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Panthers remove DE Hardy from active roster

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Panthers finally made a decision on Greg Hardy: the Pro Bowl defensive end will not play anymore games for Carolina until his domestic violence case is resolved.

The team removed Hardy from its active roster Wednesday, ending three weeks of indecision regarding his playing status. He played Week 1, sat out Week 2 and there was uncertainty about this week.

So the Panthers placed Hardy on the exempt-commissioner's permission list just hours after the Vikings took a similar disciplinary approach with Adrian Peterson. The Minnesota running back is addressing child abuse charges in Texas.

Hardy was convicted July 15 of assault on a female and communicating threats after the victim said the 6-foot-4, 275-pound player threw her in the bathtub and onto a sofa covered with guns before threatening to kill her. Hardy is appealing the ruling and a jury trial is set for Nov. 17.

He will continue to be paid his weekly salary of $770,588.23. Hardy also is allowed to be at the team facility, but will not practice.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said it was a tough decision given the changing climate in the NFL.

"Our overriding goal has always been to do the right thing," Gettleman said.

The GM said he expects Hardy to be out at least through November.

Hardy said he understands he needs to step away from football and take care of his legal problems.

"I am entitled to due process and my day in court, and that's where my focus should be," Hardy said in a statement. "I appreciate the Panthers for giving me this opportunity and look forward to being back with my teammates. I am disappointed to leave my teammates and the Carolina Panthers during our season. My decision to take a leave of absence allows me to focus on my family until the legal process has run its course."

Had Hardy not taken a the leave of absence with pay, he likely would have faced an unpaid suspension from the league.

The NFL Players Association released a statement Wednesday saying, "Today, Greg Hardy made a decision to take a voluntary leave of absence to resolve his pending legal issue. The NFLPA and NFL worked with Greg, his representatives and the Carolina Panthers on this matter. We support this decision and hope the best for him and his family."

Earlier Wednesday, with security around the stadium amped up, Hardy and his agent Drew Rosenhaus emerged from the team's facility, stepped into the player's Bentley and drove away. Earlier, two police officers on motorcycles guarded the entrance to the team's practice facility.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was 20 minutes late arriving to Wednesday's practice and said that Hardy would not participate in workouts as he walked past reporters.

The coach later said he had a 90-minute conversation with the defensive end to make sure Hardy was in a good place.

"Greg's hurt, he really is," Rivera said. "It's a tough situation and he knows he put himself in it. He was apologetic."

Rivera said he expects Hardy to take a few days away and return to the team "in due time."

"He's still a part of this football team," Rivera said.

Hardy, who was tagged as the team's franchise player this offseason and signed a one-year, $13.1 million deal, is Carolina's top pass rusher.

He tied a franchise record with 15 sacks last season and has 26 in in his last 32 games.

Rivera activated Hardy for the season opener against Tampa Bay, but then abruptly deactivated him before Sunday's game against Detroit - a move Gettleman supported.

"At that time we felt it was at the right thing to do," Gettleman said. "It's constantly changing. There is no rule book for this. There's no magic list we can hit checkboxes that bring us to the right answer."

Rivera said he informed the team at a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Veteran safety Roman Harper said Wednesday during open locker room that every team has to battle adversity at some point, but said losing Hardy will hurt.

Harper said unbeaten Panthers will miss Hardy's pass rush skills and energy. "You take a player of his caliber off the field and it is going to affect us," Harper said. "But at the end of the day you can't use that as an excuses or a crutch. You have to fly around and make plays as a defense. We understand what we will be missing, but at the end of the day we still have a job to do."

Tight end Greg Olsen said the Panthers are doing their best to focus on the Steelers.

"You learn very fast in this league that there are going to be a lot of outside factors," Olsen said. "You have to do the best you can not to let those things impact your preparations and really focus on what you can control. The most successful teams just worry about the here and now and what they can control."

Rivera said he believes the team handled the situation in the best way possible.

"The biggest thing we have to do is get this right," Rivera said. "In all honesty we're worried about the wrong types of things. We're trying to figure out who we need to blame. We don't need to blame people, we need to find answers and corrections and make things right... We have to come up with solutions to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 22:55:00 +0000
FSU benches Winston for 1st half of Clemson game

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Jameis Winston will be a spectator in the first half of Florida State's showdown against Clemson Saturday after making "offensive and vulgar" comments about women - the latest embarrassment in a growing list of poor decisions off the field.

Florida State interim President Dr. Garnett S. Stokes and athletic director Stan Wilcox announced in a joint statement Wednesday that the quarterback also will undergo internal discipline, but did not provide details of the punishment.

