Bears

Did Bernie Fine's wife sleep with 'Cuse players?

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Did Bernie Fine's wife sleep with 'Cuse players?

From Comcast SportsNetSYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- An affidavit filed in a slander suit against Syracuse University and basketball coach Jim Boeheim says the wife of fired assistant Bernie Fine had sex with players, and several people associated with the program knew about it, including Fine. In the affidavit, Bobby Davis, a former ball boy with the men's team, says he was present on several occasions with basketball players when he heard them speaking of having sex with Laurie Fine. Davis said players joked about it and it seemed to be an openly known fact that Laurie Fine had sex with basketball players. A lawyer for Laurie Fine said the accusations were "disgusting." After Davis and his step-brother, Mike Lang, accused Bernie Fine of molesting them when they were boys, Boeheim vehemently defended his longtime friend and assistant coach. He said Davis was lying to cash in on the publicity generated by a sexual abuse scandal unfolding at Penn State University. The Hall of Fame coach later backed off, saying he based his defense on loyalty and two previous claims of abuse against Fine that authorities could not substantiate. Boeheim apologized after a third accuser came forward at the end of November and a years-old audiotape surfaced of a phone conversation between Davis and Laurie Fine that some have interpreted as Fine acknowledging Davis was abused by her husband. In December, Davis and Lang filed a slander suit in state court. The affidavit filed Monday repeatedly makes the point that Davis believes Boeheim knew or should have known what his players were up to. He also believes Boeheim should have backed his accusations. "He knew or purposefully chose to ignore Fine and his wife's behavior," Davis said in the affidavit. "He had every reason to know that I was telling the truth, but he instead lashed out at me and called me and my brother liars." Lawyers for Boeheim and Syracuse University did not immediately return calls seeking comment. The court document also says Davis spoke directly to Bernie Fine about his wife's sexual relationships with players and that "Bernie Fine did not react in the slightest." Davis, who lived with the Fines for a time, said Laurie Fine would lavish certain players with attention, including doing their laundry, lending them her car and giving the player money and gifts. A lawyer for Laurie Fine calls the accusations in the affidavit a "desperate" attempt to keep the suit alive. "Only the news media can think that 20-year-old hearsay is newsworthy if it is salacious enough," Edward Z. Menkin said in an email to The Associated Press. "This is both desperate and disgusting, an example of an irresponsible and unprofessional lawyer flailing about to keep a dying lawsuit in the public eye." The affidavit was filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court by high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred. "If Laurie Fine was having multiple sexual relationships with basketball players, then the university must explain how this could have been taking place for years right under Coach Boeheim's nose without his being aware of it and without the university's doing anything about it," Allred wrote in an email to The Associated Press. Davis, now 40, and Lang claim they were repeatedly forcibly touched by Fine in the 1980s. Fine, who was fired Nov. 27, has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer declined comment Tuesday. Davis tried to get Syracuse police to investigate Bernie Fine in 2002 but was told the statute of limitations had expired. The same was true of any charges brought by Lang. The U.S. attorney's office is investigating the claims of a third man, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston, Maine, who says Fine abused him in a Pittsburgh hotel room in 2002.

John Franklin III may be a longshot to make the Bears, but the former ‘Last Chance U’ star isn’t giving up on his dream

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USA Today Sports Images

John Franklin III may be a longshot to make the Bears, but the former ‘Last Chance U’ star isn’t giving up on his dream

Down in Bourbonnais, one of the handful of players who stuck around the longest to sign autographs for fans after training camp practices was the starting quarterback and hopeful savior of a franchise that’s been mired at the bottom of its division for years. 

Another was a fourth-string cornerback who had never played that position before May and has an extremely difficult path to make it in the NFL. 

“Most of the time I’m out here with Mitch (Trubisky), like the last person,” John Franklin III said. “I’d rather have people know me than people not know me. So that’s a good thing.”

You might know Franklin as the super-talented Florida State quarterback transfer in Season One of “Last Chance U” on Netflix. A low point of Franklin’s life played out in living rooms across the world as he played sporadically behind Wyatt Roberts at East Mississippi Community College, but the south Florida native turned that strife into a lesson in persistence. 

From East Mississippi Community College, Franklin transferred to Auburn, where he stayed as a quarterback but didn’t see the field much. He graduated from Auburn and transferred to play his final year of college ball at Florida Atlantic, where Lane Kiffin gave him a shot at playing wide receiver. He didn’t put up the kind of production as either a quarterback or a receiver to get drafted, but his excellent speed is a trait that got him into rookie minicamp. 

After failing to secure a gig with the Seattle Seahawks at their rookie minicamp, the Bears brought Franklin to Halas Hall as a defensive back for a tryout a week later. He signed shortly after, and here he is, trying to figure out how to make it in the NFL at a position he’s never played on a side of the ball he was completely unfamiliar with until May. 

