AP NEWS

Wednesday Sports in Brief

March 19, 2020 GMT

NFL

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter free agency with expectations of signing Tom Brady and bolstering a defense that will be one of the keys to helping the six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback be successful with his new team.

There’s been no official announcement on Brady joining the Bucs after 20 seasons with the New England Patriots. However, there’s already an increased demand for tickets.

Tampa Bay ranked 30th among 32 teams in home attendance, averaging 51,898 per game last season.

Within hours of reports of the team closing in on a deal with Brady, the website selling season passes for 2020 showed more than 2,400 people in a queue waiting for an opportunity to make purchases.

Brady ended his historic run in New England, announcing on social media Tuesday that he would become a free agent for the first time in his career.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are trying to mitigate one of the costliest mistakes in franchise history. The Chicago Bears could benefit from the purge.

The Jaguars agreed Wednesday to trade quarterback Nick Foles to the Bears for a compensatory fourth-round draft pick, according to a person familiar with the transaction. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade was not yet official.

The Jaguars are dumping Foles a little more than a year after giving the 2018 Super Bowl MVP a four-year, $88 million contract that included a whopping $50.125 million guaranteed.

The Bears are getting a veteran starter to compete with Mitchell Trubisky, who struggled in his third season. They are expected to rework Foles’ contract, which has three years remaining.

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The Raiders have officially declined their option to play the 2020 season in Oakland and remain set to begin play in Las Vegas this season.

A person familiar with the team’s plans said Wednesday that the Raiders notified officials in Oakland and Alameda County that they won’t exercise an option that would have allowed them to play this season at the Coliseum in case the new stadium in Las Vegas wasn’t completed on time. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t announced it.

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the decision.

The Raiders announced plans to move to Las Vegas in 2017 and the NFL approved it later that year. The team remained in Oakland as a lame duck the past three seasons and had an option to stay for 2020 if needed.

With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down many businesses in Nevada for at least 30 days, there were questions about whether construction on the $1.9 billion stadium would go on without interruption.

But construction on the stadium has been deemed “essential” and is still going on. The stadium, which will be home to the Raiders and UNLV football, is set to open this summer.

—By Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow.

MLB

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball is considering skipping its amateur draft this year and putting off the next international signing period as a way to preserve cash while games are affected by the new coronavirus, people familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press.

Talks between management and the players’ association are ongoing and include the contentious issue of major league service time, which determines eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration. MLB has proposed crediting full service for 130 games or more and proportional service for a shorter season, the people said on condition of anonymity because those details have not been made public.

The union has taken the position that a full season of service should be credited even if no games are played, one of the people said.

Scheduling has been left open since there is no way to determine when the season could start.

Opening day has been pushed back from March 26 to mid-May at the earliest, and both sides are committed to playing as many games as possible.

—By Baseball Writer Ronald Blum.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Dodgers minor leaguer Connor Joe announced Wednesday on social media that he has been diagnosed with testicular cancer.

The 27-year-old infielder-outfielder left spring training three weeks ago to visit doctors and have tests.

Joe said he is maintaining a positive outlook for what he hopes is a full recovery. He thanked his family, friends, the Dodgers organization and his teammates for their “incredible love and support during this difficult time.”

He said he’s sharing his ordeal in the hope of bringing increased awareness to men’s health.

NBA

The NBA is considering an idea where some players would be quarantined or isolated for purposes of being able to compete against one another and provide basketball fans with some sort of diversion from the coronavirus pandemic.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver revealed that notion as one of several items under consideration by the league right now during the shutdown caused by the pandemic. Silver made the comments in a televised interview on ESPN.

“Maybe it’s for a giant fundraiser or just for the collective good of the people,” Silver said. “You take a subset of players and is there a protocol in which they can be tested and quarantined and isolated in some way. ... People are stuck at home. They need a diversion. They need to be entertained.”

Silver offered no predictions on when NBA games would resume. He said the league may, when conditions allow, resume games but without fans — a move the league was going to make last week before Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and prompted the league to go on what it thought would be a hiatus, not a stoppage that is certain to reach multiple weeks and likely months.

