<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Wed, 07 Oct 2015 00:17:19 -0400 Wed, 07 Oct 2015 00:17:19 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Giants Player Diagnosed With MRSA]]> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 17:58:40 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/mrsa+daniel+fells+ny.jpg

The Giants scrubbed down their locker room, meeting areas and training rooms out of an abundance of caution this week after tight end Daniel Fells was diagnosed with MRSA, a potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant staph infection that can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact or sharing towels, the team confirmed Tuesday.

Fells, a 32-year-old tight end signed by the Giants last year after stints with half a dozen NFL teams, including the Patriots, was placed on injured reserve Monday with an ankle injury. Doctors treating him for that issue discovered the staph infection, which turned out to be MRSA.

MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is notoriously difficult to treat because it has become resistant to many antibiotics traditionally used to treat staph infections.

While one type of MRSA occurs primarily in hospitalized populations, another form occurs in healthy people -- and can spread easily through cuts and abrasions, skin-to-skin contact and sharing facilities or certain equipment.

The infection may become life-threatening, causing complications in one's bloodstream, lungs, heart, bones and joints. It is diagnosed by checking a tissue sample or nasal secretions for signs of drug-resistant bacteria.

In a statement Tuesday, Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon said, "We are working with infectious disease specialists, and we have defined protocols that we are following in consultation with the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network and local infectious disease specialists. Those protocols are being followed carefully."

Fells caught just six balls for 60 yards in two active games for Big Blue this season. His condition Tuesday wasn't immediately known; he had been hospitalized Monday, though it wasn't clear if he had been discharged.

Though the Jets and Giants share a home stadium, they use different practice facilities and locker rooms so Gang Green wasn't expected to be affected by Fells' diagnosis.

Two years ago, three players with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers contracted MRSA during an outbreak at one of the team's training facilities. One of the players, Carl Nicks, a high-profile guard in the league, had to permanently step away from football because of the illness. The infection also ended the career of Lawrence Tynes, a former Giants kicker who was diagnosed with MRSA during his tenure with the Bucs. The third player affected recovered and remains with the team.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[For the Mets, Dodgers' Big Two Are Beatable]]> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 13:14:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/211*120/Screen+Shot+2015-09-14+at+9.38.40+PM.png

Way back when ace hurlers Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain were leading the Boston Braves to the World Series, the saying went "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.” Of course, in today’s age of OBP, WAR and VGQ (don’t ask me what that last one is), someone might point out that those Braves had a better record without Spahn and Sain than with them.

But anyway, given how large Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw -- or is it Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke? -- loom for the Dodgers, might we start hearing something along the lines of “Kershaw and Greinke and pray for a tsunami?” Probably not. But with LA’s #1 and #1A starters (again, not sure which is which) possibly on board for four of the five games the team is scheduled to play against the Mets in the upcoming NL Division Series, Mets fans are surely praying for something.

What can you say about the Dodgers’ two aces? In Kershaw, the NL West Champs may well have baseball’s best pitcher of the past 50 years. In Greinke, they’ve got a guy who just had one of the best seasons any pitcher has had in the past 50 years -- if not longer. 19-3, 1.66 ERA. No, really.

If it seems unfair that the Dodgers are blessed with, arguably (though it’s not much of an argument), MLB’s two best hurlers, well, it is. Not much else to add on that.

But great as they are, Greinke and Kershaw aren’t unbeatable. Remember this: the two pitchers made a total of 65 starts this season -- and won 35 games. So, in other words, they left nearly half of their starts without a W. While they only lost 10 of those, another 25 were no-decisions that were handed off to the LA bullpen -- which has been relatively erratic in the seventh and eighth innings. In the ninth, though, closer Kenley Jansen has been a force, blowing only two saves all year and striking out 80 -- while walking just eight -- in 52 innings.

There’s also the fact that Kershaw has been very un-Kershaw-like in the postseason. In four trips to the playoffs, the lefty has a 1-5 record with a 5.12 ERA.

And it’s not like facing the Mets’ pitching staff will be a picnic for the Dodgers lineup, which has been mediocre at the bat in 2015. The team finished eighth in the NL with 683 runs. Even the Mets did better.

So if the Amazins can manage to hang with the Dodgers aces for 100 or so pitches while their own hurlers hold their own, they’ve got a good shot to get ahead against LA’s middle relief. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if Kershaw plays like his playoff self, instead of the regular season edition.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fantasy Sports Companies Dispute Allegations of Unfair Betting]]> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 12:29:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/FanDuel.jpg

Two companies in the booming, unregulated world of online fantasy sports issued statements Monday after recent allegations that employees may have access to insider data that could allow unfair, highly profitable bets. 

In the statement posted on FanDuel's website, the company said that despite "recent attention on industry employees," FanDuel — as well as a second sports site, DraftKings — valued "the integrity of the games we offer to our customers."

"Both companies have strong policies in place to ensure that employees do not misuse any information at their disposal and strictly limit access to company data to only those employees who require it to do their jobs," the statement said.

Photo Credit: File--AP]]>
<![CDATA[Yankees' CC Sabathia Checking Into Alcohol Rehab ]]> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 04:52:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/sabathia+rehab+center.jpg

Yankees' CC Sabathia is checking into an alcohol rehabilitation center and will miss the postseason, the pitcher said Monday in a statement released by the team.

