<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Sports News, Sports Teams, and Scores for the Sharks, 49ers, Raiders,Giants, Bears and More]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:47:03 -0800 Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:47:03 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Raiders Defense Can Jam With "Jelly"]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:37:07 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/jellyellisz.jpg

The NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award will be announced Saturday, and it’s a sure thng that Oakland’s Justin “Jelly” Ellis won’t win it.

In 2014, the first-year defensive lineman had a solid debut, yet played in the shadow of two terrific rookies, quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack.

Yet as the Raiders look to 2015, they know they have a young defensive tackle who should only continue to grow and play a bigger role in whatever defensive scheme new head coach Jack Del Rio and an as-yet-unnamed defensive coordinator decide to run.

Ellis, a 6-foot-2, 334-pounder from Louisiana Tech, a fourth-round pick in 2014, played in all 16 games and had 14 starts. He didn’t have eye-popping stats – he was in on 21 tackles and had zero sacks -- but as the season progressed his playing time gradually increased. By the end of the season he had passed veteran Pat Sims in the defensive line rotation.

In his first season, Ellis showed great strength and an ability to disrupt offensive blocking schemes.

Ellis, along with Mack, was named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie team.

“He’s done a good job of not getting moved off the football consistently,” former Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano told Bill Williamson of ESPN.com during the 2014 season. “He’s affected the passer on several situations by pushing the pocket, kind of being able to do that with some power and some speed-to-power inside like that. He’s been, really, an active player and his snap count has been going up. … He’s earned that.”

Ellis has been a defensive tackle in the Raiders’ 4-3 scheme, but there has been some speculation Oakland might shift to a 3-4. Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham – who reportedly was offered the job this week as Raiders defensive coordinator but turned it down – has been a 3-4 coach, and Del Rio, too, has experience with the 3-4.

If the Raiders do change, Ellis might be a perfect nose tackle – a stout, strong and quick defender who can hold his own against blocks and disrupt running plays.

But no matter what scheme the Raiders run, or who the next defensive coordinator turns out to be, Oakland has a solid talent in Ellis.

“He has a nose tackle body type but with better quickness and penetrating skills than most short, fat nose tackle types,” ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson said recently. “I like and would say he is a longtime starter.”


<![CDATA[How to Spot Counterfeit NFL Merchandise]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 17:40:42 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/counterfeit+NFL+merchandise.jpg

Selling counterfeit merchandise is a serious crime, and the Super Bowl is a prime location for these criminals.

In a townhouse development in Glendale, Arizona, a team of federal agents had a sting for illegal merchandise.

"The merchandise has an invoice attached with all of it. And it's very clearly marked. It's coming from China," said ICE New England spokesperson Dan Modricker.

Counterfeit NFL jerseys, along with NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball apparel, were all seized in an early morning search warrant.

How big of a business is this? Federal agents at the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, or IPR Center, are tasked with cracking down on the $200 billion annual counterfeit network.

Modricker is in town this week for Super Bowl XLIX.

"Our main point of being out here is to educate the consumer. And to make them realize that this isn't a victimless crime," Modricker said.

This haul here, worth about $100,000, is just from greater Phoenix and from the past few days.

So how does a consumer to spot a fake jersey while in Glendale?

"Their main goal is to make money. So they're going to crank these things out as quickly as possible. And so, you'll see that they don't even bother to lift the needle when they go from one letter to the next. So you'll see the cross-stitching from one letter to the next to the next. It's all one seam," Modricker said.

It's not just stitching; there is also shoddy coloring and rip-off holograms. Authorities also warn that some of the material used for this knock-off merchandise can be potentially harmful to your body. Modricker pointed to a pair of fake NFL team earrings.

"When you look at it, you have no idea who made this, what materials they used. I know lead is a lot cheaper than silver. So you don't know what you're putting into your body," he said.

Plus, Modricker says, it's crushing the economy, since up to 1.4 million Massachusetts jobs rely on intellectual property.

One man is in custody facing felony charges in Wednesday's sting. 

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Australian Open: Sharapova Cruises Into Finals]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 04:37:58 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP80796916905.jpg

Maria Sharapova has reached the Australian Open final for the fourth time, beating fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 in a lopsided semifinal on Thursday.

The second-ranked Sharapova needed 10 minutes to hold in her opening service game, fending off two break points. She responded to the only service break against her in the first set by winning six straight games to take the match away from the 10th-seeded Makarova, who had only taken one set off her in five previous matches.

She will next meet the winner of the all-American semifinal between top-ranked Serena Williams and 19-year-old Madison Keys.

Sharapova won the Australia Open title in 2008 and lost finals in 2007 and 2012. She opened the season by winning the Brisbane International title.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Man Among Finalists in $1M Super Bowl Doritos Ad Contest]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 23:53:17 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/dorito+add.jpg

You might see a Doritos commercial during the Super Bowl on Sunday featuring a couple of 20-somethings dancing on a rooftop in Astoria, Queens.

The ad starts in the apartment of Alex Pepper, a 25-year-old dancer and actor. This was his production, so he had an inside track on the starring role. He plays a guy who -- with his friend’s encouragement (and bag of Doritos) -- works up the courage to introduce himself to the neighbor he’s had a crush on.

Watch for yourself, here. It doesn’t end well for the budding lovebirds.

But the real-life ending could be a dream come true for Pepper.

His spot was selected as one of 10 finalists in PepsiCo’s annual Dorito’s Crash the Super Bowl contest, which has already earned him $25,000 and a trip to watch the game at University of Phoenix Stadium this Sunday.

He found out in a surreal phone call from "The Hunger Games" actress Elizabeth Banks.

Alex says the $25,000 is more than he made last year as an actor and dancer. And the whole experience is more than he could’ve imagined when he was sitting on the couch watching Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium last February.

“I saw this contest was happening at last year’s Super Bowl and thought, ‘Oh, that’s really cool. Would love to do that sometime,'” says Pepper.

Two weeks before the entry deadline, he decided that "sometime" should be now. So he called a few friends, asked his girlfriend to shoot with his Nikon D800 camera, and set a budget for the project: $80.

“Low budget,” he laughs. “And a lot of that went to duct tape.”

Duct tape?

Watch the end of the spot -- these amateur video producers managed to pull off a pretty slick industry editing trick. They needed duct tape to make a dummy that would stand-in for actress Morgana Phlaum, the star’s would-be crush.

She agreed to the shoot without hesitation, even after Pepper explained the ending.

“Can I throw you off a roof? And she was like, ‘Okay, yeah, sounds good!’”

Pepper’s resume includes theater and an appearance on NBC’s "Saturday Night Live." And the script was inspired by Pepper’s real-life professional nightmare: accidentally dropping a dancer during a move.

"There’s a lot you can’t control -- the floor lights get in your eyes or something like that -- and we took that idea and turned it into a commercial," Pepper said.

And if it airs as the grand prize winner on Super Bowl Sunday, Pepper will earn $1 million, along with a one-year "dream job" at Universal Pictures.

