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10 Best Running Backs in Cleveland Browns History

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Jim Brown is the not only the greatest running back in Browns history, he’s also the greatest running back in NFL history. © Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Greatest Browns Running Backs of All Time

Throughout NFL history, the Browns have deployed some of the greatest running backs of all time. Of the 52 running backs, fullbacks, tailbacks and halfbacks enshrined in the Hall of Fame, the Browns lay claim to four. Only the Bears, Packers, Giants and Cardinals have more, and many of those players played before the Browns were even founded.

The following list will cover the greatest running backs to ever be a part of the Browns franchise; it will cover the players’ stats, their dominance during their era of play, their impact on the team’s history and their awards and accolades. Players selected to this list are determined by their versatility both running and catching the ball, their overall dominance during their careers or years in Cleveland and their All-Pro selections or Hall of Fame eligibility. These players have their fingerprints all over the record books—both the Browns’ and the NFL’s.

10. Peyton Hillis (2010–11)

Of all the players on this list, Peyton “The Albino Rhino” Hillis had one of the shortest careers with the Browns, but he also had one of the greatest impacts. He’s mostly known for being the most unrecognizable NFL player to ever grace the cover of the Madden video game in 2012. In 2011, Madden created an online voting bracket to allow fans to choose their next cover athlete. Each team was given one player to vote for, eliminating players weekly until a final player was chosen.

Cleveland fans rallied together to make sure that they were noticed as one of the greatest fanbases in the NFL, catapulting a relatively unknown player like Hillis on the cover. During the voting period, Hillis beat out perennial Pro Bowlers and some future Hall of Famers such as Aaron Rodgers, Ray Rice, Matt Ryan, Jamaal Charles and finally, Michael Vick. The final vote for the championship round garnered a whopping 66% in favor of Hillis over Vick.

Hillis may have gained national fame because of that vote, but Cleveland fans discovered him the previous year when he became a top running back in the NFL seemingly out of nowhere. His career started as a fullback for the Broncos, but a preseason trade brought him to the Browns in 2010. Injuries to the Browns’ two starting running backs put Hillis in the starting role in Week 3 of the season against the Ravens. Hillis would end that season with 1,177 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards, 11 rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns. In his two seasons with the Browns, he started 14 of his 16 games.

Hillis’s running style was powerful. It was not unusual for him to run over defenders, or drag them along behind him as he powered his way down the field. Despite being 6’1” and 240 pounds, Hillis would even occasionally leap and hurdle over his opponents. In 2010, he averaged 4.4 yards per carry and caught 79.2% of the passes thrown his way.

Unfortunately, his career in Cleveland would end the following year after holdouts over money, head-scratching statements and injuries. Hillis sat out a game in 2011 for strep throat, an illness that many believed he should have played through. At one point in an interview about the fans’ unhappiness with his play, NFL Insiders‘ Adam Schefter reported that Hillis wanted to join the CIA. Hillis denied the claim. This led to questions about his mental health and love of the game.

After a disappointing second season, the Browns didn’t offer him a contract, allowing him to leave the team and continue his career in Kansas City. He never had a significant season again and retired in 2014.

9. Jamal Lewis (2007–09)

Jamal Lewis isn’t just an all-time Browns running back, he’s also an all-time Ravens running back. In 2007, the Browns signed Lewis after he spent his first six seasons with the rival Ravens. He immediately made a significant impact. Lewis rushed for 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns his first year in Cleveland. That season, the Browns ended the year with their first winning season since 2002, finishing with a record of 10–6 and narrowly missing out on the playoffs by one win.

The team had hope for the first time in years, and a huge part of that was due to a strong running game led by Lewis. That season, he had stellar performances. He ran for 216 yards in a game against the rival Bengals, averaging an amazing eight yards per carry. Against the Seahawks, he amassed four rushing touchdowns. Against the Bills, in a game that ended 8–0, Lewis carried the ball 33 times for a whopping 163 yards to clinch the win. The excitement in Cleveland was bursting at the seams.

The following year, Lewis rushed for another 1,000-yard season, finishing with 1,002 yards on the ground. His final season was the following year in 2009, when he ran for exactly 500 yards before retiring. Lewis currently sits 10th all-time in rushing yards for the Browns’ franchise.

