TIME Football

Vince Wilfork Says New England Patriots Won’t Pick Up His Option

New England Patriots v Indianapolis Colts
Joe Robbins—Getty Images Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots looks on during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Nov. 16, 2014

The New England Patriots decided not to pick up the option on defensive tackle Vince Wilfork‘s contract, he announced on social media on Thursday. Willfork will become a free agent and is eligible to sign with any team.

Wilfork and the Patriots restructured the veteran’s contract prior to last season. The two sides agreed on a one-year deal with a two-year option. In parting ways with Wilfork, the Patriots will save about $8 million in cap space.

New England would be open to bringing back Wilfork on a reduced contract, according to a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

“I’m in a good place I have a great relationship with the Patriots organization,” Wilfork said in a message posted to his Twitter account. “Please know how blessed my family and I have been to be able to play 11 years in New England for a amazing organization.” He added, “Can I still play football? Hell yea! do I still love football? Hell yea ! One thing for sure is I will always be a fixture in New England forever ….”

Wilfork, 33, started 16 games last season after playing only four in 2013 due to a torn Achilles. With Wilfork anchoring their defensive line, the Patriots ranked eighth in the league in rushing yards allowed per carry.

Wilfork won two Super Bowls with the Patriots and appeared in four.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NFL

Former NFLer Says the League Should Permit Pot

Former Denver Bronco Nate Jackson speaks during a cannabis industry expo in Denver, March 4, 2015.
Brennan Linsley—AP Former Denver Bronco Nate Jackson speaks during a cannabis industry expo in Denver, March 4, 2015.

A former tight end says pot may be a safer alternative to prescription pain meds

Former Denver Broncos tight end Nate Jackson said Wednesday that he thinks the NFL will eventually allow players to use marijuana.

“They’re aware that probably over half of their players smoke weed,” Jackson said at a marijuana business conference, in remarks reported by the Associated Press. “They’ve been doing it since they were teenagers. The fact that they’ve been doing it that whole time and still made it to the NFL and are able to satisfy the demands of very, very strict employers on a daily basis means that their marijuana use is in check.”

Jackson argued the NFL would eventually change its policy because, he said, the drug is a safer alternative for injured players looking to medicate than highly addictive prescription pain pills. “I feel like I exited the game with my mind intact,” said Jackson, who played six seasons for the Broncos. “And I credit that to marijuana in a lot of ways and not getting hooked on these pain pills that are recklessly distributed in the league when a guy gets an injury.”

An NFL spokesman said that “at this time, the medical advisers to our drug program tell us that there is no need for medical marijuana to be prescribed to an NFL player.”

MORE: The Rise of Fake Pot

[AP]

TIME Baseball

NCAA Reports Big Jump in Home Runs With New Flat-Seam Ball

In this June 23, 2014, photo, Vanderbilt pitcher Walker Buehler throws in the second inning of the opening game of the best-of-three NCAA baseball College World Series finals against Virginia in Omaha, Neb.
Eric Francis—AP Vanderbilt pitcher Walker Buehler throws in the NCAA baseball College World Series finals against Virginia in Omaha on Jun 23, 2014

Teams are hitting 40% more home runs this season

(OMAHA) — The new flat-seam ball in college baseball is having the desired effect, with teams hitting 40 percent more home runs so far this season.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that teams are hitting a home run about every other game. Last year, teams homered about once every three games through the first three weeks of the season.

The actual average is 0.47 home runs per team compared with 0.33 at this point in 2014. Last season’s final average of 0.39 per team was a record low.

The flat-seam ball was introduced this season in an attempt to punch up a game that has seen steep declines in offense since new bat standards took effect in 2011. Studies show the flat-seam ball travels 20 feet farther than the old raised-seam ball.

“I guess the seams do matter,” said Eastern Michigan’s Mitchell McGeein, whose total of five homers in 13 games is one more than he hit all last season. “Last year, I got hold of some balls that should have been out, and they would end up getting caught. Now when I hit a ball the same way, I’m getting rewarded for it.”

Nevada’s Ryan Howell also is a fan of the new ball. He hit his nation-leading sixth home run in 12 games in his team’s 7-6 win over UC Davis on Tuesday. He totaled eight in 42 games for Chabot (California) Community College last year.

