Tagged in: covid-19

Novak Djokovic to defend Australian Open tennis title after exemption from COVID-19 vaccination

Novak Djokovic ended speculation over his Australian Open title defense by revealing on Tuesday that he would compete at the tennis season’s opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The world No. 1, who had declined to reveal his vaccination status, said previously that he was unsure whether he would compete at the Jan. 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns over Australia’s quarantine rules.

“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022,” the Serbian said on Instagram. Organizers of the Australian Open had stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

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The organizers issued a statement later on Tuesday to confirm Djokovic will be permitted to compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia.

“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” the statement said.

“One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization guidelines.”

Tennis Australia stated last month the panel would consist of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice and that the move was agreed in conjunction with the Victoria Department of Health.

Applicants who pass an initial stage are subject to a second review conducted by a government-appointed panel before the application is submitted to the Australian Immunization Register.

Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, had told a Serbian television channel that his son would probably pull out of the major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory jabs was tantamount to “blackmail.”

Djokovic pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney to raise further doubts over his participation in the year’s first Grand Slam.

“I’m ready to live and breathe tennis in the next few weeks of competition. Thanks everyone for the support,” Djokovic added in his post, which was accompanied by a picture of him in an airport.

He heads to Australia having trained in Marbella, Spain, over the past few days.

Tennis Australia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including the past three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 majors with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the all-time list.

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Djokovic pulls out of ATP Cup in Sydney

Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney, event organizers said on Wednesday, raising further doubts over whether the world number one will defend his Australian Open title next month.

There has been intense speculation over Djokovic’s participation in both events, with the 34-year-old, who is opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations, repeatedly declining to say if he has been inoculated against the virus.

Organizers of the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17, have stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

“Novak Djokovic has officially withdrawn from the ATP Cup in Sydney, we have no update as yet on his plans for the Australian Open,” a Tennis Australia spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

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“Regarding the medical exemption process, which pertains to all players, there is a rigorous and independent process in place. As with all medical information it is subject to confidentiality.”

The global men’s tennis governing body ATP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ATP Cup organizers said Serbia’s team would now be led by world number 33 Dusan Lajovic.

Owing to Djokovic’s current world ranking, Serbia received top billing for the 16-team event, which runs from Jan. 1-9, and have been drawn in Group A along with Norway, Chile and Spain.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, counting the last three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 major titles with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the all-time list.

His father Srdjan told a Serbian television channel last month that Djokovic would probably pull out nL4N2SK0VQ of the major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory vaccination was tantamount to “blackmail”.

The season-opening ATP Cup also saw Austria, which failed the eligibility criteria following the withdrawal of Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak, replaced by France.

Russia, which won the 2021 title, will be missing Andrey Rublev and Aslan Karatsev from that team.

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Indianapolis Colts put unvaccinated starting QB Carson Wentz on reserve/COVID-19 list

The Colts have placed starting quarterback Carson Wentz on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team revealed Tuesday.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association on Tuesday adopted the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that would reduce the quarantine time to five days from 10 days for all players, counting those who are unvaccinated, if they are asymptomatic or at least demonstrating that their symptoms are improving, according to a memo obtained by ESPN.

Wentz tested positive, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Wentz would still be able to play on Sunday versus the Las Vegas Raiders as long as the positive test took place Monday and he is asymptomatic or demonstrates his symptoms are improving under the new protocols. Wentz has not shed light on why he remains unvaccinated.

He missed some time before the start of the regular season because he was a close contact to someone who tested positive in the Colts’ organization.

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“I’m not going to go into depth on why, but I will say it’s a personal decision for me and my family,” Wentz said in early September.

“I respect everybody else’s decision, and I just ask that everybody does the same for me. I know that’s not the world we live in, not everyone is going to equally view things the same, but yeah, no one really knows what’s going on in someone else’s household and how things are being handled. It’s a personal decision. That’s just where I’m at on it and with the protocols and everything the way they are, really for us, it’s about understanding them clearly and making sure that we are dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s.”