In the statement, the 35-year-old Sabathia said he was seeking "the professional care and assistance needed to treat my disease."

He said he wanted to thank the Yankees organization for "their encouragement and understanding."

Sabathia's move comes the day before the Yankees take on the Houston Astros in a critical one-and-done AL Wild Card game. It's the team's first postseason appearance since 2012.

“I love baseball and I love my teammates like brothers, and I am also fully aware that I am leaving at a time when we should all be coming together for one last push toward the World Series," the 2007 AL Young Award winner said. "It hurts me deeply to do this now, but I owe it to myself and to my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease, and I want to be a better man, father and player."

Sabathia said it was difficult to publicly share his decision, but he didn't want to "run and hide." He also asked for privacy for him and his family.

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you," Sabathia added. I want my kids -- and others who may have become fans of mine over the years -- to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do."

Sabathia was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA this year, slowed by his surgically repaired right knee. After returning from the disabled list and using a tighter brace, the portly left-hander was 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in five starts and got the win against Boston that week that clinched the Yankees' return to the postseason following a rare two-year absence.

Sabathia, who helped New York win the 2009 World Series during his first season in the Bronx, is signed through next season. His deal includes a 2017 club option that would become guaranteed if his left shoulder doesn't get hurt.

"I am looking forward to being out on the field with my team next season playing the game that brings me so much happiness," Sabathia said. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Can Third Time Possibly Be a Charm for Yanks?]]> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 13:09:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-487838036.jpg

Dallas Keuchel has been very good this season. After all, the 27-year-old Astros hurler won 20 games and is the top contender to win the AL Cy Young award in the coming weeks. However, Keuchel has been especially good against the Yankees. Actually, more like superhuman.

In two games vs. the Bronx Bombers -- one each at Houston’s Minute Maid Park and Yankee Stadium -- Keuchel absolutely destroyed his opponent, yielding just nine hits, one walk and no runs in 16 innings while striking out 21.

The Yankees play right into Keuchel’s hands -- especially his throwing one. While it’s no picnic for right-handers against the All-Star lefty, it’s downright brutal for southpaw batters facing him. They hit just .177 vs. Keuchel this year, with only three homers in 181 at-bats.

With the Yanks’ lineup usually featuring at least six lefties, they appear again ripe for the picking.

However, when the Yankees meet the Astros in the Bronx in Tuesday night’s AL Wild Card contest, they do have one thing going for them: an intimate knowledge of the pitcher they’re facing and a deep familiarity with his strengths and weaknesses. The only problem is, he hasn’t shown any of the latter against the Yanks.

But it’s said that pitchers become less effective each additional time they pass through a lineup. Well, Keuchel has faced New York’s nine six or seven times this year. Maybe (yes, doubtfully, but still, maybe) they’re starting to figure him out.

On the flip side, Yankee ace -- oh wait, they don’t have an ace. OK, their top starter, Masahiro Tanaka, has faced Houston just once in his two-year MLB career. The righty got the win, on the road in late June. But it sure wasn’t pretty. Tanaka surrendered seven hits (three of them over the fence) and six runs in five innings, for an unsightly 10.80 ERA.

On the bright side, it’s not like the visitors can do much better vs. Tanaka than they did last time.

Also, the postseason is essentially a new season, one where experience is enormous -- and Keuchel has none.

And obviously, anything can happen on a given night. Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson. Villanova beat Georgetown. Ed Whitson beat up Billy Martin, again and again, but only after Martin did the truly unthinkable -- try to break up a fight rather than start one (the pitcher obviously didn’t appreciate Martin’s intervention).

But the fact is the Yankees are in a must-win contest against a guy who has simply dominated them. Tanaka better not give up three homers again.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants' Win Over Bills]]> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:57:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-491318356.jpg

Two weeks removed from a second fourth-quarter meltdown that left them 0-2 and staring into the abyss of a potentially lost season, the Giants have won two games in a row and now find themselves tied for first place in the NFC East.

One can draw direct parallels between the Giants’ 24-10 victory over Buffalo on Sunday and the team’s rise to the top of the division: the G-Men have been helped as much by their own efforts as they have by the shortcomings of their opponents and division rivals.

Buffalo was penalized 17 times for 135 yards and the team was playing without two of its top three playmakers, running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Yes, a win is a win is a win, and all that bottom line philosophy that Bill Parcells always spouted – “You are what your record says you are” -- but in the interest of offending those people who disdain nuance, let’s acknowledge that the Giants still exhibited their fair share of insanity and ineptitude in the victory over the Bills.

So in addition to handing out a participation trophy for Hero, let’s make sure we hand out a bright flaming fiddle to the game's Nero and a Ziploc bag full of hot air to the game's Zero. No need to bring three different gentlemen to the dais, as all three honors go to Eli Manning.

Hero: Eli Manning.

In advance of this game against Buffalo, which came in leading the league in rushing offense and rushing defense, it seemed incumbent upon the Giants to either stick to their normal game plan for victories -- Odell Beckham Jr. going for 150 yards and two touchdowns, with Manning protecting the ball and the defense producing turnovers -- or to go off-script and get other people involved.

Well, wouldn’t ya know it, the Giants broke from script -- ya know, except for more idiotic late-game play calling (more on that in a bit) -- and received contributions from a wide net of players, including special teams stalwart Dwayne Harris (who caught the game’s first touchdown) and linebacker Devon Kennard (who made a tremendous play intercepting a throw down the sideline).