“Everybody is benefiting,” Howell said. “Ultimately, the ball is going to go farther. It’s cutting through the wind. You can see it fly off the bat.”

Nevada and Texas A&M are the national team leaders in home runs with 17 apiece. The WolfPack already are halfway to their 58-game total last season. The Aggies are only eight shy of their total in 62 games.

“We still have to play out the season, just to see what difference the ball truly does make,” A&M coach Rob Childress said. “But this small case study says it’s a positive thing for college baseball to bring excitement back to our sport.”

The increase in homers has occurred in spite of poor hitting conditions — cold weather — across much of the country. Childress said he’s curious to see if the numbers rise even more with warmer weather, or if there will be a decrease once teams begin playing conference games against better pitching.

Other key offensive statistics are generally unchanged. Per-team scoring is up from 5.07 runs a game the first three weeks in 2014 to 5.29 a game this year. The national batting average went from .263 to .264.

Childress said his team’s power numbers were so high during fall practices and scrimmages that he feared his pitching staff might not be very good. Nevada coach Jay Johnson said the same thing.

But A&M, at 13-0, is one of two unbeaten Division I teams. Virginia is the other. And Nevada, at 11-1, is off to the best start in program history.

The long ball gets a lot of credit.

“I’m an offensive-minded coach,” Nevada’s Jay Johnson said, “so I like the fact that the power element is back.”

TIME Baseball

The ‘Churro Dog’ Now Exists

Arizona Diamondbacks made the hot dog into a dessert

The Arizona Diamondbacks have finally come up with a way to make the ballpark staple hot dog into a dessert with their newest item, the Churro Dog.

The treat features a cinnamon and sugar coated churro topped with ice cream, whipped cream, caramel and chocolate sauce, and loaded onto a bun that looks like a Twinkie split in half.

Before the 2014 season the Diamondbacks unveiled the Dbat Dog, an 18-inch corn dog filled with cheese and bacon, which proved so popular with fans that Chase Field sold nearly 10,000 by the end of the season, according to ESPN.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME Football

Steve Weatherford, Sidney Rice Will Donate Brains to Science

New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford and former NFL receiver Sidney Rice both announced on Tuesday’s Fox and Friends that they will donate their brain to science research after their death.

Rice, who retired last July, estimated that he sustained eight to 10 concussions during his football career, the first of which he believes occurred when he was a child. Weatherford said he thinks he has sustained two concussions while in the NFL.

Weatherford said he’s doing it “more to help generations after us.”

“You study [Rice’s] brain, by comparison to my brain. Just because you [haven’t] had traumatic head injuries doesn’t mean you don’t need your brain studied because they’re going to have brains to compare to other ones. For me, it’s about overall health right now, but you want to help the future and pay it forward,” he said.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Football

Philadelphia Eagles to Trade LeSean McCoy to Buffalo Bills for Kiko Alonso

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants
Jim McIsaac—Getty Images LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Dec. 28, 2014

The Philadelphia Eagles will trade running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.

The trade is expected to be made official next week, once the new league year begins on March 10. McCoy’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said on Twitter that a deal has not been finalized but discussions have been held.

McCoy, 27 in July, finished third in the NFL in rushing with 1,319 yards. He added five touchdowns and had nine runs of 20-plus yards. As a receiver, McCoy caught 28 passes for 155 yards.

McCoy is signed through 2017 and due a $9.75 million base salary in 2015 with an $11.95 million cap hit, according to Spotrac.com. Alonso is signed through 2016 and will make a $941,418 base salary with a cap hit of $1.17 million.

Rosenhaus and McCoy “will make noise about wanting an extension and/or declining to report” to training camp, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports. La Canfora also reports Alonso had asked to be traded.

Over six seasons, McCoy, Philadelphia’s second-round draft pick in 2009, has rushed 1,461 times for 6,792 yards and 44 touchdowns. He also has caught 300 passes for 2,282 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Alonso, 25 in August, sat out the 2014 season after suffering a torn ACL. In 2013, his rookie season, Alonso appeared in 16 games and recorded a team-high 159 tackles with two sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions.

The Bills finished 9-7 in 2014 and hired former New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan earlier this offseason. The Eagles finished 10-6. Both teams missed the playoffs.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Baseball

Yankees Employee Fired For Vulgar Tweets About Curt Schilling’s Daughter

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is honored before a game between the Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves on May 28, 2014 in Boston.
Boston Globe via Getty Images Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is honored before a game between the Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves on May 28, 2014 in Boston.

