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    Antonio Brown Plans to Visit Buccaneers as His Suspension Nears Its End

    Antonio Brown, the former All-Pro wide receiver who is finishing an eight-game suspension after pleading no contest to burglary and battery charges and receiving two years’ probation, will visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his first step toward a return to the N.F.L.Brown, who has not played since Week 2 of last season, still faces a league investigation into accusations in a lawsuit that he sexually assaulted his former trainer in 2017 and 2018. Brown has denied the allegations.If Brown, 32, passes a physical and signs with the Buccaneers, he will then need to take a coronavirus test and go through an entry program that involves other precautions against the virus. He would be eligible to play on Nov. 8, when Tampa Bay faces the New Orleans Saints in Week 9.Brown’s re-emergence before the end of his suspension speaks to how teams in need of players tend to look past their off-field behavior, including accusations of domestic abuse, sexual assault and harassment. The league remains under scrutiny for how it has handled such cases in recent years.Brown’s troubles extend further. After sparring with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team that drafted him and saw him emerge as a star, he was traded to the Raiders for two draft picks in March 2019. Oakland released him that September, after a tumultuous training camp that included fights with his employers and a protracted dispute over the type of helmet he could wear.The New England Patriots picked him up, but after Brown lashed out against another woman who, in a Sports Illustrated article, accused him of a separate incident of sexual misconduct, the Patriots let him go. Brown competed in one game with the Patriots, scoring a touchdown.The quarterback who threw that pass — Tom Brady — is now with the Buccaneers and has reportedly urged the team to sign Brown.Over the past two years, Brown has tried to defend himself on social media, and since being released in 2019, he has said at least twice that he plans to retire from football. Brown also lashed out at the Patriots, after they reportedly reduced his signing bonus.The N.F.L. said that any further violations by Brown of the league’s personal conduct policy “will likely result in more significant discipline.” Brown did not appeal his suspension, which was issued in July, and he hinted that he wanted to get back to football.“I look forward to new beginnings,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “I appreciate the N.F.L. giving me the opportunity to work on myself and improve.”Brown was once considered one of the league’s most prolific and popular players — known for his penalty-inducing touchdown celebrations and a season on the reality TV show “Dancing With the Stars” — but his career has been in a tailspin since his disputes with the Steelers in 2018.Still, his talents as a receiver are well known. Brown worked out with Brady this summer and also with Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in separate practices. He also worked out with Lamar Jackson, the star quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, who publicly lobbied for the team to sign the receiver.Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians, who was the offensive coordinator for the Steelers while Brown was there, said in March that Brown was “not a fit” for his team.But two of the Buccaneers’ wide receivers — Mike Evans and Chris Godwin — have been battling injuries. More

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    He Could Go All the Way! (Oops, We Forgot It Was the Giants)

    This has been a forgettable season for the Giants. But a victory over Washington’s Football Team last week at least gave the team its first win, and Thursday’s game against the Eagles in Philadelphia produced the kind of electrifying moment that brings hope for reinvigorating a season. Almost, anyway.Trailing the Eagles, 10-7, in the third quarter, and starting a drive at his 12-yard line, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones faked a handoff and rolled right. The fake fooled the Eagles’ defense, and as Jones turned upfield there was nothing but green grass in front of him. So he sprinted into daylight.20, 30, 40, 50, 40 … the yards rolled away with no defender in sight. Jones was on his way to giving the Giants the lead and providing the kind of signature play replayed endlessly on highlight shows and viral clips and in the minds of Giants fans eager for a good memory from this year.And Jones was flying. At his 43 he hit 21.23 miles an hour, according to NextGen stats, the fastest top speed by a quarterback over the last three seasons. By the time Jones got to the 35 it was clear that he was going to score.And then, just like last, it was clear he wasn’t.It was just one bad step, one foot touching down an inch or two away from where it ideally should have landed. But Jones’s next step was a little worse, and after a few more his balance was gone.Jones leaned forward, tried and failed to catch himself and then, just 15 yards from the end zone, tumbled to the ground.Jones rolled forward to the 8 and tried to get up, but a late-arriving Eagle ended the play by touching him. In the end, Jones had gained 80 yards, the longest run by a quarterback since 2015. But he had needed 88 to score, and the way the play ended — a player running free and then falling, untouched and unchallenged — ensured that it would have a long life, not in video compilations of glory, but of ignominy.Within minutes, rival players were weighing in.“I tried to run faster than I was running, and I got caught up,” Jones told reporters after the game.Glass-is-half-full Giants fans will point out that the team scored to take the lead four plays after Jones’s tumble. But few will remember that. (Congratulations, Wayne Gallman: Your 1-yard run is now a great trivia answer.)The bigger problem for the Giants is that they blew an 11-point lead with five minutes left and lost the game, 22-21, to fall to 1-5. Next Monday, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers come to town. Lowlight fans and Twitter quipsters will be waiting. More

