Tiger Woods wants to make his return to professional golf in next year's Open Championship at St Andrews, his "favourite golf course in the world."

The former world number one and 15-time major champion suffered serious injuries to his right leg after a car crash in February and previously revealed he had feared the limb would have to be amputated.

However, the 45-year-old is now targeting a part-time comeback to competitive golf and has his eyes on a tournament that is particularly special to him.

"I would love to play at St Andrews, no doubt about it," Woods said. "It's my favourite golf course in the world. Even the Champions' Dinner is really neat to be part of.

"I attended my first one in 2005 and Peter Thomson was still alive at that time. I was sat next to him and to hear him tell his stories was awesome.

"It's like at the Masters. Those dinners are priceless. It's an honour to be part of a room like that.

"I'd love to be able to play that Open Championship and hopefully I can."

Woods had previously returned from major back surgery to claim a shock 2019 Masters victory but on Monday he ruled out a full-time return this time around.

He accepts his days at the very top of the sport are likely over after the injuries he sustained earlier this year, though Woods was philosophical about the situation.

"I don't foresee this leg ever being what it used to be," Woods added on Tuesday. "The clock's ticking. I'm not getting any younger.

"I won't have the opportunity to practice [the way I used to] given the condition of my leg. That's okay.

"As far as playing at the tour level, I don't know when that's going to happen. I'll play a round here and there. A hit and giggle.

"To see some of my shots fall out of the sky a lot shorter than they used to is eye-opening but at least I'm able to do it again."

Nikola Jokic bounced back to Denver Nuggets duty as though he had never been away as the win at Miami Heat was described by coach Michael Malone as "a great pain reliever".

The superstar Serbian, MVP in the NBA last season, had missed four successive games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's six-game slide.

That was their worst such stretch since 2014-15 and saw them fall away after making a 9-4 start to the season, but prospects for Malone's men are looking up now that Jokic is fit.

After sinking the Heat 120-111 in Miami, there was a warm mix of emotion and relief in the Nuggets' locker room.

Jokic posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, and seemingly that effort had changed everything.

Bones Hyland, the 21-year-old Nuggets point guard, shot a career-high 19 points including five three-pointers, and said: "It felt good going back into the locker room.

"I felt as though the guys were trying to win so bad just because Nikola was out. We know what he provides, and we were trying to fill his shoes and those are big shoes to fill.

"Him being back, everybody's a team now, playing through him, and it felt good for sure."

Malone had to search for the correct terminology to describe the post-game emotion.

"I don't know if relief is the right word, but there was definitely some joy, some smiles, some hugs," said the coach.

"As corny as that sounds, man, winning is a great pain reliever. We've all been down in the dumps and to get this win tonight kind of just stops all of that and allows us to get back to feeling good about ourselves."

He said playing without Jokic had been "a little bit different" to losing any other player.

Quoted on NBA.com, Malone struck an upbeat tone, saying: "I love the guys in the locker room. I'll go to war with them. Obviously, tonight was just one win. But after losing six in a row, by no means have we said, 'We're gonna change our goals now'. There's 62 games left, so much basketball to be played. So, you move on and play another day."

Jokic was not given an easy ride by the Miami crowd, facing boos every time he touched the ball due to the dust-up he and the Heat's Markieff Morris had in a November 8 game. Morris has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident.

He is big enough to handle such hostility though, saying afterwards: "I played in Serbia, so I wish you guys could feel that."

The 26-year-old Jokic is averaging 26.2 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists this season, so ostensibly this was a par performance. How the Nuggets had missed him at his most routine though.

Jokic felt there was a collective improvement in the team, adding: "Everybody played well. We had seven players in double figures. So, everybody shared the ball. Everybody touched it."

Nikola Jokic's return proved the perfect tonic for the slumping Denver Nuggets after the reigning MVP helped snap a six-game slide in a 120-111 victory over the Miami Heat.

All eyes were on Jokic, who had missed four straight games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's worst six-game stretch since the 2014-15 season.