If Wentz can’t play, rookie Sam Ehlinger, barring the Colts bringing in a quarterback from the outside or going with practice squad quarterback Brett Hundley, will start versus the Raiders.

Ehlinger missed the start of the regular season because of a knee injury suffered in a preseason game at Detroit. His most extensive playing time has been in the final minutes of games that have already been decided.

The Colts, like many other teams around the NFL, have been hit hard with players going on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Wentz is the 15th player currently on the list for the Colts. Linebacker Darius Leonard, guards Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski, right tackle Braden Smith, safety Khari Willis and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin are other starters currently out because of COVID-19. Leonard, Nelson and Smith were all unvaccinated as of earlier this season.

The Colts (9-6), winners of eight of their past 10 matches, are currently the fifth seed in the AFC playoff race. Only one game separates the fifth and 11th seed in the AFC. The Colts can lock up a playoff spot with a victory over the Raiders on Sunday.

“The playoff race is close, and I feel like the teams that can handle the COVID-19 situation are going to be the ones that are gonna be able … to get into the playoffs,” Colts defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said after Saturday’s victory over Arizona. “Key players all around the league are out. It’s all about depth.”

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Titans rally from 10 down at half, edge 49ers 20-17

Coach Mike Vrabel heard that his banged-up Tennessee Titans were being written off after the left side of their offensive line was ruled out a day before hosting the streaking San Francisco 49ers.

Then they lost their backup left tackle to a positive COVID-19 test Thursday morning, forcing them to use their 52nd different starter and 88th player this campaign.

“We’re not dead yet,” Vrabel said. Alive and kicking.

Randy Bullock booted a 44-yard field goal with 4 seconds left and the Titans rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the 49ers 20-17 Thursday night. The Titans (10-5) are a win or a Colts’ loss away from clinching their second consecutive AFC South title despite losing three of their past four games to drop from the AFC’s top seed to third. Indianapolis plays Arizona on Saturday. Tennesse moved to second in the AFC.

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Ryan Tannehill threw for just 40 yards in the first half but finished with 209 yards and a TD for Tennessee. A.J. Brown caught 11 passes for 145 yards hours after being activated off injured reserve, and his 18-yard TD catch gave Tennessee a 17-10 lead early in the fourth.

“It was all on us and we just had to make a play,” Brown said. “Then we had to make another play. That was the mindset. Just come out here and make plays, so that’s what we did.”

The Titans also picked off two passes, sacked Jimmy Garoppolo twice and forced the Niners to turn it over on downs once.

San Francisco had one final chance. Garoppolo completed a 16-yard pass to Pro Bowl receiver Deebo Samuel, who fumbled, starting three laterals before Jayon Brown finally tackled Brandon Aiyuk to end the game.

The 49ers (8-7) lost for the second time in seven games as they try to hold onto a wild-card berth in the NFC. Their loss ensured a playoff berth for Dallas, which can clinch the NFC East with a victory over Washington on Sunday night.

Garoppolo tied it with a 2-yard TD pass to Brandon Aiyuk with 2:20 left, a score set up by a 56-yard catch-and-run by Samuel down to the Tennessee 6.

This was the Niners’ first loss after leading by 10 or more at halftime under coach Kyle Shanahan — they had been 18-0 in the regular season and playoffs with those leads. They hadn’t blown such a lead since Week 14 of 2016 to the Jets under Chip Kelly.

Garoppolo knows the Niners had their chances.

“It’s tough when you let one like this slip away,” Garoppolo said. The Niners led 10-0 at halftime, their first time shutting out an opponent in the first half since the 2019 NFC title game against Green Bay. That also marked four straight scoreless quarters for the Titans.

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Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley on reserve/COVID-19 list, will miss game against New England Patriots

Wide receiver Cole Beasley was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list by the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday, becoming the fifth player on the active roster and seventh overall on the list.

