Vick 'can't wait' to return to Atlanta Sunday

537014.jpg

Vick 'can't wait' to return to Atlanta Sunday

Michael Vick left Atlanta in disgrace five years ago. He returns this weekend as one of the NFLs most electrifying players.

Vick will make his first career start against the team that made him the first pick in the 2001 draft on Sunday when the Eagles and Falcons meet at the Georgia Dome, where Vick emerged a decade ago as one of the leagues most exciting quarterbacks and one of the most popular sports figures in Atlantas history.

Vick spent six uneven but often-brilliant seasons with the Falcons before the team decided to cut ties with him after the 2006 season, once the extent of his involvement in an illegal dog-fighting ring in Virginia became known.

After serving 19 months in a federal prison in Kansas and another two months in federal custody on house arrest, he resurfaced with the Eagles in 2009, became a starter a few weeks into last season, and now quarterbacks a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

And this Sunday, the same fans that cheered so loudly for him from 2001 through 2006 will find themselves booing the greatest quarterback in their franchises history.

Oh man, its going to be great, Vick told CSNPhilly.com Sunday night in St. Louis, after leading the Eagles to a 31-13 season-opening victory over the Rams.

Im going to have fun. Im going to enjoy that game. Going back to Atlanta and having an opportunity to play in front of the crowd that I think I provided a lot of excitement to, that I brought a lot of wins to in that dome, its going to be great.

Vick did get into the Eagles 34-7 win over the Falcons in Atlanta in 2009, but by the time he got in the game, replacing Donovan McNabb in the fourth quarter, the Eagles already led by 20 points and the dome was half empty.

Vick was mainly cheered that day, although there were boos when he put 14 points on the scoreboard late in the game on a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown -- his first in an Eagles uniform.

Last year, the Eagles faced the Falcons at the Linc, but that was one of three games Vick missed midway through the season with rib cartilage damage suffered in a loss to the Redskins. Kevin Kolb started and beat the Falcons, 31-17.

So this is uncharted waters.

In 2009, when we went back there, I got in at the end of the game, and it was fun, Vick said. But this time, its going to be a completely different feeling, going out there as a starter and playing the whole game. Its going to be wild.

Vick had a great deal to do with the renaissance of football in Atlanta. Before he arrived, the Falcons had just three winning seasons in the previous 18 years and had won only four playoff games in franchise history.

All of a sudden in 2001, one of the most exciting players in NFL history arrived in town and not only made football fun again in Atlanta but made the Falcons a winner. Vick carried the Falcons to the playoffs in 2002 and 2004, beating the Packers at Lambeau Field in a playoff game in 2002 and the Rams in 2004.

He went 38-28-1 in 67 starts for the Falcons, the best won-loss of any quarterback in Falcons history.

When I was in Atlanta, I always believed I was going to be in Atlanta for the duration of my career, he said. I wondered if this day would come where I would come back in another uniform, but, honestly, I thought Id be there my whole career. Im thankful to have the opportunity to go back and play there. I think its going to be fun. I cant wait.

Vicks relationship with some fans in Atlanta went sour during the difficult 2005 and 2006 seasons, but its a lock that thousands of No. 7 jerseys -- both red Falcons jerseys and green Eagles jerseys -- will be pouring through the Georgia Dome turnstiles Sunday evening.

Vick continues to have an outstanding relationship with owner Arthur Blank -- who gave him a 100 million contract and then released him a few years later -- and many Falcons fans continue to revere Vick, who really had so much to do with putting the Falcons back on the NFL map.

So how will he be received Sunday? Vick laughed.

I didnt really get booed that much (in 2009), but that was the end of the game -- well see how it goes when Im out there for four quarters, he said. If we get up on them, they might start booing me. But it doesnt matter. I still got unconditional love for the city and for the fan base.

Its a special place for me, and it will always be a special place.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com.

MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games, starts Friday

052716_mackanin_slide.jpg

MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games, starts Friday

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor started serving his suspension Friday for punching Toronto's Jose Bautista after the penalty was reduced from eight to seven games.

Odor was out of the lineup for the series opener against Pittsburgh. He will be eligible to return June 4 when Texas is home against Seattle.

Bautista was suspended one game, and he was serving that Friday, when the penalty was upheld a day after his appeal was heard.

The Rangers promoted former top prospect Jurickson Profar from Triple-A Round Rock, and he was in the lineup against the Pirates as the leadoff hitter playing second base. Odor had been leading off.

Odor's penalty was cut by Major League Baseball special assistant John McHale Jr. The appeal over Odor's role in a May 15 brawl between the Rangers and Blue Jays was heard Tuesday. The league disciplined 14 players and staff over the melee in Arlington (see full story).

Red Sox: Struggling RHP Clay Buchholz to bullpen
TORONTO -- Struggling Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is being moved to the bullpen and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will take Buchholz's spot in the rotation, starting Tuesday at Baltimore.

Buchholz is 2-5 with a 6.35 ERA in 10 starts and has allowed five earned runs or more six times. He gave up season-highs of six runs and three home runs in Thursday's 8-2 loss to Colorado.

Rodriguez (right knee) is on the 15-day DL has not pitched for the Red Sox this season. He's 0-3 with a 3.54 ERA in five rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. He went 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie in 2015.

Buchholz has made two career relief appearances, one in his rookie season in 2007 and another in 2008.

Manager John Farrell said Buchholz will make multi-inning appearances in order to remain stretched out and could return to the rotation later in the season.

NBA Playoffs: Cavs blow out Raptors for second straight Finals appearance

052716_okafor_noel_slide.jpg

NBA Playoffs: Cavs blow out Raptors for second straight Finals appearance

BOX SCORE

TORONTO -- LeBron James scored 33 points, Kevin Love had 20 points and 12 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to their second straight NBA Finals by beating the Toronto Raptors 113-87 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.

