An update on Peyton Manning's injured thumb

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An update on Peyton Manning's injured thumb

From Comcast SportsNetDENVER (AP) -- Peyton Manning's right thumbnail was covered with white tape and put under a media microscope upon his return to the football field Wednesday.The tape didn't wrap all the way around his thumb, leaving him able to grip the football like normal, and teammates said his throws and hand-offs at practice were unaffected by his injury in his first action since smacking his throwing hand on a defender's helmet Sunday night.For the first time, Denver coach John Fox listed his quarterback on the team's injury report -- "Peyton Manning, right thumb, full" -- but said he noticed no lingering effects.Manning, who threw two second-half touchdowns in Denver's 34-14 win over New Orleans after getting hurt just before halftime, said after practice that his thumb was "sore, but it's more of an irritant than anything else."Manning gets all this scrutiny.After all, he missed all of last season in Indianapolis with a nerve injury in his neck and now plays in a city that 24 years ago argued about the quality of Halloween candy handed out to trick-or-treaters by a young John Elway.Now, the discolored right thumbnail on the four-time MVP who's playing like he's hungry for a fifth is certainly a big deal in media circles, both traditional and social.Manning acknowledged he was "probably a little bit lucky" that he banged the nail and not the knuckle of his right thumb on New Orleans defensive end Martez Wilson's helmet just before absorbing his only hit of the night.Another half-inch, and all bets would have been off for the rolling Broncos (4-3), who lead the AFC West, are finally hitting their stride behind Manning's spectacular play and steady leadership and look every bit like a team ready to take off.Another half-inch and this is rookie Brock Osweiler's offense. Or Caleb Hanie's."They say it's a game of inches," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "Maybe it's a game of centimeters."The league's leading passer at age 36, Manning is playing better than anyone -- the Broncos and their quarterback included -- could have hoped for over the season's first two months."Well, certainly, it was a lot of unknown before this season," Manning said. "I think there still is. This is a new team and nobody knew how this team would form chemistry-wise. I didn't know what my situation would be. I mentioned early on that I'm feeling my way out. We're finding out our identity. I think we are still doing that. I think we have it in some places."Even though they're not all the way there yet, Elway, the Broncos' vice president of football operations, said during his weekly podcast on the team's website that Denver is coming off its "most complete game of the year.""We thought it was going to be a track meet and we'd really have to keep up with them," Elway said. "The compliment goes to (defensive coordinator) Jack Del Rio, his staff and the defensive players. They really answered the bell."Drew Brees was limited to 137 yards through the air until the Saints' final drive, when he threw for 76 yards with several Broncos backups in the game.Weakside linebacker Wesley Woodyard, an undrafted fifth-year pro from Kentucky, won AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors Wednesday for a monster game that included 13 tackles (9 solo), a sack, an interception, two pass breakups and a forced fumble -- exceeding or matching his career high in every category.Despite losing linebacker Joe Mays (broken leg), the Broncos could get cornerback Tracy Porter back this week. He's missed the last two games after experiencing light-headedness and a racing heart -- the same symptoms he had before suffering a seizure during training camp.He returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday and said he hopes to play Sunday at Cincinnati: "It's a matter of me getting my conditioning back, getting my legs back up under me," Porter said. "As far as seizure-wise, I don't have any problem."The last time the Broncos visited the Bengals (3-4), Brandon Stokley's 87-yard "Immaculate Deflection" touchdown catch on a batted pass with 11 seconds left gave Denver a farfetched 12-7 win in the 2009 opener."Brandon runs through my mind all the time," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis lamented during a conference call with Denver reporters. "But I wish we had more guys here that were on that team. I think we have about seven guys that were actually in that game."Believe it or not, Stokley also has had bad dreams about that play in which he cradled cornerback Leon Hall's deflection at midfield and raced untouched into the end zone -- but not before he headily took an extra couple of precious seconds off the clock by running along the goal line before stepping across for the score."I just kind of saw that nobody was behind me chasing me. I saw a guy kind of give up on it. I knew there wasn't a lot of time left, so I thought, why not try to run some time off?" Stokley said. "And then the next day, I kind of started having nightmares about it. What if I'd have gotten caught? What if I had fumbled? What if somebody would have hit me?"I think next time I'll probably just get in the end zone."Notes: Manning said that "being from New Orleans, knowing firsthand what hurricanes can do," his thoughts were with the victims of superstorm Sandy. ... Woodyard is one of just nine players to record double-digit tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble in a game since sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982. ... Sunday's game at Cincinnati snaps a streak of 12 straight games in which the Broncos drew the networks' top broadcast team, first because of Tim Tebow and then because of Manning.

