Minnesota's Kill: Player quit over discipline


Minnesota's Kill: Player quit over discipline

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota coach Jerry Kill defended a forceful rebuke of leading receiver A.J. Barker that led to the player's abrupt departure from the program, saying he had to discipline the player for a confrontation with the team's training staff.

Barker quit the Golden Gophers on Sunday and went public with a scathing email that accused Kill of manipulative and borderline abusive behavior.

``I feel bad for A.J. I feel bad that that's the way he feels about the situation,'' Kill said Monday. ``I'll do anything I can to help him in the future, whatever he decides to do. I'm all in it for the kids. I want to see kids be successful and do well.''

That's not the picture Barker painted in the email, which he posted on a personal blog.

Barker, a walk-on who leads the team with 30 catches for 577 yards and seven touchdowns despite missing the last three games with an ankle injury, said Kill blew up at him Thursday in front of the team, claiming he wasn't listening to the trainers or working hard enough on his rehabilitation and yelling that he'd never play for the Gophers again or get a scholarship.

``You demeaned me to a point of no return. You took the one thing you had a say in (my football playing career and my future) and you held it against me in an attempt to break me,'' Barker wrote.

Barker accused Kill of questioning his family background in the Thursday confrontation, and an assistant coach of using a gay slur against him last spring. Kill on Monday rejected both accusations.

``Nobody's ever done that, not to my knowledge,'' Kill said of the slur. ``I'm not around every single minute, but as far as I've been around, there's nobody ever done that.''

And as for questioning Barker's upbringing, Kill said, ``I didn't say anything about that. ... I've never said anything about his family.''

The conflict appears to stem from two points: Barker's recovery from and treatment of an ankle injury that occurred Oct. 27 against Purdue and Kill's decision not to offer Barker a scholarship for this season.

``The reality of the situation is college football is a dictatorship,'' Barker said Sunday. ``Coaches are making a subjective evaluation about who is good enough to get a scholarship and who gets to play.''

Barker emerged as the team's top receiving threat in fall camp and had a big season opener against UNLV with three catches for 101 yards. But Kill said he had to decide on a scholarship for this season by the first day of school, which was too soon to make a determination on a player who had just one catch the previous season.

Barker continued to excel on the field, catching five passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Western Michigan and another five for 135 yards and two touchdowns to beat Purdue. But he injured his ankle in that game, aggravated it again before a loss to Michigan on Nov. 3 and was unable to get back on the field.

Barker said he was forced to practice by Kill last Tuesday - another allegation that Kill denies - but he was unable to get through warm-ups. An MRI test the next day revealed ligament tears and a bone bruise above his heel, he said.

Kill said Barker's actions toward the training staff disrupted practice. That's when Kill admitted to dressing Barker down.

``Nobody wants to see a kid not play or get his dreams or those kinds of things,'' Kill said. ``But at the same time, I can't let him do something different than everybody else. You can't be having a confrontation with an adult trainer and it's OK. That's not what we ask of everybody else.''

It's the latest moment of difficulty for Kill in an up-and-down second season at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers (6-5, 2-5 Big Ten) started the season 4-0 and have qualified for a bowl game, a noticeable sign of improvement after Tim Brewster's disastrous tenure as coach.

But the Gophers have also been blown out by Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska, and Kill drew criticism when the university spent $800,000 to buy its way out of future games against North Carolina.

Kill said butting heads with players early in his tenure is nothing new. The same thing happened at Northern Illinois and at other stops while players acclimated to his hard-nosed coaching style.

``I'm not here to win any popularity contests,'' Kill said, adding he ``doesn't treat our players any differently than I treat my two daughters.''

But it was clear that Barker was pushed too far for his liking, so now the Gophers head into the season finale against Michigan State without their only proven playmaker on the outside.

Barker, a St. Paul native who starred at De La Salle High School in Minneapolis, said he would transfer and believed he could play without sitting out a season since he was a walk-on.

``It's hard when you have a roster of 120 people to keep all 120 people happy,'' Kill said. ``There's no way. Can't start them all, can't play them all, can't scholarship them all. There's rules. So I do the best I can with what we have to work with.''


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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report


Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report

Free agent pass rusher Pernell McPhee visited the Redskins on Monday, and by Tuesday night a report emerged that Washington offered the veteran outside linebacker a contract.

Last week, Trent Murphy signed with the Buffalo Bills and things remain uncertain between the Redskins and Junior Galette. That means the organization has a need for an edge rushing linebacker, and that's exactly the role McPhee can play. 

A 29-year-old that played the last three seasons with the Bears, McPhee posted 14 sacks while in Chicago. Prior to his time with the Bears, McPhee was a solid contributor on some good Ravens teams. 


His best season in Baltimore came in 2014 when he posted 7.5 sacks. That's also the last season McPhee played a full 16 game schedule. He's missed 12 games over the last three years in Chicago. 

McPhee could provide the Redskins with solid veteran depth at outside linebacker, and he's also considered a plus defender against the run. With Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith cemented as the starting outside linebackers, if signed, McPhee would pair up with Ryan Anderson on Washington's second unit. At 6-foot-2 and 275 lbs., McPhee carries more weight on his frame than either Kerrigan or Smith. 

Pro Football Focus gave McPhee a strong grade for the 2017 season. He notched a +11.5 and ranked 13th out of 46 outside linebackers graded. For comparison, Broncos star Von Miller ranked 1st at +57, Kerrigan ranked 8th at +22.9 and Galette ranked 10th at +16.2.

It's unclear what a move for McPhee would mean between the Redskins and Galette, but it's hard to imagine it helps.

Free agent Johnathan Hankins also visited Washington on Monday, and while he plays an interior defensive line position different from McPhee, it's also unclear what this offer would do to any negotiations between the Redskins and Hankins. 

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