Worst case scenario? He’s headed to Phoenix with his girlfriend to watch the Super Bowl in person.

"The worst case scenario here is already pretty amazing,” he said.

Voting closes at midnight. You can vote for a finalist here.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Out for Rest of Season]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 17:14:20 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-shoulder-injury.jpg

Kobe Bryant underwent successful surgery on a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the Los Angeles Lakers announced on Wednesday, and the 19-year veteran expects to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season.

Wednesday's news came with little shock, but it still carried with it great meaning. Bryant had now suffered season ending injuries in three successive seasons. At the end of the 2012-13 season, Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon. In the 2013-14 season, Bryant lasted only six games before suffering a fracture in his knee. For 2014-15, Bryant completed 35 games and waited until the halfway mark in the season before his shoulder gave out.

The expectation that Bryant would go under the knife and end his season leaked out of the Los Angeles Lakers' offices on Friday, Jan. 23. Later that day, the team sent a news release that confirmed Bryant's torn rotator cuff and specifically made mention of surgery as an option.

The news release also stated that Dr. Neal ElAttrache would examine Bryant on Monday. After Monday's meeting, Bryant decided that surgery would be required. ElAttrache previously performed Bryant's Achilles surgery and also operated on LA Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke's broken collarbone. The world famous surgeon performed both those operations within 24 hours of one another. No surprise, ElAttrache performed Bryant's latest shoulder operation, along with Dr. Steve Lombardo.

Over the weekend, Bryant released a dramatic video that all but confirmed his season had ended and surgery was on the horizon. In a video clip for an upcoming documentary film which placed cameras in the room, Bryant underwent his initial examination with Lombardo. In the clip, Lombardo clearly announced that Bryant's muscle had detached from the bone. Although not explicitly stating that the Lakers' superstar required surgery, the video appeared to show Bryant coming to terms with the severity of his injury.

To ease Bryant's mind on missing the remainder of the season, the Lakers lost their ninth game in a row to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. The defeat was the Lakers' 12th in the last 13 games, and LA's 34th defeat in 46 contests the season. Currently holding firm as the fourth worst team in the NBA, even a miracle would not save this team.

If the Lakers miraculously win every remaining game on their docket, they would finish with 48 wins. A season ago, the 2013-14 Dallas Mavericks finished with 49 wins and entered the playoffs with the eighth and final spot. Effectively, these Lakers have already been eliminated from the postseason.

For Bryant, the decision to get surgery should not have been difficult when considering the current standings and the nature of the injury. Ending the season rehabbing an injury should be an unwelcome familiar feeling, but Bryant's contract calls for only one more season. For Bryant's sake and for the sake of the fans, hopefully he can finish his Hall-of-Fame career on a healthy note.

At the moment, Bryant's involvement in training camp in Hawaii, which would be Bryant's last, remains unclear. According to the Lakers, Bryant will be out for approximately nine months and is expected to make a full recovery.

“I expect Kobe to make a full recovery and if all goes as expected, he should be ready for the start of the season,” ElAttrache said in the Lakers' official press release.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[MLB Favors New A's Stadium in Oakland]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 06:47:55 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/libbyschaaf1.jpg

The A's are looking at "various options" for building a new ballpark in the Bay Area.

And Oakland is on the list.

Keeping the A's in Oakland is absolutely something owner Lew Wolff as well as new Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred are keen on, according to the Bay Area News Group.

Wolff had planned to build a new ballpark in Fremont almost a decade ago before setting his sights on San Jose.

But with the economy as well as MLB itself helping to block those two options -- San Jose is officially San Francisco Giants territory, according to the league -- Wolff is "re-energized" about the prospect of an Oakland ball yard.

However, nothing is certain -- including where they might play and who would build it.
Oakland officials are hoping to keep both the A's and the Oakland Raiders happy with new fields near the current Coliseum, according to the report.

New Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf appears to have rekindled both teams' interests in their hometown as well.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Debuts 1st Anti-Domestic Violence Super Bowl PSA]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 23:52:14 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/footballs.jpg

The NFL will air its first public service announcement against domestic violence as part of its No More campaign during the Super Bowl on NBC on Sunday.

A 30-second ad will air for $4.5 million, but the NFL has already released a chilling 60-second version. The ad is based on a real 911 call a domestic violence victim made in October.

The unsettling video starts out showing a disheveled home, with an unmade bed, books thrown on the floor, a sink piled up with unwashed dishes and a fist-sized punch in the wall. A woman is speaking in a rushed tone with the 911 dispatcher, pretending that she is ordering a pizza.

The dispatcher soon realizes the woman is unable to speak openly in her house because her abuser will hear. The final scene shows a framed picture of a woman torn from the wall and left by the trashcan.

The screen fades to black, and a message appears in white: “When it’s hard to talk, It’s up to us to listen.”

“The goal of the PSA is to activate and engage the vast audience of men and women across America in saying NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault,” No More director Virginia Witt told Today.com.

The NFL has faced a number of high-profile domestic abuse allegations involving its players, most notably Ray Rice.

That case inspired many women to speak out on social media using the hashtag #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft and restarted debates about the NFL's history of players accused of domestic abuse.

“Public awareness is the first, essential step toward changing the culture into one where domestic violence and sexual assault no longer happen,” said Witt.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[FAA: Super Bowl Is Strictly a “No Drone Zone”]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:10:46 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/drone+123114.jpg

If you are going to the Super Bowl, make sure you leave your drone at home.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Wednesday that the unmanned aircrafts are barred from flying over or near the game.

"Many familiar sounds are associated with the Super Bowl," the FAA wrote. "Cheering fans. Referee whistles. The spectacular halftime show. Booming fireworks. But one sound you shouldn’t hear is the whirring of an unmanned aircraft overhead. The Super Bowl is strictly a 'No Drone Zone'."

The restriction also applies to airplanes, hang gliders, hot air balloons, model rockets and most other flying machines. Violators of the ban could end up in jail for "careless and reckless" operation of an aircraft.

The warning came just two days after a federal government employee said he accidentally crashed a drone on the grounds of the White House. The man, who was off duty at the time, called the Secret Service after the crash and is cooperating with authorities in a probe of the incident.

The New England Patriots are set to take on the Seattle Seahawks live from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on Sunday, Feb. 1, airing on NBC.

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<![CDATA[PHOTOS: Memorable Halftime Shows]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:30:43 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/superbowl-halftime-01-160625501.jpg These performances rocked at the Super Bowl halftime shows. See more photos.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The 14 Most Heartbreaking Super Bowl Moments]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 12:11:53 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/edt-upsets.jpg The 49-year history of the Super Bowl has seen its fair share of shocking upsets, horrendous blunders and lopsided routs.

Photo Credit: NFL]]>
<![CDATA[Kaepernick is Working Hard in Arizona]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:53:49 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/177*120/Kapinarizz.jpg

There’s no doubt Colin Kaepernick is the most important player on the 49ers roster.