Add in the game-sealing, 51-yard catch and run by running back Rashad Jennings, who broke several tackles and threw a one-arm shiver into Bills defensive back Baccari Rambo; the team's final touchdown catch by Rueben Randle; and the ongoing brilliance of punter Brad Wing, and you have a Giants victory that was undergirded by contributions from all three phases of the game.

Kudos to Manning on getting so many players involved on offense. Speaking of Eli …

Nero: Manning!

What in the wide world of sports is the matter with that boy? Leading 24-10 with 3:51 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants had third and eight from the Bills 8-yard line. Instead of simply running the ball and (most likely) bringing up a fourth down, which would have prompted the Giants to kick a field goal and go up by three scores, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo called for quick slant pass.

The level of dumb runs deeps with that one. The Giants already earned a permanent spot in the Pantheon of Stupidity when they mismanaged the end of the opening-game loss to the Cowboys. Then they coughed up another double-digit lead to the Falcons in Week 2. And now, on the verge of going 2-2 -- with a victory on the road over a favored opponent -- the team calls for a pass play inside the 10-yard line with a 14-point lead and less than four minutes to play.

The football gods were not sleeping on this one and justifiably steered Manning’s pass into the hands of Stephon Gilmore of the Bills.

There wasn’t a Giants fans on earth who didn’t drop a string of poetic expletives after that demonstration of stupidity. The play call was McAdoo’s, but the ultimate decision and action both rested with Manning.

Zero: Number of interceptions Manning had this season until that boneheaded throw.

It’s a good thing the Giants play in the NFC East, where the divisional opponents are either banged up and delusional (Dallas); unwilling to take the training wheels off the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year (Philadelphia); or still owned by Daniel Snyder.

The Giants threw away their first two games against Dallas and Atlanta, and with consecutive victories over Washington and Buffalo, they should very well be 4-0. They have a generous upcoming schedule -- San Francisco; @ Philly; Dallas; @ New Orleans; @ Tampa Bay -- which could allow them to take control of the division.

They just need to stop exhibiting moronic tendencies late in the fourth quarter.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Things Are Different for Jets In London, But Fish Still Stink]]> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:50:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Chris-Ivory-Dolphins-Wembley-1004.jpg

Is the air lighter in the U.K.? How else to explain Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 58-yard fling on the team’s first offensive play Sunday, or that at 33, the Amish rifle was suddenly running like Usain Bolt? OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but still, the fact that the Jets QB outgained Miami’s running backs tells you that things were just a bit different on the other side of the pond.

The Jets dominated the admittedly awful Dolphins at London’s Wembley Stadium, putting forth an effort that should’ve resulted in a four-TD margin instead of the actual 27-14 score.

In the Jets’ defense (not like they need much help in that department), the sorry Fish did have two things going for them: refs that apparently believed you can only flag one of the two teams when outside the U.S.; and Jarvis Landry, their receiver/return man/running threat, transforming from a non-entity to the Incredible Hulk during halftime.

I’m not sure if Landry got into the Jets’ bountiful toilet paper stash during the intermission, but, after a quiet first half, the second-year pro out of LSU was a one-man wrecking crew in the second. He too outrushed the Dolphin RBs, even though he only carried it twice, while also inflicting damage as a punt returner and receiver.

Meanwhile, the officials seemed to hold something against the Jets (the jealous zebras obviously were stuck with U.K.-grade TP). Maybe it was the yellow flag they kept throwing anytime Gang Green so much as sneezed. The Jets -- who were considered the visitors Sunday but understandably didn’t expect their opponent to enjoy true home-field advantage -- were flagged 15 times. The refs were an even bigger offensive weapon for Miami than Landry, giving the Dolphins an additional 163 yards in Jet penalties.

However, the officials’ biggest offense was a non-call on an “interception” Miami DB Zackary Bowman made late in the third quarter. To call Bowman guilty of pass interference on the play would’ve been worthy of a penalty itself for the egregiousness of the understatement. What Bowman did was more like “pass annihilation,” as he essentially tackled Jets WR Devin Smith while the ball was still in the air. Still, no flag was thrown.

In fairness, the unfairness didn’t really have much of an impact, since the Fish didn’t belong on the same field as the Jets -- even if the field in question is one normally used for the kind of football we call soccer.

I don’t know if Miami is the worst team in the NFL, but if not, they’re diligently working toward that distinction. If the game is won in the trenches, as they say, the Dolphins will be lucky to get another W all year. They can’t block when they have the ball, and they can’t shed blocks when they don’t.

Both teams are on a bye after the Trans-Atlantic trip. But while the Dolphins appear eager for the season to end just four games in, the 3-1 Jets look like they’re raring to go.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Top NFL Photos: Week 4]]> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 00:19:04 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-491476626.jpg See the top photos from week 4 of the NFL.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[BYU Overcomes 3 Turnovers to Beat UConn 30-13 ]]> Sat, 03 Oct 2015 11:28:39 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+football_generic+shot.jpg

Tanner Mangum was 35 of 53 for 365 yards and connected with Mitch Mathews for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to help BYU beat UConn 30-13 on Friday night.

BYU led 13-10 when Bronson Kaufusi intercepted Bryant Shirreffs' pass under pressure. On the Cougars' next play, Mangum found Mathews for a 20-10 lead. UConn answered with a field goal, but BYU recovered the onside kick and, six plays later, Mathews scored again.

