#SportsReport: Packers Overwhelm 49ers; NBA Players Approve Dec. 22 Season Start
Aaron Rodgers threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns and the Green Bay Packers overwhelmed the undermanned San Francisco 49ers 34-17.
Rodgers connected on deep shots to Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and a short toss to Marcedes Lewis in the first half to get the Packers out to a 21-3 lead. It was quite a reversal from the team meetings last season when San Francisco outscored Green Bay by a combined 50-0 in the first halves on the way to lopsided wins in the regular season and NFC title game. The Niners were missing almost all their key pieces from that game, due to injuries and some players being on the COVID-19 reserve list. Receiver Kendrick Bourne tested positive Wednesday. The NFL and the union are reportedly looking into whether Bourne was wearing a face covering as required by the COVID-19 rules.
In other NFL news:
The Las Vegas Raiders and coach Jon Gruden have been fined a total $650,000 and docked a sixth-round draft pick for repeated violations of the NFL's COVID-19 protocols. A person familiar with the punishment said Thursday the team has been fined $500,000, Gruden has been docked $150,000 and the draft pick has been stripped because of how the team handled Trent Brown's positive coronavirus test last month. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. Yahoo first reported the punishments. The Raiders have been penalized several times already this season for violating coronavirus protocols with the punishments leading to a total of $1,215,000 for the team, Gruden and players.
The Houston Texans will be without three linebackers on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars after linebacker Jacob Martin tested positive for COVID-19. The team learned that Martin tested positive for the virus last night and shut down their facility today. Starting linebacker Whitney Mercilus and reserve linebacker Dylan Cole will also miss Sunday's game. Both players had been in close contact with Martin and will have to isolate for five days.
The Chicago Bears have canceled practice and closed their facility after another player tested positive for COVID-19. The Bears say the player and all close contacts are self-isolating. Backup offensive tackle Jason Spriggs and starting right guard Germain Ifedi already were on the COVID-19 reserve list. Chicago is scheduled to play at Tennessee on Sunday.
The Kansas City Chiefs closed their facility after practice Thursday when an unidentified staff member tested positive for COVID-19. The team continued its preparations for Sunday's game against Carolina remotely.
The Indianapolis Colts say a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 and is under the care of team doctors. The Colts say they have entered the league's intensive protocol and are working with NFL officials and medical staff. The team staffer is in quarantine.
The Detroit Lions have put safety Jalen Elliott on the COVID-19 reserve list. Detroit also put linebacker Jarrad Davis and quarterback Matthew Stafford on the list earlier in the week. Coach Matt Patricia wouldn't discuss Stafford's status for Sunday's game at Minnesota.
Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule says that barring a setback, he expects running back Christian McCaffrey to play Sunday against the Chiefs. McCaffrey, who has missed the past six games with a high ankle sprain, practiced for the second straight day Thursday. Rhule said McCaffrey looked "fresh and fast at practice" and responded well after participating in his first padded practice since Week 2 on Wednesday.
Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin has been placed on injured reserve, meaning he will miss at least three games with a knee injury. Backup Matt Breida is nursing a hamstring injury, which could mean more playing time Sunday at Arizona for Jordan Howard. Gaskin has been the Dolphins' best backfield threat with 387 yards rushing and 198 receiving.
Sam Darnold's sore shoulder is kept him out of practice Thursday although the Jets remain optimistic the quarterback will play Monday night. The 0-8 Jets are giving Darnold an extra day of rest as the team prepares to host the AFC East-rival New England Patriots.
Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley missed practice Thursday for the second straight day because of a foot injury. He leads the Falcons with 43 catches for 657 yards and six touchdowns.
The NBA's player representatives have voted to support the notion of starting this coming season on Dec. 22, the date that the league has been targeting in its talks about how and when to get teams back on the floor for a planned 72-game season. The player vote is just one part of the process. Among the primary matters to be determined: how much more escrow will be taken from players because of the shorter-than-usual season, and how the league and the players will navigate testing and other health and safety issues amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. All that has to be worked out before the plans for next season truly become official. Talks between the NBA and NBPA on those and other topics are continuing, though there is obvious urgency to finalize things. The NBA draft is scheduled for Nov. 18 and the plan presented to players — and now approved by NBPA team reps — calls for training camps to begin on Dec. 1.
Syracuse junior defensive back Trill Williams is following former star safety Andre Cisco out the door. Williams announced Wednesday night on social media that he's opting opt out of the remainder of the 2020 season and will enter the 2021 NFL draft. Williams played in 28 games for Syracuse and had 93 tackles, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and 3 1/2 tackles for loss in his three seasons. He scored a remarkable touchdown in the season finale against Wake Forest last year, forcing a fumble and returning it 94 yards for the winning touchdown in overtime. Cisco, a preseason All-American, opted out after playing the first two games of the season. He was injured in warmups prior to the third game and never returned. He also plans to enter next year's NFL draft.
In other college football news:
The season opener between PAC-12 California and Washington has been canceled following a request from the Golden Bears due to a positive coronavirus test for one of their players. Pac-12 guidelines require at least 53 scholarship players to be available for a game to be played. The conference says the game will be declared a no-contest. The Pac-12 is kicking off its shortened season this weekend.
The American Athletic Conference has postponed Saturday's football game between Tulsa and host Navy following a rash of positive COVID-19 tests at the Naval Academy. Many Navy athletes are under quarantine, and the Midshipmen have temporarily halted all football activities. It's the fourth FBS game this week and the 41st this season to be postponed or canceled. A makeup date has not been announced.
The service academy game between Air Force and Army scheduled for Saturday at West Point, New York, was postponed due to an increase in COVID-19 cases at the Air Force Academy and the surrounding community. The schools are working to reschedule the game.
The New York Rangers have avoided arbitration with center Ryan Strome. They agreed to terms on a $9 million, two-year contract with a $4.5 million annual salary cap hit. The 27-year-old set a career high last season with 59 points on 18 goals and 41 assists. Strome has 254 points in 491 career regular-season games with the New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers and Rangers. Getting a deal done with Strome keeps intact the Rangers core that exceeded expectations last season by qualifying for the expanded NHL playoffs.
In other ice news, the Columbus Blue Jackets have signed defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov to a three-year, $8.4 million contract. The deal locks up Gavrikov, a restricted free agent who was one among the NHL's top rookie defensemen in goals, assists and points last season. The 24-year-old Russian is seen as important element in the team's blue-line rotation for the future. Gavrikov had five goals and 13 assists with 18 penalty minutes in 69 games with Columbus in 2019-20. He added a goal and a pair of assists in 10 playoff games.
Top-seeded Rafael Nadal has stayed on course for an elusive first title at the Paris Masters after beating Jordan Thompson 6-1, 7-6 to reach the quarterfinals. Thompson forced his first break point in the 12th game of the second set to have set point with Nadal down 30-40. After a decent second serve Nadal saved it after a long rally. Third-seeded Daniil Medvedev, No. 4 Alexander Zverev, No. 6 Diego Schwartzman and No. 10 Milos Raonic also reached the last eight.
Brandt Snedeker found a lot of fairways and greens at difficult Memorial Park, top-ranked Dustin Johnson returned from the coronavirus, and fans were back, too, Thursday at the Houston Open. Snedeker shot a 5-under 65 in the afternoon to take a two-stroke lead in the last event before the Masters. It's the first domestic PGA Tour event to have fans since The Players Championship on March 12. Jason Day was tied for second with Scottie Scheffler, Harold Varner III, Carlos Ortiz, Michael Thompson and Cameron Davis.
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