<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]> Copyright 2016 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Tue, 09 Feb 2016 00:08:32 -0600 Tue, 09 Feb 2016 00:08:32 -0600 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Could Blackhawks Make Run at Andrew Ladd Trade? ]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 15:22:26 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/GettyImages-509386840.jpg

The Winnipeg Jets are going to have some very difficult decisions to make about the direction of their franchise as they struggle through a lackluster season, but one choice was made on Monday as Dustin Byfuglien signed a new five-year pact with the team.

The deal will pay Byfuglien, an integral part of the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, $38 million over the life of the contract, averaging out to a $7.6 million cap hit per season.

With Byfuglien signing a new deal, attention in Manitoba shifts toward the fate of captain Andrew Ladd, who will also be a free agent at the end of the season. Ladd is currently making $4.4 million per season, and at 30 years old, he figures to get a decent pay increase when his contract runs out at season’s end.

The Jets could still very well re-sign him, but with the decision to give Byfuglien a big contract extension, and with payers like Tobias Enstrom, Tyler Myers, and Blake Wheeler already locked up for big money and long contract terms, there is a very real possibility that the Jets will look to move Ladd before the NHL’s trade deadline later this month.

If they end up deciding to do that, the list of potential suitors would be long. Ladd brings a great mix of offensive skill and defensive intelligence to the table, and it gives him a great amount of flexibility in terms of where a coach can slot him in the lineup. He can play top line minutes if necessary, but he is a perfect fit for a team’s second or third line, depending on their needs.

If the Blackhawks wanted to potentially bring Ladd, who spent the 2010 Cup run with the team, back to Chicago, they could certainly find use for him. He could potentially allow Andrew Shaw to drop back to the third line if Joel Quenneville wants to slot him with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, or he could fit in on a re-constituted third line with Teuvo Teravainen shifting to the other wing spot.

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, just because Ladd would be a fit doesn’t mean that he will come cheap. As a rental, Ladd won’t command a large price in terms of long-term prospects, but the Jets would certainly require at least one or two solid forward prospects from the Blackhawks to make such a deal happen, as there will be a lot of suitors coming forward (and a higher return required of a divisional opponent). 

Players like Teravainen and Nick Schmaltz would almost certainly be off the table in any Ladd negotiations, but players like Vincent Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman could potentially be a fit in a swap if that’s the direction Stan Bowman wants the team to go.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Peyton Manning Explains Eli's Reaction]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 20:47:45 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-508990438.jpg

One of the most talked about moments of Super Bowl 50 was when cameras captured the reaction of Eli Manning to his brother's team the Denver Broncos scoring a critical touchdown in the win over the Carolina Panthers.

Everyone has an opinion of what's behind Eli Manning's not-so-pleased expression. Not to mention the hilarious memes that have been created because of it.

But on television Monday morning, Peyton Manning put speculation to rest, explaining why his brother didn't appear to be celebrating along with the rest of the Manning family.

“Eli’s just like me. Eli is analyzing the game. He’s thinking about whether we were going to go for two. Whether it was going to be reviewed,” Manning told CBS News.

“Eli’s kinda like me,” Manning continued. “He wasn’t gonna to relax until that final second ticked off. I’ve had a great chance to celebrate with Eli. He’s very happy and proud of me just like I’ve always been of him.”

Peyton tied his younger brother Sunday for two Super Bowl rings apiece, leading many to wonder whether sibling rivalry had anything to do with Eli's emotionless face.

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Docs Detail Alleged Manziel Beating]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 23:07:15 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/JohnnyManziel-AP_324132097739.jpg

NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel hit his girlfriend Colleen Crowley so severely on Jan. 29 that she suffered a ruptured eardrum and still can't hear in her left ear, the woman's attorney said Monday.

"They expect (her ear) to heal but it'll take a while," Dallas attorney Kathy Kinser told NBC 5.

Kinser represents Crowley, who wrote in an application for a protective order that she and Manziel dated for two years and lived together for four months in Cleveland before the alleged attack in Dallas last month.

Dallas police re-opened the criminal case on Friday and NBC 5 has reported that police in Fort Worth are also investigating.

Manziel, the Cleveland Browns quarterback who became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy while playing at Texas A&M, agreed to the order, which forbids him from seeing her for two years.

Crowley's version of what happened that night, including more alleged violence and threats that Manziel would kill himself, is detailed in a sworn statement she wrote to obtain the protective order. Manziel's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

She said the two went to dinner at Victor Tangos restaurant in Dallas with three friends, then went to two bars before going to an "after party" at Hotel ZaZa. The friends left Manziel and Crowley alone.

"We planned to spend the night together in his room there," Crowley said in the statement.

"We started having a discussion about things I had heard earlier in the week about him being with a girl who had caused us problems in the past," Crowley said. "I told (him) that if I was going to spend the night, it would be on the couch."

Crowley said Manziel threw her on the bed.

"He claimed it was 'playfully' but it frightened me and I took it seriously," she said.

Crowley said she decided to leave the hotel but he "restrained" her from leaving.

"I tried to fight him off," she said. "I became very scared that he was going to hurt me."

She said Manziel continued to restrain her and led her down a back stairway to the valet.

"When we got to the valet, I was crying and begged the valet, 'Please don't let him take me. I'm scared for my life," she wrote. "The valet replied, 'I don't know what to do,' and allowed Manziel to "literally throw me in the front passenger seat of his car."

In a statement to NBC 5, Avi Niego, manager at Hotel ZaZa said, "(It) is our policy not to comment publicly on any aspect of our operation."

Manziel and Crowley drove to a nearby bar where she had earlier parked her car, she said.

"I jumped out of the car and ran across the street and hid behind some bushes," she said. "He flipped a U-turn and pulled right in to where I was hiding. He grabbed me by my hair and threw me back into the car."

That's when Crowley said Manziel hit her in the head on her left ear.

Crowley said she tried to hit back but Manziel threw her off and she hit her head on the car window and fell on the floorboard.

"Still fearful for my life, I stayed in the floorboard motionless until (Manziel) pulled me back onto the seat. He was telling me to 'stop' and wouldn't let me have my phone.'"

The two drove down Interstate 30 from Dallas to Fort Worth, where Crowley, a TCU student, has an apartment.

Crowley said she at first told him she hated him but Manziel told her he was going to take her car and kill himself.

"I thought maybe he was on drugs or having a psychotic break so to keep him calm I began telling him, 'I love you. We can figure this out. We can talk,'" she said.

Manziel started laughing, she said.

"I started crying even more and he told me, 'Shut up or I'll kill us both,'" she said.

She said he responded by saying, "I would never kill you. You don't deserve that. I would only kill myself."

Crowley said they arrived at her apartment and continued to fight, which she described as "more verbal than physical."

"He then smashed my phone onto the tile in my apartment entry," she said. "I was in my kitchen so out of fear for my life, I pulled a knife out of my knife block and advanced toward him. He ran out of the apartment."

She said she screamed for help and a neighbor came out. He ran.

Fort Worth police have said officers searched for him with the help of a helicopter but couldn't find him.

"I continue to be extremely concerned for my health and well-being," Crowley wrote.

