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Rockies’ slide continues as Giants complete four-game sweep at Coors

July 17, 2019 - 3:50pm

An ugly avalanche of bad baseball, one threatening to bury the Rockies’ frail postseason hopes, continued unchecked Wednesday afternoon at steamy Coors Field.

San Francisco beat listless Colorado 11-8, completing a four-game sweep and sending the Rockies to their 11th loss in 13 games. During that stretch, the Rockies have been outscored by the astonishing margin of 108-57.

The loss, built upon a poor start from Jon Gray, only added to general manager Jeff Bridich’s growing frustration.

“We’re finding ways to lose, collectively as a group, instead of finding ways to win,” he told MLB.com prior to Wednesday’s game.

RELATED: Rockies Mailbag: Should Colorado be buyers, sellers or bystanders at the MLB trade deadline?

Bridich also said that the Rockies’ free fall from grace makes decisions regarding the July 31 trade deadline more complicated. So it’s difficult to say whether Colorado will be a buyer, seller or bystander.

“There’s really no facet of our game, at this level, that is high-quality right now,” Bridich said. “So there is really no group within the group that stands out. It all needs addressing. It’s all subpar. So I don’t think there are any quick fixes.”

A too-little, too-late, two-run, 458-foot homer by Trevor Story in the ninth inning put a little lipstick on the pig, but Story understands Bridich’s viewpoint.

“We haven’t played the way we want to or need to — plain and simple,” said Story, who now has a team-high 22 home runs, one more than Nolan Arenado. “We feel like we should be better off than we are now, but we are not going to dwell on it. We can’t. That does nothing good. We have to be positive about the future, because we know how we can play.”

But can the Rockies pitch well enough to get this team to the postseason for an unprecedented third consecutive year? The answer right now is a decisive no. Colorado’s 5.43 ERA is the worst in the National League and on pace to be the club’s worst since 2004.

The thinking has been that Colorado needed to add a starting pitcher and some bullpen help to turn the playoff corner, but don’t count on that.

“The way that we’ve looked at the deadline in the past, especially in the recent past, is that if we are truly competing, if we’re showing signs as a team of being a legitimate competitor for being a postseason team, we’re going to do what we can to add to that and strengthen the team,” Bridich told MLB.com. “Right now, it feels different. That’s disappointing.”

Boxscore

The Giants (47-49), who moved ahead of the Rockies (46-50) and into sole possession of third place in the National League West, ripped Colorado’s struggling pitchers for 18 hits. Over the four-game series, San Francisco outscored Colorado 40-12 and pounded out 59 hits, its most since recording 60 hits in four games at Coors Field from Sept. 28-Oct. 1 in 1995. As Wednesday’s game wore on, what was left of an announced crowd of 40,157 fans serenaded the Rockies with half-hearted boos.

Gray has been Colorado’s best and most consistent starter. Since May 22, he was 6-2 with a 3.06 ERA over 11 starts, including a 3-0 record with a 2.84 ERA in five outings at Coors Field. Colorado’s hopes to stop the slide rested on his right arm.

Wednesday, however, he caught the bug that has inflicted all of his fellow starters. Call it “locationitis,” which is defined as an inability to command pitches to the proper spot.

In 5⅓ innings, Gray gave up six runs on 11 hits, including a two-run home run to Stephen Vogt in the fifth inning and a solo blast by Donovan Solano in the sixth.

“There are no excuses to hanging two breaking balls,” said Gray, who said he woke up feeling ill and threw up “a lot” before coming to the park.

Gray acknowledged that the Rockies have to start winning, beginning Friday when the club opens an 11-day, 10-game road trip in New York when they face the powerful Yankees. After that three-game series, they play four at Washington, followed by three at Cincinnati.

“We know what we have to do,” Gray said. “We have fallen behind too far, but we know we can get there.”

Manager Bud Black, who has praised Colorado’s resilience all season, admitted the team is running out of tomorrows.

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No howling today: Jon Gray turns in a six-run dud as Rockies get swept by Giants

July 17, 2019 - 3:44pm

Looking to avoid a sweep by the Giants and for some sign of hope before heading to face a World Series contender in the Bronx, the Rockies needed Jon Gray to be howling on Wednesday.

His outing against the Giants, however, left little opportunity for wolf call imitations.

The right-hander surrendered three runs in a messy first frame to immediately put Colorado in the hole, and finished with six runs on 11 hits with three walks and three strikeouts across 5⅓ innings. Gray said he woke up sick and didn’t have much energy on the mound.

“I woke up this morning, threw up a lot, didn’t get much food in,” Gray said. “I kind of felt weak today and I noticed my fastball (velocity) was down … It was a bad time for that to come.”

Boxscore

A two-run homer by Stephen Vogt in the fifth off Gray negated Colorado’s first comeback, and then after the Rockies managed to tie the game again, Gray surrendered a leadoff homer to Donovan Solano in the sixth. Hence, there was no “stopper” swagger to be found with the 27-year-old on a hot afternoon at Coors Field.

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Broncos, quarterback Drew Lock agree to terms, source says

July 17, 2019 - 2:41pm

The Broncos avoided a major distraction Wednesday when quarterback Drew Lock signed his rookie deal less than 24 hours before the deadline to participate in training camp, a league source confirmed.

Lock, a 2019 second-round (No. 42) draft choice, was the last unsigned player from Denver’s rookie class and missed the players’ Wednesday morning report date. Had the team and Lock’s representation at Creative Artists Agency been unable to reach a contract agreement by Thursday morning, Lock would have not been allowed to participate in Denver’s first practice, which begins at 9:15 a.m.

General manager John Elway told reporters he wouldn’t predict whether Lock’s camp would come to terms with Denver before the deadline, “but we’re hoping he’s going to be here,” he said. Several hours later, a deal was done.

The Broncos drafted Lock — a 6-foot-4, 228-pound quarterback who compiled 12,193 yards passing over four years at Missouri — to compete for the backup role behind Joe Flacco and eventually replace him as the starter. Lock was available in the second round because he was passed over by Kyler Murray (Cardinals; No. 1), Daniel Jones (Giants; No. 6) and Dwayne Haskins (Redskins; No. 15). The Broncos traded up 10 draft slots to select Lock immediately after taking offensive lineman Dalton Risner at No. 41.

Lock’s deal is expected to be worth $6,994,472 with a signing bonus of $3,106,889. The Broncos did not budge in their contract negotiations, a league source told The Denver Post.

Health updates. Emmanuel Sanders and Phillip Lindsay, the Broncos’ leading wide receiver and running back last season, each begin training camp near the end of recovery from surgery. In December, Sanders tore his Achilles and Lindsay fractured his wrist. Tight end Jake Butt, a 2017 fifth-round pick, also tore his ACL in September.

