Sports Buoyed by experienced 'D,' Zimmer exudes unfamiliar optimism
Lowrie's walk-off 2-run homer lifts A's over Indians 5-4
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Jed Lowrie hit a game-ending, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to rally the Oakland Athletics past the Cleveland Indians 5-4 on Friday night. It appeared the Indians were in line for a comeback win themselves after erasing a 3-0 deficit. But then Lowrie drilled a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall off Emmanuel Clase (3-5) with one out, after Elvis Andrus led off the ninth with a single. Bradley Zimmer hit aIt appeared the Indians were in line for a comeback win themselves after erasing a 3-0 deficit. But then Lowrie drilled a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall off Emmanuel Clase (3-5) with one out, after Elvis Andrus led off the ninth with a single.
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — For all his decades in football as a decidedly no-nonsense coach, Mike Zimmer has long defended his ability and willingness to adapt strategies to match shifts in styles and trends around the NFL.
The 65-year-old Zimmer has made it look at the start of training camp as if he's evolving into an optimist, too. His description of the first full-team practice for the Minnesota Vikings was so positive his own daughter sounded skeptical, when the head coach was asked for a review.
“I said, ‘Really, really good. I’m excited,’ and she said, ‘Man, that doesn’t sound like you,'” Zimmer said with a smile Thursday, his eighth season in purple now in full swing.
O'Neill, now leader of Vikes line, on track for big new deal
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Starting just his fourth NFL season, Brian O'Neill has suddenly found himself as one of the senior members of Minnesota's oft-fluctuating offensive line. Soon he might be paid like it, too. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, O'Neill is likely the next player on the roster in line for an extension so the Vikings can keep him from reaching free agency. He won't come cheap. The increased necessity of reliable pass protection has elevated around the league the status and value of right tackles like O'Neill in a league where left tackles used to be the only position on the line that commanded the true megadeals.
One glance at the field where the players are taking their places on defense explains a lot.
“I think these guys upstairs have done a great job, honestly, filling a lot of the holes that we have,” Zimmer said, reciting the long list of veterans added to the lineup since his lament late last year that the depleted 2020 group was “the worst he's ever had.”
Experience, even if gained elsewhere in the league, goes a long way. The presence of defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce and Sheldon Richardson, cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander and safety Xavier Woods ought to go a long way toward minimizing the mistakes of last season that were attributable to youth.
The Vikings didn't just sign them for wisdom, though. They're banking on them still being productive players, too, even if some are past their prime years.
Vikings in QB shortage, with Cousins out for COVID protocols
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings have started their second week of training camp with a severe shortage of quarterbacks, with Kirk Cousins and two of his backups sidelined under COVID-19 protocols. Head coach Mike Zimmer has not made any secret of his frustration with those players who have so far declined to get vaccinated for the disease. “I just don’t understand. I think we could put this thing to bed if we all do this. But it is what it is,” Zimmer said, after Cousins, Kellen Mond and Nate Stanley were placed on the NFL's reserve list for COVID-19.
“It's just a different vibe,” said Zimmer, who acknowledged early last season that the Vikings misjudged the ability of some of the young replacements — particularly at cornerback — to fill in for the veterans that departed after 2019.
Peterson's presence as an eight-time Pro Bowl pick, however much he might have fallen off in recent years, has made the most difference.
“A lot of guys can get in the game and they can be a deer in the headlights, but if you understand what’s coming at you, the game will slow down for you,” Peterson said. “Just like today, I was talking to Kris Boyd, having him understand the different releases that receivers can give you and he was like, ‘Wow, I never looked at it that way.’ I feel that giving these guys those types of nuggets can definitely slow their game down a lot and help them improve.”
There can be no underestimating the impact of the healthy return of defensive end Danielle Hunter and linebacker Anthony Barr, whose 2020 seasons were ruined by injury. Even linebacker Eric Kendricks missed the last five games.
Now that Barr is back to serve as the quarterback of the defense, Kendricks can be freed from some of the extra responsibilities he took on last year. Then there's Hunter, who didn't play a snap last season due to a neck problem but has come back in peak pass-rushing condition. Everyone from Zimmer to right tackle Brian O'Neill took notice.
“I think it’s going to make everybody better,” O'Neill said. "If we get to see that level of competition every day, that can only put us in hard situations, and you want that. You want the game to be easier than practice, and he sure makes practice really hard.”
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Dave Campbell, The Associated Press
Michael Spavor sentenced, Meng extradition hearing begins : In The News for Aug. 11 .
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Aug. 11, 2021 What we are watching in Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling the 11-year prison sentenced handed down to Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor by a Chinese court "absolutely unacceptable and unjust." In a statement, Trudeau says the verdict comes after more than two and a half years of "arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law.