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Black Girl Magic, LeBron James, Deaths of Sports Icons Defined 2016 Sports Year

30 Dec
simonebiles

Simon Biles won gold medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The Last Hurrah for Ryan Howard and Bernard Hopkins, LeBron James-Male Athlete of the Year 

By Chris Murray                                                                                                                 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on about 2016, it was a year where the one constant was death.

While the pop culture world got hit the hardest with the losses of such icons as Prince and David Bowie, the Sporting World got knocked around a bit as well. We lost boxing icon

ImustbetheGreatest

Muhammad Ali Shook up the world with his stunning upset of Sonny Liston in 1964. His death in 2016 highlighted was the most visible in  year when a number icons in sports and entertainment passed away.

Muhammad Ali this year. The General of Arnie’s Army, golf legend Arnold Palmer, also left us. So did basketball coach extraordinaire Pat Summit and former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.

Even sports media felt the sting with the losses of John Saunders, host of ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” and Craig Sager, easily the most colorful man in the NBA.

Although we’re still in mourning over the loss of these shining stars, and cherishing the memories of their brilliance, the Sporting World gave us more than a few reasons to cheer in 2016. It was an up year for some and a down year for others, but one thing it wasn’t was boring.

Here’s a look at 2016 in Sports…

One Last Hurrah for the Big Piece: Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard played his last season in a Phillies uniform in 2016. Photo by Webster Riddick.

This year, we said goodbye to a man who played a big part in breaking Philadelphia’s longtime championship drought, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

Because 2016 marked the end of his contract, Howard will be a free agent and will most likely leave the team that he led with his bat from 2005 to 2016.

During his tenure with the Phillies, Howard’s ability to hit towering home runs and drive in runs helped lead the team to the 2008 World Series title, two National League pennants, and five consecutive National League East titles.  Howard was the Most Valuable Player of the 2009 National League Championship Series and was also winner of the National League Rookie of the Year, and National League MVP awards.

Unfortunately, a combination of age, injuries and a team in rebuilding mode mandated that Howard and the Phillies part ways. Howard will most likely play for someone else and while it’s a shame that he won’t be allowed to retire here, Phillies fans will always appreciate the Glory Days he brought to the franchise.

The Year of Black Girl Magic

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Claire Smith is the first woman to receive the Baseball Hall of Fame’s A.G. Spink Award and will be honored during in Hall of Fame weekend in July. Photo courtesy ESPN.com

In December, former Philadelphia Inquirer baseball columnist Claire Smith became the first woman to win the prestigious J.G. Taylor Spink Award from Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. She was honored for her pioneering work, which included paving the way for women to enter MLB locker rooms to do interviews, just like their male counterparts.

That Smith received the award this year makes perfect sense because 2016 was the year that the Sporting World was hit with all kinds of Black Girl Magic.

Black female athletes from Africa and the African Diaspora (which includes the United States and the Caribbean), served notice to the world that they were a force to be reckoned with, most prominently during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

There, Black women excelled in everything. And I do mean everything.

Gymnast Simone Biles was named the Associated Press’s Female Athlete of the Year.

If you watched one minute of her gymnastic performances during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the reason she won this award became obvious.

The diminutive Texan was the darling of the games, leading the Final Five—Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, Aly Reisman, and 2012 Individual all-around Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas—to a team Gold Medal and also winning three individual gold medals including the individual all-around. Biles stunning performances in the floor exercise dazzled audiences around the world and her grace and athleticism were definitely a joy to watch.

But while she responsible for a nice chunk of the Black Girl Magic on display in Rio, Biles was only the beginning. Black women also showed that they could excel in places they’re not normally associated with like the swimming pool and fencing ring.

simonemanuel

Simone Manuel became the first Black American woman to win a gold medal in swimming at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro,

Stanford University’s Simone Manuel became the first Black woman to win a gold medal in swimming when she tied with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak to win the 100-meter freestyle, setting Olympic and American records in the process. She also helped the 4X100 meter medley relay team take home a gold medal and won silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 4X100 meter freestyle relay.