Beasley tested positive, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Field Yates, and remains unvaccinated. He will at minimum miss the game versus the New England Patriots on Sunday and be out for 10 days. In an Instagram post Tuesday evening, Beasley said he was “feeling fine with mild symptoms.”

The game against the Patriots will decide which team takes the lead in the AFC East race with the playoffs just three weeks away. “Just to be clear COVID is not keeping me out of this game. The rules are,” Beasley wrote Tuesday on Instagram.

“Vaxxed players are playing with Covid every week now because they don’t test. One of my vaxxed teammates is in the hospital missing games. I’m sure he didn’t get this same energy. Thank you for those who support. Everyone else, if you don’t get what’s happening then there is nothing anybody can do for you.”

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Teammate Jon Feliciano, who also is on the COVID-19 list, posted on Twitter Tuesday that he “ended up in the ER on Sunday.” He appears to be the teammate “in the hospital” Beasley referenced in his post.

Left tackle Dion Dawkins, guard Feliciano, defensive end AJ Epenesa and linebacker Tyrel Dodson have been placed on the list in the past week.

All four missed the team’s victory over the Carolina Panthers, although Epenesa was out due to an ankle injury and placed on the list Monday.

Beasley was previously placed on the COVID-19 list in August after being designated a close contact with a member of the team’s training staff, but tested negative at the time. He was also fined, along with receiver Isaiah McKenzie, for not wearing masks in the facility.

Beasley was outspoken on social media regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, but the slot receiver deleted his Twitter account during the season, calling it a distraction.

“When I first got here, I got away from [social media], and then things happen,” Beasley stated in October. “And the issues that we have at hand, and I just felt like I needed to take responsibility for the guys that couldn’t.

“But it’s good for me to get back to where I wanted to be, and it’s not on there. The real world is out here and not there. Most people say things on there that you don’t want to hear. And it’s definitely a weight lifted, and I feel like I did the right thing.”

Beasley referenced not having an issue with others being vaccinated, but instead aimed the response toward those who chose not to. He often got into conversations on Twitter with fans and even teammates, speaking out against the NFL and NFLPA’s protocols.

Despite Beasley’s absence, the Bills’ passing offense still has a plethora of weapons available. McKenzie will likely see increased opportunities in the slot against New England without Beasley on the field.

Stefon Diggs is the top receiver, and Gabriel Davis has emerged as a strong No. 2 option with touchdowns in each of the past three games, in addition to tight end Dawson Knox being one of quarterback Josh Allen’s top targets in the middle of the field.

Beasley has 76 receptions for 640 yards and one touchdown this year.

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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash concerned with Kevin Durant’s minutes, ‘not safe or sustainable’

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash stated he’s concerned about the amount of minutes superstar forward Kevin Durant is playing this season, and that the team is going to have to monitor him closely as it navigates the next several matches with a short-handed roster ravaged by COVID-19.

“It’s a really important topic,” Nash said before Brooklyn beat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-105 at Barclays Center Thursday night for another short-handed victory.

“I don’t know we can continue to lean on him the way we have. It doesn’t feel right.

“I know he’s enjoying it. I know he’s enjoying playing at the rate he’s playing at and trying to bring his teammates along with him and all the responsibility that he’s accepted and crushed, basically. It’s just been incredible. But, at the same time, it’s not safe or sustainable to lean on him like that. There’s gonna be a lot of consideration and we’ll have to figure out ways to give him breaks.”

Durant is averaging 36.9 minutes per game this season — fourth-most in the NBA, behind Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, his teammate OG Anunoby and Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.

That is the most minutes per game Durant has averaged in eight years, since he averaged 38.5 minutes per night during the 2013-14 season, when he scored 32 points per game and claimed his lone Most Valuable Player award.

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The 33-year-old played a season-high 48 minutes in Tuesday night’s overtime victory versus the Raptors here at Barclays Center, finishing with a 34-point triple-double in a 131-129 Brooklyn win — the fifth time in 26 games this season that he’s eclipsed the 40-minute mark. He did so after being listed as questionable to play in Tuesday’s game earlier in the day with right ankle soreness. He followed that up by playing 39 minutes in Thursday night’s game, scoring 34 points.