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    Bill Mathis, a Durable Original Jet, Is Dead at 81

    Bill Mathis, a versatile running back who was an original member of the New York Jets franchise, died on Tuesday. He was 81.The team announced his death but did not say where he died or specify the cause, although it said that he had been dealing with “physical and cognitive issues” for some time.Mathis played his entire career in New York. He joined the Titans, as the Jets were originally known, in 1960, the year the American Football League began. He was named the franchise’s Most Valuable Player in 1961 and was selected an A.F.L. All-Star in 1961 and 1963. And he helped the Jets beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969 in a stunning upset.In his 10-year career, Mathis rushed for 3,589 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also caught 149 passes for 1,775 yards and nine scores.William Hart Mathis was born in Rocky Mount, N.C., on Dec. 10, 1938, and grew up in Manchester, Ga. He was a star at Clemson University in South Carolina and was named a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. He is also in the Georgia and South Carolina sports halls of fame.In 1960 he was drafted by both the Denver Broncos of the newly formed A.F.L. and the San Francisco 49ers of the N.F.L. His draft rights were later held by the A.F.L. Houston Oilers, who traded him to New York shortly before the start of the league’s first season.Mathis earned a reputation as a tough competitor who pushed through injuries. A knee injury kept him out of three games in 1962, but he played in every other one of the team’s 143 games over his 10 seasons with the franchise, including the team’s lone Super Bowl appearance.The star of that game, the flamboyant quarterback Joe Namath, was Mathis’s roommate on the road. According to the Jets, Coach Weeb Ewbank asked Mathis to room with Namath with instructions to “keep Namath out of trouble.”After being one of the team’s primary ball carriers early in his career, Mathis became a lead blocker for Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer. He had three catches for 20 yards in the Super Bowl, with two of them prolonging scoring drives in the Jets’ 16-7 victory.He played one more season after that before retiring.Mathis was one of only 20 players who played in the A.F.L. for the league’s entire 10-year existence., and one of just seven who played all 10 seasons with one A.F.L. franchise. The A.F.L. and N.F.L. merged in 1970.He remained in New York after his playing career and found success on Wall Street.Information on survivors was not immediately available. More

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    Why a Perfect Spiral Football Pass Doesn’t Break the Laws of Physics