8. Earnest Byner (1984–88, 1994–95)

Earnest Byner is typically associated with a horrible memory in Cleveland, “The Fumble,” in which he fumbled on the one-yard line and cost the Browns a chance to go to the Super Bowl in 1987. Despite this, however, his career was exemplary. He should be remembered for the skillful way he played the game and how well he was able to catch the ball as a dual-threat running back.

Byner rushed for 1,002 yards his second year and added an additional 460 yards receiving. It was his best season as a Brown. He finished his career with the Browns with 276 catches for 2,630 yards, making him the second-best receiving back in franchise history. He also rushed for 3,364 yards and 27 touchdowns in his career, all while sharing a backfield with Kevin Mack.

Byner was the running back for the team for two of their AFC championship appearances. Despite his infamous fumble in 1987, he was also the sole reason the Browns were able to stay in the game up to that point. In that game, he had 187 all-purpose yards and singlehandedly kept the Browns close.

He was a versatile back who could run, catch and even return kicks. His career should be remembered with honor, and not for one terrible play that unfairly immortalizes him today. In 2019, he was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

7. Kevin Mack (1985–93)

Kevin “Mack Truck” Mack was drafted in the supplemental draft in 1984. In his first season, alongside Browns running back Earnest Byner, Mack rushed for 1,104 yards while scoring 10 total touchdowns. Mack was a perfect complement to Byner, being one of the best one-two punches in the NFL at running back. Despite his power-inspired nickname, Mack also had the soft hands needed to be a versatile back who could also catch the ball. He was part of the last dominant era of Browns football in Cleveland, but he feels hopeful for the future; Mack recently said he believes that the current Browns offense shows similarities to his team.

Mack currently works for the Browns organization in alumni relations. In 2016, he was interviewed for a documentary on the history of Cleveland’s major sports teams called Believeland. He’s a very vocal city booster and is often seen at events for the team and in videos and promotions. He embraced the Cleveland fanbase and remained in the area after his retirement. He calls it home to this day.

In Mack’s career, he caught 197 passes for 1,602 yards and eight touchdowns. He was selected to two Pro Bowls and was also part of the team’s three AFC championship appearances in 1986, 1987 and 1989. He was selected for the 1985 All-Rookie team in the NFL, and he currently sits fifth in rushing yards and fourth in rushing touchdowns in the Browns’ franchise history.

6. Eric Metcalf (1989–94)

Say the name Eric Metcalf in Cleveland, and the immediate association is often the phrase “Metcalf up the middle.” This phrase isn’t a compliment. Rather than meaning, perhaps, that Metcalf was a bruising back who ran into the teeth of the defense, it instead reflects the poor choices of the play-callers who underutilized his talent. Metcalf was flashy, fast and could score from anywhere at any time. Instead of utilizing his talents with sweep runs, short throws or other plays that would set him free, the coaches would often send him right up the middle—as if he were any other typical back.

Looking at Metcalf’s stats, you might think he was a subpar running back, but in fact he was more versatile than any other back on this list. Metcalf ran the ball, caught the ball and was one of the Browns’ best return men of all time. In Cleveland’s franchise history, he currently sits 14th in rushing yards, 10th in receptions, fourth in punt return yards, third in kick return yards and he has the second-most receptions by a running back. He also led the league in punts returned for a touchdown four separate years, two of which were with the Browns. In 1990, he led the entire NFL in kick returns, return yardage and return touchdowns, and he had the longest kick return touchdown of the season, totaling 101 yards.

In short, Metcalf may not have had the greatest rushing stats but he certainly had the most talent all around. He played for seven teams throughout his career and was selected to three Pro Bowls and was a two-time First-Team All-Pro. In 2019, he was selected as a nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

5. Greg Pruitt (1973–81)

Greg Pruitt was drafted in the second round of the 1973 NFL Draft. Pruitt was a smaller back in the league, but this never stopped him from producing at a high level.

Pruitt tells the story of how, as a child, other children in his neighborhood wouldn’t allow him to play football. One day, he offered to play center for both teams, because none of the other boys wanted to play on the offensive line. The boys accepted. He said he would fake a snap and take off running, dominating the other kids and finally proving that his size wasn’t an issue. This success continued on into his college years, and eventually his NFL career.

