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AFL great Gonsoulin on mend after heart attack

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AFL great Gonsoulin on mend after heart attack

For just a moment, former Denver Broncos standout Austin ``Goose'' Gonsoulin didn't think about the open-heart surgery he underwent a few weeks ago or the cancer that has spread throughout his body.

For a brief instant, the American Football League All Star almost felt like a safety again, transported back to a time when he used to make interceptions like this.

The 74-year-old Gonsoulin had just woken from a nap on the couch when he caught a flash across his television screen: Denver cornerback Chris Harris stepping in front of a pass and racing down the sideline for a 98-yard touchdown against Baltimore last Sunday.

Gonsoulin gawked at each step, his chest hurting from sitting up so suddenly and his heart thumping with enthusiasm.

``I remember exactly what that feels like,'' said Gonsoulin, who's known around the Mile High City as an ``Original Bronco'' after being acquired in a trade before the team's first season in 1960. ``Such a great feeling when you're in the open like that.''

Gonsoulin broke into a robust laugh as he chatted on the phone from his home in Beaumont, Texas.

``Only, I couldn't have run that far,'' he said. ``That's a long, long way.''

These days, Gonsoulin feels pretty good, even with all his health concerns.

Just last month, he had a heart attack that led to quadruple bypass surgery.

That was on top of this: Nearly a year ago he went in for an exam and there, all over the X-ray, was the return of his cancer. Only this time it appeared in his ribs, collar bone and shoulders. It was near his knees, back and hips. It showed up along his legs and arms, too.

``I lit up like a Christmas tree,'' he said. ``Doctors made it sound like I wasn't going to last much longer.

``But I'm still here.''

And enjoying the simple pleasures like gloating about his grandkids, hanging out with his wife of nearly 50 years and watching his beloved Broncos.

``That Peyton Manning is pretty good, huh?'' Gonsoulin said.

And so was Gonsoulin back in his day.

After a standout career at Baylor University, Gonsoulin was picked in the AFL draft by the Dallas Texans, who then shipped him to the Broncos for fullback Jack Spikes in the team's first trade. Gonsoulin showed up at his first camp in `60 along with 120 other guys, some of whom were truck drivers and oil field workers, and was concerned about making the roster.

He instantly shined as he had 11 interceptions his rookie season, which remains a Broncos record. Gonsoulin also played in five All-Star games - would've been six, but one of the games was canceled - and was enshrined in the team's Ring of Fame in 1984.

His fear of being cut, though, led him to pack up all of his clothes from his apartment for every road game.

``Just in case,'' said Gonsoulin, who also played one season with San Francisco after seven seasons in Denver. ``If they ever said, `You're not coming back,' well, at least I had my stuff, right?''

Like he really had anything to worry about. He snared the AFL's first interception against Boston and finished his Broncos career as the former league's all-time leader with 43.

Only Steve Foley has more interceptions (44) in a Denver uniform, but Champ Bailey is closing with 34. As he works his way up the all-time list, Bailey is learning more and more about Gonsoulin.

``From what I understand, he was a great pro,'' Bailey said. ``Obviously, he's one of the best to play here.''

Very true. Gonsoulin once had four interceptions in a game against Buffalo and another three off Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson.

``Lenny was so mad. He walked by at halftime and swore at me,'' Gonsoulin recounted.

Dawson wouldn't be the only quarterback cursing Gonsoulin's name. The durable defensive back also picked off the likes of George Blanda, Jack Kemp and John Hadl.

The toughest receiver he ever faced? Easy, Lance Alworth of the San Diego Chargers.

``Especially when he was in the slot,'' Gonsoulin said.

Over his career, Gonsoulin dished out plenty of bone-jarring hits.

He took a few, too. Like when he tried to tackle Houston Oilers running back Billy Cannon on a swing pass. Gonsoulin went low and hit his helmet on Cannon's knee. Not only was Gonsoulin knocked out, he swallowed his tongue.

He was choking on the field and yet no one could pry open his jaw.

Just when trainers were ready to break his teeth to save him, teammate Bud McFadin rushed over and forced his mouth open enough to retrieve Gonsoulin's tongue. When Gonsoulin woke up in the ambulance a little while later, he was still in uniform and wondering what had happened.

