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Jets bench Zach Wilson, Mike White to start vs. Bears

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Zach Wilson has gone from being the future of the New York Jets franchise to an underachieving benchwarmer.

Coach Robert Saleh announced the decision Wednesday to sit Wilson and replace him with Mike White as the starting quarterback Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

“Zach’s career here is not over,” Saleh said, adding that the plan is to have the second-year quarterback “reset” with the hope Wilson plays again this season. “This is not putting a nail in his coffin.”

Joe Flacco will serve as White’s backup, and Wilson will not be active against the Bears.

“We haven’t wavered in our belief that he’s going to be the future of this franchise,” Saleh said.

Saleh didn’t commit Monday to having Wilson under center this week after the second-year quarterback’s dismal performance in the Jets’ 10-3 loss to the Patriots in New England. The No. 2 overall pick in the draft last year was 9 of 22 for a measly 77 yards with several wayward throws. The Jets managed just 2 total yards on seven possessions in the second half.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say surprised because I haven’t been doing my job,” Wilson said of the benching. “Of course I would like to not agree with the decision and everything, but it comes down to I have to play better.””

Saleh said he’ll evaluate the quarterback position on a day-to-day basis, and added the entire offense must be better.

“His decision-making has been fine, his practice habits and all that stuff have been fine,” Saleh said of Wilson. “But there are some basic fundamental things that have gotten really out of whack for him. This is just an opportunity for him to sit back, focus on those things, find a way to reconnect with all the different things we fell in love with during the draft process.

“And it’s something I feel he’s going to be able to do.”

Wilson has taken a lot of criticism this week not only for his play on the field, but how he handled his postgame news conference. When asked if he thought he and the offense let down the defense — which sacked Mac Jones six times — Wilson replied curtly: “No. No.”

It appeared to be a lack of accountability and Saleh acknowledged there might have been “a little irritation,” but insisted Wilson’s comments had no bearing on the decision. Saleh said Wilson addressed the team, but declined to share details.

Wilson didn’t realize how his postgame comments came across until his father texted him before he got on the team bus asking him what he said.

“The way that I handled the situation wasn’t right,” he said, adding he deserved the criticism. “I’ve got to be a better football player and I’ve got to be a better leader for these guys.

“I have an opportunity to turn the page as a player as a leader and take a step forward.”

Wilson is 5-2 this season as the starter of the Jets, who are off to a surprising 6-4 start and in the middle of the playoff hunt. But he has struggled with consistency and not shown the progress expected of him. Wilson has just four touchdown passes and five interceptions in seven starts.

“I’ve got to do a better job for him,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “I’ve got to do a better job for the offense.”

Flacco, who started the first three games while Wilson was sidelined with a knee injury, still leads the Jets with five TD throws despite not having played since Sept. 25. Flacco was dropped to No. 3 behind White on the team’s depth chart a few weeks ago.

“He’s more than capable of getting it done,” LaFleur said of White.

White briefly became a bit of a folk hero for the Jets last season during a four-game stretch that included three starts — and one that landed his jersey and a game ball in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Making his first NFL start against Cincinnati on Oct. 31, 2021, in place of an injured Wilson, White completed 37 of 45 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions in a 34-31 victory. He joined Cam Newton (2011) as the only players since 1950 to pass for at least 400 yards in their first career start. White’s 37 completions were the most by a player in his first start.

He injured his right forearm early in his next start and was forced out of the Jets’ 45-30 loss at Indianapolis. White made the start in New York’s next game against Buffalo, but was intercepted four times in the 45-17 defeat. He hasn’t taken a snap in a regular-season game since.

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

Source: https://apnews.com/article/new-england-patriots-york-jets-chicago-bears-nfl-sports-2d860118239d7d2b136d1bc24c5f4518

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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