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The Sports Report: Should the NFL take a couple of weeks off?

Tennessee Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler walks off the field while wearing a mask.
Tennessee Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler walks off the field while wearing a mask after a win over the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 22.
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Sam Farmer on the NFL: Can an entire league be flagged for delay of game?

The NFL announced Monday evening that Baltimore-Pittsburgh — a game that was supposed to take place on Thanksgiving night — was bumped for a fourth time, to Wednesday night, a day the league hasn’t played on in eight years.

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NBC had to shoehorn in the game, which will kick off at 12:40 p.m. PST because of the network’s commitment to broadcasting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony.

The Ravens are dealing with one of the biggest virus outbreaks of any sport, one that has sidelined at least 18 players, 10 of whom are starters, including starting quarterback Lamar Jackson and running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins.

At least one Baltimore player has tested positive for nine consecutive days, prompting the NFL to cancel the team’s morning practice to make sure the inferno wasn’t still raging.

“These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts,” the NFL said in a statement.

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Last week, the Ravens disciplined a team employee for lapses that almost certainly contributed to the outbreak. According to multiple reports, the team suspended strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders for failing to report coronavirus symptoms, and not consistently wearing a face covering or tracking device.

With positive case numbers rising across the country, the NFL ordered all team facilities closed on Monday and Tuesday, except for teams playing on those days. The Ravens gathered for practice on both Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, but had to call off the sessions when they did not get approval from the league.

Ravens players voiced concerns Monday with the NFL Players Assn., pointing to mixed messages they were getting from the league — that it wasn’t OK for them to gather or practice, but it was fine for them to fly together on a plane to Pittsburgh and play a game.

Broncos practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton was promoted to start at quarterback against the Saints on Sunday.

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That paved the way for the NFL to once again postpone the game, from Tuesday to Wednesday.

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CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: Three NFL coaches already have been fired — and it’s not even December.

Plenty of additional changes are likely over the next several weeks with the Chargers’ Anthony Lynn just one of the many facing uncertain futures.

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“It comes with the territory,” he said Monday. “I control what I can control, and I don’t worry about that. Of course, I like my job and I want to be here, and I believe that I’m the right guy for the job and can turn this around. But that’s not my decision.”

After finishing 9-7 and 12-4 with a playoff victory in his first two seasons, Lynn’s teams have nosedived. The Chargers are 8-20 since beating Baltimore in the AFC wild-card round in January of 2019.

A loss Sunday in Buffalo dropped Lynn’s regular-season record with the Chargers to 29-30. The team is last in the AFC West and hasn’t won a game in the division in 23 months.

After their most recent defeat — a 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills — Lynn and his staff were ridiculed both locally and nationally because of numerous debatable issues with in-game decisions and clock management.

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The low point came when the offense, with time ticking away in the final frantic seconds, attempted a running play near the goal line when logic dictated they either spike the ball or throw a pass.

“That was embarrassing,” Lynn admitted. “I have to be honest with you on that. That was just embarrassing. It wasn’t the reason why we lost the game. But it was embarrassing to finish the game like that.”

Just as he did immediately after the loss, Lynn blamed the play on “poor communication,” something he also said happened offensively just before the end of the first half against Buffalo.

RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: The Rams offense and quarterback Jared Goff are performing inconsistently, but coach Sean McVay demonstrated Monday that he could stand by a message two days in row.

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McVay made no apologies for calling out Goff for his turnover-plagued performance in the Rams’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

“I wouldn’t say things if I didn’t know there was broad shoulders to be able to handle it,” McVay said during a videoconference with reporters. “I know he can handle it, and I know he can acknowledge it, and we can all be honest about the expectations.

“And I’m not going to apologize for the high expectations that I have in him.”

The loss to the 49ers dropped the Rams to 7-4 heading into Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals (6-5) at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

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The Rams are in second place behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West. The Seahawks (8-3) defeated the Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1) on “Monday Night Football.”

After their game against the Cardinals, the Rams play home games against the New England Patriots (5-6) and the New York Jets (0-11), a road game against the Seahawks and a finale at home against the Cardinals.

USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on USC football: An ever-changing USC schedule is being tweaked yet again.

After its Friday night matchup with Washington State was moved to Sunday, in order to allow USC players in quarantine to return, the game has now been moved up 90 minutes to 4:30 p.m. PST.

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It’s not yet certain that USC will be cleared to play by Sunday, after four players tested positive for coronavirus and seven others were quarantined over the last week. Some of those players should be available to return Sunday, after isolating for the required 14 days since USC’s team plane flew home from Utah.

UCLA FOOTBALL

Ben Bolch on UCLA football: Chip Kelly and Herm Edwards had more important matters to discuss than the status of a football game between their teams when they spoke recently.

Edwards had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and Kelly wanted to see how the Arizona State coach was faring while stuck in confinement for an extended period.

“He seemed like he was handling it well,” Kelly, who could speak with authority on the topic after having also contracted the disease last spring, said Monday. “Just when it first came out [that Edwards had tested positive], I called him to see how he was doing and make sure he was OK. I think the virus affects people differently and he seemed like he handled it.”

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The recovery of Edwards and Sun Devils players sidelined by the virus could allow their season to resume after a nearly monthlong hiatus. As of Monday, the game between the Bruins (2-2) and Sun Devils (0-1) scheduled for Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium appeared on track to being played.

The Sun Devils returned to practice last week after having three games canceled by COVID-19 issues; they have not played since a season-opening loss to USC on Nov. 7 and if they are able to play the Bruins, it would amount to being their home opener.

LAKERS

Dan Woike on the Lakers: The Lakers’ splashiest backcourt acquisition isn’t the shiest.

Dennis Schroder, who many NBA observers pegged as the league’s top sixth man last season, wants to be a starter alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis this season.

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“I did this off the bench stuff already in two years with [Oklahoma City],” Schroder said. “I think I try to move forward and I think with AD and LeBron I can be helpful as a starter in the point guard position.”

Schroder started only 16 games in two seasons with the Thunder after graduating into a role as the Hawks’ starting point guard in his final two seasons in Atlanta.

The Lakers functioned nearly all of last season without a traditional starting point guard with James taking on that responsibility while leading the Lakers to an NBA title. He also, for the first time in his career, led the NBA with 10.2 assists per game.

By acquiring Schroder, 27, in a trade that cost them guard Danny Green and the draft rights to Jaden McDaniels, the Lakers’ first-round pick, the team brought in a capable playmaker and scorer who could ease some of the point guard burden placed on James, allowing him to spend more time playing off the ball — and in essence, allowing him to conserve more energy.

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SOCCER

Kevin Baxter on soccer: For years, Mexico has not been shy about coming across the border and recruiting dual nationals for its soccer program. Now the U.S. is pushing back with coach Gregg Berhalter calling Galaxy players Efraín Álvarez and Julian Araujo into training camp ahead of a Dec. 9 friendly with El Salvador.

Álvarez, 18, who was born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents, appeared in three games for U.S. youth national teams and in 13 games for Mexico but has not played for the senior team. His call-up Monday was his first. Araujo, 19, born in Lompoc, Calif., to Mexican parents, was in camp with the U.S. last winter but did not appear in a game. He has played for four U.S. youth national teams and also has drawn interest from Gerardo Torrado, sporting director of the Mexican Football Federation.

At least three other players called up Monday — goalkeeper David Ochoa, defender Marco Farfan and midfielder Frankie Amaya — also are eligible to play for Mexico. Berhalter called up a dozen dual nationals in mid-November for a pair of friendlies involving European-based players, among them midfielder Richy Ledezma, 20, who was approached last year about playing for Mexico but declined.

The 22-man roster Berhalter named Monday is made up almost exclusively of players from MLS teams that are not involved in the playoffs. Additional players may be called up following the Western Conference semifinals.

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Dual nationals, even those like Álvarez who have played for multiple countries at the youth level, are not tied to a team until they appear in a competitive game at the senior level. That means Álvarez is free to play for the U.S. once he files the necessary paperwork with FIFA.