After Kaepernick’s production and efficiency on the field took a dip last season in an 8-8 season, even team CEO Jed York weighed in publicly on the team’s young quarterback.

“Colin did some things very well this year, and there are things he needs to improve on,” York told reporters at the end of the 2014 season. “That’s something that is very important. I don’t think you have a more important position in sports than quarterback.”

So it was news when Kaepernick, soon after that, announced he would be working for several weeks this offseason with former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Kurt Warner and quarterbacks coaches Dennis Gile and Mike Giovando in Arizona to polish his technique and fundamentals on the field and add to his ability to read defenses and study film.

Now, it sounds as if both Kaepernick and Warner believe the 49ers quarterback is making progress in all those areas.

Colin Kaepernick’s father, Rick, told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group this week that his son is excited by what he’s learning.

“I know Colin is very, very pleased and extremely happy with the instruction he’s getting,” Rick Kaepernick told Inman. “He’s learning a lot. He’s a sponge.”

Also, Warner – at the Super Bowl this week as an analyst for the NFL Network – told Bay Area News Group columnist Mark Purdy that much of a quarterback’s success comes down to technique, a hint that perhaps Kaepernick needs to refine the way he plays in some way.

“It all starts with technique,” Warner told Purdy. “Because if you don’t have technique, you’ll never have consistency. And then from there, we’ll go to the mental side of it and see how far we can push the envelope and how good he can be.”

That could be Warner’s biggest impact on Kaepernick: sitting down with him to discuss the ins and outs of studying film and reading defenses. Warner told Purdy he’s “been very impressed so far” with what Kaepernick knows.

“Been very pleased with where he is at,” Warner said. He added that they’re going to throw a lot at him to see how quickly and accurately he can improve in his decision-making abilities as a quarterback in the three seconds he has against rushing defenders.

“(To) know where to go with the football, know how to get there and technique-wise, be able to get it there,” Warner said. “So we’re going to push the envelope in all those areas and see how far we can get him.”

Obviously, too, Kaepernick seems to be enjoying the challenge.

This week, Kaepernick tweeted a photo from his Instagram account of him working with a coach in Arizona on his technique with the message: “Grind in silence!” and “I don’t get tired.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Like Louisville Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:30:53 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/granthamBrowns.jpg

The Raiders’ search for a defensive coordinator has traversed the NFL and now has reached as far as the University of Louisville, where the Cardinals’ Todd Grantham is now a person of interest.

The Lousiville Courier Journal reported that Grantham was scheduled to interview with the Raiders this week.

So who is Grantham?

Grantham, who has coached just one season under head coach Bobby Petrino at Louisville, had the No. 6 ranked unit in total defense in major college football this past season, giving up just 308 yards per game. Louisville led the nation in interceptions, was 11th in sacks and tied for 24th in scoring defense, allowing 21.8 points per game.

Grantham coached a 3-4 defensive scheme at Louisville, the same system he employed for the four previous seasons at Georgia, where the Bulldogs had success as a unit with more sacks and takeaways than under the previous coach. In 2011, the Georgia defense ranked fifth in the nation.

To get Grantham, Louisville had to pay dearly – a reported $1 million per year over a four-year deal that made him the fourth highest-paid assistant coach in college football.

Before coaching at Georgia, he was the defensive coordinator under head coach Romeo Crennel for three seasons (2005-07) with the Cleveland Browns, where his units ranked 16th, 27th and 30th overall defensively. During his first two seasons in Cleveland, however, the Browns pass defense ranked sixth and eighth in the league.

He’s also coached the defensive line for the Cowboys, Texans and Colts in the NFL.

Grantham has been a believer in the 3-4 scheme, which would be a change from the Raiders’ current 4-3 system. He changed Louisville from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense this past season.

In the past, Grantham has said Nick Saban – for whom he coached at Michigan State in the late 1990s – has been a big influence. Both believe in the importance of speed on defense.

In 2012, Saban – the now very successful coach at Alabama – told the New York Times that Grantham is “one of the two or three best” assistants he’s ever had.

As a defensive coach, Grantham has said “big people beat up little people,” and he loves huge defensive linemen. But the main thing he likes is to study the opposition and figure out a way to attack it.

He believes in an aggressive, attacking defensive style.

“My whole thing is matchups,” Grantham told the Times. “How can we get the mismatch in the rush. You are trying to get your best player on their weakest link on offense.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tiger Woods Explains Tooth Incident]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:22:08 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tiger+woods6.JPG

Tiger Woods finally explained how he lost his tooth while watching his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn capture her record 63rd World Cup title in Italy a week ago.

The golf champ’s publicist previously told The Associated Press that after the Jan. 19 competition, “a media member with a shoulder-mounted video camera pushed and surged toward the stage, turned and hit Tiger Woods in the mouth.”

“I had my mask on, so no one knew who I was, trying to blend in because there is not a lot of brown dudes at ski races, OK?,” Woods told reporters after playing at the Phoenix Open. “That was the whole idea of why I wore the mask." 

“I was looking down, and all the camera guys are below me on their knees or moving all around, trying to get a picture because she's hugging people, saying congratulations to the other racers as they are coming down,” Woods explained.

“Dude with a video camera on his shoulder, right in front of me, kneeling, stood up and turned and caught me square on the mouth,” Woods said. “He chipped that [tooth], cracked the other one. And so then, you know, I'm trying to keep this [mask on] so the blood is not all over the place. Luckily, he hit the one I had a root canal on.”

Woods said he was in a lot of pain after the incident.

“The flight home was a joke," Woods said. "I couldn't eat, couldn't drink until he fixed them, put the temporaries on. I couldn't have anything touch it. Even breathing hurt, because any kind of air over the nerve, the tooth that was still alive, was cracked.”

When asked if the cameraman felt bad about the incident, Woods said, “He didn’t care.”

Vonn won a super-G competition, breaking a 35-year-old record of 62 World Cup wins with a flawless run down the Olympia delle Tofane course.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Wholesome, Less Racy Super Bowl Ads Expected]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:36:32 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/super-bowl-commercials-AP322500772403.jpg Advertisers are spending record amounts of money on this year's Super Bowl commercials, hoping to score big with sports fans and consumers. After a string of domestic scandals in the NFL, analysts say expect to see more hopeful, positive ads.]]> <![CDATA[Super Bowl Preview: Seahawks v. Patriots]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 06:55:35 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/brady-wilson-2.jpg Just ahead of Super Bowl XLIV, here are five things you may not know about the history behind the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

Photo Credit: Getty images]]>
<![CDATA[Seahawks' Big Task: Stop Gronkowski]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 12:08:18 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP326652112586.jpg

This week’s Sports Illustrated cover features the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary. Cornerback Richard Sherman stands front and center with a big smile, flanked by big-hitting strong safety Kam Chancellor, nickel corner Jeremy Lane, free safety Earl Thomas and corner Byron Maxwell.

All look relaxed and confident. And why not?

