Eagles

NFL Notes: Stadium for Rams, Chargers delayed until 2020 by rain

NFL Notes: Stadium for Rams, Chargers delayed until 2020 by rain

LOS ANGELES -- The opening of the $2.6 billion football stadium under construction in Inglewood, California, has been pushed back one year to 2020 because of construction delays caused by Los Angeles' uncommonly wet winter.

Los Angeles Rams spokesman Artis Twyman confirmed the delay Thursday for the 70,000-seat stadium, which will be shared by the NFL's Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. The massive project also includes a 300-acre entertainment district.

The stadium was scheduled to open shortly before the 2019 NFL season but is now slated to open in the summer of 2020, the developers said in a statement.

Super Bowl LV already has been awarded to the stadium for Feb. 7, 2021, although the NFL now would have to waive a rule that prohibits a Super Bowl being played at a stadium before it has hosted two full regular seasons. The NFL hasn't yet decided how it will react to the just-announced delay.

The delay shouldn't disrupt the Los Angeles teams' current playing arrangements: The Rams plan to stay downtown in the Coliseum for the 2019 season, while the Chargers confirmed they will stay at the 30,000-seat StubHub Center in suburban Carson. The Rams moved to the Coliseum in 2016, while the Chargers are moving north from San Diego for the upcoming season.

According to the Rams, who are financing the new stadium, developers blame the delays on record rains in the Los Angeles area over the past several months. After ground was broken in November, the rainfall hindered the extensive excavation necessary to complete the project, forcing the crews to halt work for most of January and February (see full story).

Raiders: Board OKs conditional lease for Vegas stadium
LAS VEGAS -- The public board that oversees the proposed stadium where the Raiders want to start playing in 2020 on Thursday unanimously approved a conditional lease agreement for the facility after months of negotiations that were affected by the sudden exit of an instrumental financial backer of the $1.9 billion project.

The Las Vegas Stadium Authority board was running up against a deadline to approve the lease to avoid delaying the team's relocation by a year, as NFL owners gathering next week in Chicago plan to take up the document. It addresses various aspects related to the 65,000-seat stadium, including insurance, repairs, maintenance, naming rights and a rent-free provision.

"We got to the finish line in time, but we didn't start real well, and obviously, that kind of set off some events," board chairman Steve Hill said after the meeting. "We lost six weeks in the process, but we made up for it, the raiders made up for it, and we are here today where we need to be."

The six weeks were lost after casino mogul Sheldon Adelson withdrew his multimillion-dollar pledge from the project just days after the first draft of the lease agreement, which included a $1 annual rent, was unveiled in January. The billionaire's move sent the team searching for $650 million to fill the financial gap he created.

The team ended up securing a loan from Bank of America. Guests of hotels and other lodging facilities in the Las Vegas area are contributing $750 million through a room tax increase, while the Raiders and the NFL all along have been expected to contribute $500 million.

Steelers: Green, Warren released after failed physicals
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers released tight end Ladarius Green and long snapper Greg Warren on Thursday after both failed physicals.

While Warren's departure became imminent after the Steelers made the unusual move of selecting long snapper Colin Holba from Louisville in last month's draft, cutting Green came as a surprise.

Pittsburgh made a rare splurge in free agency when it signed Green to a four-year, $20 million deal in March 2016, pegging him the big red-zone threat the team needed at the position following Heath Miller's retirement.

Green struggled to get healthy following offseason ankle surgery and spent the first half of last season on the physically unable to perform list. He ended up catching 18 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown before leaving a December victory over Cincinnati with a concussion. He did not dress the rest of the year as the Steelers reached the AFC championship game before falling to New England.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said before the draft that the team had no update on Green's status, adding that it would not affect the organization's plans. Pittsburgh did not select a tight end with any of its eight draft choices. The Steelers relied heavily on Jesse James and Xavier Grimble to fill in for Green last season, and both remain on the roster.

The 35-year-old Warren signed with the Steelers in 2005 as an undrafted free agent. He appeared in 181 regular-season and 15 postseason games with the team while helping the Steelers win two Super Bowls and appear in another.

"Greg has been a big part of our past success and we would like to thank him for his contributions and wish him nothing but the best," general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement.

Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

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AP Images

Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Facing a growing investigation that accuses him of sexual misconduct and using racist language at work, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced Sunday that he will sell the NFL team after the season.

The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.

"I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership," Richardson wrote, saying he wouldn't begin discussions until after the season. The Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl in 2016, are in playoff position again.

"I hope everyone in the organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl," said Richardson, 81.

The NFL awarded Richardson, a former player with the Baltimore Colts, an expansion franchise in 1993, and he has been the team's only owner.

Richardson's letter did not directly address the investigation.

"There has been no greater mission or purpose in my life than to have brought and NFL franchise to Charlotte," Richardson wrote. "The obstacles back then were significant and some even questioned whether or community could or would support professional football. But I always knew that if given the chance the Carolina would rise to the occasion. And you have. The team has become an integral part of the community. The stadium is in its best condition since the day it opened."

Richardson attended the game Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium and was photographed sitting beside his wife Rosalind in his luxury box.

He did not speak to reporters.

"While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers Number One fan," Richardson's letter said.

The Panthers are tied to Charlotte through June of 2019.

The city of Charlotte and the Panthers reached agreement on improvements for the team's stadium in 2013. The plan called for the city to contribute about $87 million for renovations to Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year deal to keep the Panthers in Charlotte.

The money is less than what the team was seeking for improvements of the stadium, which opened in 1996. Forbes estimates the Panthers worth at $2.3 billion.

