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Raiders lose coin toss vs 49ers at NFL Combine, 'it was a bad flip'


Raiders lose coin toss vs 49ers at NFL Combine, 'it was a bad flip'

INDIANAPOLIS – The Raiders and 49ers face off twice this year. The first go-round happened Friday afternoon, when the teams dueled in an epic showdown at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Catching the sarcasm? Good. Was laying it on pretty thick.

Rod Woodson, a Hall of Fame defensive back who played for both teams, flipped a commemorative coin to determine the No. 9 pick in the NFL draft, the only way to break a tie determining draft selection order.

The NFL played this up. The event was broadcast live on NFL Network. A coin was brandished, with an eye-patched pirate on one side an interlocked SF on the other.

This was required because the Raiders and 49ers finished 6-10 and held an identical strength of schedule. That set up a mega showdown for the ages.

Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden were there in silver and black. John Lynch rocked red and gold. This was a big freaking deal, one participants weathered with tongues firmly planted in cheek.

The 49ers won. Yippe-kai-yay.

"Rod had an important job, to make sure it landed on the right side,” McKenzie said with a sly grin. “It was a bad flip.”

That outcome will matter far less than the regular season showdown in Santa Clara this fall, but the league played the coin toss up to spice an otherwise mundane combine day.

The teams will alternate draft position in lower rounds, but the 49ers have priority in the first round and have a chance to select someone their Bay Area rival was hoping for to take.

Both teams need a coverage linebacker. Both teams need a cornerback. Lynch might snag a prospect coveted on both sides of the bay.

McKenzie wasn’t worried about it days before, saying the coin-toss winner wouldn’t gain a significant advantage.

“I don’t think it matters much, as far as the player,” McKenzie said Wednesday. “Maybe the trade value holds a bit more, if somebody wants to get up the ninth pick over the 10th. I don’t think it’s going to be a huge factor. I won’t lose any sleep over this, none at all.”

Metal currency has broken several ties in the past. It never received such fanfare.

“We used to do it in a back room,” said NFL director of player personnel Ken Fiore, a tiebreaking historian of sorts. “We’ve done coin flips for a long time. The first I remember was in the Crowne Plaza (in 1996), with (Green Bay GM) Ron Wolf and (Baltimore GM) Ozzie Newsome. I pulled a quarter out of my pocket and said, ‘who wants to flip it?’ We flipped it, signed something to say they witnessed the result and that was it.”

That wasn’t how Friday fared. The moment was hyped, but came with only one rule.

“Just make sure it rotates,” Fiore said. “We need a good flip.”

McKenzie doesn’t believe he got one.

“We were supposed to win that toss,” McKenzie said. “I’m going to have to get over this.”

Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis


Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper thrilled the home crowd and surely made his father proud, winning the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night with an exceptional display of power that carried him past Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs 19-18.

Harper hit the contest-winning blast in extra time, the reward for hitting two homers at least 440 feet during the 4 minutes of regulation. After he connected with the game winner, the Washington Nationals slugger threw his bat in the air and pointed both index fingers toward the sky as a shower of streamers rained upon the crowd of 43,698.

The six-time All-Star arranged to have his dad, Ron, pitch to him in the annual contest on the eve of the All-Star Game. Harper responded with a performance that drew the loudest cheers of the night at Nationals Park.

It’s been a trying season for Harper, who’s hitting only .214 for the disappointing Nationals. He won a contest that many sluggers avoid, fearful it might wear them out and throw them off.

Harper can only hope this helps him get back into the swing.

The 2015 NL MVP beat Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Max Muncy of the Dodgers before trumping the fifth-seeded Schwarber, who put the pressure on with a solid outing before Harper stepped to the plate.

Wearing a headband that resembled the District of Columbia flag and displaying a right sleeve with stars and stripes, Harper trailed 18-9 with 1:20 left before rallying. He homered on nine of his last 10 swings before entering extra time.

Hours before the session, Harper spoke excitedly about having his dad pitch to him in the contest. The 25-year-old said his father “worked his tail off every single day to provide for me and my family” and “now being able to have him throw to me in a big league ballpark is the cherry on top.”

Harper advanced to the final with an astonishing spree of long-ball hitting. He trailed Max Muncy of the Dodgers 12-4 with 2:20 left, then peeled off six homers in 47 seconds before calling a timeout.

Harper returned to hit three more home runs in 22 seconds, the last of them inside the right-field foul pole.

The semifinal matchup between Schwarber and Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins was a thriller. After stunning top-seed Jesus Aguilar of Milwaukee in the opening round, the eighth-seeded Hoskins ripped 20 long balls to put the pressure on Schwarber.

Using a late surge, Schwarber pulled one ball after another over the right field wall to squeeze out a 21-20 victory — by far the highest-scoring matchup of the night.

The fans dutifully cheered most home runs during the first round, but they saved their loudest cheers for Harper, the last player to step to the plate.

After Freeman hit 12 home runs over the 4-minute span, Harper unleashed six shots of at least 440 feet and secured the victory with a drive to center long before the clock expired. As the ball cleared the wall, the left-handed hitting Harper walked out of the batter’s box and thrust both arms in the air.

Freeman was the oldest player in the field at 28, and the first Braves participant since Andruw Jones in 2005.

Milwaukee’s Aguilar, the NL home run leader at the break, was eliminated in the opening round by Hoskins 17-12.

Aguilar hit too many balls to straightaway center, where the wall stands over 400 feet from the plate. Hoskins pumped most of his drives into the left-field seats, where it’s 336 feet down the line.

The most thrilling first-round match featured a near buzzer-beater by Houston’s Alex Bregman, who fell to Schwarber 16-15. The difference was the pair of homers that Schwarber hit during 30 seconds of extra time, the reward for hitting two long balls of at least 440 feet.

Bregman — the lone AL representative — appeared defeated with a minute left, but he mounted a late surge and lost when his final swing produced a drive that landed at the base of the center-field wall.

Muncy advanced by defeating No. 6 seed Javier Baez of the Cubs, 16-15. Baez hit the longest shot of the Derby, a 479-footer.

Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw


Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw

Green Bay Packers quarterback (and former Cal Golden Bear) Aaron Rodgers is known for his downfield accuracy. 

Rodgers has three successful Hail Marys to his name. The first, on Dec. 3, 2015 against the Detroit Lions, kept his team's playoff hopes alive. Another, on Jan. 16, 2016 against the Arizona Cardinals, sent the Divisional game to overtime, and a third came en route to a Wild Card game win against the New York Giants on Jan. 8, 2007. 

At the American Century Championship Celebrity Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe on Friday, Rodgers added another notch to his belt.

His latest effort won't be confused with the other three, but it's not like any of those receivers landed in a body of water, either. 

The real question? Whether or not that's a catch under the NFL's new rules.