Minnesota's leading receiver Barker quits team


Minnesota's leading receiver Barker quits team

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota receiver A.J. Barker quit the team Sunday in a blistering email to coach Jerry Kill that he subsequently made public through his personal blog, the messy fallout triggered by their conflict about the treatment of the junior's sprained right ankle.

Barker confirmed his decision to depart the Gophers in a phone interview, shortly after he posted the rambling, accusatory and occasionally profane message of more than 4,100 words on his website at ajbarker82.tumblr.com. Barker is a walk-on who has 30 receptions for 577 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games, by far the most on the team.

Kill made no mention of Barker's decision earlier Sunday in his regular media availability. He wasn't available for further comment. In a statement distributed later by the university, athletic director Norwood Teague said Kill tried responding to Barker after receiving his email but was unable to connect with the player.

``We understand A.J.'s frustration with his injury, and we regret that he has chosen to leave the team on these terms,'' Teague said.

Barker was hurt at the end of the Oct. 27 game against Purdue, and he said he aggravated the injury on the field before the Gophers played Michigan on Nov. 3. What was a minor sprain worsened when he felt a cracking sensation in the joint, and he experienced little progress the last two weeks.

Barker said he was forced to practice by Kill last Tuesday, 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.

Then last Thursday, according to Barker, Kill blew up at him in front of the team, claiming he wasn't listening to the athletic 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.

Minnesota is 6-5 this season, Kill's second here after arriving from Northern Illinois, and 2-5 in the Big Ten. Barker said he's pained by the reality he'll never play for his hometown school again. The St. Paul native, a star at De La Salle High School in Minneapolis, had only one catch combined over his first two seasons until emerging as the team's best downfield threat this fall.

But just like that, he's gone.

Barker said he intended to tell Kill in person but was too nervous. He said he's not concerned about what people think of his delivery method or tone.

``It's been so encouraging to hear the support from my teammates. And those who don't support me, I'm probably not going to hear from anyway,'' Barker said, adding: ``At the end of the day, I'm very comfortable with myself.''

Barker said Kill's screaming session last week was his breaking point but that he overlooked some interactions with the coaches over the last year and a half, including verbal abuse from a couple of assistants and what he called generally a ``cycle of manipulation.''

But on the phone, Barker acknowledged his anger was with the nature of his sport at this level as much as Kill and his staff. Without a scholarship, he has carried an obvious chip on his shoulder. And he said Sunday he wants to become a coach eventually so he can ``right these wrongs.''

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

Barker's brother, Ross, tried to walk on at Wisconsin this season but was prevented from playing because of a heart problem. Barker said he'll consider all Big Ten schools if they'll take him and believes as an un-recruited walk-on he'll be able to play immediately and not have to sit out for a season.

``That's all he wants, an opportunity to play,'' his father, John Barker, said in a separate phone interview. ``He's made up his own mind.''


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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall coming back, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32 on the season. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed. 

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

Philadelphia Eagles lineman Michael Bennett has been indicted on felony abuse for allegedly pushing an elderly NRG Stadium worker during Super Bowl LI.

Bennett was indicted by the Harris County, Texas district attorney's office for injury to the elderly — which is intentionally and knowingly causing injury to a person 65 years or older, according to a press release from the Harris County Sheriffs' Office.

A warrant has been issued for Bennett's arrest.

The 66-year-old paraplegic stadium worker was attempting to control field access when Bennett allegedly pushed her. 

The maximum penalty Bennett faces is ten years in prison in addition to a $10,000 fine.


Bennett — whose brother Martellus played in that Super Bowl for New England — was a member of the Seattle Seahawks during the incident and was in attendance as a noncompetitive player.

The NFL has been made aware of the situation and is looking into the matter, according to Pro Football Talk.

The 32-year-old 10-year NFL veteran could potentially face NFL discipline under the league's personal conduct policy.