There was also plenty of interest as the Nuggets and Heat renewed hostilities for the first time since Jokic and Miami's Markieff Morris were involved in a dustup on November 8.

Jokic received a one-game ban after shoving Morris in the back as tempers flared – the Nuggets star reacting angrily after the Heat veteran came in with a hard foul, catching his opponent with a left elbow to the chest.

While the Heat were shorthanded in the absence of Morris – who has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, Miami fans let their feelings known, booing Jokic every time he touched the ball.

Jokic, with his two brothers behind the Denver bench, was not fussed as he posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (24 points and 13 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (17 points and 14 assists) were not enough for the Heat.

 

Doncic matches Robertson

Luka Doncic had 25 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He tied Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles (38) before turning 23. Mavericks star Doncic celebrates his 23rd birthday in February.

Lonzo Ball earned family bragging rights after the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 133-119. Up against brother LaMelo and the Hornets, Lonzo's Balls prevailed thanks to Nikola Vucevic (30 points and 14 rebounds), DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and Zach LaVine (25 points). According to Stats Perform, Chicago are the first team to have a starting guard (LaVine), starting forward (DeRozan) and starting center (Vucevic) have 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since the Orlando Magic in January 1994. LaMelo Ball's 18 points and 13 assists were not enough for the Hornets.

Seth Curry put up 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting as the Philadelphia 76ers held on to beat the Magic 101-96 at home. The 76ers are riding a five-game winning streak against the Magic – their longest such streak against Orlando.

Jonas Valanciunas nailed seven of his three-point attempts as he torched the Los Angeles Clippers in a 39-point and 15-rebound performance, the New Orleans Pelicans triumphing 123-104.

 

Lillard struggles in Blazers loss

Much was said about All-Star Damian Lillard heading into the season amid question marks over his future with the Portland Trail Blazers. Had he outgrown the smalltown market? Well, his topsy-turvy campaign continued after scoring just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting from the floor in the 129-107 defeat at the Utah Jazz.

Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Giddey had a game to forget as fellow strugglers the Houston Rockets eased past the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-89. In 25 minutes, Giddey made only one of his nine shots from the field, missing his five three-point attempts for two points in total.

Wander Franco wants to bring a World Series title to the Tampa Bay Rays following his record-setting contract extension with the MLB franchise.

Franco finalised a mouth-watering 11-year, $182million contract in Tampa, where the deal includes a club option for the 2033 season, on Saturday.

It is the largest financial commitment to a player in the Rays' 24-year history, while it is also the biggest deal in MLB history for a player with less than a year of major league service time.

Franco, who made his debut in June, enjoyed a remarkable season after recording a 43-game on-base streak to tie Cincinnati's Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest in MLB history among player aged under 21.

The 20-year-old shortstop helped the Rays win the American League (AL) East – Tampa Bay clinching back-to-back titles for the first time in franchise history with a record 100 victories before falling to the Boston Red Sox in the AL Division Series (ALDS).

"I'm really happy for this opportunity, and the one thing I want to do is bring a championship to the organisation," Franco said during Monday's news conference as the Rays target a maiden World Series championship.

"With this, I can help my family and have nothing in my mind when I'm playing on the field … and be happy with this opportunity."

Franco also finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after slashing .288/.347/.463 with 18 doubles, five triples and seven home runs in 2021.

"The Rays have given me the support that I need, the development, the people that they have here," Franco said. "I wish to stay here for my whole career."

Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander added: "The chance for a homegrown star to be with the club for the foreseeable future, that in and of itself is a really big deal.

"Our on-field goal is to win a World Series, and as we've said many times over now, our desired approach to making that happen is to be as competitive as possible in as many years as possible.

"This commitment certainly increases our confidence that we're going to continue to be competitive and eventually be that last team standing."

The Seattle Seahawks and their 2021 NFL season is fast becoming a nightmare after going down 17-15 to the Washington Football Team.