Broncos training camp

Broncos coach Vic Fangio addressed the status of all three players on Wednesday with reporters.

“Lindsay is ready to go. Obviously, we’ll ease him in. He didn’t have the offseason work,” Fangio said. “All of those guys will be on different protocols as to how much we practice them to where they go just as much as anybody else; Butt, Emmanuel (and) Lindsay. So we’ll ease them in, but we’ll get them in quickly.”

Extra practice. Denver’s selection to the Hall of Fame game against Atlanta on Aug. 1 secured the team extra preparation for the 2019 season with five additional practices and a fifth preseason contest.

“It’s good and I’m glad we have them,” Fangio said. “It’s a great opportunity to have five extra practices. We need it. We’re a new staff, a new team and a lot of new things are going on. It gives us an extra game to play young players in a game to help our evaluations. I see no negatives to it myself.

“Maybe down the road if I think we’re a little tired or something because we’ve had the extra practices, maybe we’ll have an extra day off here or there.”

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Season extension? NFL owners have proposed an expansion of the regular season to 18 games with a 16-game limit for all players, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal, meaning that each player (including starters) must sit out two games during the year in compliance.

Cornerback Chris Harris is one of the Broncos’ NFLPA union representatives and was asked Wednesday for reaction to the owners’ proposal.

“It’s going to be hard telling me not to play 18 games if I can’t play,” Harris said. “I think that’s definitely going to be an issue right there. Guys that are very competitive want to play every game, so I don’t think that will happen.”

Roster move. The Broncos announced Wednesday they have waived wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, a fourth-year wide receiver who joined Denver as a free agent in late January. Burbridge, a 2016 49ers’ sixth-round draft choice, had seven career receptions for 88 yards over 16 games as a rookie in San Francisco. He has not appeared in a regular-season NFL game since.

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Payments from $208 million NCAA settlement begin in August

July 17, 2019 - 2:27pm

More than 50,000 former college athletes next month will begin collecting portions of a $208 million class-action settlement paid by the NCAA in a case that challenged its caps on compensation.

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Hagens Berman, the law firm representing the plaintiffs in Alston vs. the NCAA, said Wednesday 53,748 FBS football players and Division I men’s and women’s basketball players who competed between March 2010-March 2017 are eligible to receive compensation.

The law firm said payments will range from $5,000 to $7,500 for those who competed for four years and checks will start being distributed in late August. Distribution was held up by one objector to the settlement, who missed a July 17 deadline to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

The settlement of damages in the case was approved by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in 2017. Earlier this year Wilken issued a narrow ruling against the NCAA in the Alston case, saying the association could not cap compensation to athletes related to education.

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FAQ: Why Ebola is now an international emergency, the Associated Press explains

July 17, 2019 - 2:20pm

JOHANNESBURG — The World Health Organization says the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in Congo is now an international health emergency. More than 1,600 people have died since August in the second-worst outbreak of the disease in history. Wednesday’s declaration was sparked by confirmation of a case in Goma, a Congo city of more than two million people on the border with Rwanda.

Here’s a look at Ebola and the unprecedented challenges health workers face in trying to contain what the WHO chief has called one of the world’s most dangerous diseases in one of the world’s most dangerous regions.

WHAT IS EBOLA?

The Ebola virus can spread quickly and be fatal in up to 90% of cases. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding. The virus is most often spread by close contact with bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms and with contaminated objects such as sheets. Health care workers are often at risk.

There is no licensed Ebola treatment, but early care such as rehydration helps to improve the chances of survival. Some patients in this outbreak have received experimental treatments but their effect has not been fully studied.

An experimental Ebola vaccine has been effective in its first widespread use, and more than 163,000 people have been vaccinated. The vaccine’s testing was sped up during the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014-16 that killed more than 11,300 people.

WHY IS THIS OUTBREAK UNIQUE?

Health workers call this the first Ebola outbreak to occur in what is essentially a war zone. Dozens of rebel groups are active in Congo’s northeast, killing hundreds of people in recent years. Attacks have led to a traumatized population that can be wary of outsiders and authorities.

Some residents question why so much attention and money is being spent on Ebola, a disease not seen in this part of Congo until now, instead of other deadly diseases such as malaria.

Amid misunderstandings, emergency workers have struggled to explain the importance of preventative measures. An epidemiologist with WHO was shot dead earlier this year and other health workers have been attacked. The attacks have led to spikes in cases and hurt the painstaking work of tracing the thousands of people who have come into contact with those infected.

“The inability to build community trust has proven a major barrier to stopping the spread of this disease,” the International Rescue Committee’s vice president for emergencies, Bob Kitchen, said after Wednesday’s declaration. “Local communities are perplexed and frustrated by the continued increase in the number of people dying juxtaposed with a massive influx of international organizations into the region.”

WHAT’S THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DECLARING A GLOBAL EMERGENCY?

Declaring a global health emergency often brings an increase in international attention and aid. While WHO has said that tens of millions of dollars are needed to help contain this outbreak, authorities in Congo lobbied against a declaration amid concerns that it could hurt the economy and lead other nations to close their borders.

This was the fourth time that the WHO expert committee has met on this outbreak, which some experts said met the criteria for being a global emergency months ago. For such a declaration, an outbreak must constitute a risk to other countries and require a coordinated response.

The WHO expert committee met last month after the outbreak spread into nearby Uganda . But for months, health experts have feared a spread into Goma, a major regional hub. “From here you can fly to everywhere in the world,” Dr. Harouna Djingarey, the infectious disease manager for WHO’s office in eastern Congo, said this week.

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Ebola outbreak in Congo declared a global health emergency

July 17, 2019 - 2:20pm

GENEVA — The deadly Ebola outbreak in Congo is now an international health emergency, the World Health Organization announced Wednesday after a case was confirmed in a city of 2 million people .

A WHO expert committee declined on three previous occasions to advise the United Nations health agency to make the declaration for this outbreak, even though other experts say it has long met the conditions. More than 1,600 people have died since August in the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, which is unfolding in a region described as a war zone.

A declaration of a global health emergency often brings greater international attention and aid, along with concerns that nervous governments might overreact with border closures.

The declaration comes days after a single case was confirmed in Goma, a major regional crossroads in northeastern Congo on the Rwandan border, with an international airport. Also, a sick Congolese fish trader traveled to Uganda and back while symptomatic — and later died of Ebola.

RELATED: FAQ: Why Ebola is now an international emergency, the Associated Press explains

While the risk of regional spread remains high, the risk outside the region remains low, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said after the announcement in Geneva.