In 2014, the Seahawks had the No. 1 defense in the NFL overall and were the top-ranked group against the pass. As they head into Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX matchup against the New England Patriots in Glendale, Ariz., they know they’ll present Tom Brady and the Patriots with the best defensive unit they’ve seen all year.

But one Patriot has the Seahawks very concerned: tight end Rob Gronkowski.

At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski is not only bigger than most tight ends, but also is more athletic, runs better routes and has better hands than most. And, his chemistry with Brady is strong. Gronkowski is Brady’s go-to receiver, especially in crucial situations. Other teams have trouble blanketing him.

In two playoff victories, Gronkowski has 10 receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns. This, after he had 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 TDs in 15 regular-season games.

If the Seahawks want to win a second straight Super Bowl, they’ll have to contain Gronkowski and limit the damage he can do. But that’s difficult. He’s bigger than most corners and able to outmaneuver most safeties.

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote this week that Gronkowski may be “the single most dominant and unstoppable offensive weapon in the game.” He said the Seahawks’ defense of him will be one of the key matchups.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week that Gronkowski has “all of the elements that you’re looking for from a big-game tight end.” He added that he’s been spending plenty of time watching film of Gronkowski, searching for the best way to neutralize him.

The Seahawks may employ a variety of coverages on "Gronk," with several players assigned to him, depending on situations. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is faster than most, and may help, but he’s six inches shorter than Gronkowski. Carroll said outside linebackers K.J. Wright (6-foot-4) and Bruce Irvin (6-foot-3) also are “pretty tall and long” and could be in the mix.

But the No. 1 Seahawk assigned to limit Gronkowski Sunday will likely be super-athletic safety Kam Chancellor, whom Carroll calls “about as big a strong safety as you can find.”

Wright told reporters in Arizona that he’s confident Chancellor – selected All-Pro this season along with his safety mate Thomas – can do the job.

“Our best against their best,” Wright said. “Of course I’ve got my money on Kam. He’s an All-Pro, he’s the captain of our defense. I expect him to win every battle.”

Chancellor is 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, known for his ability to hit, support the run defense with ferocity and leap over tall buildings (or at least the line of scrimmage in attempts to block kicks).

Chancellor told the Boston Herald he’ll be up for the task.

“He’s definitely a big, physical guy,” Chancellor said. “But it’s just big on big. You play big on big.”

Chancellor says the Seahawks have great coaching and game planning and prepare players to succeed. Sunday should be no different. He’s confident Seattle can do what it needs to do to slow Gronkowski.

“One thing we do is practice fundamentals,” Chancellor told the Herald. “We practice man coverage. We practice defense. So any situation they throw at us, any situation that occurs, we’re prepared for it and we’re ready for it.”



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Manute Bol Bobblehead Night at Oracle]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:18:09 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/N5A-MAKING-OF-MANUTE-BOL-VO---00000821.jpg

The Golden State Warriors are honoring a very special former player Tuesday night.

The first 10,000 fans into Oracle Arena Tuesday night for the team’s game against the Bulls will receive a Manute Bol bobblehead. The team says the 10-inch bobbleheads are the tallest in franchise history.

The 7-foot-7 Bol spent three seasons with the Warriors. He died in 2010 from kidney failure and complications from skin disease.

In addition to the bobbleheads, the team will honor Bol with a larger than life bobblehead. The Warriors tweeted a photo of 7-footer Andrew Bogut standing next to the sculpture.

Photo Credit: NBA
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<![CDATA[Niners Still Searching for Offensive Coordinator]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:33:38 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/nynerzocsearch.jpg

When the 49ers decided to cut ties with head coach Jim Harbaugh, it was questioned by many. After all, successful NFL coaches such as Harbaugh don’t come around often.

But once the deed was done and new head coach Jim Tomsula announced, 49ers watchers were at least hopeful there was a master plan in place. That the change in coaching regimes would bring with it a better offensive scheme and a talented coordinator who could put sizzle into San Francisco’s attack.

So far, however, that hasn’t happened.

It was thought that the 49ers wanted Indianapolis Colts special assistant Rob Chudzinski to come aboard as offensive coordinator. That the reason they were waiting so long was to allow Chudzinski to get free of his contract, which expired this week. That Chudzinski – a former Browns head coach and Panthers offensive coordinator who seemed to be able to get the most out of two-way quarterback Cam Newton in Carolina – was the guy the 49ers had targeted as a perfect fit for Colin Kaepernick, a QB with similar abilities to Newton.

But early Tuesday, the Colts announced they are retaining Chudzinski. He will now be the associate head coach to head coach Chuck Pagano.

So now where do the 49ers go? If Chudzinski was No. 1 on their list, who’s No. 2? And does this mean the 49ers will simply be settling for whoever is available now, or are they still excited about the next man on their list?

Former NFL head coach Mike Shanahan has been reported to be a person of interest for the team, but if he were truly of interest, why haven’t the 49ers yet made a move in that direction? It was reported back on Jan. 3 that Shanahan, 62, already had interviewed for the 49ers’ head coaching position. And it was reported recently that Shanahan – the 49ers’ offensive coordinator from 1992-1994 – might be open to being in that role again. And he, too, has experience coaching mobile, two-way quarterbacks, having coached Steve Young in San Francisco, John Elway in Denver and Robert Griffin III in Washington.

But if Shanahan truly is interested, how will he feel about taking the job after the 49ers have waited so long to make a move – especially if he believes the Niners’ No. 1 choice was Chudzinski, (or Lane Kiffin, who decided to stay at Alabama) and not him?

The Niners do have some assistants on staff with offensive coordinator experience in the NFL, such as Tony Sparano (now the tight ends coach) and Geep Chryst (the former coach of the quarterbacks who has been retained), but both would seem to be fallback hires at this point.

As San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ann Killion wrote recently: “The staff will probably be experienced. But its assemblage seems fragmented, the process confounding. If there’s a coherent plan, it’s well hidden.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Retaining Woodson Smart Move by Raiders]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:34:29 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/chazwhoodsyn.jpg

Charles Woodson is an amazing talent, one who seems to be as good now as he was 10 years ago.

So when the Raiders announced Monday they had re-signed the 38-year-old safety to a one-year deal, it was good for the team on multiple levels.

For one, Woodson is coming off a terrific season. In his 17th season in the NFL, Woodson was still an impact player. He led the Raiders in tackles (160) and had four interceptions. He was a highlight on a defense that didn’t have many.

For another, Woodson is a leader and positive role model on a team in need of them. The coaching staff has changed this offseason and the roster will no doubt go through another shakeup with more rookies and free agents coming on board. Though head coach Jack Del Rio has yet to announce the signing of a new defensive coordinator, Woodson provides continuity. Retaining Woodson – a certain Hall of Famer with deep roots in the Raiders organization – is an investment in quality.

“The fight is to bring the Raiders back, and I want to be a part of that,” Woodson sold the media Monday. “That’s why I keep signing on.”

In 2014, Woodson thrived, operating as wide-ranging defender who was as much at home near the line of scrimmage against the run as he was defending against the pass.