Taylor Heinicke lifted Washington past Russell Wilson and the slumping Seahawks, who suffered a third consecutive defeat to fall to 3-8 for the season, in an historic performance.

Wilson had not accounted for a single touchdown in two games since returning from a finger injury – only the second time in the star quarterback's career he had zero total TDs in at least back-to-back games after going three straight in October 2016.

While Wilson threw a pair of touchdowns on 20-of-31 passing for 247 yards and no interceptions, it was not enough against Heinicke and Washington on the road.

Heinicke was 27-of-35 passing for 223 yards, a touchdown and interception for streaking Washington (5-6), who celebrated a third successive win.

The 28-year-old found J.D. McKissic with a 10-yard TD pass in the second period before the latter – who was carted off late in the fourth quarter due to a head injury – scored on a 10-yard run to put the hosts ahead 17-9.

In his last three starts, Heinicke has beaten Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton and Wilson. According to Stats Perform, he is the first undrafted quarterback in NFL history to beat three different opposing starting QBs who had previously started a Super Bowl in three consecutive starts.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury deflected speculation linking him to the University of Oklahoma job, while he is hopeful of Kyler Murray's return.

The Oklahoma Sooners are reportedly targeting Kingsbury for their vacant coaching position, though the Cardinals coach is contracted through 2022, with a team option for 2023.

Kingsbury was asked about the rumours as the high-flying Cardinals prepare for Sunday's NFL matchup against the Chicago Bears.

"I don't get into those things," Kingsbury told reporters on Monday.

"My sole focus the last couple weeks has been the Chicago Bears and, after watching them on Thanksgiving, it needs to be, because they're a really good football team and had a big win, and so that's where my focus has been."

The Cardinals lead the NFC and Kingsbury – who was appointed in 2019 – added: "We're in-season, we're 9-2, Just not a topic I want to touch on right now."

Star Cardinals quarterback Murray has missed the team's last three games due to an ankle injury.

Murray leads the NFL in completion percentage (72.7) and passer rating (110.4), while he has thrown for 2,276 yards and 17 touchdowns.

"I am hopeful," Kingsbury said of Murray and DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring).

"I will leave it at that at this point because I want to see them move around, practice full speed, and see where they are at, and where their comfort level and their confidence is."

The slumping Pittsburgh Steelers have been dealt a blow after placing star T.J. Watt on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Pittsburgh have been impacted by coronavirus this NFL season, with star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Minkah Fitzpatrick both missing time due to positive tests.

Steelers push rusher Watt is the latest to land on the COVID-19 list after returning from a one-week absence caused by knee and hip injuries in Sunday's 41-10 rout at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Watt recorded just two combined tackles as the Steelers suffered their first season sweep at the hands of the Bengals since 2009, stretching their winless run to three games.

The three-time Pro Bowler, who has missed two games this season, is now likely to sit out Sunday's matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

Pittsburgh's humbling defeat left the Steelers 5-5-1 but still within striking distance of the final AFC Wild Card spot, which is currently possessed by the Los Angeles Chargers, who defeated Watt's team 41-37 in Week 11.

The Steelers' final six games are all against playoff contenders. They face the Ravens twice and also have games with the Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns.

The New York Knicks have removed struggling star Kemba Walker from the rotation, head coach Tom Thibodeau announced on Monday.

Walker joined the Knicks on a two-year, $20million contract at the start of the season after being bought out by the Oklahoma City Thunder following a trade from the Boston Celtics.

The four-time All-Star, who struggled to reach his lofty heights with the Celtics, has been averaging career lows in points (11.7), assists (3.1), rebounds (2.6), field-goal attempts per game (9.8) and minutes per game (24.5).

Not only has Walker been removed from the starting line-up, but the 31-year-old guard is also not part of the rotation heading into Tuesday's clash with crosstown rivals the Brooklyn Nets.

"It's a tough decision to make, but you always have to do what you think is best for the team," Thibodeau told reporters, with the Knicks turning to Alec Burks.

