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Brady plays down his perfect record against favored Cowboys

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/tom-brady-tampa-bay-buccaneers-dallas-cowboys-nfl-super-bowl-7ecfbc42607cd6c8fdd84769b55e6390

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady isn’t fazed by being a home underdog in the NFL playoffs for the first time in his career.

After all, no one has enjoyed more postseason success than the seven-time Super Bowl champion, who begins his quest for a record eighth ring when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9) host the Dallas Cowboys (12-5) in a NFC wild-card matchup Monday night.

Brady owns a slew of playoff records, including most games played (47), wins (35), passing yards (13,049), touchdown passes (86) and Super Bowl appearances (10).

The 45-year-old quarterback, who’s in the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season, has one more thing going for him:

The Cowboys — 2½-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook — have never beaten the five-time Super Bowl MVP.

Not that Brady believes career accomplishments or being 7-0 against America’s Team, including a 19-3 season-opening win at Dallas four months ago, will have any bearing on the latest matchup at Raymond James Stadium.

The Bucs also beat the Cowboys and Dak Prescott 31-29 in Tampa to open the 2021 season.

“For me, it’s just a blessing to have those types of memories and experiences. I’ve been very blessed to be a part of great teams that got to this point and then had a lot of big wins,” said Brady, who joined the Bucs in 2020 after a historic two-decade run that saw him win six NFL titles with the New England Patriots.

“They’ve got a great team,” Brady said of facing the Cowboys, who’ve rebounded from not only dropping the season opener to Tampa Bay but also losing Prescott for five weeks with a fractured right thumb suffered in that game, to earn the top wild-card spot in the NFC.

“I’ve played them quite a bit over the years and I have a lot of respect for the organization, their history, a lot of great players. But all of it’s about three hours on Monday night,” he added.

“Everything’s going to come down to what we do those three hours. Nothing in the past, nothing about the color jerseys we’re wearing. It’s who’s playing, what we’re doing, how we’re executing, how we’re executing under pressure. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”

The Bucs ended a 13-year hiatus from the playoffs and became the first team to win a Super Bowl played in its home stadium in their first season with Brady. They lost to the eventual champion Los Angeles Rams in the NFC divisional round at home a year ago.

Still, Tampa Bay’s 5-1 record over the past two postseasons is the best in the league. Despite winning four fewer games than Dallas and finishing the regular season with a losing record, the Bucs are hosting Monday night’s game because they repeated as NFC South champs.

“You have to embrace these opportunities, said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, whose team is the No. 5 seed in the NFC.

“But at the end of the day … clearly, what we’ll pay the most attention to is we have had the opportunity to compete twice (in two seasons) against Tom Brady and Tampa. That’s really as far as it goes with us. That’s all we can focus on,” McCarthy added.

“We have zero responsibility or even time that will be wasted on what happened prior to those two games. None of that responsibility falls to us.”

Dallas has not won a postseason game on the road in 30 years, a stretch covering eight games. The most recent victory was 30-20 at San Francisco in the NFC championship game during the 1992 season.

The Cowboys went on to win three of the next four Super Bowls. They haven’t reached an NFC championship game since the last of those titles.

Prescott, who finished the regular season on a career-worst seven-game interception streak, is making his fifth career playoff start. He understands the significance of facing a team led by Brady, who last winter announced his retirement only to change his mind and return for a 23rd season.

“Obviously, you give the guy respect. I mean he’s won as much as anybody has in this league. So, you’ve got to give him the respect there, but understanding that this is a team game and obviously knowing how good and talented our defense is, trusting those guys that they’re going to go out there and do their job and handle that side of the ball,” Prescott said.

“So for us, it’s about taking advantage of opportunities. And as we said … if we get up, not giving them a chance,” the Dallas quarterback added. “And if it’s a close game, understanding that yeah they’ve got a quarterback and what they’re capable of doing, the way they’ve won a lot of their games throughout this season in the last couple of minutes. Just knowing that we’ve got to take care of our business and can’t leave it in his hands.”

Brady has averaged 277.9 yards per game passing and thrown for 15 TDs vs. five interceptions in seven career games against the Cowboys.

He shrugged off a question about whether being a home underdog provides extra motivation, saying he’s never really paid attention to “those things.”

“It’s not the best team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best (that) wins. I was part of a team that won every game until the Super Bowl and we didn’t play the best that day and we lost, and you don’t end up reaching your goal,” Brady said.

