The Pro Bowl is getting much more serious

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The Pro Bowl is getting much more serious

From Comcast SportsNetHONOLULU (AP) -- The NFC team ended its first Pro Bowl practice by breaking the huddle and shouting, "Win." One night earlier, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning asked his fellow all-stars to play the game hard.And players on both sides pledged Wednesday to play more determined in a game with a reputation of being taken less seriously than preseason exhibitions or meaningless Week 17 contests."We're professional football players. I think you take a professional attitude to the game," said Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, one of two rookie passers in the game along with Seattle's Russell Wilson. "It is an obligation of ours to continue this game."The future of the game to be held Sunday in Hawaii is uncertain. The contest was almost not scheduled at all this year after players faced blowback from commissioner Roger Goodell and fans for clearly not trying last year.That's made the 2013 Pro Bowl something of an audition. A league executive said Tuesday the NFL wants to decide on the future of the Pro Bowl by April, when the next regular season schedule comes out.Manning responded later that night by urging players to play at full speed, according to a report by NFL.com. NFL officials said Wednesday a transcript of Manning's speech wasn't available, and Manning was not made available for comment after his team's practice.The AFC and NFC squads showed slightly different styles during a low key practice at a high school on Oahu's west side, with players barely breaking a sweat while wearing T-shirts and shorts.Manning and Luck took the field at the same time for passing drills to AFC receivers like Houston's Andre Johnson, Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne and Cincinnati's A.J. Green.The NFC practice included 7-on-7 scrimmage plays, special teams practice with punts and field goals and plenty of passes for Drew Brees, Eli Mannning and Wilson.While some players, including Brees, spent time signing autographs for fans waiting just outside a campus gate, others didn't linger around after practice as a bus promptly returned them to the team hotel.Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz joked that he might take a surfing lesson before saying he thinks the game will be well-played.When asked what the Green Bay coaches on the NFC side might think of him hitting the waves, Cruz said: "That'll be our secret."Brees said the Pro Bowl is important in part because it's a big moment for Hawaii, a state without an NFL team."There's so many guys who come out here and take this with a sense of responsibility," Brees said.Denver cornerback Champ Bailey says players should take the honor of a Pro Bowl seriously because they never know when they will get the opportunity to return."This is a tradition that needs to keep going," Bailey said. "That's the only way we're going to keep it going, is if we come over here and take it seriously."

Cubs Road Ahead: Jake Arrieta has a date with the Dodgers

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Cubs Road Ahead: Jake Arrieta has a date with the Dodgers

CSN's Leila Rahimi and Tony Andracki talk about the Cubs' homestand - including a rematch between Jake Arrieta and the Dodgers - in this week's edition of the Honda Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Honda dealers.

On the final day of May, Jake Arrieta takes the ball against the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first time since he threw a no-hitter against them on Sunday Night Baseball last August.

That was sort of Arrieta's national coming-out party, though Cubs fans and Chicagoans were hardly surprised after seeing Arrieta showcase no-hit stuff for the previous two seasons.

Since that moment, Arrieta has emerged as arguably the best pitcher on the planet, winning the National League Cy Young Award, pitching in the playoffs and absorbing other-worldly expectations.

Of course, with the Dodgers in town, Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw has something to say about who the best pitcher in the universe is right now, but the Cubs get some scheduling luck and will not have to face the stifling southpaw during this four-game set in Chicago.

After the Dodgers leave following Thursday's matinee, the Arizona Diamondbacks come into town this weekend for a three-game series at Wrigley beginning at 1:20 p.m. Friday.

Fire to take time off during Copa America break

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Fire to take time off during Copa America break

Professional soccer players have plenty of down time in their day-to-day lives, but rarely have a stretch of true off days during the season.

This week, though, will be a break for the Chicago Fire. As the Copa America kicks off Friday, the Fire will get a rare in-season week off.

Major League Soccer is taking a break for the tournament contested between national teams from North and South America. No Fire players are participating in the tournament.

Not only does the team not play again until June 15, but the team will not train again until Monday, June 6.

“We want our guys to recover well and start the second part of the season in the best possible performance,” coach Veljko Paunovic said after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Portland. “They will have a fitness plan during this time.”

This is a change of pace from the team’s earlier bye weeks where Paunovic said those were a chance to work on the team’s fitness. This time around the Paunovic is using it as a chance to give the players a restart before getting back to work.

“I think it’s good for us to get a little bit of time off,” midfielder Matt Polster said. “We still have a fitness packet to do and we have to maintain our fitness over the week. I think the guys need to take a little break. When you can, you take it. I think that’s huge for us so when we come back we’re much hungrier to get the next three points.”

The Fire have a longer break than most of MLS. There are three league matches Wednesday and three more on Thursday before the whole league breaks. In addition, the three Canadian MLS teams are playing in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday.

That means the Fire are one of just five MLS teams to get a slightly earlier, longer break for the Copa America.

The Fire return to action in the U.S. Open Cup. They will play against the winner of the Indy Eleven-Louisville City match, which will be played on Wednesday. If Louisville wins the Fire will travel for the June 15 fourth round match. If Indy wins, the match will be at Toyota Park.

White Sox: Bad luck returns for Jose Quintana

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White Sox: Bad luck returns for Jose Quintana

NEW YORK -- Time for Jose Quintana to find a new four-leaf clover or lucky horseshoe.

His bad luck seems to have resurfaced.

Even though he lowered his earned-run average to 2.13, Quintana earned a fourth straight loss on Monday afternoon as the White Sox dropped a 1-0 decision to the New York Mets. Quintana yielded a seventh-inning home run to Neil Walker, his only blemish in a sturdy seven-inning performance, but was outpitched by Matt Harvey. The defeat dropped Quintana’s record to 5-5.

“This is stuff we see out of him all the time,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “If we could score, he’d have a better record, and everybody would know his name.”

Quintana made it evident early on he was capable of stopping a White Sox losing streak that now stands at seven. He struck out four in a row, including the side in the second inning.

The left-hander, whose streak of 34 straight starts with four or fewer runs allowed is tied with Jake Arrieta for the longest active streak in the majors, induced an inning-ending double play in the fourth. He faced only three over the minimum through six innings and matched zeroes with Harvey.

But Walker came through in the seventh inning and attached an undeserved ‘L’ to Quintana’s name in the box score. During his four-game losing streak, Quintana has a 3.41 ERA in 26 1/3 innings.

“I’m sure he could easily have a much better record over the course of his career if he had a little bit more run support for sure,” catcher Alex Avila said. “But credit to him, he keeps going out there and pitching good games.”

The loss dropped Quintana’s career record to 38-39 despite a 3.35 ERA in 815 innings. Fifteen of those losses have come since the beginning of the 2015 season even though Quintana has a 3.04 ERA in those 43 starts. He’s 14-15 in that span.

The grand total of support Quintana has received in those losses --- 16, including one run or fewer over 12 starts.

While he was speaking about the team after Monday’s loss, Quintana might as well have been discussing himself.

“Right now, we try to get a first win,” Quintana said. “We try to forget everything, the losses, and start again. Tomorrow we’ll try to get the first win.”