After a promising first season, he took over as the lead running back his second season. After his first two years in the league, Pruitt rushed for over 1,000 yards three years in a row. In those three years, he totaled over 4,200 total yards and 18 total touchdowns. He was also known for his ability to catch the ball, averaging 35.9 receptions per year while he was with the Browns. In his final season in Cleveland, he caught 65 passes for 636 yards.

Pruitt was able to do all of this while splitting carries with Mike Pruitt, a fellow running back of no relation to Greg. Though Mike ultimately racked up more carries than Greg, Greg was still able to amass a stellar career with the Browns.

While in Cleveland, Greg Pruitt made it to four Pro Bowls. He currently sits fourth in career rushing yards for the franchise.

4. Marion Motley (1946–53)

Marion Motley was one of the first African-Americans to play in football’s modern era. Alongside Bill Willis, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, Motley broke the color barrier in football in 1946, a whole year before Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play professional baseball. Aside from his social impact on the game, Motley was also one of the most talented running backs in NFL history.

Motley started his rookie year with a bang. He averaged 8.2 yards per carry, an astronomical number even for the era. He went on to lead the league in rushing yards twice and rushing touchdowns once. He played an integral role in five Browns championships wins, four in the AAFC and one in the NFL. He retired from football in 1953 due to lingering knee problems but returned for one season in 1955 to play linebacker for the Steelers.

Motley was selected to one Pro Bowl in his career and was a two-time First-Team All-Pro selection. He won five total championships while he played for the Browns, and he currently sits sixth all-time in rushing yards for the franchise. In 1968, he was elected to the Pro Hall of Fame and is also a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1940s Team.

3. Mike Pruitt (1976–84)

Just a few years after Greg Pruitt joined the team, he was followed by Mike Pruitt (no relation). Mike was taken seventh overall in the 1976 NFL Draft. He began his career opening holes from the fullback position and was rarely used as a ball carrier since Greg was playing well. However, in 1979, Greg went down with a knee injury and Mike finally got his chance to start. He excelled, instantly becoming a household name in the NFL.

He ran for 1,294 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He also added another 372 yards receiving and two touchdowns. In the following years, he would remain a starter, rushing for over 1,000 yards in three of his next four seasons—the one outlier resulting from a strike-shortened NFL season.

Mike Pruitt was a powerful force in the NFL. He earned two Pro Bowl selections in 1979 and 1980. He currently sits third all-time in Browns franchise history for yardage with 6,540 yards, as well as third all-time in touchdowns with 47. He only trails those two categories behind Leroy Kelly and Jim Brown, both Hall of Famers. In 2003, Pruitt was inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame.

2. Leroy Kelly (1964–73)

Leroy Kelly entered the NFL with a large shadow cast over him. As a rookie, he was the backup running back for the great Jim Brown, and he would eventually follow in his footsteps after Brown retired. To say that he faced exceedingly high expectations after Brown’s departure would be an understatement. Up until that point, Brown was the greatest football player to ever step on the field, and Kelly had to fill his shoes. In his third year, Kelly became the starter—and he quickly put any worries about his abilities to rest.

In his first year starting, Kelly ran for 1,141 yards and a league-leading 15 touchdowns. He also led the league with 5.5 yards per carry. The next season he became the league’s leading rusher with 1,205 yards, a league-leading 11 touchdowns and a league-leading 1,487 total yards from scrimmage. His third season as a starter was the best season of his career, leading the league in rush attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns. He ran for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry. He also amassed another 297 yards receiving and four additional receiving touchdowns.

Kelly went on after that three-year stretch to have a consistently good career before he left the NFL in 1973. During his 10 years with the Browns, he was selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls and had three consecutive First-Team All-Pro selections. He won his only NFL championship his rookie year while backing up Jim Brown. In 1968, he won the Bert Bell Award, which goes to the player of the year. In 1994, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. To this day he sits second all-time in franchise history in rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns. He has played the most games as a Brown from a running back position with 136 games.

1. Jim Brown (1957–65)

Jim Brown is not only the greatest running back in Browns history, he’s also the greatest running back to ever play the game of football. In fact, until the arrival of Tom Brady, Brown was the greatest player to ever step on a football field.

