing Szczesny too much cause for concern.

That was until the 72nd minute when Kane’s powerful, swerving shot flew past the former Arsenal goalkeeper from 32 yards out to put England in front.

It was the 15th consecutive qualifier, for Euros and World Cup, in which Kane has scored and it looked to have brought a sixth straight victory in this campaign.

England have 16 points from six games with Albania second on 12 points, Poland on 11 and Hungary on 10 points. The top team in the group qualifies for next year’s World Cup in Qatar with the second place team heading into the playoffs.

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Real Madrid sign France phenom Camavinga amid PSG’s Mbappe saga

Real Madrid are on the verge of signing 18-year old French prodigy Eduardo Camavinga from Rennes on 5-year, €30 million ($35 million) deal, sources have told ESPN.

The midfielder, who only has one year left on his contract with the Ligue 1 club, will undergo his medical on Tuesday in Clairefontaine, where is he training with France’s Under-21 squad.

Camavinga’s transfer is expected to be made official on Tuesday. Rennes didn’t want to see the player leave as a free agent next summer and are said to be pleased with the deal.

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The deal with Rennes was agreed late on Monday night after the discussions with Paris Saint-Germain over the transfer of Kylian Mbappe stalled.

However, sources close to the Bernabeu insisted that the deal was not connected to the breakdown in talks to sign Mbappe.

Madrid have been following Camavinga for several seasons, with former manager Zinedine Zidane a longtime admirer of the player who made his Ligue 1 debut as 16-year-old.

There’s a belief at the club that he’s the right age to learn from — and eventually take over from — Toni Kroos and Luka Modric at the heart of Madrid’s midfield.

Camavinga, who was called up for France U21 by Sylvain Ripoll for the Euro 2023 qualifiers in September, also has three senior appearance for Les Bleus.

While Camavinga is not the French superstar that Real Madrid and their fans expected this summer, he was a very coveted player.

PSG, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund were all interested in him. He is a complete midfielder, excellent on the ball with great activity and energy.

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Mercedes to leave Formula E after 2022

Formula E champions Mercedes will withdraw from the all-electric series at the end of the Gen2 era in 2022 to concentrate on Formula One, the carmaker said on Wednesday.

The announcement comes three days after Dutch driver Nyck de Vries acquired the Formula E world championship title after finishing eighth in the season’s final race in Berlin, with Mercedes also winning the teams’ title after Stoffel Vandoorne’s third place.

“Mercedes-Benz today announced that it will conclude its ABB FIA Formula E success story as a team entrant and manufacturer at the end of Season 8, in August 2022,” the manufacturer said in a statement.

“Moving forward, the company will concentrate its works motorsport activities on Formula 1, reinforcing the sport’s status as the fastest laboratory for developing and proving sustainable and scalable future performance technologies.”

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In December, German manufacturers Audi and BMW confirmed they would exit Formula E at the end of this year.

Mercedes announced a new strategic direction for its brand in July, with the aim of going all-electric by the end of the decade.

“As part of the new strategic direction, the brand has deliberately chosen to shift resources for this accelerated ramp-up of electrification, including the development of three electric-only architectures to be launched in 2025,” the carmaker said.

“Therefore, Mercedes will reallocate resource away from its ABB FIA Formula E World Championship programme and towards applying the lessons learned in competition to product development in series.”

This decision leaves Mahindra, DS Automobiles, Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche, Nissan and NIO as manufacturers who have committed to the Gen3 rules that will run until the end of the 2025-26 season.

Race teams Andretti Autosport and Envision Virgin Racing are also expected to continue, while Mercedes affiliate Venturi Racing will be required to find a new powertrain partner.

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Russell Henley shoots lowest round in 2 years to lead Wyndham Championship

Russell Henley shot an 8-under 62, his lowest round in more than two years, to take the lead Thursday in the suspended first round of the Wyndham Championship.

Henley birdied three of his last four holes for a 2-stroke lead over Sung Kang, Ted Potter Jr., Chris Kirk, Hudson Swafford, Scott Piercy and Michael Thompson in the PGA Tour’s final regular-season event. Adam Hadwin also was 6 under but had two holes left when darkness ended play.

A storm halted play for 2 hours, 7 minutes, with 22 players unable to finish.

Past champion Webb Simpson and Kevin Kisner led a group of 10 another stroke behind at 65 at Sedgefield Country Club, where many competitors are scrambling to make it into top 125 to advance to the playoffs that start next week at the Northern Trust.

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Henley, at No. 46 in the standings, had no worries about the postseason but came out fast with a bogey-free round in chasing his first PGA Tour triumph in four years.

He moved in front with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th before closing with birdies on 17 and 18, the last with a 20-foot putt. He had with his lowest round on the tour since a career-low 61 at the John Deere Classic in 2019.

Henley has played some solid golf of late.

He was tied for the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open in June, then had two straight top-20 finishes before missing the cut at the British Open. He returned this week, hoping he can carry his strong play to the end.

“I haven’t won in years, so I feel like as well as I’ve been playing, I feel like I’ve underachieved a little bit,” he said.

“My mindset,” Henley continued, “is I feel if I can play my game, play my normal game, then I can maybe give myself a chance, and that’s kind of where I’m at.”

