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NFL suspends Browns star WR Gordon for 2014 season

CLEVELAND (AP) Josh Gordon's wait is over, and so is his 2014 season. Now the star wide receiver's career is in peril. The Browns learned Wednesday that Gordon's indefinite suspension by the NFL has been upheld and he will miss at least 16 games for another violation of the league's substance abuse policy. A repeat drug offender, Gordon had appealed the penalty, hoping it would be reduced so he could play this season. The NFL, though, came down hard on Gordon, who must now pay the price for stepping out of bounds. The league announced that arbitrator Harold Henderson supported Gordon's yearlong suspension for marijuana use. The Pro Bowler, who was subject to more frequent testing, will begin serving his suspension immediately and the league said in its statement that his "eligibility for reinstatement will be determined following the 2014 season." In the meantime, Gordon is not allowed to practice with the team, attend meetings or other club functions. Browns general manager Ray Farmer expressed some disappointment at the decision, but said the team has no choice but to move ahead without Gordon. "While we may have strong feelings on the timing and the process of this decision, we have also consistently communicated that we will focus on what we can control in our day to day approach," Farmer said in a statement. "Right now that is preparing our team for the 2014 season and at the same time, supporting Josh however we are able under NFL guidelines during his suspension." The Browns had feared for months this would be the outcome, and now that it's official, the club will have to somehow make up for the league-leading 1,646 yards, 18.9 yards per catch and nine touchdowns Gordon produced last season. "I'd like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Cleveland Browns organization and our fans," Gordon said in a statement. "I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing office didn't exercise better discretion and judgment in my case. I would like to sincerely thank the people who have been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging time, including my family, my agent, my union, my legal team, and the Cleveland Browns staff." While he's out, Gordon, who served a two-game suspension for a drug violation last season, will need to pass drug tests, comply with treatment and apply for reinstatement with Commissioner Roger Goodell before he plays again. Gordon could possibly return inside a year if he stays clean. Gordon met with league officials in New York on Aug. 4 to appeal his suspension. As the days past, there was growing speculation he might not be punished to the letter of the collective bargaining agreement. But Henderson sided with the league's initial ruling after an exhaustive process. The Browns have known Gordon could be banished for some time and they've been eager for a resolution to his case, which hung over their training camp. He continued to practice and played in Cleveland's first three exhibition games. Gordon fought the suspension by hiring attorney Maurice Suh to represent him at the appeal hearing. Suh, who had successfully gotten a suspension reduced for Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, argued that Gordon tested positive for marijuana due to secondhand smoke. Gordon's representatives also said test results of his samples were inconsistent and should be thrown out. There was speculation the league might go softer on Gordon following the public outcry after Baltimore running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games on a domestic violence charge. Instead, the league put Gordon on the sideline for all 16 games and will wait to see how he behaves before deciding whether to let him back. Gordon didn't help his cause with two legal issues as his case dragged on. He was charged with drunken driving after his arrest in Raleigh, North Carolina, on July 5. In May, he was stopped for speeding in Strongsville, Ohio, and one of the passengers in his car was cited for marijuana possession. The talented 23-year-old led the league with 1,646 yards receiving last season despite being banned from the first two games for a failed drug test. It was his second known violation as a pro and Gordon said he had inadvertently taken codeine contained in a prescription cough syrup. Gordon's loss is a crippling blow to Cleveland's offense, depriving the Browns of their best big-play threat. Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron is now the team's primary target, and he may find himself double-teamed and without open spaces to run routes now that Gordon is missing. The Browns took a risk in selecting Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft, forfeiting a second-round pick to take the speedy 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who failed at least three drug tests in college for marijuana abuse. The team has vowed to do all it can to help and support Gordon. During training camp, owner Jimmy Haslam said the team never considered cutting him. As he awaited word from the league, Gordon was noticeably different. He dropped passes and seemed detached during an exhibition game in Washington. Recently, he posted a photo on Instagram of himself on the practice field catching a pass from rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. Gordon captioned the photo, "Only place I can find peace." It's been taken away. Gordon's on his own.

