AMA Motocross storms into Northern California


AMA Motocross storms into Northern California


SACRAMENTO (AP) The massive golden-domed California capitol building looming above, four of motocross' biggest names sat at a table with microphones on a pleasant spring afternoon.

As they talked about the upcoming outdoor season in front of more than 100 fans and a handful of politicians in black suits, Ryan Dungey, Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed and Trey Canard were nearly close enough to touch shoulders.

If the wild Supercross season is any indication, there probably won't be much separation once they hit the throttle when AMA Motocross kicks off its 40th season at historic Hangtown on Saturday.

"Supercross was a little surprising at moments, some weird things happened," said Dungey, the defending outdoor champion. "Outdoor is going to be another tough championship."

Dungey became the first rider to sweep the Supercross and motocross titles as a rookie a year ago, completing a rapid rise to the top of his sport. He did it, though, with former champions James Stewart and Chad Reed, along with Villopoto, out with injuries.

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With those three back for Supercross this year, the sport had one of its closest finishes ever, a wild 18-race ride that included five riders winning races and five lead changes in the season points standings.

Villopoto closed it out by finishing third at Las Vegas two weeks ago, capturing his first 450-class title just a year after a horrific crash left his right leg mangled and the cartilage in his sternum scrambled.

Reed, a two-time Supercross champion, finished second in the points, just four points back, and Dungey was right behind him in third. Stewart, a two-time champion himself, finished fourth and Canard, a rising star on the circuit, was fifth despite breaking his leg during testing last month.

Canard will be out until later in the season, but the rest of the champions are revved up and ready to go as motocross moves from the stadiums to the massive outdoor tracks.

It starts with Hangtown, an AMA original hosting its 43rd race near the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. One of the most demanding courses on the circuit, Hangtown will give the riders a tough initial test with just one weekend off after finishing Supercross.

"It's a track where starts are important," Reed said. "It's choppy, it's fast, it's a difficult race track to master. I think we all come in as prepared as best we can, but it's the first race of the season, we're straight off Supercross and throughout the weekend we're all going to struggle at some point in time."

Villopoto will be considered the favorite coming off his impressive Supercross run.

The 22-year-old from Fontana, Calif., opened up the 2010 Supercross season strong, winning seven races, but suffered a horrific crash at St. Louis that broke two bones in his right leg and knocked him out of the outdoor season.

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Determined to finish his climb to the top, Villopoto put in grueling hours of rehabilitation to get back in shape, work that paid off with wins in his first two races back, at Anaheim, Calif., and Phoenix to open the Supercross season. He finished with a series-high six wins, capping it with his first title not far from the glitz of The Strip.

"The Supercross season is so long and we have one week off and roll right into the outdoor season, so there's not much time off," Villopoto said. "But I think we're all ready, we're all prepared and will have the same goal."

Getting to that goal won't be easy, as the Supercross season showed.

With everyone healthy and Canard up from the 250 class, the Supercross season was a tight race from the start, one where a single gaffe was enough to put riders in a deep hole.

Villopoto had one in Jacksonville, where he inexplicably missed qualifying for the main event. Dungey was derailed by a slipped chain at the second Anaheim race.

Reed, running his own team for the first time, had trouble at the two Texas races. Stewart, known for either crashing or winning, did both, getting five wins to go with three crashes, not to mention an arrest for impersonating a police officer.

The move outdoors is the start of new season, but the premium on staying consistent will continue.

"You throw away a race or 25 points, you're going to have your work cut out to get it back," Dungey said. "You try to make it easy on yourself. The goal is to win races and try to win a championship, and you can't do that if you're in the back, getting bad starts, losing points here and there. There's a lot of great guys out there, so you can't throw away points like that."

Brian Hoyer not living his life worried about 49ers possibly drafting a QB

Brian Hoyer not living his life worried about 49ers possibly drafting a QB

Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are the only two quarterbacks currently on the 49ers' roster.

