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Chargers’ Austin Ekeler rides momentum of four-TD game, career season into AFC West showdown against Broncos

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Chargers’ Austin Ekeler rides momentum of four-TD game, career season into AFC West showdown against Broncos

Last Sunday, facing the Steelers in primetime, the Chargers’ Austin Ekeler became just the fourth running back since 2000 to score multiple rushing and receiving touchdowns in the same game.

This Sunday, the Eaton High and Western Colorado product is the Broncos’ problem.

Ekeler, 26, has the wind at his back entering Empower Field as he’s already posted career highs in rushing yards (573) and total touchdowns (13). And the timing of that surge isn’t lost on Ekeler, who was reflective this past week about his journey from a small-town undrafted fringe prospect to one of the league’s top dual-threat tailbacks.

“(It) is a special feeling with how far my journey’s come from running down on punts my rookie year to now,” Ekeler told Los Angeles media. “I feel like I’m leading the running back room, trying to get these guys going. There’s a lot of confidence in myself from my teammates and my coaches and that’s really special because it’s been a long journey and I’ve put a lot into this.

“And I’m going to continue to keep going, I’m going to continue to push (my teammates)… I’m enjoying this year so much, just with what our new culture is here.”

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Despite huge volcano blast, Tonga avoids widespread disaster

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Despite huge volcano blast, Tonga avoids widespread disaster

By NICK PERRY

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The blast from the volcano could be heard in Alaska, and the waves crossed the ocean to cause an oil spill and two drownings in Peru. The startling satellite images resembled a massive nuclear explosion.

And yet, despite sitting almost on top of the volcano that erupted so violently on Saturday, the Pacific nation of Tonga appears to have avoided the widespread devastation that many initially feared.

In its first update since the eruption, the government said Tuesday it has confirmed three deaths — two local residents and a British woman. Concerns remain over the fate of people on two hard-hit smaller islands, where most houses were destroyed, it said. Communications have been down everywhere, making assessments more difficult.

But on Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, perhaps the biggest problem is the ash that has transformed it into a gray moonscape, contaminating the rainwater that people rely on to drink. New Zealand’s military is sending fresh water and other much-needed supplies, but said Tuesday the ash covering Tonga’s main runway will delay the flight at least another day.

On Tongatapu, at least, life is slowly returning to normal. The tsunami that swept over coastal areas after the eruption was frightening for many but rose only about 80 centimeters (2.7 feet), allowing most to escape.

“We did hold grave fears, given the magnitude of what we saw in that unprecedented blast,” said Katie Greenwood, the head of delegation in the Pacific for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “Fortunately, in those major population centers we are not seeing the catastrophic effect we thought might happen, and that’s very good news.”

Greenwood, who is based in Fiji and has been talking with people in Tonga by satellite phone, said an estimated 50 homes were destroyed on Tongatapu but that nobody needed to use emergency shelters. She said about 90 people on the nearby island of ‘Eua were using shelters.

U.N. humanitarian officials and Tonga’s government has reported “significant infrastructural damage” around Tongatapu.

“There has been no contact from the Ha’apai Group of islands, and we are particularly concerned about two small low-lying islands — Mango and Fonoi — following surveillance flights confirming substantial property damage,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

New Zealand’s High Commission in Tonga also reported significant damage along the western coast of Tongatapu, including to resorts and the waterfront area.

Like other island nations in the Pacific, Tonga is regularly exposed to the extremes of nature, whether it be cyclones or earthquakes, making people more resilient to the challenges they bring.

Indeed, Greenwood said Tonga does not want an influx of aid workers following the eruption. Tonga is one of the few remaining places in the world that has managed to avoid any outbreaks of the coronavirus, and officials fear that if outsiders bring in the virus it could create a much bigger disaster than the one they’re already facing.

Another worry, said Greenwood, is that the volcano could erupt again. She said there is currently no working equipment around it which could help predict such an event.

Satellite images captured the spectacular eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Saturday, with a plume of ash, steam and gas rising like a giant mushroom above the South Pacific. The volcano is located about 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa.

Two people drowned in Peru, which also reported the oil spill after waves moved a ship that was transferring oil at a refinery.

In Tonga, British woman Angela Glover, 50, was one of those who died after being swept away by a wave, her family said.

Nick Eleini said his sister’s body had been found and that her husband survived. “I understand that this terrible accident came about as they tried to rescue their dogs,” Eleini told Sky News. He said it had been his sister’s life dream to live in the South Pacific and “she loved her life there.”

New Zealand’s military said it hoped the airfield in Tonga would be opened either Wednesday or Thursday. The military said it had considered an airdrop but that was “not the preference of the Tongan authorities.”

New Zealand also sent a navy ship to Tonga on Tuesday, with another planned to leave later in the day, and pledged an initial 1 million New Zealand dollars ($680,000) toward recovery efforts.

Australia sent a navy ship from Sydney to Brisbane to prepare for a support mission if needed.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Tuesday said China is preparing to send drinking water, food, personal protective equipment and other supplies to Tonga as soon as flights resume.

The U.N. World Food Program is exploring how to bring in relief supplies and more staff and has received a request to restore communication lines in Tonga, which is home to about 105,000 people, Dujarric said.