“I just try to do what’s required, man,” said Durant, when asked about his minutes load after Tuesday’s win. “I mean, I want to be out there. I want to play. I want to win. So, it starts there.

“Whatever I got to do to accomplish those three things, I’m going to do.”

For the Nets, though, the challenge is not just winning today — it’s winning several months from now, when Brooklyn hopes to be making a deep playoff run as it challenges for its first NBA championship.

That will require getting Durant through the season healthy in the wake of missing the entire 2019-20 season due to an Achilles tear suffered in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and playing just 35 regular-season games last season because of recurring hamstring issues.

Durant has only missed two games so far this season.

But with Brooklyn down seven players due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols for a minimum of another week — plus remaining without Joe Harris, who is recovering from ankle surgery, and Kyrie Irving, who has not played yet this season after failing to fulfill New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements, Nash said he needs to balance keeping the Nets afloat during the period they are short-handed without putting too much strain on Durant’s body.

While Nash said veteran guard Langston Galloway, whom the Nets signed with a hardship waiver Wednesday, was available for Thursday’s game — giving Brooklyn nine available players — Nash admitted that having just enough players available to keep playing is a double-edged sword.

“The question is we’re above the threshold, so to speak, which is positive,” Nash said, referring to the NBA’s minimum requirement of having eight healthy players available to play in a game. “At the same time, we’re barely above the threshold. So what toll does that take on our players?

“Is it better to be over the threshold and to not be playing until you have a healthy roster or is it better to have enough to play but to be short-handed and the burden and the toll that takes on these guys and knowing that you’re going to have guys coming back who haven’t been able to practice or play basketball? So it is definitely tricky to navigate.”

As for Brooklyn’s opponent Thursday, 76ers coach Doc Rivers stated Georges Niang — who tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday — said no one else had tested positive yet. But after going through their own outbreak earlier this season, one that cost them both superstar center Joel Embiid and second-leading scorer Tobias Harris, Rivers said the team held a call Wednesday to try to tighten up their own protocols amid COVID-19 spikes across the country — let alone in professional sports.

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers says fractured toe ‘feels worse’ after record-setting win vs. Bears

It seems that Aaron Rodgers still owns the Chicago Bears but unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback, he also still has a problem with his fractured pinky toe.

Rodgers and the Packers beat the Bears for the sixth consecutive time and Rodgers ran his record as a starter against them to 23-5 — settling milestones and records in the series along the way. But he indicated that whatever healing took place with his toe during the Packers’ bye was wiped out, and then some.

“It feels worse,” Rodgers said after Sunday’s 45-30 victory at Lambeau Field. “I don’t know what kind of setback that I had tonight but we’ll look at it tomorrow. Definitely took a step back tonight.”

Rodgers’ suffered the injury last month during his COVID-19 quarantine and has barely practiced despite not missing any significant game action since he hurt it. It had improved enough last week to the point where he actually practiced for the first time in three weeks.

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During the bye, Rodgers stated surgery was an option and even though he was told it could be done without him missing a game, he elected not to have it. He said Sunday that he was still hoping to avoid the procedure, which would immobilize his toe, but that a decision would be made after he undergoes tests on Monday.

“That would be last resort, for sure,” Rodgers said. “But I’ve got to see what kind of setback it was tonight.”

There was no setback when it came to the Packers’ dominance over the Bears with Rodgers at quarterback.

Two months after Rodgers celebrated a touchdown at Soldier Field by screaming “I still own you” to fans in the stands, Rodgers threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.

This was Rodgers’ seventh four-touchdown, no interception game versus the Bears, the most in NFL history against a single opponent. Rodgers is the only quarterback who also has six — against the Vikings. Next closest is Tom Brady with five such games against the Bills.