Several students tweeted Winston stood on campus Tuesday and shouted a lascivious comment about female anatomy that may have derived from an internet meme.

The 20-year-old Winston addressed his inappropriate comments before Wednesday's practice at his weekly press conference, saying: "I have to tone it down."

The Heisman Trophy winner has made similar comments after previous incidents and Florida State seems to be growing less tolerant of his discretions.

While playing for the Florida State baseball team, he was suspended for three games and completed 20 hours of community service after acknowledging he stole $32 worth of crab legs from a local grocery store in April. Before the football season, he said he had matured, learned what it takes to be a leader and understood that he needed to be more careful in his personal life.

The school president and AD admonished him Wednesday for doing just the opposite.

"As the university's most visible ambassadors, student-athletes at Florida State are expected to uphold at all times high standards of integrity and behavior that reflect well upon themselves, their families, coaches, teammates, the Department of Athletics and Florida State University," their joint statement said. "Student-athletes are expected to act in a way that reflects dignity and respect for others."

Winston's latest poor judgment comes when Florida State is under scrutiny.

The university is currently under investigation by the Department of Education for the way it handles reports of sexual assault, including a case involving Winston. The investigation was prompted by a complaint from a FSU student who says Winston assaulted her in 2012.

State Attorney Willie Meggs declined to press charges against Winston last fall.

A lawyer for the woman says the university is currently conducting its own investigation of that incident.

Winston has had other run-ins with police since enrolling at the university.

Police questioned Winston and other FSU players in November 2012 after 13 windows were broken at an apartment complex near Doak Campbell Stadium after an apparent BB gun battle. That same month, Winston and teammate Chris Casher were held at gunpoint by campus police for hunting squirrels. The two told police they were shooting squirrels with a pellet gun along a bike trail. Police were also called after a Burger King employee called to complain that Winston was stealing soda.

Winston was not arrested in any of those three incidents.

On Wednesday, the Heisman Trophy winner gave a statement in which apologized for the lewd comments.

"I just want to apologize to my university, my coaches and my teammates. I'm not a me person, but in that situation it was a selfish act," Winston said. "That's not how you do things. I really want to apologize to my teammates because I have now made a selfish act for them."

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher called Winston's remarks about women "derogatory."

"It's not something we want or we're indicative of and it's not a good decision," Fisher said. "It was something that has to be addressed.

"You can't make certain statements that are derogatory or inflammatory in any way toward any person, race, gender," said Fisher, whose top-ranked Seminoles host No. 22 Clemson on Saturday in an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown. "The statements in which you make are always going to be made more public than statements that other individuals make," the coach said. "And that's just the nature of the business of who you are and what you are. That's the situation it is and you have to understand that."

Winston's continued questionable behavior could not only affect his future NFL draft stock, but possibly his status as a student.

He could be removed from school pending the outcome of the investigation into whether he violated the school's code of conduct policy stemming from the sexual assault accusation. Winston has repeatedly indicated there was a strong chance he could return for another year of college football, but this latest incident could change that.

Saturday's showdown between the top-ranked Seminoles and No. 22 Clemson is a rematch of a game that really put Winston in the national spotlight. Florida State rolled over the Tigers 51-14 en route to a national championship. Winston threw for 444 yards, three touchdowns and ran for another score.

"I want to be out on the field with my team, but I did something, so I have to accept the consequences," Winston said. "I'm going to apologize to my team. We're not going to think about that, because we don't think about negative things. We're going to think about moving forward and winning the game."

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 22:34:00 +0000
To 'get it right,' Vikings put Peterson on leave

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson was declared out, back in, then out again as he faces a felony child-abuse charge in Texas.

This time, he could be gone for the season.

"We made a mistake," Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said, "and we needed to get this right."

Vikings executives emerged Wednesday from a late-night deliberation to voice regret of their initial decision to let Peterson play this week after sitting him for a game once he was charged with injuring his 4-year-old son by spanking him with a wooden switch. Now Peterson is back on paid leave through a special roster exemption granted by the NFL, the same protocol cited by the Carolina Panthers as they sat defensive end Greg Hardy a few hours later while he deals with his own domestic violence case.

"We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe this is the right decision," said Wilf, the team's co-owner with younger brother Mark Wilf.

During a 17-minute news conference at Vikings headquarters, the word "right" was used a total of 34 times by the Wilfs, vice president Kevin Warren and general manager Rick Spielman. They expressed concern about child welfare, recognized their role as public figures and reminded the audience of the community service work done regularly by players.

The most emphatic responses, though, came to questions from reporters about external pressure.

Did the NFL strong-arm the decision? Did the loss of sponsorships drive it?

