Category Archives: Sports

Antetokounmpo, Middleton help Bucks defeat Lakers 109-102

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 47 points and Khris Middleton tied Milwaukee’s franchise record for career 3-pointers as the Bucks defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-102 on Wednesday night.

Middleton returned after missing eight games due to COVID-19, played 30 minutes and made consecutive 3-pointers 30 seconds apart early in the fourth quarter to put the Bucks ahead for good. The second of those 3s was his 1,051st with the Bucks to match Ray Allen for first place on the team’s all-time list.

“That’s a very, very special place to be,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think we all just admire what Khris does every night, his ability to shoot, the different ways he gets 3’s and his kind of consistency and longevity here.”

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Allen holds the NBA record with 2,973 3-pointers in a career that also included stints with the Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.

LeBron James missed an eighth consecutive game for the Lakers due to an abdominal strain. The Lakers have gone 3-5 during that stretch.

Los Angeles also is missing Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn, who haven’t yet appeared in a game this campaign.

“It’s a part of the game,” said Anthony Davis, who scored 18 points for the Lakers. “Same thing with the team we just played. They’ve been hit with injuries as well. It kind of goes with the league, the business of the game. You go out there and put your body on the line every night, God forbid, something is going to happen in the course of a season. Someone’s going to get hurt. We’ve got to adjust and continue to fight until we get everybody back.”

Talen Horton-Tucker scored 25 points for the Lakers two nights after getting a career-high 28 in a 121-103 loss to Chicago. Russell Westbrook had 19 points, Malik Monk 11 and Carmelo Anthony 10.

Antetokounmpo posted his highest point total since scoring 50 in a Game 6 Finals victory over the Phoenix Suns that clinched Milwaukee’s first title since 1971.

“I wanted to be the aggressor out there,” Antetokounmpo said. “I wanted to initiate the contact, get in the paint, make the right play and just play with an edge out there.”

Bobby Portis added 17 points for the Bucks. Middleton and Pat Connaughton had 16 each.

This marked just the third game this season in which the Bucks had their three top players – Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Jrue Holiday – all available.

The only other times were in a 127-104 season-opening victory over the Brooklyn Nets and a 121-111 triumph at San Antonio on Oct. 23. Bucks center Brook Lopez hasn’t played since that Nets game due to a back issue and guard Donte DiVincenzo still hasn’t made his season debut. DiVincenzo tore a ligament in his left ankle during the first round of the 2020-21 playoffs.

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Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (toe) sits out practice, plans to play vs. Vikings

Whatever happened to Aaron Rodgers’ toe during his COVID-19 quarantine — and he won’t say exactly what it was — kept him from practicing on Wednesday and kept Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur from working on the timing he considers was lacking in the offense upon Rodgers’ return last week.

Rodgers was asked repeatedly about his toe during his weekly appearance on the “Pat McAfee Show” on Tuesday, and then sat out practice on Wednesday. Although it was technically considered a jog-through session, the Packers said he would not have participated even if it had been a regular practice.

The only thing Rodgers would say Wednesday was that it was his toe injury, and nothing else, that kept him out of practice.

“I’m not sure what my status will be tomorrow or Friday, but I’d like to get out there if I’m feeling good enough,” Rodgers said. “But it’s definitely a better week than last week being separated (during the quarantine), being able to go through all the meetings. I plan on being at practice on the field tomorrow, not sure how much involvement I’ll do though.”

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While he stressed that it would not keep him out of Sunday’s match versus the Vikings, Rodgers could go another week without any significant practice time.

Packers receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard also showed up on the injury report because of shoulder issues. Adams was listed as limited, and Lazard did not participate.

Those developments came after LaFleur stated some of the Packers’ struggles on offense in the 17-0 win over the Seattle Seahawks were due to a lack of practice time.

“We gotta get back out on the practice field,” LaFleur said earlier this week. “We need those guys just to continue to work on the timing portion, making sure that the details of our route depths and our assignments are on point because I think right now if you just look at the offense as a whole, there is opportunity out there for us. I know we can execute at a higher level. I know we can coach at a higher level. We’re just a little bit off with some of the details, and I think that’s really kind of hurt us throughout really, specifically [on Sunday] but even throughout the course of the season.”

Rodgers hasn’t taken part in a full-length practice in nearly a month.

