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Hunter Pence breaks arm in Giants' win over Cubs

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) San Francisco outfielder Hunter Pence broke his left forearm and will be sidelined six to eight weeks after being hit by a pitch in the sixth inning of the Giants' 8-6 victory over a Chicago Cubs split-squad Thursday.

One of the clubhouse leaders for the World Series champions, the quirky Pence has played in 383 straight games - the longest active streak in the majors - since the Giants traded for him in July 2012. He hit .277 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs last year.

He was hit by a pitch from the Cubs' Corey Black and went to first base before being removed for a pinch runner.

"It didn't look good," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "You hate to see it but these things do happen. Guys work so hard to get ready."

X-rays showed Pence has a non-displaced fracture in his left forearm.

Black reached out to Pence over Twitter.

"Lost for words. Hope you heal fast (at)hunterpence hitting someone is never a good feeling. Hurting someone is even worse," Black wrote.

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 05:25:00 +0000
Manning back for 18th season after signing reworked deal

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) If the Denver Broncos' 2015 season goes the way he hopes, Peyton Manning will earn back every penny of the $4 million pay cut he took Thursday.

No. 18 made his return for an 18th NFL season official by passing his physical a day after agreeing to a revised contract that calls for him to make $15 million this season.

The new deal he signed after getting a clean bill of health includes incentives of $2 million each for winning the AFC title and the Super Bowl.

"Well, we're excited it's over and glad we can move on and glad Peyton's going to be a part of this team and hopefully win a championship next year," general manager John Elway told the team's website. "I think this time of the offseason is always tough for everybody. And it's a tough part of the business but it's the time of year that we've got to put the best football team together that we possibly can."

Manning, who left the team's headquarters Thursday without speaking to the media, was non-committal about returning after the Broncos' playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. But he determined he still had the health and hunger to keep playing at age 39 for new coach Gary Kubiak.

Elway asked Manning to take a pay cut and it took nearly a month to hash out the new deal reached Wednesday that was contingent on Manning passing his annual physical. Every year, the Broncos medical staff checks on Manning's surgically repaired neck to make sure there's not any degeneration in the discs above and below the ones that were fused in 2011.

Manning, whose contract still calls for him to make $19 million in 2016 should he decide to play into his 40s, will return to Denver for the start of offseason workouts on April 13.

Manning had a terrific first half of last season but his play slipped dramatically over the second half, when he was hampered by a nagging thigh injury that affected his accuracy.

Pro Bowl running back C.J. Anderson said he expects to see more of the QB who appeared headed for a sixth MVP honor than the one who struggled down the stretch.

"If he said he's mentally and physically ready to play that doesn't mean it's at a sub-par level. It means it's at a high level," Anderson said.

The $4 million savings won't drastically change Denver's free agency plans. It gives Elway about $18.6 million to work with, but much of that will go to his own restricted free agents and a large draft class.

It does, however, help the Broncos as they pay out $4 million in bonuses and put another $36.5 million into escrow over the next week because of guarantees in the contracts of Manning, Ryan Clady, Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward.

Kubiak said he "had a good visit" with Manning on Thursday and "I know he's as excited as anyone" to get started on the hybrid offense the coaches have been constructing for a month.

"We have a big challenge ahead of us, meshing a couple of systems. That's something we needed to get a head-start on and we've done that," Kubiak said.

Kubiak has designed mainly West Coast offenses throughout his career that often require the quarterback to line up under center and roll out. Mobility has never been Manning's calling card; he's been most comfortable making quick throws out of the shotgun in recent years.

Elway said Kubiak's offense reminds him of the system he ran during the final, Super Bowl-winning years of his career, when Kubiak was his offensive coordinator.

"Peyton can fit into this offense very easily," Elway said. "It's very dependent on balance. Peyton won't have to throw the ball 50 or 55 times. That gets more helpful, the older you get."

Manning is all in. Recently, he remarked, "Aside maybe from Tubby Raymond's Delaware Blue Hen Wing-T offense, I feel pretty comfortable playing in any offense."

Manning is 179-77 in the regular season but just 11-13 in the postseason. His nine one-and-out playoff performances are about the only blot on a career that features an unprecedented five MVP honors but half as many rings as brother Eli and three fewer than Tom Brady, this generation's other premiere passer.

Manning owns most of the significant QB records and is 2,148 yards shy of breaking Brett Favre's career yardage record of 71,838. He's also nine victories short of breaking Favre's record of 186 career wins.

Notes: The Broncos signed long snapper Aaron Brewer to a four-year deal Thursday. Brewer is the first of Denver's five restricted free agents to get a new deal.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Thu, 05 Mar 2015 22:55:00 +0000
Jones-Drew retires, Woodley released by Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Two of the Oakland Raiders' big free-agent acquisitions from last season are no longer with the team.

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew announced his retirement Thursday and defensive end LaMarr Woodley was released by the team.

The two were brought in last March as general manager Reggie McKenzie targeted veterans to help rebuild the struggling organization. But many of those players failed to reach the Pro Bowl levels from their past and the Raiders won just three games last season.

Jones-Drew and Woodley were two of the biggest symbols of that failed strategy.

Jones-Drew was paid $2.5 million last season but only rushed for 96 yards on 43 carries in 12 games. It was a major disappointment for him and the team as he came into the season healthy and excited about his return to his native Bay Area.

