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Legendary Packers HOF QB Starr dies at 85

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Bart Starr, a Hall of Fame quarterback who helped build the Green Bay Packers dynasty in the 1960s and was named the Most Valuable Player of the first two Super Bowls, died Sunday in Birmingham, Ala. He was 85.

Starr won an unprecedented five NFL championships as the Packers starting quarterback, leading the club to titles in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967. No other starting quarterback has won more than four championships.

Starr battled a series of health setbacks recently. In September 2014, he suffered two strokes, a heart attack and several seizures. His condition improved after undergoing experimental stem cell treatments. He then overcame a life-threatening bronchial infection in August 2015 and broke his hip in December.

He made one of his final public appearances on Nov. 25 of last year, attending the jersey retirement ceremony for quarterback Brett Favre at Lambeau Field.

“We are saddened to note the passing of our husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Bart Starr,” read a statement from Starr’s family. “He battled with courage and determination to transcend the serious stroke he suffered in September 2014, but his most recent illness was too much to overcome.

“While he may always be best known for his success as the Packers quarterback for 16 years, his true legacy will always be the respectful manner in which he treated every person he met, his humble demeanor, and his generous spirit.”

After losing to the Eagles in the 1960 NFL Championship Game, the Packers never lost another postseason contest with Starr at the helm.

That was certainly true at Lambeau Field on December 31, 1967, the date of the NFL Championship Game, better known as the “Ice Bowl.” The game would provide the signature moment of Starr’s career. Fighting a wind chill of 48 degrees below zero, the Packers trailed the Dallas Cowboys 17-14 late in the fourth quarter. After advancing the ball to the one-yard line with 16 seconds left on the clock, Starr called “31 Wedge,” a running play designed for fullback Chuck Mercein. Telling none of his teammates, he decided to keep the ball himself. Following a block by guard Jerry Kramer, Starr plowed into the end zone, giving the Packers a 21-14 victory and a date with the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II.

Starr was credited for using his mind as much as his arm. Still, he led the NFL in passing three times and was named the league’s MVP in 1966. He played his entire 16-year career with the Packers, finishing with 24,718 passing yards and 152 touchdown passes. His No. 15 jersey number was retired by the Packers in 1973. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

After being the University of Alabama’s starting quarterback, safety and punter as a sophomore in 1953, Starr suffered a back injury in a hazing incident in the summer of 1954 and scarcely saw the field his final two seasons with the Crimson Tide. The Packers used a 17th-round draft selection on Starr in 1956 after Alabama basketball coach, Johnny Dee, recommended him to Packers personnel director, Jack Vainisi, a personal friend.

Starr did not make much of an impact in Green Bay his first three seasons, winning seven of 23 starts while throwing 19 touchdown passes with 32 interceptions. The course of Starr’s life began to change in 1959 with the arrival of head coach Vince Lombardi. The even-mannered Starr was the perfect complement for the fiery Lombardi. From 1961-67, Starr went 69-18-4 as a starter in the regular season and was a perfect 9-0 in the playoffs.

Lombardi allowed Starr to call his own plays and rarely found reason to second guess his quarterback.

“There’s nobody who could put a team in a better position with what Vince wanted to do,” Hall of Fame back Paul Hornung, a teammate of Starr’s for 10 seasons, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2013. “He gave him control of the team. He gave him authority to do whatever he wanted to do. And that’s pretty strong.”

Starr retired in July 1972 and was hired as the Packers quarterbacks coach, holding the job for one season. He then spent two years as a broadcaster with CBS before being named Green Bay’s head coach and general manager on Christmas Eve 1974. In nine disappointing seasons as the club’s head coach, the Packers posted a record of 52-76-3 and made just one playoff appearance.

He was born Bryan Bartlett Starr on January 9, 1934, in Montgomery, Alabama. Football stardom could not shield Starr from personal tragedy. One of his two sons, Bret, died from a drug overdose at the age of 24 in 1988. He is survived by his wife, Cherry, who he married in 1954, and another son, Bart Jr.