"Absolutely not," Mark Wilf, the team president, said on both subjects.

He added: "We appreciate our fans, men and women alike, our sponsors and the community. We hear their input."

Backlash was swift to the announcement Monday that Peterson would rejoin the Vikings after being held out Sunday. The Radisson hotel chain suspended its team sponsorship. Prominent NFL advertisers, including Anheuser-Busch, raised concern about recent off-the-field problems. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton called for Peterson's suspension.

Picked for six Pro Bowls in his first seven seasons, Peterson's popularity took a huge hit. He was dropped this week from several of his endorsement deals. Shoe giant Nike suspended its sponsorship deal, saying it "in no way condones child abuse or domestic violence of any kind and has shared our concerns with the NFL."

"It is important to always listen to our fans and the community and our sponsors," Zygi Wilf said, at least vaguely contradicting his brother's denial that revenue had an impact on the decision to reverse course.

US Bank spokesman Dana Ripley said the company, a strong candidate for naming rights on the Vikings new stadium set to open in 2016, agreed with the decision to put Peterson on hiatus.

"We have been in close communication with the Vikings organization for the past couple of days firmly expressing our perspective," Ripley said.

Peterson's case remains under review per the league's personal conduct policy, spokesman Greg Aiello said, so a suspension could still be possible once resolution in court is reached. That's not expected until 2015. Peterson has an Oct. 8 court appearance scheduled in Montgomery County, outside of Houston.

His attorney, Rusty Hardin, said the case "will be up to a judge and jury to decide, which is the way it should be," indicating a plea deal was not in the works.

The 29-year-old Peterson said he was administering the same type of discipline he experienced growing up and didn't meant to hurt his son. Peterson also said he's met with a psychologist and acknowledged alternatives "that may be more appropriate" than corporal punishment.

His mother, Bonita Jackson, told the Houston Chronicle that she and his father used switches and belts to occasionally spank all of their children.

"Most of us disciplined our kids a little more than we meant sometimes," said Jackson, who has not returned messages from The Associated Press. "But we were only trying to prepare them for the real world. When you whip those you love, it's not about abuse, but love."

The exempt list, which allows the Vikings to fill Peterson's spot on the 53-man roster while retaining his rights, is available "only in unusual circumstances," according to NFL policy. Commissioner Roger Goodell has the sole authority to grant the exemption - or lift it.

The NFL Players Association characterized Peterson's status as "voluntary leave," in issuing a statement of support. His agent, Ben Dogra, told The Associated Press the decision was "the best possible outcome given the circumstances."

But the team wanted to make clear it made the call.

"The Minnesota Vikings are the ones that initiated this process," Warren said.

Montgomery County prosecutor Phil Grant said an NFL official asked Monday for any investigative documents in the Peterson case. Grant said he offered the grand jury indictment that was made public Saturday but did not share any other items such as photos, interviews or police reports. Warren, the team's chief administrative officer, said he personally reviewed evidence in the case and that the Vikings are "in a perpetual state of gathering as much information" as possible.

Spielman didn't directly answer questions about whether releasing Peterson was considered or if he would play for the Vikings again. Peterson's salary for 2014 is $11.75 million. His contract doesn't expire until after the 2017 season, but the Vikings could cut him for a minimal salary-cap hit or at least restructure the deal.

"We are going to let the legal process and his personal matters take care of themselves, and he will remain on this exempt list until that is accomplished," said Spielman, who spent time with Peterson on Tuesday.

"Adrian is an unselfish person and saw all of the light that was coming on this, and he felt ... that by him stepping back it would give our football team and opportunity to focus on football," Spielman said.

Peterson's teammates and coaches tried to focus on preparations for Sunday's game at New Orleans, though one player called the decision unfair.

"I think he should be able to play. He hasn't been convicted of anything," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said.

The Vikings will have to put those feelings aside for now.

"I love Adrian Peterson. I feel for him that he's going through this because I think that he's one of my guys," coach Mike Zimmer said. "I believe in this situation where everything is, this is the right way to go."

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 22:23:00 +0000
Peterson's mom: Whipping not abuse, it's about love

HOUSTON (AP) Adrian Peterson's mother is defending the Minnesota Vikings running back in the wake of child abuse allegations against him, saying that he is "trying hard to be a good parent."

Bonita Jackson said she and Peterson's father, Nelson Peterson, were "big disciplinarians" who used hands, switches and belts to occasionally spank all six of her children. An indictment by the Montgomery County grand jury accuses Adrian Peterson of felony child abuse for swatting his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch and his team has taken him off the active roster while the case plays out.