Manziel signed the protective order, agreeing not to be around Crowley for two years and pay Crowley's attorney's fees of $12,500.

Manziel's attorney, who is listed on the court documents as Brad Beckworth of Austin, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Monday.

Kinser said Crowley met with Dallas police on Friday.

Dallas police have released no new information on the case since announcing on Friday they were investigating.

Colleen E. Crowley's Application for Protective Order

Photo Credit: File – AP
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<![CDATA[Darling's Incredible Act of Kindness Will Melt Your Heart]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 13:36:48 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Darling.png

There are plenty of stories about professional athletes behaving badly, but if you’re seeking out an example of a player that is also a good human being, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling seems to be a good candidate.

The goaltender, who has been with the Blackhawks since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, made quite an impression on an Uber driver in the Phoenix area recently, and Twitter user Kane Van Gate shared the following story:

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To his credit, Darling did respond to the story, saying that he’s fortunate to be able to help people in need:

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Considering that Darling is one of the lowest-paid players on the Blackhawks, his act of generosity is even more noteworthy.

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<![CDATA[Dave Duerson's Family 'Appalled' by Roger Goodell's Couch Analogy]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 13:00:37 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/72473766.jpg

The family of former Bears safety Dave Duerson is criticizing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for recently comparing the risks of playing football to the “risk in sitting on the couch.”

The late Bear’s son, Tregg Duerson,” called the comments “an insult to the men affected by CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).”

In response to a question about parent concerns following the deaths of seven high school players who died due to injuries suffered in football games or practices, Goodell said that if he had a son, he would want his son to play football.

He acknowledged there’s “no higher priority than player safety” and said that changes in the league have led to a decrease in player injuries at all levels.

“There’s risk in life, there’s risk in sitting on the couch,” he said. “What we want to do is get people active.”

Duerson committed suicide in 2011 at age 50, but before he died he sent his family a message saying that he wanted his brain to be used for research into CTE. Neurologists at Boston University later concluded that Duerson did suffer from the disease, which is caused by repeated concussions.

“The Commissioner and the owners should be displaying empathy, not insensitively minimizing the severity of long-term brain damage,” Tregg Duerson said.

The Duerson family’s attorney also called the remarks “ill-advised” and “nonsensical.”

“He has, in effect, warned over 100 million of us that we will assume a risk if we watch [the Super Bowl] while seated on a couch. Really?" Thomas Demetrio said in a statement.

Duerson’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2012, which later became a class-action suit. The suit resulted in a nearly-$1 billion settlement, but attorneys for Duerson’s family say they plan to appeal the ruling.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tweet From Seahawks' Lynch May Indicate Retirement]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 22:28:56 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/MarshawnLynch-AP_324019937170.jpg

Leave it to Marshawn Lynch to be at the center of attention in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.

Except this time, Lynch may have given the surest sign he's on the verge of retirement.

Lynch, the mercurial Seattle Seahawks running back, sent a tweet during the fourth quarter of Sunday's Super Bowl with a pair of cleats hanging from a power or telephone line, along with an emoji depicting a peace sign. It certainly wasn't a definitive statement that Lynch is ready to call it a career, but it would fit with a mounting stack of evidence that the bruising running back is ready to move on from football.

Lynch's teammates in Seattle were certainly taking his tweet as a statement of retirement. Doug Baldwin, Bruce Irvin, Paul Richardson and Richard Sherman were among the many teammates to pay tribute to Lynch on social media.

"Salute to my guy @MoneyLynch ... It was an honor sharing the field with you," Sherman wrote on Twitter.

"To one of the greatest teammates I've ever had the pleasure of suiting up with. Salute. #Beastmode," Baldwin posted on Instagram.

Messages left for Lynch's representatives were not immediately returned.

The tweet from Lynch also backed statements from Jan. 22 by Seattle general manager John Schneider in a pair of radio interviews that indicated Lynch was leaning toward retirement. Schneider said in separate interviews with two Seattle radio stations that he believes Lynch is leaning toward calling it a career after an injury-filled 2015 season.

Schneider first appeared on KIRO-AM, the team's flagship station, saying the team was going to give Lynch time and leeway to decide what he wants to do, but added he was "under the impression" Lynch was leaning toward retirement.

Later on KJR-AM, Schneider hedged his comments slightly, but reiterated that he thought Lynch was considering stepping away.

"I really, honestly don't know at this point," Schneider said on KJR. "If you put a gun to my head I would say he is leaning toward retirement. But I think with Marshawn you never really know. He's a fierce competitor. We just have to handle it the right way in terms of showing him as much respect as we possibly can for everything he's done for this organization."

ESPN reported earlier Sunday without identifying its sources that Lynch had been telling close friends he was planning to retire.

Lynch will turn 30 in April and is coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season where he was limited to just seven games in the regular season and one of Seattle's two playoff games. Lynch was bothered by hamstring and calf issues early in the season and later missed the final seven regular-season games with an abdominal injury that required surgery. Lynch returned for the NFC divisional playoff game at Carolina but was mostly a non-factor with the Seahawks falling behind 14-0 in the opening moments of the loss.

Lynch was limited to just 111 carries and 417 yards in the regular season, the first season of his career where injuries have been a significant factor.

Lynch would cost the Seahawks $11.5 million against the salary cap for the 2016 season, a massive number for a running back of his age, but Schneider had indicated changes would be needed if Lynch wanted to return. 

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Levi's Stadium Turf Causes Issues for Super Bowl 50 Players]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 20:50:43 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/levi-stadium-turf-new.jpg

Players on the Broncos and Panthers were forced to change cleats during the first half of Super Bowl 50 due to footing issues with the Levi's Stadium sod.

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About halfway through the second quarter, CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson said, not only were Carolina and Denver players changing cleats mid-game, they were complaining about slippage in the Levi’s Stadium turf.

The 2-year-old stadium has a history of turf troubles. The field was replaced at least six times this season, SI reports.

But Sunday’s problems can’t be blamed on the 49ers. The NFL took over the stadium prior to the Super Bowl and new turf was installed last month ahead of the Sunday's game.

Field issues had the stadium in the spotlight back in October when Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker slipped during a field goal attempt.

During the preseason, the San Francisco 49ers were forced to move the team’s open practice off the turf due to "poor field conditions."

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CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty
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<![CDATA[Celebrities at Super Bowl 50]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 08:44:40 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AMBRO_GettyImages-508985750.jpg Famous faces dotted the crowds at Super Bowl 50 as A-list celebrities flocked to see the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[PHOTOS: Super Bowl 50]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 08:58:36 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-508990588.jpg

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cannabis Activists: Pot Could Help Cure 1 of NFL's Ills]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 08:03:00 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/CTE-split-stabler-seau.jpg

With much of the NFL world camped out in the San Francisco Bay Area in the days before Super Bowl 50, researchers released sobering news: late Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler had a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head.

Later Wednesday, another late, great QB, Earl Morrall, also was revealed to have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is associated with memory loss, impaired judgment and progressive dementia. Dozens of former players have been diagnosed, some who died in old age, like Frank Gifford, and a few who took their lives, like Junior Seau.

