Newton picked No. 1 by Carolina

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Newton picked No. 1 by Carolina

April 28, 2011NFL PAGE CAROLINA PAGE

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Carolina Panthers selected Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft Thursday night, gambling the Heisman Trophy winner will overcome questions about his character and work ethic to become the team's first franchise quarterback.A year after going 2-14 with the NFL's worst offense, the Panthers bypassed safer choices such as Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Georgia receiver A.J. Green for Newton, who dazzled in his only season playing major college football.At the draft headquarters in New York, Newton said he got a call from new coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney just before the selection was announced."It was like a shock went through my body," said Newton, wearing a blue Panthers' cap. "I'm just blessed. ... I can't wait to get to my new hometown of Charlotte."At 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds, Newton combined brute strength to barrel over defenders on the run with a strong, accurate arm. He accounted for 50 touchdowns, a 14-0 record, won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to the national championship.But Newton carries baggage and questions, making him likely the riskiest pick in Carolina's 17 seasons.The College Park, Ga., native started college at Florida but left amid reports he was about to be disciplined for academic cheating. That came after an 2008 arrest involving a stolen laptop, a charge that was later dropped when he completed a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders.A Mississippi State booster later claimed Newton's father tried to get the Bulldogs to pay 180,000 for his son to play for them. Newton ended up at Auburn and was dominate despite an NCAA investigation which eventually determined Newton didn't know of his father's pay-for-play scheme.But character questions aren't the only issues with Newton. He played in a simplified spread offense at Auburn in which he was always in the shotgun and had few reads to go through. Several draft pundits have questioned Newton's work ethic.Yet the Panthers, who last took a quarterback in the first round when they selected Kerry Collins fifth overall in their inaugural season in 1995, have been vocal in their need for a major upgrade under center. They did extensive background checks on Newton and are confident he can develop into a mobile, dual threat QB such as Ben Roethlisberger or Michael Vick.Carolina has defined poor quarterback play since Jake Delhomme's six-turnover performance in a January 2009 playoff loss to Arizona.Delhomme never recovered, throwing 18 interceptions the following season before he was released in the spring. Matt Moore was decent in his place late in 2009, but the following season was a different story.Carolina's 2-14 campaign started with Moore's three end zone interceptions in a loss at the New York Giants and ended with rookie Jimmy Clausen mustering one touchdown at Atlanta.Moore and Clausen combined for eight touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Clausen went 1-9 as a starter without a 200-yard passing game or a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. The Panthers averaged one offensive touchdown per game and their 196 points were a franchise low, 75 fewer than any other team.It's uncertain how much time Newton will need to learn a pro offense and adjust to the NFL. Clausen and Tony Pike, also a rookie last season, are the only quarterbacks under contract for next season. Moore is slated to be a restricted free agent under the old collective bargaining agreement, making it possible Carolina could bring in a veteran.The Panthers were in an odd position for this draft thanks to the labor dispute putting free agency on hold. With current players barred from being involved in draft deals and with no clear-cut No. 1 choice, Hurney's phone didn't ring with offers from teams interesting in grabbing the top pick.Newton's star power could help a sagging franchise looking to boost ticket sales and sponsorship deals after being the league's worst team in 2010. But the move may determine Hurney's future and quickly define Rivera's tenure. The former San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator replaced John Fox in January.Rivera has plenty more holes to fill, making the rest of the draft important, too.The Panthers have two selections, both in the third round, on Friday. Carolina traded its second-round pick to New England last season to take receiver Armanti Edwards in the third round.Carolina is expected to address giant holes at defensive tackle. Rivera has said other areas of need include the secondary, receiver and offensive line.

Giants lineup: Hernandez in, Slater out

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AP

Giants lineup: Hernandez in, Slater out

Bud Black and Bruce Bochy issued their lineups for today's series opener at AT&T Park:

Rockies (47-31) 
1. Charlie Blackmon (L) CF
2. DJ LeMahieu (R) 2B
3. Nolan Arenado (R) 3B
4. Mark Reynolds (R) 1B
5. Raimel Tapia (L) RF
6. Ian Desmond (R) LF
7. Trevor Story (R) SS
8. Tony Wolters (L) C
9. German Marquez (R) P (5-3, 3.92 ERA)

Giants (27-51)
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Hunter Pence (R) RF
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Ryder Jones (L) 3B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P (2-9, 4.74 ERA)

Earthquakes players react to Kinnear's firing, Leitch's promotion

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USATI

Earthquakes players react to Kinnear's firing, Leitch's promotion

There are few players in Major League Soccer who are as synonymous with their club as Chris Wondolowski is with the San Jose Earthquakes. 

