RB Markese Stepp lands at Nebraska after transfer from USC
LINCOLN, Neb. — Running back Markese Stepp has transferred from Southern California to Nebraska, strengthening an area of need for the Cornhuskers following the departures of Dedrick Mills and Wan’Dale Robinson.
Stepp made the announcement on Twitter on Tuesday. The 6-foot, 235-pounder appeared in five of the Trojans’ six games and was the team’s third-leading rusher with 45 carries for 165 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 28 yards.
Mills, the Huskers’ second-leading rusher, tweeted a couple hours after Stepp’s announcement that he would enter the NFL draft. Nebraska lost one of its top playmakers Monday when Robinson announced he would transfer. Robinson was the Huskers’ primary running back when Mills was out two games and most of another because of injury.
Stepp was rated a four-star prospect coming out of Cathedral High in Indianapolis in 2018. He played in four games in 2018, and he averaged 5.7 yards per carry through seven games in 2019 before spraining an ankle and missing the rest of the season.
Stepp was listed as the co-No. 1 running back with Vavae Malepeai this past season. He struggled to find rhythm, with a turf toe injury and a strained pectoral slowing him, and he saw diminished playing time the second half of the shortened season.
Dallas Stars have 17 players test positive
The National Hockey League says 17 of the 27 players that have tested positive for the coronavirus are on the Dallas Stars.
The league announced COVID-19 testing numbers from Dec. 30-Jan 11 on Tuesday. That included 12,000 tests administered to more than 1,200 players.
Commissioner Gary Bettman on Monday said the testing numbers so far were very good.
The NHL says most of the 17 Stars players are asymptomatic and all are recovering without complication. Dallas shut down its training camp Friday and resumed practices Tuesday with more than a dozen players still unavailable.
The regular season starts Wednesday. The Stars were scheduled to play their first game Thursday but will not begin now until at least Jan. 19.
Browns wait for Bitonio, Ward, lose backups to injuries
CLEVELAND — As the Browns anxiously wait for Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio and top cornerback Denzel Ward to return from COVID-19 and join their playoff run, the team lost their replacements to injuries.
Cleveland placed guard Michael Dunn and cornerback Robert Jackson on injured reserve Tuesday, losing two players who started Sunday’s playoff win at Pittsburgh while Bitonio and Ward remain sidelined with the virus.
Dunn injured his calf during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 48-37 wild-card win while Jackson suffered a hamstring injury. Both are done for the season and won’t play in this week’s game against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s not yet known if or when Bitonio or Ward will be back. Bitonio tested positive last week along with coach Kevin Stefanski. They both were back in Cleveland when the Browns stunned the Steelers for their first postseason win in 26 years.
Ward tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 31 and was eligible to return last week, but wasn’t ready. Compounding his absence is that cornerback Kevin Johnson, who has made six starts this season, is also out with COVID-19.
Perfect Alabama finishes No. 1 in AP Top 25 for 12th time
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Alabama finished the season No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the 12th time, extending its record by completing the program’s first perfect season since 2009.
The Crimson Tide were a unanimous No. 1 in the final poll, getting 61 first-place votes, after beating Ohio State 52-24 in the College Football Playoff championship game Monday night.
Alabama was the preseason No. 3, but when it started playing this strange season amid a pandemic in late September it moved up to No. 2. The Tide jumped to No. 1 in early November and finished as major college football’s only undefeated team.
Masters plans for a limited number of spectators in April
Some volume is returning to the Masters, just maybe not the head-turning roars.
Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said Tuesday the club intends to allow a limited number of spectators for the Masters on April 8-11, provided it can be done safely, given the coronavirus pandemic.
In other areas, the Masters in April will be a lot like the last one in November. Ridley said it will be conducted with similar health and safety standards. Those standards last fall included mandatory COVID-19 testing and masks being worn.
Ridley said holding the Masters with only essential personnel made the club confident in its ability to stage a major championship with limited fans.
US Soccer’s relationship with NWSL changing
U.S. Soccer is no longer managing the National Women’s Soccer League, although some aspects of the partnership remain, NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said Tuesday.
Baird spoke on a wide-ranging conference call with reporters ahead of the league’s draft Wednesday night. She also announced that a franchise in Sacramento would join the NWSL in 2022.
U.S. Soccer’s management of the NWSL was supposed to come to an end at the close of 2019 but was extended through 2020. The change gives team owners more control over the league.
U.S. Soccer, which has managed the league since its launch in 2013, will continue to invest in the NWSL, Baird said. She characterized the relationship as a “new chapter” with both sides committed to the ongoing success of the league.