There is no known treatment for CTE, not least because there's no test that can point it out in the living — it's detected in post-mortem brain scans. But to one former player who's sure his nine-year career gave him the disease, there's an obvious treatment that isn't allowed in the NFL, even though it would be easy to score not far from Levi's Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday for anyone with a doctor's note: medical marijuana.

"If cannabis is implemented and (the NFL) can lead the science on this, they can resolve this brain injury situation in a big way," Kyle Turley said.

Turley is at the forefront of a vocal movement arguing that medical marijuana's pain-suppressing and possible neuroprotective benefits make it the only effective treatment for the effects that chronic concussive blows to the head have on football players. As co-founder of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, Turley is the movement's most outspoken member, but it also includes other retired players and rapper/marijuana entrepreneur Snoop Dogg.

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More players' brains are found to show signs of CTE with each year that passes. Researchers at Boston University have found evidence of CTE in 96 percent of the NFL players' brains they examined. At the same time, more states are allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana as a medicine – 23 so far, according to National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

California was the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana, and remains the only medical marijuana-legal state so far to host the Super Bowl. Nearly half of the medical marijuana identification cards issued in California were prescribed in the Bay Area, according to the Department of Public Health.

A small body of research suggests marijuana can heal head trauma, yet Turley wonders why the league isn't investigating the drug as a medicine. To advocates, hosting the Super Bowl in the region is almost hypocritical, given what they see happening to the heads of NFL players and the spiraling lives of some former players.

"The NFL's policy against medical marijuana is stupid and counterproductive," said Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of NORML, in an email calling the NFL out of touch with the laws of the state. "There's no doubt NFL players would be better off with medical access to marijuana."

The NFL did not comment for this story.

Jump to: 
Science, the Brain and Medical Marijuana
The NFL, CTE and Medical Marijuana

Hard-Knock Lives

Turley is a former defensive lineman who has been extremely outspoken about his medical struggles after playing for three NFL teams in nine years.

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A New Yorker article from 2009 describes him blacking out at a Nashville concert, feeling much the same way he did when he was kneed in the head during a game years earlier. The former lineman had recently retired and was taking painkillers. He wound up in the hospital, where he said he briefly lost nearly all control of his body.

"Before quitting all the pills and committing to cannabis ... my life was a train wreck, plain and simple," Turley told NBC Owned Television Stations.

Today, Turley has eliminated all other chemicals from his system, from Aleve to Zoloft, he said. The San Diego resident has found strains of marijuana that relieve pain and other strains with effects comparable to the psychiatric pill Vicodin, but without the narcotic effects.

Medical marijuana has fairly well known, though not conclusively proven, pain relieving benefits. But to Turley, the drug also treats mental anguish he believes comes from CTE. There is very little research on that front, but the 40-year-old father insists marijuana has given him stability after recently feeling despondent and suicidal.

"The reality is I don't think about those things anymore. And if it wasn't for cannabis, I wouldn't be where I am mentally," Turley said.

Turley swears that marijuana use is rampant in the NFL – "from players to coaches to owners, marijuana is in the National Football League" – but only a handful of players have spoken out about using it. They emphasize the mental clarity it offers as much as the pain relief.

"I always healed fast, ahead of schedule; was never really very swollen; my mind was very sharp, and after concussions medicated with it," Nate Jackson told marijuana magazine High Times this week, discussing how marijuana helped him in his days with the Broncos in the 2000s.

It's not just young players who swear by pot, either. Jim McMahon, one of the heroes of the Chicago Bears' 1985 championship, revealed last month that he weaned himself off pharmaceutical drugs that left his head feeling fuzzy.

"This medical marijuana has been a godsend. It relieves me of the pain – or thinking about it, anyway," he told The Chicago Tribune.

But there isn't much medical research to back up their claims.

Science, the Brain and Medical Marijuana
Most medical marijuana advocacy is directed at the drug's pain-relieving qualities, which may be recognized by many states, but not the federal government. The FDA has not approved marijuana as a drug, though it notes there is widespread general interest in its potential as a less addictive alternative to painkillers.

But last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association found only some evidence that medical marijuana and similar drugs help chronic pain, less evidence for help with nausea and brain disorders and a risk of adverse effects, including nausea, fatigue and confusion. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says long-term marijuana use can affect learning, thinking and memory, and has been linked to mental illness and depression.

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Advocates dispute those claims, and in the case of brain trauma, their case is bolstered, in some sense, by the fact that little research has been done on medical marijuana's effects on the brain.

The psychoactive chemical in medical marijuana, THC, was associated with a significantly improved mortality rate in patients who sustained traumatic brain injuries, according to a 2014 UCLA study. A study by Michigan State University researchers found that, in test tubes, THC reduced tau deposits, which indicate CTE and Alzheimer's.

Marijuana advocates cite these and some other studies when describing the drug's purported neuroprotective effects, saying it may be able to protect and heal brain cells in a way no other drugs can.

Other supporters only go as far as saying they intoxicate and sedate patients less than opiates do, and are easier on the stomach than anti-inflammatories, like Berkeley Dr. Frank Lucido, who says he has prescribed marijuana to two former NFL players. Asked about any neuroprotective effects, he noted they were unproven in humans.

Turley and others who do believe the drug can protect or restore neurological function mainly argue that more research needs to be done, and soon. A federal study found in 2012 that retired players were three times likelier to die of neurodegenerative diseases than the U.S. population on the whole.

"NFL pockets are deep enough to support a crash research program to determine that this combination of cannabinoids is effective in preventing the consequences of concussion," Harvard emeritus professor of Psychiatry Lester Grinspoon wrote in an open letter to the commissioner of the NFL in 2014.

For now, marijuana remains a problem in the NFL, subject to fines and suspensions during the season for repeat offenders, just as the federal government continues to classify marijuana as one of the most dangerous drugs.

Turley hopes his Gridiron Cannabis Coalition will help change that position, as much for the players as for Alzheimer's patients and others he thinks can benefit from cannabis.

"The attitude of the active players is the attitude of police forces around our country," Turley said. "It is absurd that this continues to be a reason for a player to be suspended or someone is arrested. We don't want to deal with this anymore."

The NFL, CTE and Medical Marijuana 
On Saturday, the NFL announced that Ken Stabler will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. If last year's ceremony is any indication, CTE will hardly be mentioned at all when he is honored.

The 2015 induction of Junior Seau, who was 43 when he killed himself, was marred by the league's initial refusal to let his family speak at the ceremony. The league cited a long-standing policy, but many noted that the family had sued the NFL, saying his suicide was at least partially caused by repeated hits to the head sustained in his playing days. His daughter eventually did speak, and did not mention Seau's brain.

Though the league settled concussion-connected lawsuits last year involving thousands of former players, about 200 opted out, including Seau's family. The suits claimed players weren't properly protected from concussions or informed of their risks.

The NFL did not admit liability in settling the suits. Since CTE has become associated with football, the NFL has also donated a substantial amount of money to research, including $30 million to the National Institutes of Health – its largest-ever donation to any organization.

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As for medical marijuana use, there are signs that the league's position could change.

A representative for the the NFL Player's Association told NBC Owned Television Stations it is reviewing medical-marijuana policy, though didn't comment further. The union works with the NFL to set the league's drug policy.

