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Richard Sherman looking forward to fatherhood
PHOENIX (AP) Richard Sherman has contingency plans in place should his girlfriend give birth to their first child - a son - before Sunday's Super Bowl against New England. Sherman doesn't seem worried about the potential arrival of his son interfering with his chances at winning a second straight Super Bowl title. He's expecting his son to be cooperative from birth. "He's not supposed to come on Sunday. Obviously that would change some things. But I think he's going to be a disciplined young man and stay in there until after the game. He's going to do his father his first favor and stay in there for another week or two," Sherman said on Thursday. "But I've thought about the possibility of him coming during the game and coming before the game and we have things in place in case that happens and we'll cross that bridge when we get there. But I did not know it was a topic of national debate, honestly. I would not like to miss the birth of my first son, my first kid. Thankfully, hopefully and God willing we won't have to cross that bridge." Sherman revealed the pending birth of his son earlier this week in a first-person article for The MMQB. Sherman also had no reservations about the idea of his son playing football in the future. "Football teaches you discipline and helps you develop a sense of leadership and courage and camaraderie among your friends and teammates," Sherman said. "It also shows you how to work with the group, how to depend on one another, how to trust someone to do their job and how to be dependable, to do your job. There are a lot of aspects of football that people don't talk about, and these are the things you learn and they are essential throughout your life." WORTHY CAUSE: Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the NFL Alumni Association announced a partnership to raise awareness among NFL Alumni and fans around the country about screening, diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer. The partnership also calls for CTCA to treat NFL Alumni who are fighting the disease at each of its five hospitals (in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa). CTCA will also become a sponsor of the NFLA's Super Bowl of Golf, an annual member event that is part of the NFLA's charitable fundraising activities. Other than non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. Nearly one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that 233,000 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2014. More than 29,000 men succumbed to the disease that year. BRIGHT LIGHTS IN THE BIG APPLE: The Empire State Building will track the Super Bowl on its tower lights with a virtual scoreboard on Sunday. The lights, which will shine in the colors of the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, will change depending on the score of the game, ultimately shining in the colors of the winning team for the rest of the evening. Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:18:00 +0000
Judge: Jury can watch Super Bowl unless Hernandez mentioned
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) The 18 New England residents sitting on the jury in the murder trial of former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez will be allowed to watch the home team play in Sunday's Super Bowl, but the judge overseeing the case says they must leave the room if his name is mentioned. Hernandez caught quarterback Tom Brady's last Super Bowl touchdown pass in the Patriots' 2012 loss to the New York Giants. Now he is on trial for murder, charged with the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating his fiancee's sister. The trial is playing out just as Hernandez's old team is preparing to take on the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL championship game. Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh closed the second day of testimony Friday by telling jurors they may watch the game if it is important to them, but they must be vigilant for mention of the case or Hernandez. "You hear that word, you've got to walk out of the room," Garsh said. "Distance yourself." The judge previously told jurors that they are not allowed to discuss the case with anyone, even to tell their families or employers that they are sitting on the jury for Hernandez. During jury selection, jurors were asked if they were Patriots fans, but that did not mean they were automatically disqualified from being selected. Hernandez had a $40 million contract with the Patriots when he was arrested. Earlier Friday, Lloyd's mother, Ursula Ward, was overcome with emotion and had to leave the courtroom as a prosecutor showed graphic photos of her son's body at the industrial park where he was found. The 27-year-old Lloyd was shown lying on his back with his left fist curled in a ball over the gunshot wounds to his chest. It was the second straight day she left the courtroom in tears. Lloyd's body was found riddled with bullets in an industrial park near Hernandez's North Attleborough home, not far from Gillette Stadium. On Friday, two men who worked at a business in the industrial park described a teenage jogger coming to their office early on the evening of June 17, 2013, then leading them down to an empty lot. One of the men, David Swithers, said he stopped about 20 feet away and saw a man on his back. The judge had cautioned jurors that the images would be graphic and that they shouldn't let their emotions sway them in the case. "He was stiff and motionless. There were flies flying in and out of his nostrils," he said. "I called 911." Also testifying Friday was Shaneah Jenkins, 23, who was dating Lloyd. Her sister, Shayanna, 25, is Hernandez's fiancee and the mother of his 2-year-old child. The sisters sit on opposite sides of the courtroom, Shaneah with Lloyd's mother and Shayanna with Hernandez's family. Shayanna Jenkins was not in court Friday. Shaneah Jenkins testified that she introduced Lloyd to Hernandez and that although they had a cordial relationship, they were not close. She said the two men would hang out in the basement or smoke marijuana together when they came to visit, but that, apart from the weekend Lloyd was killed, the two men did not spend time together without her there. Hernandez's lawyer, Michael Fee, told jurors in his opening statement that Hernandez and Lloyd were friends and that Hernandez had no reason to kill him. He said they could have some day been brothers-in-law. Shaneah Jenkins is expected to resume testimony the next day court is in session. That could be Monday, though the judge told jurors a snowstorm forecast for then could delay that. In a separate murder case that has yet to go to trial, Hernandez was charged last year in Boston with killing two men in 2012 after someone spilled a drink on him at a nightclub. The judge has ruled that prosecutors in the Lloyd case cannot tell the jury about those slayings. --- Follow Michelle R. Smith at: http://www.twitter.com/MRSmithAP Sat, 31 Jan 2015 03:52:00 +0000