Communications with the island nation are limited because the single underwater fiber-optic cable that connects Tonga to the rest of the world was likely severed in the eruption. The company that owns the cable said the repairs could take weeks.

Samiuela Fonua, who chairs the board at Tonga Cable Ltd., said the cable appeared to have been severed soon after the eruption. He said the cable lies atop and within coral reef, which can be sharp.

Fonua said a ship would need to pull up the cable to assess the damage and then crews would need to fix it. A single break might take a week to repair, he said, while multiple breaks could take up to three weeks. He added that it was unclear when it would be safe for a ship to venture near the undersea volcano to undertake the work.

A second undersea cable that connects the islands within Tonga also appeared to have been severed, Fonua said. However, a local phone network was working, allowing Tongans to call each other. But he said the lingering ash cloud was continuing to make even satellite phone calls abroad difficult.

___

Associated Press journalist Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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The Chicago Bears will interview Eliot Wolf for their GM vacancy. Here’s what to know about the New England Patriots senior consultant.

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The Chicago Bears will interview Eliot Wolf for their GM vacancy. Here’s what to know about the New England Patriots senior consultant.

The Chicago Bears have reached out to at least 15 general manager and 10 coaching candidates for interviews. As they go through the process, we’re looking at each of the prospects.

Eliot Wolf will interview for the general manager position Tuesday, according to NFL Network.

Eliot Wolf

Age: 39

Title: Senior consultant for the New England Patriots

Experience

Wolf joined the Patriots in 2020, having spent the previous two seasons as the Cleveland Browns assistant general manager under John Dorsey. He was with the Green Bay Packers for 14 seasons before that, starting as a pro personnel assistant in 2004 then climbing the ranks in the team’s front office. During his latter years in Green Bay, Wolf was director of pro personnel (2012-2015), director of player personnel (2015-2016) and director of football operations for his final two seasons. He interviewed for the Packers GM job in 2018, but Brian Gutekunst got the job.

You should know

Wolf’s dad is Ron Wolf, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who was the Packers general manager for 10 seasons from 1991-2000. Under Ron’s guidance, the Packers enjoyed a run in which they qualified for the playoffs in six consecutive seasons from 1993-98. The team won Super Bowl XXXI over the Patriots after the 1996 season and made it back to that stage a year later, losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. Eliot was in high school at that time.

The buzz

In many league circles, there is optimism Wolf would be able to assemble a high-level staff within the front office. He is highly regarded and has developed solid connections across the league. His relationship with Alonzo Highsmith, currently the senior executive advisor to Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider, is notable. Highsmith stands as a candidate the Bears should have on their interview list for the GM role. Wolf could also become a valuable piece in a right-hand man role.

What’s been said

“We have a great relationship. I’m very fond of the person, and the scout is excellent. I’ve told him that. I really want him to be here. But I also know he has other opportunities, and I wouldn’t hold him back from that because I care about him. … Eliot is going to be a GM soon, whether he stays here and then becomes a GM or whether he goes somewhere else and becomes a GM.” — Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, after being hired to that role four years ago

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The Chicago Bears will interview Morocco Brown for their GM vacancy. Here’s what to know about the Indianapolis Colts director of college scouting.

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The Chicago Bears will interview Morocco Brown for their GM vacancy. Here’s what to know about the Indianapolis Colts director of college scouting.

The Chicago Bears have reached out to at least 15 general manager and 10 coaching candidates for interviews. As they go through the process, we’re looking at each of the prospects.

Morocco Brown will interview for the general manager position Tuesday, according to NFL Network.

Morocco Brown

Title: Indianapolis Colts director of college scouting

Age: 45

Experience

GM Chris Ballard hired Brown in 2017 to run the college scouting side of things for the Colts. Before that, he was the vice president of player personnel for the Cleveland Browns in 2014 and 2015.

Brown worked as the director of pro personnel in Washington from 2008-13 after a seven-year run with the Bears as the assistant director of pro personnel from 2001-07. He broke into the NFL in 2000 with an entry-level scouting position in Washington. A four-year letterman as a linebacker at North Carolina State, he was a captain for the Wolfpack as a senior and led the team in tackles for three straight seasons from 1995-97. Brown was briefly with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Atlanta Falcons interviewed him for their GM job last year.

You should know

Brown has a diverse scouting background with experience on both the pro and college sides. He’s been heavily involved with some very successful drafts in Indianapolis. The Colts got linebacker Darius Leonard (2018), wide receiver Michael Pittman and running back Jonathan Taylor (2020) all in the second round. As an assistant pro director with the Bears, he played a role in the addition of a handful of offensive linemen that helped propel the team to Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season.

Bears connection

Brown was one of the first hires made after the arrival of GM Jerry Angelo in 2001. After seven years at Halas Hall, he surely has relationships with many key figures that remain in the organization with an idea of how the building works.

The buzz

The Colts have drafted well in recent years, bringing attention to Brown. With a reputation for working well with others, Brown could be poised for a shot at a GM role in this cycle.

What’s been said

“Morocco knew players, and that’s not an easy task,” former Bears GM Jerry Angelo told The Athletic. “It’s like instinct. There are people who work their tails off and they write what they see. But they can only write what they see. Because our business is a projection business, you have to project what (players) are going to be for you. And that takes instincts.”

Angelo said scouts belong in two categories — information gatherers and evaluators — and said Brown falls into the latter.

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