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:42:00 +0000
USC's Shaw admits to lying about injuries, rescue

LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern California cornerback Josh Shaw confessed that he lied to school officials about how he sprained his ankles last weekend, retracting his story about jumping off a balcony to save his drowning nephew. The school swiftly suspended him Wednesday from all team activities and acknowledged his heroic tale was "a complete fabrication." The tale began to unravel soon after the team captain was lauded for his heroics in a story on the team's website Monday. In the account, Shaw described how he instinctively jumped from a balcony, with no one around, to rescue his 7-year-old nephew in a pool in his hometown of Palmdale, California. The school said a day later callers questioned the story, and began vetting it. But the biggest question remains unanswered: What was he doing, and how did he injure his ankles? "We are extremely disappointed in Josh," USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. "He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story." The Los Angeles Police Department has confirmed that a man named Joshua Shaw was mentioned - but not as a suspect - in a report involving a break-in at a downtown apartment building Saturday night. The department has not made the report public. Shaw is a fifth-year senior, a captain and a key starter in USC's defensive secondary. He is widely considered a solid teammate and an important leader for the 15th-ranked Trojans, who begin their first season under Sarkisian at the Coliseum on Saturday against Fresno State. Shaw issued a short statement through criminal defense attorney Donald Etra on Wednesday after being suspended. "On Saturday, August 23, 2014, I injured myself in a fall," Shaw said. "I made up a story about this fall that was untrue. I was wrong not to tell the truth. I apologize to USC for this action on my part. My USC coaches, the USC athletic department and especially Coach Sarkisian have all been supportive of me during my college career and for that, I am very grateful." Etra didn't respond to a request for further details about the cause of Shaw's injuries. Shaw didn't attend practice Wednesday, missing his second straight day of workouts. Although he is barred from team activities, his injuries also would keep him out of workouts for at least a few weeks. Shortly after Shaw's yarn was made public, the football program received phone calls contradicting Shaw's version of his injuries. Sarkisian has not said who made the calls, but the school acknowledged the discrepancies Tuesday morning and began investigating Shaw, who initially stuck to his story. "I appreciate that Josh has now admitted that he lied and has apologized," Sarkisian said. "Although this type of behavior is out of character for Josh, it is unacceptable. Honesty and integrity must be at the center of our program. I believe Josh will learn from this. I hope that he will not be defined by this incident, and that the Trojan Family will accept his apology and support him." It's unclear whether Shaw could face additional discipline from USC for lying to school officials. A USC spokesperson didn't immediately return a request for clarification about the school's student conduct policies. Shaw and the school still haven't acknowledged any connection to the LAPD report from officers who responded to a woman screaming in a downtown apartment complex Saturday. USC is on the south end of downtown. Officers interviewed several people at the building, and a woman told the police that someone had pried open a window, entered the third-floor apartment and fled, but nothing was taken. The woman also acknowledged "a relationship" with Shaw, according to LAPD Lt. Andy Nieman. Sarkisian insisted the situation won't be a distraction for the Trojans, but still allowed only two of Shaw's defensive teammates to speak with the media after practice Wednesday morning. Linebacker Hayes Pullard and defensive lineman Leonard Williams both acknowledged surprise at the situation that developed after Shaw's account was challenged, but remained supportive of their fifth-year senior captain. "We were pretty shocked," said Williams, who hasn't spoken to Shaw. "Josh Shaw is a pretty loyal guy. I would never expect him to make up a story. I would never expect that out of him as a team leader." Shaw's leadership and character were widely praised throughout his first two seasons of play at the school. He transferred back to his native Los Angeles area from Florida, in part to help out his ailing grandfather with the family landscaping business. "Josh has been a great guy," Pullard said. "He has great character. I've never known him to lie about anything ... so it's surprising. This is exactly when our leadership roles come in. We talk to guys and let them know what's expected, and we'll keep us focused on our team."

Thu, 28 Aug 2014 01:58:00 +0000
Cuban prospect Soler homers in debut as Cubs fall