There are several big names competing to keep their season’s alive. Adam Scott, who started at No. 121, and Matt Kuchar, at No. 124, both had strong starts at 66.

“I would like to play well this week and get a chance to play next week and keep getting my game into place,” Scott said.

Rickie Fowler, who came in at 130th and needing a good week, didn’t help himself with a 71. Justin Rose, the Payne Stewart Award winner this week, has to finish in the top 10 to advance after coming in 138th. He opened with a 66, tied for 19th.

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama was at 69, tied for 89th.

Olympic medalists Rory Sabbatini and C.T. Pan also are playing after the Tokyo Games. Sabbatini, who took silver for Slovakia behind U.S. gold medal winner Xander Schauffele, started with a 66.

Pan, from Taiwan, won a seven-man playoff for the bronze. He shot a 68.Louis Oosthuizen, the only top-10 player in the FedEx standings entered, withdrew due to a neck injury.

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Lionel Messi agrees Barcelona contract, accepts significant wage cut

Lionel Messi and Barcelona have reached an agreement for the forward to sign a new five-year deal with the Catalan club, sources have confirmed to ESPN. Sources added that Messi has accepted a significant wage cut to prolong his stay.

Messi was a free agent after his contract at Barca expired, and he had courted interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City since first revealing a desire to end his 20-year relationship with Barca last summer. The 34-year-old’s previous contract, which was worth over €500 million ($594m) over four years, expired at the stroke of midnight on June 30.

However, with the return of Joan Laporta as president in March, Messi grew more open to staying at Camp Nou. An official announcement is expected in the coming days. Laporta had hoped to finalize an agreement before Messi’s previous terms expired. Barca’s financial problems made that impossible, though, with their gross debt over €1 billion. Cutbacks have been essential, in terms of transferring players out, reducing the wage bill and getting Messi to accept a lower salary.

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La Liga president Javier Tebas has warned Barca they will not be permitted to register Messi’s new deal if they are unable to reduce spending to comply with the league’s Financial Fair Play rules. Barca’s spending limit has been reduced from over €600m to €347m since the coronavirus pandemic, with further reductions expected to be imposed for the upcoming season.

Therefore, to register Messi’s new deal, in addition to new signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal, Barca need to continue reducing the wage bill and moving players on. With that in mind, sources at the club refuse to rule out the departure of Antoine Griezmann, a €120m signing in 2019.

Messi is on holiday with his family after his Copa America triumph with Argentina last weekend, which was his first senior trophy with his national team.

He will link up with Ronald Koeman’s squad later in the summer, with Barca’s league campaign kicking off on Aug. 15 versus Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Messi had first expressed a desire to leave Barca last August after the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. His relationship with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu had reached a breaking point.

In a September 2020 interview with Goal, after Barca had blocked his departure, Messi called Bartomeu a “liar” and said the board had been “making things up as they go along” and “plugging holes” for years.

Bartomeu, facing a vote of no confidence, resigned last October and was ultimately replaced by Laporta in March. Laporta has a good relationship with Messi and his family. He was Barca’s president when Messi made his first-team debut and when he signed his first professional contract with the club.

Sources told ESPN in April that Laporta was working on a contract renewal for Messi that included the option of playing in Major League Soccer before returning to Barcelona.

In public and in private, Laporta had always maintained that he was “convinced” he could persuade Messi to stay. The club have already made a series of signings this summer, bringing in Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia, as well as recalling Emerson Royal.

Messi first joined Barca’s academy in 2000 and has gone on to play 778 games for the club, breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record last season. He has scored 672 goals, another club record, and has helped Barca win, among other trophies, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions.

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Nick Diaz joins brother Nate back in UFC, agrees to September bout vs. Robbie Lawler in Las Vegas

Nick Diaz is formally returning to the UFC.

According to his longtime attorney, Ross Goodman, Diaz, 37, signed a fight agreement Tuesday to face Robbie Lawler at UFC 266 on Sept. 25 in Las Vegas.

Lawler has not signed his agreement yet, sources told ESPN, but wants the fight, and is expected to sign his side shortly. The non-title fight is expected to be five rounds, and will be on the main portion of the pay-per-view card.

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Diaz (26-9) is the older brother of UFC star Nate Diaz, and a pioneer in mixed martial arts.

He is a former Strikeforce welterweight champion, and was involved in big fights with the UFC versus B.J. Penn, Carlos Condit, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva from 2011 to 2015.

In September 2015, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Diaz for five years after he tested positive for marijuana metabolites after his fight versus Silva in UFC 183. It was his third marijuana-related offense in the state of Nevada, which led to the harsh punishment.

Ironically, the NSAC voted just last week in favor of no longer disciplining combat sports athletes for marijuana use.

Diaz and Lawler have a history that runs back to 2004. They met on the undercard of UFC 47. Diaz won via knockout in a highly entertaining contest.

Lawler (28-15) is a former UFC welterweight champion. He won the 170-pound title by defeating Johny Hendricks in 2014 and defended it twice in instant classics versus Rory MacDonald and Condit.

The 39-year-old has dropped his past four bouts, all against very high-level competition.

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