Richardson's announcement comes after a Sports Illustrated report that cited unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.

The NFL on Sunday said it has taken over the investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on the report.

Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday the team requested the league take over the investigation.

"We thought it would be best for transparency reasons," Drummond told The Associated Press.

The investigation was originally going to be led by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Erskine Bowles, a minority owner with the Panthers.

Drummond said in a release that the Panthers take these allegations very seriously and are committed to a full investigation.

"The entire organization is fully committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally," Drummond said.

The Panthers began play in 1995 but have never delivered on Richardson's promise of winning a Super Bowl. They lost after the 2003 and 2015 seasons.

The Panthers are 10-4 entering the final two weeks of the regular season and well positioned for a playoff run.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, like most of the team's players, hadn't read the details of the report that came out just as the Panthers were preparing to play the Green Bay Packers.

Newton said Richardson has served in a "father-like role" for him since his arrival in Carolina seven years ago.

"For me I hope things don't alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson," Newton said. "But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after the game it is important to let the process play out, but vouched for Richardson's character.

"The only thing I can speak on is for what he has been to me as far as I'm concerned," Rivera said. "A lot of you know I had a house fire and he was there for (my wife) Stephanie and I. He was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed and Mr. Richardson was there and helped me get to the funeral and back. I can't speak to anything other than that."

It has been a whirlwind year for the Panthers organization.

Team president Danny Morrison abruptly resigned in February. Richardson then fired general manager Dave Gettleman on the eve of training camp and replaced him with former general manager Marty Hurney on an interim basis. It was a surprising move considering Carolina made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.

Vikings' win means Eagles must wait for homefield advantage

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USA Today Images

Vikings' win means Eagles must wait for homefield advantage

MINNEAPOLIS -- Eric Kendricks had an interception return for a touchdown, Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two scores, and the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North title with a 34-7 victory over the depleted and disinterested Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 37 touches and 242 yards from scrimmage for the Vikings (11-3), who were given quite the reprieve on the schedule a week after their eight-game winning streak ended at Carolina in the last of three consecutive road trips. They were never challenged by a Bengals team missing more than half of its starting defense to injuries and met with a morning report by ESPN that head coach Marvin Lewis will not return next season.

The game went so smoothly that Teddy Bridgewater even made his grand entrance, his first live action in 16 months since a massive knee injury. Bridgewater's first pass was intercepted, a high throw that bounced off McKinnon's hands and into the arms of strong safety Shawn Williams deep in Vikings territory. That set up a short touchdown run by Giovani Bernard to keep the Bengals from being shut out for a second time this year.

Terence Newman also picked off former teammate Andy Dalton, who went just 11 for 22 for 113 yards and three first downs before the Bengals (5-9) turned to backup quarterback A.J. McCarron midway through the fourth quarter after the interception by Williams (see full recap).

Brady, Patriots do it again to Steelers
PITTSBURGH -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski did it to the Pittsburgh Steelers again.

One questionable decision by Ben Roethlisberger helped.

Brady fed Gronkowski repeatedly to set up Dion Lewis' go-ahead 8-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining and Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone with 5 seconds left as the New England Patriots rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 on Sunday.

The Patriots (11-3) gained the inside track for homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs by ending Pittsburgh's eight-game winning streak. Brady threw for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Gronkowski, fresh off a one-game suspension, finished with nine receptions for 168 yards, including four on the game-winning drive.

It briefly looked like it wouldn't be enough.

The Steelers (11-3), who played most of the game without injured wide receiver Antonio Brown, appeared to take the lead when Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown with 28 seconds to left. The play was overturned on review, with official Tony Corrente saying the ball did not "survive" the completion of the catch (see full recap).

Rams rout Seattle for control of division
SEATTLE -- Todd Gurley rushed for 152 yards and scored four total touchdowns in just 2 quarters, and the Los Angeles Rams moved to the cusp of their first division title since 2003 with a 42-7 thumping of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

The matchup to determine first place in the NFC West was completely one-sided.

Los Angeles (10-4) was dominant, embarrassing Seattle into the worst loss during Pete Carroll's eight seasons in charge.

Taking advantage of field position, the Rams scored on six of seven first-half drives, including a 21-point scoring blitz in the second quarter capped by a 57-yard TD run by Gurley on third-and-20 with less than a minute remaining in the first half to take a 34-0 lead at the break.

Gurley had 144 yards rushing in the first half, twice scoring from the 1. He added a 14-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter for a 40-0 Rams lead and spent the rest of his day watching. The 152 yards rushing were the second-best of his career.

The Rams don't have the division wrapped up, but have a two-game lead with two weeks to play. A win against either Tennessee or San Francisco is enough for their first division title in 14 years (see full recap).

Saints beat Jets for 10th win
NEW ORLEANS -- Mark Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage, including a late 50-yard TD run, and the New Orleans Saints overcame three turnovers to defeat the struggling New York Jets, 31-19 on Sunday.

Michael Thomas became the second NFL player with at least 90 receptions in his first two seasons. He caught nine passes for 93 yards, including a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown on a short slant for New Orleans (10-4), which retained its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Alvin Kamara turned a short catch into a 10-yard TD in his return from a concussion that knocked him out of the Saints' loss at Atlanta a week earlier.

Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback this season for the Jets (5-9), who were eliminated from playoff contentions. Petty completed 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice -- once on a tipped pass and once on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.

His 2-yard touchdown pass to former Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire cut New Orleans' lead to 24-19 with 1:51 left. But the Jets' onside kick failed and Ingram broke loose for his long score while the Saints were really just trying to run down the clock (see full recap).