Bruins retiring jersey of NHL barrier breaker Willie O’Ree
BOSTON — Willie O’Ree, who broke the NHL’s color barrier, is set have his jersey retired by the Boston Bruins.
O’Ree will have his No. 22 jersey honored prior to the Bruins’ Feb. 18 game against the New Jersey Devils, the team announced Tuesday.
He became the league’s first Black player when he suited up for Boston on Jan. 18, 1958, against the Montreal Canadiens, despite being legally blind in one eye. O’Ree played two seasons from the Bruins, retiring from professional hockey in 1979.
He also donned No. 18 and No. 25 during his time with the Bruins but wore number 22 in the bulk of his games with the club.
O’Ree, 85, becomes the 12th player in team history to have a sweater hung in the TD Garden rafters.
“Willie’s contributions to the game of hockey transcend on-ice accomplishments and have opened countless doors for players who have come after him. He is without question deserving of this honor,” Bruins president Cam Neely said in a statement.
O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2018 as part of the “Builder” category, which honors those who have made significant contributions to the sport.
Packers sign OT Veldheer, who played with Colts last week
Offensive tackle Jared Veldheer is back with the Green Bay Packers, giving him an opportunity to compete in playoff games for different teams on back-to-back weekends.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur confirmed Tuesday that Veldheer was with the team and would be practicing later that day, making him available for their NFC divisional playoff game Saturday with the Los Angeles Rams (11-6).
The 33-year-old Veldheer was the Indianapolis Colts’ starting left tackle for their final two games, including a 27-24 AFC first-round playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills last weekend.
Because the Colts merely elevated him from the practice squad for game day and didn’t officially sign him to their 53-man roster, the Packers (13-3) were able to sign him this week.
Veldheer joined the Packers late last season and was their starting right tackle for a divisional playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks when an illness left Bryan Bulaga unable to play in that game.
Bills sign RB Freeman to practice squad, place Moss on IR
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills signed running back Devonta Freeman to their practice squad Tuesday to add veteran depth after placing rookie Zack Moss on injured reserve.
Freeman is a seventh-year player who was released by the New York Giants last week. He joins Buffalo (14-3) after Moss suffered a season-ending ankle injury in a 27-24 wild-card playoff victory over Indianapolis last Saturday.
Freeman is eligible to begin practicing this week, though it’s unclear if he’ll be up to speed in time for Buffalo’s divisional-round game against the Baltimore Ravens (12-5) on Saturday.
Freeman was limited to five games with the Giants due to an ankle injury that sidelined him for the final half of the season, during which he also spent time on the reserve-COVID-19 list. He finished with 54 carries for 172 yards and scored a rushing touchdown.
MLS still waiting to hear from players on new CBA proposal
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday that the MLS Players Association hasn’t responded yet to the league’s proposed changes to the collective bargaining agreement.
Garber said that while he understands players need an opportunity to adequately review the league’s proposal, time is also becoming a major factor as the sides have less than three weeks to come to an agreement on a revised CBA.
The league invoked its force majeure clause in late December that obligates MLS and the MLSPA to negotiate modifications to the existing CBA in good faith for 30 days, with a deadline in late January.
The league presented revisions to the CBA last week that propose players receive their full salaries after they agreed to a 5% pay reduction as part of a renegotiated CBA last June. As part of the new proposal, MLS wants the current CBA extended through 2027.
Emmert: NCAA still expecting to get pay issue done in ‘21
NCAA President Mark Emmert expressed frustration Tuesday with the delay in moving ahead with proposals surrounding athletes’ ability to make money and to freely transfer to another school and said he remains committed to getting those things done in 2021.
Emmert’s remarks came during his state of college athletics address at the NCAA’s annual convention, which is being held virtually this week because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
College sports leaders had expected the convention to hail a new era, one in which athletes would move closer to entering agreements to be paid for third-party use of their name, image and likeness, and to be able to move from one school to another without having to sit out of competition for one year.
The Division I Council, however, postponed votes on NIL and transfers scheduled to take place Monday, in part because of Justice Department concerns about potential anti-trust violations.
Seahawks fire offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer
RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer on Tuesday following a season in which the team set several offensive records but coach Pete Carroll had clear issues with how the offense operated.
Seattle announced the move, citing “philosophical differences.” The Seahawks had the highest-scoring team in franchise history, Russell Wilson threw a career-high 40 touchdowns in the regular season, and wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett both set club records for receiving.
Still, the Seahawks regressed offensively in the second half of the season, and Wilson and Carroll both made comments following Seattle’s 30-20 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams that indicated concerns with the lack of adjustments by the offense late in the season.