"I view Kemba as a starter, and so it'd be tough to play three small guards together. I gave it consideration, and I've got great respect for who Kemba is as a person and all he's accomplished in this league.

"But I have to do what I think is best for the team."

The Knicks have struggled for form since ending their playoff drought last season, 11-9 in 2021-22 – three games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Nets and one ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers in 11th position.

It is very early in the season to describe any game as being akin to a playoff matchup but Tuesday's meeting between the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns has an extremely compelling case for receiving such a label.

The Warriors have been the class of the NBA to this point, their record of 18-2 the best in the league.

However, their title credentials will be sternly tested in Phoenix, where they will face a 17-3 Suns team looking excellently placed to go one better in 2021-22 after losing in the NBA Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks last season.

The matchup between the two Pacific Division rivals will mark the first time in NBA history that two teams with a winning percentage of 85 or higher after a minimum of 20 games have faced each other.

In that sense, it is big as stages get in late November in the NBA, and the Warriors boast a player born to dominate such arenas in Stephen Curry.

 

Curry is enjoying another remarkable year, compiling a superb MVP resume after finishing third in the voting last term.

He is tied for the league lead in points per game (28.6) with former team-mate Kevin Durant, while his season-long plus-minus of 283 is comfortably the best in the NBA. Reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is a distant second on 197.

Curry's 105 made three-pointers are 20 more than nearest challenger Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings, seven of those coming on Sunday in another spectacular showing to propel the Warriors past the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

He will be the lead protagonist in what is likely to be a fascinating encounter between two excellent backcourts. With Klay Thompson still yet to return after two seasons lost to injury, Curry has received magnificent support from the emerging Jordan Poole, who has averaged 19.8 points per game this month and is one of five Warriors in the top 10 in plus-minus for November, illustrating the depth at their disposal.

Three Suns also reside in the top 10 of that list, including their two guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker.

Eleven-time All-Star Paul continues to defy Father Time and is again the Suns' chief creative force after helping them come within two wins of an NBA title.

Meanwhile, shooting guard Booker is hitting a career-high 41 per cent of his three-point attempts, perhaps setting things up for an absorbing back and forth between him and the man most regard as the greatest shooter of all time.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors - Draymond Green

With the vast majority of the attention on the enduring brilliance of MVP favourite Curry, it would be easy to overlook the contribution of Green, who has served as chief facilitator for the Warriors' talisman.

Green has 106 assists to his name in the month of November. No other non-point guard has registered more.

Shooting a career-high 55.5 per cent from the field this season, Green is once again proving he can be a critical part of a potential championship team, and the Warriors will need him at his best on both ends of the floor to maximise their hopes of seeing off Phoenix.

Phoenix Suns - Chris Paul

From his time with the Clippers, through his prominent role in engrossing playoff battles between the Houston Rockets and the Warriors to his increasingly impressive spell with the Suns, matchups that see Paul go against Curry have long since been must-watch affairs.

The 'point God' has consistently been overshadowed by the shooting magic of Curry but, among your more conventional point guards, there is still arguably nobody better.

Paul leads the league with 10.1 assists per game this season, justifying the Suns' decision to bring him back on a lucrative contract after their Finals agony of the previous campaign.

He must ensure the Suns' offense outshines Curry and the Warriors this time around if Phoenix is to send an early message by knocking off Golden State.

KEY BATTLE - Can Warriors beat Ayton on the boards?

The Warriors have been among the best rebounding teams in the NBA this season.

Golden State have registered 47.1 rebounds per game, good for fifth in the league.

Meanwhile, the Suns rank 15th in the same category with 45.7, but do possess one of the top rebounders in the league in Deandre Ayton.

The Suns center is averaging 11.4 boards per game, the sixth-most in the NBA.

If the Warriors are to have the advantage on the glass in this one, they will need to find a way to mitigate Ayton's impact.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Warriors prevailed 122-116 in the last meeting between the two teams, however, Golden State have won only one of their last four games against the Suns in Phoenix.

Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey will miss the rest of the NFL season due to an ankle injury.

