IRVING, Texas (AP) — Michael Sam will have to wait for a third team to give the NFL’s first openly gay player a chance to appear in a regular-season game.
The Dallas Cowboys released Sam from the practice squad Tuesday, dropping the rush end as they prepare for several potential reinforcements to return to the defensive line.
Sam spent seven weeks with the Cowboys after joining their practice squad Sept. 3, four days after he was among the final cuts by the St. Louis Rams at the end of the preseason. He was never placed on the 53-man active roster.
The Rams drafted the former SEC defensive player of the year from Missouri late in the seventh round in May. He was pick No. 249 out of 256. Sam had three sacks in the preseason with St. Louis playing mostly against second- and third-stringers.
Sam thanked the family of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Twitter, along with “friends, family, teammates, and fans for their support.”
“While this is disappointing, I will take the lessons I learned here in Dallas and continue to fight for an opportunity to prove that I can play every Sunday,” Sam wrote.
The signing of Sam by the Cowboys brought an overflow crowd to coach Jason Garrett’s daily news conference, and he was surrounded by about two dozen reporters in the only interview he conducted on the same day.
But he mostly blended in after that, making occasional appearances in the locker room when it was open to the media and earning praise from Garrett and defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli the few times they were asked about him.
“Comes to work every day and practices hard,” Garrett said last week. “One of 10 practice roster guys that we have, so he’s working on his skills, trying to develop, but also doing a lot of other things. Playing offense, defense, playing the kicking game. That’s what a lot of those guys do.”
Sam came out to his Missouri teammates before his senior season, when he had 11 1/2 sacks. He told the rest of the world three months before the May draft. After Sunday’s 31-21 win over the New York Giants, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told USA Today that Sam’s sexuality was “a dead issue.”
The Cowboys (6-1), off to their best start since they were 12-1 in 2007, are playing their second straight NFC East opponent at home, with Washington (2-5) visiting Monday night.
The Rams didn’t keep Sam because they had depth on the defensive front. The same situation is developing for the Cowboys, who are among the league’s worst in sacks but have been getting solid production with a rotation in the front four of a defense exceeding expectations.
Dallas has rookie second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence close to coming back after breaking his right foot in training camp. He was placed on short-term injured reserve and will be eligible to play next week against Arizona.
Veteran defensive end Anthony Spencer gets stronger each week in his return from microfracture knee surgery that sidelined him all but one game last season.
Defensive tackle Josh Brent, who is serving a 10-game suspension for his intoxication manslaughter conviction in the 2012 death of teammate Jerry Brown, returns to practice next week. He will be eligible to play Nov. 23 at the Giants.
While releasing Sam, the Cowboys added linebacker Troy Davis of Central Florida and defensive tackle Ken Bishop of Northern Illinois to their practice squad.
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls say guard Jimmy Butler will miss their final preseason game with a sprained left thumb.
Butler was injured when he deflected a pass in the first quarter of Sunday night’s 101-96 victory over Charlotte.
The Bulls announced on Tuesday that an MRI and subsequent examinations had confirmed the diagnosis of sprained thumb ligaments. Butler will miss practice this week and will be re-evaluated after Chicago plays Minnesota in St. Louis on Friday night.
Butler averaged a career-high 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 67 games last season. He also is regarded as a strong perimeter defender.
Chicago opens the regular season on Oct. 29 at the New York Knicks.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley knows the work it took to reach the top of the Southeastern Conference. She understands it’ll be an even greater challenge for the defending SEC champs to stay there.
Gone are the days when everyone would pencil in Tennessee to dominate the SEC, win the league title and easily move on to the Final Four. While the Gamecocks were picked to repeat, Staley expects the defending champions to be challenged by a hungry, talented group of teams looking to finish on top.
“You have to be prepared for this meat grinder,” Staley said Tuesday. “There isn’t a conference in the country that’s challenged like we are night in and night out.”
Last season, eight SEC teams reached the NCAA tournament with five making the Sweet Sixteen. Staley expects that to continue this season.
“If you can survive our conference, you’re going to put yourself in position to make some noise nationally,” Staley said. “That’s not just one team, that’s a number of teams.”