NHL Notes: Boston University ready for historic night at NHL Draft

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NHL Notes: Boston University ready for historic night at NHL Draft

BUFFALO – There will be plenty of wide, toothy grins at the First Niagara Center on Friday night as the NHL conducts the first round of their entry draft, but no smile will be bigger than that of Boston University head coach David Quinn.

That’s because the Terriers head coach will, according to just about every NHL draftnik, see four of his players from next year’s hockey team get selected among the top-30 players drafted up on Friday night. Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows and Dante Fabbro are all incoming freshman recruits for next season expected to go in the top half of the first round, and defenseman Charlie McAvoy is coming off an outstanding first season for the Scarlet and White.

It would be only the second time in NCAA hockey history that four kids from the same college program have been first round picks in the same draft: the other was Minnesota ten years ago or when four Golden Gophers were nabbed in the first round, Erik Johnson (No. 1), Phil Kessel (No. 5), Kyle Okposo (No. 7), and David Fischer (No. 20).

So clearly it’s something that has Quinn excited at the prospects for BU next season, and continuing the impressive flow of hockey talent through the program after Jack Eichel’s departure following one brilliant freshman season.

“It’s fun watching these kids achieve their dreams and goals, and in the last 10 years the draft has really taken on an even greater significance to all these kids,” said Quinn. “We’re very fortunate at BU that we’ve got a school that supports our program, we’ve got a long and rich tradition and we’ve got very talented kids that are attracted to that.

“All of the stars have aligned here this year where we could have a lot of kids taken in the first round, so it’s fun to watch kids that you’ve built relationships with go ahead and achieve their goals. It’s a rare thing. It’s a testament to the work that Steve Greeley, Albie O’Connell and Scott Young have done. If you think about this class, these guys are from all over. Dante Fabbro is from Vancouver, and Clayton Keller is from St. Louis. Kieffer Bellows is from Minnesota, and Charlie McAvoy is from Long Island. It’s not like these guys all grew up in Massachusetts. [The recruiters] have done a phenomenal job of finding talent, and then doing a great job recruiting them. It speaks volumes to the work those guys have done.”

So Quinn, assistant coaches Albie O’Connell and Scott Young each deserve a healthy slice of the credit for keeping together the impressive class of talent, and former BU assistant coach Steve Greeley deserves just as much credit for his recruiting legwork prior to getting hired as the Assistant Director of Player Personnel for the New York Rangers.

With the Blueshirts not making a selection until the 81st pick, Greeley joked that “he'll be the guy at the New York Rangers table who has to be restrained from standing and clapping for those guys when they get picked by other teams.” He was joking, of course, but it speaks to the considerable investment of time and energy in recruiting an elite group of players, and then watching it all culminate on the draft floor before they take the ice at Agganis Arena this fall.

It also speaks to what Boston University has cooking on Commonwealth Ave. where they’re building a powerhouse program that could threaten for a national championship this season. That’s a level of expectation that Quinn welcomes along with the wealth of talented players.

“I think it will be an easier year of hockey for [the incoming players] because there’s so much pressure during your draft year,” said Quinn. “Whether or you’re playing college hockey, or the US National Program or in juniors, these kids are under the microscope. I watched Jack [Eichel] go through it last year, and I watched Charlie McAvoy go through it this year. It’s human nature at their age that you want to impress, and that can sometimes get in the way of doing things that you’re supposed to be doing.

“But we always have high expectations at BU, and we’ve always been fortunate to have great players here. The challenge we’re going to face is what every team faces. We’re going to have enough talent, but there are about seven or eight other characteristics you need if you’re going to win championships. We talk about it every year here: work ethic, leadership, camaraderie, mental toughness, perseverance, how you handle adversity…all of those things go into whether you win or lose, and whether you win championships or not.”