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NFLPA issues ‘work stoppage guide’ to players

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As CBA negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA continue to make little progress, the NFLPA has issued a “work stoppage guide” to its players to help them prepare in case of a strike or lockout following the 2020 season.

Sources on both sides of the negotiations continue to insist a work stoppage is unlikely. But the NFLPA has said all along that its mission is to “negotiate for the best while preparing for the worst.” So while the current CBA doesn’t expire until March 2021, the players’ union is trying to make sure its members are prepared in case negotiations go sideways.

Much of the “work stoppage guide”, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, is focused on helping players manage their money in advance of — or in case of — a strike or lockout. The specific suggestions include:

  • Save at least half of each check, if not more. If your current expenses are too high to save this much, you should look at ways to change your spending habits and reduce financial commitments.

  • Try cooking at home instead of eating out as much.

  • Designate one day a week as “no spending day.”

  • Take care of major home repairs now.

  • If you’re in the market for a new home, consider renting instead of buying for now.

  • Find renters for your unoccupied homes or bedrooms.

  • Consider selling a car you have not driven in the past six months.

  • Avoid signing a long-term lease on any rental property that you rarely use.

  • Learn to say “no” — or at least, “not now” — to friends and family asking for money.

  • Consider selling clothes you have not worn in a year on Poshmark, Thred-up or Tradesy.

Other parts of the guide address specifics of what the rules might be during a work stoppage, in terms of access to team facilities (none), whether the league would conduct a draft (they did in 2011 while players were locked out) and whether players would still be subject to drug testing during a work stoppage (they don’t know).

Players and owners have conducted a handful of negotiating sessions this summer, and commissioner Roger Goodell has said publicly that the league would like a new CBA in place before the start of the 2019 season. But sources say little progress has been made in talks so far, as the main issue remains the revenue split between players and owners. Currently, the players’ share of all league revenue may not fall below 47 percent in a given year, and the players want that figure to go up.

More negotiating sessions between players and owners are tentatively scheduled for next week, sources say, though the key word there is “tentatively.” Talks between staff members for each side have been ongoing, and the two sides are likely to decide in the coming days whether there’s likely to be enough progress to warrant more formal negotiating sessions next week.

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Panthers’ Cox cited for speeding, marijuana

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BESSEMER CITY, N.C. — The North Carolina Highway Patrol cited Carolina Panthers defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. for speeding, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia on Wednesday, the final day of the team’s training camp.

Sergeant Christopher Knox of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said troopers pulled over the 25-year-old Cox on Interstate 85 northbound near Bessemer City for driving 90 mph in a 65 mph zone in a 2015 Nissan. Cox was cited for possessing less than a half-ounce of marijuana. He has an Oct. 14 court date.

The incident came about an hour after the Panthers broke camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and players began returning to Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Panthers released a statement Wednesday night, saying, “The club is aware that Bryan Cox Jr. was cited by law enforcement today. We are gathering information and have been in contact with the NFL and Bryan. We will have no further comment at this time.”

Cox has been with the Panthers since 2017. He is the son of Bryan Cox, who played 12 seasons in the NFL and was named All-Pro three times.

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Beckham Jr. dealing with hip injury

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This story has been corrected. Read below.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. sat out the team portion of a joint practice with the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday with what coach Freddie Kitchens termed a minor injury.

Sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that Beckham is dealing with a hip injury, but he could participate in team drills against the Colts on Thursday. Beckham took part in individual drills on Wednesday.

The Browns are in Westfield, Indiana, for two joint practices with the Colts before their preseason game on Saturday.

Beckham did not play in Cleveland’s first preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

An August 14 story had sources incorrectly describing Beckham Jr.’s injury as a hip pointer. Later, sources said it is simply a hip injury and not a pointer.

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