The Gamecocks were voted the preseason favorites to repeat in the SEC. South Carolina guard Tiffany Mitchell was picked to win a second straight player of the year award while teammate Aleighsa Welch was part of the preseason, five-member all-SEC team in a vote of media.
The host of title contenders start with the Lady Vols.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick was on Pat Summitt’s staff with the Lady Vols from 1985 until succeeding her friend and mentor in 2012-13. Warlick was part of a run where the school won 15 SEC regular-season titles and 15 league tournament crowns. By the time SEC rivals and their administrators fully embraced Summitt’s vision, Tennessee had built a talent gap that took years to bridge.
Warlick has no such advantage.
She has, however, proved the Lady Vols are still a force in the SEC. Warlick led Tennessee to the regular-season title in her first season and the SEC tournament crown last winter – and the Lady Vols shouldn’t be counted out this year.
“We’ve been the hunted and we’ve hunted people as well,” she said. “This group enjoys a challenge.”
Georgia coach Andy Landers said the SEC has improved through expansion, most recently adding 2011 national champion Texas A&M and Missouri to an already difficult schedule.
“And whoever is the more traditional powers in the conference, the top five or six teams, haven’t changed,” said Landers, starting his 36th season at Georgia.
Those traditional powers stack up right behind South Carolina and Tennessee in the preseason picks. Texas A&M was voted third. Kentucky was fourth, followed by Vanderbilt, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State and Florida. All but Mississippi State played in the NCAA tournament last year.
Auburn was 10th while Arkansas and Missouri tied for 11th. Alabama and Mississippi rounded out the selections.
Landers said league teams are looking for – and hiring – coaches who can succeed. Arkansas brought in ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes as its new coach. Nikki Caldwell has reached the NCAA all three seasons at LSU while Mississippi’s Matt Insell and Alabama’s Kristy Curry are in the second year of revamping their programs.
“Schools are finding the right fit in their coaches,” Landers said.
Vanderbilt forward Marque’s Webb believes the SEC’s depth motivates players across the league to push harder to stay in that lead pack.
“It’s not a goal,” Webb said. “It’s a standard, `We’ve got to make the NCAA tournament.’ We expect that of ourselves.”
Alongside the Gamecocks’ duo of Mitchell and Welch on the all-SEC team were Mississippi State’s Martha Alwal, Tennessee’s Isabelle Harrison and Texas A&M’s Courtney Walker.
Harrison, the Tennessee senior who averaged 13.6 points and 9.3 rebounds a game last season, said it might be hard at times for Tennessee fans to adjust to the reality the SEC is no longer a one-team league.
“There’s a lot of teams rising up and getting great players,” she said. “Of course, I feel like Tennessee’s a great school to play for, but there are other great schools as well.”
That’s helped Staley build a power program with the Gamecocks.
Along with Mitchell as SEC player of the year in 2013-14, South Carolina 6-foot-4 freshman Alaina Coates won the award as the league’s top newcomer.
Staley added to her stocked roster with one of the country’s top recruiting classes, led by 6-5 A’ja Wilson, the nation’s leading college prospect who picked the Gamecocks over Connecticut, North Carolina and Tennessee.
“It’s an exciting time,” Staley said. “Our players have done some tremendous things at South Carolina. We’ve won a lot of games in this league the last couple of years. We want to be one of the best teams in this league because it means you’re one of the best teams in the country.”
(West Plains) – The West Plains Middle School 8th grade football team has ended its season undefeated.
The achievement happened this past Thursday, after the Zizzers defeated the Salem Tigers 50-6.
(Springfield) – The West Plains High School Zizzer Pride Band turned in a great performance this past weekend at the Missouri State University – Springfield parade.
The band was among 29 bands participating in the event, and brought home a 1st place win in the Class 4A divison.
The band also received an award in the Outstanding Precision (Marching) category.
(Reeds Spring) – The Liberty Eagle marching band had a very successful day in Reeds Spring on Saturday.
In the preliminary competition, the band received First place in the Outstanding Drum Major category (Tabi Curtis), as well as Outstanding Soloist (Brendn Burks), and Outstanding Winds.