But he was unable to get back to the level he had reached in Jacksonville earlier in his career when he ranked second in the NFL with 4,321 yards rushing in a three-year span from 2009-11.

The 29-year-old Jones-Drew had 1,313 yards in his final three seasons - fewer than he had in each of the previous three years.

"After much discussion with my family and business team during this offseason, I've decided to retire from the National Football League," Jones-Drew said in a statement released on his Twitter account. "The past nine years were absolutely amazing! I'll be forever grateful to the countless people who have assisted me throughout my NFL journey. To my fans, and NFL fans worldwide, you are the absolute greatest! But for you, our league would not exist. Football has been a central part of my life for the past 24 years. But, now I'm excited about and looking forward to the next chapter of my life."

New Raiders coach Jack Del Rio coached Jones-Drew in Jacksonville.

"I have nothing but the utmost respect for Maurice Jones-Drew and wish him the absolute best," Del Rio said in a statement. "He is one of the top individuals, both on and off of the field, that I have had the privilege of coaching. He's one of my all-time favorites and I truly love the guy."

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley congratulated Jones-Drew on his retirement and said he will be welcomed back to Jacksonville at any time.

"Maurice has made so many contributions to the NFL over the past nine years, on and off the field," Bradley said. "He is one of the great Jaguars, and he will always be a Jaguar. He was always a fan favorite and he earned that every day with the way he immersed himself in the community. The traits that really stick out about Maurice are his competitiveness, determination and toughness. He is a role model to so many for the way he played the game each Sunday. I know he will continue to be around the game of football because he has a passion for the game and helping young people."

Woodley was paid more than $4.8 million last season when he had no sacks in six games before being sidelined by a season-ending biceps injury.

The moves save the Raiders about $7.7 million on this year's salary cap. Oakland now has more than $60 million in cap space heading into free agency next week, second most in the NFL, according to the Website overthecap.com. The Raiders can create even more room if they cut ties with backup quarterback Matt Schaub.

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Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 02:03:00 +0000
NFL: Greg Hardy is eligible to sign free agent contract

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers defensive end and soon-to-be free agent Greg Hardy will be allowed to sign a new contract even if he remains on the commissioner's exempt list.

League spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday in an email to The Associated Press, "There's nothing to prevent a player on the Exempt list without a contract from signing a new one."

NFL free agency begins Tuesday.

However, Hardy's playing status remains in limbo. He isn't allowed to actually play until removed from the exempt list, which could prevent teams from going after him in free agency.

Hardy was scheduled to meet with NFL officials Wednesday in New York to discuss his domestic violence case, but no resolution has been announced.

He faces a possible suspension from the league even though his conviction on two counts of domestic violence was dismissed Feb. 9 following a successful appeal.

The NFL has said it is investigating Hardy's case.

The league unsuccessfully petitioned courts in North Carolina to have evidence from Hardy's first trial unsealed. Without that evidence, it may be difficult for the league to suspend him.

Hardy made $13.1 million last season as Carolina's franchise player, but only played in one game.

Hardy is not expected to re-sign with Carolina and could become one of the hottest commodities on the free agent market.

The 26-year-old Hardy remains in the prime of his career and had 15 sacks in 2013, tying a Panthers franchise record.

Hardy, who is normally active on social media, has not tweeted anything about his meeting with the league.

Thu, 05 Mar 2015 18:23:00 +0000
Data: Victim's cell pinged along Hernandez's alleged route

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) Tracking data shown to the jury Thursday in the murder trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez indicates the victim's cellphone pinged along the same route that prosecutors say Hernandez took that night.

The data roughly tracks the route prosecutors say Hernandez took from Odin Lloyd's home to the industrial park in North Attleborough where Lloyd was found shot to death June 17, 2013. A T-Mobile employee testified about cell sites that pinged Lloyd's phone starting at 2:32 a.m., when prosecutors have said Hernandez picked Lloyd up at his home in Boston.

Among the cell sites that pinged Lloyd's phone was one near the interchange of the Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 128 at 2:53 a.m., the same time a photo was taken showing a Nissan Altima that Hernandez rented driving through a toll plaza near there.

The phone went south from there. It pinged a tower at 3:17 a.m. just north of North Attleborough. The next time it pinged a cell site was at 4:17 a.m. in the North Attleborough industrial park. Prosecutors have said he died shortly before 3:30 a.m.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to killing Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee.

Also Thursday, Hernandez lawyer James Sultan went after a Massachusetts state trooper who testified that a tire track found near Lloyd's body matched a tire on the rented Altima, which Hernandez was seen driving on a gas station surveillance video that morning.

Trooper Todd Girouard said he was able to match the passenger-side rear tire to the track by using inked impressions of the tires from the car.

"It made the impression," he testified under questioning from prosecutor Brian Griffin.

He said he matched it by looking at the general characteristics of the tire, such as the tread, as well as characteristics unique to the individual tire, including stones embedded in it.

But Sultan got the trooper to acknowledge the match was his opinion, then the lawyer went after his credentials. He pointed out that the trooper had only 4 1/2 days of training on tire impressions, that he had only examined 15 tires in his career and that this was the first time he had testified in court about tire tracks.

Thu, 05 Mar 2015 19:41:00 +0000

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