    On Sunday, when Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens or another strong-armed N.F.L. quarterback launches a deep pass, take a moment to admire the forces of physics he’s unleashed.When the ball leaves his hand, it points upward, in the direction of the throw. As it arcs through the air, spinning along the long axis without any visible wobble, the nose of the football dips, following the trajectory of the throw and pointing downward when it lands in the hands of the receiver.To most fans, this looks perfectly natural, the ball slicing efficiently through the air with less drag. To a physicist like Timothy J. Gay, it was befuddling.That is because what physicists see with their eyes seems to conflict with a fundamental property of motion known as the conservation of angular momentum. It states that the axis of a spinning object, such as the tight spiral of well-thrown football, will not change its orientation unless some force acts to twist it. It was not clear what force could be pushing the football’s nose down.Worse, the most simplistic analysis would suggest that the onrush of air from below would nudge the nose of the football up, not down, and flip it backward. If that were true, a long beautiful pass would be an impossibility.“That’s the paradox,” said Dr. Gay, a professor of physics at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, home of the Cornhuskers. “I worked on it for 20 years, and I didn’t make much progress till I brought in two smart people to help me and, and we spent three years yelling at each other about it.”Dr. Gay, whose main research is in a field known as polarized electron physics, has had a long interest in football, playing on the team at the California Institute of Technology when he was an undergraduate in the 1970s. Twenty years ago, he made a series of videos explaining basic physics concepts like inertia and momentum, which were shown during halftime at University of Nebraska games.But the answer to this problem eluded him.So what is pushing the nose of the football down as it flies through the air?The two smart people whom Dr. Gay enlisted were Richard H. Price, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and C. William C. Moss, who creates high-powered computer simulations at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.They, too, were intrigued.“I played football in New York City a long time ago,” said Dr. Price; he attended Stuyvesant High School, which, like Caltech, is known for its high-achieving academics and not its athletics. “I aspired to be mediocre. Never quite got there.”Dr. Moss was a classmate and teammate of Dr. Gay’s at Caltech. “I couldn’t play anywhere else,” Dr. Moss said. “The coach gave me a red helmet and told everyone in the team, ‘Don’t kill the kid with the red helmet.’ True story.”Dr. Price said he had not thought about this problem until he and Dr. Gay met at a scientific conference and talked about it.“I went on to apply some pretty simple mathematics and do what physicists do,” Dr. Price said. “Which is to try and throw away all of the irrelevant details and get the heart of something. Throw away the bath water, looking very carefully to make sure there are no babies in it.”The first thought experiment was to eliminate the atmosphere from the equations. But then the only force acting on the football would be gravity, and that would act equally on all parts of the ball and not exert a twisting torque to push the nose down. “It is always going to point in the same direction, because it’s acting as a gyroscope,” Dr. Price said. “The tip of the nose will not fall over and go down.”Clearly, air resistance, along with gravity, was playing a key role — but not the one that the simplistic analysis would suggest. “It’s kind of cool, because you have these two effects, both of which would seem to have nothing to do with what we actually see,” Dr. Price said.The three scientists were not the first to examine this phenomenon, and others showed through wind tunnel experiments and computer simulations that thrown footballs do not violate the laws of physics.But they say their results, published this summer in the American Journal of Physics, are the first to provide a simple understanding of what is going on.The key is that even a star N.F.L. quarterback cannot throw a perfectly wobble-free pass. Also, the interactions between a spinning object and forces such as gravity and air resistance are often counterintuitive.This gets back to the analogy of a spinning football as a gyroscope. In a demonstration often used by physics professors, a gyroscope made of a bicycle wheel on an axle spins at hundreds of revolutions per minute while the axle is held horizontally. One end is placed in the loop of a suspended string. When the other end of the gyroscope is released, it remains almost horizontal, seemingly defying gravity. The unsupported end starts moving in a circle — what physicists call precession.The football also undergoes precession and this motion,creates an aerodynamic twisting that, on average, pushes the nose of the football down, the physicists showed.Dr. Gay said the findings could potentially even offer some tips to quarterbacks — for instance, that if a right-handed quarterback threw the pass with the ball slightly askew to the left initially, that might lower the total air resistance and allow it to travel a bit farther. “But I’m thinking those would be pretty marginal improvements,” he said.Brian Griese, a former quarterback for the Denver Broncos and other N.F.L. teams and now an analyst on ESPN, said that top-tier quarterbacks might be interested in learning more.“I think you’re always looking for information, always looking for an edge,” he said. “I read the paper, believe it or not, and it was very interesting. I actually have a daughter who’s 14 right now and studying trigonometry and so I shared it with her and she was interested in it.”Of course, professional athletes already intuitively know much of this. Dr. Price said he was watching a replay of a pass by Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs where the camera was facing in the direction of the oncoming pass.“I could count the number of wobbles, and they were in good agreement with the numbers in our paper,” Dr. Price said. “I joked to my colleagues, ‘He must have read our paper.’”Ben Shpigel contributed reporting. More

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    Coronavirus Confusion: Colts Report False Positives and Patriots Call Off Practice

    The Indianapolis Colts on Friday briefly joined the growing group of N.F.L. teams dealing with a potential outbreak of coronavirus cases. Hours later, though, the team announced that the “four individuals” who tested positive for the virus had been re-tested and confirmed to be negative.After the Colts said they were closing their practice facility, the New England Patriots — who had just emerged from a virus-inflicted week off — canceled their Friday practice session after recording one new positive. A second New England player initially tested positive as well on Friday, but the follow-up screening yielded a negative result.The confusion in Indianapolis mirrored a similar series of events last Friday involving the Jets, who closed and then quickly reopened their training facility after an initial positive result was not confirmed in a second test. The uncertainty and disruption also cast new doubt on the reliance on rapid testing to spot, and prevent, virus outbreaks as the league plows ahead with its schedule.The rash of false positives echoed several other incidents that have made headlines in recent months. In August, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio tested positive on a rapid test, only to confirm thrice by a laboratory test that he did not have the coronavirus. And on Oct. 2, officials in Nevada issued a statewide directive to nursing homes to halt use of two government-issued rapid tests that had produced a concerning number of false positives that could not be confirmed by more reliable tests. Under pressure from the federal government, the state reversed the order a week later.Although rapid tests for the coronavirus are faster, more convenient and cheaper than typical laboratory tests, they are far less accurate. They more frequently miss cases of the coronavirus, as well as mistakenly label healthy people as infected. More

