(CNN)John Urschel, a Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman known for his passion for mathematics, has retired from the NFL at age 26.
(CNN)John Urschel, a Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman known for his passion for mathematics, has retired from the NFL at age 26.
The Ravens offensive lineman and doctoral candidate has abruptly retired from the NFL after just three seasons, the team announced on Thursday
Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has abruptly retired from the NFL after just three seasons, the team announced on Thursday.
The 26-year-old from Winnipeg, who is a doctoral candidate in applied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was expected to compete for a starting role at center or guard in training camp, which gets under way this week in suburban Baltimore.
Urschels surprise decision comes two days after the release of a medical study that further underscored the link between the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and participation in football. Researchers at Boston University and the Boston Veterans Affairs health system examined 111 deceased NFL players brains that were donated to scientific research and found CTE in 110 of them, or 99% of those studied.
The Baltimore Sun and ESPN said that Urschels decision was linked to the results of the study, citing anonymous sources close to the team.
Urschels agent, when reached by the Guardian on Thursday, said the player has no statement or comment and will not be doing media at this time.
This morning, John Urschel informed me of his decision to retire from football, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a statement Thursday. We respect John and respect his decision. We appreciate his efforts over the past three years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
Urschel has been pursuing his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the offseason with a concentration on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning. He earned his bachelors and masters in mathematics at Penn State, where he played on the football team and was chosen by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft.
A January profile of Urschel for HBOs newsmagazine Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel found the lineman at odds with reconciling his two gifts. He further elaborated on the dilemma in a first-person essay for the Players Tribune in 2015.
I recognize that this is somewhat irrational, but I am doing it, Urschel told HBOs Bernard Goldberg. Its more important to me that Im able to do the two things I love. I dont know if people have really done things that Ive done before. I dont know if theyll do it after me. But I enjoy carving out my own path and not listening to what people say I can and I cant do.
By retiring after three full seasons, Urschel is eligible for an NFL pension.
Urschel is not the first player to attribute early retirement to fears over the connection between football and CTE.
In March 2015, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired after one season, a promising rookie campaign that saw him lead the team in tackles, due to concerns over the long-term effects of head trauma.
Real Madrid are on the verge of a third Champions League title in four years, yet Ronaldos smothering persona is obscuring an exceptional event
Cristiano Ronaldo has been grandly ever-present before Saturdays Champions League final, lurking behind every object in your eyeline like the sky, or God. Away from football the Ronaldo newswire has been ticking and whirring away through the night. Ronaldo reveals his summer style secrets. Ronaldos girlfriend may or may not be pregnant. Ronaldo has been declared the most famous athlete on Earth by an algorithm.
As Real Madrid and Juventus complete their preparations for an intriguing final in Cardiff a large part of the analysis has, as ever, been bound up in trying to explain Ronaldo. Rarely can such miniature, deceptively simple athletic craft have been so carefully picked over. Not least in the last two years as Ronaldos movements have been scaled back into the supreme repetitions of his role as a pure goalscorer. And so the search goes on for the definitive take on that stylised robo-deity brilliance, the same movements, the same routine exceptionalism, a kind of chem-sex football, all manly, muscular, sculpted hunger.
It is probably key to the wider fascination that Ronaldos persona has become so hilariously glazed and distant. Like all the best icons he is alluringly blank. Ronaldos Instagram account is the fifth most followed in the world but also surely one of the most thrillingly bland.
Andy Warhol once said: My idea of a good picture is one thats in focus and of a famous person. Warhol would have really liked Ronaldos Instagram. Here it comes now. Cristiano is cycling on an exercise bike in a pair of designer jeans. Cristiano is leaning on his kitchen counter beaming cloudlessly like the youngest-ever president of the galactic space federation. Cristiano is in a backwards baseball cap doing a thumbs-up with Julia Roberts and pretending he knows who she is, but victorious, however briefly, in the constant struggle to keep his clothes on.
What does Ronaldo really do with himself, in those moments when he is simply being Ronaldo, unobserved? There are a few established facts we can go on. He owns a car that goes 254mph. He does 3,000 sit ups a day. His favourite song is I Believe I Can Fly by R Kelly. Perhaps Ronaldo likes to do all three things at the same time, driving at 254mph while doing sit-ups and listening to I Believe I Can Fly. Training gear. Six pad. Warhol also said: I want to be a machine.