The international emergency “should not be used to stigmatize or penalize the very people who are most in need of our help,” he said. Tedros insisted that the declaration was not made to raise more money — even though WHO estimated “hundreds of millions” of dollars would be needed to stop the epidemic.

Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, said she hoped the emergency designation would prompt a radical reset of Ebola response efforts.

“The reality check is that a year into the epidemic, it’s still not under control, and we are not where we should be,” she said. “We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”

Liu said vaccination strategies should be broadened and that more efforts should be made to build trust within communities.

This is the fifth such declaration in history. Previous emergencies were declared for the devastating 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people, the emergence of Zika in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic and polio.

WHO defines a global emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response. Last month, the outbreak spilled across the border for the first time when a family brought the virus into Uganda after attending the burial in Congo of an infected relative. Even then, the expert committee advised against a declaration.

Alexandra Phelan, a global health expert at Georgetown University Law Center, said Wednesday’s declaration was long overdue.

“This essentially serves as a call to the international community that they have to step up appropriate financial and technical support,” she said but warned that countries should be wary of imposing travel or trade restrictions.

Such restrictions “would actually restrict the flow of goods and health care workers into affected countries so they are counterproductive,” she said. Future emergency declarations might be perceived as punishment and “might result in other countries not reporting outbreaks in the future, which puts us all at greater risk.”

WHO had been heavily criticized for its sluggish response to the West Africa outbreak, which it repeatedly declined to declare a global emergency until the virus was spreading explosively in three countries and nearly 1,000 people were dead. Internal documents later showed WHO held off partly out of fear a declaration would anger the countries involved and hurt their economies.

The organization’s emergency committee will meet again within three months to assess the situation. Committee members will review whether the outbreak is still a global emergency and whether other measures are needed.

Wednesday’s announcement prompted fear in eastern Congo, where many do business across borders and travel overseas.

“I am vaccinated and I protect myself against Ebola,” said Zoe Kibwana, 46, a shoe salesman who does business in Uganda, just 70 kilometers (40 miles) from Beni. “Closing the borders would handicap our economy. The health ministry and WHO need to end this epidemic as soon as possible.”

The current outbreak is spreading in a turbulent Congo border region where dozens of rebel groups are active and where Ebola had not been experienced before. Efforts to contain the virus have been hurt by mistrust among wary locals that has prompted deadly attacks on health workers. Some infected people have deliberately evaded health authorities.

The pastor who brought Ebola to Goma used several fake names to conceal his identity on his way to the city, Congolese officials said. WHO on Tuesday said the man had died and health workers were scrambling to trace dozens of his contacts, including those who had traveled on the same bus.

Congo’s minister of health resisted the characterization of the outbreak as a health emergency.

“We accept the decision of the committee of experts but one hopes that it’s a decision that wasn’t made under pressure of certain groups that want to use this as a way to raise funds for certain humanitarian actors,” said Dr. Oly Ilunga.

Those working in the field say the outbreak is clearly taking a turn for the worse despite advances that include the widespread use of an experimental but effective Ebola vaccine.

Dr. Maurice Kakule was one of the first people to survive the current outbreak after he fell ill while treating a woman last July before the outbreak had even been declared.

“What is clear is that Ebola is an emergency because the epidemic persists despite every possible effort to educate people,” he told the Geneva meeting.

___

Cheng reported from London. Associated Press writers Krista Larson and Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro in Beni, Congo, and Saleh Mwanamilongo in Kinshasa, Congo, also contributed to this report.

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As Broncos training camp begins, Elway talks offseason, Fangio and second-year players

July 17, 2019 - 2:07pm

A new coach (Vic Fangio) for the third time in four years.

A new starting quarterback (Joe Flacco) for the third consecutive year.

And a new offensive coordinator (Rich Scangarello) for the fourth consecutive year.

For all that has changed with the Broncos as they search to break a three-year playoff drought, what hasn’t been adjusted is the optimism of general manager John Elway.

Minus any predictions, Elway met with the media Wednesday after players reported for training camp acknowledging the past years’ struggles, but bullish on a quick turnaround.

RELATED: Broncos Training Camp 2019 Primer: Position battles, players with most on the line, what to watch at practice

“We know what our goals are,” Elway said. “The bottom line, I never went into a season saying, ‘We’re going to be 10-6.’ We walk into every game with the idea that we’re going to win it. We have to go and execute and play well and obviously get a little bit lucky and stay healthy. But our expectations are to take it a day at a time and see what we have and look forward to the opener in Oakland.”

The opener is a long way off. The Broncos are the first team to report to camp and will be, along with the Raiders, the last team to play in Week 1.

Elway hit on a number of topics during his media availability:

Confidence in Vic

What’s the story: Fangio is Elway’s fourth coach. John Fox and Gary Kubiak arrived with previous head-coaching experience and led the Broncos to a Super Bowl apiece (Kubiak won his). Vance Joseph was 11-21 in two years and fired less than 16 hours after the season finale. And now Fangio, who is a first-time head coach at any level, but has 32 years of NFL assistant coaching experience.

Elway said: “I don’t want to say anything bad about (Joseph). I enjoyed working with V.J. Obviously, we didn’t have the success we needed to have and therefore, we made a change. Vic has a tremendous amount of experience and has proven to be an expert on the defensive side. I think he’s more than ready.”

Analysis: Elway said way back in January that he wanted the new coach to be an expert on one side of the football. Fangio checks that box defensively. The key will be navigating through the eventual lows to prevent the losing streaks that ruined Joseph’s tenure (eight games in 2017 and two four-game skids last year).

“A pressure game”

What’s the story: Elway was asked if additional pressure is on third-year left tackle Garett Bolles, who has the benefit of playing for Hall of Fame player-turned-respected-line-coach Mike Munchak. Bolles’ 14 holding penalties the last two years are most in the league and after this season, the Broncos must decide on his fifth-year (2021) contract option.

Elway said: “First of all, everybody on this team is under pressure. It’s a pressure game. Garett is in the same position as everybody else — we have to come in and play well. I think Mike Munchak will help him tremendously.”

Analysis: Yes, pressure is on all of the starters and coaches, but Bolles is a first-round pick who plays a premium position, protecting the blind side of a 34-year old quarterback (Flacco) whose best place to excel is in the pocket.

Faith in Flacco

What’s the story: Another year, another new Broncos quarterback. Flacco, acquired in a trade with Baltimore in March, will try and succeed where Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum could not — and alm down the sport’s most important position.

Elway said: “It’s a hard position to fill. We tried to shake all these trees around here the last four years and quarterbacks didn’t fall out of (them). We’ve taken a lot of shots. We’ve tried a lot of different situations. It’s been a battle, but this league is a battle.”

