Update on the latest sports
Demaryius Thomas found dead at home
ATLANTA (AP) – Former NFL wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has died at the age of 33.
Police in the Atlanta suburb of Roswell say Thomas was found dead in his home Thursday night. His family believes he died from a seizure, and foul play is not suspected.
Thomas was a Georgia native who earned five straight Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl ring during a prolific receiving career spent mostly with the Denver Broncos. His best seasons came when he teamed with Peyton Manning.
Thomas last played in the NFL in 2019, appearing in 11 games with 10 starts for the New York Jets. He announced his retirement this past June in a video posted to the Broncos’ Twitter account.
The Broncos said they were “devastated and completely heartbroken” at the death of one of their greatest players, who helped lead them to a pair of Super Bowls and a championship during the 2015 season. The team said his contributions to the Denver community went beyond the playing field, the team said, noting his work with the Broncos Boys and Girls Club, hospital visits, and his annual football camp.
Thomas played collegiately at Georgia Tech, where he managed to shine in a run-oriented offense.
Al Unser, a four-time winner of Indianapolis 500, dies at 82
UNDATED (AP) – Al Unser, one of only four drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 a record four times, has died. He was 82.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway says Unser died Thursday at his home in Chama, New Mexico. He had been battling cancer for 17 years.
Unser was part of an elite club of four-time winners of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” He won in 1970, 1971, 1978 and 1987, and is the only driver with both a sibling and a child who also won the 500. His namesake son, Al Unser Jr., is a two-time winner. The Unser family combined for a record nine wins in the Indy 500.
Unser is the third member of the famous racing family to die in 2021. His oldest brother, three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser, died in May, and Bobby Unser Jr. died six weeks later.
Tomlin looks to shake things up
UNDATED (AP) – Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says more changes could be coming, after he benched some of his starters during Thursday night’s 36-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. He says, “We will not be bashful about turning the stones over.”
Prime areas of concern are the offensive and defensive lines that were manhandled as Minnesota took a 23-0 halftime lead. The defense gave up 176 yards rushing in the first half and the offensive line allowed four sacks of Ben Roethlisberger before halftime.
Pittsburgh eventually fell behind 29-0 and surrendered 242 yards rushing to the Vikings. Dalvin Cook ran for 205 yards, the most the Steelers have allowed since Jacksonville’s Fred Taylor rushed for 234 in 2000.
Roethlisberger threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns in the second half, but the comeback fell short when Minnesota forced an incomplete pass in the end zone on the final play.
In other NFL news:
– The Houston Texans have benched Tyrod Taylor in favor of rookie Davis Mills and coach David Culley says Mills will start for the rest of the season. Culley benched quarterback Taylor for Mills in the third quarter of last week’s loss with the Texans trailing 21-0. Culley evaluated the position this week before announcing his decision Friday. Houston hosts Seattle on Sunday.
– The Cleveland Browns have signed veteran punter Dustin Colquitt after placing regular Jamie Gillan on the COVID-19 reserve list. Colquitt, who spent 15 seasons with Kansas City, was released by Atlanta earlier this week. He averaged a career-best 47.7 yards per punt in six games. The 39-year-old will handle punting and holding duties Sunday against Baltimore. Colquitt was a two-time Pro Bowler with the Chiefs. His younger brother, Britton, punted for the Browns from 2016-18.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL-COACH OF THE YEAR
Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is AP coach of the year, Fickell 2nd
UNDATED (AP) – Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is The Associated Press college football coach of the year after leading the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title in 17 years and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Harbaugh is the first Michigan coach to win the AP Coach of the Year Award, and the first from the Big Ten since Penn State’s Joe Paterno in 2005. He received 22 of 53 first-place votes and 103 points from a panel of AP Top 25 voters to finish ahead of Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, who had 16 first-place votes and 88 points.
Baylor’s Dave Aranda was third and Michigan State’s Mel Tucker was fourth.
Harbaugh came into his seventh season as coach of his alma mater on a hot seat after going 2-4 in the Big Ten’s abbreviated schedule in 2020. After his first losing season with Michigan, Harbaugh took a pay cut and had his buyout reduced, putting the school in better position to make a coaching change if this season didn’t go well.
This season the Wolverines beat Ohio State to snap an eight-game losing streak in the rivalry and routed Iowa in the Big Ten title game.
No. 2 Michigan faces No. 3 Georgia in its first College Football Playoff appearance on Dec. 31 at the Orange Bowl.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL-FAKE SLIDES
Fake slides now against rules after Pickett’s trick vs Wake
UNDATED (AP) – The fake slide Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett used to help clear his path for a long touchdown run in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game is now against the rules.
National coordinator of officials Steve Shaw has instructed officials to blow a play dead at the spot where a ball carrier fakes a slide to cause defenders to back off from making a tackle. The new rule takes effect immediately. Shaw said in an email to The Associated Press that there was concern quarterbacks might be rehearsing fake slides for use in postseason games.
Shaw noted the intent of the slide rule was to protect sliding ball carriers who are deemed defenseless. He said if the fake slide is allowed, defenders might not hold up, leading to unnecessary and dangerous hits to quarterbacks.
The ban on fake slides is the result of Pickett’s 58-yard touchdown run against Wake Forest last Saturday. Pickett dropped back as if to pass, took off running and at the Wake Forest 40 dipped his right knee as if he were going to slide to end the play. The move briefly caused a defender in front of Pickett to pull up and briefly stop his pursuit of the quarterback. That allowed Pickett to continue to the end zone.
Pickett acknowledged after the Panthers’ 45-21 win that his fake slide was intentional. Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said after the game the NCAA needed to review its rule on slides.