Carroll brushed aside questions about any changes to his coaching staff during his end-of-season news conference on Monday.
Seahawks agree to contract extension with GM John Schneider
RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks have agreed to a contract extension with general manager John Schneider that will keep him tied to the franchise through the 2027 draft.
The Seahawks announced Schneider’s extension on Tuesday, three days after their season ended in a 30-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC wild-card playoff game. Schneider’s current contract was signed in 2016 and went through the 2021 season. The new deal keeps him on a similar timeline with head coach Pete Carroll, who signed a contract extension through the 2025 season last year.
Schneider arrived as general manager in 2010 after Carroll had been lured from college football to take over the Seahawks. The duo has worked lockstep for the past decade in making Seattle one of the top franchises in the NFL. The Seahawks have reached the postseason in nine of the 11 seasons they have been in charge, including their fifth NFC West title this past season.
Raiders hire Gus Bradley as new defensive coordinator
The Las Vegas Raiders have hired Gus Bradley as their new defensive coordinator with the task of turning around one of the league’s worst units.
Coach Jon Gruden decided to bring on the experienced Bradley on Tuesday to fill the role Paul Guenther had for the first two-plus seasons on his staff before being fired in December.
Bradley got his start in the NFL on Gruden’s staffs in Tampa Bay from 2006-08 before heading to Seattle, where he served as defensive coordinator for four seasons. He helped build a dominant defense for the Seahawks that went on to win the Super Bowl the year after he left for a head coaching job in Jacksonville.
Bradley struggled with the Jaguars, going 14-48 before getting fired late in his fourth season. He then returned to a defensive coordinator role the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers.
He takes over a Raiders defense in need of major improvement. Since Gruden returned in 2018 with Guenther as his defensive coordinator, the Raiders allowed the most points in the NFL, had the fewest sacks, the second-fewest takeaways and allowed the second-most yards per play.
Castonzo announces retirement after injury-filled season
INDIANAPOLIS — Anthony Castonzo, the Indianapolis Colts longtime left tackle, announced his retirement Tuesday.
The 32-year-old had been an anchor on Indy’s offensive line since he was the No. 22 overall draft pick in 2011.
His decision came three days after the Colts were eliminated from the playoffs with a 27-24 wild-card round loss at Buffalo and less than two weeks after he had season-ending ankle surgery.
The move was not a complete surprise. Castonzo considered retiring last year, but eventually agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Colts. But this season, the Illinois native and Boston College alum missed four regular-season games and the playoff game with rib, knee and ankle injuries.
Wild extend forward Marcus Foligno with 3-year, $9.3M deal
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild have signed forward Marcus Foligno to a three-year, $9.3 million contract extension on Tuesday, coming off the best season of his NHL career.
The deal takes a potential free agent off the market next summer and keeps Foligno in the fold through 2024. The 29-year-old had 25 points and a plus-8 rating, both career highs, in 2019-20 despite playing in only 59 games. Foligno also led the Wild with 184 hits. He is ninth in the league with 1,446 hits since the start of the 2013-14 season.
Foligno has been playing right wing on the third line with Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek in training camp this month with the Wild, who open at Los Angeles on Thursday.
Arizona loses Baker for the season with broken wrist
TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona junior guard Jemarl Baker Jr. will miss the remainder of the season with a broken wrist.
Wildcats coach Sean Miller said during his radio show on Monday that X-rays showed a broken bone in Baker’s wrist.
Baker was injured in the first half of Saturday’s loss to UCLA and did not play in the second half. The 6-foot-5 guard was Arizona’s second-leading scorer at 12.0 points per game in his second season since transferring from Kentucky.
Baker scored 33 points in a win over Northern Arizona and had 29 points three games later against Stanford. He had been struggling of late, shooting a combined 4 for 24 in three games before the Wildcats faced UCLA.
Lynch, Cardona, Cannon finalists for Salute to Service honor
NEW YORK — San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, and Atlanta Falcons executive Steve Cannon are finalists for the NFL Salute to Service Award.
Now in its 10th year, the award recognizes exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community. It will be presented Feb. 6, the night before the Super Bowl, at NFL Honors, when The Associated Press announces its individual NFL awards.
USAA, a provider of insurance and other services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in the award recipient’s honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to the award recipient’s military charity of choice.
Colliton agrees to 2-year extension as Blackhawks coach
CHICAGO — Jeremy Colliton replaced a beloved figure with the Chicago Blackhawks. Then his first full season with the team was interrupted by a pandemic.