Ronaldo isnt actually a machine, although if he were he would be a very good machine probably the best machine ever. The reason for going on about this here is that slight feeling of embedded confusion, of so many waves of guff to be shed and waded through around the edges. The cult of celebrity personality has always been a part of football but not quite like this. The Ronaldo persona, the sheer weight of his presence feels like a distraction from the more interesting issues around his team.
Real Madrid are, lest we forget, on the verge of something exceptional in Cardiff, a game away from a third Champions League in four years. Should this happen Zidane-era Madrid will be the first team since Arrigo Sacchis great Milan in 1990 to retain the European Cup. On their record they can also claim to be one of the greatest club teams ever. Three in four years: only Bayern Munich in the early 1970s, the Ajax of Johan Cruyff and the all-star Madrid team who won five in a row in the 1950s have bettered this.
Which is an odd thing in itself. Because generally and clear your mind of Ronaldo; put the sixpad down we love these great teams in other ways. We feel theyre not just great. They mean something. Cruyff and post-Cruyff Ajax meant something. Some have theories about total football as an emblem of the enskilling of human beings, a pushing back against the alienation of post-industrial life. This is almost certainly a load of wiffle but it is persuasive, romantic wiffle. Cruyff talked a lot about the mathematics of that team, about football as a function of distance, making a connection between the teams style and his own exceptional facility with mental arithmetic.
Victory at West Brom on Friday will confirm Chelsea as Premier League champions after a 3-0 win relegates Middlesbrough
It was a rare to have a night when two teams had such contrasting stories at the final whistle. For Chelsea, the mathematics are simple now and surely nobody can think those celebrations at the end, with Antonio Conte on the pitch to embrace each of his players, were premature. His side will be champions with one more win and they looked absolutely determined to play in that manner against a Middlesbrough team that quietly drops into the Championship, relegated after only one season back in the top division.
If everything goes according to plan, Chelsea can wrap things up when they play at West Bromwich Albion on Friday. Alternatively, it could possibly stretch to their next home game against Watford the following Monday if, that is, Tottenham Hotspur can beat Manchester United the previous day. All that is certain, for now, is that Chelsea have a seven-point lead with three games to go and their supporters can probably be forgiven for going through their victory songs. Tottenham Hotspur, its happened again, was one late chorus from the Matthew Harding Stand.
They can afford to gloat because the chances of Contes side unravelling from this position are somewhere between minimal and non-existent. They will be deserving champions and their latest victory was typical of the high-energy domination that has brought them to this happiness. Chelsea did not have a single period of the match when they lost control. They won with something to spare and, if anything, it was a surprise they did not treat themselves to even more goals.
Middlesbrough, meanwhile, looked what they are: a team that has drifted aimlessly towards relegation, with 26 goals from 36 games. This was the 17th time this season they have failed to score in the league. They have not won at Stamford Bridge since Jack Charlton was manager in 1975 and that 42-year run was never likely to be threatened bearing in mind they have not beaten a single side from the top half of the league all season. Middlesbroughs solitary away win came at Sunderland in August and they were obliging opponents for a team with Chelseas haughty ambitions.
The champions-elect certainly did not miss NGolo Kant, absent with a thigh injury on the day he was name the Football Writers Association Player of the Year to go with the award he has already received from the Professional Footballers Association. Cesc Fbregas fitted seamlessly into midfield, passing the ball with wonderful elegance, setting up two of the goals and delivering a man-of-the-match performance. On this evidence, Kant deserves the seasons individual honours if he has kept this man out of the side.
Mathematical analysis reveals that for players with good control, using an unorthodox underarm technique gives better odds of scoring
It might invite ridicule, but it gets results. A scientific analysis has concluded that using a granny style underarm technique is the optimal way to take a free throw in basketball.
Adopting the unorthodox strategy could result in marginal gains for professional players, the research suggests. And, as sporting doctrine goes, marginal gains can lead to remarkable results.
Madhusudhan Venkadesan, who led the work at Yale University, said: Our mathematical analysis shows that if the thrower is capable of controlling the release angle and speed well, the underarm throw is slightly better for a basketball free throw.
However, it remains to be seen whether science will prove more persuasive than professional advocates of the underarm style.
The retired NBA player Rick Barry, a pioneer of the underarm free throw, was one of the most effective shooters of all time and when he retired in 1980 his 90% free throw record ranked first in NBA history. But he struggled to convince his teammates due to the inescapable fact that shooting underarm makes you look like a sissy, Barry said.