“I’ve been on the other end of it where I was a big underdog, my first year starting against the Rams, and we played better than they did that day. But that’s all that matters,” Brady added.

“That’s what single elimination is all about. You’ve got to be at your best in that moment.”

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AP Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Source: https://apnews.com/article/tom-brady-tampa-bay-buccaneers-dallas-cowboys-nfl-super-bowl-7ecfbc42607cd6c8fdd84769b55e6390

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LeBron’s off-court legacy complements his basketball success

Mya Smiley is a student at the University of Akron thanks to an assist from LeBron James, and she is determined upon graduation to become a social worker that helps foster kids.

Her education and career path would not have been possible, the sophomore says, were it not for a scholarship and counseling that she received from the LeBron James Family Foundation. “He’s life-changing,” Smiley said.

For all his accomplishments on the basketball court — four championships, 19 All-Star Game nominations and an imminent coronation as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer — it is James’ ambitious pursuits off-the-court that may ultimately distinguish his legacy from other superstar athletes’.

James co-founded a successful media and entertainment company, bought stakes in storied professional baseball and soccer franchises and, with a big assist from product endorsements, his net worth is estimated to have grown above $1 billion. The off-court achievement that James is most proud of, he says, is working to uplift the lives of people like Smiley in his hometown of Akron.

Many athletes have excelled in one or more of these areas. But few have done all of them as well as James, who is closing in on passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA’s career scoring record.

“His goal, I believe, is to have 10% of his wealth go to causes and support communities, which is an amazing goal,” said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a professor of sports management at George Washington University. “I would say he’s maybe above and beyond others, just on that aspiration alone.”

James is, by any measure, an overwhelming success. And he makes Smiley — one of the many people in Akron who have received financial support from his foundation — believe that she can be a success as well.

“If I did not have the LeBron program, I probably wouldn’t have ever gone to college. I would be living in a not-so-positive environment,” said the 19-year-old Smiley.

“His ability to help people’s futures,” she added, “is what makes LeBron a great person.”

James, who entered the NBA straight after high school in 2003, planned early on to use his talents, fame — and, yes, his growing financial resources — to have on impact on the world beyond basketball.

“Even before I got into the NBA, I knew I wanted to find a way to give back to my community,” said James. Although James bounced from home to home during his childhood, and experienced financial insecurity for many of those years, he also was given enormous support from friends, neighbors and educators.

The LeBron James Family Foundation, founded in 2004, at first gained local attention by giving away bikes and backpacks. Then it began looking at after-school programs, with students scattered across several dozen schools, and eventually created a public school currently serving about 575 third through eighth graders. Today the school includes a family resource center that provides a wide-range of services to parents, including mental health, financial literacy, legal aid and GED courses.

Just down the street from the school, the foundation provides rent-free housing to as many as 16 different families — when needed — and it has plans to build 50 units of affordable housing.

“I couldn’t have guessed how much it would grow,” James said in late January. “But we got here by listening and responding to our community and what they need.”

James has made over $400 million in NBA salary during his time with Cleveland, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers. Another $100 million is on the way in the next 2-1/2 years or so.

James is a pitchman for Nike, GMC, AT&T and many more multinational companies. He owns a piece of the Boston Red Sox and Britain’s Liverpool football club. His entertainment company, SpringHill — named after the modest apartment complex he grew up in — is valued at $725 million and has produced movies for HBO and Netflix.

“He’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially kids with lesser opportunity and haven’t had the same advantages as others,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said in 2018, a sentiment he’s repeated many times since. “They see in this guy somebody who has consistently exhibited excellence in the workplace and gives them a voice and lets them know that you can speak about anything.”

James puts so much focus on giving back to Akron because of the help people there gave to him and his family. “He’s never lost sight of that,” said Michele Campbell, the executive director of James’ foundation. “I think that keeps him grounded.”

Just how down to earth “King James” really was got called into question in 2010. That’s when he went on television to announce that he was leaving Cleveland to play in Miami. Billed as “The Decision” — and broadcast on ESPN — the live event was widely ripped as egotistical. But from James’ perspective, the broadcast raised around $4 million for charity, a fact was largely overlooked.

Just a couple of years later, James would use his star power to help draw attention to a cause bigger than himself.

In the aftermath of the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin — a Black Florida teen who was wearing a hoodie when he was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer — James tweeted a photo of Heat players wearing hoodies and bowing their heads that included the hashtag “WeWantJustice.”