Last season, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver raved about Woodson as a defender for his smarts, toughness and ability to help those around him. Going forward, he should be able to continue to do all those things in 2015, even though he’ll turn 39 – truly ancient by NFL standards – in October.

He’s someone the younger players, such as linebackers Khalil Mack and Sio Moore and cornerback DJ Hayden – can respect and follow.

“He can see a call and practice it once or twice and get it right,” Tarver said of Woodson’s IQ last season. “Both by his athletic ability and his mind. He can focus. That’s one of the things that we’re working on with our young guys is, ‘Hey you may not be able to play with this guy forver.’ This is a Hall-of-Fame mindset. When you tell him something, he learns it and he locks in and he does it.”

Woodson, the only player with 20 or more sacks and 50 or more interceptions, said he wasn’t ready to walk away from football. He still has plenty to give.

“I love the game,” he said. “You never get rid of that. The Raiders have been good to me, giving me a second chance to come back around and wear the silver and black.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Warriors Unveil Chinese New Year Uniform]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 21:51:40 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/243*120/warriors-jersey-crop.jpg

The Golden State Warriors on Monday unveiled the team's first Chinese New Year uniforms.

The team will debut the new uniforms on Friday, Feb. 20, when they play the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena in Oakland.

"We have been working with the NBA for two years now on our Chinese New Year uniforms to recognize the tremendous fan base that our Asian community represents," Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts said in a statement. "Connecting with our Asian community is a priority for our organization and we are proud that we are going to be one of two teams in the NBA to debut a Chinese New Year themed uniform as a way to thank our fans here in the Bay Area and abroad in China."

The Houston Rockets is the other NBA team to announce a Chinese New Year uniform. The Warriors and Rockets will be the first two NBA teams to debut a Chinese New Year uniform.

The new Warriors jersey is created by Adidas and will feature slate as its primary color, with red and yellow throughout the uniform.

The Warriors will also wear the new uniforms on the road this season on Tuesday, Feb. 24, against the Washington Wizards and on Monday, March 2, against the Brooklyn Nets.

The team will conclude the 2015 Chinese New Year by wearing the special uniforms for the final time this season on Wednesday, March 4, when the team holds an official Chinese New Year celebration at Oracle Arena during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The new jerseys are available for purchase at Warriors.com.

Photo Credit: Golden State Warriors]]>
<![CDATA[5 Key Factors for Super Bowl XLIX]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:24:14 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/170*120/jussbritt.jpg

Everyone knows the stars who’ll be playing in Super Bowl XLIX, and what kind of impact they can have on the outcome of this Sunday’s matchup between the Seahawks and Patriots in Arizona.

But beyond Tom Brady, Marshawn Lynch, Rob Gronskowi and Richard Sherman there are other lesser-known players, units and factors that could be key. Among these are:

1. Justin Britt, Seahawks right offensive tackle

The rookie from Missouri, a second-round pick, showed great promise his first season. The 6-foot-6, 325-pounder played every offensive snap of the regular season. And, the Seahawks running game ran more often off right guard and right tackle this year, with Lynch often getting big chunks in that direction. But Britt – who missed the NFC Championship Game with a knee injury – has been a liability as a pass blocker. According to the Washington Post, citing Pro Football Focus, Britt ranked dead last as a pass blocker among right tackles in 2014 and was fourth worst among all tackles. If the Patriots see Britt as a weakness – he’s reportedly fit again and will start Sunday – they could scheme to attack him in new and varied ways to exploit his deficiencies, which could be a big problem for Seattle’s passing attack, especially if the Seahawks fall behind.

2. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots offensive tackles

Both blockers are solid, with Solder at left tackle and Vollmer on the right side. But they anchor an offensive line that will be tested by the Seattle pass rush, particularly defensive ends Michael Bennett (seven sacks in 2014) and Cliff Avril (five). For the Pats passing offense to work efficiently, Tom Brady will need time and Solder and Vollmer will need to seal off the outside pass rush, whether it be against Bennett and Avril or blitzing linebackers or defensive backs.

3. Patriots special teams

It was the Seahawks who made big news on championship game Sunday by pulling off a fake-field goal play for a touchdown that started their comeback and then recovering an onside kick. But in a duel of special teams, the Patriots’ units are stronger, and in a game as close as this one is expected to be, that could be the difference in the outcome. The Patriots’ special teams were ranked No. 3 in the NFL in 2014 in the annual special teams analysis put together by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, behind only the Eagles and Bills. The Seahawks were 17th. The Pats blocked three field goals and one punt this season. Julian Edelman was fifth in the NFL in punt-return yards and averaged 11 yards per return. Matthew Slater – the son of former Rams Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater -- is a four-time Pro Bowler on special teams and a coverage and tackling star.

4. Bobby Wagner, Seahawks middle linebacker

He doesn’t look imposing as NFL linebackers go, at 6 feet and 241 pounds, and he's overshadowed by Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and the overall Legion of Boom defense. But the third-year pro from Utah State was selected first-team All-Pro this season and was NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December. He was a key to the Seahawks defense countering the Denver Broncos’ offense in last year’s Super Bowl and will be the man to counter Brady’s play-calling and audibles Sunday. After missing the first five games of this season, Wagner has been the catalyst to the Seahawks defensive revival. His wide-ranging speed, smarts and ability to rush the passer can destroy even well-designed plays. The Patriots will need to find a way to counter his effectiveness via blocking schemes or misdirection.

5. Turnover and penalty problems of the Seahawks

Seattle is a ball-control offense, with a strong running game. But the Seahawks – who usually take good care of the football – didn’t in the NFC Championship game against Green Bay. They had five turnovers, a problem they can’t repeat against the Patriots, who finished tied for second in the NFL this season with a plus-12 on the takeaway/giveaway charts. Seattle was right behind, tied for fourth at plus-9, so the NFC title game implosion wasn’t usual. But they can’t afford another flood of mistakes. Meanwhile, the Seahawks were the most-penalized team in the NFL, getting flagged 144 times for 1,112 yards while – and here’s the strange part – being the beneficiary of just 80 penalties against their opponents, the lowest total in the NFL.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Owner Strongly Defends Team]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 20:32:55 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Robert+Kraft1.jpg

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft made a strong defense Monday night of his team's actions and integrity regarding the NFL's investigation into under-inflated footballs being used in the AFC championship game.

At times sounding angry, Kraft said he expected an apology from the league once the Patriots are found to be not guilty of breaking any rules.

"I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots did nothing wrong in this process that was in violation of NFL rules," Kraft said at the team's first media availability in Arizona.

Kraft also said it "bothers me greatly" that the reputations and integrity of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have been "called into question, and by association our team."

He added that in 15 years together with Belichick and Brady, they had never lied to him.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe to Have Shoulder Surgery]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:27:34 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-torn-rotator-cuff.jpg

Kobe Bryant is set to have surgery on his torn rotator cuff, the Los Angeles Lakers said Monday.