Elsewhere in the water, Ashleigh Johnson, the first Black woman to make the U.S. Water Polo team, helped lead the team to a gold medal. In the gold medal game against Italy, Johnson, the team’s goalie, had eight saves.

Ibtihaj Muhammad made news when she competed with the U.S. Sabre Fencing team while wearing the hijab of her Muslim faith. The team took home a bronze medal and Muhammad’s performance showed that you can be an observant Muslim and an athlete simultaneously.

But while Black women in non-traditional sports took center stage, that didn’t mean that Black women didn’t continue to excel in places where they’ve traditionally ruled, such as in track and field. Led by the United States, the Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica and the African continent, Black women won gold medals in all but three track and field events at the Olympics.

From Michelle Carter’s gold in the shot put to Brianna Rollins, Kristi Castlin and Philadelphia’s own Nia Ali sweeping the 100-meter hurdles to the exploits of the Jamaican track team, Black women showed, to paraphrase Emmy-award winning actress Viola Davis, that all that’s needed for them to excel is opportunity. They made the most of it…and then some.

All Hail The King (James)

LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. The Cavaliers won 93-89. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

With the Cleveland Cavaliers went down 3-1 in the NBA Finals to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, LeBron James put his Cleveland Cavaliers on his back and helped them win three-straight elimination games to give the City of Cleveland its first pro sports title since 1964.

James, the Associated Press’s Male Athlete of the Year, became the Finals Most Valuable Player by performing the historical feat of leading in scoring, rebounding, steals, blocked shots, and assists. What makes this feat even more remarkable is that it’s something that neither Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson nor the athlete James compared to most often, Michael Jordan, was able to do.

They’re all Hall of Famers. This year, his achievements put LeBron James in the same rarefied air.

No Joy In Mudville

ben-simmons

Can Ben Simmons lead the 76ers back to glory? He was the Sixers No. 1 draft pick in 2016.

Because the Philadelphia Eagles, the Phillies, the 76ers, and the Philadelphia Flyers are all in some form of rebuilding mode, the closest that Philadelphia sports fans got to the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup was the couch in front of their television sets.

While the Eagles, who will miss the NFL playoffs for the third straight year, made some noise when rookie Carson Wentz went undefeated in his first three starts, they came back to earth with a deafening thud after the bye week. Coming into the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, Wentz has completed 62 percent of his passes for 3, 537 yards with 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

The Sixers also gave their fans hope by picking LSU’s Ben Simmons with their first-round lottery pick. The good news is, Simmons can handle and pass the ball like Magic Johnson.

The bad news is, and this should be no surprise to Sixers fans, he’s injured. And as if often is in Sixers World, it’s a foot injury.

But there is some hope for optimism now that Joel Embiid has finally recovered from his foot injury and has emerged as the team’s best big man.

Villanova Wins the National Championship, Penn Wins Ivy League Crown, Penn State Temple Football Bowl Bound Again

novawinsnationaltitle

Villanova won its first national championship since 1985 with a buzzer-beater win over North Carolina.

In one of the most exciting games in the history of the NCAA Tournament, the Villanova Wildcats won the men’s basketball national championship on a last-second three-point shot by Kris Jenkins.  It was probably the greatest championship game of all time and they were honored by the city with a parade down Broad Street. Although I know one Philly sports fan who thinks that parade should have gone to an actual Philly team, but the Wildcats do play some of  their games at the Wells Fargo Center and they were embraced by the entire Delaware Valley during their run to the title.

Like, for example the University of Pennsylvania Quakers and the Temple University Owls.

For the second straight season, the Quakers won a share of the Ivy League football title. They became league co-champs with Princeton by defeating Cornell University 42-40. Junior running back Tre Solomon gained 173 yards to lead the 7-3 (6-1 in the Ivy League) Quakers.

The Owls proved that the team’s 2015 football season was no fluke by winning the American Athletic Conference championship with a 34-10 win over Navy and notching it’s second straight 10-win season. The effort was enough to get head coach Matt Rhule noticed by the Big 12’s Baylor University, and he left to try and salvage a program that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the last couple of years. The Owls also lost the Military Bowl to Wake Forest when the comeback they were mounting fell short.