And the league that doled out four drug-related suspensions to Ricky Williams – the electric running back whose career is now synonymous with marijuana in the game – has recently expressed more openness toward medical marijuana, if not the drug on the whole.

Commissioner Roger Goodell briefly addressed the issue in the run-up to last year's Super Bowl, saying the NFL could one day condone cannabis as a treatment but that its medical experts didn't yet consider its use proper.

If the league did decide to reverse course on the issue, it would still face a major hurdle: the federal ban on marijuana would mean players without contracts might gravitate to teams in states where medication was legal.

Not that that should stop the league from trying, said Turley, a fiery speaker about the cause.

"It would have been an amazing opportunity for the NFL to have dealt with this proactively, instead of allowing this to be another thing that shows their desire to really change things is very lackluster," Turley said.

Turley, Williams and McMahon will all talk about their experiences with marijuana this month at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo in Dallas, the first marijuana conference in a state that hasn’t legalized marijuana medicinally, according to Rory Mendoza, the event’s organizer.

Their goal, for now is to slowly raise awareness about how the drug helped them, like a football team grinding out a long drive a few yards at a time.

And on Sunday, Turley will be watching the Super Bowl at home with family and friends, avoiding intoxicants and drugs – except the one he believes can save his life, which he long ago dedicated to football.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Broncos Player Surprises Fan With Super Bowl 50 Tickets]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 12:22:35 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/vernon+1.jpeg

A Denver Broncos player visited a cancer and heart transplant patient the night before the Super Bowl and was moved to tears by the encounter.

Alex Walter, who is undergoing treatment at Lucile Packard Children Hospital Stanford, is an ardent Broncos fan who had long dreamed of meeting a team player.

His surprise came in two parts.

Walter, 18, was first bowled over Tuesday when Vernon Davis decided to stop by.

The Montana teen again was left dumbfounded Saturday when the tight-end handed him two tickets to watch Super Bowl 50 between Davis' Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.

Walter said he has been a Broncos supporter since he was 2 years old and is particularly in awe of wide-receiver Demaryius Thomas as well as Davis, for whom he made a bracelet out of his Beads of Courage.

Deeming the experience "cool," Walter said he was excited for the Broncos to defeat the Panthers and to be able to watch them do it. He said he plans to give his second ticket to a friend who is also a patient at Lucile Packard.

Meanwhile, Davis teared up looking at the beaming teenager.

"It brings joy to my heart ... to be able to give him the tickets," he said. "It means a lot to me … to see everything come to fruition for him."

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Davis said also that he makes a conscious effort to be compassionate and uplifting and found himself filled with gratitude at being able to "share this experience" with Walter.

Pediatric oncologist Sheri Spunt recalled Walter predicting that he would "freak out" if he ever met the Broncos, prompting hospital officials to take to social media earlier in the week to get the team’s attention.

Walter, who attends classes at Lucile Packard, has to undergo chemotherapy for a year and also been through radiation therapy, she said.

"He was born with congenital heart disease and had multiple heart surgeries and, ultimately, required a heart transplant," Spunt said. "Then unfortunately several years after that he was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, which is a relatively uncommon type of childhood cancer."

A lifelong Broncos fan herself, Spunt quipped that she was jealous that Walter would be at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday.

"Going to the Super Bowl is awesome and I know that he is going to be very excited," Spunt said."He’s the kind of guy who comes even during the off-season wearing his Broncos gear. So I know he will be absolutely thrilled to go to the Super Bowl and see his favorite team."

For her part, Walter’s mother Ronda also shared in her son’s amazement.

"He is so excited about the whole experience!" she said.

NBC Bay Area's Robert Beasom contributed to this report.

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Photo Credit: Robert Beasom]]>
<![CDATA[Starstruck: Blackhawks Throttle Stars ]]> Sat, 06 Feb 2016 21:50:39 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackhawks+dallas+stars+kane+0206.jpg

Artem Anisimov racked up four points and Patrick Kane scored his 32nd goal of the season as the Chicago Blackhawks throttled the Dallas Stars 5-1 on Saturday night. 

The victory puts the Blackhawks five points ahead of the Stars in the Central Division standings, and it also gives the Hawks their seventh consecutive victory over a divisional foe since losing to Dallas in late December. 

Marian Hossa also scored for the Hawks in the game, moving him to within just four goals of the 500-goal plateau for his career. 

Just over 30 seconds into the game, the Blackhawks got a power play and cashed in quickly. Off a face-off victory, Brent Seabrook skated the puck into the high slot and blasted a slap shot past Johnny Oduya and over Antti Niemi's glove, beating two former Blackhawks in giving his team a 1-0 advantage. 

The Blackhawks continued to rack up chances as the period wore on, and in the late stages they were able to add on another goal. Off a shot rebound in front of the net, Trevor van Riemsdyk picked up the loose puck and shoveled a shot past Niemi to put the Blackhawks ahead 2-0. 

A short time later, Dallas struck back. Jamie Benn found the post with a shot for the second time in the period, but this time his high-scoring linemate Tyler Seguin was there to clean up the mess as he rifled a wrist shot past Corey Crawford to pull Dallas back to within a 2-1 margin. 

The Stars got a power play late in the period, but it was Chicago that was able to score a goal and reclaim the momentum. Jonathan Toews made the play happen as he collected the puck near the top of Crawford's goal crease, and the captain flew back up the ice to set up a scoring chance. He was denied by Niemi, but Hossa slid a shot into the back of the cage to give the Blackhawks back a two-goal lead. 

Things continued to go wrong for the Stars on the man-advantage in the second period as the Hawks were able to score their third short-handed goal in their last two games. Niklas Hjalmarsson lofted a pass high through the air that skipped down at the feet of Anisimov, and the center was able to corral the rolling puck and shove a shot past Kari Lehtonen to make it a three-goal lead for the visitors. 

With two and a half minutes to go in the second period, the Blackhawks added yet another insurance goal. Artemi Panarin fired a cross-ice pass to Anisimov, who was denied on his shot. There to collect the rebound was Kane, who tapped in the easy rebound goal to make it a 5-1 game. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dunleavy In, Butler Out vs. Timberwolves Saturday]]> Sat, 06 Feb 2016 19:11:25 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Mike+Dunleavy+Jr.+1.png

The Chicago Bulls will be without Jimmy Butler when they take the floor against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but there is also good news, as they will get back one of their key players for the first time this season.

That player is Mike Dunleavy, who has missed the entire season thus far while dealing with a back issue. After practicing for several days in the NBA Development League, he has been cleared to return to the lineup, and head coach Fred Hoiberg will welcome him back to the team when they play in Minnesota on Saturday night.

Last season Dunleavy averaged over nine points and nearly four rebounds per game for the Bulls, and his addition will give the Bulls some much needed help in their front court. 

The Bulls also got some good news on Pau Gasol, as he will be available to play for the Bulls in Saturday’s contest.

As for Butler, he was carted off the floor on Friday after suffering a knee injury. Fans understandably were already nervous about the injury, but an MRI revealed that it was just a strain, not a tear, so while Butler will miss some time, he will be back sooner rather than later.

