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Michael Lombardi returns to Browns front office

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Michael Lombardi returns to Browns front office

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Michael Lombardi came back to the Browns as unpopular as the day he left.

He realizes there are Cleveland fans who still despise him and Bill Belichick for releasing popular quarterback Bernie Kosar in 1993. Lombardi knows there are skeptics who question his ability to evaluate talent after failed drafts in Oakland. He understands the doubts about him jumping back into a front office after five years on TV.

Lombardi can't change the past, so he's moving forward.

``I'm just asking for a fair and honest chance,'' he said.

Lombardi, who most recently worked as an analyst for NFL Network, was introduced as Cleveland's new vice president of player personnel on Friday, a hiring met with mostly disapproval by many Browns fans who associate him with those dark days in the mid-1990s before former owner Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore.

Lombardi is aware of the negativity surrounding his return. The only thing he can do to change people's minds is help build the Browns into a consistent winner.

``Look,'' he said. ``There is a great passion for football in this town. To me, whether it was a positive reaction or a negative reaction, the reaction is important because that's how important football is. It's my job to prove the reaction to be positive. It's not anybody else's. I take the responsibility to work hard at my craft and do it.''

The 53-year-old Lombardi laughed when he was asked if the less-than-enthusiastic reception bothered him.

``I have thick skin,'' he said. ``I worked for Al Davis. I've been ripped before.''

He last worked in the NFL in 2007, the final of his eight years working under Davis, Oakland's maverick owner whose phone conversations with Lombardi never began with a `hello' or ended with `goodbye.' Lombardi ran the Raiders' personnel department and helped the team win three AFC titles and make one Super Bowl.

Before joining Oakland, he spent two seasons in Philadelphia working with new Browns CEO Joe Banner, who knew his decision to bring Lombardi to Cleveland would be met with criticism. Banner, though, believes Lombardi will be a perfect complement to owner Jimmy Haslam and new Browns coach Rob Chudzinski.

``Listen, I understand that I'm going out on the limb myself by hiring Mike,'' Banner said. ``So I didn't do this casually. I've spent a lot of time talking to him about everything that matters before I put him in front of Jimmy or Chud. Time will tell if it's right or wrong, but I made (the choice) confidently and with my eyes open about the perceptions, about the realities, about my own time I spent with him.

``I feel comfortable with it.''

Haslam said he consulted with ``people at the very top of the NFL business'' before he and Banner began their search for a new general manager or personnel director. Haslam said Lombardi, who has 22 years of pro front office experience, received high praise.

``Everyone of them said this,'' Haslam said. ```If you can get Mike Lombardi to be your general manager, you should hire him immediately.'''

After being introduced by Banner, Lombardi opened his remarks by saying he was ``humbled and honored'' to be back in Cleveland. Lombardi never imagined being back in the building where he spent long nights along with Belichick and his coaching staff, which included Alabama coach Nick Saban and Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome.

Lombardi is fond of those years and said he has changed in the time since.

``When we left in `96 after the team moved it was heartbreaking,'' he said. ``I think we've all grown from those days. I know I have, and I think our careers have all grown. I stand in front of you different professionally and personally and with more passion than ever.''

Banner has maintained a close relationship with Lombardi since their time together in Philadelphia. As the Browns pointed out in their press release, Lombardi played an integral role in the 1998 draft and a trade for linebacker Hugh Douglas, laying the foundation for the Eagles, who made four consecutive trips to the NFC Championship and one Super Bowl.

Banner feels his friend has grown.

``There's no question he's changed,'' Banner said. ``First, he's very introspective and I don't know if I would have used that word 15 years ago. So I think his sense of self and his awareness of self is dramatically different than it was. Like too many of us, you don't fully appreciate something until you lose it.

``He took for granted his time and opportunity in the NFL and then he lost it. I think that was a wake-up call. To be honest, I think he learned from some hard experiences he had with people he worked with. He has grown a lot from that.''