McCaffrey has endured a stop-start campaign and after hurting his ankle in Sunday's 33-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the running back will play no further part in 2021.

An MRI revealed the severity of the issue, which placed McCaffrey on season-ending injured reserve due to the amount of time it would take for him to recover.

The Panthers (5-7) – who are bottom of the NFC South – have five regular-season games remaining following their bye week.

"I love playing football and have dedicated my entire life to what I believe to be the greatest sport in the world," the 25-year-old McCaffrey wrote via Instagram on Monday.

"Getting healthy and back on the field this season has been my focus everyday from the time I wake up until I go to bed. I've put family, friends and all other interests on hold so I can fully concentrate my efforts on treatment, training, practicing, studying, preparing and playing the game I love at the highest level which is why my season coming to an abrupt end leaves me devastated.

"I am thankful to everyone who continue to help and support me through this difficult time and promise I will fight with everything I have to return bigger, stronger, faster and better than ever. #KeepPounding!"

McCaffrey – a First-Team All-Pro in 2019 – already missed five games this season with a hamstring injury suffered in Week 3, having sat out 13 games last term because of multiple injuries.

Against the Dolphins, McCaffrey finished with 35 yards on 10 carries all in the opening half.

McCaffrey, who totalled 421 yards and a touchdown on 68 touches over the past four weeks, will finish the season with 99 rushes for 442 yards, a TD and 37 receptions for 343 yards and a touchdown in seven games.

Ahead of the 2020 season, McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64million contract extension through the 2025 season – making him the highest paid running back in NFL history.

Since that deal, McCaffrey will have played in only 10 of 33 games for the Panthers.

Tiger Woods is hoping to return to professional golf on a part-time basis and revealed that he feared he would have to have his leg amputated following serious injuries sustained in a car crash in February.

Woods suffered open fractures to his right tibia and fibula in the accident in California and the 45-year-old explained that losing his leg was a serious possibility.

The 15-time major champion accepts that he will never return to the sport on a full-time basis, but believes he can play occasionally if his leg recovers fully.

"I think something that is realistic is playing the [PGA] tour one day – never full time, ever again – but pick and choose, just like Mr [Ben] Hogan did," Woods told Golf Digest. "Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that.

"It's an unfortunate reality, but it's my reality and I understand it and I accept it. There was a point in time when, I wouldn't say it was 50-50, but it was damn near there if I was going to walk out of that hospital with one leg."

Woods was previously forced to go through a number of operations on his back, but recovered well enough to claim a shock 2019 Masters victory.

This time around, however, he says he will be more conservative.

"I don't have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life," Woods continued.

"After my back fusion, I had to climb Mount Everest one more time. I had to do it, and I did. This time around, I don't think I'll have the body to climb Mount Everest and that's okay.

"I can still participate in the game of golf. I can still, if my leg gets okay, I can still click off a tournament here or there. But as far as climbing the mountain again and getting all the way to the top, I don't think that's a realistic expectation of me."

Los Angeles police said in April that Woods' crash was caused by excessive speeds that led him to lose control of the vehicle he was driving.

Police examined data recorded from the vehicle – a 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV – and found he was driving at speeds in excess of 80mph in an area with a 45mph speed limit.

He was travelling at an estimated 75mph when he hit a tree, with officers believing the five-time Masters champion might have inadvertently hit the accelerator instead of the brake as there was no evidence of braking.

Sunshine Girls Head Coach Connie Francis is considering making changes to the team’s mid-court ahead of the second Test between Jamaica and England on December 4.

 This as she believes turnovers, especially those in mid-court was among the key factors contributing to why Jamaica lost 45-55 to England’s Roses on Sunday after having held a lead over the home team for the first half of their contest at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Jamaica led 27-25 at half-time but was outscored 16-9 and 14-10, in the third and fourth quarters, respectively, as England surged to a commanding victory.

Speaking with Sportsmax.TV after the team arrived in Nottingham on Monday, Francis also said the Sunshine Girls lacked match fitness and as a result, were not at their best in the second half. She also takes some of the blame for not adjusting to a few tactical changes England made during the game.