Yankees rep says they have "zero tolerance for anything like this"

The New York Yankees have fired a part-time ticket seller who allegedly sent vulgar tweets about the daughter of former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, according to NJ Advance Media.

Last week, Schilling sent out a tweet congratulating his daughter, Gabby, who will be a member of the softball team at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI next year.

On Sunday, Schilling published a blog post detailing how he received many vulgar and sexually explicit responses about his daughter. Schilling posted screencaps of several of the tweets, focusing on two of the men in particular and giving identifying features.

The Dennis and Callahan Show of WEEI later identified one of the men as Yankees employee Sean MacDonald.

The team’s director of communications, Jason Zillo, told NJ Advance Media that MacDonald was hired in January and had worked about 18 hours over four days so far before being fired on Monday.

“We have zero tolerance for anything like this,” Zillo said. “We’ve terminated him.”

In his blog post, Schilling explained why he decided to screencap and call out the people who sent the tweets.

“These boys have yet to understand one of life’s most important lessons,” he wrote. “In the real world you get held accountable for the things you say and if you are not careful that can mean some different things.”

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME Basketball

NBA Suspends James Harden for Kicking LeBron James in the Groin

LeBron's teammate called it "an intentional kick to a troublesome area"

The NBA announced Monday that Houston Rockets guard James Harden will be suspended for one game without pay for kicking Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James in the groin during Sunday’s game.

During the third quarter, Harden fell to the ground during a tussle for the ball and appears to have lifted his foot to give James a little kick below the belt. James was incensed and had a few words for Harden during the altercation.

After the game, Harden said the kick was unintentional and he didn’t think he would be suspended.

Naturally, James’ teammates had a different reaction

The suspension comes at an unfortunate time for Houston as they must travel to face the Atlanta Hawks, the league’s leader in wins, on Tuesday.

James Harden is in the middle of an outstanding season; he leads the league in scoring and is a front runner for the Most Valuable Player award. LeBron James is probably professional basketball’s most recognizable star and is widely considered to be the best player in the world.

TIME hockey

This NHL Player Got Traded After His Daughter Made a Written Plea

NHL 2014: Jets vs Blue Jackets NOV 25
Aaron Doster—Cal Sports Media/AP In this Nov 25, 2014, former Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jordan Leopold appears during the NHL game in Columbus, OH.

Jordan Leopold's job no longer has to take him so far from his family

Talk about initiative. Hockey player Jordan Leopold’s 11-year-old daughter just got her hometown hockey team, the Minnesota Wild, to trade for her father, who was playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Well my dad is very lonly [sic] without his family. We are living in Minnesota right now and I am lost without my dad and so is my mom, my 2 sisters, and my brother,” young Jordyn Leopold wrote in a heartfelt letter to the coaches at Minnesota Wild.

Her wish was granted Monday, when 34-year-old Leopold was traded to the Minnesota Wild as a defenseman, allowing him to return home and reunite with his family.

Looks like a career in player management could be shaping up for young Jordyn.

TIME Football

NFL Salary Cap Hits $143.28 Million for 2015

An NFL shield logo is painted on the field before the game between the Detroit Lions and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Detroit on Nov. 24, 2013.
Mark Cunningham—Getty Images An NFL shield logo is painted on the field before the game between the Detroit Lions and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Detroit on Nov. 24, 2013.

Teams must be under the 2015 salary cap by March 10, when the new league year officially begins

The NFL’s salary cap for 2015 has officially been set at $143.28 million, the league announced Monday.

This is the second straight year in which the NFL’s salary cap jumped by $10 million. The 2014 salary cap was $133 million.

According to OverTheCap.com, the current leaders in estimated cap space are the Jacksonville Jaguars ($68.2 million), Oakland Raiders ($55.4 million), Cleveland Browns ($53.7 million), New York Jets ($51.4 million) and Indianapolis Colts ($45.2 million).

The new league year will officially begin March 10, which also marks the beginning of free agency. Teams must be under the 2015 salary cap by this date and have submitted any qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

Clubs must designate franchise or transition players by 3 p.m. CT on Monday. Negotiations may begin with unrestricted free agents on March 7.

Franchise tag values based on position were also announced.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

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