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Raiders fire Jack Del Rio as coach; Jon Gruden mentioned as replacement

The Oakland Raiders fired Jack Del Rio as coach Sunday after the team’s season-ending 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, The Oakland Tribune reported.

>> Read more trending news

Speculation immediately focused on ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, who coached the team from 1998 to 2001, as the Raiders’ next coach.

Del Rio, who went 7-9, 12-4 and 6-10 in his three years as Raiders coach, said team owner Mark Davis broke the news to him after Sunday’s game.

“I spoke to Mark Davis after the game and Mark let me know that he’s not going to be bringing me back,” Del Rio said. “He told me he loved me and appreciated all that I did to kind of get this program going in the right direction, but that he felt the need to change.”

Del Rio signed a three-year contract extension following last year’s playoff season.

On Saturday night, ESPN reported that Davis was prepared to pursue Gruden with a strong offer that could include an ownership stake in the team.

A contract including an ownership stake would have to be approved by NFL owners.

Gruden reacted with a chuckle when asked about the report.

“C’mon man, I’m out with my wife. This is crazy,” Gruden told the Tribune in a telephone interview. “I was supposed to be going to Tampa last week. What have they got? I don’t know.

“I’ve got nothing to report. I’m at an Outback Bowl event with my wife.”

Woe-for-16: Browns finish winless season with loss to Steelers

The Cleveland Browns completed their woe-for-’17 season with an oh-for-16 finish.

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The Browns became the second team in NFL history to go 0-16, losing 28-24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday to finish a frustrating 2017 season.

Cleveland joins the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only NFL teams to complete a 16-game schedule with a winless record. In 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 0-14 during their inaugural season, when the NFL regular-season schedule had 14 games.

It is the worst season record in Browns franchise history, and gives coach Hue Jackson a 1-31 record through two seasons -- the worst start for a coach in NFL history. The Browns are also 4-49 in their last 53 games.

For the second straight years, the playoff-bound Steelers used backup players at key positions but still eked out a victory. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell were inactive for Sunday’s game.

“This football team has given me everything we have," Jackson said after the game. “This is just where we are. We're 0-16. I know about the parade and everything that's going to be said. ... But these guys continued every week to go out and fight.

“This is going to stay next to my name and the organization's name for the rest of our lives. … There's nothing we can do. We'll turn the page on this and move forward.”

Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer put the Browns within reach of an elusive victory late in game. Facing fourth-and-2 from the Steelers’ 27, Kizer eluded a sack, rolled to his left and threw a pass to a wide-open Corey Coleman near the sideline at the Pittsburgh 11. But Coleman dropped the pass and the Steelers took over on downs, handing the Browns their 17th consecutive regular-season loss.\

The last time Cleveland won a game was Dec. 24, 2016, when the Browns edged San Diego 20-17 in their next-to-last game of the season.

Wisconsin football players catch 450-pound shark days before Orange Bowl win

You can’t do this at every bowl destination. Wisconsin’s football team landed in Miami for the Orange Bowl earlier in the week, and between practices and team outings, a few teammates had the chance to schedule some deep-sea fishing.

>> Read more Floridoh! stories

Members of Wisconsin’s football team went fishing somewhere near Miami this week and caught a 450-pound hammerhead shark. The Badgers’ Twitter account posted a photo of the impressive catch Wednesday.

>> See the photo here

The Badgers’ Orange Bowl gift bag included a PlayStation 4, wireless headphones, a 39-inch television and more, but none of the gadgets compare to a huge hammerhead. 

>> Read more trending news 

Wisconsin went on to defeat Miami 34-24 on Saturday night.

CFL clears Johnny Manziel to play for Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Johnny Football has been cleared to play north of the border.

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Officials with the Canadian Football League announced Thursday it would approve a contract for Johnny Manziel if it is negotiated with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, CTV reported. The Tiger-Cats have the rights to the quarterback, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2012.

In August, Manziel worked out for the Tiger-Cats, who passed on making him an offer. But Manziel's camp activated Hamilton's 10-day window, forcing the CFL club to make a decision on whether to sign, trade or release him, CTV reported.

The CFL then stepped in and extended the window for further evaluation.

“As a result of this process, the commissioner has now informed Mr. Manziel and the Tiger-Cats he is prepared to approve a contract for Mr. Manziel should one be negotiated,” the CFL said in its statement. “The process that led to this decision, however, will continue.

“Mr. Manziel has been informed he must continue to meet a number of conditions in order to remain eligible. These conditions, while extensive and exacting, remain confidential.”

Manziel, 25, was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy when he starred at Texas A&M. He was drafted in the first round -- No. 22 overall -- in 2014 by the Cleveland Browns.

But the native of Tyler, Texas, was released after two seasons and has been out of football since.

Erik Burkhardt, Manziel's agent, did not immediately return a telephone message Thursday, CTV reported.

Browns coach says he will keep promise, jump into Lake Erie

Hue Jackson is ready to go jump in a lake.