Analysis: At least Elway could semi-joke about rattling the timbers in his search to replace Peyton Manning. Will Flacco stop the cycle? At 34 and entering his 12th season, he should embrace the opportunity to start over. But as the Broncos have and will point out — success for Flacco doesn’t need to be throwing 35 times a game and carrying the offense. They feel this is a team that will set up the play-action pass by establishing the run game.

Second-year surge

What’s the story: Just on offense, the group of key second-year players are running backs Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. They figure to be prominent parts of the weekly game plan.

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Elway said: “They all had great years, really, for their first year so you always hope they make that big step in the second year. Having been through the process and understanding what the NFL is about, they have a good feel for it and are much further ahead mentally. We expect them to take steps.”

Analysis: For the Broncos to have any success this year, they need Freeman/Lindsay to  anchor the running game, Sutton to blossom into a No. 1-type receiver (even if Emmanuel Sanders is healthy) and Hamilton to be a solid No. 3.

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GOP Sen. Rand Paul blocks bill to boost 9/11 victims fund

July 17, 2019 - 2:04pm

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday blocked a bipartisan bill that would ensure a victims’ compensation fund related to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money.

Paul objected to a request by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to approve the bill by unanimous consent, which would fast-track approval.

Paul, R-Ky., questioned the bill’s 70-year time frame and said any new spending should be offset by corresponding cuts. The government already faces a $22 trillion debt, a figure that grows every year, Paul said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the 9/11 bill would result in about $10.2 billion in additional compensation payments over 10 years, including more than $4 billion for claims already filed.

Gillibrand said 9/11 first responders and their families have had “enough of political games.” The legislation has 74 Senate co-sponsors, including Gillibrand, and easily passed the House last week.

The bill would extend though 2092 a victims compensation fund created after the 2001 terrorist attacks, essentially making it permanent. The $7.4 billion fund is rapidly being depleted, and administrators recently cut benefit payments by up to 70%.

“Our 9/11 first responders and the entire nation are watching to see if this body actually cares … about the men and women who answered the call of duty” after the attacks, Gillibrand said.

As the World Trade Center towers began to crumble that day, “there was one group of men and women — our heroes, the bravest among us — who ran the opposite way,” Gillibrand said. “They ran toward danger. They raced up towers. They went into harm’s way to answer the call of duty.”

In the months after the attacks, first responders cleaned up the aftermath, breathing in toxic air amid smoke, burning metal, crushed glass and electronics and other hazards.

“These heroes have since had to quit doing the jobs they love, providing for the families they love because they’re too sick,” Gillibrand said. “They’ve had to give up their income. They’ve had to give up their dreams and their future. They’ve had to face the terrifying reality that they are actually going to die because of what they did on 9/11 and the months thereafter.”

She and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, also of New York, urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up the bill as soon as Thursday. McConnell, R-Ky., has agreed to call a vote before Congress goes on its August recess.

Schumer, Gillibrand and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., want McConnell to bring up the bill as a stand-alone measure and not package it with other legislation such as a broad budget and debt deal that would stave off the likelihood of a government shutdown this fall.

“The minute this bill hits the floor, it will pass,” Schumer said.

Debate over the measure comes a month after comedian Jon Stewart sharply criticized Congress for failing to act. Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, said lawmakers were showing “disrespect” to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses as a result of their recovery work at the former World Trade Center site in New York City.

Stewart called the sparse attendance at a June 11 House hearing “an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution.” He later targeted McConnell for slow-walking a previous version of the legislation and using it as a “political pawn” to get other things done.

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Rockies’ David Dahl leaves game after fouling ball off foot

July 17, 2019 - 1:12pm

Rockies all-star outfielder David Dahl was pulled from Wednesday afternoon’s Rockies game against the Giants after fouling a ball off his left foot. The club announced he had a left foot contusion and said he was “day-to-day.”

Dahl suffered the injury in the first inning during an at-bat in which he eventually drew a walk off of San Francisco starter Shaun Anderson. Although Dahl was clearly in pain, he remained in the game. He played center field in the second inning but was replaced by Garrett Hampson at the beginning of the third inning.

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3 beaches near Denver where you can go for a swim

July 17, 2019 - 1:12pm

Oh, this Denver weather — with temperatures in the metro area forecast to be around the 100-degree mark the next two days, here are three local swim beaches where you can cool off (if you don’t mind crowds with the same goal in mind):

  • The swim beach at Chatfield State Park, which was closed last year for construction, reopened this year as usual on Memorial Day. It’s open sunrise to sundown.
  • The swim beach at Lakewood’s Bear Creek Lake State Park is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • The swim area at Cherry Creek State Park, which closed on July 9 because of higher than allowable E. coli bacteria levels, reopened on Sunday. ”These closures are not a common occurrence,” park manager Jason Trujillo said in a news release, “but can be caused by fecal waste from wildlife, run-off from urban areas or excessive run-off from rain, which we have had a lot of lately.”

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Ivanka Trump reschedules visit to Denver-area Lockheed Martin facility

July 17, 2019 - 12:49pm

Ivanka Trump has rescheduled her trip to visit a Littleton-based aerospace company two months after her original visit was canceled following the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch.

Trump, the daughter of and adviser to President Donald Trump, will visit with Lockheed Martin workers and CEO Marillyn Hewson on Monday for a roundtable discussion on the company’s workforce development and apprenticeship programs in Colorado, a White House official told The Denver Post.

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“Our mission is straightforward; to ensure inclusive growth and opportunity in our booming economy by creating pathways for all Americans, regardless of age or background, to acquiring the skills needed to secure and retain high paying jobs,” Ivanka Trump said in a statement.

Following the roundtable, Trump and Hewson will tour the facility and meet with graduates of an apprenticeship program. Hewson is a member of the Trump administration’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. Lockheed Martin committed to creating 8,000 jobs for American workers as part of the President’s Pledge to America’s Workers.

Trump skipped a planned visit to Lockheed Martin in May. Instead, she visited with Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock and several deputies who responded to the STEM Shooting.

No child should know the horror of what students at STEM School Highlands Ranch experienced today.

America mourns with the victims’ families and prays for the welfare of those injured.

— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) May 8, 2019

The news of Trump’s visit comes days after her brother, Donald Trump Jr., spoke at the Western Conservative Summit in downtown Denver.

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Avalanche signs J.T. Compher to four-year deal worth $14 million

July 17, 2019 - 12:42pm

The Avalanche on Wednesday agreed to terms with forward J.T. Compher on a four-year contract worth $14 million ($3.5 million annually). Compher, 24, will begin his third full NHL season next season.

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Compher, who was obtained from Buffalo in the 2015 multiple-player trade that made Ryan O’Reilly a Sabre, finished fifth on the Avs with a career-high 16 goals last season — including a team-high three shorthanded tallies. Compher became the first Avalanche player since Joe Sakic (2000-01) to produce three shorthanded goals, three power-play goals and three game-winning goals in the same season.