That’s a lot of adversity for a first-time NHL coach, but Colliton thinks it made him better at his job. He is looking forward to putting everything he learned to good use.
Colliton agreed to a two-year contract extension Tuesday, receiving a vote of confidence from President of Hockey Operations Stan Bowman on the eve of his third season behind the bench.
“I’ve had a chance to know Jeremy for a couple of years now and, you know, really solidified that connection that we’ve had,” Bowman said. “And the way that we see the game, the direction that we’re heading and what we want to focus on in the coming years. I think he’s a great candidate to move that forward.”
Colliton took over after Joel Quenneville was fired in November 2018, becoming the 38th coach in franchise history. Quenneville led the team to three Stanley Cup titles, and Colliton stepped into a room full of players who had grown accustomed to the system and mannerisms of the former NHL defenseman.
Motocross season to kick off Memorial Day weekend
MORGANTOWN, W.VA. — The 2021 motocross season will kick off on Memorial Day weekend.
The schedule announced by AMA Motocross on Tuesday will begin May 29 at Fox Raceway National in Pala, California, and will zigzag across the country before returning to the West Coast.
The Hangtown National, typically the opening race on the 12-stop schedule, will now be the season finale on Sept. 11 outside of Sacramento.
The series will include races at High Point Raceway in Pennsylvania, Budds Creek Motocross Park in Maryland and at Washougal MX Park in Washington.
Series organizers anticipate allowing spectators at all races.
F1 season to start in Bahrain after Australian GP postponed
LONDON — The start of the Formula One season was delayed by one week on Tuesday after the Australian Grand Prix was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the race in Melbourne moved from March to November, the season will now start in Bahrain on March 28.
The Australian race, initially set to open the season on March 21, has been rescheduled to Nov. 21 with F1 organizers citing “the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19.” The Chinese Grand Prix has also been postponed but no new date has been set. Strict travel restrictions for the pandemic make Australia and China among the hardest countries for F1 teams to enter.
The season will instead start with the Bahrain Grand Prix less than four months after the Sakhir venue held two races as part of the 2020 season.
Sun give coach/GM Curt Miller 4-year contract extension
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Connecticut Sun have agreed to a four-year contract extension with Curt Miller that is designed to keep the team’s coach and general manager in the fold through the 2024 season.
Financial terms of the deal announced Tuesday were not disclosed.
Miller has been coaching the Sun since 2016 and has compiled a regular-season record of 89-69 and a postseason record of 9-8. He added general manager to his duties in 2017.
Miller has led the team to four consecutive playoff appearances, including the 2019 WNBA Finals, where the Sun lost to Washington in five games. This past season the team was ousted by Las Vegas in the semifinals.
Belichick won’t get Presidential Medal of Freedom after all
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick announced Monday night that he will not accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying “remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.”
In a delicately worded, one-paragraph statement, the six-time Super Bowl-winning coach did not say explicitly that he had turned down the offer from President Donald Trump, whom he has called a friend. Instead, Belichick explained, “the decision has been made not to move forward with the award” in the wake of last week’s deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol.
A White House official said on Sunday, four days after the riots, that Trump would be awarding Belichick the nation’s highest civilian honor — part of a late flurry of presentations that also included golfers Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and the late Babe Zaharias.
Resurgent Man United back on top of the Premier League
It’s been a long, expensive and often turbulent journey, but Manchester United is back in a place it used to know so well.
Top of the Premier League.
A 1-0 win at Burnley on Tuesday, secured by a deflected volley from Paul Pogba, lifted United above great rival Liverpool to the summit of England’s top division after 17 games, approaching the halfway point of the season.
The great Alex Ferguson was still in charge the last time United led the standings this deep into a league campaign. That was in the 2012-13 season and Ferguson would go on to lead United to the title in what proved to be his final season as a manager.
Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer do the same?
The Norwegian said this week that “no one remembers the January league tables” but it didn’t stop him having a look of satisfaction at the final whistle. Quite justifiably, too, given the criticism he has faced in his two years in charge, mostly from those who believe he isn’t qualified to be a manager at this level.
Yet he has done something David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, his three predecessors following Ferguson’s retirement, were unable to do.
United moved into a three-point lead over Liverpool that could immediately be wiped out, with Solskjaer’s side heading to Anfield on Sunday.
‘I just felt alive’: Shiffrin gets 1st slalom win in 1 year
FLACHAU, Austria — Not known for exuberant victory celebrations, Mikaela Shiffrin let out a loud scream this time after crossing the finish line.
Shiffrin’s victory in a night slalom Tuesday was unlike most of her previous 67 World Cup wins.