Browns receiver Josh Gordon says he was caught drinking
CLEVELAND (AP) Browns receiver Josh Gordon said on Thursday that his latest trouble with the NFL results from having a few drinks with teammates. Gordon said in an open letter on Medium that he accepts responsibility for a failed alcohol test that could bring another suspension from the league. The 23-year-old receiver said he had two beers and two other drinks with teammates on a flight to Las Vegas on Jan. 2, after Cleveland's season ended. The former Pro Bowler was suspended for last season after testing positive for marijuana, but the penalty was reduced to 10 games. Gordon said that as part of the reduction, he agreed not to drink alcohol. He said he was tested for it when he got off the plane in Las Vegas. "As a strict condition to my reinstatement in Week 12, I had to agree not only to abstain from drinking for the rest of the season, but also to submit to an alcohol screen as part of my in-season drug testing under the league's substance-abuse protocol," Gordon said. The receiver said he thought the requirement no longer applied when the season ended, but he was mistaken. The Browns missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record, finishing last in the AFC North. "It doesn't matter if I thought that the league-imposed restriction on drinking had expired at the end of the regular season; what matters is that I didn't confirm whether or not that was the case," Gordon said. "Now, that oversight has further jeopardized my relationship with my team and our fans, my reputation, and maybe even my career." Gordon rejected criticism from media commentators, saying they don't know him well enough to form opinions about him. Gordon's absence was noticeable on a team that struggled on offense last year. Cleveland hired Joker Phillips as wide receivers coach on Thursday, Phillips' first full-time NFL coaching job. Phillips was most recently in college football as a wide receivers coach for Florida in 2012-2013. Gordon led the league with 1,646 yards receiving in 2013. The following May, it was revealed that he failed another test for marijuana. His representatives unsuccessfully argued to an arbitrator that his failed drug test was the result of second-hand marijuana smoke. The one-year suspension was shortened as part of the NFL's overhaul of its disciplinary system. The NFL has not yet announced punishment for the failed alcohol test. Gordon also was arrested for drunken driving in North Carolina last July. Thu, 29 Jan 2015 23:40:00 +0000
3 Hawks, Durant and Westbrook are NBA All-Star reserves
NEW YORK (AP) Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague were picked Thursday as reserves for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, giving the sizzling Atlanta Hawks three selections. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook made the West team despite early season injuries for the Oklahoma City stars. The Miami Heat also had two reserves in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. But Portland surprisingly only had one in LaMarcus Aldridge. Point guard Damian Lillard was not among the seven reserves. Atlanta has won 17 in a row and has a 38-8 record, second-best in the NBA. The Hawks were hoping for four spots, but Kyle Korver was not chosen by East coaches. "Our whole starting five deserves to be there," Teague said before the results were announced. "We have a good ballclub. We're all playing at a really high level right now. And we're playing as a team. That's all you can really ask for." Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, last year's All-Star game MVP, and first-timer Jimmy Butler of Chicago were the other players announced to the East roster. The rest of the West reserves for the Feb. 15 game at Madison Square Garden in New York are James Harden (Houston), Klay Thompson (Golden State), Tim Duncan (San Antonio) and Chris Paul (Clippers). Head coaches in each conference had to vote for two guards, three frontcourt players and two players regardless of position. They couldn't vote for players on their own teams. The starters were voted by fans and announced last Thursday. LeBron James (Cleveland), Pau Gasol (Chicago), Carmelo Anthony (New York), John Wall (Washington) and Kyle Lowry (Toronto) will start for the East. Stephen Curry (Golden State), Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Blake Griffin (Clippers) and Marc Gasol (Memphis) were voted in from the West. Bryant is out for the rest of the season after surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder and his replacement on the roster will be chosen by Commissioner Adam Silver. West coach Steve Kerr of the Warriors will decide who takes Bryant's spot in the lineup. With their backcourt of Curry and Thompson, the Warriors have two All-Stars for the first time since Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway in 1993. Atlanta's Mike Budenholzer will lead the East. He will get to coach three of his players, the first trio of Hawks All-Stars since John Drew, Eddie Johnson and Dan Roundfield in 1980. "We love for our players to have success and for our players to be appreciated," Budenholzer said. "Yeah, there's a sense of pride. They work really hard. They do a lot of things we appreciate. If other people are appreciating them, that's a good thing." Korver, shooting 53 percent from 3-point range, still might have a chance if Wade isn't able to play in his 11th consecutive All-Star selection. The Heat star is battling a strained right hamstring. The powerful West has many more snubs, including Lillard, whose Trail Blazers are tied for third in the conference and who is averaging 21.8 points. Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins wasn't picked despite averaging 23.8 points and 12.3 rebounds as perhaps the best big man in the league this season, and neither Memphis nor Dallas had a reserve selected despite their strong play and worthy candidates. Marc Gasol said he thought both Mike Conley and Zach Randolph should have been chosen. "We're the second-best team in the West. I feel like us being there, both (should be there) because they are a huge part of what we do," Gasol said. "All-Stars should be about winning and telling guys that's how you play. You play well on a winning team, you're supposed to be there." Duncan did make it for a 15th time, joining Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett with the third-most selections behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19) and Bryant (17). Durant will get the chance to improve his 30.6 points per game average in the All-Star game, best all-time. West coaches went with the league's reigning MVP even though he has missed 25 of the Thunder's 46 games and the team is only 23-23, currently out of playoff position. "I love Kevin Durant, but he hasn't played enough games," TNT's Charles Barkley said. "This isn't a lifetime achievement award. Lillard is having a terrific year." Fri, 30 Jan 2015 04:44:00 +0000
Lakers stop 9-game skid, edge Bulls in double OT 123-118
LOS ANGELES -- Jordan Hill scored 26 points and forced the second overtime with a clutch jumper, and the Los Angeles Lakers snapped their nine-game losing streak in thrilling fashion with a 123-118 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night. Wayne Ellington scored 23 points and rookie Jordan Clarkson added 18 for the Lakers, who held off the Bulls for their first victory since Jan. 9. With big late baskets from everybody in their patchwork lineup, the Lakers avoided matching the 1994 squad coached by Magic Johnson for the longest skid in the 16-time champion franchise's history. All-Star Jimmy Butler matched his career high with 35 points for the Bulls, who rallied from a nine-point deficit in 70 seconds late in regulation. Pau Gasol had 20 points and 10 rebounds in his Staples Center return to face the Lakers, and he forced the first overtime with the tying tip-in shot with 11 seconds left. Derrick Rose added 17 points before missing a jumper at the first overtime buzzer for the Bulls, who flopped after their thrilling win at Golden State on Tuesday. Carlos Boozer had 16 points for the Lakers, who improved to 1-3 since Kobe Bryant was lost for the season with a torn right rotator cuff. Hill's short hook shot at the regulation buzzer rattled out, but he hit a tying 20-footer with 16 seconds left in the first OT. Rose badly missed his 20-footer at the first OT buzzer. Ellington hit two early shots in the second overtime to put the Lakers up for good. Los Angeles made five of its seven shots in the second OT while holding on. The Lakers gave a pregame tribute to Gasol, who won two NBA titles in seven seasons in Los Angeles before leaving as a free agent last summer. Gasol got standing ovations in warmups and again before the game, when he stepped to center court and waved both arms at fans wearing commemorative gold T-shirts. Los Angeles led by 15 points in the second half, and Hill's basket with 1:29 left put the Lakers up 98-89. After Butler hit a 3-pointer, two free throws and a breakaway dunk, Gasol leaned over Robert Sacre and tipped in Rose's miss with 11 seconds left. Rose's 3-pointer to open overtime gave the Bulls their first lead. Gasol made one free throw with 35 seconds left to put Chicago up 106-104, but Hill drained his long jumper before Rose failed to score on an isolation play. TIP-INS Bulls: Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said the entire locker room was "thrilled" by Butler's selection as an All-Star reserve: "He has worked extremely hard to put himself in that position." ... Gasol had 23 points and 13 rebounds while the Bulls beat the Lakers on Christmas in Chicago. ... The Bulls and the NHL's Blackhawks are both in Southern California on lengthy trips while Disney on Ice takes over the United Center. The Blackhawks lost to the Kings in this same building Wednesday. Lakers: Los Angeles hadn't played a double-OT game since April 22, 2012. ... Nick Young missed his second game with a sprained right ankle. ... Boozer is being paid about $13.5 million not to play for the Bulls this season. Chicago got rid of the power forward using the amnesty clause last July after four seasons together. Soccer greats David Beckham and Robbie Keane and MLS Commissioner Don Garber all watched the game from courtside. UP NEXT Bulls: At Phoenix on Friday. Lakers: At New York on Sunday. Fri, 30 Jan 2015 06:41:00 +0000
Irving scores 55, leads Cavs to 8th win in row minus LeBron
CLEVELAND (AP) Kyrie Irving scored a career-high 55 points, breaking the arena record while LeBron James watched from the bench and leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to their eighth straight win, 99-94 over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. Irving took over with James sidelined with a sprained right wrist. He buried a 3-pointer with 6.4 seconds left to break a 94-94 tie, grabbed a rebound off a missed 3-pointer by Portland's Damian Lillard, and as many in the crowd chanted "M-V-P" and James danced near the bench, Irving dropped two free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to seal the win. Irving broke the previous scoring record at Quicken Loans Arena held by Allen Iverson. His point total was also the highest in the league this season, bettering the 52 scored by Golden State's Klay Thompson and Minnesota's Mo Williams. Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:40:00 +0000