Brown was drafted sixth overall by the Browns in 1957. The Rams were in need of a running back with the second overall pick, but their owner turned their decision to Jon Arnett from USC instead. The Browns wanted to select a quarterback with their pick, but their primary targets in the draft were taken, so they settled on Brown. This string of decisions led to the Browns snagging the most dominant talent in NFL history.

In Brown’s rookie year, he fell just short of the 1,000-yard mark, one of only two times in his career. But he rushed for a league-leading 942 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He would continue the trend of leading the league in rushing yards the following four seasons, as well as in every other season of his career except for 1962, when he finished fourth overall. In his nine-year career he led the league in rushing attempts six times, rushing yards eight times, rushing touchdowns five times, yards per game eight times, total yards from scrimmage six times and total touchdowns five times. He dominated the competition in every single major rushing category for his entire career.

Brown also holds strong positions on the NFL all-time lists in rushing categories. He currently sits 11th in career rushing yardage with 12,312 yards, sixth in career rushing touchdowns with 106, third in yards per rushing attempt with 5.22 yards and first in yards per game with 104.3. He is the only player in NFL history to average over 100 yards per game across his career. These marks are even more impressive when you take into account that Brown retired in the prime of his career.

Why Did Jim Brown Retire Early?

Brown retired at the peak of his career after finishing the 1965 season, during which he led the league in yards and touchdowns and also earned the MVP award. In fact, 1965 was arguably the greatest statistical season of his career.

Football wasn’t Brown’s only career; he was also an actor. Before the 1966 season, the film he was shooting, The Dirty Dozen, ran into a production delay. The delay was going to cause Brown to be several weeks late for the team’s upcoming training camp, and this news displeased owner Art Modell. When Brown told Modell that he would be late because of the movie, Modell informed him that he would be fined $100 for every missed day of training camp to ensure that a bad message wasn’t sent to other players about missing camp. When the issue couldn’t be worked out, Brown informed the team he would be retiring. He went on to have roles in more than 30 movies. If not for that disagreement between Modell and Brown, who knows how much higher his records would have soared?

Jim Brown’s Career Accolades

In Brown’s nine-year career he had nine Pro Bowls selections and eight First-Team All-Pro selections. He received the Bert Bell Award in 1963 and was awarded NFL MVP three times. He won his only NFL championship in 1964. In 1963, Brown set a since-broken NFL record for rushing yards in a season with 1,863 yards in only 14 games. At that point in time, no other running back had ever broken 1,600 yards, and the record stood for another 10 years before it was surpassed by O.J. Simpson. Of the 10 players who had more yards in a season than Brown, only one did so in 14 or fewer games.

Honorable Mentions

Ernie Green (1962–68)

Ernie Green was unfortunate enough to have to play alongside Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly. He was primarily utilized as a fullback, blocking and opening holes for lead running backs. When he did have the ball he was very successful, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt. Green’s greatest value, however, was his ability to block. He was the main blocker for Brown when he set the NFL record for rushing yards in a season. When Brown retired unexpectedly, Green became the primary blocker for Kelly, who went on to become one of the best backs in the NFL. When Green retired in 1968, Kelly’s season averages dropped between 400 and 600 yards a season until he retired. Green’s fantastic play helped two Hall of Fame running backs earn their greatest achievements.

Dub Jones (1948–55)

Dub Jones was a complementary piece to Marion Motley. He played on five championship teams in his career. Jones’s stats don’t jump off the page, but he was a very talented back who was used primarily as a receiving option. He averaged 16.8 yards per reception during his time in Cleveland, and he also boasted a respectable 4.2 yards per rush. He was a pivotal player in the Browns’ early dynasty, and he was a great partner to Motley during that time. Jones played eight seasons with the Browns, over half of which resulted in championship rings.

Which NFL Team Has the Best Running Backs in NFL History?

The Browns have some of the greatest running backs in NFL history. While they are tied for third in NFL history with Hall of Famers at the running back position with four total, they have only two fewer and were founded 24 years later than the Bears. The Browns have the most dominant running back by far in their history—and had he not retired early, Jim Brown would have run away with records that would never have been touched. Their history has amassed a collection of versatile backs who could attack the defense from anywhere on the field. The Browns’ franchise running backs embody the blue-collar attitude of Cleveland with their hard-nosed running styles and ability to get the job done. Both the city’s fans and their running backs aren’t afraid to get dirty to earn success.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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