Notwithstanding those issues, Francis believes England are in a much better place than her team at this juncture.

“England right now is a better-conditioned team than us. They are an in-form team coming off a successful tour in New Zealand and they have a really good squad. Nevertheless, we took a really good squad but we have some players in our group that have not been playing netball for 18 months,” she said.

“So, for one, I don’t think we have reached our fitness goals as yet and, two, we lost our focus because we should have gone out there and capitalized in that third quarter.”

That said, Francis revealed that they are going back to the proverbial drawing board as they begin preparing to correct the errors made in the opening match of the three-Test series.

“We are in Nottingham now and we are going to a training session. Tomorrow we have another training session, we have a video session, so we have some days to also try some new persons in that mid-court area because at times I think out mid-court is a little too stagnant,” Francis said.

“Trying to get some players who have been there done that to add to that rotation and that didn’t help so it’s about moving out some other players from their comfort zone into that mid-court to see if we can get some more height and strength in because I think that having 27 turnovers wasn’t good enough and most of them were in that mid-court.

“If we had fixed some of those passes, some of those through-court plays, those feeds into our shooters then it was possible (the result) would have gone the other way around.”

Where Francis blames herself is that she didn’t react adequately to personnel changes England made in goal attack and goalkeeper positions, which made a significant difference.

“I think that possibly I could have done something a little different because when I looked at the tape I see where they had made a tactical change and I tried to fix it but it just didn’t happen,” she said.

“I thought that our defending team stood up extremely well for the most part but when England made those crucial changes and instruction was given, we didn’t rise to the instruction. So we are going back to the drawing board looking at where we have gone wrong and try to fix it.”

Considering the circumstances, Francis said she was proud of her team’s performance on Sunday.

“I am really proud of the girls and their effort,” she said. “They tried to stay with England for the most part but the continuous unforced errors, we just had to pay for them.”

Games two and three are to be played on December 4 and 5 at the Motor Point Arena.

 

 

 

Patrick Groters of Aruba won gold in the Men’s 200m backstroke at the Junior Pan Am Games in Colombia on Saturday in a championship record 2:01.78.

Groters was eighth in the A final at the 2019 Pan Am Senior Games in Lima, Peru with a time of 2:03.65.

Mexico’s Diego Salgado took silver with a personal best 2:02.29 and Erick Guzman took home Guatemala’s first Junior Pan Am Games backstroke medal with 2:03.00 for third, a new national record.

At the 2019 Senior Games, Guzman finished third in the B final in 2:04.88.

Meanwhile, several Caribbean athletes advanced as swimming action continued earlier today.

In the Men’s 50m freestyle, Jordan Crooks from The Cayman Islands, Lamar Taylor from The Bahamas and Trinidad’s Nikolai Blackman and Zarek Wilson all advanced to the B final.

In the Women’s 50m freestyle, St. Lucians Mikali Charlemagne and Naima Hazell both advanced to the A final.

Kyra Rabess from The Cayman Islands, Aleka Persaud from Guyana, Gabrialle Hysin from Greneda and Myeisha Sharrieff from Bermuda all advanced to the B final.

 

San Francisco 49ers star Deebo Samuel is not overly concerned about the severity of a groin injury he suffered in Sunday's victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Samuel, whose breakout season has seen him emerge as one of the most valuable offensive players in the NFL, again produced an instrumental display as the Niners claimed their third straight win.

The versatile wide receiver surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the season and had 66 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a thrilling 34-26 victory for San Francisco, which moved the Niners to 6-5.

Samuel now has 1,209 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns but was emotional coming off the field late in the third quarter after injuring his groin on a carry.

However, he was soon smiling on the sidelines and was in good spirits speaking to the media after the game, indicating he did not return to the action in order to avoid a more serious injury.

Asked about the level of concern over his injury, Samuel replied: "Not too much concern. I got an MRI and stuff in the morning. We'll just go see how it goes.