But this doesn’t take anything away from an outstanding year for the Owls. If anything, it gives new Temple head coach Geoff Collins something to shoot for.

The much-maligned James Franklin became the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year by leading the Nittany Lions of Penn State to the Big Ten Football Championship. The team scored a come from behind win against Wisconsin thanks to the performance of running back Saquon Barkley and a stout defense. While many thought that Penn State should have gotten into the College  Football Playoff thanks to its victory over Ohio State, the teams two losses mean they’ll be going to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day against the University of Southern California.

Bernard Hopkins Falls to Father Time

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Bernard Hopkins looked as old as the 51-year-old man he is in his loss to Joe Smith Jr. Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com

After getting literally knocked out of the ring by Joe Smith Jr. in his most recent fight, some say it should be.

From the moment he turned 40, Hopkins has waged a valiant and sometimes successful against Father Time.  But in the end, the 51-year-old Hopkins found out what every athlete eventually does: time is undefeated.

While Hopkins hasn’t said whether or not he’ll retire, the prevailing hope is that he will. To do otherwise will probably do him more harm than good long term.

Like I said, 2016 has been an up and down year. But now that it’s over, it’ll be interesting to see what 2017 will bring to the Sporting World.

No matter what it is, I’ll have it for you.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

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Social Media Haterade of Athletes during 2016 Olympics was Downright Shameful

21 Aug

GabbyCrouser

American gymnast Gabby Douglas was criticized on Twitter for not putting her hand on her heart during the national anthem. American shot putters Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs did not put their hands on their hearts but was not attacked on social media the way Douglas was during her ceremony.

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Let me start by saying that I’ve enjoyed all the athletic performances at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. I only wish I were there to cover them.

Whether it’s the dazzling performances of Black women athletes like Simone Biles, Simone Manuel, or Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce or watching Michael Phelps and the American swim team rack up gold medals in the pool or Usain Bolt powering his way into Olympic immortality with his blinding speed, the Olympics have been a true celebration of sport.

But what I haven’t liked about the Olympics has nothing to do with the activities on the field or in the arena.

What’s really bothered me about this year’s games in Rio has been the noise and haterade flowing  from social media.

Instead of just enjoying the performances of the athletes, the noise from social media has been a symphony of disparaging remarks, insults, and accusations without any merit. People have taken to social media, Twitter in particular, turning it into a sounding board for sour grapes when your favorite athlete doesn’t win or critique of how the winner looked.

The recipient of the ugliest, most vicious attacks by social media hacks has been gymnast Gabby Douglas, who was, as she was in 2012, ridiculed because her hair wasn’t perfect in the midst of competition.  Oddly enough, the critique came from Black women that probably have their own issues with hair who felt the need to take to Twitter.

Now my question is, does Douglas’s hair help her stay on the balance beam? Does it help her get more height on her vault?

Would a perfect coif have gotten Gabby Douglas a Gold Medal on the parallel bars?

The answer is no on all counts.

Never mind the fact that Douglas is a three-time gold medalist or that she contributed to the Final Five’s big team gold medal in Rio. Let’s trash this champion in social media because of her hair.

To those people, I say get a life and worry about your own hair issues.

It’s sports people! The object is to work your behind off to win come disheveled hair or fried perm. The last thing an athlete worries about during the heat of competition is whether or not a hair is out of place.  If you want a fashion show, change the channel!

The hair flap wasn’t’ the only reason folks were attacking Douglass.  She also got flak for not putting her hands over heart as the national anthem played during the medal ceremony.

Now if you saw the ceremony, Douglas stood at attention. I’ve been watching the Olympics since 1972 and the way that Douglas was standing was the norm. There’s no rule that says you have to put your hands over your heart. The attack on her was just petty and cowardly, especially since no one attacked Michael Phelps for laughing while the national anthem played during his gold medal ceremony.

There were no snide remarks about American shot put gold-medalist Ryan Crouser and silver medalists Joe Kovacs, who like Douglas, did not put their hands over their heart during the playing of the national anthem.  No one called them spoiled or ungrateful.

But the social media acrimony didn’t stop there.