BYU turned it over three times but outgained UConn 539 to 230.

Mathews finished with eight catches for 78 yards for BYU (3-2). Terenn Houk added 129 receiving yards and Mitchell Juergens had 10 catches.

Francis Bernard powered in a short touchdown run on the first possession of the game. UConn tied it late in the first half on Shirreffs' play-action pass to Arkeel Newsome for 30 yards.

Shirreffs had one touchdown and two interceptions for UConn (2-3).

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Face Good Test in Rex Ryan and the Bills]]> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 11:41:12 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Rex-Ryan-NY-Bills.jpg

I love Bills head coach Rex Ryan. Even though I don't share his affinity for women's feet, I enjoy many facets of his personality. He's bombastic, opinionated, fun-loving and an occasional hardass. His press conferences are invariably entertaining and he doesn't scoff at reporters with the same unbridled disdain that occasionally bubbles up from Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

I also love Rex Ryan because he's never been the coach of my team, so he hasn't focused 99.999 percent of his attention on his defense and the remaining nanoseconds accumulating skill position players with observable skills.

The Jets had a Super Bowl-worthy defense for several years under Ryan, but the team was always supplying the fewest amount of offensive players to people's fantasy teams. Other than Thomas Jones, who had 1,402 yards rushing in Ryan's first year in New York (2009), the Jets' best skills position players were laughably bad. The leading passers were Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, and the leading receivers were (look away!) Jericho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller, Jeremy Kerley and Eric Decker.

Know what they all had in common? (Ya know, other than terrible quarterbacks.) None of them had more than 1,000 yards receiving while with the Jets. The team hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since the pre-Ryan era, when Cotchery notched 1,130 in 2007.

In an era when NFL teams are setting passing, receiving and scoring records, the Jets remained blissfully in the dark ages. Is the Buffalo team that the Giants face this week any different? It sure seems to be, which is why a lot of people are giddy about the Bills, a team which already features a (sometimes) Super Bowl-worthy defense.

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor is currently fifth in the NFL in quarterback rating, which would be remarkable if the season were more than three games old and the Bills had played those games against teams with honorable defenses. Indianapolis, New England, Miami are ranked 15th, 19th and 23rd in points allowed per game, respectively, meaning Taylor should do quite well against another mediocre defense -- the Giants, ranked 16th in points per game.

Last week's victory over Washington was a season-saver for the Giants, who at 1-2 are just one game behind Dallas (2-1) in the race toward mediocrity in the NFC East. The winner of this division could limp home with an 8-8 record, it wouldn't surprise me. So how devastating would a loss be in Buffalo?

Let's ask our man on the street, Joey from Meadowlands Park: "Any loss is very devastating, but especially a loss to another New York team."

And that reminds me, Buffalo is from New York, which I always forget because, well, Buffalo.

Without the services of the injured LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, the Bills' offense will ostensibly have trouble matching its year-to-date average of 33 points per game. But they're facing a Giants defense that has only generated three sacks in three games, so Taylor should have plenty of time to find some of Buffalo's other offensive options, including Percy Harvin (provided he can get his porcelain bones to the stadium in one piece, which is never a given); tight end Charles Clay; and third-year USC product Robert Woods.

Oh, and they can also lean on a guy at running back (Karlos Williams) who is averaging 7.8 yards per carry. Is Williams available in your fantasy league? Go check right now. Run. Seriously, hurry up.

The rookie from Florida State ran for 110 yards on 12 carries in last week's 41-14 drubbing of the Dolphins. So just imagine what he's going to do against a defense that doesn't have Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake.

The long lag time between the victory over Washington has tempered some of the bickering about this Giants team, which still has no pass rush, an unreliable running game, few playmakers on defense and a future slot receiver (Victor Cruz) who is in dire need of some good juju.

It's hard to be confident about the Giants' prospects in traveling to Buffalo when you're basically counting on Odell Beckham Jr. to go 150 with two TDs, Eli Manning to continue posting zeros in the INT column, and the defense to continue producing turnovers. Can all three of those things happen? They're going to need to happen in order for New York to travel upstate and raise their record to 2-2 and put them firmly in the hunt in the NFC (L)East.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Jets Too Good for Fish, in London or Anywhere]]> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 10:01:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ndamukong+suh.jpg

I’m no jet setter (no pun intended), but I’ve been to London, and, to the best of my recollection, there is plenty of toilet paper there. Apparently, the Jets’ logistical crew is unaware of this, because they’ve brought along 350 rolls of the fluffy white stuff for their Trans-Atlantic trip to play the Dolphins on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

Deep-diving investigative reports are suggesting Gang Green just likes good ol’ American TP better than what they’ve got in the U.K. For a bunch of football players, these guys are higher-maintenance than Thurston Howell III.

The game will start at 9:30 a.m. EST, giving us East Coasters a sampling of the blessed wall-to-wall football Sundays those on the Left Coast get to enjoy, but other than that, it’s business as usual for the Jets, who, weirdly, are considered the visiting team (then again, it’d be pretty strange if they were the home team, though no less bizarre than the toilet paper thing).

