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Off the Wire

by Frankie Frisco | February 23, 2021 at 2:11 a.m.

FOOTBALL

Pro Bowl guard retires

Four-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Mike Iupati said he's retiring after 11 seasons in the NFL with three NFC West teams. Iupati told The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., on Monday that his body told him it was time to step away. Iupati made four consecutive Pro Bowls from 2012-15, the first three with San Francisco and the final one with Arizona. He was also a first-team All-Pro selection in 2012 with the 49ers. Iupati spent five seasons in San Francisco after the 49ers selected him in the first round of the 2010 draft out of Idaho. He played for Arizona for four seasons and spent his final two years with the Seattle Seahawks. Iupati started 139 of 140 regular-season games in his career. But he was limited to just 10 games this past season for Seattle.

MOTOR SPORTS

Team owner fined $30,000

Chip Ganassi was fined $30,000 and suspended one race for bringing a guest into the NASCAR pit area at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR said the team owner violated its covid-19 guidelines by bringing a nonessential individual into the restricted competition area. Ganassi cannot return to competition areas Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. NASCAR expanded its bubble beginning with the Daytona 500 to permit team owners into the garage; they were not considered essential personnel last season and had to watch races from a suite on the other side of the track. The at-track "bubble" does not permit drivers to bring their significant others or children into the infield. Families were even prohibited from accessing at Daytona the infield motorhomes they consider their home at the track. The penalty for Ganassi does not impact his two teams or drivers Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain.

TENNIS

Osaka, Medvedev move up

Naomi Osaka's Australian Open championship moved her up one spot to No. 2 in the WTA rankings Monday, while men's finalist Daniil Medvedev rose to a career-best No. 3 behind winner Novak Djokovic on the ATP list. Jennifer Brady, the 25-year-old American who was the runner-up to Osaka, jumped 11 spots to No. 13, her first time inside the Top 20. Aslan Karatsev's historic run from qualifying to the final four before losing to nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic allowed him to vault 72 places from 114th to 42nd. He is the first man in the professional era to reach the semifinals in his debut in the main draw of a major tournament. Despite winning the past two Grand Slam tournaments she entered, Osaka still trails No. 1 Ash Barty -- who lost in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park -- because of the way the tennis tours are calculating what they're calling "frozen" rankings following last season's hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In order for players' rankings not to be hurt if they skipped events as a result of the covid-19 outbreak, the WTA gives credit for someone's best 16 tournaments since March 2019. Barty took nearly a full year off, for example, but still has her points from winning the 2019 French Open and reaching the semifinals at the 2020 Australian Open. Serena Williams climbed four spots from No. 11 to No. 7 to get back into the Top 10 after making it to the semifinals in Australia a year after losing in the third round there. She was beaten by Osaka, whose 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brady in the final on Saturday gave her a fourth major championship, all on hard courts.

HOCKEY

Panarin taking leave of absence

New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the team after a Russian tabloid printed allegations from a former coach that he attacked a woman in Latvia almost a decade ago, which he denies. Andrei Nazarov, a former NHL enforcer who coached Panarin in the Kontinental Hockey League, told Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda in a story published Saturday that Panarin attacked an 18-year-old Latvian woman in a hotel bar in the Latvian capital of Riga following a game in December 2011. Nazarov told the tabloid that Panarin, 29, knocked the woman to the floor with "several powerful blows." Nazarov added that he later heard that the Latvian authorities looked into the incident but that no action was taken after "authoritative" locals negotiated with the police not to pursue the case, allegedly after money changed hands." Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story," the Rangers said in a statement Monday. "This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events. Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team. The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unfounded allegations."

BASEBALL

Jeffress agrees with Nationals

Right-handed reliever Jeremy Jeffress agreed to terms with the Washington Nationals on a minor-league deal that is pending the successful completion of a physical exam. He's another addition to the back end of a Nationals relief corps that already included Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Will Harris and Tanner Rainey. Jeffress, 33, was taken by Milwaukee in the first round of the 2006 amateur draft and has pitched for five teams over 11 years in the majors. He was an NL All-Star in 2018 for the Brewers.

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