Venkadesan acknowledges that it is a difficult case to make.
One suspects there are social and cultural reasons you dont see that practised too often, he said. So what if some call it the granny throw? What matters is that the ball goes through the hoop! Rick Barrys record does support the underarm throw.
The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, considered the chances of the ball being on target, depending on the style, speed and accuracy of a throw.
It found that if the player is capable of controlling the release angle and speed well, the underarm throw has slightly better odds of going in. But for amateurs who have only crude control, the release of the ball overarm is safer, sparing casual players the dilemma of choosing style or results.
An important factor in comparing the two strategies was how the ball approaches its target. When the ball approaches the net from directly above, as in a typical underarm throw, the cross-section of the target is large from the balls vantage point. This is good, as it means that if a throw is close to being exactly on target it has a very high chance of going in.
However, in trying to achieve this straight down entry, the amateur risks lobbing the ball extremely high due to their mediocre control. In this scenario, a small error in the timing of the release can cause the ball to grossly overshoot or undershoot the hoop.
So the overarm shot, where the ball sees a smaller cross-section of the hoop, but is less likely to go wildly off course, is a more conservative strategy.
This competition between the entry angle and speed underlies both the speed-accuracy trade-off and the relative accuracy of one style versus another, said Venkadesan.
For the professional player, the analysis predicts, this trade-off is finely balanced and probably within the margins of error of the model, which did not consider the backboard.
Barry, no doubt, would view the findings as confirmation of what he has argued all along. From the physics standpoint, its a much better way to shoot, he told the author Malcolm Gladwell in a recent interview. You have a little bit more margin for error than when you shoot overhand.
Manchester Uniteds manager may start to save his strongest side for the Europa League if United have not closed in on fourth place when the competition resumes next week
Jos Mourinho will field his strongest team in the Europa League to focus on qualifying for the Champions League qualification by winning the competition if results go against Manchester United in their next two games, against Everton and Sunderland.
The goalless draw against a resolute West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on Saturday and Sundays draw between Arsenal and Manchester City left United fifth in the Premier League, five points behind City in fourth. United have a game in hand, though Pep Guardiolas side have a superior goal difference of five.
United face Everton at Old Trafford on Tuesday and Sunderland on Sunday, before travelling to Anderlecht for the Europa League quarter-final first leg on 13 April. The return leg is seven days later.
I just want to think that against Everton we are going to do what we tried to do [against West Brom], to try to play with our best team and try to win the match, Mourinho said. And after Everton we go to Sunderland with the same perspective, and then after Sunderland the Europa League comes and I dont know. Then, its possible that you see me play in the Premier League with a team where Im going to protect the players that I consider fundamental for the Europa League. But only, only if the results in the next matches put us in a situation where mathematically, it becomes almost impossible to do it.
I go with mathematics. Until its impossible mathematically, we keep trying. Because this week is a week without the Europa League, we have nothing to think about with the Europa League. This week is easy. From the focus point of view, its easy. We have to play Everton, we have to play Sunderland, and in these two matches we have to go for them thinking about the Premier League and nothing else. After that match against Sunderland, then we have Anderlecht and the quarter-final of the Europa League are very important for us.
Mourinho was unhappy about the chances missed against West Brom by his attacking quartet, Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial. Its every day [they miss], he said. So I keep doing what Im doing during the season. I give chances. I try. Play again. Come on. Keep going. You have talent. They know they have talent. OK, lets go. Lets try. Lets have one more opportunity. No pressure. Keep going. There is nothing else we can do.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera will be available again on Tuesday followingsuspensions and Paul Pogba, who has missed United last two matches, may also be fit.
Ibrahimovic has scored 26 goals in his first season at United but Mourinho did not believe his absence was decisive on Saturday. Weve had matches here with Zlatan that we drew, said Mourinho. He [missed] a penalty in a game to win it 2-1 [against Bournemouth]. He missed chances like other people did too, so I cannot say now that if Zlatan and [the injured Juan] Mata played, we win against West Brom. I cannot say that.
What I can say is that Jones and Smalling, they would not play better than Bailly and Rojo did. Pogba and Herrera could not play better than Fellaini and Carrick did. That I can say for sure.
Fellaini, making only his second start in the league since January, was one of Uniteds better performers but after an eighth home draw of the season, he admitted Uniteds home form has to improve.
