Brian Blanco/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon won't be returning in 2015. Maddon exercised his opt-out clause in his contract and is leaving the team.
"We tried diligently and aggressively to sign Joe to a third contract extension prior to his decision," Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement. "As of yesterday afternoon, Joe enabled himself to explore opportunities throughout Major League Baseball. He will not be managing the Rays in 2015."
ESPN.com reports that Maddon leaving doesn't necessarily mean that he'll be going to join the Los Angeles Dodgers after they hired new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. He worked with Maddon and the Rays as an executive vice president.
Maddon is a two-time AL Manager of the Year and compiled a 781-729 record in 11 seasons.
Nick Laham/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The Chicago Bears (3-4) will travel to New England to take on the Patriots (5-2) on Sunday.
Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall lashed out on the team's offensive play after their 27-14 loss to the Dolphins last Sunday, but quarterback Jay Cutler and the team are moving forward.
The one good thing going for the Bears is that they are 3-1 on the road this season.
Cutler and the offense have averaged 22.4 points this season and the Patriots defense is only giving up 22.
"They play a lot of man [defense] as of recently," Cutler said of the Patriots defensive game plan. "They've played it all; we'll just have to see those first couple series of how they want to attack us."
"Darrelle Revis is one of the best in the business," Cutler said of the Patriots secondary. "He lot of times goes with the number one receiver and shadows him throughout the game, we'll see what he does against us."
The Patriots are 3-0 at home this year and quarterback Tom Brady expects it to be another close game against the Bears.
"We've had some great games against those guys," Brady said. "They've got a real good defense. It's kind of been the market of that team for a long time. A lot of guys at different positions. It's going to be a big challenge for us."
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- St. Louis Rams quarterback Austin Davis received some high praise from future Hall of Famer Brett Favre this week.
Favre spoke with ESPN's Ed Werder and compared the Southern Miss alumni to another future Hall of Famer.
"Austin can definitely play at this level," Favre told Werder this week. "Not to sound off my rocker, but [Davis], in my mind, can be the next Tom Bradyor Kurt Warner. [Brian] Hoyeras well. Austin, like those mentioned, just needed a legit opportunity."
Davis was humbled by the comments and said that Favre has sent him text messages of encouragement. Still, he told reporters that he just wants to be himself.
"I don't really want to be the next anybody," Davis said. "I just want to be the first Austin Davis and just keep doing what we're doing."
Davis and the Rams are coming off a 28-26 win over the Seahawks last Sunday.
"It felt good to get one this past week. I think it was much needed for our football team," Davis said of the win.
The Rams (2-4) will travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs (3-3) on Sunday.
Istockphoto(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) -- Fourth ranked Alabama (6-1) is expecting everything they can handle against Tennessee (3-4) on Saturday.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban called the game this week "one of the great rivalry games in college football. [It] certainly has a lot of tradition and something that's been very special and means a lot to a lot of our fans."
The Vols are still searching for their first win in the SEC after losing three straight in their conference matchups.
Tennessee's defense has allowed 21.3 points per game this season and Alabama's offense is averaging 36.9.
"They're big, they're physical up front, a very typical Alabama offensive line," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "I think they're playing to the strengths of their players. They did a lot of quick screens, a lot of dual packages where you have the run and the pass option off of it. I think they're doing a great job."
The game also will be the return of Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who left Tennessee after a 7-6 season in 2009, which caused rioting on campus.
"The game is not about that," Saban said. "The game is about the players and regardless of what fans think or what fans do, I think our coaches and our players need to focus on what we're going to do in the game and how we're going to help our players play our best."
iStockphoto(PHILADELPHIA) -- The Philadelphia Phillies signed outfielder Grady Sizemore to a one-year, $2 million contract Thursday.
Sizemore, 32, joined the Phillies last June after he was released by the Boston Red Sox. He played in 60 games for Philadelphia in 2014, hitting .253 with three home runs, 21 runs scored, 12 RBIs and one stolen base.
Before injuries derailed his career Sizemore was thought to be one of the best outfielders in baseball, making three All-Star teams and winning two Gold Gloves.
In nine MLB seasons, Sizemore has hit .266 with 144 home runs, 485 RBIs, 140 stolen bases and a .352 on-base percentage.
NBA via Los Angeles Lakers(EL SEGUNDO, Calif.) -- Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash will miss the rest of the season due to a recurring back injury, the Lakers announced Thursday.
"Being on the court this season has been my top priority and it is disappointing to not be able to do that right now," Nash said in a statement released by the team. "I work very hard to stay healthy and unfortunately my recent setback makes performing at full capacity difficult. I will continue to support my team during this period of rest, and will focus on my long-term health."
Nash played in just 15 games for the Lakers last season while dealing with various injuries. He hasn't practiced with the team since Oct. 12, when he tweaked his back while carrying bags.
Nash, 40, is in the final year of a three-year, $28 million deal that will pay him $9.7 million this season.
Nash has played 18 NBA seasons. During that time, he's won two league MVPs and has been named an all-star eight times.
(DENVER) -- Emmanuel Sanders caught a career-high three touchdowns to lead the Denver Broncos past the San Diego Chargers 35-21 Thursday night.
Sanders finished his big day with nine catches for 120 yards and those three touchdowns.
"Every week we don't know where the ball is going to go," Sanders said. "The defense really dictates that and what Peyton is seeing. And tonight was just my night."
Peyton Manning completed 25 of 35 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns, including a 31-yard bomb to Sanders with 32 seconds remaining in the first half to put the Broncos up 14-7, giving them the lead for good.
Juwan Thompson ran for two second-half touchdowns, and Ronnie Hillman had 98 yards rushing for Denver (6-1).
Philip Rivers completed 30 of 41 passes for 240 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for San Diego (5-3).
Tom Szcaerbowski/Getty Images(ATLANTA, GA) -- John Hart has accepted a permanent role as president of baseball operations with the Atlanta Braves.
The team announced that Hart has signed a three-year deal that will run through the 2017 season.
Atlanta fired longtime GM Frank Wren after a disappointing 2014 season that saw the Braves finish 79-83, and named Hart as interim GM. Wren had been the GM since 1990.
Earlier in October the Braves had offered Hart the role of general manager, but he turned down the role. Now Hart will likely search for the man to take on the challenge as Braves GM.
“I’m delighted that John Hart has agreed to accept the position of President, Baseball Operations,” team president John Schuerholz said in a press release. “Our organization is now poised to move forward in the best possible manner to do the important work that lies ahead. John’s credentials speak for themselves. He has had great success as a baseball executive and demonstrated remarkable ability to construct championship teams. We are excited by John’s dynamic and positive leadership style and look forward to him leading our baseball operations.”
Hart certainly has the pieces in place to contend for a title. With star players like Freddy Freeman, Jason Heyward, and Justin and BJ Upton, the Braves have the players for a potent offense.
"You certainly love your star players, but I tell you I love the winning players," Hart said. "I like the players with grit. I like players that care more about winning than anything else. It's a team game and it is about winning."