Banner dismissed any notion he would have final authority on personnel decisions, reiterating it will be a collective effort.

``We're going to have a group that's now rounded out that's going to collaborate on these decisions and we're going to try to draft a consensus,'' he said. ``We probably won't do things about which we don't have consensus.''

For Lombardi, there was no hesitation in coming back to Cleveland, where fans wait for the Browns to make their first Super Bowl visit. This is where his sons, Matt, and Mick, a scouting assistant for the Patriots, were born and where he'll begin his own rebirth.

Lombardi has lot to prove.

``I know the expectations and the reactions as I walk in here, but I take them as a positive,'' he said. ``I've never shied away from a challenge. I'm excited for it and I think I'm ready to do it because I really want to do it. I think part of anything you want to do in life is to prove your intent and also to reward people for what they are. That's what I plan on doing.''

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Team USA reclaims women's hockey gold from Canada in instant Olympic classic

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Team USA reclaims women's hockey gold from Canada in instant Olympic classic

GANGNEUNG, South Korea  -- The Americans' gold medal drought in women's hockey -- finally -- is over.

Even though they needed the first shootout in an Olympic women's final to do it.

Twenty long years after taking gold when the sport debuted in 1998 at Nagano, the United States snapped Canada's streak of four straight Olympic golds Thursday with a 3-2 shootout victory.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored in the sixth round of the shootout to start the Americans piling over the boards, throwing gloves in the air before huddling and hugging on the ice.

Gigi Marvin and Amanda Kessel also scored in the shootout. Monique Lamoureux-Morando tied it up with a breakaway with 6:21 left in regulation.

Hilary Knight also had a goal.

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Maddie Rooney made 29 saves for the win against their archrival. The 20-year-old goalie stopped the last two Canadian shooters in the shootout in Brianne Jenner and then Meghan Agosta on her second attempt.

It was sweet redemption for the 10 Americans who watched the Canadians snatch gold from their hands in 2014 at Sochi after tying it up with 54.6 seconds left in regulation and winning 3-2 in overtime.

Not only did the Americans snap the Canadians' stranglehold on Olympic gold, they ended a skid of five straight against their rival coming into this game, including a 2-1 loss to wrap up pool play a week ago.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Haley Irwin each scored goals for Canada. Agosta and Melodie Daoust scored in the shootout.

The Americans had been dominating in non-Olympic years, winning the last four and eight of the last 10 world championships, including a 3-2 overtime victory over Canada last spring.

Their domination on the world stage only made the lack of gold at the Olympics all the more noticeable, and Canada has been in their way since losing the inaugural gold in Nagano. Canada had won 24 straight Olympic games to go along with four consecutive gold medals. It's a streak of success in a women's team sport second only to the United States' basketball team's current streak of six straight gold.

This was the eighth time these North American rivals met in the Olympics and the fifth with gold on the line. None of the previous seven were decided by more than two goals.

U.S. coach Robb Stauber went with the 20-year-old Rooney in net for the biggest game of her career, but she was the goalie for each of the three games the Americans beat Canada last fall during their pre-Olympic exhibition tour, including Four Nations Cup title in November.

Canada had Shannon Szabados, 31, in goal for her third Olympic gold medal game, and her teammates made her job very easy by keeping the puck in front of Rooney for most of the first period by dictating play. The Americans couldn't use their speed or get organized even with two power plays until Sarah Nurse went in the box for interference late in the period.

Knight gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead with 25.4 seconds left in the first, redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin through Szabados' pads giving the Americans a jolt of energy.

That lasted only 2 minutes into the second when Irwin tipped a pass from Blayre Turnbull over Rooney's left leg for Canada. When Morin lost the puck, Melodie Daoust grabbed it and passed to Meghan Agosta who hit Poulin for the wrister into the left side of the net at 6:55 for a 2-1 lead.

 

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

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Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

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