In finals the band brought home 4th place and was ranked second in Music Effect and Visual performance.
(West Plains) – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team picked up two key Region 16 victories on the road last week, defeating Mineral Area College (MAC) 25-12, 20-25, 25-21, 25-22 Thursday, Oct. 16, in Park Hills, Missouri, and Jefferson College 25-12, 17-25, 25-21, 26-24 Friday, Oct. 17, in Hillsboro, Missouri.
The wins up the 17th ranked Grizzlies’ season record to 19-12 as they head into tonight’s match against National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II powerhouse Kansas City Kansas Community College in Kansas City, Kansas.
Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said the region wins put the Grizzlies right where they want to be – as the No. 1 seed going into the Region 16 Championship Tournament Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at Jefferson College in Hillsboro.
“These were really great wins, playing back-to-back region matches on the road, knowing what was at stake and getting through both of them the way we did, even though we probably didn’t play our best,” she said.
Although the Grizzlies handled both of their opponents pretty well in the first set of each match, the MAC Cardinals and Jefferson Vikings bounced right back to put the pressure on the Grizzlies. “We came out and played exceptionally well in both matches while our opponents struggled a little bit, but we told our players that wouldn’t last, and sure enough, they both turned around and started playing better, forcing us to make adjustments,” Wiedemann said. “I wasn’t thrilled there was a let-down by our players in the second sets, but I really like the way our girls responded after that. We kept fighting, and that’s something we didn’t do well at the beginning of the season.”
Both matches proved to be “gritty” contests for the Grizzlies, and against MAC, the Grizzlies faced a huge crowd, as the Cardinals were preparing for their Midnight Madness basketball activities following the match. “It was a great atmosphere,” the coach said.
Defense proved to be the key to the wins, as the Grizzlies dug 21.5 and 24 balls per set, respectively, against their opponents this weekend. “The way we’ve been playing defense has been key in recent games. It has allowed us to do what we do best offensively, when we play good defense,” Wiedemann said. “The lineup we’re in also has made a difference. The players’ feel for what each other is doing has improved. We’re digging a lot of balls around our block, and that has been the key.”
Statistical leaders for the Grizzlies against MAC included freshman middle attacker Penny Liu, who had 19 kills on 37 attempts with four errors for an attacking percentage of .405; freshman setter Susannah Kelley, who had 42 assists; sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist Kaili Simmons, who had a passing rating of 2.61; freshman outside hitter Pulotu Manoa, who led the team in blocks with four, including three solos; freshman outside hitter Gabby Edmondson, who led the team in aces with two; and sophomore libero Alyssa Aldag, who led the team in digs with 32.
Against Jefferson, the Grizzlies were led by Liu, who had 21 kills on 35 attempts with four errors for an attacking percentage of .486; Kelley, who had 46 assists; Simmons, who had a passing rating of 2.77; redshirt freshman right side/middle attacker Ashley Bishton, who had three blocks; and Aldag, who had 25 digs.
“The players are pretty focused right now,” Wiedemann said. “Kansas City Kansas is still in the top 10 of the Division II standings, and it’s a home match for them, so this will be another test for us. But we need to play with pressure because that’s how you have to play at this point in the season.
“We need to remember that what we do on our side of the net matters. We’ve got to focus on what we do well and put it together. When we do, the other things take care of themselves,” she added.
For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, visit the team’s website at http://wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/vb/.
(Willow Springs) – Fifth ranked Willow Springs took on the fourth-ranked Ava bears in volleyball action on Monday and won in three sets.
Willow Springs took the second and third sets 25-12 and 25-23, while Ava won the first round 25-19.
Stats for Willow Springs are as follows:
- Kameron Woody- 3 service points and 8 kills
- Kaitlyn Perkins- 6 digs
- Kelsey Stolba- 4 service points, 14 assist and 11 digs
- Nichole McGrath- 15 service points, 13 kills and 15 digs
- Kyla Hutsell- 8 service points, 17 assist and 15 digs
- Grace Bailey- 3 big blocks
- Cassidy Crewse- 18 digs
- Allie Tooley- 4 assist, 2 kills and 2 digs
- Kendra Aldridge- 3 assist
- Shilo Letterman- 4 service points, 19 kills, 4 blocks and 8 digs
Willow Springs will play Mountain View-Birch Tree at 5 PM Tuesday.