Fans upset by Bahamas sprinter Shaunae Miller stunning win over American Allyson Felix in the women’s 400-meter dash took to Twitter to protest how she gained the victory.

Millerdivesfor gold

Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas held off American Allyson Felix with a controversial dive at the finish line of the 400-Meter dash at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro. Photo by USAToday.com

In a spectacular race that it looked like Felix was going to win, Miller wound up with the gold by diving across the finish line.

Twitter was not amused.Fans cried foul, accusing Miller of cheating.

However, as someone who has not only covered, but has participated in high school track, I can say that Miller didn’t cheat, she just wanted it more.

First of all, there are no rules on the books that forbid diving at the finish line. I’ve seen athletes dive across the line from time-to-time in an attempt to win a close race. Runners aren’t coached to do that, but in the heat of competition, it happens. It’s not advisable because of the possibility of injury, but in a close race instinct and the desire to win takes over.

Miller gave so much effort to hold off a hard-charging Felix that she fell forward just enough to allow her to win the race by a razor-thin margin.  It was a gutsy effort by Miller and you’ve gotta give her props for going all out and hanging on to win a tough race.

UsainBolt

Usain Bolt won three gold medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Photo by the Mail UK.com.

Finally, I came across a Facebook thread accusing Jamaican sprinter extraordinaire Usain Bolt of using performance enhancing drugs after another spectacular win in the 100-meter dash. Never mind the fact that he has never tested positive for any performance-enhancing drugs in any of his gold-medal winning performances, the accusation is out there because let’s face it, a good conspiracy theory is always going to trump the facts.

With the Olympics coming to a close this weekend, I’m hoping that the memory of the great performances we’ve seen will override the memory of social media shenanigans that have gone on over the last two weeks.

Because despite the hairdos, dives and speculation, these performances have been pretty awesome.

2014 ALCS: Who Will End Their World Series Drought? Orioles or Royals

10 Oct

By Barry Federovitch

For The Chris Murray Report

Baltimore;s Adam Jones and Alex Gordon for the Royals.

Baltimore;s Adam Jones and Alex Gordon for the Royals.

Somebody’s gonna hurt someone before the night is through. Somebody’s gonna come undone. There’s nothing we can do – The Eagles ‘’Heartache Tonight’’

Whose misery will end this week?

Do you prefer the Kansas City Royals, who haven’t won the World Series in 29 years, since George Brett was their regular third baseman and Bret Saberhagen was their ace? Or are you pulling for the Baltimore Orioles, who haven’t won since they took down the Phillies’ Wheeze Kids in 1983, but haven’t played in the Fall Classic in 31 years?

Underdog vs. Underdog in the 2014 American League Championship Series. But only one can win and given what we just saw in twin sweep upsets in the ALDS, it’s not readily apparent who that will be. The more you look at the best-of-seven series that begins at Camden Yards Friday, the more you can become confused.

But all emotion aside, these are very different teams with diametrically opposed reasons for optimism that they will represent the A.L. in the 2014 World Series.

WHY THE ORIOLES WILL WIN

1. They’re the better team- The most debatable point. They’re missing Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, all key components, but they won the ever-tough A.L. East going away, while the Royals had to scramble to claim a wild-card berth. The O’s won 96 games, tied with the Nationals for second-best record in baseball behind the Angels (compared to 89 for the Royals) and really have done the most to this point.

2. They have the best manager- Royals skipper Ned Yost has done a nice job, but is frequently under criticism for his moves (particularly in the wild-card playoff against Oakland). Buck Showalter? Considered the best bet for the Manager of the Year Award, masterfully manipulating a lineup all season that on paper doesn’t even look like a playoff team. When push comes to shove, who will make the moves that make the difference? This year, no one’s been better than Buck.

3. The Orioles have homefield advantage- Rarely a key point, but possibly significant in a series where the two teams will have strong sentiment on their side. The O’s were a healthy 50-31 at Camden Yards this year and should the series go seven games would have the deciding game at home. The Royals were a strong 47-34 on the road (so this could be a push), but at a mediocre 42-39 at the K could have a tough time sweeping the middle three games in Kansas City.