Grant sparks No. 8 Notre Dame to 77-73 victory over Duke
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Jerian Grant had 23 points and 12 assists and No. 8 Notre Dame made two shots in the final 67 seconds as the shot clock ran out to beat No. 4 Duke 77-73 Wednesday night. Grant lost control of the ball, picked it up at the free throw line and got a shot off just in time to give the Irish a 73-70 lead with 67 seconds left. After Quinn Cook hit a pair of free throws, Grant looked as though he was holding for a shot. But he fired it over to Steve Vasturia in the corner for a 3-pointer, giving the Irish a 76-72 lead. Grant thenblocked a layup attempt to end the threat by Duke. The win keeps Notre Dame (20-2, 8-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) in second-place in the league. l Duke (17-3, 4-3) is off to its worst start in league play since opening the 1995-96 season 3-4. Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:50:00 +0000
Wade Phillips hired as Broncos defensive coordinator
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Wade Phillips is returning to Denver as Gary Kubiak's defensive coordinator. Phillips, 67, interviewed for the position this week after the Broncos were rebuffed in their attempts to speak with Bengals secondary coach Vance Joseph about the position. Joseph, who has a year left on his contract in Cincinnati, had interviewed for the Broncos head coaching vacancy following John Fox's ouster earlier this month. Phillips was Kubiak's defensive coordinator in Houston from 2011-13 and replaced him as interim coach when Kubiak was fired by the Texans in December 2013. Phillips has also served as head coach of the Saints, Cowboys, Falcons, Bills and Broncos, where he went 16-16 from 1993-94. He was out of football last season for the first time since 1975. Under Phillips, the Broncos figure to capitalize on their pass-rushing duo of Pro Bowlers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware by playing more of a 3-4 defense, with three down linemen and four linebackers. Under Fox the last four seasons they were primarily a 4-3 team. Taking on an added urgency under such a switch would be the re-signing of soon-to-be free agent nose tackle Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton because the fulcrum of a 3-4 alignment is a stout run-stuffer who can command double teams. Knighton has said he wants to finish his career in Denver, but he's also said he wants to keep playing for Jack Del Rio, who was hired as Oakland's head coach after the Broncos bowed out of the playoffs. Del Rio drafted Knighton in Jacksonville and was his defensive coordinator in Denver. Also Wednesday, the Broncos hired tight ends coach Brian Pariani and agreed to terms with Joe Woods to coach their defensive backs. Woods was Oakland's secondary coach in 2014. Pariani brings 24 years of NFL coaching experience, including 19 as a tight ends coach, to Denver, where he also coached the tight ends from 1995-2004. His prize pupils then were Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe and Pro Bowler Dwayne Cars well. This time, it could be Pro Bowler Julius Thomas and Virgil Green - providing the Broncos re-sign them. They are among Denver's dozen unrestricted free agents come March and general manager John Elway has said he'd like to keep them in Denver. Last season Pariani coached the tight ends in Baltimore, where Kubiak was offensive coordinator. He also coached tight ends during Kubiak's entire eight-year tenure with the Texans. --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Thu, 29 Jan 2015 03:17:00 +0000
Kobe Bryant has surgery, expected to be out for 9 months
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Kobe Bryant is officially done for the season after having surgery to repair his torn right rotator cuff Wednesday. The Los Angeles Lakers also made it official that their superstar doesn't believe his career is finished. Bryant is expected to need nine months to recover from his third straight season-ending injury. If Bryant meets that timetable, he could return to basketball shortly before the start of the 2015-16 season - and the Lakers expect to see him in purple and gold again. Neal ElAttrache and Steve Lombardo performed the two-hour surgery at the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles. "I expect Kobe to make a full recovery, and if all goes as expected, he should be ready for the start of the season," ElAttrache said in a statement provided by the Lakers. The Lakers formally declared Bryant out for the year by acknowledging the expected recovery time from his injury, but also effectively confirmed he won't retire and will attempt to play his 20th season in the fall. Bryant, who will be 37 years old this summer, is the NBA's highest-paid player at $23.5 million this season, and he is under contract for $25 million next year. "In my mind right now, he's coming back next year, unless he tells me something different," coach Byron Scott said at practice Wednesday. Scott already had acknowledged Bryant was highly unlikely to play again this season for the flailing Lakers (12-34), who will match their franchise record for futility if they lose their 10th consecutive game when the Chicago Bulls visit Thursday. But if Los Angeles finishes with a top-five draft pick, the club won't have to give its first-round choice to Phoenix until next year to complete its brutal trade for Steve Nash in 2012. Bryant hurt his right shoulder while dunking last week in New Orleans, deciding on surgery shortly afterward. He is the third-leading scorer in league history and a five-time NBA champion. Bryant averaged 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 35 games, but made a career-worst 37.3 percent of his shots in a wildly inconsistent 19th season. He also passed Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA's career scoring list, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. Bryant's popularity hasn't waned during his injury-plagued stretch. He was voted to the All-Star game for the 17th time this month, and he is still the Lakers' public face despite his recent prolonged absences from the court. Bryant missed the 2013 playoffs after tearing his Achilles tendon late in the regular season, and he played in just six games last season before breaking a bone near his left knee. Although he has played through innumerable injuries in the past, the accumulated wear from nearly two decades in the NBA has caught up to him. Bryant sat out eight games to rest in the past month, and he played under a strict minutes limit. It wasn't enough to protect him from another major injury. Bryant joins Nash, first-round pick Julius Randle and swingman Xavier Henry with season-ending injuries already for the Lakers. Thu, 29 Jan 2015 00:16:00 +0000