Rodgers’ final touchdown of the game — his second of the night to Davante Adams (10 catches for 131 yards) — gave him 61 career touchdowns against the Bears, passing Brett Favre’s 60 for the most all time against Chicago. All of that prompted Packers receiver Allen Lazard to wear a shirt that read “I still own you” — Rodgers’ exact words on Oct. 17 — to his postgame news conference.

At first, only the words, “I still” were visible on Lazard’s shirt but when asked if it said what everyone thought it said, Lazard stood up to reveal the “own you,” portion and said: “It most definitely does.”

Running back AJ Dillon had them made shortly after the first game this season versus the Bears and while Rodgers said he has one, he did not feel compelled to wear his on Sunday.

“I’ve already said what I’ve said,” Rodgers said. “I don’t need to double and triple down. I’ll let those words stand for themselves.”

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown suspended 3 games for COVID-19 violation

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been suspended three games for violating the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols, the league revealed Thursday.

The league and players’ union found that Brown was among three players who misrepresented their vaccination statuses. A former personal chef of Brown’s stated earlier this month that the wide receiver had obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card over the summer.

Also suspended for three games were Buccaneers backup safety Mike Edwards and free-agent wide receiver John Franklin III, whom Tampa Bay waived in August. All three players accepted their discipline and will not appeal, according to the NFL.

Brown’s and Edwards’ suspensions are without pay. Both will be eligible to return to the Buccaneers’ lineup for the team’s Dec. 26 game versus the Carolina Panthers. The NFL and NFLPA negotiated the length of the suspension ahead of Thursday’s announcement, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. All three players are now vaccinated and admitted wrongdoing to the league in the investigative process, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

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“The NFL-NFLPA jointly reinforce their commitment and further emphasize the importance of strict adherence to the protocols to protect the well-being of everyone associated with the NFL,” the league and players’ union said in a statement.

The league’s investigation found that Brown brought a fake vaccination card with him to training camp, but shortly after he arrived someone told him having one could get him in trouble, so he made the decision to get vaccinated, sources told Graziano.

Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, said in a statement that Brown “continues to support the vaccine for any person for whom it is appropriate.”

“The NFL made its determination and, instead of going through the drawn out and distracting process of challenging the outcome, Mr. Brown wrapped this up promptly and he will make the most of this time by treating his ankle injury,” Burstyn said. “Mr. Brown will be motivated, well rested, and in the best shape of his life when he returns in week 16.”

Brown was not expected to play in the next two games due to an ankle and heel injury that has kept him out since Week 7, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday.

Chef Steven Ruiz stated earlier this month that Brown had his girlfriend, model Cydney Moreau, reach out to him over the summer to get a fake vaccination card. After Ruiz was unable to get a fake card for Brown, he said that a few weeks later the wide receiver showed him ones he had for himself and Moreau that Brown said he had purchased.

Ruiz told ESPN that Brown had obtained his fake vaccine card from a Buccaneers teammate. Ruiz declined to name the other player.

Burstyn had denied that Brown obtained a fake vaccine card.

A day after Ruiz’s initial allegation, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said the team did its “due diligence” in vetting player’s vaccine cards, adding, “I really don’t think it’s a story.”

“We appreciate the League’s timely handling of this matter and recognize the importance of the health and safety protocols that have been established. We will continue to implement all league COVID-19 protocols,” the Buccaneers said in a statement Thursday.

While Brown did not publicly discuss his vaccination status, Edwards wore a mask when he met with reporters at the starting of training camp, which is required for players who are unvaccinated. Asked about his vaccination status, Edwards said at the time, “I don’t really want to talk about vaccinations really. It is what it is. I don’t really want to get into that.”

Asked whether he would change his mind, Edwards stated, “I don’t know. We’ll see.” After that, Edwards did not wear a mask when speaking with reporters.

Edwards, who has lined up at safety and nickelback, forced a fumble in last week’s win over the Indianapolis Colts and leads the team with three interceptions.

He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 2 after recording two pick-sixes against the Atlanta Falcons.