Bryant's right shoulder was injured in last Wednesday's game against the New Orleans pelicans and neesds surgery to repair it, the team said in a statement.

Bryant was examined Monday morning by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, of the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, who confirmed that Bryant's rotator cuff was torn and advised him to have surgery to repair it, according to the team. He's scheduled to undergo the operation on Wednesday morning.

While Bryant was expected to miss the rest of the season with the injury, the team didn't confirm that in their statement.

The team said instead that it will provide an estimate for the shooting guard's return following the surgery.

Refresh this page for updates on this developing story.

<![CDATA[Bill Nye Knocks Belichick]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:41:58 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Nye-Belichick_SplitScreen_sm.jpg

The cast of "Saturday Night Live" wasn't the only one poking holes in the New England Patriots' explanation for the "deflategate" scandal over the weekend.

Bill Nye offered his expert opinion as “The Science Guy” Sunday, saying coach Bill Belichick's recent account for why his team’s footballs were under-inflated during the American Football Conference championship game against the Indianapolis Colts doesn't add up.

“I’m not too worried about coach Belichick competing with me,” Nye told ABC’s "Good Morning America." “What he said didn’t make any sense."

The Patriots have denied allegations that the team broke NFL rules by intentionally under-inflating the footballs to gain an advantage in their 45-7 victory against the Colts, which clinched their chance to face the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Belichick said in one news conference that it's possible that climatic conditions and rubbing the balls ahead of last weekend's game affected air pressure.

But “The Science Guy” refuted that claim.

“By rubbing the football, I don't think you can change the pressure," he said. “To really change the pressure, you need one of these: the inflation needle. I can't help but say, 'Go Seahawks!’”

The NFL, which is investigating the allegations that the Patriots were involved in the ball issue, said evidence concluded that the footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half of the game. But the one used for the second half were in compliance with their policy.

“The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games,” the statement reads. “We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay.”

<![CDATA[Niners' GM Baalke Now in Full Scouting Mode ]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 08:44:27 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/baalkescoutie.jpg

It was a year ago at this time that 49ers general manager Trent Baalke fell in love with Northern Illinois’ defensive back Jimmie Ward.

Ward had a big game in the Senior Bowl and was strong in practices, more than holding his own against stars from bigger schools.

“He proved he belonged,” Baalke told a writer for the 49ers website recently. “Any time a smaller-school guy can come into the Senior Bowl and play and move around like he did, he just proved he belonged in every aspect. The stage wasn’t going to be too big for him.”

As a result the 49ers used their No. 1 pick in the draft on Ward – a hybrid safety/cornerback who played nickel safety in his rookie season. It was a surprising pick for the 49ers. Going into the 2014 draft, many had predicted the team’s biggest need was a field-stretching wide receiver.

Instead, partly based on his up-close view at the Senior Bowl, the Niners took a young defensive back. Though Ward’s season was cut short by a foot injury, he’s expected to be completely fit for the team’s offseason program.

This past week, Baalke again was busy scouting the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. And, no doubt, many players caught the eye of the GM, who’ll have the 15th overall pick in the 2015 draft. Many believe the 49ers might use the pick on an offensive lineman, wide receiver or defensive lineman, but what they do with it might depend on what goes on in free agency (who goes, who stays, who is signed) and how the coaching staff comes together and what the team’s schemes will be.

It will also depend quite a bit on what players caught Baalke’s eye at the Senior Bowl.

Could it be Florida State guard Tre Jackson, who was named Outstanding Player for the South and might replace Mike Iupati? Or the North’s Outstanding Player, outside linebacker/pass rusher Nate Orchard of Utah? Or maybe the 49ers go all in on the running game (and replace Frank Gore) and bring in Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah or Minnesota’s David Cobb, who both had terrific games ?

This will be the 49ers’ highest draft choice since they took linebacker/pass rusher Aldon Smith with the seventh pick in 2011, and Baalke and his staff have nine selections stashed away for this draft. It’s a big offseason for the 49ers, who will have a new head coach and staff, big roster decisions and a need to get better and rebound from a very disappointing 8-8 season.

The Senior Bowl, really was the opening of the intense portion of the scouting season for the 49ers GM.

“You have nine chances to get better and you have to make every one of those count,” Baalke said. “It’s a process to get there. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of film to wach, a lot of pro days to attend and the (NFL) Combine. There’s a lot of work ahead of us.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Boston Hosts Pats Send-Off Rally]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 15:44:07 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/20150126_102348.jpg

It was a Patriots Super Bowl send-off like no other.

After a week of "DeflateGate" distractions, Patriots players and their fans made it clear they plan to channel that negative energy into a win on Sunday.

"We have the greatest fans in all of football," said veteran Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork. "That's the one reason we always play for our city."

The fans here definitely aren't fair weather fans, not only braving the elements Monday, but also sticking with this team through good seasons and bad.

"I was there in '91 when they only won one game, and I used to go home crying and my wife used to say, 'Aw, you always go home crying,'" said Ron Pietruszka, a season ticket holder for 37 years. "But now I'm coming home smiling all the time and she's happy, too, so they say, 'Happy wife, happy life.'"

"Who wouldn't want to be here right now?" asked Louis Chino of Chelsea, Massachusetts. "Us Patriot fans, you see, we out here, it's cold, it's a blizzard coming, but we don't care. Whatever, we celebrate the Patriots and on to victory we go."

Never one to guarantee a victory, Pats quarterback Tom Brady, who's been put through media ringer this past week, had one simple message for fans.

"Thank you guys for all your support, we'll be needing you all next Sunday night," he said. "Go Patriots!"

After the rally, the Patriots quickly hopped on a plane headed to Arizona and Super Bowl XLIX, leaving behind New England and its impending blizzard.

Photo Credit: NECN]]>
<![CDATA[Warriors Unveil Chinese New Year Uniforms]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 20:55:08 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*240/0126-2015-WarriorsJersey4.jpg The Golden State Warriors on Monday unveiled the team's first Chinese New Year uniforms.

Photo Credit: Golden State Warriors]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Launches YouTube Channel]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 08:48:04 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/77248493.jpg

Searching for Super Bowl highlights next week after the big game?

They'll be available, legally, straight from the source.

The NFL has protected its video as fiercely as any league, pushing most users to its website or to its broadcast partners.

On Monday, the league and YouTube announced a partnership between two of the most powerful brands in the marketplace, creating an official NFL channel on the video website. Clips will also be directly viewable through simple Google searches.

Content posted daily to the portal by the league will include game previews, in-game highlights, post-game recaps and clips featuring news, analysis, fantasy football advice and other original programming from NFL Network and NFL.com. Highlight packages from the current postseason were already viewable Sunday, and plenty of Super Bowl programming was scheduled to appear throughout the week and after the game.

Game highlights and other content will also be available through Google's search engine, which will display official NFL videos along with related news and information in a box at the top of the page. Kickoff times and broadcast information for every NFL game will be prominently displayed.