Millsaps leads Hawks to 17th straight win, 113-102 over Nets
ATLANTA (AP) Paul Millsap had 28 points and 15 rebounds, five other Atlanta players scored in double figures, and the Hawks stretched their franchise-record winning streak to 17 games in a row with a 113-102 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. Atlanta (38-8) has won 31 of 33 and leads the Eastern Conference by a commanding seven games. This was a bit tougher than expected against the struggling Nets, who kept it close most of the way. The Hawks pulled away in the final quarter, leading by as many as 15. Millsap finished off Brooklyn's last run with a 3-pointer from the corner with 2:34 remaining, pushing Atlanta to a 109-98 edge. Joe Johnson led the Nets with 26 points. It wasn't enough to prevent Brooklyn's 11th loss in 13 games, a slide that has knocked the team out of the top eight in the East. Al Horford also had a double-double for the Hawks with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Kyle Korver scored 17, connecting on five 3-pointers, while Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder had 13 apiece and DeMarre Carroll 12. Atlanta outrebounded the Nets 45-35. Brook Lopez scored 18 for Brooklyn off the bench, and Jarrett Jack chipped in with 14 points and 13 assists. The Hawks got off to a sloppy start, committing six turnovers in the first 7 minutes. But they seized control before the break, closing the second quarter on a 21-9 run that sent them to the locker room with their biggest lead of the half, 64-53. Millsap played a huge role in the turnaround. He scored 16 points, knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, and grabbed 12 rebounds in the opening half. Atlanta has built a double-digit lead in every game during its winning streak, and improved to 33-1 this season when up by at least 10 points. Amazingly, the Hawks have already matched their win total for all of last season, when they slipped into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed with a 38-44 record. And it's not even the All-Star break. TIP-INS Brooklyn: The bus carrying coach Lionel Hollins got caught in traffic trying to get to Philips Arena and didn't arrive until 6:43 p.m. for the 8 p.m. tipoff. A poultry convention at the adjacent Georgia World Congress Center clogged traffic in downtown Atlanta. ... F Mirza Teletovic traveled home after being hospitalized last week in Los Angeles with blood clots in his lungs. The Bosnian will miss the rest of the season, but is expected to make a full recovery. Atlanta: Schroder will represent the Hawks in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend in New York. The second-year point guard from Germany is one of the most improved players in the league, playing a key role off the bench as Teague's backup. ... Mike Budenholzer and his staff already earned the right to coach the Eastern Conference team in the All-Star game, and as many as four Hawks players could be selected when the reserves are named Thursday. UP NEXT Brooklyn: Head home Friday night to face the Toronto Raptors. Atlanta: Host the Portland Trailblazers on Friday night, the next-to-last game in a seven-game homestand. --- Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 Thu, 29 Jan 2015 03:36:00 +0000
Lynch at Media Day: 'I'm here so I don't get fined'
PHOENIX (AP) Marshawn Lynch smiled politely, waved at the crowd and answered every question the same. "I'm here so I don't get fined," the Seattle Seahawks' star running back constantly repeated for five minutes before leaving the podium at Media Day on Tuesday. It's not clear if his plan will work. About 200 reporters crowded around Lynch's podium for at least 15 minutes before he arrived. But the media-shy Lynch made it clear right from the start he wasn't saying anything except variations of his scripted answer. Lynch set a timer on his phone and told everyone he showed up just to avoid a fine. Lynch caught a bag of Skittles tossed from Olympic gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson and stopped to pick up a reporter's recorder off the floor before he walked away. Lynch later spoke to "Entertainment Tonight" about his foundation, the "Fam 1st Family Foundation." The Professional Football Writers of America was talking to the league about the session and Lynch had been apprised of a potential fine. He is also required to be at media sessions Wednesday and Thursday. In November, the NFL fined Lynch $50,000 for violations of the league's media policy in addition to collecting the $50,000 fine that was imposed against Lynch for violations last season. The fine from 2013 was held in anticipation of future cooperation from Lynch. "I'm fine sitting up here, but not everybody is comfortable with it so I don't think he should be forced to do it," All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said. Lynch has much more to say when the price is right. Insurance company Progressive and candy maker Skittles released commercials featuring Lynch saying a bit more than his usual: "Yeah" and "Nope" and "Thanks for asking." At Media Day last year, Lynch's reclusiveness became a major story. Lynch appeared for 6 1/2 minutes, left the arena, and then returned to a "mixed zone" the NFL created for players not on podiums or in microphone-equipped speaking areas at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. With the exception of briefly speaking with the NFL Network's Deion Sanders, to the Seahawks' website, and to Armed Forces Network, he did not deal with reporters that