BC-AP Sports Preview Digest

BC-AP Sports Preview Digest

Some of the sports stories The Associated Press is covering Thursday. A full Sports Digest will be sent about 3 p.m. All times EST:

- SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Questions abound regarding Notre Dame star Manti Te'o and his supposed girlfriend and her supposed death. The biggest one is this: Was he part of the hoax or a victim?

- NFL draft consultant Gil Brandt believes the uncertainty surrounding Manti Te'o could affect when he is selected in April by an NFL team.

- Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey in which the cyclist acknowledges doping is broadcast in the first of two installments. Interview at 9 p.m.

- LONDON - Thirteen years after he stood on the podium in Sydney, Lance Armstrong is stripped of his bronze medal from the 2000 Olympics because of doping.

- SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Frank Gore has carried the 49ers through good times and mostly bad the last eight seasons. He's perfectly happy if he's not getting all the attention heading into Sunday's NFC title game.

- FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - The Atlanta Falcons have good reason to respect the dual-threat skills of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

- FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Patriots Rob Ninkovich defensive end has a knack for finding loose footballs. His next chance comes in the AFC championship game against Baltimore.

- OWINGS MILLS, Md. - If the Ravens need a field goal in the waning seconds, rookie kicker Justin Tucker might be the only one not thinking of Billy Cundiff's miss last year.

- NEW YORK - The NBA announces the results of fan voting for next month's All-Star game in Houston. The game will be loaded with players from Los Angeles, Boston and Miami. Announcement about 7 p.m.

- LONDON - The New York Knicks play the Detroit Pistons in the NBA's second regular-season game in London. Game starts 3 p.m.

- LOS ANGELES - The Lakers face the defending champion Miami Heat, with Pau Gasol expected to return to the Los Angeles lineup after a concussion. Game starts 10:30 p.m.

- GRAPEVINE, Texas - NCAA President Mark Emmert addresses his group's convention, where several reform measures are on the agenda following high-profile scandals. Emmert news conference after 6:30 p.m.

- LA QUINTA, Calif. - Phil Mickelson opens his season in the Humana Challenge, fighting lingering flulike symptoms that limited his practice time. Also in the field is U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson.

- ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Justin Rose and Jamie Donaldson share the first-round lead of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Tiger Woods is five shots back, with Rory McIlroy eight behind.

- MINNEAPOLIS - No. 9 Minnesota plays No. 5 Michigan, the first game at Williams Arena featuring two top 10 teams since 1977. Michigan beat Minnesota that day. Game starts 7 p.m.

AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

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AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

Here’s a key AFC North question. Will Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell stay healthy?

Bell is without question one of the league’s most talented backs. However, knee injuries have ended his season the past two years, leaving the Steelers without him when they were eliminated from the playoffs.

De’Angelo Williams did a superb job in place of Bell last season, rushing for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns. But Bell is a better pass receiver and more elusive – capable of turning almost any play in to a big play. In 2014, Bell had over 2,000 yards combined from scrimmage – 1,316 yards rushing and 854 yards receiving.

Bell doesn’t want to be labeled as injury-prone, yet some people already view him that way. But at Steelers OTA’s, Bell showed up looking healthy, while vowing not to run cautiously next season.

“I’m going to be physical,” Bell told ESPN.com. “I’m out here with no knee brace or anything, didn’t wear a sleeve or anything. I’ve been training my knee for everything I’m about to go through, so when September gets here I’ll be even better than I am now. That’s even crazy to think about. But I’m excited.”

When Bell has been healthy, putting up numbers has not been a problem. The more Bell plays next season, the better the Steelers’ chances of making the playoffs.

Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

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Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

If the NFL had an All-Academic team, Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel would be on it.

In February, Urschel began the Ph.D program in mathematics at MIT. How’s he doing so far? Here’s a hint. When it comes to grades, Urschel is only familiar with one letter in the alphabet.

“My first semester in school in nearly three years,” Urschel wroter on Twitter. “Four PhD classes at MIT. Four A’s. The streak continues!!!”

Entering his third season with the Ravens, Urschel has found a way to juggle his love for football with his love for mathematics. He posted an interesting article on The Players Tribune this week in which he described training with the football team at MIT this spring.

“I probably had about 50 or 60 pounds on the biggest guy on MIT’s O-line,” Urschel wrote. “But when we ran, they put me to shame. They could outsprint me.

“What I found is that the team at MIT is no joke. It is a football team – in some ways, more of a football team than any I’d ever seen. These guys love football. They are playing the game because they want to. No one is making them come to practice, no one is checking up on them. They know as well as anyone about head injuries; they know that football is dangerous; they know the feeling of exhaustion and pain. They still play. They don’t do it for money, and they don’t do it for status.

“We talk about dedication and passion in the pros, but the truth is, sometimes the game feels like a job. You start to think of the paycheck. You feel the grind. But training with the team at MIT, I started thinking about what had drawn me to football as a kid. It felt like a game again. I had thought I might have something to teach the team. I never imagined they’d have so much to teach me.”

That guy in the Dos Equis beer commercials might be the most interesting man in the world. But Urschel has built a strong resume as the most interesting player on the Ravens.

RELATED: NFL ANNOUNCES LOCATIONS FOR 2019, 2020 AND 2021 SUPER BOWLS

NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

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NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

The NFL has decided on the locations of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls. The vote took place at the NFL owners meetings in Charlotte on Tuesday. 

Atlanta will host Super Bowl LIII in 2019, while South Florida (Miami) will get the event in 2020 and Los Angeles will host in 2021. 

The cities chosen each included new or upgraded stadiums in their pitches to the league. 

Atlanta will be home to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opening in 2017. 

Miami's stadium (Sun Life Stadium from 2010-2016) is undergoing a $400 million renovation that will include an open-air canopy to provide shade for 92 percent of seats, according to Sports Illustrated. Construction should be complete before the 2017 season. 

And Los Angeles will boast a new 300-acre, campus-style stadium housing the Rams and potentially a second team. The $2.6 billion project will be the most expensive sports arena in the world, reports CNN, and should be ready before the 2019 NFL season.