Also, the Willow Springs Bears finish in 4th place at the Zizzer Junior Varsity volleyball tourney on Saturday, losing to Rolla in 2 sets and losing in 3 sets to West Plains JV.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The game had been over for hours. Kauffman Stadium had gone dark. The roars of a sold-out crowd, which had rooted the Kansas City Royals to a sweep of the mighty Los Angeles Angels, had drifted away into the cool night air.
A few miles away, at a bar and grill called McFadden’s, the party was just beginning.
Greg Holland had showed up, the All-Star closer watching with a grin as highlights of the game played on television. Salvador Perez and Jarrod Dyson, both integral parts in the Royals’ playoff push, posed with fans for more pictures than they could count. First baseman Eric Hosmer put down his credit card and for a full hour picked up the tab for hundreds of strangers.
“It’s fun to get to enjoy it with the whole entire city. It’s a special time,” Hosmer said a few days later. “I think the buildup to this, it’s been so long. They’ve been hungry for a winner. What we’re doing now has just been a blast.”
So much so that Hosmer didn’t mind his credit card taking a hit – he shared the $15,000 bar bill with some teammates – after beating the Angels in their AL Divisional Series.
“We realize how bad the fans want it, how bad the city wants it,” Hosmer explained. “I think this team symbolizes the attitude of this city – tough, we’re not going to quit and we’re going to fight to the end. It’s a pretty special bond we’ve created.”
It’s a pretty rare bond, too, in modern professional sports.
As the Royals prepare to play the San Francisco Giants in the World Series on Tuesday night, capping their first postseason appearance since winning the title in 1985, the relationship they have established with their long-suffering fans harkens back to a bygone era.
It’s reminiscent of a time when players lived in the same neighborhood as working-class fans, because they too were working class. When they had to find offseason jobs just to make ends meet, long before million-dollar contracts. When you walked into the barbershop or the supermarket and would see Duke Snider or Red Schoendienst getting a trim or perusing the vegetables.
Only now, players and fans are connecting over drinks at a bar in the trendy Power and Light District of Kansas City. Or they’re connecting on Twitter in 140-word bursts.
Didn’t hear about that one? Well, life-long Royals fan Nicholas Knapple didn’t have the cash for playoff tickets, so he messaged a few players on Twitter with a plea. One of them was Brandon Finnegan. The rookie pitcher promptly hooked him up.
Knapple found himself watching Game 3 of the AL Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles with his girlfriend and Finnegan’s mom – and an entire section filled with friends and family of other Royals players.
“After the seventh inning, his mom told us we were going downstairs for the celebration,” Knapple said in a phone interview. “So after the game, we got to go down outside the clubhouse. We got to meet Danny Duffy, take pictures. It was unbelievable.”
About as unbelievable as the Royals’ postseason run.
The happy marriage between the Royals and their fans was a rocky relationship earlier this summer. Third baseman Mike Moustakas was getting booed off the field. Manager Ned Yost had gone back to using an alias when he ordered at Starbucks. Even longtime designated hitter Billy Butler was starting to feel the wrath of a fan base that had been pining for success.
Then two fans popped onto the Royals’ radar, and things seemed to change.
One was Tim Grimes, a 28-year-old fan battling Stage 4 cancer. Doctors gave him a 5 percent chance of surviving the next 18 months. He is spending it relishing every pitch and every hit.
The other was SungWoo Lee, a fan from South Korea. He wakes up in the middle of the night, every night, to watch the Royals online. In August, he finally made it to Kansas City.
Perhaps it was coincidence, perhaps it was fate. But at the same time their stories were told, the Royals started to win. They climbed out of a deep hole in the AL Central, made a big push for the pennant, and then qualified for the wild-card game.
Then they rallied from a four-run hole to beat the Oakland Athletics in 12 dramatic innings.