<![CDATA[Report: Blackhawks, Blues Could Play Outdoors]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 09:51:23 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackhawks+outside+game.jpg

With their soaring popularity and their run of success in recent years, the Chicago Blackhawks are unquestionably one of the marquee teams in the NHL, and that status appears to have landed them in yet another showcase event.

According to a report from J.P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Blackhawks could potentially play in the Winter Classic next season against the St. Louis Blues. The game would take place at Busch Stadium if the plan comes to fruition.

According to Rutherford’s report, the league is expected to make an announcement on which team will host the annual Winter Classic game within the next week. An outdoor game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins is also a potential option for the league, as is a game for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The league is looking for marquee events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of five different franchises in the league. The Los Angeles Kings already nabbed a big one to celebrate their golden anniversary as they will host the All-Star Game at Staples Center next season, but other teams are still in the mix looking for celebratory events.

The Blues, Kings, Penguins, Flyers, and Dallas Stars (who merged with the sixth team from that expansion class, the California Seals) all will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the league’s 1967 expansion next year.

If the Blackhawks and Blues end up battling outdoors, whether in the Winter Classic itself or a Stadium Series game, it will mark the Blues’ first outdoor game and the fifth time that the Blackhawks have played outdoors. They hosted the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field in 2009, and hosted a Stadium Series game at Soldier Field in 2014. The Hawks also played in the 2015 Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals.

The Hawks will also play outdoors later this month when they face the Minnesota Wild in a Stadium Series game in Minneapolis.

<![CDATA[Blackhawks Look to Extend Division Lead vs. Stars]]> Sat, 06 Feb 2016 18:25:13 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackhawks+dallas+stars+kane+0206.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks will look to continue their recent dominance on Saturday night when they head to the Lone Star State to take on the Dallas Stars.

The teams, currently sitting in first and second place in the Central Division respectively, have already met once this season, where the Stars thoroughly dominated the Blackhawks in a lopsided affair.

This time, the teams come in with similar records, but the Blackhawks currently have the upper hand in the standings after trailing through much of the regular season. A 12-game winning streak in January cemented the Hawks’ status as a Stanley Cup contender, and impressive victories over the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes this week have shown that the All-Star break was just what the doctor ordered after the team scuffled through a few tough losses.

As for the Stars, after a tough January they have seemingly righted the ship in recent games, winning four of their last five and their potent offense has begun to show signs of life. They have at least one power play goal in three of their last four games, and they’ve gotten some solid goaltending from Antti Niemi during that run as well.

Even with that being the case, the Blackhawks still figure to have some answers for Dallas’ high-powered offense on Saturday night. The team’s defense as a whole has improved greatly, with their forwards’ aggressive forechecking paying dividends and Corey Crawford continuing to show the dominance that he has displayed for much of the regular season.

Add to that mix the possibility of Jonathan Toews, who scored two goals against the Coyotes on Thursday, and Marian Hossa, who scored once and had another goal taken away via video review, getting back into the swing of the things, and the Hawks could have the kind of balanced roster that could potentially hurt Dallas’ chances of gaining ground in the divisional race.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs, Jake Arrieta Avoid Arbitration With Contract]]> Sat, 06 Feb 2016 08:58:57 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jake+arrieta+nlcs+22.jpg

The Chicago Cubs and pitcher Jake Arrieta began the arbitration process far apart in terms of their 2016 salary expectations, but the two sides came together late Friday night with an agreement that will pay the Cy Young Award winner $10.7 million next season.

The contract, which was first reported by the Associated Press, marks the largest one-year salary for a fourth-year pitcher in Major League history. 

In mid-January, the Cubs and Arrieta exchanged arbitration figures, and the two sides were initially far apart. Arrieta’s agents asked for a $13 million salary for the 2016 season, while the Cubs countered with an offer of $7.5 million.

After a solid 2014 season, Arrieta took a huge step forward in the 2015 campaign with the Cubs. He sported an impressive 22-6 record with a 1.77 ERA, and he fended off Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw to win his first Cy Young Award because of his performance. For the 2015 season, Arrieta made $3.63 million. 

According to reports this week, the two sides may still be working on a contract extension. Such a deal could keep Arrieta in Chicago for the foreseeable future, and although this new deal will guarantee to keep the pitcher in the fold for the 2016 season, the two sides could still agree on a longer-term contract extension. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Stat Pack: Toews, Panarin Join Exclusive Company]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:30:31 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/CHI+PITTS.jpg Four different Chicago Blackhawks players achieved some pretty remarkable feats on Thursday, leading us into our first ever Madhouse Enforcer Blackhawks Stat Pack.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Time-Lapse: Watch the Demolition of Candlestick Park]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:24:11 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/CANDLESTICK+GIF_18147279.gif

As the San Francisco 49ers’ new home, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, gets ready to host Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, the development company building a new mixed-used complex released time-lapse video of Candlestick Park being torn apart.

The video, provided on Thursday to NBC Bay Area by Lennar Urban and shot by OxBlue, shows about two minutes of the ‘Stick being taken down, seat by seat, and 19 seconds of what the future site should look like, including sweeping views of the San Francisco bay.

The eight-month demolition of Candlestick Park was finished in September to make way for a new urban mixed-use project at Candlestick Point in the southeast corner of San Francisco. More than 95 percent of the materials used to build Candlestick were recycled by the demolition firm, Silverado Contractors, according to Lennar Urban spokesman Dave Satterfield. The entire project should take 20 years and $8 billion to complete, thought the retail mall portion is expected to open in 2018, Satterfield said.

The complex, being built by Macerich Corp., will include an Africa diaspora-themed shopping marketplace, a hotel, movie theaters and 12,000 new homes at the site and nearby at the former naval shipyard of Hunter’s Point.

The 49ers left Candlestick Park after the 2013 season for a new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara. The Super Bowl will be played there on Sunday between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.

Photo Credit: Lennar Urban]]>
<![CDATA[Road to Rio's Olympics: Six Things to Watch ]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 16:07:51 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/RioAthletesZika-AP_469134667784.jpg

The first Olympics to be held in South America will take place in August, when 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will compete in Rio de Janeiro.

The 2016 Summer Games will feature such iconic venues as Copacabana Beach for beach volleyball and Maracaña Stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies and medal soccer matches. (The most successful World Cup nation with five titles, Brazil has never won a men’s or women’s Olympic soccer title.)

Golf and rugby will return, golf for the first time since 1912 and rugby since 1924. But it will likely be the last Games for American Michael Phelps, who enters as the top-ranked swimmer in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly and the 200-meter individual medley, and for Jamaican Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, who swept the 100-meter dash and 200 meter dash at the World Championships in August.

Brazil is in a financial crisis and costs have been a problem. Organizers have cut $500 million to balance an operating budget of $1.85 billion, and the number of seats in some venues has been reduced.

And the appearance of the Zika virus has added a new anxiety.

So six months out, here are six ways to follow the 2016 Summer Games now:

The Olympic Torch will be lit from the sun’s rays on April 21 in the Greek city of Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient games. It will tour Greece before the relay officially begins on May 3 in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia. About 12,000 torchbearers will cover more than 22,000 miles by road and air. The torch itself — made from recycled aluminum and resin — expands as it is passed to reveal the colors of Brazil. The relay will end on Aug. 5, when the last torchbearer will light the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony at Maracaña Stadium.