4. The Orioles have the power edge: The Royals may preach speed, but would not have gotten past the Angels without timely homers by Eric Hosmer and Matt Moustakas in the ALDS. Continuing hot streak or brief aberration? The Royals only hit 95 homers this year, fewer than half of Baltimore’s 210, which is usually fully exploited by Camden Yards.

5. Chris Tillman gives the O’s an edge- Both bullpens are great and intuitively the better bullpen wins most series. But in Game 1 starter Chris Tillman, the O’s may have a pitcher who can stymie the Royals. In his lone start against KC this year, he spun a five-hit shutout. Tillman also beat the Royals in one outing in 2013 and hasn’t lost to them in over two years, possibly a key factor since he should start twice in the series.

WHY THE ROYALS WILL WIN

1. They are the hottest team- Among the four remaining playoff teams, no one is clicking all-around like the Royals right now. They can steal seven bases in a game, hit big extra-inning homers, get dominant starting pitching and/or strong relief. They beat the Angels by winning in many ways, which is the easiest path to a championship.

2. Speed doesn’t slump- A key unpredictable factor in any postseason series is weather. Will the wind blow in during key games and neutralize the power of both clubs? Or will wet conditions slow the track and take away the stolen base? More likely the Royals, who led the A.L. in stolen bases, are less prone to slumps. They have speed up and down their lineup (compared to the O’s, who virtually never utilize the stolen base) and are great at making something out of nothing (they were second in baseball in infield hits with 158). Neither team walks a lot, but if you keep the ball in the park, the Royals have a clear edge.

3. The Royals know they can beat the O’s- It was a small sample size, but the Royals won the season series (4-3). Most significant in this was that the Royals won two of three in Baltimore (where the series begins and may end). KC has already shown that it isn’t intimidated by loud postseason road crowds, but it helps to have a positive history in Baltimore.

4. Big Game James- Neither side is long on postseason experience, but it may help the Royals to have James Shields, a veteran of many big September and October clashes during his time with the Rays. Shields could be matched up twice with Chris Tillman this series and just a split in the first two games in Baltimore will go a long way toward giving the Royals the edge in the series.

5. Greg Holland- Most postseason series come down to who blows a game or two in the later innings. In Greg Holland, the Royals possess what may be the best closer in the game. Holland was 1-3 with a 1.44 ERA and 46 saves this year and hasn’t given up a hit in four postseason innings. Going back to last year, Holland has been as good as any reliever in the Junior Circuit and could be the difference if games are decided in the ninth inning.

Conclusion: One hidden factor is homers allowed, an area KC had a clear edge this season (Royals pitchers allowed 128 homers compared to 151 surrendered by the O’s). Add the league’s best eighth-inning man (Wade Davis, 9-1, 1.00) and it might just be enough for the Royals to take the series in seven games.

Game 81: Phillies Drowning Themselves at the Halfway Point of the Season

29 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Phillies Manager Ryne Sandberg feels his team has to improve in every aspect the game.

Phillies Manager Ryne Sandberg feels his team has to improve in every aspect the game.

PHILADELPHIA—At about this time last week when the Phillies went 5-2 on their last road trip, including a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

All of sudden there was some optimism for a hot minute in the City of Brotherly Love, especially since the Phillies are within striking distance of the leaders in the National League East even looking up from last place.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, this current homestand brought us back to a stark reality that they are still going nowhere fast. It reminds me of the two Japanese groundskeepers in the movie, “Major League,” who kept saying their team was “still sh—ty.”

Since winning five straight last week, the Phillies have lost seven of their last nine games including today’s double-header sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Brave at the Citizen’s Bank Park Saturday afternoon and evening.

The Phillies lost the first game 10-3 and the second game 5-1 to sink themselves further down in the National League East race. They haven’t been able to score more than three runs in the first three games of this series. They were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the second game of the double-header.

“It is disappointing we came with momentum, a winning streak,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “We could have won another game against the Marlins, but these last three games. … It was a tough for sure. It was a lot of things a lack of offense, a big inning there on the pitching side of things and not so good play on defense.”