His last regular practice came on Oct. 22 — two days before the game versus Washington. The Packers didn’t have any practices — only half-speed sessions during a short turnaround — leading into the Thursday night game at Arizona on Oct. 28.

After a weekend off, they held only a short jog-through session the following Monday, Nov. 1. After a day off Tuesday, Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and didn’t return to the team until the day before the Seahawks game.

The Packers managed just three points in the first half against Seattle, and Rodgers finished the game with no touchdown passes and threw an uncharacteristic interception in the end zone.

It has been a long stretch for the Packers, who have two more games before their Week 13 bye — the second-to-last possible off weekend. Still, Rodgers said his only issue is the toe and he felt fine coming back from COVID.

“Obviously, the body is really looking forward to that, as is my toe,” Rodgers said. “But we’ve got two games until then. It’s kind of a day-to-day how I’m feeling, whether or not I’m going to practice, but I didn’t find any issues with recovery, standard Monday and Tuesday, as I’ve done throughout the season. So I feel good wind-wise. I definitely took a few shots on Sunday, but I feel good today on Wednesday.”

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Noah Syndergaard, Los Angeles Angels reach 1-year, $21 million deal

Right-hander Noah Syndergaard and the Los Angeles Angels have agreed to a one-year, $21 million deal, pending a physical, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

Syndergaard, 29, spent the first seven campaigns of his career with the New York Mets, making one All-Star team and displaying perhaps the nastiest array of pitches for a starter in the major leagues.

Having pitched only two innings since 2019 because of Tommy John surgery, Syndergaard will join an Angels rotation that was among the worst in the big leagues last season.

The Angels’ pursuit of starting pitching this winter was their top priority, with two-way star Shohei Ohtani coming off a season that will end with the American League MVP award and outfielder Mike Trout returning from an injury-plagued 2021.

The cost is hefty: Beyond the $21 million, the Angels will forfeit their second-round draft pick in 2022 because Syndergaard had been tendered a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer by the Mets. They will receive a pick after the draft’s competitive balance Round B (around 70th overall).

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While some in the industry expected Syndergaard to take the qualifying offer, the market proved healthier. The Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees were among the teams that showed the greatest interest in Syndergaard, sources told ESPN.

All of them saw enough in Syndergaard’s late-September return, which involved a pair of one-inning outings in which he didn’t throw his slider or curveball. Though Syndergaard’s average fastball velocity during the outings was down more than 3 mph from his 2017 peak, the promise of plenty more prompted the Angels to pay a premium.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Syndergaard’s deal, by average annual value, is the largest doled out by the franchise for a pitcher. C.J. Wilson signed a five-year, $77.5 million deal ($15.5 million AAV) prior to the 2012 season.

The Angels’ need for pitching is no secret.

Ohtani led the team with 130.1 innings; no other Angels pitcher exceeded 100. Syndergaard has never pitched 200 innings in a season; he’s made 30 or more starts in a season twice (2016 and 2019).

However, a rotation that includes Ohtani, Syndergaard and left-hander Patrick Sandoval has the makings of something good — particularly if general manager Perry Minasian can complement it with a top-of-the-rotation arm like free-agent right-hander Max Scherzer.

Syndergaard, a 6-foot-6 leviathan nicknamed Thor, looked superheroic early in his career, constantly ripping off 100-mph fastballs and pairing them with 93-mph sliders.

During the Mets’ run to the 2015 National League pennant, Syndergaard was among their best pitchers, and the next year he was even better, posting a 2.60 ERA, striking out 218 in 183.2 innings and looking every bit a star.

When Syndergaard was healthy, he was typically excellent, pairing his strikeout stuff with a tendency to generate groundballs. Over 718 career innings, he has a 3.32 ERA and has struck out 777, walked 166 and permitted just 64 home runs.

His return from elbow reconstruction in March 2020 hit roadblocks and culminated with the September showcases, during which he allowed two runs in two innings. That was enough for the Angels to see — and pay.

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Grizzlies send Houston to its 12 straight defeat 136-102

Ja Morant had 22 points, six rebounds and six assists, Jaren Jackson Jr. added 18 points and the Memphis Grizzlies defeated Houston 136-102 Monday night, sending the Rockets to their 12th consecutive loss.

Dillon Brooks finished with 16 points, and Kyle Anderson added 15 as Memphis snapped a three-game losing streak. The 136 points was a season-high for the Grizzlies. Brooks and other Grizzlies said a renewed energy meant better defense.