For the third week in a row, Todd Bowles and company face a desperate opponent sorely in need of a win. This time, it’s archrival Miami, which would almost surely be winless if they had played anyone but Washington -- a team that wouldn’t finish in the top half of the SEC standings -- in Week 1. Last week, the Fish got trounced by Rex Ryan’s Bills, a loss for which head coach Joe Philbin squarely shouldered the blame. Then again, Philbin always seems at a loss, even as calls for his head grow louder with each passing game.

Through three games, Miami has been inept on offense and ineffectual on defense.

Often playing from behind, they’ve thrown the ball more than twice as much as they’ve run it, but haven’t done much damage through the air or on the ground.

On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins have surrendered 64 points over the past two weeks. Their pass rush has been nonexistent, even with the $114 million man, Ndamukong Suh, anchoring the front. I’m not sure what the all-time low is for sacks in a 16-game season, but, with just one to date, I’d be willing to bet that Miami is on pace to break the record.

Put simply, the Dolphins have no business beating the Jets -- be it in London, New York, Miami or on Mars (can you imagine how much TP the Jets would be packing for that voyage?). But neither did the Eagles, another desperate team that was able to take advantage of Gang Green’s uncharacteristic ineptitude (this year, anyway) last Sunday.

If the Jets play smart, they’ll get the W. If they play like they did vs. Philly, all bets are off -- except in London, of course, where you can bet legally. Cheers.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA['Deflategate' Appeal Date Set]]> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 11:28:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-486084636.jpg

The "Deflategate" appeal could be heard as early as Super Bowl week, according to an expedited appeal process that was approved this week.

The NFL had asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an expedited hearing in its appeal of a federal judge's decision to nix New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's "Deflategate" suspension. Brady and the union agreed with the proposed schedule.

The appeals court approved the expedited schedule on Tuesday. The schedule calls for the NFL's opening brief to be filed by Oct. 26, 2015, and Brady and the union's answer to be filed by Dec. 7. The NFL's reply brief is then due by Dec. 21.

The appeal could be heard as early as the week of Feb. 1, 2016. Super Bowl 50 is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman lifted Brady's 4-game suspension earlier this month, saying NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell dispensed "his own brand of industrial justice" when Brady was punished for using underinflated footballs in a game during last season's playoffs.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Red Sox Manager Meets Obama at Hotel Gym]]> Tue, 29 Sep 2015 20:49:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/165*120/obama+red+sox+mannager.jpg

Just like any other morning on a Boston Red Sox road trip, interim manager Torey Lovullo woke up and headed for the gym at the team hotel.

Only this time, he met a new exercise partner during an unforgettable workout that was anything but routine.

When Lovullo arrived to lift weights, there was President Barack Obama pumping iron in a long-sleeve T-shirt and sweats. Lovullo introduced himself and talked baseball with Obama, who was in New York this week for his annual trip to the United Nations.

Lovullo says they had a great conversation and he asked Obama when he would be leaving town, because all the security in place was making it awfully inconvenient to come and go and even grab a cup of coffee.

After their chat, Lovullo took a photo with the president. 

Photo Credit: Mike Hazen/Boston Red Sox via AP]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco Discusses Toughness of BYU]]> Mon, 28 Sep 2015 17:19:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/diacoonbyu.jpg UConn head coach talks about the Huskies' next opponent, a road game at BYU.]]> <![CDATA[Nationals Suspend Papelbon After Scuffle With Harper]]> Mon, 28 Sep 2015 14:27:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/20150927+Papelbon+Harper.jpg

The Washington Nationals suspended relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon for four games without pay for his dugout fight with outfielder Bryce Harper during Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Papelbon also accepted a three-game suspension from Major League Baseball for appearing to intentionally throw at the Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado Wednesday.

"The behavior exhibited by Papelbon yesterday is not acceptable," Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. "That is not at all in line with the way our players are expected to conduct themselves, and the Nationals organization will not tolerate it in any way."

Harper will not be in the lineup for Monday's game against the Cincinnati Reds, manager Matt Williams said.

Harper was returning to the dugout after flying out to right field in the eighth inning when Papelbon began yelling at the right fielder. The two exchanged words before Papelbon pushed Harper against the dugout wall and had to be separated by teammates.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Papelbon gave up a two-run home run to give the Phillies the lead.

Williams said he did not see the extent of the fight until after the game. Had he known what had happened, Williams said he would not have sent Papelbon back out to pitch the ninth.

Papelbon was ejected from Wednesday's game after hitting Machado's arm. He initially appealed that suspension.

The suspensions from the league and the team mean Papelbon will not be available to pitch in the seven remaining games of the season. He will not join the team on the road trip starting Tuesday, Williams said.

The Nationals were eliminated from playoff contention in Saturday’s game.

Papelbon joined the Nationals via a trade from the Phillies in the middle of the season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[WATCH: Harper, Papelbon Scuffle in Nationals Dugout]]> Sun, 27 Sep 2015 20:46:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/20150927+Papelbon+Harper.jpg

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon fought in the dugout during Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Harper was returning to the dugout after flying out to right field in the 8th inning when Papelbon began yelling at the right fielder. The two exchanged words before Papelbon pushed Harper against the dugout wall and had to be separated by teammates.

In the bottom of the 9th, Papelbon gave up a two-run home run to give the Phillies the lead.

The Nationals were eliminated from playoff contention in Saturday’s game.