Google acquired YouTube in 2006. The tandem previously formed partnerships with the other three major American sports leagues, MLB, the NBA and the NHL. Google has been trying to mine more revenue from YouTube, which is positioned for further growth as consumers continue to shift toward online and mobile viewing and away from live television.

"We continue to see an insatiable appetite for digital video content, and this partnership further expands fans' ability to discover and access NFL content throughout the year," Hans Schroeder, the NFL's senior vice president of media strategy, business development and sales, said in a statement distributed by the league.

Previously, the NFL videos that popped up in a YouTube search weren't sanctioned. The NFL, like many other entities and organizations, has used a YouTube tool called "Content ID" to be able to block unlicensed videos.

Football fans still flocked to the site, of course. Maybe they pulled up one of those "Bad Lip Reading" montages of silly voice-overs accompanying game clips. Or in the hunt for that favorite highlight — "Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed catch," for instance — they found a bunch of shaky camera-phone videos that some New York Giants fan took of the TV screen.

Now those searches will be more fruitful.

The billion-dollar question, then, is whether this partnership will pave the way for eventual live streaming of games through the YouTube site rather than over the air or on cable. Probably not anytime soon, though. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said "the focus is on non-live highlights." He added that "the agreement will provide tremendous exposure for our broadcast partners."

YouTube spokesman Matt McLernon, pointing to the site's past streaming of live Olympic events, said the opportunity is there and the technology is waiting if the league were to decide to do so.

"We would welcome it with open arms if the NFL or any other league" wanted to show live games on the site, McLernon said.

Terms of the deal were not provided. But it's a safe bet that it's worth a lot of money.

The league, citing Nielsen data, said the 2014 regular season reached 202.3 million unique viewers, representing 80 percent of all television homes and 68 percent of potential viewers in the U.S., and NFL games accounted for the entire top 20 and 45 of the top 50 most-watched television shows last fall.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ernie Banks Died of Heart Attack]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:27:29 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ErnieBanks2014.jpg

The family of Ernie Banks announced in a press conference Sunday that the famous Cubs player died after suffering a heart attack.

Banks' death was caused by the heart attack, according to Mark Bogen, the family attorney. Funeral arrangements are currently being made.

Banks passed away on Friday at the age of 83, just seven days before his next birthday.

Bogen also announced that a Facebook page has been created for fans to celebrate Banks' legendary life. The page, called Ernie Banks Remembered, was created shortly after Banks passed away.

Banks' family is currently working with the Chicago Cubs and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office to create a public memorial for Mr. Cub, Bogen said.

Liz Banks, the wife of Ernie Banks, was present at the press conference, but Bogen delivered the news and did not take any questions.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Retired MLB Pitcher Charged With Insurance Fraud: Report]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 17:23:21 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/171*120/169686842.jpg

Former Major League Baseball player Ted Lilly has been charged in California with three felonies related to insurance fraud, according to a newspaper report.

The charges stem from allegedly false insurance claims filed last year connected to Lilly's damaged recreational vehicle, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported Friday.

An investigation by the state Department of Insurance found the RV sustained damage in a collision, and Lilly sought an estimate from a body shop on March 19, 2014. The estimate was $4,600.

Lilly then bought insurance from Progressive on March 24 and claimed the damage on March 28, said Nancy Kincaid, a spokeswoman for the agency.

"What a lot of people may not realize is that body shops often enter estimates into a database that insurance companies can check to verify claims," Kincaid told the Tribune. "They can see what the damage was and whether a false claim may have been filed."

The three felony charges, filed Oct. 24, are filing a false insurance claim, filing a false statement in connection with an insurance claim, and concealing a material fact in connection with an insurance claim. The case is being prosecuted by the district attorney's office in San Luis Obispo County, where Lilly lives.

His lawyer, James Murphy, didn't return a call for comment.

Lilly faces a maximum penalty of five years in jail if he's convicted, the newspaper said. He's scheduled for arraignment on Feb. 5. Three previous court hearings were postponed.

The 39-year-old left-hander was a two-time All-Star who pitched for Montreal, Oakland, Toronto, the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and the Dodgers.

He retired in 2013 after 15 seasons because of problems with his shoulder and back.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ernie Banks Mourned]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:26:52 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Ernie-Banks-Chicago-Cubs.jpg

Ernie Banks is a Chicago legend who touched many lives, both on and off the field. He embodied the spirit of the Chicago Cubs and united fans as an unwavering point of pride for the team.

Fans across the country and in Wrigleyville are mourning the loss of "Mr. Cub," who passed away Friday at the age of 83. Here's what some of his big-name fans are saying.

President Obama and Michelle Obama: "He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team's behind him, and Mr. Class -- 'Mr. Cub' -- is ready to play two."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: "Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago's greatest ambassadors. He loved this city as much as he loved -- and lived for -- the game of baseball. This year, during every Cubs game, you can bet that No. 14 will be watching over his team. And if we're lucky, it'll be a beautiful day for not just one ballgame, but two."

Gov. Bruce Rauner: "Ernie Banks was a trail blazer who helped break down barriers, a veteran who served his country with honor, a respected community leader and the greatest Chicago Cub of all time. While we mourn him here, there's no doubt that up in heaven, 'Mr. Cub' is lacing up his cleats an asking Saint Peter if they can 'play two.'"

Sen. Dick Durbin: "'Mr. Cub' was so much more than a great hitter and Gold Glove fielder. His infectious love for the game of baseball was matched only by his passion for the people of Chicago ... His positive, hopeful Cub view of life filled every room and every baseball diamond he ever touched."

Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs: "Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known."

John McDonough, president and CEO of the Chicago Blackhawks: "Ernie was an illuminating superstar who was personable, humble and selfless. He was also the greatest player to ever wear a Cubs uniform. He loved the Cubs, Wrigley Field and the city of Chicago. The Friendly Confines were always a bit friendlier when he was around. I will miss him."

Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State: "I was honored to learn many things from him while I was in the Cubs organization. And I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with him throughout the years in our joint efforts to help others. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to his friends. I was privileged to have played baseball with him, and to call him my friend. Ernie Banks -- Mr. Cub -- will be missed."

Rev. Jesse Jackson: "He was not only a great baseball player, but beyond his talent as a shortstop and eventually a first baseman, was his character, his eternal optimism -- "let's play two today" -- and his personality was a racial bridge builder. He treated all people with dignity and respect. He never stopped reaching out to bridge the racial chasms."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Life and Times of Ernie Banks]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:18:58 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ernie_banksP11.jpg Ernie Banks is a baseball legend, the first African American to play for the Chicago Cubs and the first black manager in Major League Baseball. He is known for his skills at bat and in the field, as well as his sunny, positive attitude and love for the game. Click to see pictures from throughout this memorable figure's life.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Great Ernie Banks Dies at 83]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:28:34 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ErnieBanks2014.jpg

Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs great who was affectionately known as "Mr. Cub" and was the face of the franchise for decades, has passed away at the age of 83. 