The Chicago-area native had six points (four goals) in 12 playoff games.

“J.T. has been one of our most versatile forwards over the past two years,” Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said in a release. “He plays on our power play, kills penalties and has played up and down our lineup. He has scored some big goals late in games and we are counting on him to have an even more expanded role moving forward.”

Compher was a restricted free agent coming out of his entry-level contract. The Avalanche has just four main RFAs to sign: forwards Mikko Rantanen, Vladislav Kamenev, A.J. Greer and Sheldon Dries. Colorado has nearly $16.5 million in available cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.

This story will be updated. 

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“We’re hoping he’s going to be here”: John Elway comments on Drew Lock’s potential training camp absence

July 17, 2019 - 11:45am

The Broncos reported for the start of training camp on Wednesday with one notable absence in quarterback Drew Lock.

Lock, a 2019 second-round (No. 42) draft choice, is the last unsigned player from Denver’s rookie class.

Broncos training camp

If the team and Lock’s representation at Creative Artists Agency are unable to reach a deal by Thursday morning, he will not be allowed to participate in Denver’s first practice, which begins at 9:15 a.m. Because he is not under contract, Lock’s absence is not a holdout and thus, he can’t be fined.

Will a deal get done before Lock is forced to miss valuable practice time?

“We’ll see,” general manager John Elway said Wednesday. “I’m not going to make a prediction one way or the other, but we’re hoping he’s going to be here.”

The Broncos drafted Lock — a 6-foot-4, 228-pound quarterback who compiled 12,193 yards passing over four years at Missouri — to compete for the backup role behind Joe Flacco and eventually replace him as the starter. Lock was available in the second round because he was passed over by Kyler Murray (Cardinals; No. 1), Daniel Jones (Giants; No. 6) and Dwayne Haskins (Redskins; No. 15). The Broncos traded up 10 draft slots to select Lock immediately after taking offensive lineman Dalton Risner at No. 41.

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Lock is one of just two second-round picks to remain unsigned (49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel, No. 36) as of Wednesday afternoon.

When asked if Lock’s potential absence was surprising, Elway said: “Nothing surprises me anymore. We’ll see what happens.”

This story will be updated.

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Snowmobilers ride on fragile Independence Pass tundra despite a lack of snow, spark concern

July 17, 2019 - 11:43am

The head of the Independence Pass Foundation and two colleagues conducting biological research were astonished two weeks ago to see a pair of snowmobilers riding on fragile alpine tundra considerably below the snowline.

The encounter, which happened at the Upper Lost Man trailhead 2 miles west of Independence Pass on July 3, raised concerns that motorized recreation users who violate U.S. Forest Service travel-management rules may inflict increasing damage in fragile high-altitude landscapes. That basin is designated as wilderness, prohibiting motorized use.

“All of a sudden two snowmobilers came ripping down the tundra toward the parking area,” said Karin Teague, the foundation’s executive director. “We were sort of stunned. It felt like we were watching a ridiculous movie or something. I’d just never seen anything like it.”

An unidentified snowmobiler at the Upper Lost Man trailhead near Independence Pass on July 3 after riding his machine down fragile alpine tundra without snowcover. Photo courtesy Karin Teague.

The Upper Lost Man trail, which is located in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River, is one of the most popular hiking trails in the area. Motorized recreation is prohibited.

“They came down to the parking lot as if it were just another day out on their sleds,” Teague said. “They at first claimed they were well within their rights to be there, that they weren’t in wilderness, that they had been following a trail – all of which was untrue. Upon further discussion, they did seem more contrite, in the sense of saying, ‘We don’t plan to do that again.’ I’m sure it’s not good for their sleds, in addition to the damage they did to the landscape.”

High-country hikers are accustomed to seeing signs in areas of sensitive tundra urging them to stay on trails because of the fragile plants that live there. The trailhead is at 11,500 feet near timberline and the trail tops out at 12,800 feet. Teague said the tundra where the snowmobilers drove was wet, increasing the impact on fragile plants, which can take hundreds of years to recover because of the harshness of the high-altitude environment and the short growing season.

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“The plants are important not only for themselves and because they are beautiful but they help hold that soil in place,” Teague said. “A hiker can do damage by stepping on those kinds of plants, but a sled – which weighs several hundred pounds, I have to imagine – is likely to cause a geometrically greater amount of damage.”

Teague said she’d never seen anything like the encounter before and wonders if it was just an isolated incident.

“I hope it’s not an emerging trend,” Teague said. “What does concern me is that as the technology of these off-road vehicles – both summer and winter – continues to get more sophisticated and allows people to go more places, we may start to see more of these kinds of transgressions, which is worrisome.”

Shelly Grail, recreation manager for the Forest Service’s Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, said she has been heartened by the reaction to the incident in Roaring Fork Valley conversations and in social media.

“Just in talking to folks here, people are pretty dumbfounded with the fact that this even happened, that people would be driving around on the alpine tundra on their snowmobile in July,” Grail said. “The White River National Forest is comprised of 2.3 million acres of land for people to access so that motorized access, non-motorized access — dirt bikes, snowmobiles, jeeps, foot, horse — there’s room for everyone. All people need to do is call their local ranger district, ask for a motor-vehicle use map if they have any question or concern, and they will be directed to the right places to go where the area is managed for that use.”

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Prosecutors say a Civic Center Park drug dealer killed 3 homeless people over a $200 debt. His attorneys say the murders were more likely tied to “Gutter Punk” gang.

July 17, 2019 - 11:41am

The trial of a man charged with murdering three homeless people living near Interstate 25 in south Denver will center on debts: whether the victims owed $200 to a Civic Center Park drug dealer or whether they crossed a line with an organized crime ring they may have belonged to.

Denver Police DepartmentMaurice Butler

Attorneys for both sides outlined their cases Wednesday morning in the trial of Maurice Butler, who faces three first-degree murder charges in connection to the Aug. 9 killings. Police found the bodies of 28-year-old Nicole Boston, 39-year-old Jerome Coronado and 45-year-old Christopher Zamudio later that morning behind an abandoned building near Interstate 25 and South Broadway, where they had been living. All three died of multiple gunshots to the head.

The killings prompted Denver police to increase their outreach to the homeless community and shelters worked to connect people who knew the victims to counseling services. Fear spread in the homeless community as police searched for a suspect.

RELATED: Crimes against homeless people up 42 percent in Denver and suburban cops say that’s pushing transients into their towns

Denver police arrested Butler on Aug. 13 on unrelated drug charges and a parole violation. On Sept. 11, prosecutors charged Butler in connection to the triple homicide, though he had remained in jail since his earlier arrest.

