Bucs acquiring Gronk
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Rob Gronkowski spent nine seasons catching passes from Tom Brady in New England. The two are about to reunite in Tampa Bay.
Gronkowski’s agent says the tight end is about to come out of retirement and has accepted a trade to the Buccaneers. The Patriots also would send a seventh-round pick to the Bucs for a fourth-rounder.
The deal is pending a physical and would give Brady one of his most dependable pass-catchers. Brady signed a two-year, $50 million contract with the Bucs last month.
Gronkowski has caught 521 passes for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns in 115 regular-season games. The five-time Pro Bowl selection has another 81 catches for 1,163 yards and 12 TDs in 16 playoff games.
The tight end position already was considered one of Tampa Bay’s biggest strengths, with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate teaming with Pro Bowl receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. They form the best collection of targets Brady has had to work with in more than a decade.
A-Rod interested in buying Mets
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Mets were very interested in acquiring Alex Rodriguez through free agency almost 20 years. The situation is now reversed.
A-Rod and fiancee Jennifer Lopez have retained J.P. Morgan to represent them in raising capital for a possible bid for the Mets. The move was first reported by Variety and confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the decision.
The three-time AL MVP retired in August 2016 with 698 home runs, a .295 average and 2,086 RBIs in 22 years. He was suspended for the 2014 season for violations of Major League Baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract.
BASEBALL-MINOR LEAGUE CONTRACTION
Minor leagues prepared to accept contraction plan
NEW YORK (AP) — A person familiar with the negotiations tells The Associated Press that the minor leagues are prepared to agree to Major League Baseball’s proposal to cut guaranteed affiliations from 160 to 120 next year.
The plan would impact hundreds of prospects and cut player development expenses. An electronic negotiating session is scheduled for Wednesday.
MLB last year proposed cutting 42 affiliates. The minors have fought the plan, but the new coronavirus pandemic has changed the dynamic and sapped minor league teams of revenue and willingness to fight.
Djokovic says he may reconsider stance on vaccination
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Novak Djokovic has reiterated he is against taking an anti-coronavirus vaccination if it becomes mandatory to travel, but says he’s open to changing his mind.
The top-ranked Djokovic caused a stir when he suggested in a live Facebook chat over the weekend that if a vaccination becomes compulsory on the world tennis tour then he “wouldn’t want to be forced by someone” to take it.
Djokovic says in a statement emailed to the AP that despite his personal objection to a vaccine, “if it becomes compulsory, I will have to make a decision whether to do it or not."
Conflict over who will pay for the Olympic delay
TOKYO (AP) — An open conflict has broken out between Tokyo Olympic organizers and the IOC over who will be paying for the unprecedented year-long postponement.
Tokyo spokesman Masa Takaya says the organizing committee asked the Switzerland-based IOC to remove a comment from its website suggesting that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed that Japan would pay most of the postponement costs.
Media reports in Japan estimate the year-long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic will cost $2 billion to $6 billion.
Takaya says it was not appropriate for Abe's name to be linked. The IOC removed the reference.
Bulls punished for recruiting issues
UNDATED (AP) — The University at Buffalo men’s basketball team has been placed on one-year probation after a former assistant coach was found to have forged recruiting documents.
Buffalo also was fined $5,000, agreed to a two-week ban on communicating with potential recruits and reduced its recruiting days by five for the 2020-21 season.
The decision was announced by the NCAA and the Mid-American Conference school as part of a negotiated resolution reached today. The school said it self-reported the infractions in October and cooperated with the NCAA investigation.
In other college basketball news:
— Ball State guard K.J. Walton will return for his sixth college season after receiving a waiver from the NCAA and the approval of the Mid-American Conference. The former Missouri player sat out the 2017-18 because of college basketball's transfer rule and played just 10 games last season because of an ankle injury that required surgery. He has started 35 games of the 42 he's appeared in with the Cardinals and averages 11.7 points and 4.5 rebounds.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL-NCAA RULES
NCAA alters video reviews, targeting rules
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA has announced a pace-of-play guideline for instant replay officials to complete video reviews in less than two minutes of a college football game.
The Playing Rules Oversight Panel also approved the rules change no longer requiring players to head to the locker room after being penalized for targeting. All other aspects of the rule discouraging above-the-shoulders contact remain the same.
South Korean season to begin in May without fans
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s professional baseball league has decided to begin its season on May 5.
The games will be played without fans until the risk of infection from the coronavirus is gone.
The league plans to maintain a 144-game regular-season schedule but has decided scrap its all-star game and shorten the first round of the playoffs from a best-of-five to best-of-three series.
The KBO says it could shorten the regular season if infections erupt. The league will advise players to wear face masks in locker rooms and require them to download smartphone apps to report their daily health status to league officials.
Naming rights to be sold to iconic Barcelona stadium to benefit virus fight
BARCELONA (AP) — Barcelona’s soccer team will sell the title rights to its famed stadium for one year in an effort to raise money for the fight against the coronavirus.
The Spanish club’s executive board says it will donate the entire fee raised by selling the title rights to the Camp Nou to fighting the global pandemic. The Camp Nou has never had a sponsor since it opened in 1957.
In other virus-related developments:
— Reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson admits it was “bad timing.” The Baltimore Ravens quarterback threw footballs to teammate Marquise Brown and former NFL star Antonio Brown during an informal workout in Florida on April 1, without regard to social distancing. Jackson told reporters today that he’s now working out alone.
— The deputy head of Germany’s national disease control center has cautioned against coronavirus testing for soccer players in order to restart the league. Regular testing of players and team staff is a key element of a plan to resume German soccer in empty stadiums next month. Robert Koch Institute vice president Lars Schaade says he doesn’t “see why certain sections of the population ... should be routinely screened.” Schaade says he would prefer testing to be focused on people who show symptoms or who are linked to an outbreak of the virus.
— The men’s and women’s professional tennis tours plan to create a player relief fund to help those in the sport dealing with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The ATP and WTA say they are in discussions with the International Tennis Federation and the four Grand Slam tournaments. Neither tour provided any specifics about how much money they are pooling or how it will be distributed. No tournaments will be played before mid-July at the earliest.
— The Associated Press has learned the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is bracing for cuts of 10% to 20% because of the coronavirus pandemic that has pushed the Olympics back one year and triggered losses across the nation’s sports organizations. The AP received a copy of a letter CEO Sarah Hirshland sent to leaders across the U.S. Olympic world in which she said the exact nature of the cuts would be determined by the end of May.
Former Colts linebacker Mike Curtis dead at 77
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The hard-hitting, no-nonsense linebacker Mike Curtis has died. He died Monday in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Son Clay says on Twitter his father died of "complications from CTE,” a degenerative brain disease.
Curtis helped the Colts win a Super Bowl during a 14-year career spent predominantly in Baltimore. He earned the nickname “Mad Dog” because of his fierce play in the middle of a strong Baltimore defense. His interception in the waning minutes of the 1970 Super Bowl set up the winning field goal in the Colts' win over Dallas.
Mike Curtis was 77 years old.