day. Sanders, the Hall of Fame cornerback, tried again to interview Lynch, but got nowhere this time and left laughing. Teammates defended Lynch's behavior. "This is who he is. I don't nitpick or judge, so I just accept a person for who they are," All-Pro safety Earl Thomas said. "I just love who he is. He is so random." Sherman even continued answering questions after the 60-minute session ended. "I don't think (players) should be obligated any more than the commissioner is obligated to speak to the media," Sherman said. "I think that if players are going to be obligated to speak to the media then every one of the NFL personnel should be obligated to speak to the media weekly, and that's not the case. "It's unfortunate, but I think that every team should be forced to present certain players, obviously a few of them. Obviously, if someone is uncomfortable in front of the media and uncomfortable answering questions, then you have to find a way to accommodate the NFL. This is a game; you find a way to accommodate everyone else who's uncomfortable." Lynch was fined $20,000 for making an obscene gesture during Seattle's overtime win over Green Bay in the NFC championship game. The league did not specify what the gesture was, but Lynch grabbed his crotch after scoring a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Lynch was fined $11,000 for a similar gesture in Seattle's win over Arizona on Dec. 21. Lynch also was told before the last game he could not wear gold shoes because they were a violation of the NFL's on-field dress code, and that he could be ejected from the game if he wore them. "He's a guy that cares about everyone in that locker room," assistant head coach and offensive line coach Tom Cable said. "Anytime you hand it to him, he's carrying them. He's not carrying the football, he's carrying his team. That's who he is. That's what he does." --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org --- Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi Wed, 28 Jan 2015 01:17:00 +0000
Brodeur to retire, join St. Louis Blues front office
ST. LOUIS (AP) Martin Brodeur is retiring to take a front office job with the St. Louis Blues. The New Jersey Devils have a spot waiting for one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history whenever he is ready to come back home. "Absolutely. He is aware of that and has always been aware of that," Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Tuesday. "He could have come back even now if he wanted to." The 10-time All-Star and four-time Vezina Trophy winner finished his career with St. Louis after a standout, two-decade run with New Jersey. A news conference was set for Thursday morning before the Blues return from the All-Star break to play Nashville. "It's kind of sad to see a guy like him hang `em up," said Brian Elliott, the Blues' All-Star goalie. "I'm sure it's a tough decision, but I was grateful to be on the same team with him if only for a little bit." The 42-year-old Brodeur wrapped up his 22-year career with St. Louis after signing as a free agent on Dec. 2. He was 3-3 with a 2.87 goals-against average and in his final victory became the fifth-oldest goalie to post a shutout in a 3-0 win over Colorado on Dec. 29. He last played on Jan. 2 in a loss at Anaheim and had not returned since being granted a one-week leave of absence on Jan. 14. Brodeur had dropped to third on the depth chart after Elliott returned from a knee injury, with 24-year-old Jake Allen sharing the position, but teammates are happy he'll still be around to help. "It's an extremely smart move," forward Alexander Steen said. "All the experience and all that stuff is so valuable to have in an organization. That stuff spreads." Lamoriello said he's been talking with the Brodeur the last several weeks, so the announcement was not a surprise. Lamoriello said it won't be long before the Devils retire his No. 30 and that there are no hard feelings Brodeur is sticking with St. Louis for now. "It's something that he feels he would like to try and see," Lamoriello said. "He might even find out whether he likes this business or not. Who knows? There is no issue whatsoever." Brodeur played his first 21 seasons with the Devils, who did not re-sign him after committing to Cory Schneider as the No. 1 goalie. Schneider said he was a little surprised about the announcement, calling it the end of an iconic career. "Those kinds of players, like Marty and Jaromir (Jagr), they only come along so often," Schneider said. "The things that Marty did, I don't know if we will ever see again or it probably won't be for a long, long time." The Montreal native was 691-397-176 with a 2.24 goals-against average, .912 save percentage and 125 shutouts in 1,266 career appearances. He holds regular-season NHL records for wins, games and minutes. "I don't think he has to worry about losing those anytime soon," Elliott said. "It's just awesome to be able to stand on the same ice as a guy like that, especially when you look at the record books probably 50 years from now and you can be like, `I played with that guy,' so it's cool." Brodeur also holds postseason records for starts (204) and shutouts (24), and is second in wins (113). He appeared in 70 or more games in 10 consecutive seasons from 1997-98 to 2007-08. He won three Stanley Cups with the Devils and was a two-time Olympic gold medalist with Team Canada in 2002 and 2010. Devils center Scott Gomez won two Stanley Cups with Brodeur and remembered a player so handy with the stick it prompted an NHL rule change. Jagr said having Brodeur in goal was like having an extra half defenseman who could start breakouts. "So many new goaltenders come in the league and it's kind of incredible for him to adjust and stay in that game for such a long time," Jagr said. "I don't think anybody can do that again, in any sport. Maybe (Peyton) Manning if he keeps playing, because quarterback is that type of position." --- AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report. Tue, 27 Jan 2015 23:58:00 +0000
Jury convicts 2 ex-Vanderbilt players of raping woman