Prosecutors on Wednesday painted Butler, 39, as a hardened drug dealer who hunted down Boston and Coronado because they owed him $200. Assistant District Attorney Katherine Horton said that Boston and Coronado moved from Civic Center Park, where they had been living, to the desolate corner of Broadway and Interstate 25 to escape the debt they owed Butler.

“This is a case about a debt — a debt owed and a debt paid,” she said.

Horton said that much of the prosecution’s case rests on data from a GPS ankle monitor that placed Butler at the scene of the crime just before midnight the night of the shooting, about the same time that two tipsters told police they heard gunshots.

“That GPS is what Mr. Butler can’t explain,” she said.

Butler’s defense attorney admitted that his client sold drugs to the pair and was at the site of the killings that night, but said Butler did not kill them because they already had repaid their debt. Instead, the defense team said that it was more likely that members of the Gutter Punk Crew, an organized group connected to some property crimes, committed the murders because Boston and Coronado broke the group’s rules, public defender Eric Goltz said.

Goltz said Denver police failed to investigate other people whom the victims may have owed money and cited interviews with some acquaintances of Boston and Coronado, who said the pair had already paid their debt to Butler.

Butler was expecting his first child at the time and needed the extra money to survive, Goltz said. But Butler didn’t kill the three people, he said.

“A drug dealer does not kill customers who pay for what he supplies,” Goltz said.

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No other physical evidence ties Butler to the killings, Goltz said. The gun was never recovered and bullet casings did not have Butler’s fingerprints.

“There are things that are missing in this case that should be there,” Goltz said.

Butler previously has been convicted of drug possession, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and robbery.

Many of the witnesses expected to be called in the trial, scheduled to last through Monday, will be friends of the victims, including members of the Gutter Punk group.

Triple homicides are generally rare in Denver, though there have been three such crimes in the past three years, including Butler’s case. In 2016, a man shot and killed three people inside a Park Hill home. In May, a man shot and killed three of his family members, including his 11-year-old granddaughter.

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Why The Denver Post asked Aurora police to stop using our photograph of an ICE protester

July 17, 2019 - 11:41am

I would like to explain why The Denver Post asked the Aurora Police Department to remove one of our photographs from its social media posts seeking help identifying suspects from a Friday night protest at the Aurora ICE detention facility.

In the course of photographing the protest, we captured an image of a person with his face partially covered holding a flag that appears to be the one taken from the facility’s flagpole. We have since published the photograph in question no fewer than seven times on our website and social media, including on an editorial denouncing the protesters who removed the American flag.

We have certainly not tried to hide the photo from the public.

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About 2,000 protesters — disturbed about planned federal immigration roundups in Denver, where an estimated 50,000 people live in the country illegally — rallied Friday night at an ICE detention facility in Aurora.⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ During the protest, a group broke off from the organized event and pulled down an American flag and two other flags outside the facility. Aurora police are asking for the public’s help in identifying six suspects. Organizers of the Lights for Liberty Protest called the protesters rogues who endangered other attendees and detracted from the message of the protest.⠀⠀ ⁠⠀⠀ (Photos by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post) @hyoung_ccc⁠⠀⠀ ⁠⠀⠀ Read and see more at our bio link

A post shared by The Denver Post (@denverpost) on Jul 16, 2019 at 7:42pm PDT

Officials at the Aurora Police Department never contacted The Denver Post about using the image. Instead, they posted the photo on their social media accounts superimposed with an image of the Aurora city seal, suggesting that it was either Aurora’s property or that The Denver Post had provided the image to police.

This concerned us for multiple reasons.

First and foremost, we are not a tool of law enforcement. Our independence from any other institution is critical to our ability to be a trusted news source. We believe that Aurora’s use of the photo suggested that we acted in partnership with law enforcement. Our job is to report the news and remain an independent voice. How can the public believe we will ever be critical of the Aurora Police Department if they think we have a partnership with them?

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Additionally, the Aurora Police Department’s use of our photograph is a clear violation of copyright law and The Denver Post’s terms of fair use. We defend both vigorously.

As a result, we asked the Aurora Police Department to remove our image from its social-media bulletins.

Anyone is welcome to link to our stories on denverpost.com. This was one of the various options available to the Aurora Police Department for using the image in question.

We respect the need for law enforcement agencies to do their jobs, and are in no way trying to interfere with the police investigation of this incident. There are appropriate and legal ways to use The Denver Post’s news content and we are happy to discuss them with anyone.

Lee Ann Colacioppo is the editor of The Denver Post

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Trump administration’s push for energy production on public lands would increase Colorado’s emissions, report finds

July 17, 2019 - 10:51am

Public lands in Colorado and across the West could make climate change worse if oil and gas leases recently sold by federal land managers start producing and emitting millions of tons of greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a new report by a national environmental organization.

The report released Tuesday by The Wilderness Society says the Trump administration’s pursuit of “energy dominance” by making energy production a priority on public lands threatens to undermine efforts by the state of Colorado and others to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases driving climate change. It looks at oil and gas leases sold on federally managed public lands from January 2017 through April 2019 and, based on different development scenarios using federal data and modeling methods, projects the estimated emissions over the life of the operations.

In Colorado, oil and gas production on the 171,228 acres leased during the time period could generate from 14.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to 184 million metric tons, depending on the amount of drilling. Leases sold on 7.2 million acres of federally managed public lands and waters could produce between 854 million metric tons and 4.7 billion metric tons, The Wilderness Society said.

RELATED: For the first time, Colorado’s greenhouse gas emissions trending down

“The existing leases from the Trump administration conservatively would be roughly the equivalent or more of the European Union 28 nations’ emissions” for a year, said Jim Ramey, the organization’s state director. “For us, our public lands need to be part of the climate solution and not part of the problem.”

The president of an industry trade association called the report’s projections “back of the envelope calculations not based on reality.” Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance said in an email that federal lands account for a fraction of the country’s oil and natural gas production, so equating it with EU countries is a flawed analysis.

Sgamma also contended that The Wilderness Society is exaggerating the amount of leasing on federal lands, which she said is merely returning to levels similar to those at the beginning of the Obama administration.

However, a May 14 statement by the White House titled “President Donald J. Trump is Unleashing American Energy Dominance” refers to federal oil and gas lease sales generating “a record-shattering $1.1 billion in revenue.”

The Wilderness Society points to a  U.S. Geological Survey study that found from 2005 to 2014, emissions from fossil-fuel production on federal lands accounted for, on average, 23.7 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions nationwide.

