Barry Sanders makes his return to Detroit

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Barry Sanders makes his return to Detroit

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- The Motor City welcomed back Barry Sanders -- with a roar. The Hall of Fame running back was serenaded with "Bar-ry! Bar-ry!" chants by a handful of fans when he walked onto the turf at Ford Field about an hour before Detroit played Chicago on Monday night. After being on the field for the coin flip, the national anthem was delayed slightly because tens of thousands wouldn't stop chanting "Bar-ry! Bar-ry" just as they did at the Pontiac Silverdome. Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, five years after his retirement that left some Lions fans bitter in part because he walked away when he was one of his average seasons away from breaking Walter Payton's career rushing record. He had been booed by fans in the area, most notably at a Pistons game, but they seem to have moved on to hail him. "I think they're cool with me now from what I can tell," Sanders said before the game in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think we've all had a chance to reflect. I have mostly good memories about good times." Sanders was surrounded by fans in downtown Detroit, posed for pictures with security guards outside the stadium and was greeted by comic actor Tim Allen when he strolled down the tunnel toward the field. Sanders said he hasn't been to a Lions game in a couple of years and has attended about five since he retired. Sanders insisted he didn't blame fans in Detroit when they were upset with him years ago. "They're very passionate here about sports so they're going to have a very passionate reaction when you do something like I did," he said. Sanders recorded a Detroit-related introduction for "Monday Night Football" after ESPN pulled the "Are you ready for some football?" theme by Hank Williams Jr. He made an analogy that President Barack Obama and House Speaker Rep. John Boehner golfing together was like Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu playing a round. The network says the intro will change each week. "I just said some kind words about the town and the team with a script they gave me," Sanders said. "I enjoyed it and definitely considered it an honor to be a part of the overall buzz this team has created." The Lions won their first four games for the first time since 1980, nearly a decade before they drafted Sanders No. 3 overall out of Oklahoma State. "It's a lot of fun to see this success, getting a little taste of the fruits of what you can accomplish when you put it together on the field," Sanders said. "Hopefully they'll continue to learn how to win and to stay hungry. "To this point, though, this team has fulfilled all hopes and expectations." Sanders' alma mater might have a shot to land his son, Barry Sanders Jr., who the proud father said is also being recruited by Stanford, Florida State and Alabama. "BJ is a senior in high school down in Oklahoma City and he's looking around at colleges," said Sanders, who lives in the Detroit area with his wife and their three children. "I'm relatively involved, going to a few recruiting trips."

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

BOSTON — David Ortiz should stop by Fenway Park more often. 

There may be no tangible gain for his old teammates. At this point, it defies logic to think there’d be tangible harm.

On Thursday evening before Ortiz’s charity roast at House of Blues, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy recalled how it was a no-brainer to plan Friday’s jersey retirement so soon after Ortiz’s exit from the game. 

Kennedy said he was the one who actually broached the question with team management last year. Basically, everyone looked at him sideways because of the implication any other time but right away made sense.

“No person has meant more to the [John] Henry-[Larry] Lucchino-[Tom] Werner era than David Ortiz,” Kennedy said.

Let’s accept the premise wholly: that because Ortiz is so special, the timing for his ceremony deserved to be just as unique. The design of the day was centered on how much Ortiz means to people: fans, the team.

Why, then, has Ortiz been staying away from the ballclub? Dustin Pedroia has been a leader for years. Ortiz is a positive influence. The idea that having Big Papi swing by Fenway sometimes would actively stunt the development of the Red Sox’ identity is a stretch. 

There’s been a grace period of nearly three months. 

“Well I, I could never entirely walk away. I have been around,” Ortiz said Friday night in a press conference. “I have been watching the games and I have been in touch with my teammates. I have been in touch with the organization. You know, I just don’t like to, you know, be in the way of anything. 

“I know that, me retiring, it was going to have a big impact on what we do around here. So I don’t — I tell myself, give everybody their space and I don’t want to, now that I’m not playing, I don’t want to be a distraction. And I know that coming to the field sometimes, it can cause a distraction or something, so. I have been able to keep my distance so I’m not in nobody’s way. But I stay in touch with everybody and I have been pretty busy also, doing a lot of things. 

“But me and the organization, we’ve been talking for a while about me working with the organization. Probably Sam Kennedy can give you guys more info about it. But it’s going to happen, and at some point I’m going to be able to help out somewhere, somehow some way.”

It’d be ridiculous to say Ortiz is the reason Rick Porcello pitched well and Hanley Ramirez homered Friday. It’d be a flat-out lie.

But Ortiz’s presence shouldn’t somehow be a distraction, if leadership and the mentality in the Red Sox clubhouse is as the Red Sox describe it.

"Pedey has been a leader of this team for the entire time he's been here,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “To me, the clubhouse has been a place where guys have felt comfortable. They've been able to come in and be themselves. They have rallied around one another when times have called for that. When you remove an individual, there are going to be other people who step up. I firmly believe that has taken place.”

If that’s the case, then how does what Farrell said in the same pregame press conference yesterday make sense?

“[Ortiz] has a keen awareness that he could potentially keep others from flourishing with the potential thought and the question always being there,” Farrell said. “Well, he is around, is he ever coming back? All the things that I think have been reported on to a certain extent. I think David's keen awareness of himself and how a team works, I wouldn't be surprised if that is at the root of his decision to keep the space that he's done.”

But that decision seems flawed. No one in that room should be hurt or confused by Ortiz coming by occasionally — absolutely not now that the jersey’s hanging. (A little speculation he could un-retire was throwing the Sox off their game? Really?) 

If anything, the team should find comfort in seeing such an important, charismatic man with ties to the group.

Ortiz is special. The team has adapted well without him. If those are facts, the need for Ortiz to stay away doesn’t make sense.

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

Danny Ainge made no secret of being miffed when Kansas small forward Josh Jackson canceled his workout with the Celtics in Sacramento at the last minute. 

The Celtics, of course, passed on Jackson and selected Jayson Tatum of Duke with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough's comments at Jackson's introductory press conference lend some credence to the theory that the canceled workout was part of Phoenix's plan to keep the Celtics from selecting Jackson and leave him for the Suns at No. 4.

Check out this portion of Jackson's presser via a tweet from Mike McClune of KPHO-TV: 

"I think you guys who know me well know how competitive I am. Look, it is a competition," said McDonough, a former assistant GM to Ainge with the C's "The Celtics were ahead of us at No. 3 and they could have selected whoever they wanted to. I think they got a very good player in Jayson Tatum, but that doesn’t mean B.J. [Armstrong, Jackson's agent] and I and...other members of my staff couldn’t talk and try to formulate the best plan to get a player we were really high on to a place we felt he really wanted to go and would be a great fit for him.

"We played by the rules – I guess,” McDonough said to some laughter in the room.

Jackson will certainly get more playing time with the rebuilding Suns that the contending Celtics. Ainge called Jackson "a terrific kid and a good player” after the draft, and said the Celtics were set on Tatum all along, even if they hadn't traded the No. 1 pick.

Jackson said his decision to blow off Ainge coach Brad Stevens and assistant GM Mike Zarren after their cross-country flight was "last-minute" and his plans to work out "just didn't work out."