Two days later, Gonsoulin was back on the field.

He's got quite a few ailments from his playing days. His collar bone juts out from an injury that didn't heal properly and his knees constantly ache.

Oh, and then there are the concussions. There's no telling how many he suffered in his career.

``A lot of times you hit someone hard and you'd be dazed on sideline,'' said Gonsoulin, who operated a construction company after his football career. ``They'd be like, `What's your name? Where are you from?' You simply take some smelling salts and go back in.''

That's why he got involved in a lawsuit against the NFL. He said he's joined a suit that claims the league concealed and misrepresented the neurological risks of concussions.

``More than anything, I don't think (the league) really took care of us back then,'' Gonsoulin said. ``My memory is fading and I don't know if it's because of the concussions. Having this cancer doesn't help, of course, but I think playing football did hurt my memory.

``Still, I'm lucky to be in the shape I'm in now.''

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Lars Eller intends to leave bubble for the birth of his second child

Lars Eller intends to leave bubble for the birth of his second child

The disruption to the NHL season because of the coronavirus has affected more than just the postseason. For Lars Eller, it will mean having to leave the team in order to be with his family for the birth of his second child.

The 2020 postseason is scheduled to begin Aug. 1. Eller's wife is due on Aug. 8, the same day as the Capitals' third round robin game. Obviously that means unless she delivers early, the baby will be born after Eller has left for Toronto.

Eller, however, expressed Tuesday that he intends to be with his family when the baby is born.

"We're working on making the necessary arrangements so I can be for the birth and come back to the bubble after that," Eller said.

When the whole point of the bubble is to isolate the players and limit their contact with the outside world in order to keep them from contracting the coronavirus, obviously this will present some challenges.

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Eller, however, is hardly the only player who is facing this dilemma. The season pause means several players who thought they were going to have an offseason baby now will be having their new additions during the postseason. While the NHL and NHL Players' Association were negotiating the health and safety protocols for the league's return to play plan, family access became one of the major talking points. It's hard to maintain a bubble if you also allow family members in, but players did not want to be away from their families for several months. Certain rules were written in that would allow players to leave the bubble and return if necessary and those are the rules Eller is now trying to figure out so he can rejoin the team after his baby is born.

"You're going to have to take a lot of precautions for when you leave," Eller said. "Depending on how you travel and you travel back and forth and who you're going to be in contact with and so on, I'll have to serve some time inside the bubble and test a number of times before I can join my teammates again and play games. We're working on trying to figure out how we do that the best possible way."

Players did have the option of opting out of the playoffs, but Eller elected not to take that option. For him, trying to win a second Stanley Cup is still a priority, it's just not more important than his family.

"We're going to have a new addition to our family here in a couple weeks," Eller said. "I don't know when it's going to happen, but it's going to happen. But at the same time, I want to be with my team and also committed to that and want to win another Cup."

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There's an impressive list of names reportedly joining Bradley Beal in bid to buy the New York Mets

There's an impressive list of names reportedly joining Bradley Beal in bid to buy the New York Mets

Apparently, the New York Mets are popular.

In a group that looks more like some sort of ESPY's afterparty guest list, Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal is reportedly joined by names such as Super Bowl LIV champ Travis Kelce, NFL Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray, former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas, current Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee, oh, and some people named Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez in a bid to buy the Mets. 

That's quite an eclectic group. 

They've already submitted their initial bid of $1.7 billion, according to the New York Post. Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen has reportedly made a top bid so far of $2 billion. The report says Mets COO Jeff Wilpon would prefer to sell to the "J-Rod" led group if its offer is close to the best bid at the end of the auction. Both have apparently already put up $300 million of their own money towards the potential purchase.

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According to ESPN, the group is awaiting word from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on what will happen next. 

Really the more pressing question though has to be how they all came together. Who would've thought Mason Plumlee and J-Lo would go into business together. Or Beal and Kelce. 

Either way, it's a story that continues to gain traction, and clearly has the star power to make for an interesting future for the Mets organization should the deal go through.  

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