Banks was the first African-American to don a Cubs uniform, and it was the only one he would wear.

In a 19-year career, Banks slugged 512 home runs, drove in 1636 RBI, and perhaps more than any other player who has ever played for the franchise embodied the spirit of the club in the eyes and hearts of Cubs fans.

Even after his playing career came to an end in 1971, Banks continued to be an ambassador for the team.

He was a constant fixture at Cubs games, often singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" after the passing of Harry Caray in 1998, and he was one of the most popular figures at the annual Cubs Convention.

Banks made his MLB debut in 1952 at the age of 22 years old, and as his career went on he cemented his status as a legend. He was never better than in the 1958 and 1959 seasons. He won the MVP award in both seasons, and he set career highs in both home runs and RBI in those seasons. 

Unfortunately for Banks and the Cubs, he never made it to the postseason as a member of the team. In the 1969 season, Banks teamed up with fellow legends Ron Santo and Billy Williams and led the team to a massive lead in the standings as August ended. As September unfolded however, the Cubs faded badly, and they missed out on the postseason as the New York Mets surged and ultimately won the World Series title. 

Despite not having postseason experience on his resume, Banks was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and he never stopped being an ambassador for the game and for the team. His indomitable spirit and constant optimism were a bright spot for the Cubs through some of the team's leanest years, and despite teams coming close in 1984 and 2003, Banks' teams were the ones that fans still talk about and remember.  

"Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball," Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. "He was one of the greatest players of all time.  He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And and more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known.  Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie's life in the days ahead."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Face a Test in Seahawks' Read-Option]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 21:19:17 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/russwillsea.jpg

To beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, the Patriots know they’ll have to contain running back Marshawn Lynch. Yet here’s the problem: If they focus too much attention on Lynch, quarterback Russell Wilson may burn them.

Wilson led all NFL quarterbacks in rushing in 2014 with 849 yards. In fact, Wilson ranked 16th in the league in rushing. And when Wilson does take off, his plays can be painful for defenses. He averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, had eight runs of more than 20 yards and scored six touchdowns.

What New England will face on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1, is the Seahawks’ read-option scheme, which forces defenses to choose between focusing on Lynch or being cautious, in case Wilson pulls the ball out and sprints around the defenders crashing on Lynch.

Against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks’ read-option was very effective. On 17 read-option plays, Seattle’s Lynch or Wilson gained 121 yards and scored two touchdowns. Most of the time, Lynch got the ball. But late in the game, Wilson had two key carries on the read-option that resulted in 16 yards and a score.

“They execute the read-option at a very high level,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia told the Boston Herald this week. “It’s extremely dangerous. They do it from a number of different looks. They obviously have tremendous skill players that can handle the ball and handle that type of offense.”

The read option, however, is not unfamiliar to the Patriots, who’ve faced it many times over the past two years. In fact, coach Bill Belichick brought Tim Tebow into camp last year largely to run the offense against his defenders.

One tactic is to emply a spy -- a defender whose responsibility it is to keep his eyes on Wilson and not let him break free if he decides to fake the handoff to Lynch. That spy might be delegated by how the Seahawks line up. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich has played the role well before, as has linebacker Jamie Collins.

Last season, Ninkovich played spy against Cam Newton of the Panthers.

But whoever it is, he’ll have to stay vigilant. Even one play where he’s tricked or loses concentration -- as happened to the Packers late in Seattle’s comeback win -- could be costly.

Ninkovich has said in the past that the read-option scheme is simply “a green light to hit the quarterback.”

But Wilson is an extremely skilled, smart and patient ball handler who can also exploit overly aggressive defenders.

“You just have to be under control and know what your assignment is every time,” said Ninkovich.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ravens' Cody Being Investigated]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:41:22 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Terrence+Cody+157365657.jpg

Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody is under investigation for animal cruelty

The case deals with the death of Cody's dog, an $8,000 bull mastiff from Spain.

The case is being discussed with the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office.

The team said Friday morning it plans to release Cody after the Super Bowl but didn't give a reason, NBC Sports reports. His one-year contract is set to expire in the spring.

The Ravens selected Cody in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He played in 57 games over five season but only one in 2014 after having hip surgery in the spring.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Patriots Probe ]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 17:05:33 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/super-bowl-footballs-AP339355819322.jpg

The New England Patriots used footballs that were under-inflated in the first half of Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts, evidence so far in the National Football League's investigation has found. 

But the team's footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed to have been properly inflated at the conclusion of the game, the NFL said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The NFL's investigation into the "Deflategate" controversy involving the Patriots is ongoing, and 40 interviews have been conducted so far, including of Patriots personnel, game officials and third parties with relevant information and expertise, the league said. The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss.

The league said it has obtained and is continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. It has also hired an investigatory firm with expertise in forensics to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.

"The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action," the statement said. "We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence."

The league said the Patriots have pledged their full cooperation and have made their personnel and other information available upon request. In the coming days, the NFL will be conducting interviews, examining video and other forensic evidence, in addition to any relevant physical evidence.

Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft also issued a statement on Friday, saying that he received a letter from the league on Monday informing him of the investigation. He said he instructed Patriots staff to be "completely cooperative and transparent with the league's investigators." During the three days the investigators were in Foxboro, he said the team provided access to every full- and part-time employee the league's representatives asked to speak with and produced every communication device that they requested to search.

"It is an ongoing process that the league and our team are taking very seriously," Kraft said. "Competitive balance and the integrity of the game are the foundation of what makes our league so special and I have the utmost respect for those principles. Our organization will continue to cooperate throughout the league's investigation."

The NFL began looking into the issue not only because doctoring the footballs could provide a competitive advantage, but because it would compromise the integrity of the game. Deflating a football can change the way it's gripped by a player, or the way it travels through the air.

"Our investigation will seek information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well," the statement said. "As we develop more information and are in a position to reach conclusions, we will share them publicly."

No timetable was given by the NFL for when the investigation might be wrapped up.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has denied altering the ball "in any way," saying that he would never break the rules. Coach Bill Belichick said he had "no explanation" for what happened, and like Brady said the first he heard of the entire ordeal was on Monday morning.

The Patriots will take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday, Feb. 1.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rick Osentoski]]>
<![CDATA[Serra HS Football Program Placed on Probation]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 13:34:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2-brady-stadium.jpg

Serra High School, the alma mater of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, is now banned from postseason play.

The Central Coast Section has placed Serra’s football team on probation until the end of the 2016 season. The organization is upset about the school's last-minute decision to forfeit a consolation playoff game against Milpitas last month.

The San Mateo private school will have to pay back more than $6,000 to cover game officials and potential concession revenue and gate receipts for the game.

Serra football coach Patrick Walsh said he backed out of the game for player safety reasons.

"I stand behind my decision to this day and will never feel otherwise," he said in a statement. "The decision was made in consultation with and the full support of the Serra administration. At the time of my decision, I only had the best interest of our players' health in mind."

The CCS says the school's decision not to play undermines the foundation of the organization.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>