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    Jets Cut Ties With Le’Veon Bell

    Le’Veon Bell’s tenure with the Jets was brief, unproductive and unfulfilling — and, as of Tuesday night, it was also over. The Jets released Bell, their marquee free-agent signing from 2019, not even halfway through his four-year, $52.5 million contract, officially terminating a tumultuous relationship that had been steaming toward a breakup.Bell, who spent three weeks on injured reserve after pulling a hamstring in the Jets’ season-opening loss at Buffalo, received 22 touches in two games. Apparently displeased by his use in an offense that did not maximize his pass-catching skills, he took to social media after the Jets’ 30-10 loss against Arizona on Sunday, which dropped them to an 0-5 record, and liked tweets advocating he be traded.“I mean, I hate that’s the route that we go with all this,” Coach Adam Gase said on Monday, signaling his disappointment in Bell. “Instead of just talking to me about it but seems the way that guys want to do it nowadays.”Unable to find any takers, the Jets cut him Tuesday, making him a free agent. Soon after, Bell posted on Twitter an emoji of folded hands, and after, one that read: “Got a lot to prove. I’m ready to go.”In a statement, General Manager Joe Douglas, who was not a part of the organization when Bell signed, said the organization appreciated Bell’s contributions but that it believed “this decision is in the best interests of both parties and wish him future success.”Across his first five seasons, all with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell, 28, blossomed into one of the N.F.L.’s best running backs, parlaying his combination of balance, patience and acceleration into three Pro Bowl and two first-team All-Pro selections. But he sat out the 2018 season because of a contract dispute, unwilling to play again on a franchise tag.The Jets pounced, giving him $25 million guaranteed. In return, he gave them an average of 3.27 yards per carry and four total touchdowns in 17 games, and now he is gone. More

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    Walter Ashcraft, College Football Star and a Coach, Dies at 91

    Walter Ashcraft Jr., 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds by his early 20s, drew on his physique to excel in the Southern California sports world of the mid-20th century.He placed third in the 1947 California high school shot-put championships, competing for Long Beach Polytechnic, finishing two places above Bob Mathias of Tulare High School, who captured a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1948 London Olympics.Mr. Ashcraft also played at tackle for the University of Southern California football team. In his senior season, the Trojans, coached by Jess Hill, went 10-1, losing only to Notre Dame, and defeated Wisconsin, 7-0, in the 1953 New Year’s Day Rose Bowl game.The N.F.L.’s Washington Redskins drafted him in 1953, one of 15 U.S.C. players who were selected.He received a $5,000 signing bonus from the Redskins, but incurred a knee injury in training camp and never played in an N.F.L. game. Since pro football salaries were modest, he decided to pursue a career elsewhere.He obtained a master’s degree in education and devoted himself to coaching and hospitality work.Mr. Ashcraft died on Aug. 18 in Anderson, S.C., of pneumonia stemming from Covid-19, his family said. He was 91.He had been living at a military veterans’ retirement home with his wife, Betty Jo (Carrera) Ashcraft. During the Korean War, he interrupted his time at U.S.C. to enlist in the Marine Corps, played for a Marine football team in California and was discharged as a sergeant.Walter White Ashcraft, Jr. was born on Aug. 11, 1929, in Amory, Miss., where his father owned a gas station. His mother, Corinne (Austin) Ashcraft, was a homemaker. One day, when he was 11 or so, his father came upon the aftermath of a lynching — three Black men hanging from a tree.“He couldn’t bear it, and he packed up and moved his family to California,” his son Thomas said.The Ashcrafts settled in Long Beach, then moved in the late 1950s to Las Vegas, where Walter Ashcraft Sr. became the chief bartender at the Desert Inn. Walter Jr. obtained his master’s degree from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in 1967, coached football at a Las Vegas high school and was a supervisor of the Las Vegas parks and recreation department. He later coached track and field and taught economics at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Fla.He became a human resources official for the National Restaurant Association for whom he enhanced opportunities in the food industry for people with disabilities. Mr. Ashcraft also worked for the Florida Restaurant Association and was director of hospitality education for the state of Florida.In addition to his wife and his son Thomas, Mr. Ashcraft is survived by his son Adam; his sister, Mary Lopez-Fabrega; and nine grandchildren.“He was a voracious reader, passionate debater, sports fan, and endlessly curious and optimistic man,” his family wrote in announcing his death. “In his later years, he embraced technology, using it to communicate frequently to support his grandchildren and their many interests. He particularly enjoyed the use of emojis.”Mr. Ashcraft was continually cited by the Spartanburg, S.C., public library system for checking out the most books during the year. His tastes ran to historical nonfiction and crime and mystery novels. More

