Thursday Sports in Brief – Associated Press

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NFL

NFL teams that experience a COVID-19 outbreak among nonvaccinated players could forfeit regular-season games, with players on both teams not getting paid.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell warned the 32 teams Thursday in a memo obtained by The Associated Press that no games would be rescheduled under such circumstances. Instead, forfeits could happen.

He added that the league does not anticipate adding a 19th week to accommodate games that need to be moved because of coronavirus issues.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Running back Saquon Barkley, coming off an ACL injury, is starting training camp for the New York Giants on the active/physically unable to perform list.

Barkley and five other players were placed on the list Thursday as the team’s quarterbacks, first-year players and those rehabbing injuries checked into training camp. They joined a group of rookies who reported Wednesday.

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Veterans are scheduled to report on Tuesday, practice starts the following day.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Big 12 leaders held a call without Texas and Oklahoma on Thursday to discuss how to keep the league’s flagship schools from bolting to the Southeastern Conference — and contingency plans to survive without them.

The Big 12 put out a statement Thursday night that revealed few details, but made clear the eight members in danger of being left behind want the Longhorns and Sooners to stay put. And that leaving could be costly for Texas and Oklahoma.

The Big 12′s grant of rights, which ties a school’s media rights to the conference, runs through the current television deals with ESPN and Fox. Those expire in June 2025.

For Oklahoma and Texas to leave the Big 12 sooner they would either relinquish tens of millions in television revenue for every year the grant is in effect or agree to a financial settlement with the conference.

— By College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo.

MLB

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays added a big bat for the remainder of the season, acquiring slugger Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

Moments before opening a four-game series at Cleveland, the Rays, who entered Thursday one game behind first-place Boston in the AL East, announced they got Cruz and minor leaguer Calvin Faucher from Minnesota in exchange for right-handers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.

The 41-year-old Cruz has 436 career homers. He’ll bring some pop to Tampa Bay’s lineup and should help the Rays against left-handers. They entered the series batting .226 versus lefties.

The designated hitter is batting .294 with 19 homers and 50 RBIs this season.

CHICAGO (AP) — One day after announcing he was stepping away from baseball, Yermín Mercedes was back with the Chicago White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate.

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The White Sox confirmed Thursday the surprising rookie who carried the team with his booming bat early in the season and got sent to the minors following a prolonged slump was in uniform for the Charlotte Knights’ game against the Durham Bulls.

Mercedes also apologized Thursday in an Instagram post.

NBA

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans have hired Phoenix Suns assistant Willie Green as their new head coach.

Green, a former NBA player who turns 40 on July 28, is a first-time head coach after serving as an NBA assistant coach the past five years — first with Golden State and then with Phoenix, which lost to Milwaukee in the NBA Finals on Tuesday.

He arrives in New Orleans at a time when pressure is rising to give young star Zion Williamson faith that he can find long-term satisfaction with the club that drafted him first overall two years ago.

NHL

The NHL sent teams two versions of the 2021-22 schedule — one that includes an Olympic break to pause the season so players can go to Beijing and another version of what the calendar would look like if they do not.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed all 32 teams have seen each schedule and that as of Thursday afternoon there was not an agreement in place between the league, the NHLPA, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee for players to return to the Winter Olympics.

The schedule the NHL unveiled Thursday evening includes the Olympic break in the hope that a deal gets worked out. That would cause some frenetic stretches of play during the regular season that runs through April 29, with the playoffs in May and June and the Stanley Cup handed out before July 1.

A schedule without an Olympic break would look more like normal, with the final wrapping up in mid-June.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Flyers shipped one-time cornerstone defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, also throwing in two picks in next year’s draft to rid themselves of his salary over the next two seasons.

Moving on from Gostisbehere gives the Flyers about $4.5 million in salary cap relief, setting them up to continue a roster overhaul.

Arizona gets second- and seventh-round draft picks in 2022 in addition to Gostisbehere and his contract.

The 28-year-old Gostisbehere had nine goals and 20 points in 41 games with the Flyers in 2020-21. He also scored five power-play goals and had nine power-play points.

OLYMPICS

TOKYO (AP) — The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee fired the director of the opening ceremony on Thursday because of a Holocaust joke he made during a comedy show in 1998.

Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said a day ahead of the opening ceremony that director Kentaro Kobayashi has been dismissed. He was accused of using a joke about the Holocaust in his comedy act, including the phrase “Let’s play Holocaust.”

AUTO RACING

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Helio Castroneves will race for a record fifth Indianapolis 500 in 2022 with Meyer Shank Racing.

Castroneves, who won his record-tying fourth Indy 500 in May, has agreed to a full season ride with Meyer Shank. Castroneves only has a partial schedule this season with Meyer Shank and has not raced since he joined A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears, his former mentor at Team Penske, as the only four-time winners of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” He’s next scheduled to race in August at Nashville.

He’ll drive the No. 06 Honda in 2022.

OBITUARY

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Jets assistant coach Greg Knapp died Thursday of injuries suffered in a bicycle accident near his home in California last Saturday. He was 58.

Knapp’s family released a statement through the team that the longtime NFL assistant coach died at 2:32 p.m. EDT.

The family said in the statement that Knapp was struck by a car while riding his bicycle in the city of San Ramon in the San Francisco Bay Area and never regained consciousness.

He was surrounded by his mother, wife, three daughters and his brother when he died.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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