Its disappointing, everyone is disappointed. Weve lost a lot of points like that, but thats football and we have to keep fighting, Fellaini said. There are 10 games, 30 points, so we have to keep going. There are a lot of big games coming and we have to be ready. There are six points available next week and I hope we can take them. Everton will be a tough game. Theyre a tough team but every game will be difficult and we have to fight to the end.
A late goal from Gary Cahill gave Chelsea a 2-1 win at Stoke and had Antonio Conte and his players greeting convincing chants of Were going to win the league
Gary Cahills 87th-minute winner had Antonio Conte swinging in delight on the roof of Chelseas bench and the captain mobbed by team-mates in front of a delirious travelling contingent.
This was particularly sweet for Cahill as his push on Jonathan Walters allowed the same player to equalise Willians opener as the break encroached.
Until Cahills intervention Chelsea Chelsea had been heading for two dropped points that would have offered a glimmer of hope to the chasing Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City. But this smash-and-grab victory will only sap spirits in north London and east Manchester.
Conte hailed the three points as significant, and with Chelsea leading by 13 after 28 matches he was looking at the mathematics, pointing out that the equivalent of seven more victories will guarantee the championship.
Today was a great win, a good signal but it is important to continue with the same commitment and work rate as a team, he said. We need to take 21 points for the title win. There are 10 games to go. I am pleased because to play Stoke at this point of the season, you have to be prepared mentally and physically. For this reason, we won today. It was a tough game, we tried to play football and deserved to win. We faced a really good team.
I am pleased for Gary Cahill because we conceded a penalty after a little push from him. To score the winning goal is great for him and our team. Diego Costa played very well and showed great discipline. It is not easy to start the game with a yellow card and then to stay calm. Diego is showing me a great will to think and fight for the team. I want to continue this way.
Costa had a typically spiky afternoon, which did not particularly impress Mark Hughes. Diego Costa draws fouls and tries to make most of contact when they are not fouls, said Stoke Citys manager. He is adept at the dark arts and everyone in football recognises that. He has many elements and factors, you have to put up with them.
Stoke started brightly, troubling the visitors along their flanks. This had the home crowd urging them on though NGolo Kants slick midfield act soon had Chelsea threatening via Marcos Alonso and Costa, whose first half featured a running battle with a variety of opponents.
Costa went down under a Geoff Cameron challenge perhaps too easily, which caused the midfielder to tell him to find his feet again quickly and Blues fans to reel off a few rounds of Diego, Diego.
An incident and noise-filled beginning next featured Alonso steaming down the left and when he drew a free-kick Chelsea made the most of the opportunity. This was as soft as goals come. From an acute angle about 30 yards out, Willian struck the ball cleanly but Lee Grant should not have allowed it to squeeze past him at his near right post. He did, though, to cue a Chelsea celebration and some despairing Stoke navel-gazing regarding how, precisely, they were 1-0 behind.
On 32 minutes Stoke started a fight-back. Marko Arnautovic collected a free-kick and his cross claimed a corner. From here the contest took a controversial turn. Bruno Martins Indi finished Camerons header-on but, after consultation with an assistant, Taylor ruled the strike out for Saido Berahino either pushing Csar Azpilicueta or for being in an offside position that interfered with play.
The next incident was the Stoke goal for which Cahill was culpable. Erik Pieters launched a diagonal free-kick from the left into the area and the defender, for some, reason shoved Walters. Taylor pointed to the spot and that was 1-1.
Meanwhile the Costa-versus-Stoke sideshow continued in venomous manner, as a free-kick won by the Brazilian from a Shawcross challenge was followed by Phil Bardsley being shown a yellow card for taking him out. In the second half Costa was relatively becalmed, though he and Martins Indi continued to suggest each might boil over at any moment.
After Alonso crashed a free-kick off the bar, Stokes final threat was a late Arnautovic corner that Chelsea dealt with. Now came Cahills winner and the feeling they will continue to handle the pressure and claim a fifth Premier League title.
When Taylor blew for full time Bardsley had just been sent off, following a second booking, and Conte and his men greeted their fans jubilant singing of Were going to win the league as if they, too, now firmly believe it. As Conte added: To have a 10-points gap, 13 at the moment [is good], but I like to think our opponents will win tomorrow. We have to look at ourselves. We are happy. We must be ready to fight, today we were ready.