It's the third finals appearance in team history for the Cavaliers. Cleveland lost to Golden State in six games last year and got swept by San Antonio in 2007.

For James, it's his sixth straight trip to the finals, including four with Miami. He broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this postseason and finished with 11 rebounds and six assists.

Kyrie Irving had 30 points and J.R. Smith had 15 for the Cavaliers, who will face the winner of the Golden State-Oklahoma City series on Thursday.

Cleveland would open at home against the Thunder but would be on the road against the 73-win Warriors, who trail 3-2 against Oklahoma City heading into Saturday's Game 6.

The Cavs will be seeking to end Cleveland's 52-year championship drought, the longest by any city with at least three professional teams. No Cleveland team has won it all since the Browns blanked Baltimore 27-0 to win the NFL championship in 1964.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points and DeMar DeRozan had 20 as the deepest playoff run in Raptors team history ended, much to the disappointment of a sellout crowd of 20,605 dressed in red and white T-shirts that formed a maple leaf pattern on either side of the court. Fans stood and cheered "Let's go, Raptors! Let's go, Raptors!" throughout most of the final three minutes.

Toronto prolonged the series with back-to-back home wins in Games 3 and 4 but never mounted much of a challenge to the conference champions in Game 6, falling behind by 21 in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers came in 0-4 at Air Canada Centre counting the regular season and playoffs, but looked much more like the team that handed the Raptors a trio of lopsided losses in Cleveland this series.

The Raptors trailed 88-78 on a jumper by DeRozan with 10:23 remaining but James scored six points in a 14-3 run that gave the Cavs a 102-81 lead with about 6 minutes left.

James scored 14 in the first and five of Cleveland's nine field goals were from long range as the Cavaliers led 31-25 after one.

After video review, the officials waved off a basket by Biyombo with 3:18 left in the period and gave him a flagrant foul for knocking down Love.

Tempers flared again early in the second when Richard Jefferson reacted angrily to catching an elbow from Jonas Valanciunas as the two battled for a rebound. Patrick Patterson came over and shoved Jefferson out of the way. Both Patterson and Jefferson were given technical fouls.

Cleveland made five more 3-pointers in the second and outscored Toronto 9-3 over the final 71 seconds to lead 55-41 at halftime. The Cavaliers made 10 of 15 3-point attempts in the first half, while Toronto was 2 of 12.

The Cavs led 78-57 after a 3 by Love at 3:53 of the third but Lowry scored 15 points as Toronto closed the quarter with a 17-8 run, cutting it to 86-74.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: Shot 17 for 31 from 3-point range. ... Outscored Toronto 17-5 in fast break points.

Raptors: Finished their playoff run by playing every other day from April 29 onward, a 15-game run that started with Game 6 of the first round against Indiana.

NFL Notes: Jets' offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick stands at 3 years

052716_wentz_slide.jpg

NFL Notes: Jets' offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick stands at 3 years

NEW YORK -- A person familiar with the negotiations says the New York Jets made a three-year offer to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in March that includes $12 million guaranteed in the first year.

That offer has remained on the table for Fitzpatrick, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side is commenting publicly on the negotiations.

The New York Post first reported the terms of the offer Friday.

Fitzpatrick and the Jets have been locked in a contract stalemate. The 33-year-old quarterback is a free agent and coming off a season in which he threw a Jets-record 31 touchdown passes and led New York within a victory of the playoffs.

Both the Jets and Fitzpatrick have said they would like a reunion, but have unable to agree on a deal.

Bears: First-round pick Leonard Floyd agrees to deal
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears and first-round draft pick Leonard Floyd have agreed to a four-year contract with an option for a fifth year.

The Bears drafted the outside linebacker from Georgia with the ninth pick after trading up two spots in a deal with Tampa Bay. Chicago hopes he will add some athleticism to a team trying to build on a 6-10 season. The 6-foot-6, 244-pound Floyd led the Bulldogs in sacks for the third straight year with 4 , and tied for the team lead with 10 1/2 tackles for loss last season.

With the announcement Friday, the Bears have agreed to contracts with eight of their nine picks. Defensive end Jonathan Bullard, a third-rounder, is the exception.

NFL: Navy's Reynolds, Carter can defer military service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Keenan Reynolds will get his chance to play in the NFL this season.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Friday that the record-setting Navy quarterback Reynolds and fullback Chris Swain can defer their military service to play in the NFL.

Carter made the announcement during his graduation speech to the academy in Annapolis. As students cheered the news about their graduating classmates, Carter said: "Go get 'em."

Reynolds was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. He is the NCAA's career leader in touchdowns with 88. He had 31 touchdown passes while leading Navy's triple-option offense. The Ravens plan to use him as a running back, receiver and kick returner.

Swain has signed with the San Diego Chargers (see full story).

Redskins: Activists criticize poll on team name
WASHINGTON -- Native American leaders and activists have criticized a recent US national poll that found nine of 10 Native Americans aren't offended by the Washington Redskins' name.

On a conference call held Friday by the National Congress of American Indians and "Change the Mascot" campaign, panelists voiced opposition to a Washington Post poll that surveyed 504 Native Americans, 90 percent of whom said the name doesn't bother them.

James Fenelon, a California State San Bernardino sociology professor, called the poll "immoral," adding it was not representative of Native American communities. Amanda Blackhorse, lead plaintiff in the trademark case against the Redskins, said the "misguided" poll will not affect attempts to change the name.

National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata said: "This issue is not about polling. This issue is about human rights."

D.C. council member David Grosso said he hadn't been swayed and that the government would not support the team moving back into the District unless the name was changed.

The team currently plays its home games in Maryland, with its headquarters and training facility in Virginia.