How does the flame remain burning throughout? The torch itself is extinguished at night or while on planes but the flame is still lighted in enclosed lanterns, which are closely guarded.

Will Rio be ready to host the Games?

One worry is the sewage-infested water that athletes will be swimming and boating in — near Marina da Gloria in Guanabara Bay, off Copacabana beach and in Rodrigo de Freitas Lake. Tests commissioned by The Associated Press -- the results of which were released in July and again in December -- discovered high levels of viruses and bacteria from human feces, up to 1.7 million times what would be considered dangerous on a Southern California beach. The contamination was found not only close to land but also offshore, where sailing will take place. In August, some athletes participating in pre-Olympic rowing and sailing events became ill with vomiting, fevers and diarrhea. 

Olympic and World Health Organization officials have not followed through on promises to do their own viral testing, according to the AP. WHO says Brazil needs only to test for bacterial “markers” of pollution.

Adding to the health concerns is the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which arrived in Brazil last year and is now “spreading explosively” across the Americas, according to WHO. Brazil reported a surge of babies born with microcephaly — marked by unusually small heads and severe brain damage — though exactly how many is in flux. The virus may also be causing another serious condition, Guillain-Barre syndrome, which leaves some patients unable to move.

Brazil’s health minister said the country would send 220,000 troops to eradicate mosquitoes but he also was quoted this month in the country’s major newspapers as saying the country was badly losing the battle.

Transgender athletes should be able to compete without undergoing sex reassignment surgery, according to guidelines announced by the International Olympic Committee in January. 

The guidelines were changed to reflect current scientific, social and legal attitudes about transgender issues, the committee’s medical officials told The Associated Press.

Previous guidelines, approved in 2003, required transgender athletes to have surgery followed by at least two years of hormone therapy before they could compete.

Now, female-to-male athletes are eligible to compete as males without restriction. Male-to-female athletes must show a testosterone level below a certain cutoff for at least a year before their first competition.

The guidelines, not regulations, are meant for international sports federations to follow.

Accusations of doping by Russia prompted U.S. Olympic athletes to call for officials to broaden their investigation, the AP reported. The Americans wrote to the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency the week of Jan. 25 in response to a two-part report detailing doping inside Russia’s track team, allegedly with the state’s participation.

The Americans want the investigation to be expanded to sports beyond track and field.

Follow along as athletes earn their way to Rio, beginning with the U.S. marathon trials in Los Angeles on Feb. 13. Trials for other popular events: diving, June 18 to 26 in Indianapolis; men’s gymnastics, June 24 to 26 in St. Louis; swimming, June 26 to June 3 in Omaha, Nebraska; track and field, July 1 to 10 in Eugene, Oregon; and women’s gymnastics, July 8 to 10 in San Jose, California.

The U.S. women’s soccer team will compete in Olympic qualifying matches to be held from Feb. 10 to 21 in Dallas and Houston, while the U.S. women’s water polo team will be competing for a berth from March 21 to 28 in Gouda, Netherlands.

A surfeit of talented players in some sports will make it tough to finalize Olympic teams.

Superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are among the 30 finalists for the U.S. men’s basketball team. The list features 18 players who have won 29 Olympic or World Cup gold medals. Other marquee names vying for the 12-member roster: Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City Thunder and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Likewise, the qualification system for golf will eliminate some top players. The 60 men and women will be chosen from the top official world rankings, but there is a limit of four players per country. The cutoff for qualifying is July 11.

Refugee athletes will have the chance to compete in the Games. Three potential athletes have been identified so far and up to 10 are expected to qualify, according to the IOC. A group of refugees will march together in the opening ceremony, a refugee will carry the torch during the Greek leg of the relay, and the torch will make a stop at a refugee camp in Athens, the president of the IOC said on Jan. 28 during a three-day trip to Greece, the AP reported.

The IOC has pledged $2 million to help refugees.

Nick Zaccardi contributed information for this article.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Beat Coyotes 5-4 ]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 23:02:39 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-508474968.jpg

Clearly all Jonathan Toews needed was a little bit of rest, as he scored two goals, including the overtime game-winner, in a 5-4 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. 

Patrick Kane also scored his 31st goal of the season in the game, setting a new career high for the winger. Michal Rozsival and Marian Hossa also scored as the Hawks won their second straight game after the All-Star break.  

After failing to score on an early power play, the Blackhawks' top line found their groove early in the first period and appeared to get their team on the board. Toews collected the puck as it spun in along the boards, and he fired a shot to the front of the net. Hossa then grabbed the rebound through traffic, and shoveled a shot past Louis Domingue for an apparent goal. 

The tally ended up getting overturned on video review, and after Joel Quenneville was assessed a bench minor penalty for arguing, the Coyotes scored on the ensuing power play. Oliver Ekman-Larsson did the honors as he grabbed a pass in the slot and ripped a shot past Corey Crawford to give Arizona a 1-0 lead. 

Early in the second period, Hossa got his revenge. The veteran forward collected the puck along the boards, spun past Boyd Gordon, and drove to the net to beat Domingue with a high wrist shot to knot things up at 1-1. 

Later in the period, the Blackhawks seized the lead back. With the Hawks short-handed, Hossa flew up the ice and drew two defenders to the far side of the ice, and he scooped a backhanded pass to the other side of the rink that Toews deked past Domingue to put Chicago ahead 2-1. 

After several penalties to both teams, the Coyotes ultimately benefitted as Andrew Shaw picked up an ill-advised penalty. Artem Anisimov's stick broke on an attempted clear up the ice, and the Coyotes took advantage as Mikkel Boedker fired a wrist shot past Crawford's blocker to tie the game at 2-2. 

Less than 15 seconds later, the Coyotes scored again to take the lead. Brad Richardson drove hard to the net off the face-off at center ice, and Jordan Martinook knocked home the rebound past Crawford to give the Coyotes a 3-2 edge. 

To cap off the crazy period, the Blackhawks scored again to tie up the game. Artemi Panarin made a beautiful pass across the ice to Kane, who ripped a low shot past Domingue's skate to tie things up at 3-3 with 20 minutes left to play. 

Early in the third period, the Blackhawks got another go-ahead goal, this time from an unexpected source. Michal Rozsival was the man of the hour for Chicago on the play, driving toward the net and confusing the Coyotes' defense. Artem Anisimov found a lane to get into the zone, and his pass across was one-timed by Rozsival into the back of the net to put Chicago ahead 4-3. 

Later in the period, the Coyotes answered back and tied things back up. Team captain Shane Doan circled around the net and lifted a quick wrist shot off of Crawford and into the net to make it a 4-4 game with less than 10 minutes remaining on the clock. 

After a thrilling overtime period, Toews was the man that ended it. After a drive by Panarin was denied, Toews got the puck at the blue line, drove back into the zone, and fired a wrist shot past Domingue to give his team the victory. 

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Snoop Dogg, Super Bowl Reporter]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:13:15 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/snoop5.jpg

Rapper Snoop Dogg turned into a Super Bowl 50 “reporter” during the Broncos and Panthers press conference in Santa Clara Thursday, chatting up Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and telling Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis to “go to work” with a broken arm.