Is Hoyer operating as if he will be the starter in 2017?

"Yeah for sure. I think that's what I was brought in to do at this point," Hoyer said on KNBR 680 on Wednesday morning. "And the thing that I've learned in this profession, and really in life, is not worry about things you can't control. I can't control who they draft with the second pick tomorrow and I'm not gonna live my life worrying about it."

The 49ers own the second overall pick in the draft and are reportedly strongly considering taking a QB with that selection.

Even if they do, it doesn't mean that player will start from Day 1.

Hoyer worked with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland during the 2014 season -- he started a career-high 13 games with the Browns and threw for a career-best 3,326 yards.

"I'm gonna go out there and do what I think my job is at this point," Hoyer added. "And I'm gonna do that as long as I can until they tell me it's not my job anymore."


Marshawn Lynch excellent fit for Raiders scheme, ailing Oakland fan base

Marshawn Lynch excellent fit for Raiders scheme, ailing Oakland fan base

Marshawn Lynch is a Raider. He announced that fact on Twitter in his own unique way Wednesday, completing a month-long process from initial interest to final signature.

The Raiders gave him a new contract and traded Seattle for his rights, allowing the Oakland Tech High grad and Cal alum to come out of retirement and play for his hometown team.

That’s good news for Raiders fans on several fronts. He fills an immediate need at running back created when Latavius Murray left for Minnesota.

It temporarily tempers, though certainly doesn’t extinguish, rage about the Raiders relocating to Las Vegas.

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Owner Mark Davis hopes to move his team when a new stadium is complete in 2020. 

Lynch won't be there. Lynch won’t represent Vegas. He’s an Oakland Raider, playing for the city he champions at every turn. Lynch regularly gives back to this community and might be its most popular native son right now.

Lynch missed playing football, but he wanted to represent his hometown. That was clear in his tweet. He explained it this way: “I’m really from Oakland doe like really really really from Oakland doe…town bizness breath on me.”

He’ll celebrate joining the Raiders on Thursday with a block party and autograph signing in Oakland.

Lynch will give East Bay fans something to cheer for that won’t be shipping off to Vegas in a few years.

Nothing can cure the pain of an NFL team leaving Oakland a second time. Wins are ibuprofen, giving short-term relief to an ailing fan local base. He can certainly help the Raiders provide that.

The Silver and Black needed a big, physical primary rusher to pair with elusive, yet smaller backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.

Lynch is that guy. There’s no question he’s a football fit.

Lynch is a strong interior rusher from several different formations. He could run well behind fullback Jamize Olawale, as a lone shotgun runner or in jumbo packages with quarterback Derek Carr under center and behind a hulking Raiders offensive line.

While new offensive coordinator Todd Downing will add some wrinkles to an existing scheme, the Raiders employ a versatile system that could suit Lynch’s many strengths.

Lynch ranks among the toughest, most aggressive backs of his generation and one of the best resisting tackles.

He averaged 4.3 yards per carry and 2.8 yards after contact per rushing attempt in his career, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus.

Lynch led the NFL with 245 broken tackles between 2013 and 2016 – 56 more than the next guy -- and he didn’t even play last season, per PFF.

He led the league with an unreal 3.1 yards after per contact in 2014, his last year fully healthy. He played just eight times in 2015 due to an abdominal injury that required surgery.

Lynch is completely healthy after his year travelling the world, doing charity work and expanding his clothing line, but effectiveness is always questioned of running backs over 30. Lynch turned 31 last week. He heads into his 10th season without having been hit in a while, and many believe he can produce like few others his age have in the NFL.

He’ll take the lion’s share of carries in a three-man rotation with Richard and Washington. He reportedly gets an extra $2 million if he's just the second Raider since 2010 to reach 1,000 yards. There’s motivation to push for that and other incentives in the deal. If Lynch is in vintage Beast Mode and fans are happy, the Raiders will gladly pay the extra freight.