Los Angeles Rams, Sean McVay send ‘thoughts and prayers’ to victims of Thousand Oaks shooting

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams and coach Sean McVay offered their condolences and support to the victims, families and community affected by the mass shooting Wednesday night at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks that killed 12 people.

The shooting took place just over 4 miles from the Rams’ practice facility, which is on the campus of California Lutheran University, and 7 miles from the team’s corporate headquarters in Agoura Hills.

“Our organization’s thoughts and prayers are with the families and the victims that were affected by this terrible act that took place in our area,” McVay said.

Many Rams players, coaches and staff members settled in the Thousand Oaks area after the team returned to Southern California from St. Louis in 2016.

“Our thoughts and prayers are obviously with the people that it happened to,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “It affects everybody, our team was talking about it, our players, our staff, everybody here. It’s a sad, sad deal. And we feel for the people involved, that it happened to.”

The Rams held a team meeting to discuss the tragedy. McVay said that left tackle Andrew Whitworth and several players were proactively seeking a way to use their platform to offer support to the local community.

One of the 12 victims of the shooting was identified as Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who arrived at the scene of the shooting at 11:20 p.m. in response to several 911 calls, heard gunfire, went inside and immediately was shot repeatedly.

The Rams plan to honor the victims with a moment of silence on Sunday before kickoff against the Seattle Seahawks at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

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Steelers send Antonio Brown to Pittsburgh for injury evaluation

LATROBE, Pa. — The Steelers have sent All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown to Pittsburgh for injury evaluation.

Coach Mike Tolmlin did not specify the body part that was injured but classified the ailment as “just a day-to-day, minor injury. Nothing to speak of.”

Brown was expected “to be fine in a few days,” a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Brown was not at Thursday’s training camp practice at Saint Vincent College. He did attend Wednesday’s session, watching from the sidelines and signing autographs afterward.

Brown has recorded an NFL-record five consecutive 100-catch seasons and is entering the second year of a contract that pays him around $17 million per season.

Other Steelers injuries include left tackle Alejandro Villanueva (arm/shoulder), linebacker T.J. Watt (hamstring), safety Sean Davis (groin) and safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring). Tomlin said he considered these issues minor.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers make text message flub, send jersey to teen

After making a mistake, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made up for it by giving a high school senior the shirt off one of their players’ backs.

In March, Twinsburg (Ohio) High School senior Justin Deeds received a text message from the Bucs reminding him about a meeting after his pro day workout at Ohio State.

“I’d be glad to do so. I’d love to be [a part] of the Bucs organization,” the 18-year-old Deeds, who plays safety, texted back to the team, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “Even though I’m a high school senior.”

Whoops. Wrong number.

The Bucs apologized to Deeds and offered something in return, to which Deeds requested an autographed Mike Evans jersey.

On Wednesday, Deeds received his special delivery.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” Deeds told the Times. “If I didn’t ask, I wasn’t getting it, so it didn’t hurt to ask.”

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Minnesota Vikings send Super Bowl confetti memento to some Philadelphia Eagles fans

A small group of charitable Philadelphia Eagles fans have received a gift by the Minnesota Vikings: confetti that fell at their stadium when the Eagles won Super Bowl LII.

The confetti was sent to roughly 24 Eagles fans who made donations to the Minnesota Vikings Foundation shortly after Philadelphia beat the Minnesota in the NFC Championship Game, team spokesman Jeff Anderson told ESPN.

Anderson said the foundation usually sends thank-you notes. The confetti was a last-minute idea.

“We just felt it would be a nice gesture to some classy fans,” Anderson said.

Most of the donations came with notes apologizing for the behavior of Eagles fans after their team’s 38-7 victory in the NFC title game.

“Your positive attitude and great sportsmanship towards the Minnesota Vikings will not go unnoticed or unappreciated,” the note said.

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Philadelphia Eagles send family of ‘Dutch Destroyer’ to Super Bowl – Philadelphia Eagles Blog

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The phone call came on Tuesday, at just the right moment.

Rebecca Burmeff was preparing to return to work for the first time since leaving work to take her son, Lukas Kusters, to the hospital for an emergency X-ray in the spring of 2016. She was going through her laptop bag, which she had barely touched in all the days since, and found a pamphlet from a football camp she was going to send Lukas to and information about a field trip that her husband, Rich, was going to accompany him on before Lukas was diagnosed with stomach cancer. It was a disease that would take his life in June of 2017, just four days after his 10th birthday.