Now, the environmental organization said, the Trump administration is trying to downplay the effects of leasing and other activities on climate change by rolling back Obama-era guidance on review of federal projects. The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to analyze the environmental impact of proposed federal actions.

Sgamma said the charge that the Trump administration isn’t analyzing effects on climate change “is just flat out false.” She said the Western Energy Alliance is involved in a case challenging leases from the last two years of the Obama administration in which a court ruled the analysis was inadequate and which the Trump administration had to redo.

In Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees development of all minerals on all federally managed lands and waters, has started analyzing potential emissions for individual lease sales, BLM spokeswoman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski said in an email.

New Colorado laws passed during the legislative session that ended in May directs state agencies to minimize climate-changing emissions and set statewide goals for reducing carbon emissions. One new law sets the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent or more from 2005 levels — 125 million metric tons — by 2050.

Another law, Senate Bill 19-181, overhauls how oil and gas development is managed by prioritizing the protection of public health and safety, the environment and wildlife. State health officials are writing new rules to tighten monitoring and control of emissions from oil and gas sites.

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“Right now we have the Interior Department and the Bureau of Land Management continuing to push this energy-dominance agenda that would lock public lands in as part of the problem for a long time to come,” Ramey said. “Meanwhile, we have Colorado doing the exact opposite, moving in the direction of reforming how oil and gas are managed to prioritize protecting public health, safety and welfare and setting those bold goals to reduce climate pollution.”

Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and other air pollution has been “a top priority of this administration since day one,” Gov. Jared Polis’ office said in an email Tuesday. “This work extends to looking at opportunities to reduce emissions, wherever they come from, in order to protect our environment and the health and safety of our communities.”

John Putnam, director of environmental programs at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said he had not reviewed The Wilderness Society’s calculations of emissions. But he noted that the BLM estimates emissions would increase 27 percent under one of its newly updated management plans that foresees opening more of western Colorado to drilling.

The prospect of rising greenhouse-gas emissions will be difficult to square with “the large decreases we need to achieve to protect the public health, welfare and environment in Colorado,” Putnam said. The state will continue to work with the BLM on a number of issues, he said.

“Whether someone is putting a well on public or private lands, it is still subject to our regulations,” Putnam said.

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CU Buffs football position preview: Running backs lack experience, but not talent

July 17, 2019 - 10:27am

In taking over Colorado’s starting quarterback position in 1989, Darian Hagan was blessed with plenty of talent.

What he didn’t have was much experience, having played sparingly as a freshman the year before.

“Nothing to prove that I could be a really good player,” he said. “Then, (quarterbacks coach Gary) Barnett took a really good interest in me and got me ready to play.”

Now in his fourth season as the Buffaloes’ running backs coach, Hagan faces the same task as Barnett did 30 years ago. Hagan’s group has talent, but very little experience.

“My job is to make sure all six of those guys are ready to play at any given time, and they will be,” he said.

Leading up to fall camp, which starts Aug. 1, BuffZone.com is previewing each position group for the Buffs. In this first installment, the focus is on the running backs.

During the last three seasons, Hagan and the Buffs have had the luxury of leaning on Phillip Lindsay (1,189 yards in 2016 and 1,474 in 2017) and Travon McMillian (1,009 yards in 2018), who are both now in the NFL.

What’s left at CU is a collection of talented underclassmen with a lot to prove. Sophomore Alex Fontenot is the veteran, but entering his third season in the program, he’s got just 11 career rushing attempts. The only other back with game experience is walk-on Chase Sanders, who has four career attempts.

Redshirt freshmen Jarek Broussard and Deion Smith and true freshmen Joe Davis and Jaren Mangham are fighting for roles, as well.

Hagan said he has an idea of which backs will emerge as the “lead dogs,” but said, “We’re just going to let it play out. I think we’re going to be a running back by committee. The guy who gets hot and stays hot will be the guy who will finish the game.”

Although the Buffs have leaned on a single back the past three years, first-year head coach Mel Tucker and offensive coordinator Jay Johnson have a different approach.

Tucker came to CU from Georgia, which featured two 1,000-yard backs in each of the last two seasons. As the OC at Minnesota in 2016, Johnson’s offense had two backs with at least 138 carries and 650 yards. CU hasn’t had two backs with type of productivity since 2002 – when Barnett was head coach.

“Coach Tucker doesn’t want just one guy playing, coach Johnson doesn’t want just one guy playing and I don’t want just one guy playing,” Hagan said.

Which guys play will be determined in fall camp and throughout the season, but Fontenot and Mangham could be the leaders of the group, if healthy.

Fontenot is the fastest of the CU backs and, along with Davis, one of the best pass blockers, Hagan said. The Buffs will be looking for Fontenot to be more consistent this fall.

“Some days he shows that he is (ready to be a lead rusher), some days he shows that he’s not,” Hagan said.

Mangham enrolled early and went through spring ball, impressing his coaches and teammates along the way. He is CU’s most powerful runner and also a good receiver.

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“Sky’s the limit,” Hagan said of Mangham. “Depending on what he does and how he dedicates himself over the years, I think he can be a really, really, really good player. He’ll be a guy that we haven’t seen around here in a long time.”

Hagan said Mangham reminds him of Chris Brown, who rushed for 1,744 yards at CU in 2002.

“He’s a little bit faster than Chris, but their running style is identical – upright and running over people,” Hagan said.

Smith’s versatility as a runner and receiver out of the backfield will make it hard to keep him off the field, as well. Broussard and Davis also have great potential, but need work in particular areas to be more complete.

Overall, it’s a group Hagan said he really likes, even if there isn’t much experience.

“They’re all eager to play; they’re really, really smart players; they’re really talented players and they’re hungry,” Hagan said. “They’ll be ready. They’ll show up.”

Position: Running backs

Returners (2018 statistics)

  • Alex Fontenot, So., 6-0, 195 (11 att., 43 yards, 1 TD)
  • Chase Sanders, Jr., 6-0, 190 (4 att., 8 yards; walk-on)

Additions

  • Jarek Broussard, Fr., 5-9, 180 (redshirt freshman)
  • Deion Smith, Fr., 6-0, 185 (redshirt freshman)
  • Joe Davis, Fr., 5-11, 210 (true freshman)
  • Jaren Mangham, Fr., 6-2, 215 (true freshman)

Losses

  • Beau Bisharat, Sr. (moved to tight end; 21 att., 143 yards; 1 catches, 4 yards, 1 TD)
  • Travon McMillian (graduated; 201 att., 1,009 yards, 7 TD; 14 catches, 118 yards, 1 TD)
  • Kyle Evans (graduated; 69 att., 201 yards, 3 TD; 5 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD)
  • Donovan Lee (graduated; 2 att., 9 yards)

2019 outlook: Despite the lack of experience, this could be one of the most important positions on the offense this year. Hagan said he expects running backs to handle about 60 percent of the offensive touches (rushing attempts and receptions) in coordinator Jay Johnson’s offense. The last time Johnson ran an offense, at Minnesota in 2016, the running backs accounted for 63 percent of the touches, compared to 46 percent at CU last year. To handle that much of a workload, several different backs will play this year for the Buffs. “The more guys you have, the more explosive you can be, the more things you can do with the offense,” Hagan said. Although four of the five scholarship backs haven’t played in a game, Hagan said there’s confidence in the group because most of been at CU for at least a year, while the true freshmen were here in January for spring ball. “There’s not a lot of unknown,” Hagan said.