So it speaks to the current climate that is the Quakes when on Monday an emotional Wondolowski fought back tears and apologized as he cut an interview with media members short as he attempted to discuss the firing of Dominic Kinnear. 

The forward, who has played for Kinnear in San Jose and Houston, apologized as he walked away from the scrum on the training pitch back to the team locker room inside Avaya Stadium. 

The news that Kinnear is gone after 2 1/2 seasons with the club hit the players just as shockingly as the team’s fans on Sunday. And on Monday, while general manager Jesse Fioranelli did his best to clarify the intention behind his decision, players and new head coach Chris Leitch tried to steady the ship as the organization is confronted with the only truth that matters: the show must go on. 

“Still swirling, whirling — didn’t see it coming,” Wondolowski said about Kinnear’s firing. “I thought it was a bit interesting. I owe Dom and (assistant head John Spencer) where I am today. So, it’s definitely tough.” 

"We found out as a team Sunday morning,” said longtime Quakes midfielder Shea Salinas. “Came as a surprise to us as it did probably most of you. This is definitely unexpected. And my first reaction is just a little bit of remorse and sadness for Dom and John Spencer. They love this club, they love our team. They wanted us to win and they were doing everything in their power to do so. And I think that’s important to remember, that these guys poured every once of energy into this team.

“We got to speak with Dom [Monday] morning. I haven’t spoken to him personally. He came in and addressed the locker room and just gave us his best wishes and it was really nice and professional of him to have hear what he had to say."

“I hope everyone uses this as a signal to reflect on his own play [during] the first half of this season,” said newcomer and 2017 revelation Florian Jungwirth. “Everyone knows they can do better and like I said, I hope everyone uses it as a signal.” 

The Quakes were riding high after defeating Real Salt Lake on Saturday night 2-1 and propelling themselves back into the MLS playoff race — a place they haven’t visited since 2012. But, according to Fioranelli, the decision to fire Kinnear had been made the week prior after two-to-three months of internal consideration. And regardless of the win or where the Quakes currently sit on the table (fifth in the Western Conference), the time for change at the top was necessary. 

“First, most importantly, it’s the respect we have for Dominic and what he’s done here for this group,” Leitch said. “And I know that respect is shared by everyone in that locker room.”

“Change is scary. And change is also exciting,” Salinas said. "It’s a balance. it’s the same guys in the locker room. We have the same objective. We’re going to go out there to give it our all to win every game.”

Leitch, who will step over from his role as the club’s technical director to front the team on the pitch, echoed his players’ sentiments as the organization looks to turn the page. He’ll attempt to do so with the help of Alex Cavelo, as he'll fill in for John Spencer who was let go along with Kinnear. 

“I’ve been around this club an awfully long time,” Leitch said. “I know a lot about this club. It sure means a whole hell of a lot to me. So, my focus is squarely on that and reaching our goals for this season.”

Without going into specifics, the first-time MLS head coach said the talk of his becoming the team’s head coach started just recently. 

“You always want to be as close as you can to the game so, coaching is extremely interesting as that is the closest part to the game,” Leitch said. “When you work for a club, you do whatever the club wants, you do whatever the clubs need. So in this case, this is what the club needs. It’s always the goal to help the club in the biggest way possible.”

“Chris Leitch is not just the bridge. He is part of the foundation of this club,” Fioranelli said. “For that reason, we did want someone to come from abroad and take over this team We wanted someone that cares, someone that knows the players, knows the team to take on this important next chapter.

“He’s absolutely equipped to take on this challenge,” Fioranelli said, adding that the idea of hiring internally, while sending a message of promotion from within the organization all the way down to the club’s youth endeavors, played a huge part in naming Leitch the head coach.  

While off the pitch, part of the plan is to send a confident message from the general manager all the way down to the season ticket holders, in between the lines, the Quakes face a mountain-esque task of three games in eight days and the pressures that come with being a club that promised improvements to its fanbase since opening a new stadium a pair of seasons ago. 

“My confidence rests in these players,” Leitch said. “I know this is a damn good group. I know that setting expectations anything lower than playoffs is going to be lower than what this group wants.

“Goals are quite simple, they’re all collective. First one is make the playoffs, the second one is we got to make the playoffs and the third one after that is we got to make the playoffs. To say anything less would be to minimize the group that’s in that locker room.”