“That should never die,” Brooks said. “The energy every single game, every single day at practice. …We should never lack energy.”

Jalen Green led the Rockets with 15 points, while Jae’Sean Tate added 14 points and nine rebounds. Houston, again was stymied by poor shooting, connecting on only 38%.

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Neither team entered Monday night playing well.

Memphis struggled in its previous three games – all losses by double-digit margins to Charlotte, Phoenix and New Orleans. Meanwhile, over the last four matches, the Rockets have lost by an average of 14.3 points a game.

The misery continued early for the Rockets, who just couldn’t match the Grizzlies, even though Memphis had its own problems with turnovers early. But whatever issues Memphis was dealing with, the Rockets had more with a dozen miscues. The Rockets shot a respectable 44% in the half, but Memphis connected on 56% building its lead.

A 20-0 run in the third quarter, part of Memphis outscoring the Rockets 31-15 in the frame, guaranteed Houston’s losing streak would continue for at least another game as the Grizzlies lead reached 40 in the second half.

“I feel like we played great defense,” Morant said. “We held them to a 15-point quarter. Obviously got to be better rebounding the ball, especially when we play hard defense to get a stop, which we need to get out and run.”

Rockets coach Stephen Silas dealt with a similar lengthy losing streak last season, but there are differences with this skid. “It’s right at the beginning of the season, and we’re trying to find ourselves and trust ourselves,” the Rockets coach said.

“The message is the same. It’s the process. It’s the work, the preparation, the trust. All of those things and trusting that if you do things the right way, we’ll get out of the streak.”

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Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones out 1-2 weeks with ‘mild’ MCL sprain

An MRI revealed that Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones has “a mild” MCL sprain and is expected to be out one to two weeks, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday.

Jones left Sunday’s 17-0 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the third quarter with a knee injury, reaching for his right knee at the end of a 6-yard gain. On the CBS TV broadcast, Tracy Wolfson reported that Jones left the medical tent in tears and went to talk to his family.

Jones has suffered MCL sprains before, including one to his right knee during the 2018 season. He missed the final two games of that season. As a rookie in 2017, he missed two games in the middle of the season because of an MCL sprain and then also sat out the season finale because of a similar injury.

The Packers missed the playoffs in both of those seasons, so it’s unknown when Jones could have returned. Packers coach Matt LaFleur sounded relieved on Monday that it wasn’t a worst-case, season-ending injury for Jones.

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“I don’t think it’s going to be long term, but we’ll just monitor it on a daily basis and see how fast he can heal up, because he’s certainly a guy you want out on the field,” LaFleur said. “He does so much for our team, just not only from a production standpoint, but also just the energy he brings to our team is pretty contagious.”

The Packers signed Jones to a four-year, $48 million deal in March.

He had four catches for 61 yards and seven carries for 25 yards when he left the game.

Second-year running back AJ Dillon totaled 128 yards of offense (66 yards on 21 carries and 62 yards on two catches) and two touchdowns versus the Seahawks.

In other injury news, Packers OLB Rashan Gary plans to brace his hyperextended elbow to see if he can try to play Sunday against the Vikings, a source told Schefter. Gary has an MRI on his elbow scheduled for Tuesday to see if anything gets in the way of his plans.

A source also told Schefter that fellow outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus has a torn biceps and will miss the rest of the season. The Packers signed the veteran pass-rusher last month, and he had first sack with the Packers on Sunday against the Seahawks.

“Yeah, that’s a tough one,” LaFleur said. “Man, I feel bad for him. Shoot, he would’ve had potentially a second sack right there. Just the stability he brings to that room and this guy’s a pro’s pro. He’s been doing this at a very high level for a long time. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that happen.”

Even if Gary doesn’t miss a match, the Packers are thin at outside linebacker. There’s no timetable for Za’Darius Smith to return from his back surgery; he has not played since the season opener.

The Packers on Saturday released outside linebacker LaDarius Hamilton, but perhaps general manager Brian Gutekunst will re-sign him.

“I think that’s something that Gutey and our entire scouting department is looking at every potential option,” LaFleur said. “We have some guys on our practice squad and we’ll just kind of see where we have to go.”