“People are so quick to quit when it doesn’t work the first time,” Franklin said. “It’s like, if you really give up and it didn’t work, then you really didn’t want it. If you keep pushing, it’s going to happen. Life’s not going to be peaches and cream, but you get what you get.”

Defensive backs coach Ed Donatell couldn’t recall ever seeing a player make the switch from offense to cornerback without any prior defensive experience before, let alone for a rookie battling to make a roster. 

“It doesn’t come up that much and usually they have some kind of training in there,” Donatell said. “Nothing comes to mind. 

“But why not us? Why can’t we?”

This isn’t a story about a player who is likely to important to the Bears’ success in 2018, like Trubisky or Allen Robinson or Leonard Floyd or Kyle Fuller. The odds are massively stacked against Franklin, especially after he was picked on by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate in last week’s preseason game (he did, too, have a nice break-up of a pass intended for Ka’Raun White). The stuff Franklin is learning right now are second nature to most NFL cornerbacks who’ve played the position — or at least, played on defense — their entire football lives. 

“I definitely feel like I was in good position most of the night, I just gotta — I know one thing I’m focusing on is getting my head around,” Franklin said. “That’s one thing that I still haven’t felt 100 percent comfortable with and that’s one of the things a lot of the vets are working with me on is to make sure I get my head around because most of the time I’m in a good position. Just finding the ball is still very new to me.” 

Training camp and preseason practices, then, present a difficult dichotomy for Franklin. On one hand, he knows he has to be patient as he learns an entirely new job that he likened to “trying to write with your non-dominant hand.” On the other hand, he has to show considerable progress to even be considered for a spot on a practice squad, let alone a 53-man roster. 

While Franklin has seen himself make significant progress on tape over the last few months and weeks, he knows he’s not where he needs to be or where he thinks he can be. It’s sort of a race against time for him, because rookies who don’t make a roster or practice squad usually don’t get a second chance in the league. 

“He’s such a willing soul,” Donatell said. “He came in here, he’s taking everything in, the veterans are helping him. But he has a skillset that you can see him doing things on the other side of the football that we want to translate to defense. … It’s a race for us right now and a race through this month, and he’s willing. We see progress every day. Time will tell how much.”

What Franklin puts on tape in these final three preseason games — Saturday against the Denver Broncos, Aug. 25 against the Kansas City Chiefs and Aug. 30 against the Buffalo Bills — will be critically important to his chances of sticking in some capacity in the NFL when the regular season starts.

Taking a step back, the task seems almost impossible. This is a guy who played quarterback his whole life, then moonlighted as a receiver for a year, and now is trying to make it in the NFL playing cornerback. It would be a remarkable feat if Franklin were to make a practice squad and allow himself more weeks and months to develop. 

But there’s no doubting Franklin’s desire to make it work. He wants to make it work to live out his dream of playing in the NFL, one he’s had since he was four. He wants to make it work to repay his parents for all they did for him. He wants to make it work to be an inspiration to others to never give up on their goals. 

Will it work? We’ll see. But it’s not in Franklin’s nature to give up, no matter how much of a longshot he may be. 

“I’m accepting the challenge,” Franklin said. “Doing something different at the highest level of football ain’t easy by any means.

“But it’s also doable and possible.”

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

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USA TODAY

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

With about a week until the end of his 80-game suspension, Welington Castillo his making his way back to the White Sox.

The veteran catcher joined Triple-A Charlotte for a rehab assignment Friday, in the Knights' lineup for their afternoon game.

Castillo has been serving his suspension since May 24, when Major League Baseball handed down its punishment for his testing positive for a banned substance. He's eligible to return Aug. 23, just nine days before rosters expand.

The White Sox added Castillo over the offseason after he had career years offensively and defensively with the Baltimore Orioles during the 2017 season. The hope was he could provide a veteran presence and help out with the development of the team's young pitching staff — and of course that his bat could help bolster the team's everyday lineup. A two-year contract with an option for a third meant that if all went well, Castillo could be around for the start of the team's transition from rebuilding to contending, a sort of bridge to top catching prospect Zack Collins.

Things obviously did not work out as planned, and Castillo has missed months of time working with the pitchers while he's served his suspension.

Still, his return will perhaps be a welcome help to young pitchers still learning how to succeed against major league lineups, guys like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have had inconsistent first full campaigns in the big leagues — not to mention any young pitchers who might be called up from the minor leagues over the season's final month and a half.

As for the team's catching situation, Omar Narvaez has done very well at the plate since taking over as the starting catcher when Castillo was suspended. Since the beginning of June, Narvaez is slashing .356/.433/.559, and his season batting average of .282 is one of the highest on the team. Kevan Smith, the No. 2 catcher, is hitting .283 on the season. Castillo will return with a .267/.309/.466 slash line in 33 games he played in before being suspended.