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Jets assistant coach Greg Knapp dies after bicycle crash

New York Jets assistant coach Greg Knapp, who tutored some of football’s most noted quarterbacks, died Thursday after a bicycle crash last week, officials said.

Knapp, 58, was an avid cyclist who was riding Saturday in San Ramon in Northern California when a motorist swerved into the bike lane and hit him, said his agent, Jeff Sperbeck.

He never regained consciousness and died Thursday surrounded by his wife, his three daughters, his mother and his brother.

“Greg’s infectious personality is most people’s first and lasting memory of him,” Sperbeck said in a statement. “The phrase ‘he never met a stranger’ encapsulates Knapper’s zest for life. He had a unique gift to make everyone feel special, and to Knapper, they all were.”

San Ramon police said Thursday they’re still investigating the crash that involved a 22-year-old man behind the wheel. Drugs and alcohol do not appear to be involved but police said they still want any witnesses to step forward.

The fatal collision happened a little before 2:49 p.m. Saturday on Dougherty Road just north of North Monarch Road, as the driver stopped and “cooperated with investigators,” police said.

“Sadly Mr. Knapp succumbed to the injuries he sustained in Saturday’s collision,” San Ramon police said in a statement. “Our sincere condolences are with Mr. Knapp’s family and loved ones.”

The coming season would have been Knapp’s first with the Jets. He and new head coach Robert Saleh were hired in January in a staff shake-up in hope of ending the franchise’s five straight years of losing records.

Saleh offered his condolences to Knapp’s family, saying Knapp was able to deeply connect with people even in his short time with the Jets.

“Greg had such an inner peace about him that people always seemed to gravitate towards,” Saleh said. “He lived life in a loving way that helped him connect with people from all walks of life in a unique way.”

Knapp, the team’s passing game specialist, had been set to coach rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, a Brigham Young University prodigy whom the Jets selected with the second overall pick of this past NFL draft.

Knapp has been a fixture on NFL coaching staffs for the past 25 years, serving as quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator for some of the league’s best-known passing attacks.

He was quarterbacks coach with the Atlanta Falcons, working alongside four-time Pro Bowl signal caller Matt Ryan, for the past three seasons.

Before going to Atlanta, Knapp was the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for the Denver Broncos, for whom he worked with Peyton Manning. Knapp’s three seasons in Denver included the Broncos’ victory in Super Bowl 50.

Brandon McManus, a kicker for the Broncos, mourned Knapp on Twitter on Thursday, calling him an “awesome” person.

“RIP Coach Greg Knapp. Always enjoyed our conversations on and off the field,” McManus said.

Troy Taylor, head coach at California State University, Sacramento, said the school was “heartbroken,” recalling Knapp’s history as a Hornet.

“Greg was not only a great former Hornet player and coach, but one of the kindest and most generous people that I’ve ever known,” Taylor said in a statement Thursday. “His success and humility have been an inspiration to all of us here at Sacramento State. We will continue to carry on his legacy within our football program and wish his family and friends peace and comfort through this difficult loss.”

Knapp, who began attending Sacramento State in the fall of 1983, played quarterback and is ranked eighth in school history in career passing yards.

The Las Vegas Raiders, for whom Knapp was an offensive coordinator when the team was based in Oakland, said they were “saddened and stunned.”

“The thoughts and prayers of the entire Raider Nation are with Coach Knapp’s family during this extremely difficult time,” the team said.

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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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House passes John Lewis voting rights bill, sends measure to Senate for tougher fight

House Democrats on Tuesday passed a sweeping voting rights bill named after Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the late civil rights icon.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was approved 219-212. All Republicans voted against the legislation.

The bill is part of congressional Democrats’ broader campaign to strengthen voting laws at the federal level to fight restrictive voting laws passed in Republican-led states, such as Texas and Georgia. However, it faces steep opposition in the Senate, where Democrats hold a wafer-thin majority.

The House returned from its recess this week to take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a resolution for Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget package, which includes funding for much of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. The procedural motion used to pass the multitrillion-dollar resolution paved the way for the House to vote on the voting rights bill, which was re-introduced last week by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

The legislation would require states with recent histories of discrimination to get federal “preclearance” to change their voting laws, which directly addresses the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. The ruling gutted the preclearance system in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which civil rights advocates argue was successful in blocking proposed voting restrictions in states and localities with histories of racial discrimination.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement last week that Congress had “not only an ironclad Constitutional mandate, but a moral responsibility” to pass the bill.

Shortly before its passage, Pelosi said on the House floor that the bill would honor Lewis’ legacy.

“We should have the right to vote and shouldn’t be diminished by anyone. It is unpatriotic to undermine the ability of people who have a right to vote, who have access to the polls,” she said. “As John knew, this precious pillar of our democracy is under attack from one of the worst voter suppression campaigns since Jim Crow.”

It isn’t the first time House Democrats have tackled election law. In March, House Democrats passed the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that seeks to change campaign finance, voting and ethics laws.

The bill would expand access to the ballot box by creating automatic voter registration across the country by registering eligible voters whenever they interact with government agencies, restoring the voting rights of the formerly incarcerated, expanding early voting and modernizing the country’s voting systems.

However, Senate Republicans filibustered the voting rights legislation in June, and the vote to advance an amended version of the For the People Act split along party lines 50-50, short of the 60 votes needed. All Democratic-aligned senators voted to begin debate, and Republicans unanimously voted to block the bill.

Passage of the voting measure was the final vote of the week for the House, whose members are leaving Washington and won’t return until Sept. 20.

Haley Talbot contributed.

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