In the last slalom before next month’s world championships, Shiffrin ended a year-long victory drought in her strongest discipline and earned her 100th World Cup podium.
“I felt, like, inspired, I just felt alive. I was pushing. It’s hard to explain. I wish I could explain,” said the American, who was away from the circuit for much of 2020 because of the death of her father and a back injury.
Shiffrin is the 2014 Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion but last triumphed in slalom in December 2019.
On Tuesday, she held on to her opening-run lead and beat Katharina Liensberger by 0.19 seconds following a near-flawless final run, denying the Austrian her maiden career win, and the Austrian team a first slalom win since November 2014.
Liensberger is the only skier to finish in the top three of all five slaloms so far this season.
American Korda to face Hurkacz in Delray Beach Open final
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Building on momentum from the French Open, American Sebastian Korda has reached his first ATP Tour final.
Korda, the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, beat Cameron Norrie of Britain 6-3, 7-5 in the Delray Beach Open semifinals Tuesday night.
Korda's opponent Wednesday will be No. 4-seeded Hubert Hurkacz, who defeated American qualifier Christian Harrison 7-6 (4), 6-4.
Korda, 20, is a former World No. 1 junior who earned his first three tour-level wins in September at the French Open to reach the round of 16.
“For me the biggest thing was getting my consistency up,” the 6-foot-5 Florida native said. “Before, I would miss balls I don’t miss now. It's super big for me to be playing these matches, and getting a feel for my body and growing into my body.”
Korda trained in December with Andre Agassi, and they talked by phone after his latest victory.
“He's super pumped,” said Korda, who arrived at Delray Beach ranked 119th. In his first career quarterfinal he beat No. 2-seeded John Isner on Monday.
Against Norrie, Korda squandered two match points serving at 5-4 and lost the game, but broke back and then easily served out the match. He lost only seven points on his first serve.
Hurkacz's only other career final came in 2019, when he won at Winston-Salem to become the second Polish tour-level champion in the Open era.
He's ranked 35th, and his success at Delray Beach means he may be seeded at next month's Australian Open. That would allow him to avoid such title contenders as Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic in the first round, he noted.
Isner says he’ll skip Australian Open because of COVID-19
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — John Isner says he’ll skip the Australian Open because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Isner disclosed his decision Monday night after losing to fellow American Sebastian Korda in the quarterfinals of the Delray Beach Open.
Isner, 35, has two young children and said he wanted his family to travel together to “make it as much fun as possible on the road ... because I won’t be playing tennis forever.” But that’s not possible because of the virus, he said, and going to Australia this year would have meant too much time away from his family.
Isner, a former top 10 player now ranked 25th, lost to Korda 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Korda and American Christian Harrison each won playing in his first career quarterfinal.
The 20-year-old Korda is a former World No. 1 junior who achieved career-high ranking of No. 116 last fall. His father, 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, played at Delray Beach twice but never advanced beyond the second round.
Sabalenka reaches Abu Dhabi final after 14th straight win
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Aryna Sabalenka reached the final of the Abu Dhabi Open on Tuesday after winning her 14th straight match and will face Veronika Kudermetova for the first WTA title of the year.
Sabalenka had eight aces in her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Maria Sakkari. Kudermetova defeated 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk 7-6 (8), 6-4.
Stanford’s Catarina Macario turns pro with Lyon
LYON, France — Catarina Macario, a promising prospect for the U.S. women’s national soccer team, has signed her first professional contract with French powerhouse Lyon.
The seven-time European champion said Tuesday that Macario, who joined from Stanford University, signed a 2 1/2-year deal until June 2023.
The Brazilian-born midfielder said last week she would skip her senior season and pursue a professional career.
Macario became an American citizen in October but she hasn’t yet received approval from FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, to play for the U.S. national team.
The two-time winner of the MAC Hermann Trophy as the nation’s best college player, Macario had a Stanford single-season record of 32 goals and 23 assists last season. She was called up to her first national-team camp the same day she became a citizen.
Andrés Perea approved for switch to US from Colombia by FIFA
CHICAGO — Orlando midfielder Andrés Perea has been given approval by FIFA to switch his affiliation to the United States from Colombia.
The 20-year-old trained with the U.S. national team in December and is with the U.S. under-23 team this week in Bradenton, Florida.
Perea, who turned 20 on Nov. 14, started for Colombia at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, including a 3-1 group-stage win over the U.S. and a quarterfinal loss to Germany. He started all five matches for Colombia at the 2019 Under-20 World Cup.
The U.S. Soccer Federation made the announcement Tuesday and said it was informed of FIFA’s approval on Friday.