“I think that’s really when it all came together,” said Bob Fescoe, the host of a popular morning talk show on 610 Sports in Kansas City. “The players saw the way the fans reacted, and the way fans cheered for them and stayed through that entire game.”
In fact, they keep staying through games, until long after they’re over. When the Royals clinched their first pennant in 29 years, security had to begin ushering them out of the ballpark so the cleaning crews could begin their work.
No matter. There was almost certainly a party they could go to somewhere.
Good chance that some of the Royals were already there.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Alex Gordon took a big rip at a batting-practice fastball, fouled it off badly into the cage, and ducked when the carom nearly hit him in the head.
Gordon let out a huge laugh, and so did a bunch of his Kansas City Royals teammates watching Monday’s workout.
“I can’t believe that just happened, dude,” pitcher James Shields razzed.
It’ll be more frustrating than funny if those are the same awkward swings the Royals and San Francisco Giants take once the World Series begins.
Going into Game 1 on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium, both teams will deal with a familiar issue this deep in the postseason: Does an extended layoff translate into rest or rust?
Buster Posey and the Giants zipped through the playoffs, and now will try for their third title in five years. Lorenzo Cain and the Royals zoomed along, reaching the Series for the first time since 1985.
And then, they all got some time off. Almost an eternity, by October standards.
The Royals went 8-0 in the AL playoffs, giving them five idle days before Shields starts the opener. San Francisco went 8-2 on the NL side and had four days to relax before Madison Bumgarner pitches.
“It’s definitely different because we have played so many games over the last 7 1/2, eight months. But you just understand it’s one of those things,” Posey said.
As recent history has shown, hitters can be very vulnerable when they get out of rhythm.
“It affects a bit with your timing, especially when trying to adjust to pitchers,” Kansas City second baseman Omar Infante said. “It’s hard to recover that groove you have.”
The slightly favored Giants and Royals held practices, studied video and checked out scouting reports. But as several teams that stumbled in the World Series after long breaks discovered, nothing can duplicate playing a real game.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Detroit got nearly a week off in 2012, then the Tigers hit a combined .159 and totaled six runs in getting swept by the Giants.
Troy Tulowitzki and the Colorado Rockies rushed into the 2007 World Series, waited a week and got outscored 29-10 in Boston’s sweep.
A year earlier, Magglio Ordonez and the Tigers looked so powerful in the playoffs, but fell apart a week later and hit only .199 in a five-game loss to St. Louis.
Infante played on both of those Detroit teams that got wiped out. He actually excelled in 2012, hitting .333.
“It’s a short series, you need some luck. We lost four in a row and they were coming from playing seven. In this series, I think both teams are even,” he said.
Royals reserve Raul Ibanez, who’s enjoyed postseason success in the past, said “determination and will” carry players in the fall. Yet the timing and confidence that lifts them for so long can be lost in a hurry.
All of a sudden, a ball that might’ve been a solid double becomes a soft fly. A line drive up the middle turns into a foul ball straight back. A big hit winds up a great catch.
Just like that, a magical touch is missing, and can’t be recaptured until it’s too late.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez hooted at himself after a popup and an easy grounder in BP on Monday, and changed bats for his next round. He homered on his final swing.
“When you’ve been playing for seven or eight months, it’s nice to have an off day every now and then. But when you do have those workout days where you just go in and hit BP and take grounders and stuff, you try to keep it as much like game day as possible,” Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said.
Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said he didn’t see the five-day break being a detriment.
“Hey, they’ve had four days off. That’s the way you look at it. They played one day later than we have – they’ve had a layoff, too,” he said.
“I don’t know if it’ll play any factor. It definitely won’t be the reason if we go out there and don’t win tomorrow,” Butler said.
Shields and Bumgarner seemed unconcerned.
This will be Shields’ first start since Oct. 10 in the AL Championship Series opener against Baltimore.
“I think this late in the year almost too much throwing is too much,” he said. “So I’ve just kind of rested my body up for tomorrow.”
Bumgarner has already thrown 249 innings this year, including four postseason outings. He was the NLCS MVP, and started last Thursday when the Giants closed out St. Louis.
“Honestly, I feel the best I’ve felt all year for the last probably two months,” the lefty said.