Papelbon joined the Nationals via a trade from the Phillies in the middle of the season.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Top NFL Photos: Week 3]]> Mon, 28 Sep 2015 11:17:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-490376700.jpg See the best photos from professional football during Week 3 of the NFL.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Brady's 400th Helps Pats Blaze Past Jags]]> Sun, 27 Sep 2015 17:23:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-490319956.jpg

Shortly before the New England Patriots kicked off the season, it was still unknown whether Tom Brady would be under center after being suspended for four games by the NFL.

Since that suspension was reversed in federal court, Brady has put together three absolutely incredible performances - and the Pats' 51-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars was no exception.

Brady threw his 400th - and 401st - touchdown passes, becoming just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to reach that milestone. To go along with the two touchdowns, Brady completed 33 of 42 passes, throwing for 358 yards.

He was sacked twice and did not throw a pick.

While Brady's milestone was not an NFL record, Stephen Gostkowski's was. The Patriots kicker made six extra points Sunday, amassing 425 consecutive points after touchdowns. And he made three successful field goal attempts to boot.

LeGarrette Blount continued to solidify the Patriots' ground game, rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. Brady also threw him the ball for a 14-yarder. Fellow back Dion Lewis continued to impress with 37 rushing yards on eight carries and 30 receiving yards on five catches without a miss.

Brady slung the ball around Sunday, hitting eight different players for double-digit receiving yards. Rob Gronkowski only made four catches on seven targets, but he made them count with 101 yards. Edelman had 85 yards on eight catches.

The two Brady touchdowns came by the way of Danny Amendola (five catches on five targets for 39 yards) and Keshawn Martin (3-3 with 33 yards).

Defensively, the Pats gave up 242 yards in the air to Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles. Both Jaguars touchdowns were on passes - on the ground, New England allowed their opponents to rush for just 57 yards.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mr. 400: Brady Throws Landmark Touchdown Pass]]> Sun, 27 Sep 2015 15:03:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/185*120/GettyImages-490320068.jpg

New England quarterback Tom Brady threw his 400th career touchdown pass Sunday, hitting Danny Amendola on a 1-yard pass just before halftime of the Patriots game against Jacksonville.

Brady joins Peyton Manning (533 entering Sunday), Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to reach the milestone.

Brady reached the milestone in 212 games - faster than anyone but Manning, who needed three fewer games to accomplish the feat.

Marino threw his 400th pass in his 227th game and Favre in his 228th.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who is out this week with a rotator cuff injury, remains at 398 touchdown passes.

The next active quarterback on the list is the Giants' Eli Manning with 263.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[St. Louis Rams' Pyrotechnics Show Sets Field on Fire]]> Sun, 27 Sep 2015 14:03:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP_155791848584.jpg

The matchup between the Pittsburg Steelers and St. Louis Rams was briefly delayed Sunday after a corner of the field caught fire during the pre-game festivities.

A pyrotechnics show to introduce the starters got a little out of hand and caused the turf near the end zone inside the Edward Jones Dome to briefly catch fire.

The fire was quickly put out, but both teams were forced to leave the field as crews cleaned fire extinguisher chemicals from the turf. 

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[ESPN Reportedly Re-Evaluating 'SportsCenter']]> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 17:04:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/sportscenter_crop.jpg

ESPN's signature 'SportsCenter' news program is reportedly undergoing changes to keep up with the 24 hour pace of online news.

According to The Big Lead, ESPN will cut the show's airtime in half and drop its afternoon live show.

The company is expected to lay off up to 300 people over the next few months, according to The Big Lead's sources. The changes are attributed to parent company Disney requesting ESPN to cut its budget by $100 million in 2016 and $250 million in 2017.

The network issued a statement on the matter to CNBC, saying: "ESPN has historically embraced evolving technology to smartly navigate our business. Any organizational changes will be announced directly to our employees if and when appropriate."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Best Takeways From Giants' Win Over Washington]]> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 13:13:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Redskins+Giants+Punt+Blocked+092415+GettyImages-489878872.jpg

The Giants beat Washington 32-21 Thursday night to raise their record to 1-2, a must-win that had plenty of the plays we’ve come to associate with Thursday night football, a brazen money grab by the NFL that typically features two teams still limping along three days removed from their last soiree of sanctioned violence.

Kirk Cousins played terribly? Yeah, didn’t see that coming. The Giants’ defense surrendered 15 points in the fourth quarter? It was like déjà vu all over again, what with the team’s historic accomplishment of being the first squad to throw away two double-digit fourth quarter leads in the first two games of the season.

No, this third game of the season wasn’t altogether pretty, but a win was definitely the best thing the Giants could have hoped for, especially since a loss is an unwelcome thing among most NFL teams.

Let’s look at some other best things associated with the Giants-Washington game.

Best cure for an NFL team’s troubles: Winning.

Best time to jump needlessly in the air: Is not right before you try to catch a pass, Larry Donnell.

Best guess as to what Donnell was thinking when he caught a pass and did a somersault into a defender just as he was about to be tackled: “Whee!!!”

Best take that with you next time: The ball has to go into the end zone with you, Matt Jones.

Best play we’ve seen out of starting running back Rashad Jennings this season: The blocked punt that gave the Giants a 2-0 lead.

Best reception total for a wide receiver through his first 15 NFL games: Odell Beckham Jr., 110.

Best number of receiving yards through his first 15 NFL games: Beckham, 1,574.

Best not do that: Washington had at least double coverage on Beckham for most of the game until that 30-yard scoring strike from Manning, who recognized Beckham was in single coverage.

