Torii Hunter returns to Angels after son's arrest

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Torii Hunter returns to Angels after son's arrest

From Comcast SportsNet
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Torii Hunter was blindsided by the news his teenage son had been arrested. On the flight back home to Texas two weeks ago, he went through a litany of emotions -- confusion, guilt, fear. The Los Angeles Angels' right fielder and clubhouse leader had to be a dad, shelving his high-paying job on the West Coast for more important duties. He's ready to return to baseball, but only because he's confident his son will be all right. "I've sacrificed a lot for baseball, but I'm not sacrificing my family," Hunter said. "I love them more than baseball, and I love this game." Hunter rejoined the Los Angeles Angels on Monday after a 14-game absence. The veteran outfielder didn't come off the Angels' restricted list before they opened a three-game series with the New York Yankees, but Hunter thinks he'll be ready to play soon. Hunter left the Angels on May 14, a few hours after 17-year-old Darius McClinton-Hunter was arrested in a sexual assault case in Prosper, Texas, the upscale Dallas suburb where the Hunter family lives. Hunter is a long-distance father for most of the year. His wife stays with their three teenage sons, Darius, Torii Jr., and Monshadrik "Money" Hunter, who are finishing their junior years at Prosper High. All three are expected to be Division I football prospects. On that flight home, Hunter wondered about his own culpability in his son's trouble. He has tried to be an attentive father with a disciplinarian streak, saying he doesn't hesitate to "whoop" his kids, but just isn't around them for much of the year. "I thought, man, I wish I could have been here, not just four months (in the winter)," Hunter said. "I wish I could be there 12 months and be in their lives, and none of this would happen, and this and that. I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know the stories, anything like that. It took me a couple of days to get the story. Once we got the truth to come out, I felt better about it." Although Hunter tried to restrain himself from discussing the legal aspects of his son's case while sitting in the Angels' dugout, the loquacious outfielder couldn't resist declaring that much about the police's investigation doesn't add up. For example, Prosper police said its five arrests followed a monthlong investigation, but Hunter claims the alleged assault happened only a week before his son's detainment. "Can't really talk about much," Hunter said. "I'm not a no-commenter. You know I want to tell you everything, but I can't do it. I've got to let the justice system play its part, and let my attorneys do what they have to do, and hopefully this thing gets dropped, but we're ready to go to court no matter what. "I don't wish this on any father out there," he added. "I know a lot of fathers have been through it, but I don't wish this on anybody, to see your son go through this. All the embarrassment, all the lies that are out there -- don't always believe what you read, because it's not even close. But it's a lot better." Hunter spent the last two weeks with his family, making time almost every day to watch the Angels on television. Los Angeles is 9-5 without Hunter, climbing out of last place heading into a key homestand against the Yankees and the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. The Angels didn't hesitate to allow Hunter to take an indefinite leave. General manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia checked in with the veteran almost daily during his absence. "That decision wasn't tough at all," Scioscia said. "We all love this game and understand the sense of duty you have to this game, but there's things you have to handle with your family." Even when outfielders Vernon Wells and Ryan Langerhans got hurt during Hunter's absence, the Angels didn't rush him back. Hunter thought about rushing himself when Langerhans ran into an outfield wall in San Diego, but his wife wouldn't allow it. Hunter took his son to the movies last weekend and was pleased to see Darius' first smiles in nearly two weeks when they saw "The Avengers." McClinton-Hunter has been recruited as a receiver by several schools, and the elder Hunter said Utah and Texas Tech already have contacted the family to say they're still interested in Darius. Torii Hunter is prepared to return to Texas if his son's case proceeds through the justice system, but he's eager to get back to his game as well. "They all seemed like they were a lot better," Hunter said. "My wife can handle the situation. My attorneys can handle the situation. My three boys, they're very upbeat. We were talking a lot. Through all this stuff, my family and I, we got a little closer."

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Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

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Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”