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    How Russell Wilson’s Latest Clutch Drive Beat the Vikings

    The Seattle Seahawks trailed the Minnesota Vikings by 26-21 on Sunday night and were stuck at their 6-yard line. The bad news: There was only 1 minute 57 seconds to go in the game. The good news: Russell Wilson is the team’s quarterback.Wilson’s flare for dramatic and timely plays — last season he led the league with five game-winning drives — has inspired “Let Russ Cook” memes, a reference to his unscripted performances. Sure enough, Wilson led the Seahawks (5-0) to victory on a 94-yard drive that left time to spare.Afterward, Wilson said he felt like “Sue Bird in the clutch,” a nod to the Seattle Storm guard who won her fourth W.N.B.A. title last week. Here’s how Wilson pulled off his most recent game-winner.First-and-10 at the 6. Wilson dropped back to pass into his own end zone and quickly found the pocket collapsing around him. Visions of a sack and safety probably flashed in front of Seattle fans’ eyes, but Wilson saw a hole and ran the ball forward for a 17-yard gain to give the offense some breathing room.First-and-10 at the 23, 1:37 to go. From the shotgun, which the team used throughout the drive, Wilson underthrew receiver David Moore 10 yards downfield.Second-and-10. Wilson missed Moore again farther downfield.Third-and-10. Wilson scrambled to avoid a sack, then heaved a bomb to nobody.Fourth-and-10, 1:21 to go. With the game in the balance, the Vikings brought the rush, but the offensive line gave Wilson a little time. He uncorked a 40-yard pass to the sideline, which a fairly open D.K. Metcalf jumped to catch.“My only thought was to go get the ball,” Metcalf told The Athletic.First-and-10 at the Minnesota 38, 1:14 to go. Wilson went to Metcalf on the left again. He reached forward on the run and got a hand on it, but couldn’t catch it.In his second year in the league, Metcalf has developed a big-play reputation, notably catching a 29-yard touchdown in Week 2 to beat the Cowboys. “I think he is one of the top receivers in the game,” Wilson told reporters earlier in the week. “He can do it all — he can run by you, he can jump over you, he can get physical with you.”Second-and-10. Wilson hit Tyler Lockett with a short pass to the right for another first down.First-and-10 at the 21, 1:00 to go. Under pressure, Wilson dumped the ball out of bounds.Second-and-10. Wilson hit Metcalf, who took a stride for the first down then dived for a few more yards.First-and-goal at the 6. A pass bounced off the hands of Lockett at the 1-yard line.Second-and-goal. Metcalf caught the ball right on the goal line and appeared to be in the end zone. But he was hit by Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes and dropped the ball. There was brief confusion from the officials, but it was ruled an incomplete pass.Third-and-goal. A pass to Metcalf in a similar spot was far too high.Fourth-and-goal, :15 left to play. After a timeout, Wilson, again with no margin for error, took a deep drop. Metcalf was once more his target. Closely guarded, Metcalf still caught the ball, which had a slight wobble, in a dive. “I just saw D.K. run across the field and just tried to zoom it in there to him in a tight window,” Wilson told reporters. “He just made an unbelievable catch, unbelievable play.” The Seahawks led, 27-26, the score by which they would win.Wilson went 20 for 32 for 217 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. It was the 30th game-winning drive of his career.“I don’t know how anybody could ever be better than what he continues to show us in those situations,” Seattle Coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s as good as you can get.”Metcalf caught six passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.When Wilson and the Seahawks took over at the 6-yard line, ESPN gave them a 14 percent chance of winning the game. Their chances had been as low as 4 percent on the previous drive when Minnesota got the ball to the Seahawks’ 6-yard line before failing on a fourth-and-inches try.The Seahawks improved to 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. With a bye week coming up, they are poised for an eighth playoff berth in the last nine seasons and, if Wilson can keep putting together drives like Sunday night’s, maybe a special season. More