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The Cleveland Browns coach said he would keep the promise he made last year and jump into Lake Erie if his team went 1-15 again, ESPN reported.

“Who’s going to jump in the lake with me?” Jackson asked at his Wednesday news conference.

The Browns are 0-15 and finish their season Sunday in Pittsburgh. If Cleveland loses, it will become the second NFL team to go 0-16 in a season, matching the 2008 Detroit Lions. 

Cleveland went 1-15 last season, and Jackson said if it happened again, people would find him “swimming in (Lake Erie).” 

If the Browns lose Sunday, Jackson is technically off the hook; after all, they would not have a 1-15 mark, although 0-16 is less palatable. But the coach said he would keep his word regardless of Sunday’s result..

“I made that statement,” Jackson said. “I got to back it up.”

While Jackson said he would jump in the lake, he did not specify when. The forecast today in Cleveland calls for snow showers and a high of 18 degrees.

“That (jump is) going to be at my convenience and hopefully I can get a lot of people to come out,” Jackson said. “It'd be something that we're going to make special.

“I don't like it. Don't like to do it for the reason why I'm having to do it, but I have to make do on my word. I just think that's what you do.”

Jackson said he will make it an event that will benefit the Hue Jackson Foundation, which supports efforts to combat human trafficking in Cleveland, ESPN reported.

“I never said I could swim,” Jackson said. “There will be some people down there to rescue me pretty quickly. So we'll make it fun. It's for the right reason. Again, I don't take light to things that I say that I put out there. I like to back them up.

“I haven't been able to.”

Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald pens tribute to John McCain

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzpatrick published an open letter in Sports Illustrated, offering prayers for Sen. John McCain, who is battling brain cancer, CNN reported.

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McCain, 81, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July.

In his letter, Fitzgerald recalls a 2013 visit to Vietnam where he viewed the places where McCain was tortured as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. McCain spent six Christmases as a POW, CNN reported

“I saw the very jail cell where he was held as a POW and I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be him. I took a photo of myself next to his flight suit, the suit he was wearing when he got shot down,” Fitzgerald wrote. “So powerful. So meaningful. Those images will never leave my mind.”

Fitzgerald wrote that McCain was facing another battle.

“This time it's with cancer, and the treatment he's undergoing is exhausting.” Fitzgerald wrote. “I'll wish him a Merry Christmas today, and I pray he lives another 20 years.

“As soon as my boys are of age, I'll tell them stories about the quality of the man I've gotten to know. I'll tell them: Senator John McCain will be revered and respected for as long as the United States of America has a place in this world, and his legacy will outlive us all.”

Chiefs' Marcus Peters gives away 300 coats to local youths for Christmas

As a defensive back, Marcus Peters strives for blanket coverage. Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs’ cornerback helped provide some cover for underprivileged youths.

>> Read more trending news

Peters handed out 300 winter coats at the inaugural Kansas City Christmas Coat Giveaway, The Kansas City Star reported. He also signed pieces of clothing for the youths and posed for pictures with them and their families.

“This is all Marcus,” said Nick Ayre, a sports marketing assistant manager for Adidas who attended the giveaway. “He’s always looking to give back to the community, whether it’s Oakland or Kansas City.”

Peters was joined by actor Paul Rudd, a Kansas City native and University of Kansas graduate. Peters, who was born in Oakland, California, also got help from the charitable organization from his hometown, the Fam 1st Family Foundation.

“It's cold outside and these are really cool coats,” Rudd told KSHB. “Nobody should be cold. It's an amazing thing [Peters] is doing.”

The Gregg/Klice Community Center reached out to Peters, through the Chiefs, to be a partner in a coat drive they were holding this month. Peters agreed, and with the help of Adidas -- which sponsors Peters and safety Eric Berry -- sent 300 jackets directly to the team’s practice facility, the Star reported. Peters then loaded a truck and drove to the center on Saturday.

Rudd said he heard about the event through Peters’ agent, Doug Hendrickson. He decided to attend, and he and Peters ended up rolling a giant cart of coats into the center together, along with passing out coats, the Star reported.

“I’ve been a fan of Marcus’ -- I think he’s great,” said Rudd, who met Peters for the first time Saturday. “I think Marcus does things under the radar. He’s cool like that.”

In addition to jackets, kids and adults received free haircuts. KSHB reported.

"A haircut can make you feel good, pass a test. You can do whatever with a fresh haircut," said Armon Lasker, one of the barbers who helped organize the event.

Peters' Oakland-based Fam 1st Family Foundation helped organize the event.

Seattle Seahawks fined $100,000 for violating concussion protocol

The Seattle Seahawks were fined $100,000 by the NFL over how they handled the league's concussion protocol with quarterback Russell Wilson in their game against Arizona on Nov. 9.

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The NFL ruled the Seahawks did not follow the league's concussion protocol after Wilson was hit by Karlos Dansby in Glendale, Arizona.

After taking a hit to the jaw, Wilson went to the medical tent briefly before returning to the game.

The NFL and NFL Players Association investigated the matter and decided to fine the Seahawks $100,000.