IDITAROD

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner easily won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska, one of the few U.S. sporting events not canceled by concerns over the new coronavirus.

Waerner crossed the finish line in Nome, Alaska, early Wednesday morning.

The 46-year-old musher won the Iditarod in only his second attempt. He finished 17th in 2015, when he was named Rookie of the Year.

Waerner took command of this year’s race in the late stages and steadily built an insurmountable lead. The closest musher to Waerner was three-time champion Mitch Seavey, who was about five hours behind.

Wearner becomes the third Norwegian to win the Iditarod. Joar Leifseth Ulsom won the 2018 race and Robert Sorlie twice won the Iditarod, in 2003 and 2005.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

LAS VEGAS (AP) — UNLV has hired former Stanford assistant and player Lindy La Rocque as its next women’s basketball coach.

The school announced Wednesday that La Rocque will replace Kathy Oliver, who resigned on March 6 after the Rebels failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the 12th straight season.

La Rocque is a Las Vegas native who played at Durango High School before going on to make four straight Final Four appearances with Stanford, including a trip to the national title game in 2010.

TENNIS

The ATP and WTA professional tennis tours suspended all competition through at least June 7 because of the new coronavirus pandemic and froze their rankings Wednesday “until further notice.”

In a rare joint statement by the men’s and women’s tours, they announced that the entire clay-court circuit “will not be held as scheduled” — a day after the start of the French Open, also played on that surface, was postponed from May to September.

LONDON (AP) — An Argentine tennis player banned for match-fixing had his suspension reduced Wednesday after agreeing to help educate other players about corruption in the sport.

Nicolas Kicker had his three-year ban shortened by four months, the Tennis Integrity Unit said, meaning he will be eligible to return to professional tennis on Jan. 23, 2021.

The TIU said the decision was based in part on Kicker helping produce educational videos “charting his involvement in corruption and warning other players of the consequences.”

SOCCER

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta United star Josef Martinez underwent surgery on his right knee Wednesday, more than two weeks after he tore the ACL during the league-opening match at Nashville.

Martinez posted an update on his Instagram page after the operation at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The striker was smiling and giving a thumbs-up as he posed in his bed alongside one of his physicians, Dr. Volker Musahl.

Also performing the surgery was Dr. Freddie Fu, the Pittsburgh-based orthopedic specialist who was hailed for saving Zlatan Ibrahimović’s career after the star striker ruptured knee ligaments in 2017.

TRACK AND FIELD

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Drake Relays that had been scheduled for April in Des Moines have been indefinitely postponed because of the virus outbreak.

Drake University said in a statement that organizers made the decision to protect the “health, safety and well-being” of participants and fans amid concerns about the coronavirus. The track and field event was scheduled for April 22-25, primarily at Drake Stadium.

WRESTLING

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Rob Gronkowski, the retired New England Patriots tight end, is set to host WrestleMania in April from WWE’s performance center.

The WWE’s annual wrestling extravaganza — often called the Super Bowl of wrestling — was originally scheduled for April 5 at the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium. WWE announced this week it would move its card to the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida.

WWE will hold WrestleMania over two nights for the first time ever April 4 and 5 from the performance center. Gronkowski, a three-time Super Bowl champion, tweeted he would explain the new format and his role on Friday’s live edition of “Smackdown.”

OBITUARY

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Longtime San Francisco 49ers coach and executive Bill McPherson has died at the age of 88.

The 49ers said McPherson died Tuesday.

McPherson spent 20 seasons as a defensive assistant for the 49ers from 1979-98, helping the franchise win five Super Bowl titles. He was hired in coach Bill Walsh’s first season with the team and was defensive coordinator from 1989-93 under coach George Seifert.

McPherson later worked as the team’s director of pro personnel from 1999-2002 and a personnel consultant from 2003-05.

McPherson also coached one season with the Philadelphia Eagles and in college for his alma mater Santa Clara and UCLA.

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