Quarterback Blake Bortles’ two-week stint with the Packers, meanwhile, is over. With Aaron Rodgers back and now Kurt Benkert off the reserve/COVID-19 list and back on the practice squad, Bortles was released Monday.

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Max Holloway edges Yair Rodriguez in bloody, back-and-forth UFC Fight Night main event

Yair Rodriguez, blood coming from several cuts on his face, pointed his finger and planted it in Max Holloway’s chest. Holloway, face swollen and bleeding from above his right eye, took his fist and patted it versus Rodriguez’s face.

Holloway’s legend continued Saturday with a unanimous-decision victory (49-46, 48-47, 48-47) over Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. And Rodriguez’s own lore leveled up after a warrior-like performance in a losing effort.

The back-and-forth bout, which ended up as one of the best of 2021, could have been a torch passing moment from Holloway, the former UFC featherweight champion, to the up-and-coming Rodriguez. Instead, Holloway, nicknamed “Blessed,” earned another huge victory in a historic career.

Rodriguez pushed Holloway to the brink, rallying with an elbow that cut Holloway in the fifth round. But Holloway held on.

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“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best — and the best is ‘Blessed,’ baby,” Holloway said in his postfight interview.

Both fighters were taken to a hospital after the fight.

Holloway outlanded Rodriguez in important strikes 230-159, per UFC stats. The 389 combined significant strikes are the third largest total in a single fight in UFC history — and Holloway has been involved in each of the top four highest totals, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Holloway landed 251 total strikes, becoming the first fighter to eclipse 3,000 total strikes in a UFC career. His 2,848 significant strikes are also a UFC record. Holloway is the only fighter in history to have 25 UFC fights and never get knocked down.

“Insane,” UFC president Dana White said. “It was one of the best fights I’ve ever seen.”

Holloway is arguably the best featherweight in UFC history, holding the 145-pound title from 2017 to 2019 with three title defenses. ESPN has Holloway ranked tied for No. 9 in the world in its pound-for-pound MMA rankings. At featherweight, Holloway is ranked No. 2 and Rodriguez is No. 8.

“Max is an amazing fighter,” Rodriguez stated. “He has a lot of experience. He’s done an amazing job. I have nothing to do but accept [the loss].”

Afterward, Holloway was noncommittal about what he wants next. He mentioned a possible title fight at lightweight, another shot at the man who took the featherweight title from him in Alexander Volkanovski, and even being on “the short list” for a fight versus Conor McGregor, who beat Holloway in 2013.

“We’re ready whenever,” Holloway said.

Holloway, 29, owns the most wins (18), most KO/TKO wins (8) and most stoppage victories (10) in UFC featherweight history. Rodriguez (13-3, 1 NC) was undefeated in three consecutive fights coming in and has just two losses in 10 UFC fights.

The Mexico native had not fought since a unanimous-decision victory over Jeremy Stephens in October 2019. Rodriguez, 29, owns the record for the latest knockout in UFC history, a spectacular back elbow finish of “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung, with one second remaining in the fifth and final round in November 2018.

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Glover Teixeira, vowing to ‘never give up on your dreams,’ defeats Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267

Glover Teixeira got a UFC light heavyweight title shot seven years ago and lost, like most everyone else does, to Jon Jones. At that point, Teixeira was already 34 years old and most wrote him off. He had his nice UFC run, many thought, and that would be it.

Instead, Teixeira got back to work and somehow made his way all the way back. On Saturday, he did what most thought impossible. Teixeira defeated Jan Blachowicz via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:02 of the second round to win the UFC light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi. Teixeira was a +210 underdog, per Caesars Sportsbook.

At 42 years old, Teixeira is the oldest first-time champion in UFC history and the second-oldest fighter to collect a UFC title, behind only Randy Couture.

Teixeira joins Couture and Daniel Cormier as only the third UFC fighter to win a title at age 40 or older. The 14 UFC fights between Teixeira’s title loss to Jon Jones at UFC 172 on April 26, 2014, and Saturday, were the most between title shots in the same division in UFC history.

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“Never give up on your dreams,” Teixeira said in his postfight interview. “No matter what people say, don’t listen to them. They’re gonna put you down. Don’t listen to those negative people. Believe in yourself.”

Teixeira took down Blachowicz in the first round and basically kept him there for the duration.

In the second round, Blachowicz had success with his boxing. But Teixeira wobbled him with a left hook and then took him down again.