"That's your spirit. Go to work. And when you get a sack, dab with your broken one, for me," he told Davis, referring to the "dab" dance move newly popular with football players and other athletes.

The rapper tweeted a photo of him shaking hands with Manning: “Legend. #TurfdUp,” he wrote, referring in the hashtag to his YouTube sports show. His next tweet was a selfie, followed by a photo of himself acting as a reporter for DirectTV's "The Rich Eisen Show."

Snoop also sent out a couple of tweets promoting Merry Jane, his Marijuana lifestyle platform he hopes will act as an icebreaker for people who take pride in their love for marijuana.

One said: “ganja proving 2 help athletes with sports related injuries,” with a photo of a rolled up ball of weed.

The tweets were removed from his timeline after some time. It wasn’t immediately clear why the rapper took the tweets down.

The NFL has a strict drug policy, but many question whether it is out of date. According to media reports, marijuana is coveted by NFL players as an invaluable painkiller, and for younger players, smoking weed is normal.

"There are so many people in the closet, and we are giving them an opportunity to come out of the closet and just admit they like to smoke," Snoop said at the Merry Jane launch at TechCrunch Disrupt in September. "I’m a smoker, my name is Snoop Dogg, and I’m a stoner."

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Video: Kris Bryant Meets Some New Friends in Ocean Swim ]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:27:36 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/211*120/GettyImages-492443854+%281%29.jpg

The Chicago Cubs are just a few weeks away from heading to Arizona for spring training, but at least one player isn’t just kicking back for some last-minute relaxation.

That player is third baseman Kris Bryant, who is using his final few weeks of freedom to explore the world. In a new video posted on Instagram, Bryant took a swim in the ocean, and he was greeted by a couple of hungry-looking creatures:

[[367720121, C]]

We know that the Cubs are busy preparing for spring training, as well as a possible arbitration hearing with Jake Arrieta, but someone might want to make sure that Bryant didn’t make a tasty snack for those creepy looking sharks.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Golden State Warriors Honored at White House]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:27:02 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/AP_82877935622.jpg

In a season of memorable moments for the Golden State Warriors, the 2015 NBA Champions can add a White House visit to that list.

President Obama welcomed the team to the East Room Thursday and honored them for winning the championship title. [[367690421, C]]

"Dub Nation is well represented here," the president said, noting Warriors' fans House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, were in attendance. 

"It's a bipartisan affair," Obama said.

The president also praised interim coach Luke Walton, who led the Warriors to a record-setting 24-0 start this season — none of which will count on Walton's officials record due to NBA rules that credits wins and losses to head coaches only.

“You defied the cynics, you accomplished big things, you racked up a great record and you don’t get enough credit. I can't imagine how that feels," Obama quipped, drawing parallels between his presidency and Walton's leadership.

The Warriors were already in D.C. for a game against the Washington Wizards Wednesday night, where reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry lead the team past the Wizards 134-121 for their eighth straight victory.

Obama took the chance to mock Curry’s celebrations during his 51-point performance.

“For those of you who watched the game against the Wizards last night, he was — to use slang — he was clowning,” Obama said, mimicking Curry's jumps. [[367711371, C]]

This wasn't Curry's first White House visit, nor the first time meeting President Obama. The star guard swung by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in support of the president's Malaria Initiative last year, and the two also played a round of golf with Curry's dad and former Boston Celtics captain Ray Allen. [[367690921, C]]

“It will be fun, I’m looking forward to it,” he told reporters Wednesday evening after the game. “Everybody, besides Coach Kerr and Luke Walton, it’s their first time [at the White House] so we’ll be excited.”

Celtics forward David Lee, who spent five years on the Warriors roster, joined his former team in D.C.

“It’s certainly a thing that I definitely can’t pass up, especially since we have the off day, and it’s a chance, one of the final times to kind of celebrate what was accomplished last year,” Lee told the Boston Globe earlier this week.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Jerry Rice Poses as Lyft Driver]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 14:01:08 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jerry-rice-lyft-driver-super-bowl.jpg

A handful of lucky Lyft riders got a huge surprise in the Bay Area recently.

The rideshare service used hidden cameras to capture reactions when Hall of Famer and 49ers legend Jerry Rice went undercover as a driver.

Introducing himself as simply J, Rice didn't let on to his riders who he was, but he still managed to charm them before revealing his true identity.

In an interview Wednesday with NBC Bay Area, the "greatest wide receiver of all time" said: "I was just curious to see if a hat and pair of shades and people wouldn’t recognize me."

He recounted one ride with a customer, where he joked around and pretended he was simply an actor.

"I think one guy – he was in the car with me he – said something about his favorite team is the San Francisco 49ers," Rice said, "and I looked at him and said,' You know, I really don't even like football.' "

[[367559841, C]]

Photo Credit: Lyft / YouTube
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<![CDATA[Broncos Player Sent Home After Questioned in Prostitution Sting]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 01:31:48 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ryan-murphy.jpg

Ryan Murphy, a member of the Denver Broncos' practice squad, was questioned and released by Bay Area sheriff's deputies during a prostitution sting Tuesday.

Authorities determined Murphy was not involved in illegal activity at the Motel 6 off Brokaw Road in San Jose and he was released, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department.

The Santa Clara County Human Trafficking Task Force was conducting the sting, authorities said. 

Sources tell NBC Bay Area Murphy was seen with his brother and a female passenger in a vehicle at the Motel 6. The woman went into the motel and then returned to the car, sources said. At that point, members of the task force swooped in on the car and its passengers.

Murphy's brother and the female were cited for alleged prostitution activity but were not arrested. The brother and woman allegedly knew each other.

Sheriff’s spokesperson Sgt. James Jensen said there have been several stings conducted over the last few days in which 10 men were cited and released, and 20 women acting as prostitutes were offered help.

Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak in a statement late Tuesday said the team sent Murphy back to Denver.

"Although practice squad safety Ryan Murphy was not cited by police, we decided it was best for the team if we continued our preparations for Super Bowl 50 without him," Kubiak said in a statement. "Ryan is returning to Denver but his status as a practice squad player has not changed at this time."

Murphy, a Bay Area native who attended Oakland Tech, was drafted 248th by the Seattle Seahawks in the 7th round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

The Broncos will face the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 in nearby Santa Clara on Sunday. Coincidentally, former NFL safety Eugene Robinson, who was arrested the night before the Super Bowl in 1999 for solicitation of a prostitute, spent part of the day Tuesday warning Panthers players "not to do what I did."

Photo Credit: Getty/file
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<![CDATA[Crawford Helps Blackhawks to 2-1 Win Over Avalanche ]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 00:52:43 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/198*120/GettyImages-508083232.jpg

Richard Panik did his best Jonathan Toews imitation, scoring a goal and even playing on the top line at times.

Corey Crawford? His customary rock-solid self.

Just what the Chicago Blackhawks needed out of the All-Star break and with their captain sidelined.

Panik and Artemi Panarin scored in the first period, Crawford stopped 22 shots and Chicago beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on Tuesday night.

NHL-scoring leader Patrick Kane added an assist with Toews suspended a game by the league for pulling out of All-Star weekend. Toews cited an illness.