She also pulled out discharge papers from the hospital after Lukas’ intitial extended stay there following a round of chemotherapy and radiation they hoped had left him cancer free. The nurses had written, “Congratulations on going home.”

“I was just mentally, emotionally, in a bad spot that specific night,” Rebecca said. “But a few minutes later, I got a call from Julie [from the Philadelphia Eagles] and she said, ‘We’ve got some great news. We’ve been thinking about you guys a lot, and we’ve got six tickets to the Super Bowl for you, and we want you guys here. We wish Lukas could be here with us, but we want you guys out here with us.’ I was pretty floored by it. It was quite a shock.”

A special connection between Lukas and quarterback Carson Wentz has led to a bond between his family and the Eagles organization. Known as the Dutch Destroyer for his ferocity of spirit and style of play on the football field, Lukas — the biggest of Eagles fans — used Wentz’s hope for inspiration as he took on what doctors immediately described as the fight of his life. Hearing about Lukas from one of his radiation technicians, Wentz sent him a video of encouragement while he was in the hospital. Lukas’ Make-A-Wish was to thank Wentz for that gesture. The two spent a day together at the Eagles’ practice facility, and that’s when Lukas gave Wentz a “Dutch Destroyer” bracelet that Wentz wears every day, even during games.

“Why would I take it off?” Wentz said recently. “The impact that Lukas has had on this team, on me, people all over. I’ll run into fans that aren’t even Eagles fans, but they would come up to me and want to talk about the Dutch Destroyer.”

Since Lukas’ death, the family has shipped about 65,000 bracelets and raised about $300,000 for the Live Like Lukas foundation, which helps those impacted by childhood cancer. Rebecca has been flooded with letters from people affected by their story, including over 100 alone from a fifth-grade class at Garden Lakes Elementary in Arizona, after their teacher introduced the story of Lukas, his family and Wentz to them as part of a curriculum about heroes. In Muenster, Texas, a youth team dedicated its season to Lukas, with the name Dutch Destroyer on the back of their jerseys where the individual names usually go.

Lukas’ story has reached people across the country and beyond, and has become part of the fabric of the Eagles’ 2017 season.

“[The Eagles] just rallied around us since all of this really started, they really haven’t stopped rallying around us, and they’ve just made us feel like family,” Rebecca said. “It makes me feel like they’re feeling what we do … like Lukas has been there with them this whole season and that he’s very well at least a piece of what’s so special about this season. It just means the world for us to be here.”

On Thursday, two days after being notified of the Super Bowl tickets, they rented a Suburban, packed the whole family and their luggage into the car and drove 19 hours from Philadelphia to Minneapolis. Rebecca drove the first nine hours before Rich took over.

“I said, you get us up to Week 13 like Carson did, and I’ll come in like [Nick] Foles and finish the job,” Rich said.

Before they left, they visited the cemetery where Lukas is buried. They brought a framed picture of him on the ride.

Rebecca says she talks to Wentz every couple of weeks and believes he had a part in getting them the six Super Bowl tickets to Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.

“From what I understand, he played a big role in making this happen,” she said.

Standing in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, Rich pointed to the sign above the Super Bowl apparel shop. When most look at the “LII”, they see the Roman numerals representing Super Bowl 52. Rich sees an “L” for Lukas, and an “11” for Wentz, another sign that this is a team of destiny.

“I was just sitting there watching TV, and I saw Super Bowl LII,” Rich said of the first time he made that connection. “Bec was in the bedroom, and I just came on in and I said, ‘Bec, we’re going to win this.’ And she said, ‘I already know that.’ And I said, ‘No, we’re really going to win this.’ I said, ‘Look at this.’ She said, ‘Oh my goodness’ and she got the chills. She knew [the Eagles were going to win] before I even had to show her, but that’s how I recognized it.”

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Community raises money to send bus driver to Super Bowl

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — A New Jersey community has raised enough money to send a beloved school bus driver and die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan to the Super Bowl.

A group of parents and students surprised Gary Kelmer with the present when he pulled up to the last stop on his bus route on Monday in Mount Laurel.

Parents Amy and Izaak Smith wanted to raise money as a way to thank “Mr. Gary” for his daily kindness. They raised more than $5,000 in just a few days on the fundraising site GoFundMe to send Kelmer and his wife to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Smiths purchased tickets, airfare and personalized jerseys for the couple.

A stunned Kelmer on Monday called it a “special dream come true” and exclaimed “I’m ecstatic.”

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