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A jury convicted two ex-Vanderbilt football players on Tuesday of raping a former student, rejecting claims that they were too drunk to know what they were doing and that a college culture of binge drinking and promiscuous sex should be blamed for the attack. The jury deliberated for three hours before announcing that Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey were guilty of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery. Batey was stoic, staring ahead and Vandenburg shook his head "no," appearing stunned. His father had an outburst and abruptly left the courtroom. The victim, a 21-year-old neuroscience and economics major at the time of the June 2013 attack, cried as each guilty verdict was announced. The men face decades in prison when they are sentenced March 6. The jury heard two weeks of dramatic testimony from a parade of witnesses, including police, former and current Vanderbilt students and the woman, who said she didn't remember what happened that night, only that she woke up in a strange dorm room. They also saw cellphone images from the night of the attack that Vandenburg sent to his friends as it was happening. Despite the photos and video, and witnesses seeing the woman unconscious and at least partially naked in a dorm hallway, no one reported it. The victim said in a statement she was hopeful the publicity from the case would lead to a discussion of how to end sexual violence on college campuses. In Nashville, where the prestigious private university is located, hundreds of college officials from across the state were meeting this week to discuss exactly that. "Finally, I want to remind other victims of sexual violence: You are not alone. You are not to blame," she said. Vandenburg and Batey were on trial together, but represented by different attorneys. Attorneys for Vandenburg, who had been seeing the woman, said he did not assault her. Testimony showed Vandenburg passed out condoms to the other players, slapped her buttocks and said he couldn't have sex with the woman because he was high on cocaine. Batey raped the woman and urinated on her, prosecutors said. His attorneys argued the images didn't show that. Defense lawyers argued that Vandenburg and Batey were too drunk to know what they were doing and that a college culture of binge drinking and promiscuous sex should be partly to blame. During closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Tom Thurman told jurors that the college culture argument was a "red herring" and that the athletes thought the law didn't apply to them. "That's the culture that you really saw here," Thurman said. "Their mindset that they can get away with anything." Earlier, one of the defense attorneys conceded that Vandenburg took "deplorable" photos, but shouldn't be convicted of rape because he didn't take part in it. "He took photographs that he never should have taken," attorney Fletcher Long said. Batey, of Nashville, turned 21 on Tuesday. Vandenburg, 21, is from Indio, Calif. Vandenburg's roommate at the time testified that he had been on the top bunk and saw the woman face down on the floor. He said he heard one of the players say he was going to have sex with her, but didn't do anything because he was afraid. Rumors about what happened quickly spread around campus, and the assault might have gone unnoticed had the university not stumbled onto the closed-circuit TV images several days later in an unrelated attempt to learn who damaged a dormitory door. The images showed players carrying an unconscious woman into an elevator and down a hallway, taking compromising pictures of her and then dragging her into the room. School authorities contacted police, who found the digital trail of images. The university said after the verdict that they had kicked the players off the team many months ago, expelled them from school and were confident they acted appropriately. "We will also continue our comprehensive ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the importance of every Vanderbilt student intervening when another student is at risk or in distress," the school said in a statement. Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie, who is also charged in the case, testified he did not touch the woman himself but also took pictures. No trial date has been set for him and Brandon Banks, the fourth former player accused in the assault. Banks did not testify. Wed, 28 Jan 2015 00:59:00 +0000
Super Bowl, Tiger make Phoenix center of sports universe
PHOENIX (AP) Tiger Woods will tee off his season in front of 200,000 golf fans and an estimated million people will flock to a revived Phoenix downtown for NFL events. A pair of NBA games will be played in the heart of it all. Concerts abound and there will be parties galore. Oh yes, there's a football game, too. Although the Super Bowl is actually being played 30 minutes away in suburban Glendale. Super Bowl week is always a spectacle. With the addition of golf's biggest name in its most raucous tournament, the scene in and around Phoenix this week should be even crazier. For a few days, what once was a desert wasteland is the center of the sports and entertainment world. "It kind of puts us on the map," Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "It kind of gives us that networking that we don't have like other teams - the Dallas Cowboys or the New York teams. Everybody can see what the state is all about." The fun will stretch from Glendale to the west to Scottsdale in the east. The epicenter is downtown Phoenix, where 12 blocks have been cordoned off for a myriad of Super Bowl activities and displays. Thanks to a temporary law change, fans can wander through with open containers of alcohol. A few steps away is the NFL Experience, billed as the league's interactive theme park, set up in the Phoenix Convention Center. Walk a block or so, and there's US Airways Center, where the ever-entertaining, often-bizarre Media Day was held on Tuesday, with fans able to witness it for $28.50 a pop. The arena swings back into its usual purpose on Wednesday night, when the Washington Wizards play the Suns. Friday night, the Chicago Bulls are in town. Scottsdale has a party scene any weekend. Super Bowl