Bolt promises more antics for his fans

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Bolt promises more antics for his fans

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, August 25, 2011
DAEGU, South Korea (AP) -- Usain Bolt promises more antics and more amusement when the always entertaining sprinter takes the track at the world championships. As for more records, well, even the Jamaican sensation thinks that might be a bit of a stretch. Bolt isn't anywhere near his record-setting form of 2009, when he shattered his own marks in the 100 and 200 meters. Calling this his "comeback season," Bolt downplayed expectations at a Jamaican-themed event Thursday. He's contending with nagging injuries, which have hampered his training. Tip-top shape or not, Bolt has a clear path in the 100, especially with Asafa Powell withdrawing because of a lingering groin injury and American rival Tyson Gay already sidelined due to a surgically repaired hip. Once again, Bolt's only real competition may be against the clock, even if he doesn't think he can lower his time of 9.58 seconds set at the worlds in Berlin two years ago. "I don't think I'm in 9.5 shape," Bolt conceded. "But I definitely think I will be able to run fast." When hasn't he? It's all part of his plan to become a "legend" in the sprint game. Defend his title in Daegu, claim another next year at the London Olympics, and his place among the track greats will be etched. "A lot of people have their own goals. My goal is to become a legend," the 25-year-old Bolt said. "I'm working on it." Bolt certainly knows how to make a grand entrance. He was the guest of honor at a get-together Thursday, strolling in with reggae music blaring in the background. He did a little shuffle before lounging on a couch set in the center of an auditorium to answer questions from a moderator. "I've been working hard in training to get everything right for this one moment," said Bolt, who donned a hat with his initials "UB" interlocked. "I think I'm ready. I'm focused and going to take everybody seriously." But it's a watered-down field with all the injuries and no-shows because of doping issues. Powell had the best time in the world this season and was going to provide the biggest threat before suddenly pulling out, a move that even caught Bolt by surprise. "Asafa's out? That's the first I heard of it," Bolt said. Now, Bolt's top challenger just may be Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago, whose best time came this season at 9.85 seconds. Bolt's top mark this year is 9.86. In a promotional appearance earlier in the day across town, Gay picked Bolt to win the 100. That's hardly going out on a limb. Still, Bolt appreciated the nod. "I guess he knows what he's talking about," Bolt said. "At the championships, I'm much more focused. I really want it really bad." Bolt has been contending with back issues, which forced him to shut down his season early in 2010. He's still attempting to round into the form that led to a sensational showing in Berlin, when he not only broke his world record in the 100 but also his mark in the 200 (19.19) as well. "I think people expect a lot from me," Bolt said. "Personally, I'm just focused on winning. The pressure is always there. Even before I won my first gold medal, it was always there." His way of coping with the stress is by clowning around. Like record-setting performances, his antics are almost expected at big meets. "That's just who I am. I like to have fun, like to make people laugh," Bolt said. "The fans like seeing me being me and trying to enjoy the championships as much as possible." But, for once, Bolt was rattled. So calm and cool on the track, he didn't know how to answer a question lobbed at him. Someone asked about his longtime girlfriend and when he was going to marry her. He squirmed and sank into the couch before quickly recovering. "Presently, I don't want to talk about personal life," he said as he tried to stifle a laugh. "It's all about business at this championships. Let's keep it business." Sitting in the back of the packed auditorium was former Olympic gold medalist Maurice Greene, intently listening to Bolt's every word. Greene said this kind of personality, this kind of talent, was exactly what track needed. "Anytime you can get the interest built up like this and have people come out and talk good things about the sport, it's great," Greene said. "He's very important. He's making a name for (track) right now. That's a good thing." Even as he dominates on the track, Bolt is already planning his next line of work -- football. If the Manchester United wanted him on the field for his speed, he would definitely go to the English Premier League. But that's for a later time, maybe when he's 28 and contemplating retirement, he said. Until then, Bolt's interested in only one thing: making his name stand out above track's greatest stars. "A lot of people have said that I'm a legend," Bolt said. "I don't look at it like that. But I'm working on it."

Bell excused from Steelers practice for 'personal reasons'

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Bell excused from Steelers practice for 'personal reasons'

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have had perfect attendance at each of their last two practices. The Steelers, on the other hand, have been working with less than a full deck.

All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell has been conspiculously absent from Pittsburgh's practices each of the last two days. On Wednesday, he was listed on the injury report as a non-participant due to non-injury related reasons. On Thursday, coach Mike Tomlin announced that Bell had been excused from practice due to "personal reasons."

Tomlin added that Bell will be ready to go against the Patriots on Sunday so it seems as though the team is painting this as a nothing-to-see-here situation. And it probably is. Whether or not Bell practices at all this week won't necessarily have any bearing on the AFC title game; if he's healthy, he'll be a factor. 

If for some reason he doesn't follow up his 170-yard performance against the Chiefs with another strong game, however, people will wonder how his preparation was impacted by missing out on the first two of his team's on-the-field sessions this week.

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.