Sports Briefs


Steelers, Alejandro Villanueva agree to 4-year contract

LATROBE, Pa. (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva have agreed to a four-year contract that will keep the former Army Ranger protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside for the rest of the decade.

Financial terms of the deal, reached just as the team was reporting to training camp at Saint Vincent College on Thursday, were not disclosed.

Villanueva, an Army graduate who served in Afghanistan, started every game for the defending AFC North champions last season. The 28-year-old joined the team’s practice squad in 2014 and made the 53-man roster in 2015.

The contract means Pittsburgh’s entire starting offensive line is signed through the 2018 season.

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Flacco out with back injury; Ravens may bring in Kaepernick

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — An injury to quarterback Joe Flacco might open the door for Colin Kaepernick to join the Baltimore Ravens.

Flacco missed the first full practice of training camp Thursday because of a back injury and is expected to be out for at least a week. Coach John Harbaugh said the team likely needs to bring in another quarterback and is considering Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers on March 3.

Kaepernick drew significant attention for not standing for the traditional playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” before games. However, Harbaugh called Kaepernick a “great guy” and views him as a viable option in Baltimore.

“He and I have been talking throughout the summer a number of times.” Harbaugh said about Kaepernick. “He’s a guy right now that’s being talked about. We’ll just see what happens with that. It will all be speculation right now. He’s a really good football player. As I’ve said at the owners’ meetings, I do believe he’ll be playing in the National Football League this year.”

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Rangers’ Adrian Beltre on the brink of 3,000th career hit

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Adrian Beltre just wanted to work hard, be consistent and earn respect in the game. As a young player, he never even thought about historical numbers like 3,000 hits.

“Never in my mind did I think that I was going to be in the position where I’m at right now,” Beltre said. “If I tell you that, that I was, I’m lying. For me, I just wanted to be a good player. … When you play for a long time, you accumulate stuff.”

Now 38 and in his 20th major league season, the Texas Rangers third baseman goes into a weekend series at home against Baltimore just four hits shy of 3,000 in his career. Only 30 other players have done that, with Ichiro Suzuki the only current active player in that club.

Next will be the five-time Gold Glove winner who got his first hit as a 19-year-old rookie with the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 24, 1998, four years after they had signed the kid from the Dominican Republic. This is Beltre’s seventh season in Texas, where he finally made it to a World Series, and he is signed through next season.

“Everything you see out there, to maintain that level of intensity, you can tell how much he loves being around his team and the game,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s got to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, doesn’t he? I mean, what else do you have to do?”

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