Best way to describe Beckham’s touchdown dance: A work in progress.

Best rushing offense in the NFL: Belonged to Washington coming into this game.

Best Manning playing quarterback in the NFL right now: Definitely isn’t Peyton.

Best kicker to have in fantasy: Might be Josh Brown if the Giants’ offense continues to stall in enemy territory.

Best chance to see Victor Cruz dance the salsa again: Might come next week when he’s finally expected to return from injury.

Best stat to demonstrate Eli’s effectiveness through three games: Zero interceptions.

Best place to find Giants middle line backer Jon Beason: On the field, finally.

Best time to produce now that Preston Parker is no longer dropping passes for the team: Rueben Randle finally awoke from his early season coma to catch seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.

Best nose for the ball: Prince Amukamara had an interception, six solo tackles and two assists.

Best play made by Washington: Rashad Ross’s 101 yard kickoff return touchdown.

Best time to rest their weary bones: The Giants now have nine days until their next game against Buffalo.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Down Is Up With Kelly, But Jets Still Better Than Philly]]> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 10:46:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Chip-Kelly-Loss.jpg

Only in the bizarro world that mad scientist Chip Kelly has created does it make sense that the Jets should fear the idea of Mark Sanchez getting in the game on Sunday.

Kelly, Philly’s coach/default GM/yogi, brings his three-ring circus to MetLife Stadium this weekend, with his 0-and-2 team -- and himself -- in dire need of a win to quiet the critics and preserve any chance of making the Eagles’ season meaningful.

Much has changed since Kelly led his team to a 10-win campaign in 2014. QB Nick Foles was shown the door, traded for the oft-injured Sam Bradford in the offseason. LeSean McCoy, one of the NFL’s best running backs over the past few years, was also sent packing, in exchange for someone named Kiko Alonso, a linebacker who enjoyed a promising rookie season in Buffalo in 2013 before missing all of last season with a torn ACL.

The best news Kelly has gotten so far this season is that Alonso didn’t tear his ACL again last week vs. the Cowboys - -well, at least not all the way. The partial tear, though, means he won’t be playing against the Jets.

DeMarco Murray, the RB Kelly brought in to replace McCoy, may also miss the game, as a hamstring injury has sidelined him at practice this week.

But in bizarro land, Murray’s absence may well be a plus for the visitors. After leading the NFL in rushing while playing behind the formidable Dallas offensive line last year, Murray has been all kinds of awful so far in 2015. (Warning: if you’ve got Murray on your fantasy team, look away now!!!) The fifth-year RB has amassed a total of 11 yards on 21 carries, for a Belushi-in-Animal House-like average of 0.5 yards per carry. In other words, Murray could improve on his numbers just by falling forward each time he receives a handoff.

Somehow -- and like everything involving Kelly, this defies reason -- -Bradford has been even worse than Murray. I watched the Eagles last week, and I spent the hour after the game trying to decide who was better, Bradford or the QB who played for my then 9-year-old son’s Pop Warner team in 2012. I still hadn’t come to a resolution when I broke for dinner.

It’s been said that backup QB Sanchez is a better fit for Kelly’s fast-paced offense than the lumbering Bradford. If the starter continues to stink up the place, we may find out before long if that’s true.

The 2-and-0 Jets are also banged up, with All-World cornerback Darrelle Revis among several key players who may have to sit out. Couple that with the fact that they’re playing an Eagles team with their backs against the wall, and it seems that Gang Green may be in for a tough contest.

But bizarro or not, the home team is better than Philly. One team should finish the game still undefeated and the other still winless.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Baby Born During Third Inning]]> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 18:54:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Petco-Park-Generic-Garske.jpg

Now this is a true love of the game.

A woman gave birth at Petco Park in downtown San Diego Thursday night around the third inning of the Padres vs. San Francisco Giants game.

The baby boy, named Levi, is the first to be born at the stadium, Petco Park officials confirmed via social media.

The very pregnant fan, who apparently did not have time to reach a hospital, had her son on a bench in the park's Palm Court Plaza. Some fans reported an off-duty nurse who happened to be at the ballpark helped deliver the baby.

The Padres rallied for the little guy, pulling off a 5-4 win in the 9th over the Giants -- an extra treat, provided his parents are San Diego fans.

The birth was announced over the loudspeaker at the ballpark to a roar of cheers from fans.

The newborn news surprised and entertained those in the stands and outside of the stadium. Many took to Twitter to talk about the ballpark birth.

“It was amazing, so amazing. It was beautiful. Go Padres!” an excited fan told NBC 7 after the game.

"He's a future Padre!" another man said.

“We were just sitting in our seats and one of our friends came back and said, ‘A baby is being born,’ and that it happened very fast and people were holding tarps around [the mother],” another Padres fan in attendance explained.

A trio of young Padres fans said the news of the baby boy being born at the ballpark was very cool.

“I’ve heard about babies being born on airplanes, but never at a ballpark,” one of the boys told NBC 7. “You’re legendary if you’re born at a ballpark.”

The enthusiastic young fans said they have big expectations for the little slugger.

“He’s legendary! He’s going to be a ball player,” said another boy.

Padres outfielder Travis Jankowski – who scored the game winning run Thursday night – was also happy to hear about the baby’s birth at Petco Park.

“Two pretty cool things that happened in one night,” Jankowski told NBC 7. “That guy might be our good luck charm. We gotta get him season tickets.”