The Phillies are nine games below .500 at the true halfway point of the season-game No. 81. It’s the same old problems for the Phillies—lack of hitting, poor defense and pitching, though that aspect of their game has improved significantly. Uniting the three kingdoms of offense, pitching and defense on a consistent basis has been a monumental struggle for the Phillies (36-45).

“We have to do things differently,” Sandberg said. “We definitely have to have more opportunities to score runs and then we have to actually score runs. We have to be more consistent in putting the pitching and the defense together.”

In the Phillies last nine games, they are hitting just .139 with runners in scoring position. Sandberg said he still believes his team is good enough to contend, but they have to play fundamental baseball, something they don’t do on a regular basis.

“We can definitely sharpen up on just playing clean baseball and execute in situational things,” Sandberg said. “The starting pitching has to be consistent, but we have to play good defense behind that pitching.”

In the first game of the twin-bill, first baseman Ryan Howard committed two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs that got the Braves back into the game after the Phillies had taken a 2-0 lead. The bullpen gave up five runs in the eighth.

Centerfielder Ben Revere said despite the Phillies current run of misfortune, the team is still capable of putting together a solid run to get back in the race. At the rate they are losing and the way they are playing, it just doesn’t seem to be possible that the Phillies can turn it around.

“We can go on a roll at any time, win a couple series and sweep a couple of good teams and we’re right back in it,” Revere said. “We have to keep battling. We’re at the halfway point, but it’s a long season and we have the team to do that.”

They better to do it quick because the season is not far from being on life support, if it’s not there already.

 

Maclin Inks One-Year Deal With the Eagles

1 Mar

By Chris Murray

Eagles wide-receiver Jeremy Maclin meets with the media after signing a one-year deal with the team. Photo by by Chris Murray.

Eagles wide-receiver Jeremy Maclin meets with the media after signing a one-year deal with the team. Photo by Chris Murray.

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA— Six months after wide receiver Jeremy Maclin felt his right knee buckle during seven-on-seven drills during training camp, the Eagles still considered the former Missouri star a valuable commodity for an explosive offense.

On Friday, Maclin and the Eagles came to terms on a one-year deal worth anywhere between $5.5 million to $6 million, $3.5 million guaranteed. Though the he and the team couldn’t agree on a multi-year package, Maclin said that a long-term deal with eventually come at some point during the season.

“There was a multi-year deal out there, but it just wasn’t what my particular side wanted, but we knew we wanted to be here. This was the way to get it done and for me to play football,” Maclin said. “This is the place that I wanted to be. This is where I was most interested in what was going on.

“The Eagles expressed that they wanted me back. By them offering me a long-term deal, I felt like that made me comfortable enough to know that I was in their long-term plans. Hopefully, come mid-season, we’ll be able to do something long-term while I’m here.”

Maclin said while he’s not 100 percent at this point, he expects to be ready by training camp. He said he is now running, cutting and lifting weights at this point and has made significant progress in the last six months since getting hurt.

Meanwhile, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said the Birds are happy to have Maclin back and are looking forward to seeing what he can do in the offense with DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper.

“We’re excited to have Jeremy back,” Roseman said. “That was our goal when we started the offseason. We drafted him in the first round and we excited about seeing what he do in this offense. He adds another weapon to this offense.”

After watching the entire 2013 season on the sidelines, Maclin made it clear that getting this one-year deal doesn’t mean he has to show how good he’s all the way back and that he’s 100 percent healed from the injury. He said he’s confident that he’ll be ready to go in 2014.

“I love when people say the one-year, prove it deal because in my eyes I’m not proving anything to anybody,” Maclin said. “I’m going out there and I’m playing football. I’m getting better. That’s kinda how I look at it. I don’t feel like I have to prove myself to anybody about anything. I’m still going to be out there competing. …I got a feeling my skills are going to get better each and every day.”

Before his injury in 2013, Maclin caught 69 passes for 857 yards and seven touchdowns during the 2012 season.  He is the eighth receiver in NFL history to record 55 catches and 750 yards in his first four season in the league.

With all the weapons the Eagles already have offense,  Maclin said he will get his fair share of touches in 2014.

