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 narrowly hang on for win over Cardinals

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Cubs narrowly hang on for win over Cardinals

ST. LOUIS (AP) Jake Arrieta remained unbeaten on the season despite allowing as many as four runs for the first time in nearly a year and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-8 on Wednesday.

Arrieta (9-0) joined the White Sox's Chris Sale as the only nine-game winners in the majors.

Arrieta allowed four runs in a regular-season game for the first time since June 16, 2015.

Arrieta became the first Cub to win his first nine decisions since Kenny Holtzman in 1967 and it is the best start to a season for the franchise since Jim McCormick went 16-0 in 1886.

Kris Bryant hit a three-run homer and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist each drove in two for the Cubs.

Rutgers looking at bringing football game to Yankee Stadium

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Rutgers looking at bringing football game to Yankee Stadium

Northwestern isn't the only Big Ten team looking to bring football to an iconic baseball stadium.

Last week, it was Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips talking about his desire to get the Wildcats back on the gridiron at Wrigley Field, and now Rutgers athletics director Pat Hobbs is talking about getting the Scarlet Knights football squad back in action at Yankee Stadium.

Hobbs and new head football coach Chris Ash threw out the ceremonial first pitch ahead of Tuesday's Yankees game, and Hobbs talked about bringing Rutgers football back to the Bronx.

"(The Yankees) want to work more closely with us," Hobbs said, his quotes published by NJ.com. "We want to look at maybe bringing a game here and announcing that sometime down the road. I guess the Yankees see Rutgers is starting to move forward and is a good story, so they want to be part of it, too."

Rutgers has played thrice previously at Yankee Stadium: one regular-season game against Army (which was a home game for the Black Knights) and two appearances in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Should Rutgers play a game there in the future, it would likely mean losing a home game in New Jersey.

Hobbs said he hopes to announce something soon, but we'll see if the Knights play a home game in the Bronx sometime in the next couple of seasons.

Until then, enjoy Hobbs and Ash throwing out that first pitch.

James Blackmon Jr. will be back with Hoosiers in 2016-17

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James Blackmon Jr. will be back with Hoosiers in 2016-17

After missing the majority of last season, James Blackmon Jr. will return to Indiana for his junior season.

Blackmon had entered his name into the NBA Draft, taking advantage of new rules allowing underclassmen to do so without hiring an agent and participate in team workouts while still being able to return to the college level with their NCAA eligibility intact.

But after learning more about his pro potential, he withdrew ahead of Wednesday night's deadline.

Getting Blackmon back will almost be like adding a completely new player for Tom Crean, whose Hoosiers won a regular-season conference championship last season without Blackmon playing in a single Big Ten game.

Blackmon shone as a freshman, averaging 15.7 points and 5.3 rebounds during the 2014-15 campaign. Last year, he averaged 15.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13 games and posted significantly better shooting numbers, shooting 48 percent from the field and 46.3 percent from 3-point range.

It was reported Tuesday that Troy Williams will forego his senior year at Indiana and stay in the draft, and the Hoosiers lose their best player with the graduation of Yogi Ferrell. But Blackmon's return as well as those of Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby should make Indiana a formidable threat in the Big Ten in 2016-17.