The roster (club and national team appearances in parentheses):

Goalkeepers: CJ Dos Santos (Benfica, 0), Bill Hamid (D.C. United, 7), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake, 0)

Defenders: Julian Araujo (Galaxy, 0), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls, 0), Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers, 0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls, 17), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union, 1), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire, 0), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids, 1), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC, 12)

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Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union, 1), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids, 23), Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati, 0), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 0), Sebastian Lletget (Galaxy, 16)

Forwards: Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC, 0), Efraín Álvarez (Galaxy, 0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United, 33), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC, 0), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire, 5), Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC, 0)

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1936 — End Larry Kelley of Yale is named the Heisman Trophy winner.

1951 — Arnold “Showboat” Boykin of Mississippi scores seven touchdowns in a 49-7 rout of Mississippi State.

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1956 — The United States beats the Soviet Union 89-55 to win the gold medal in men’s basketball at the Melbourne Olympics. Bob Jeangerard (16), K.C. Jones (15), Jim Walsh (14) and Bill Russell (13) each score double-digits.

1959 — Louisiana State halfback Billy Cannon wins Heisman Trophy.

1961 — Paul Arizin of the Philadelphia Warriors scores 33 points in 138-177 win over the Los Angeles Lakers to become the third NBA player to reach the 15,000-point plateau.

1973 — Jack Nicklaus wins the Disney World Open to become the first professional golfer to surpass $2 million in career earnings.

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1980 — South Carolina running back George Rogers is named the Heisman Trophy winner.

1984 — Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie is named the 50th Heisman Trophy winner.

1990 — Ty Detmer of Brigham Young wins the Heisman Trophy. Detmer, who had set or tied 25 NCAA passing and total offense records, becomes the first BYU winner and third consecutive junior winner.

1992 — Washington guard Michael Adams sets a professional record for career 3-point baskets with his 795th in the Bullets’ 119-106 victory over San Antonio. Louie Dampier had 794 3-point goals for Kentucky of the ABA and San Antonio of the NBA from 1967-79.

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2000 — Indiana holds Vancouver scoreless in overtime for a 86-76 victory. It’s the eighth time in NBA history that a team fails to score in an overtime period.

2001 — North Texas (5-6) loses to Troy State 18-16 to become the third team to go to a bowl with a losing record. The Mean Green, bound for the inaugural New Orleans Bowl as the Sun Belt Conference champion, join SMU (4-6 in 1963) and William & Mary (5-6 in 1970) as the only teams to play in a bowl game with losing records.

2003 — Sylvester Croom becomes the Southeastern Conference’s first black head football coach, accepting an offer to take over troubled Mississippi State.

2004 — McKendree College coach Harry Statham tops Dean Smith with his 880th career victory, an 83-72 win over Maryville. Smith, with 879 wins, still holds the NCAA record for career victories because all of Statham’s wins are at the NAIA level.

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2009 — Brent Seabrook scores in the 11th round of a shootout and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 to give coach Joel Quenneville his 500th career victory.

2012 — Landon Donovan scores the tiebreaking goal on a penalty kick in the 65th minute, and David Beckham leaves the MLS as a two-time champion with the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup.

2013 — Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson rushes for 211 yards in a 23-20 overtime win over Chicago. He surpasses 10,000 yards for his career in just 101 games, needing the third-fewest games behind Eric Dickerson and Jim Brown.

2013 — Josh Gordon has 10 catches for 261 yards and two touchdowns in Cleveland’s 32-20 loss to Jacksonville. He becomes the first player in NFL history to record 200 yards receiving in consecutive games.

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2015 — The Philadelphia 76ers end the longest losing streak in the history of major professional sports in the United States, topping the Los Angeles Lakers 103-91 to snap a 28-game skid. The Sixers had lost their first 18 games this season, matching the record for worst start in NBA history. They had dropped 28 straight dating to last season, setting the mark for longest losing streak among the four major U.S. sports leagues.

And finally

Landon Donovan, David Beckham and the Galaxy win the 2012 MLS Cup. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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