"I guess that is what they decided to do,” Wilson said. “I thought everything was done in the right way. There was a lot of confusion. I didn't really understand why I was coming out of the game anyway, I was completely clear. My jaw was a little messed up but other than that, that is what they decided."

The Seahawks released this statement:

"We accept the findings of the NFL and NFLPA joint investigation into the Seahawks-Cardinals game on Nov. 9. We did not knowingly disregard the Concussion Protocol. Any misstep was unintentional and the result of confusion on the sideline."

According to a joint statement from the NFL and NFLPA, the Seahawks coaching and medical staffs will now be required to attend additional training regarding the protocol.

Wilson said the NFL’s decision to fine the Seahawks does not change what he does moving forward when it comes the concussion protocol.

“What should I change? I think more than anything it's just playing ball,” said Wilson. “I felt completely clear. So there's nothing really to change really, honestly."

Beloved sports broadcasting legend Dick Enberg dies

Beloved Hall of Fame sports broadcaster Dick Enberg, whose exuberant “Oh my!” calls resonated with fans, died Thursday, his wife and daughter confirmed to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

He was 82.

Enberg was a versatile broadcaster, covering 10 Super Bowls, 28 Wimbledon tennis tournaments and eight NCAA basketball title games when he was the play-by-play voice of UCLA during its dynasty in the 1960s and ’70s, the Union Tribune reported.

His last full-time job was as the television voice of baseball’s San Diego Padres. He retired from that position in 2016 after calling games for seven years. He also called games on radio for the California Angels and the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.

Enberg worked for NBC, CBS and ESPN, and his “Oh, my!” call became a legendary punctuation mark after a dramatic play.

He won the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award (2015), the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Rozelle Award (1999) and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Gowdy Award (1995).

Enberg's daughter, Nicole, said the family became concerned when he didn't arrive on his flight to Boston on Thursday, ESPN reported. 

Enberg was found dead at his home in La Jolla, a San Diego neighborhood, with his bags packed. The family said it believes he had a heart attack, but is awaiting official word, ESPN reported.

“I’m heartbroken,” former Padres broadcast booth partner Mark Grant told the Union-Tribune. “It’s so sad. I thought Dick was the type of guy who was going to live until he was 100, going on the circuit, talking to everybody about baseball and football and tennis.”

Enberg joined NBC Sports in 1975 and worked for the network for 25 years. He was paired for many years with former Los Angeles Rams football star Merlin Olsen. He is the only person to win Emmy Awards as a sportscaster, a writer and a producer, ESPN reported.

Enberg also was a game show host, working as the emcee for the sports-oriented “Sports Challenge” from 1971 to 1979. The show pitted athletes from different teams in a quiz show format.

Recently, Enberg began hosting a podcast called “Sound of Success,” interviewing stars such as Billie Jean King, Bill Walton, Johnny Bench and Steve Kerr.

He told the Union-Tribune earlier this week that he hoped to lure NBA legend Magic Johnson, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and actor Jack Nicholson to his online show.

“At the very top of the list,” he said, “is Serena Williams.”

Ref uses index card to confirm key first down for Cowboys

Sometimes, football is a game of inches. The Oakland Raiders found out the hard way Sunday night, as a referee used a folded-up index card to verify a key first down for the Dallas Cowboys.

>> Read more trending news

With the game tied and five minutes remaining in regulation, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott ran a keeper up the middle on fourth-and-1 from the Cowboys’ 39-yard line, ESPN reported.

The ball was spotted just short of the 40-yard line and the referees called for a measurement. Referee Gene Steratore folded up an index card to see if there was space between the nose of the football and the pole. There appeared to be space, but Steratore signaled a first down for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys took advantage and kicked what proved to be the game-winning field goal with 1;47 to play.

Oakland coach Jack Del Rio was upset with the controversial call, ESPN reported.

“I don't want to get fined, OK?” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “I'm not happy with the way things were done in a lot of different situations throughout the night. They did the best that they could. I had a different viewpoint. I saw air. It was pretty obvious. Again, they do the best they can with a tough job.”

“Yeah, I don't know that I've ever seen that one,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “It seems like that's the method they use to decide. One of my concerns was that it looked like the stick was kind of on an angle. We thought that was working against us but eventually they straightened it out, brought the card out and we made it by the thickness of the card. And it was certainly a big play.”

In a conversation with a pool reporter, Steratore said did not use the index card to make the final decision.

“The final decision was made visually. The card was used nothing more than a reaffirmation of what was visually done.” he said. “My decision was visually done based on the look from the pole."

How did it reaffirm?

"That was already finished," Steratore said. "The ball was touching the pole. I put the card in there and as soon as it touched, it was nothing more than a reaffirmation. The decision was made based on my visual from the top looking down and the ball touching the front of the pole."

The Raiders still had a chance to win in the final minute with the ball at the Cowboys' 8-yard line. But Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, diving for a game-winning touchdown at the right pylon, lost the ball and it rolled out of the end zone for a touchback, giving Dallas possession with 31 seconds to play.

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