"My groin got kind of tight once I went to make a move. So I was just like, let's not make anything worse. And that's why I just went down."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan believed Samuel's initial response was mainly down to frustration, saying: "I think he was just disappointed. We have no idea what it's going to be like.

"I don't think it's as bad as you worry. We're hoping it's a low strain. He feels that it might be, he felt it, which that's what happened to Deebo on the first play of the game versus Washington last year. I think that's what happened to him in the fourth quarter versus New England.

"You can tell when he feels something, he stops right away. That's why I knew right away on the first step of that, that something was there, but by the time that he got to the sidelines, you feel like you saved a real bad injury. We'll have to find out tomorrow [Monday]."

The 49ers moved up to the six seed in the NFC playoff picture with the win, but head coach Kyle Shanahan cited the Niners' coronavirus-enforced late-season move to Arizona last year as an example of the unpredictability that prevents him from looking too far ahead.

"It's way too early to care. You look at that stuff at the end of the day, but what do we have left six games? Six games," he added. 

"There's a lot left to be played. Last year at this time we were moving to Arizona, this Tuesday night. So, I'm fortunate for that. Hopefully these next two days nothing changes, but we were there for a long time."

The Dallas Cowboys have confirmed head coach Mike McCarthy will not take be able to attend Thursday's game against the New Orleans Saints due to COVID-19 protocols.

ESPN reported on Monday that McCarthy, whose side have lost three of their last four games following a six-game winning streak, had tested positive for coronavirus.

The reports stated the Cowboys had suffered an outbreak of COVID-19 within their team camp, with starting right tackle Terence Steele, three offensive coaches and two strength coaches having to withdraw from Thursday's game.

Dallas subsequently confirmed McCarthy would not take to the field against the Saints due to COVID-19 protocols, though did not state if he had contracted the virus.

The statement also confirmed the team would conduct its Monday meeting virtually, with McCarthy cleared to carry on working in a remote capacity ahead of the game.

Dallas (7-4) sit top of the NFC East heading into Week 13, while New Orleans are third in the NFC South with a 5-6 record in 2021.

The New England Patriots are ignoring the noise surrounding their six-game winning streak after maintaining that run by brushing aside the Tennessee Titans.

A dominant second-half showing propelled the Patriots to a 36-13 win over a banged-up Titans team that had previously been the top seed in the AFC.

It is now the Patriots who have their eye on the number one seed after displacing the Titans, with only the Baltimore Ravens (8-3) above the 8-4 Patriots in that race.

But head coach Bill Belichick and his players are giving little regard to talk of their playoff positioning with five games still to play in the regular season.

"Eight games – look, eight games isn't enough to clinch anything or win anything," said Belichick. "We have a long way to go."

Edge rusher Matthew Judon, who registered another sack to take his tally to 11.5, insists the Patriots are in the same place mentally as they were prior to the winning streak and rejected claims of this being a statement victory for New England.

"It is the same confidence. We didn't change, we won't waver and it is the same confidence we had when we were 2-4," Judon replied when asked about their confidence level.

"It doesn't matter if it is a tight game or a blowout, our confidence won't change and we won't waver as a team, as a unit and as players. We come in this building to work every day and we are only going to continue to get better."

"I think someone asked me that a couple weeks ago and the statement or whatever you want to call it, is we have to come out here and win every single game.

"One week at a time so if we don't give up any points and no yards, that game is a statement and every week we have to strive for a statement win.

"If you want to call this a statement or if you just want to call it the next game, we just have to take it week by week and go out there. The statement for us is on to the next week."

The Patriots face the Buffalo Bills, whom they have leapfrogged for the AFC East lead, in Week 13.

And wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who scored two touchdowns against the Titans, believes that could be the game to give a clear picture of where the Patriots stand.

"I don't think there is a ceiling at all. We try to emphasise that. [Matthew] Slater just talked to us after about not getting overzealous about ourselves," said Bourne. "Just being in the moment and playing each game, each week, and thinking about that game.