The player said the baby is an honorary, mini member of the team now.

“That’s awesome. He’s a Padre!” Jankoswki added.

A security guard at the ballpark told NBC 7 the baby was due Friday, so the mother nearly hit a home run with the accuracy of her due date.

The San Diego Padres gave a shoutout to the newborn on the team's Twitter feed after the game, posting: "Great crowd of 31,137 were here tonight -- of course that doesn't include the baby boy that was born @PetcoPark around the third inning."

Photo Credit: Monica Garske
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<![CDATA[Must-Win Game for Giants Against Washington]]> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 10:28:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/beason4.jpg

Thursday night’s game against Washington is a must-win for the Giants. At 0-2, and bearing the ignominy of being the only team in NFL history to blow two 10-point leads in the fourth quarter of their first two games, the Giants’ glass nevertheless remains half full.

Fans are still on board, confident the Eli-Coughlin administration was simply emitting its season’s worth of brain farts in throwing away two very winnable games against the Cowboys and Falcons. But if they lose to Washington at home to drop to 0-3? Yeah, Giants fans will suddenly be much more available on Sunday afternoons this fall to check out the foliage, smash some pumpkins or sleep in a corn maze.

Blowing late game leads to the likes of Tony Romo and Julio Jones are one thing. Losing to a Washington team whose best available wideout is Art Monk (or maybe Pierre Garcon) is something else entirely.

Washington fans are feeling pretty good about themselves and their team after Washington ran at will against a usually stout Rams defense last week, with Matt Jones and Alfred Morris doing an admirable impression of the Earnest Byner-Kevin Mack era Cleveland Browns.

This must stop. Washington fans need to be reminded that the wife of their general manager basically accused an ESPN reporter of servicing her husband to obtain tips about the team. That’s the Washington team we all know and expect. A Washington team on the precipice of going 2-1 and perhaps tying the Cowboys for the NFC East lead? Nope, not a world I want to live in.

The game plan for the Giants should be pretty straight forward. On offense, they need to remind Washington cornerback Deangelo Hall that he is perhaps the most overpaid, overrated, over talking (we’re making that a term) defensive player of the 21st century. If Odell Beckham is targeted fewer than five times per quarter, Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo should be fired. Extreme? Yes, but frankly no Giants fan is going to care who survives the housecleaning if the Giants lose to the most dysfunctional franchise in professional sports.

Will a victory against Washington turn the team’s season around? Debatable. But the Giants’ upcoming schedule –- at Buffalo, San Francisco, at Philadelphia, hosting Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden -– is about as favorable as it gets. Get past Washington and its resurgent running game and vistas of beautiful lilacs will emerge for the Giants and their fans. Lose to Dan Snyder’s traveling freak show and you might as well call it a day because the season is effectively over.

The team gets back a big part of its defense in middle linebacker Jon Beason, who has been injured since the Nixon era. The Giants absolutely need to make Kirk Cousins beat them. Washington hung tough before falling to Miami (which looks less impressive in retrospect given the Dolphins’ week two loss to Jacksonville) and more or less dominated a St. Louis team that had defeated Seattle in week one.

Against St. Louis, Cousins was 23 of 27 for 203 yards and a touchdown, and so he brought honor to his family –- unlike Eli Manning, who has been managing late-game situations like a fourth-grader charged with explaining trigonometry to a stadium full of frothing miscreants.

No more late-game snafus. No more incredulous looks from Tom Coughlin. No more comments like, “Well, at least Josh Brown had a nice game.” Giants fans have already had a season’s worth of stupidity. The indignity of losing to Washington at home will provide them with a season’s worth of everything.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Britain Clears Hurdle in Plan to Bring Baseball Back to City]]> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 08:06:44 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ROCKCATSSTILL070915.jpg

A unanimous vote by New Britain's Common Council on Wednesday night means the city is one step closer to bringing baseball back.

While the Rock Cats' move was a big loss for the Hardware City, common council members believe they've hit a home run by approving a measure that would lease New Britain Stadium to the Atlantic League.

"Baseball lives in New Britain. It's been here for 30-plus years, and it's going to continue. That makes it really good for us to be able to keep providing that family-friendly experience," New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said.

The league still needs to formally pass the contract, but many officials consider it a done deal. It's a 15-year lease that will bring in $150,000 per year in rent.

"We had some give and takes with general operation of the stadium because they don't have a major league parent company they can go to," Stewart said.

The council put aside some money to make improvements, including replacing bleachers and adding a fresh coat of paint. Having the stadium already in place was a big attraction for the Atlantic League, which plans to relocate an existing franchise.

"You don't have to build a ballpark in New Britain. They have a great facility, and that's a great advantage for the Atlantic League," said Atlantic League Executive Director Joe Klein.

Previous Rock Cats ticket holder Raymond Smith says there's no question where he'll go next year.

"I would definitely go to an Atlantic League game in New Britain versus going to Hartford," Smith said.

In the coming weeks, the city will be asking for name suggestions. For those who can't wait, Stewart says you can tweet her your ideas.

If things continue on track, opening day will be the third week of April.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Female Football Player Makes a Point]]> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 07:42:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/erin+bellucci.jpg Senior Erin Bellucci, niece of former NFL head coach Eric Mangini, made the Hall High School football team in West Hartford as a kicker. She describes her experiences of being the only female on the team.]]>