weekend it goes over the top. Streets around the clubs will be blocked off with Maxim and Rolling Stone among those hosting gatherings. In north Scottsdale there will be a giant party that happens to have a golf tournament running through the middle of it. The Waste Management Phoenix Open, played on the spacious TPC Scottsdale course, has by far the biggest crowds on the PGA tour, with Saturday always the party day. Now that Woods is playing in the tournament for the first time in 14 years, it should be even more crowded, as hard as that is to imagine. Tournament officials have said more than 200,000 are expected this Saturday. Among those performing somewhere around town will be Lil Wayne, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker, Imagine Dragons and Kevin Hart. Rihanna has an invitation-only gig in Glendale on Saturday night. And, of course, Katy Perry will perform at halftime on Sunday. The Pro Bowl kicked everything off. Usually played in Hawaii, it was moved for this one season to the site of the Super Bowl. A sellout crowd of 63,225 packed the Sunday night event. This will be the third Super Bowl for the Phoenix area. The first was in 1996 at Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. In 2008, the game was played at University of Phoenix Stadium, with the New York Giants stunning previously unbeaten New England. At the time, downtown Phoenix was entangled in scaffolding for one project after another. For the Super Bowl to return, it's an upgrade that was essential. "It's really been the $44 billion development to the downtown Phoenix area," said Devney Preuss, senior director off the Arizona Super Bowl host committee. "That created a downtown area that's primed and ready for an event like this." Hotels and restaurants were built. The convention center was expanded. A light rail line opened from Mesa to downtown. Now more big games are on the way. Next January, the college football championship game is in Glendale. The following year, it's a college football playoff semifinal game. And in spring of 2017, the stadium hosts the Final Four. For the Phoenix area, it seems, the party's just begun. Tue, 27 Jan 2015 22:18:00 +0000
Kraft takes the offensive, defends team, seeks NFL apology
CHANDLER, Ariz. (AP) The New England Patriots came out swinging upon their arrival at the Super Bowl. Not star quarterback Tom Brady or All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. Not coach Bill Belichick, either. Robert Kraft. The team owner on Monday night demanded an apology from the league once the Patriots are found to be not guilty of breaking any rules regarding using under-inflated footballs in the AFC championship game. A conclusion Kraft is certain will occur. In an unscheduled statement, Kraft strongly defended his team's actions and integrity, growing more fiery with each sentence. "I want to make it clear that I believe, unconditionally, that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of NFL rules," Kraft said at the team's first media availability in Arizona. "If the (Ted) Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular to coach (Bill) Belichick and Tom Brady, for what they've had to endure this week." NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss are leading the probe. Wells was the investigator in the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal and has said the current investigation could last a while. Kraft welcomes a thorough search. "I'm disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon," Kraft said, pointing directly to reports citing anonymous sources. "We expect hard facts rather than circumstantial leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation." The NFL has said evidence shows the Patriots used underinflated footballs during the first half of the AFC title game victory over Indianapolis. The league is still determining why the balls were underinflated. "I am confident that this investigation will uncover whatever the facts were that took place last Sunday and the science of how game balls react to changes in the environment," Kraft added. "This would be in direct contrast to the public discourse, which has been driven by media leaks as opposed to actual data and facts. Because of this, many jumped to conclusions and made scarring accusations against our coach, quarterback and staff questioning the integrity of all involved." Belichick and Brady followed Kraft to the podium, but basically left any comments on the investigation to their boss. When asked if he was upset by the accusations and jokes of which he was the subject, Brady said: "I've moved past those initial feelings and I want to move forward." But moving away from the deflated footballs theme will be particularly difficult on media day, when just about any question has been fair game in the past. So Kraft came out swinging before then with a speech tinged with emotion - and fire. "Tom, Bill and I have been together for 15 years. They are my guys," said Kraft, who has three Super Bowl titles and three other trips to the big game since 2001. "They are part of my family. Bill, Tom and I have had many difficult discussions over the years. I've never known them to lie to me. That's why I'm confident in saying what I just said. "It bothers me greatly their reputations and integrity - and by association that of our team - has been called into question this week." This hardly is the first time the Patriots have been under such scrutiny. Most famously was 2007, their undefeated regular season. Revelations that New England videotaped New York Jets coaches' signals during a game cost Belichick a $500,000 fine, and the team was fined $250,000 and stripped of its 2008 first-round draft choice by the NFL. During this year's playoffs, Ravens coach John Harbaugh accused the Patriots of being deceitful with some alignments on offense. The NFL exonerated Kraft's team of any wrongdoing. Now, Kraft has taken the offensive. "I, and our entire organization," he said, "believe strongly in the integrity of the game and the rules of fair play are properly, equitably and fairly enforced." --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:41:00 +0000