So here are a few thoughts from Quinn on each of the Big Four, including D-men in Fabbro and McAvoy that have attracted the eyes of the Bruins in a very big way:

*The creative and skilled playmaking center Clayton Keller, who lists Patrick Kane as the player he models his game after: “He’s very dynamic. He’s a guy that can really create offense off the initial rush. When he has the puck, good things always happen. He’s got elite vision, elite skill set and he’s competitive. He’s a guy that obviously needs to get a little bigger and stronger, but he’s got a swagger about him. All great players have a swagger. I know he elevates everybody’s game when he’s out there, and he’s a special talent.”

*The deadly sniper Kieffer Bellows, who hopes to follow in his father Brian’s footsteps at the NHL level someday: “When everybody talks about Kieffer they talk about his shot and his goal-scoring ability, and rightfully so. He’s got an NHL shot right now. He’s a true goal-scorer that likes to get the net, and knows where he wants to go. Not only does he know where to go, but he knows how to take advantage of his opportunities. But the thing that I really like about Kieffer is that he’s continued to improve as a player, and he’s much more than a shooter. He’s a guy that sees the ice well, and he’s smart. Sometimes when you’re really good at one thing people kind of think you’re a one-trick pony. There are a lot of other elements in his game to like. His skating continues to improve, he’s competitive and tough…and scoring goals isn’t easy in this day and age. Sometimes he makes it look easy.”

*The steady, heady Dante Fabbro, who plays in all situations and is extremely adept at moving the puck: “He’s a guy that can really control a game. He’s got a patience about him, and he’s got a confidence about him. He’s very competitive, and he doesn’t waste a lot of energy. He’s a great power play player. He makes great outlet passes, and has a real mature game already at his age. I really think the sky is the limit for him.”

*The speedy Charlie McAvoy, who was arguably BU’s best defenseman last season as the youngest player in college hockey: “The thing that impressed me the most is how he handled the physical aspect of college hockey. He was the youngest kid in college hockey and played half the season as a 17-year-old going up against 22, 23 and 24-year old kids. A lot of kids come into college hockey and have good seasons statistically, but can get physically overwhelmed at that level. That didn’t happen with Charlie at all. A lot of times he’d go in one-on-one with guys six or seven years older than him, and he’d win the battle. That says an awful lot about him as a player. You add that to his skating ability, his vision and his hockey sense, and he’s put himself in position to be a top-10 draft pick.”

Remember, keep shooting the puck at the net and good things are bound to happen.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Report: Red Sox have inquired about trades for Braves’ pitchers

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Report: Red Sox have inquired about trades for Braves’ pitchers

While the Red Sox have inquired about both Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino from the Atlanta Braves, ESPN’s Jim Bowden reported, although Braves GM John Coppolella said he doesn’t see them trading Teheran.

In a Twitter chat with fans, Coppolella didn’t said he didn’t see the Braves parting with Teheran.

On MLB Network Radio, Bowden, a former major league GM, said Atlanta is interested Red Sox top prospects Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi, who naturally Boston would be very reluctant to part with.  

Teheran, a right-handed starter, is 3-7 but with a 2.66 ERA and Vizcaino, a right-handed reliever, is 1-2 with a 2.01 ERA  and 44 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings for the Braves, who are in last place in the National League East. 

 

Friday's Red Sox-Rangers lineups: Brentz starts in LF

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Friday's Red Sox-Rangers lineups: Brentz starts in LF

It won’t take long for Bryce Brentz to get used to the major leagues again. Called up Friday after Chris Young was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, Brentz gets the start in left field as the Red Sox open a three-game series tonight against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas (8:05 p.m.). 

Brentz, 27, who was hitting .278 with three homers and 17 RBI at Pawtucket, will make his first major league appearance since 2014 and bat seventh against Texas left-hander Nick Martinez (1-1, 5.14 ERA).  David Price starts (8-4, 4.24) starts for Boston. 

The lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Bryce Brentz LF
Travis Shaw 3B
Christian Vazquez C

David Price LHP

RANGERS
Shin-Soo Choo RF
Ian Desmond CF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Ryan Rua LF
Prince Fielder DH
Elvis Andrus SS
Roughned Odor 2B
Jurickson Profar 1B
Bobby Wilson C

Nick Martinez LHP