"We're onto Buffalo now and that's the focus. That'll be good for us to just certify ourselves."

T.J. Watt described the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive performance as "absolutely embarrassing" after they were routed 41-10 by the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Steelers suffered their first season sweep at the hands of the Bengals since 2009 on Sunday, stretching their winless run to three games.

The humbling defeat leaves the Steelers 5-5-1 but still within striking distance of the final AFC Wild Card spot, which is currently possessed by the Los Angeles Chargers, who defeated Pittsburgh 41-37 in Week 11.

Bengals running back Joe Mixon gashed the Steelers for 165 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Steelers have given up an average of 180.5 yards on the ground over the last four games.

Though they are still in the mix for the playoffs, star edge rusher Watt knows that will change if they cannot stem the tide on defense.

"It wasn't something any of us are proud of," Watt said. "You never want to have that feeling coming out of a game. We put it on tape and now we have to own it, move forward and know that everybody sees what just happened and what we can expect moving forward.

"We have to stop this before it continues to unravel and become a bigger issue than what it already is. We can't keep playing like this. It's absolutely embarrassing.

"We're trying to solve it and clearly we're not doing a good enough job. We have to go back to the film and everyone has to look at the film and watch themselves critically and figure out how to stop this thing because it's continuous."

Head coach Mike Tomlin shared Watt's sentiments.

"It's alarming, it is," Tomlin said of the amount of points conceded. "We're not trying to play it cool by any stretch.

"We don't play football like that, but we have been our last couple of weeks, so some adjustments need to be made."

The Steelers' final six games are all against playoff contenders. They face the Baltimore Ravens twice and also have games with the Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns.

And veteran defensive lineman Cameron Heyward is under no illusion as to how those games will turn out if the Steelers cannot make said adjustments.

Asked if this is the worst Steelers defense he has been a part of since being drafted in 2011, Heyward replied: "I don't know, I'm probably going to say yes.

"I don't look at the past. All I can do is worry about the present. There's a lot of football to be played, but if we do what we did out there today, we won't win another damn game."

Matthew Stafford insisted he was feeling "fine" physically as he faced questions over his fitness following the disappointing loss at the Green Bay Packers.

The Los Angeles Rams fell to 7-4 after losing 36-28 in an entertaining road game against Green Bay on Sunday.

Stafford threw for 302 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, but also had his lowest completion percentage (55.3) of the season so far.

After making an electric start to the season, Stafford has thrown five interceptions in a run of three straight loses for the Rams, going for a pick-six in each of those defeats.

Stafford also had a lost fumble against the Packers and a report before the game suggested he was battling with back, elbow and ankle problems despite not appearing on the injury report.

"I am feeling fine," said Stafford, per ESPN. 

"Back was kind of barking at me a little bit that week [Week 9], but I haven't missed any time since then. 

"The rest of my body, is it 100 per cent? No, nor is anybody else's in this league at this point of the season.

"You have to take them all [my turnovers] individually. I know that is probably tough for you guys to hear, but that is the truth of the matter. That's the way I see it."

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey has been surprised by a losing streak that he says must end given the team's star quality.

"It's not a good mood – I can say that," he said.

"Of course I am [shocked]. We have guys that are way too good for us to be losing games like this and losing games on the road. 

"We've just got to get it right. We have to play better, everything has to be better because we're too good to be losing games like this but we're not playing like we're that good right now, so we got to correct our stuff."

Stafford still sits third in the NFL with 3,316 passing yards, second in the league with 27 TD passes and has a fourth-best passer rating of 105.2.

He has had 27 passing plays which have gone for 25 or more yards, which is third-best in the league in a tie with Aaron Rodgers, who was the winning QB in Sunday's game at Lambeau Field.

The impressive Rodgers had 307 passing yards and two touchdowns without an interception, as well as rushing for a score.

It was Rodgers' 60th career game with at least 300 yards through the air and two TDs, becoming only the fourth QB to achieve that feat after fellow NFL greats Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

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