"I don't care what anybody says. Most of us disciplined our kids a little more than we meant sometimes," Jackson, 50, told the Houston Chronicle in an interview from her home in suburban Houston. "But we were only trying to prepare them for the real world."

Seated with her current husband, who is a Baptist minister, Jackson said: "When you whip those you love, it's not about abuse, but love. You want to make them understand that they did wrong."

Adrian Peterson is getting help to learn other ways of disciplining since the incident that led to the criminal charge, such as having the child stand in the corner for five minutes, Jackson said.

Jackson said she loves her grandchildren more than her own children and would be "so angry with anybody who willfully hurt her grandbabies." She said she believes, however, that her son was only trying to discipline his son she same way he was disciplined when he was growing up.

She said things are complicated by orders barring Peterson from any contact with the boy, whose mother is a nursing student in Minnesota.

"But when we talk to her," Jackson said of the child's mother," we can hear him laughing and playing in the background. He sounds happy. I know his mother has much respect for Adrian. She knows he's a good father, no matter how much people attack his character. Only God can judge us."

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 23:10:00 +0000
Union appeals Rice's indefinite suspension by NFL

BALTIMORE (AP) The NFL players' union appealed Ray Rice's indefinite suspension Tuesday night, saying that he shouldn't be punished twice for punching his fiancee in a casino elevator.

Rice was originally handed a two-game suspension in July under the NFL's personal conduct policy after he was charged with assault for the Feb. 15 attack.

The Baltimore running back had already served the first game of that suspension when, on Sept. 8, a video surfaced showing Rice punching Janay Palmer, now his wife, in that elevator.

Within hours, the Ravens released Rice and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell extended the suspension to indefinite based on the "new evidence."

Goodell and the Ravens say they never saw the video before Sept. 8. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that he had sent the video to a league executive.

"This action taken by our union is to protect the due process rights of all NFL players," the NFL Players Association said in a statement. "The NFLPA appeal is based on supporting facts that reveal a lack of a fair and impartial process, including the role of the office of the commissioner of the NFL. We have asked that a neutral and jointly selected arbitrator hear this case as the commissioner and his staff will be essential witnesses in the proceeding and thus cannot serve as impartial arbitrators."

The NFLPA said that the collective bargaining agreement requires a hearing date be set within 10 days of the appeal notice. It also said the hearing will require a neutral arbitrator to determine what information was available to the NFL and when it was available.

The union, which had until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday to file the appeal, added that under governing labor law, an employee can't be punished twice for the same action when all of the relevant facts were available to the employer at the time of the first punishment.

"The erratic and illogical system of ad hoc punishments is a paltry substitute for the leadership the NFL desperately needs right now," National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill said in a statement. "Roger Goodell must resign, and his successor must be fully committed to real and lasting change."

Rice can apply for reinstatement when he convinces Goodell that he is "addressing this issue." Rice has been accepted into a diversion program, which upon completion could lead to the assault charge being dropped.

The NFL said that Goodell never intended to personally hear Rice's appeal.

The NFL has come under heavy scrutiny for its handling of the Rice situation - and other domestic violence cases - as the league tries to attract female fans to the game. It is an effort that has been scarred by the original two-game suspension, a punishment many women's organizations deemed too light.

Goodell, in a letter sent to all 32 NFL owners in August, acknowledged that he "didn't get it right."

He then announced a new policy, stating that first-time domestic violence offenders would face a six-game suspension, and repeat offenders would be suspended indefinitely.

The policy didn't apply to Rice, who had already received his penalty.

There is apparently no precedent for the indefinite suspension Rice received after the video surfaced.

With all questions about who knew what and when - The Associated Press has reported the video was sent to NFL offices in April - the league has hired former FBI director Robert Mueller to look into how the NFL sought and handled evidence in the domestic violence case.

Soon after receiving the original suspension, Rice called his actions in the elevator "inexcusable" and apologized publicly to Janay, his mother, his teammates and the Ravens organization.

He also addressed the length of the suspension, which came with a fine of three paychecks totaling more than $500,000.

"I never planned to appeal any kind of punishment," Rice said on July 31. "So whether it was two games, four games, six games, eight games, I was going to own my actions and be a man about it and take whatever was given to me."

At that time, he spoke about the damage his reputation received.

"In some people's eyes, Ray can do no wrong. That's something I take pride in," he said. "I know a lot of people out there have lost respect, maybe not like me anymore. But that's my fault. I have to own that. That's my battle each day."

It is a battle he has waged recently out of the public eye. Although he attended a football game at his former high school with his wife last weekend, he has not spoken to the media since his release from the Ravens.

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

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:55:00 +0000

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