“I think you got enough skill on this team and so why not utilize everybody,” Maclin said. “It’s something that myself and the team talked about. … I’m looking forward to making plays for you guys next year.”

Maclin spent virtually all of his time during the 2013 season and the offseason rehabbing his knee at the Eagles NovaCare facility in South Philadelphia. That enabled the coaching staff and team management to see him on an everyday basis and check his progress.

“It goes back to having guys that we know are going to be diligent about getting better,” Roseman said.  “Maclin was in here every day. He was on the sideline and all the games every week.”

Even though it was Maclin’s second ACL injury in his football career dating back to his days at Missouri, Roseman said through all the research they’ve done that they are positive that Maclin will be back to his old self as a key contributor to the Birds offense.

If there was anything that motivated Maclin to get through the rigors of rehabbing his right knee, it was the success of the Eagles offense in 2013 with Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper.

“My will to play football is what motivates me every day,” Maclin said. “Honestly, I’ve seen the offense. I see how guys were successful and that’s something that I want to be a part of. My competitive nature, the type of person that I am,  I’m going to be motivated and go out there and attack this rehab and come back better and stronger.”

Olympic Gold Medalist Allyson Felix Hopes for Another Golden Year in 2013

30 Apr
Four-time Olympic Gold Medalists is looking to have another good year in 2013.

Four-time Olympic Gold Medalists is looking to have another good year in 2013.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/The Sunday Sun

(from left to right) Phoebe Wright, Allyson Felix, Doc Patton and Manteo Mitchell at Penn Relays USA versus the World Press Conference. Photo by Chris Murray.

(from left to right) Phoebe Wright, Allyson Felix, Doc Patton and Manteo Mitchell at Penn Relays USA versus the World Press Conference. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA-Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix is coming off a 2012 track and field season that most sprinters would dream about.

Felix won the gold medal in the 200-meter dash (21.88) and she picked up more two more gold medals as a part of the women’s 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relay teams at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The 4×100-meter relay squad not only won the gold, but also set a new world record. Felix was named the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) 2012 Female Athlete of the Year.

The 27-year-old Felix also had first place finishes in the 200-meter dash at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. and won the 100-meter in the Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar. After winning in London, Felix took a well-deserved two-month break from the track, but was still busy with commercial endorsements and traveling.

With the start of the 2013 outdoor season, Felix said she has other mountains to climb and other goals to accomplish with the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa in June and the World Championships in Moscow looming on the horizon in August.

“I think any year after a major championship is difficult, just to get back moving coming off such a high,” Felix said during a press conference at the Penn Relays.  “And so for me I’ve just been trying to take things slowly. I think this is going to be a season where I have a gradual build up and hopefully will come together at nationals.”

Felix got her outdoor season going last weekend when she ran the lead-off leg for USA Red in the 4×100-meter relay as a part of the Penn Relays USA versus the World.

Unlike the outcome at the London Olympics, Team Jamaica, led by Olympic 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, edged out Felix’s USA Red squad at the Penn Relays.

“It’s always good competition, they’re always ready,” Felix said. “We know that they’re always going to be there and they’re our main rival.”

Going up against the competition from a loaded Jamaican squad and against a talented pool of American runners, Felix is gearing up for a season where there will definitely be getting the best efforts of her opposition at various meets this season.

“It’s always harder to run with a target on your back and it’s harder once you’ve had success to keep it,” Felix said. “It’s finding the motivation, making sure your work ethic is the same and I think after you have a major championship, you always kind a question a little bit, ‘am I working as I could be. You’re constantly trying to push yourself.”

After taking a couple of months off, Felix admitted that getting back into training mode wasn’t easy, but her coach Bobby Kersee, who is known to be a task master, got her ready for the 2013 season and back to her regular training regimen.

“I was out of shape, but Bobby whipped me back into shape,” Felix said smiling. “I’m just going to take things slowly this year and it’s going to be a gradual process to get back to where I need to be.”

Felix said her big goal this season is to make the U.S. team that will compete in the World Track and Field Championships in Russia and to ultimately equal or exceed her performance at the London Olympics.