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Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson inactive because of illness not related to COVID-19

Lamar Jackson was inactive for the Baltimore Ravens’ game at the Chicago Bears on Sunday because of an illness that is not related to COVID-19. His absence is the biggest hit to an already short-handed offense.

Jackson had been considered “50-50” for the game after being added to the injury report Saturday, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This came after Jackson stated he was “feeling great” upon returning to full participation in Friday’s practice after missing two days.

Tyler Huntley, who went undrafted out of Utah in 2020, made his first NFL start. He has completed 14 of 29 passes in the regular season and playoffs, throwing for 114 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

The loss of Jackson is the latest challenge for the NFL’s No. 2-ranked offense. The Ravens’ top two running backs (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards) and Pro Bowl left tackle (Ronnie Stanley) suffered season-ending injuries, and top wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown was ruled out Saturday with a thigh injury.

The Ravens organization was hit this week by an illness that is not COVID-19. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman and center Bradley Bozeman each missed one practice with illness, but neither was listed on the injury report by the end of the week.

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Jackson was hit the hardest by illness.

When he arrived at Soldier Field, Jackson was wearing a mask and walked sluggishly to the locker room.

One of the top NFL MVP contenders, Jackson has accounted for 82.8% of Baltimore’s offense (3,086 of 3,727 yards) this campaign. He is ninth in the NFL in passing (2,447 yards) and seventh in rushing (639).

The AFC North-leading Ravens (6-3) can’t afford to slip to the Bears (3-6) because their schedule gets increasingly tougher. After playing Chicago, Baltimore doesn’t have another game versus a team with a losing record.

This marks the third time Jackson has missed a game in his four-year career. He sat out the 2019 season finale because Baltimore had already secured the AFC’s No. 1 seed, and he was held out of the Week 12 game in 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19.

Jackson, who had his No. 8 jersey retired at Louisville last weekend, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because he was sick. Three illnesses this year have led him to miss practice time.

On Friday, Jackson stated he thought he got a cold from the weather change.

“I usually don’t get sick, for real,” Jackson said after Friday’s practice. “I used to eat my Flintstone vitamins when I was a kid. My immunity system should be good.”

The Ravens are 1-1 when Jackson has missed a start, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019 and falling at Pittsburgh in 2020 after the team suffered one of the bigger COVID-19 outbreaks in sports.

Baltimore is coming off a 22-10 loss at the Miami Dolphins, scoring its fewest points with Jackson as its starting quarterback.

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Ben Simmons reports to Philadelphia 76ers

After staying away for the first two weeks of the preseason, 76ers All-Star guard Ben Simmons reported to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Monday night, sources told ESPN.

As the Sixers played the Brooklyn Nets, Simmons took a COVID-19 test in the arena, sources said. The initial test starts several days of testing required by the NBA to clear him for a return to the team.

Simmons’ arrival settled several weeks of discussions between the organization and Simmons’ representative, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, to get Simmons back into the marketplace, sources said.

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Simmons had held out in hopes of accelerating a trade. However, under the terms of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, for each preseason game he missed, he lost roughly $360,000 for failing to show up — totaling more than $1 million for the three games that he missed.

In addition, the 76ers could fine Simmons for missed practices: $2,500 for the first, $5,000 for the second, $7,500 for the third and for every practice after that it being left to the discretion of the team, with the ability to go up to $50,000.

Simmons, 25, has four years and $147 million left on his contract.

Simmons hadn’t spoken directly to team officials since a late August meeting in Los Angeles in which he reiterated his desire for a trade, sources said.

He had recently become more open-minded about the possibility of ending his time away from the team and reporting to Philadelphia, but the next step will be him committing to not just a return to the city — but returning the team on the court.

The Sixers have canvassed the league throughout the offseason for trades but have been unable to find a deal that would bring them a comparable star they’d want to continue to build a championship contender around All-NBA center Joel Embiid, sources said.

Those trade talks would likely continue with a Simmons return, but president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and coach Doc Rivers are hopeful to keep working to convince Simmons on remaining long-term with the franchise, sources said.

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