"That's what you need sometimes, especially on the road — some secondary scoring," Crawford said. "It's nice that some other guys got in it tonight, not always have to rely on our big guys to score."

Gabriel Landeskog scored the only goal for Colorado, which was missing starting goalie Semyon Varlamov. He wrapped up a civil lawsuit filed against him by a former girlfriend, with a jury ruling in his favor late Tuesday and awarding Varlamov approximately $126,000 in damages.

Calvin Pickard gave up two early goals before settling into a rhythm. He stopped a season-high 40 shots.

"They looked like an urgent team tonight. They played well," Pickard said. "It took us a little bit to get going but I thought in the third period, we were right there and easily could have tied up that game. You know, Crawford made some good saves at the end to preserve the win."

Panarin nearly put the game away with 9:02 remaining when he skated in all alone on Pickard. But Pickard snared Panarin's wrist shot with his glove.

Colorado pulled Pickard with around 2 minutes remaining but couldn't tie up the game. Crawford came up with a big save on a laser shot by Landeskog from in front of the net with 58.3 seconds left.

It's been quite a stretch lately for Crawford, who was named the NHL's second star for January after going 9-2 with a .952 save percentage.

"Just because you did well in last game, or the last little bit, doesn't mean it's going to be easy," Crawford said. "I think I've taken that approach. I think our guys have taken that, too. We always want more."

Panik and Panarin staked Chicago to a 2-0 lead with goals 4:19 apart in the opening period, much to the delight of all the Blackhawk fans in attendance. This was Panik's third goal since joining the Blackhawks on Jan. 3 from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Jeremy Morin in a swap of minor league forwards.

This may even lead to more ice time for Panik, who turns 25 on Sunday.

"He did a lot of good things," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Scoring is nice, but I thought he had some jump and I liked his thought process in the game."

Expected to serve as Pickard's backup Tuesday, Varlamov was a scratch. Instead, the team recalled Roman Will from San Antonio of the American Hockey League.

This was the third game Varlamov has missed to deal with the lawsuit filed by his former girlfriend stemming from a 2013 altercation. Charges against Varlamov were dropped when prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence.

"It's over," Avalanche GM Joe Sakic said in between periods. "He's relieved and excited to play hockey again."

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Manning Calls HGH Allegations 'Complete Junk']]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 20:46:17 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/199*120/0201peytonmanning2.jpg

With Super Bowl 50 week upon us, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning wants to make it clear that the allegations made against him in an Al Jazeera documentary about sports doping are "complete junk."

Accusations regarding the superstar NFL athlete first surfaced in "The Dark Side," a documentary that investigates "the secretive world of doping in sports and raises questions about whether medical professionals are linked to some of the greatest sports heroes." Al Jazeera reported that Manning's wife received human growth hormone (HGH) from an Indianopolis clinic in 2011.

During Super Bowl Media Night in San Jose, Calif., on Monday, according to NFL.com, Manning said, "I welcome this NFL investigation, because I know the rules of the NFL and I respect the rules, they're important to me. And so what this report alleges that I did is simply not true. It's fabricated. It's junk. It's garbage. I could give you a long list of other words for it. I can guarantee this investigation, what it will find is an absolute big, fat nothing. That's how I feel about it."

When asked if he would let the league have his records from the Guyer Institute, where he and his wife were both patients, Manning told reporters in attendance, "I haven’t got any of them. They can have whatever they want to have. Like I said, it’ll all take place after the season. Whatever they’ve got to do, I welcome it 100 percent."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Zach Miller Seeking $5 Million Per Year: Report]]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 16:18:37 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Zach+Miller.jpg

As the free agent signing period looms in the distance, the Chicago Bears will be looking to sign several players in their organization to new contracts, but things may have just gotten a bit more complicated in dealing with tight end Zach Miller.

That’s because Miller, who hauled in 34 receptions for 439 yards and five touchdowns for the Bears in a breakout 2015 season, is looking for a new contract that will pay him $5 million per season, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

That money wouldn’t be an issue for the Bears in terms of their salary cap, since they’re sitting on the second-most cap space in the NFL, but the problem is that Miller is seeking a big pay-bump while the team is dealing with another tight end with contract issues. Martellus Bennett, who was knocked out late in the season with an injury, is set to make $5.1 million next season, and there’s a chance the Bears could trade or cut him rather than give him the new contract that he’s been reportedly seeking.

Another issue that could cause the Bears some concern is Miller’s age. He is 31 years old, and will turn 32 years old during the 2016 season. Add to that mix the injury issues that have plagued him for several seasons (he didn’t appear at all during the 2012, 2013, or 2014 seasons thanks to a variety of ailments), and there’s genuine reason to believe that the Bears will allow him to enter the free agent market rather than re-sign him at that price.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Capitals, Not Blackhawks, Favorites to Win Stanley Cup]]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 13:41:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/stanley+cup+alone.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks currently own the top spot in the Central Division and have several players having career years, but that doesn’t mean that the team is considered the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

That’s at least the stance of Bovada, the website that released new Stanley Cup odds on Tuesday ahead of the NHL resuming its season. The Blackhawks are currently a 5-to-1 shot to win the Cup, and while those are tremendously good odds, they aren’t the best in the league.

That distinction belongs to the Washington Capitals, whose 4-to-1 odds make them the favorite to hoist the trophy this summer. The Capitals have never won a Stanley Cup, but with Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby playing some of the best hockey of their lives, the team has serious aspirations of ending that drought and bringing a title to the nation’s capital.

It isn’t all gloom and doom for the Blackhawks, however. They are still the favorites to not only win the Central Division (beating out the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues with a 4-to-7 line), but they also are the favorites to win the Western Conference crown, edging out the Los Angeles Kings with 11-to-4 odds of repeating as the conference champion.

Those same Kings have the third-best odds of winning the title, with 15-to-2 odds. The Stars (11-to-1) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (14-to-1) round out the top five according to Bovada’s odds.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Leighton, Dowell Shine in AHL All-Star Game]]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:40:02 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Leighton+Dowell.jpg

The biggest and brightest stars in the AHL gathered in Syracuse on Monday night for the league’s annual All-Star Game, and two Rockford IceHogs played a pivotal role as the Central Division squad took home an impressive victory.

IceHogs captain Jake Dowell, who has appeared in 157 career NHL games, hit his groove during the festivities in Syracuse, scoring three goals and adding an assist as the Central Division triumphed in the 3-on-3 tournament.

Goaltender Michael Leighton also had an impressive evening for the Central Division squad, notching a hat trick in the championship game as the team beat the Atlantic Division squad 4-0 in the final game. 

Ryan Hartman also contributed during the evening for the Central, scoring a goal and adding two assists to help the team to their impressive triumph. 

Unfortunately for all three IceHogs, their performances weren’t good enough to take home MVP honors for the game. Those went to Chicago Wolves prospect Pat Cannone, who scored three goals and had a shootout goal for his team in the All-Star victory.

Even though the Wolves ended up with the extra hardware thanks to Cannone’s performance, the IceHogs could very well have the last laugh. Thanks largely to Leighton’s goaltending, the team is currently atop the standings in the Central Division race, with the Wolves 16 points behind them in sixth place.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>