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LA Rams QB Matthew Stafford in concussion protocol

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is in the concussion protocol, and coach Sean McVay is uncertain whether the Super Bowl winner will be ready to play Sunday against Arizona.

Stafford entered the protocol Tuesday afternoon after consultation with the Rams’ medical staff, the team announced Wednesday. The Rams believe Stafford’s condition resulted from action in last Sunday’s 16-13 loss at Tampa Bay, and the team decided to put him in the protocol after the usual weekly round of postgame health evaluations.

“Nobody wants to be out there more than Matthew Stafford,” McVay said. “Nobody is a greater competitor, tougher, that I’ve ever been around. However, it was in terms of some of the questions that were asked (to Stafford after the game) in terms of getting to this point.”

Stafford has been one of the NFL’s most durable quarterbacks for most of his professional career, but he has been sacked 28 times this season — just two fewer than in all 17 games last season — while playing behind a mostly terrible offensive line that has used eight different starting combinations in eight weeks of action. Stafford was sacked four times last weekend by the Buccaneers, who were credited with eight quarterback hits.

Stafford’s wife, Kelly, reacted to the news with a post on the Instagram account of her podcast.

“The head is not something to be messed with,” Kelly Stafford wrote. “And I hope as this sport develops so does the concern for head health and the research around it. And no, I’m not ok. I have every emotion running through me. Concerned, angry, sad, tired … all of them.”

John Wolford, a Rams backup since 2019, is likely to start against the Cardinals at SoFi Stadium if Stafford can’t go.

“(We’re) still anticipating and having the optimistic approach that there’s a possibility that (Stafford) will be ready to go,” McVay said. “John has been our backup, but the reality is we’ll take it a day at a time.”

Stafford has missed only eight games over the past 12 seasons, and all eight occurred in 2019 with Detroit because of a midseason back injury.

Stafford hasn’t yet missed any of his first 29 games with the Rams, including four playoff contests last year. After leading Los Angeles to a championship in his first season, he has passed for 1,928 yards and eight touchdowns with eight interceptions this season while completing a career-high 68.4% of his throws.

“You put the priority where it’s about the person first,” McVay said. “This is so important, but when you think about it in the big picture, it’s a temporary moment in time. He’s got a beautiful family, wife, four daughters, there’s a lot of other responsibilities that these guys have.”

Wolford has been on the Rams’ roster for four seasons, and he has served as the top backup to Jared Goff and to Stafford during the past three years. Wolford made his NFL debut by starting the final regular-season game of the 2020 season when Goff was sidelined by a broken thumb, and he led the Rams to an 18-7 victory.

“It was a big game,” Wolford said Wednesday. “Obviously, as an undrafted player, these games mean a lot. I was just glad we were able to get a win, get in the playoffs. But it was my first career start, and it was a good one, a good memory.”

Wolford then started the Rams’ playoff game at Seattle, but injured his neck in the first quarter. He played only in mop-up duty last season, and he has yet to play this year.

“John is a guy that when he’s been in these situations, he’s stepped in and done a really good job,” McVay said. “Wasn’t too long ago that he had to come in a game that we had to have to get into the playoffs, and he performed incredibly well.”

If the Rams have to roll with Wolford behind center as they attempt to prevent the season from slipping away, they say they’ll be confident.

“I saw (Wolford) a few times in Seattle, so we know what he’s capable of,” said Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner, who spent his first NFL decade with the Seahawks. “He came down and did a lot of great things against us when I was down there. We have confidence in him that if he has to, he’ll be able to step up and make plays.”

Los Angeles has lost four of its past five games to fall two games below .500 for the first time in McVay’s coaching career. The Rams’ offense is one of the NFL’s worst so far this season, with a nonexistent running game behind that patchwork offensive line and a pronounced lack of game-changing offensive talent behind All-Pro receiver Cooper Kupp.

It could get even worse: Starting left tackle Alaric Jackson and center Brian Allen skipped the Rams’ workout Wednesday to rest knee injuries, although McVay hopes both will play Sunday.

The Rams also designated interior offensive lineman Coleman Shelton to return to practice Wednesday after a five-week absence with a high ankle sprain. McVay said Shelton, who has started at right guard and center this season, is likely to rejoin the lineup immediately if he’s ready.

Rookie running back Kyren Williams is expected to make his NFL debut Sunday if he stays on course in his recovery from an ankle injury. The Notre Dame product was designated to return from injured reserve on Oct. 26.

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

Source: https://apnews.com/article/arizona-cardinals-sean-mcvay-matthew-stafford-los-angeles-rams-nfl-c70fa5ebe4948affc5ec678855e16f18

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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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