NFL runners sign big-money deals

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NFL runners sign big-money deals

From Comcast SportsNet
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice happily shed his franchise tag Monday after reaching agreement with the Baltimore Ravens on a new five-year contract worth roughly 40 million. The Ravens and Rice, their most versatile offensive weapon, went down to the 4 p.m. deadline before hammering out the deal. Had Rice not signed, he would have played the 2012 season under the 7.7 million franchise tag tender. Instead, he will get 17 million this year and 8 million in 2013. Baltimore has made the playoffs in each of Rice's four seasons, twice advancing to the AFC title game. He earned his second Pro Bowl invite last year after leading the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage, including a career-high 1,364 yards rushing. He also scored a career-best 15 touchdowns. Since being drafted out of Rutgers in the second round of the 2008 draft, Rice leads the NFL in receptions and yards receiving by a running back. He's had 250 catches for 2,235 yards during that span. Off the field, he's been associated with several charitable organizations. Quite simply, the Ravens weren't about to let him get away "This is another example of (owner) Steve Bisciotti's commitment to the team and to our fans to retain our core players," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Ray has been an integral part of us earning the playoffs in each of his four seasons. His production on the field speaks for itself, and his leadership in the locker room is outstanding. "I should say something about his community efforts; I think they are almost unmatched by any player in the NFL," Newsome said. "You'd have a hard time finding a player who does more or is as serious about helping others as Ray is. He is one of those players you can proudly say, He's on our team.' " As Baltimore's franchise player, Rice would not have been required to report at the start of training camp. The Ravens will hold their first full squad workout July 26, and Rice is expected to attend. In 61 career games, he ranks second in franchise history in yards rushing (4,377) and yards from scrimmage (6,612). Veteran running back Ricky Williams, who played behind Rice in 2011 and retired during the offseason, was impressed with Rice's talent and passion for the game. "He's got all the God-given ability, but he also works hard," Williams said late last year. "It's rare to find that combination. In my mind, there's only one way to have success, and that's to work hard and have a little bit of talent. He's got both."

Forte signs four-year deal
CHICAGO (AP) -- Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears have agreed to a four-year contract, settling the biggest issue hanging over the team. The Bears confirmed the deal before Monday's deadline. Had the sides not reached an agreement, Forte would have had to play next season for 7.74 million after being hit with the franchise player tag. Or he could have held out. The Bears did not release terms and agent Adisa Bakari did not return calls seeking comment. The Chicago Sun-Times, citing an unidentified source, reported the deal is worth 32 million with more than 18 million guaranteed. With Forte signed, the Bears will have all their key pieces in place when training camp starts next week. "I'm proud to be a Chicago Bear and excited to be here for another four years," Forte said in a statement released by the Bears. "I'd like to thank my family, my agent and the Chicago Bears. I've been working hard this offseason and am looking forward to joining my teammates at training camp next week. I'm glad the business part is done and we can all turn our attention to football and our goal of winning a championship." Forte expressed optimism that a deal would get done in an interview with ESPN last week, and it happened just in time. It ended a long process that began last year when he sought a multiyear extension. Negotiations with then-general manager Jerry Angelo went nowhere, but Forte decided not to hold out. He wound up having his best season. Forte made the Pro Bowl for the first time, finishing with 1,487 yards from scrimmage and 997 rushing. He missed the last four games after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee early in a loss to Kansas City on Dec. 4. By then, the Bears were in the middle of a free fall after losing quarterback Jay Cutler to a broken right thumb. They wound up finishing 8-8 after a 7-3 start and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years after reaching the NFC title game the previous year. The late plunge cost Angelo his job, setting in motion an active offseason. Phil Emery was hired as GM and quickly went to work reshaping the roster. He acquired Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall from Miami, giving Cutler a go-to target for the first time since he arrived from Denver. Even better, it's someone he knows well. Cutler and Marshall put up big numbers when they teamed with the Broncos, particularly in 2008. The Bears also filled a need at backup quarterback by bringing in Jason Campbell and signing running back Michael Bush, giving them depth at the position and insurance. That didn't sit well with Forte, who vented on Twitter that management was "undervaluing" him and that he was "disrespected." Getting him locked in is an important step for a team that's eyeing a big run. Forte was leading the league in yards from scrimmage before he was injured last season, and he ranks sixth in the league in that category since the Bears drafted him in 2008. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 900 yards rushing and 400 receiving in each of his first four seasons. "We're very pleased that we were able to come to terms on a four-year extension with Matt," Emery said. "We're excited to get him on the field and continue working toward our goal of winning a championship." The Bears believe they have the talent to compete with Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North and make a playoff run. Even so, there are some lingering questions. It remains to be seen if the blockers can hold their ground, although the Bears believe the offensive line will be put in more of a position to succeed with Mike Tice replacing the departed Mike Martz as coordinator. The defensive line also is a question mark. The Bears drafted Shea McClellin with the 19th pick, hoping he can help take some of the load off Julius Peppers after Chicago tied for 19th in the league with 33 sacks. Age could also be an issue on defense, with Briggs, Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman all in their 30s. Then again, Briggs just made his seventh straight Pro Bowl. Urlacher got picked for the eighth time last season, and Tillman made it for the first time.