In 2020, James helped lead the “More Than A Vote” movement, which included registration and early-vote drives and stressed the need for people — particularly Black voters — to get to the polls to fight disenfranchisement.

Also in 2020, in the aftermath of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, James was one of the players calling for an end to racial inequality and police brutality.

“Everything I do,” James said late last year, “has to have a purpose.”

James has all the money and all the fame that he ever wanted or needed. His NBA records, including the scoring title, are going to last for a very long time.

As will his off-court endeavors.

“His ability to help others and put others first is what makes him a great person,” Smiley said. “Not the baskets he shot.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Kyrgios pleads guilty to assault, has no conviction recorded

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Nick Kyrgios had suffered severe depression, suicidal ideation and insomnia in the past, a psychologist told a court on Friday when the Australian tennis star pleaded guilty to pushing a former girlfriend to the ground two years ago.

The 2022 Wimbledon runner-up pleaded guilty in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court to assaulting Chiara Passari during an argument in his hometown of Canberra in January 2021.

Magistrate Jane Campbell didn’t record a conviction against Kyrgios for reasons including that the offense was at the low end of seriousness for a common assault, and was not premeditated.

Campbell described it as an act of “stupidity” and “frustration.”

Kyrgios, who was using crutches following recent surgery on his left knee, didn’t speak to reporters as he left court but issued a statement through a management company.

“I respect today’s ruling and am grateful to the court for dismissing the charges without conviction,” Kyrgios said. “I was not in a good place when this took place and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret. I know it wasn’t OK and I’m sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.

“Mental health is tough. Life can seem overwhelming. But I’ve found that getting help and working on myself has helped me to feel better and to be better.”

Kyrgios’ psychologist, Sam Borenstein, said in a written report and testimony by phone that Kyrgios had suffered major depressive episodes in the past and had used alcohol and drugs to cope. Kyrgios’ mental health led to impulsive and reckless behavior.

His recent knee injury had resulted in mild to moderate symptoms of depression, but his mental health was improving, Borenstein said.

“He’s doing very well,” Borenstein said. “His mental health has improved significantly.”

Lawyers for Kyrgios had sought to have an assault charge stemming from events two years ago dismissed on mental health grounds but the application was unsuccessful.

Kyrgios had been attempting to leave Passari during an argument at 10 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2021, outside her apartment in the inner-Canberra suburb of Kingston. He called an Uber but Passari stood in the way of him closing the front passenger side door. The driver wouldn’t leave with the door open.

Kyrgios eventually pushed Passari’s shoulders backward with open palms, causing her to fall to the pavement and graze her knee, according to agreed facts read to the court.

Passari signed a police statement alleging the assault 11 months later, after her relationship with Kyrgios had ended.

His current partner, Costeen Hatzi, wrote in a character reference that she had no concerns of violence in her relationship. Hatzi was among Kyrgios’ supporters who sat behind him in court.

Kyrgios, wearing a dark suit and using the crutches for support, first spoke in court when the magistrate asked him if he could stand to enter a plea.

Kyrgios replied: “Yep, no worries, Your Honor,” as he rose to plead guilty.

In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs last year to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last September to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

The 27-year-old Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because the knee injury which later required arthroscopic surgery.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Bengals’ Joe Mixon charged with pointing gun at woman

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon has been charged in a warrant with pointing a gun at a woman and threatening her, according to court documents.

Mixon faces a misdemeanor charge of aggravated menacing, according to the documents, which were filed Thursday in Hamilton County Municipal Court and obtained by The Associated Press. No attorney is listed for him in court records.

According to the warrant, Mixon pointed the gun at the woman and told her, “You should be popped in the face. I should shoot you, the police (can’t) get me.”

The incident occurred on Jan. 21, the day before the Bengals beat the Buffalo Bills in a divisional-round playoff game.

The 26-year-old Mixon rushed for 814 yards and seven touchdowns this season, his sixth. He also had 60 receptions for 441 yards, both career highs, and two touchdowns.

A second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2017, Mixon has spent his entire career with Cincinnati and rushed for career highs of 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021.

In 2014, when he was 18, Mixon punched a female Oklahoma student in the face, an attack captured on surveillance video. He was suspended from the football team for a year and entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is sufficient evidence for a conviction. He received a deferred sentence and was ordered to perform community service and undergo counseling.

The incident hurt his standing in the draft, with several teams saying they passed on him because of concerns about his character.

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