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Hossein Ensan, 55, oldest World Series of Poker champion in 20 years

July 17, 2019 - 10:25am

LAS VEGAS — Germany’s Hossein Ensan outlasted Italy’s Dario Sammartino and Canada’s Alex Livingston to claim the $10 million title at the 50th World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas.

The 55-year-old native of Iran who immigrated to Germany 30 years ago became the oldest world poker champion in 20 years when he won the 301st hand at the final table to finish off Sammartino early Wednesday.

It’s the first time since 2014 the winner has come from outside the United States and third time the title has gone to a native Iranian.

Ensan cashed in the winning hand at 1:24 a.m. Wednesday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. It was his first appearance at the Main Event.

Sammartino won $6 million for second place. Livingston of Halifax, Nova Scotia got $4 million for third in the 11-day tournament.

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Broncos Training Camp 2019 Primer: Position battles, players with most on the line, what to watch at practice

July 17, 2019 - 9:57am

The Broncos opened their 16th consecutive training camp at their Englewood headquarters Wednesday. The first practice at the UC Health Training Center is Thursday at 9:15 a.m. Here is a primer for the next seven weeks:

CAMP OBJECTIVES Broncos training camp

1. Get the rookies ready. The Broncos will have LG Dalton Risner and possibly TE Noah Fant as opening-night starters. QB Drew Lock will be competing for the back-up spot. Coaches should want to see a little extra playing time from them in the games just to make sure they’re prepared.

2. Keep offensive line intact. It’s rare for a team to start camp with a Plan A line ready (RT Ja’Wuan James, RG Ron Leary, C Connor McGovern, LG Risner and LT Garett Bolles). Now keep it that way.

3. Find out who can cover. Are ILBs Todd Davis and Josey Jewell up to the task of tracking tight ends? Can the ability of CB Bryce Callahan and CB/S Kareem Jackson to play inside free up CB Chris Harris to move around?

4. Manage the veterans. The Broncos will have a, gulp, seven-week preseason. That means five games and a lot of practice time. The expectation is coach Vic Fangio will run up-tempo practices, but also make sure his players get to Week 1 fresh and healthy.

RELATED: Broncos training camp 2019: Fans guide to attending practices POSITION BATTLES

1. Starting tailback. A returning storyline from last year, before Phillip Lindsay emerged. But he is expected to be limited (wrist) early on, which creates an opportunity for 2018 third-round pick Royce Freeman.

2. No. 3 tight end. Veteran Jeff Heuerman, first-round pick Noah Fant and returning-from-injury Jake Butt (ACL) and Troy Fumagalli (abdominal) are the top four. A conservative guess is Heuerman and Fant will be 1-2 (in some order) so a competition will be Butt trying to edge out Fumagalli.

3. Back-up outside linebacker. It’s all right in front of second-year player Jeff Holland. Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray are gone and the Broncos waited until the fifth round to draft Justin Hollins. But Holland must show practice-to-practice, game-to-game consistency to secure a spot. If not, Hollins and Dekoda Watson will see more playing time.

4. Punt/kick returners. A wide open competition. During the practices, get a roster ready to mark how many players are catching punts and kicks. There are no full-contact return drills in camp, but who can and can’t catch is notable.

PLAYERS WITH MOST AT STAKE

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1. WR Emmanuel Sanders. He said earlier this week he will not participate in team drills to start camp. Sanders’ goal should be to return from last December’s Achilles injury ready to play but don’t return too early and have a setback.

2. DE DeMarcus Walker. A second-round pick only two years ago, Walker was a healthy scratch 13 times last year and has two career sacks. Walker must show enough in camp for the Broncos to believe a) he can help them this year and b) he can help them in 2020 if Derek Wolfe and/or Adam Gotsis don’t re-sign.

3. S Su’a Cravens. He has played five games in the last two seasons. Viewed only as a safety (and not a hybrid safety/linebacker), Cravens will need to beat out several players for the fourth safety spot.

4. WR Brendan Langley. The Broncos threw a Hail Mary during the off-season, moving Langley (a third round pick in 2017) from cornerback to receiver. In reality, his goal should be to show enough promise to earn a practice squad spot.

WHAT TO WATCH IN PRACTICE

1. Red zone periods. The most competitive part of 11-on-11 practice. The offense wants to score and the defense wants to prevent that. Period.

2. QB Joe Flacco. Fans will get their first look at Flacco since he was acquired from Baltimore in February. Pay attention to how he slides around the pocket, how accurately he throws the deep pass and how he integrates WR Emmanuel Sanders and TE Jake Butt, both of whom missed the offseason program.

3. CB Chris Harris. Watching Harris work during individual and team drills is Cornerback Play 101. He shows his attention to detail by how he works on his angles (when to jump a route) and his technique (change of direction, press coverage, etc.).

4. OL vs. DL/LB drills. At least last year, this drill was staged right in front of the spectator area. And it is fun and intense. OLB Von Miller vs. RT Ja’Wuan James. OLB Bradley Chubb vs. LT Garett Bolles. DE Derek Wolfe vs. LG Dalton Risner.

KEY DATES
  • Thursday: First practice (9:15 a.m.).
  • July 27: Practice at Broncos Stadium at Mile High (2:15 p.m.).
  • Aug. 1: Pro Football Hall of Fame Game vs. Atlanta in Canton, Ohio (6 p.m.).
  • Aug. 8: Preseason game at Seattle (8 p.m.).
  • Aug. 13: Final practice open to public (9:15 a.m.).
  • Aug. 16-17: Joint practices with San Francisco (closed to public).
  • Aug. 19: Preseason home game vs. 49ers (6 p.m.).
  • Aug. 24: Preseason game at the Los Angeles Rams (7 p.m.).
  • Aug. 29: Preseason home game vs. Arizona (7 p.m.).
  • Aug. 31: Roster must be cut to 53 players by 2 p.m.
  • Sept. 1: Players can be claimed off waivers and 10-man practice squad can be signed.
  • Sept. 9: Season opener at Oakland (8:20 p.m.).
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