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Pro football

Colts All-Pro LB Leonard, Bears RB Cohen honored: Darius Leonard, the AP's Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Tarik Cohen have been honored by the Black College Football Hall of Fame as their top pro players for 2018.

The award, announced Wednesday, recognizes the most outstanding professional football player from a historically black college and university. Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea was selected as the inaugural recipient in 2017.

Leonard, a linebacker, played at South Carolina State and was selected by the Colts in the second round of last year's draft. He finished his rookie season with an NFL-high 163 combined tackles (111 solo), eight pass deflections, seven sacks and one interception. His 163 tackles broke the franchise record and helped Leonard make the All-Pro team.

Bears running back and return specialist Tarik Cohen attended North Carolina A&T and was drafted in the fourth round in 2017. During the 2018 season, Cohen rushed for 444 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 71 catches for 725 yards and five touchdowns, along with a league-leading 411 punt return yards. He was an All-Pro as a punt returner.

The awards were voted on by a selection committee featuring NFL front office members and media members.

New league pleased with first-week ratings but cautious

The Alliance of American Football was a ratings winner in its inaugural weekend, but founder Charlie Ebersol realizes it is a small sample size.

"We feel really good about them and that our theory that Americans want more football tends to be true," Ebersol said in a phone interview. "However, we still have to remain slow and steady in building things. We are going to be facing stiff competition as soon as next month (with the NCAA Tournament)."

The games Saturday on CBS averaged 3.25 million viewers, which was more than ABC's broadcast of the Houston Rockets against the Oklahoma City Thunder (2.67 million), according to Nielsen. Most of the country could see San Diego at San Antonio while the rest could see Atlanta at Orlando.

The AAF ratings are comparable to the 3.32 million viewers that CBS averaged for a pair of NFL preseason games last August. However, the broadcasts Saturday from San Antonio and Orlando will be the only games on CBS until the championship game on April 27 in Las Vegas.

NFL Network will have the games on Saturday and Sunday nights while the CBS Sports Network has the Sunday afternoon game. TNT will be doing the game from Birmingham next Saturday afternoon, but the next eight weeks it will be streamed on B/R Live.

The broadcast Sunday night on NFL Network averaged 640,000 viewers. Many observers will be following the NFL Network numbers over the next couple weeks since the rest of the games will be on cable.

Most of the production is being done from Sneaky Big studios in Scottsdale, Arizona. Pregame, halftime and postgame shows will be done from the facility and some games are being announced remotely.

All the games the first week had the same graphics packages and production elements, which have given the broadcasts consistency.

"It was essential to us and our partners that viewers felt like they were tuning in to one product. One thing that has been heartening is the quality of the production," Ebersol said.

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