This time, Teixeira was able to get mount, then take Blachowicz’s back and lock in the choke. “I’m breaking the rules — 42 years old,” Teixeira said. “I’m gonna keep breaking those rules.”

ESPN has Blachowicz ranked No. 5 in the world on its pound-for-pound MMA list. At light heavyweight, ESPN has Blachowicz ranked No. 1 and Teixeira at No. 2.

Teixeira (33-7) has won six consecutive and seven of his past eight, most recently before this weekend a third-round submission victory over Thiago Santos in November 2020. The Brazil native has 28 finishes in 33 career victories.

Teixeira, a Connecticut resident, has been considered one of the top light heavyweights in the world for more than a decade, an incredible stretch of consistency and quality. He has the most finishes (13) and submission victories (7) in UFC light heavyweight history. Teixeira’s 16 UFC light heavyweight wins are second most next to Jones (20).

“Glover Teixeira is and has been one of the toughest guys in the division for a very long time, this was his dream forever to get this title shot,” UFC president Dana White stated. “He finally gets it and did it tonight.”

Blachowicz (28-9) was coming off his first title defense, a unanimous decision win over previously undefeated middleweight champion Israel Adesanya at UFC 259 on March 6.

The native of Poland won the title vacated by Jones at UFC 253 in September 2020, a second-round TKO over Dominick Reyes. Blachowicz, 38, had won five straight and nine of his past 10 fights coming in. He is a former KSW light heavyweight champion.

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Brandon Hagy, Chad Ramey share lead at wind-blown Bermuda Championship

Brandon Hagy and Chad Ramey evaded the worst of the wind Thursday afternoon, each with a 6-under 65 to share the lead in the Bermuda Championship when the opening round at Port Royal was halted by darkness.

For those who started in the morning, it might have been easier playing in the dark.

“You see winds like this, but normally you don’t play in them,” said Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who had every right to be satisfied with his even-par 71.

The wind and spots of heavy rain were so fierce that play was suspended briefly in the morning. And while it eased slightly in the afternoon, the gusts were strong enough that short putts were nervy and judging the distance on approach shots was key.

Ramey managed to finish off a bogey-free round right before play was halted. Hagy made nine birdies to offset his bogeys, one of which was a 2-foot par putt he missed on the par-5 seventh hole.

There was not much he could about it — the result was largely due to a gust.Vincent Whaley had a 66, while Palmetto Championship winner Garrick Higgo, Seamus Power of Ireland and Danny Lee were among those at 67.

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The group at 68 contained Patrick Reed, at No. 24 the highest-ranked player in the field.

He opened with three straight birdies only to give most of it back with a double bogey. This was a day for fighting the ball, such as the chip 8-iron from 118 yards. For so much of the day, the actual yardage was irrelevant.

Reed was coming off a bogey on the 16th when he drove into a hazard on the par-5 17th. He took a penalty drop, and then hit 6-iron that plopped down near the hole and dropped for a most unusual eagle.

His playing partners all drove into the hazard on the 17th and they managed to collectively play the hole in 3 under.

When play was stopped, 33 players were under par, some having to return Friday morning to complete the first round. Only six of those scores under par came from the morning.

Russell Knox, who grew up near Inverness in Scotland, was among the early starters and had few complaints with a 72. He was happy to be standing up.

“We were down on the ground holding an umbrella. My fingers were cramping I’m holding on so tight, and it was pouring rain as hard as it’s ever rained,” he said. “It was an interesting day.”

Hagy got a sense of that when he began in the afternoon and saw so few scores under par. Greyson Sigg and Austin Eckroat had the best rounds of the early starters at 68. They played with Seth Reeves, who had a 69. They represented half of the scores under par from the morning side of the draw.

“I think it laid down a little bit for us, but it was still pretty stout,” Hagy said. “But I hit a lot of good putts and they went in. I think there’s going to be some times where you get gusts and the ball doesn’t go in, but you kind of have to keep your head down and keep trying to hit some good shots.”

It has already been a week like no other at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, which is offering full FedEx Cup points because it is not opposite the World Golf Championship in Shanghai, canceled for the second consecutive year due to the pandemic.

That means the winner gets into the Masters, and only four players in the field already are eligible for Augusta National in April. The 132-man field started with only 126 players because of so many withdrawals, some by players who rarely play anymore.

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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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