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Rob Gronkowski Will Not Return for Patriots’ Playoff Run

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Rob Gronkowski really is retired, at least for this season.

The former New England Patriots tight end had dangled the possibility of returning to the N.F.L. almost as soon as he announced his retirement in March, a month after he helped the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

Despite a long list of injuries during his nine-year career, all spent with New England, Gronkowski said in October that he loved football and would keep the door open to playing again someday. The Patriots, too, were welcoming.

The team’s owner, Robert K. Kraft, reportedly told Gronkowski after the retirement announcement that he wanted the tight end back in time for this year’s playoffs. For that to happen, Gronkowski needed to file paperwork before Week 13 of the season so that he could be taken off the team’s reserve list, but he missed the Nov. 30 deadline.

The Patriots (10-2) are tied for the A.F.C.’s best record but have struggled with a thin receiving corps this season. The team released the former Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown in September and the veteran Josh Gordon in October. For many years, Gronkowski was one of quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite targets.

If Gronkowski, 30, still wants to make a comeback, he will have to wait until the 2020 season, at the earliest. Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten took a similar route, retiring before the 2018 season and then returning to play for the team this year after working as an ESPN analyst.

Since leaving the Patriots, Gronkowski has remained in the limelight. Among other pursuits, he became a football analyst for Fox Sports and a pitchman for a company that produces a line of cannabidiol-infused topical pain relievers. In an interview with The New York Times in August, he did not rule out a cameo in World Wrestling Entertainment or an appearance on “Dancing With the Stars.” He said he had lost about 20 pounds since retiring, and was focused on improving his health.

“I have nothing against drinking, and I believe that there’s times for celebration — 100 percent — after good days of hard work, or you win a championship,” he said. “But I’ve definitely cut hugely back on that, which I knew I needed to. I’m still really figuring out how bad it was to do it the way I was doing it. I took the hard route to find that.”



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Knicks Fire Coach David Fizdale

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The Knicks on Friday fired Coach David Fizdale and one of his assistants, Keith Smart, with the team on pace to record the worst season in franchise history.

Mike Miller, also an assistant coach, was named the interim head coach.

Fizdale was doomed by a 4-18 start, which included eight consecutive defeats — the past two at home by a combined 81 points to Milwaukee and Denver. Such margins are often regarded in the N.B.A. as clear signs that the players are no longer responding to the coach.

The reality, though, is that Fizdale had been on the brink of dismissal since Nov. 10, when the Knicks lost by 21 to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. That defeat prompted the team president, Steve Mills, and General Manager Scott Perry to meet during the second half with the team owner, James L. Dolan, and then hold an unexpected postgame news conference in which they said that the team was falling short of expectations.

The Knicks are 2-10 since the Cleveland loss and have looked less and less competitive. Yet Fizdale’s departure, with a 21-83 record that sticks him with the lowest winning percentage of any coach in team history at .202, would appear to shift the pressure onto Mills and Perry.

Hours after seeing Durant and Irving land with the Nets, Mills issued a statement to the news media acknowledging that “while we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through both the draft and targeted free agents.”

In an October radio interview, Durant shed some light on how much the Knicks’ stature has diminished under Dolan since the franchise’s last trip to the N.B.A. finals in 1999, saying that younger players, unlike fans, don’t remember the Knicks ever being good.

“I remember the Knicks being in the finals, but the kids after me didn’t see that. So the brand of the Knicks isn’t as cool to them as, let’s say, the Golden State Warriors or even the Lakers or the Nets now,” Durant said. “The cool thing right now is not the Knicks.”

A coaching change is bound to lead to better efforts from the Knicks, but their problems run far deeper.

Neither Dennis Smith Jr., the standout player acquired from Dallas in the Porzingis trade, nor Kevin Knox, the Knicks’ top draft pick in 2018, has shown signs of progress this season. The players Mills and Perry did manage to sign in July when they whiffed on Durant and Irving have created a logjam at power forward.

The website fivethirtyeight.com, run by Nate Silver, projected the Knicks to finish 20-62 after the summer signings of Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis.

Fizdale is not even halfway through a four-year, $22 million deal he signed with the Knicks heading into last season. He said after losing 129-92 to the Nuggets on Thursday night that he was not concerned about being fired.

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Eli Manning Is Ready for Another Chance

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For the past 11 weeks, as rookie Daniel Jones has taken over the spotlight as the starting quarterback of the Giants, Eli Manning has been running the scout team at practice. As the backup quarterback, Manning played in the style of opposing quarterbacks to prepare the Giants defense for what they will face on game day.

This week, Manning got to be himself again.

Manning, 38, was benched in Week 3 after the Giants (2-10) lost the first two games of the season. At the time, it seemed likely that Manning’s storied Giants career was coming to an end. But now Jones is sidelined with a high-ankle sprain and Manning will likely get at least one more shot, on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles (5-7).

“He’s a legend,” running back Saquon Barkley said. He added: “The way he operated in practice, the way he operated in the building was the same Eli that we know. Good to see him come out this week and get a chance. It’s going to be awesome for him.”

Jones was injured in the second quarter of the Giants’ loss to the Packers on Sunday. He played the entire game, but after a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday he was in a walking boot and was on the sidelines at practice during the week, biking and stretching.

“It’s pretty disappointing, especially after thinking I was going to be able to play,” Jones told reporters on Wednesday. “I understand it, I guess, and hopefully it’ll heal up pretty quickly.”

Last spring, the Giants drafted Jones, 22, sixth over all, and the expectation was that he would succeed Manning quickly. Jones made his first start against Tampa Bay on Sept. 22, when he led the Giants to a 32-31 comeback win. Jones has thrown for 18 touchdowns and has averaged 235.7 yards in his 10 starts.

Manning’s legacy with the Giants is already secure, despite his not being on the field for most of the season. He had been the face of the franchise since he was drafted in 2004, and he led the Giants to Super Bowl victories in the 2007 and 2011 seasons.

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Villarreal 0-0 Atletico Madrid – HIGHLIGHTS – 12/6/19

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Villarreal y Atlético Madrid no pudieron romper el cero y se tienen que conformar con el empate.

Atletico Madrid’s spiral continues with 0-0 draw with Villarreal in LaLiga.

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