Hughes has no doubt. It is Chelseas title now, he said.
The US PGA Championship is the second of two quickfire majors and it could define the season for some of golfs more illustrious names
The confirmation Tiger Woods will not participate in the US PGA Championship represented little more than an exercise in administration with 2016s final major lending itself to a multitude of more fascinating storylines. With each medical bulletin, Woods career is consigned further into the past. Chief among more pressing matters is the sudden possibility of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy concluding the year without a major success.
An Oxford graduate in mathematics is hardly required to point out that at least two of the illustrious trio will suffer such a fate. In this, the second major in three weeks, fast conclusions are inevitable. Seasons will suddenly be defined.
One wonders what golf has left aside for its latest trick. The majors of 2016 have proved epic for such different reasons: Spieths collapse at Augusta, the rules fiasco and ending of Dustin Johnsons drought at Oakmont. A week ago, Henrik Stenson emerged triumphant from one of the most sensational days of championship golf in memory. The Masters, US Open and Open Championship have all seen first-time major champions.
The curious scheduling of this season, owing primarily to the return of golf to the Olympic Games, means Stenson would be entitled still to be in celebratory mode when the US PGA gets underway at Baltusrol from Thursday. The rest of us are still catching breath from super Sunday in Ayrshire. If it is unfortunate Stenson will not have the down time he unquestionably earned, golf fans should relish the return to a stage that has produced such fireworks. Even 2015s majors, the Open perhaps aside, threw up special narratives as befitting their status.
Baltusrols lower course can stretch to 7,400 yards, a matter that will disappoint the traditionalists. Yet there is endearing history at the New Jersey venue: Jack Nicklaus won two of his US Opens there with Phil Mickelsons solitary success in the final major of the year coming at Baltusrol in 2005. Mickelson prevailed on a Monday finish, owing to weather delays, having shot rounds of 67, 65, 72 and 72. Four under par was rather typical of winning Baltusrol aggregates, in a nod to how fierce this course can be. Stenson made the cut 11 years ago, finishing in a share of 47th. Then aged 29, this marked only the second time Stenson had survived for a major weekend.
Mickelson was therefore worthy of sufficient spotlight this time around even before the part he played in Stensons Royal Troon triumph. Mickelson did next to nothing wrong on the closing day but still found himself signing for a 65 in the painful knowledge that, at 46, he will not have many major opportunities left.
This timing doesnt give me a chance to take time off, Mickelson said. It forces me to keep my game sharp. Ive got a lot of special memories going back to Baltusrol and probably that we dont have a month to wait between majors is a good thing for me. Ill try to look at the positives and take that into Baltusrol and keep my game sharp, as opposed to going home and taking some time off.
Im very excited with the work Ive put in with how [Mickelsons coach] Andrew Getson has helped me with my swing. The way I was able to hit fairways with ease coming down the stretch at Troon and hit my iron shots right on line, draws and fades and so forth, basically that comes from getting my swing back on plane.
Its been a little work in progress to get it on plane and then capture the field and the face awareness throughout the swing. Four days at the Open was pretty stress-free golf. So it tells me that weve done good work. Im excited where my game is at and where its headed.
That said, surely an element of mental scarring is inevitable. Mickelson could barely believe the lengths to which Stenson reached to claim the Claret Jug. In what represents further bad news for Mickelson, and despite a couple of exceptions, the US PGA has proved a young mans game in recent times. Twelve months ago, Day lifted the Wanamaker Trophy when in the midst of a run of four wins from late July to the same juncture of September.
Its been a crazy last 12 months, said Day this week in Ontario, where he is also the defending champion at the Canadian Open.
I cant get too complacent with where Im at. I know that Im currently ranked the best player in the world but I need to work hard. I need to work harder than I ever have before to keep that spot. I need to work harder than I ever have before to win tournaments, because its only getting tougher.
I guess the way that I look at myself is a little bit different, too. Coming into this event last year, I felt confident about my game. But knowing this event would springboard me to six wins, a major championship, getting to No1, Id be very surprised by that.
Its coming into the crunch time for me pressure-wise, because being kind of the favourite going into each tournament and expectation levels are high and then all that amounts to pressure you put on yourself and stress you put on yourself. Youve got to somehow manage yourself, manage your ego; then somehow execute the shot, execute the gameplan, and go out there and try to win.