First impressions: Red Sox lose to Yankees, still clinch AL East

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First impressions: Red Sox lose to Yankees, still clinch AL East

NEW YORK -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 loss to the Yankees:

 

* The Red Sox couldn't have asked any more from Clay Buchholz.

Buchholz turned in what was likely his best start of the season, tossing six shutout innings while yielding just one hit -- an infield hit at that.

Brett Gardner was the only New York hitter to solve him. The leadoff hitter walked twice and reached on a slow roller to third, the only hit Buchholz allowed.

Twice, Buchholz retired eight Yankees in a row. He consistently pitched ahead in the count and showed a good rhythm on the mound.

Only a few months ago, the notion of Buchholz being part of the Red Sox' postseason rotation was laughable. Now, the Red Sox view him as a dependable, consistent starter.

And why not? Over his last seven starts, Buchholz is 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA.

Funny how quickly things can change in baseball.

 

* Don't invite Craig Kimbrel to your celebration.

Kimbrel came on for the bottom of the ninth, with a 3-0 lead and needing just three outs.

He barely threw a strike, allowing a leadoff single and three straight walks, the latter of which forced in a run.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Toronto had already lost, clinching the division title for the Sox before the bottom half of the inning began.

Still, it was troubling to watch Kimbrel. This was, after all, a save situation, even if some of the adrenaline was taken away by the Blue Jays' loss.

Kimbrel seemed completely incapable of throwing a strike. At all.

Hardly the way you want your closer to be a week before your first post-season game.

 

* The Red Sox lineup poses all sorts of problems for opposing managers.

In the eighth, Joe Girardi had a choice to make -- pitch to David Ortiz with two on and first base open. Or walk Ortiz and pitch to Mookie Betts, with Hanley Ramirez waiting on deck.

Pick your poison.

Girardi picked incorrectly, though there might not have been a correct one.

That's what happens when you face three hitters in a row with 110 RBI or more.

 

Red Sox clinch AL East with Orioles victory over Blue Jays

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Red Sox clinch AL East with Orioles victory over Blue Jays

NEW YORK -- The Boston Red Sox have won the AL East, clinching the division championship when the Toronto Blue Jays lost to Baltimore.

David Ortiz and the Red Sox, who had already secured at least a wild-card spot in the playoffs, will open their postseason schedule Oct. 6 seeking a second World Series crown in four years. The team's first opponent has not been determined yet.

Boston's game against the New York Yankees in the middle of the ninth inning Wednesday night when the Orioles finished off their 3-2 victory at second-place Toronto. The Red Sox began the night needing a win or a Toronto loss to wrap up their eighth AL East title.