CINCINNATI (AP) With his father watching from the stands, Jorge Soler had quite a Cubs debut. Soler homered in his first at-bat in the majors and had an RBI single Wednesday night, but the Cincinnati Reds held on for a 7-5 victory behind Skip Schumaker's run-scoring double and single. Soler, a 22-year-old prospect from Cuba, was called up Wednesday after getting a nine-year, $30 million deal from the Cubs in 2012. He started in right field and batted fifth. "He looked very comfortable in the box, as we were told about him before he got here," manager Rick Renteria said. After Luis Valbuena led off the second inning with a homer off Mat Latos (5-3), Soler hit a 2-1 pitch into the Reds' bullpen in center field. The last Cub to homer in his first at-bat also did it in Cincinnati - Starlin Castro off Homer Bailey on May 7, 2010. He said his father, Jorge Sr., was in the stands for his debut. "I felt real proud he was here," Soler said, with a coach translating. "I was very excited. I felt real comfortable." Soler also had an RBI single off Jonathan Broxton in the eighth, cutting it to 6-5. Latos pitched into the eight and gave up four runs while fanning a season-high 10 batters. Pinch-hitter Chris Heisey homered in the bottom of the inning. Aroldis Chapman escaped a two-on threat in the ninth, getting his 28th save in 30 chances. Javier Baez flied out to the warning track in center to end it. "Baez put a good swing on that ball," Renteria said. "Everyone in the dugout thought it was going farther." Jacob Turner (4-8) made his first start for the Cubs and lasted only 3 2-3 innings, giving up six runs - three of them unearned. "I would have liked to have gotten a little deeper into the game," he said. "That part is frustrating." The Reds took advantage of three Cubs errors and ended their four-game winning streak, one shy of their season high. The Reds are 24-10 against Chicago over the last two years, including 10-5 this season. The Reds sent nine batters to the plate and scored four times in the fourth inning, taking advantage of fielding errors by shortstop Starlin Castro and Valbuena at third. Schumaker, Brandon Phillips and Devin Mesoraco had RBI singles. Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton had a pair of infield singles and stole his 50th base, becoming the ninth Reds player to reach the mark. Bob Bescher holds the club rookie mark with 54 in 1909. The Cubs were missing first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who has a stiff lower back. Rizzo hit his 30th homer during a 3-0 win on Tuesday night but had to leave in the eighth inning because of the back problem. TRAINER'S ROOM Cubs: Outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Justin Ruggiano went on the 15-day DL. Sweeney pulled a hamstring on Tuesday. Ruggiano hadn't played since last week because of a sore left ankle. INF Logan Watkins was recalled from Triple-A Iowa. Reds: 1B Joey Votto took ground balls for the first time since he went on the DL on July 8 with strained muscles above his left knee. Manager Bryan Price said it's unlikely he'll start a rehab stint before Sept. 4, when he's eligible to be reinstated. UP NEXT Cubs: Jake Arrieta (7-4) makes his second career start against the Reds. He beat them on June 24 at Wrigley Field, giving up two earned runs and three hits over seven innings of a 7-3 victory. Reds: Dylan Axelrod (0-0) makes his second start of the season. He was the victim of a blown save on Aug. 17 in Colorado, a 10-5 loss. LUCKY NUMBER Soler is sticking with the No. 68 that he wore in the minors, even though big numbers are not all that common in the big leagues. Asked about it before the game, Soler said through a coach translating: "I don't know. I like that number." BILLY'S SWIPES Hamilton's 50 steals are the most by a Reds player since Deion Sanders stole 56 in 1997. The club record is Bescher's 81 steals in 1911. STATS The Cubs have homered in 11 consecutive games for the first time since 2007. ... Valbuena's 13th homer gave him a career high, one more than his total from last season. ... Turner was acquired from Miami in a trade on Aug. 8 for a pair of minor league pitchers. He'd made two relief appearances with the Cubs. ... Chicago won a challenge in the fifth, when Kristopher Negron was initially ruled safe at first on a close play. The call was overturned on review. ... Heisey's homer was his third this season as a pinch-hitter and ninth career.

Thu, 28 Aug 2014 03:17:00 +0000
Kershaw gets 16th win, Dodgers beat Arizona 3-1

PHOENIX (AP) Clayton Kershaw allowed only an unearned run in eight innings to become the first 16-game winner in the majors, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 on Wednesday night. Kershaw (16-3) allowed six hits, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters he faced, seven by strikeout, to improve to 13-1 in his last 16 starts. The left-handed ace struck out 10 and walked two. Scott Van Slyke hit a solo home run off Wade Miley (7-10) before leaving the game with an ankle injury in the fourth inning. Matt Kemp had a two-run double. Kenley Janzen pitched a perfect ninth for his 38th save in 42 tries. The Dodgers, sweeping the two-game series, climbed to a season-high 18 games above .500. Kershaw reached double digit strikeouts for the third straight outing, pitching out of jams in the third and fifth innings. He has gone at least seven innings in all but one of his last 16 starts. Arizona loaded the bases with one out in the third, but Aaron Hill popped out and Mark Trumbo struck out. The Diamondbacks' Ender Inciarte tripled to lead off the fifth, then Kershaw retired the next 11 before Trumbo's two-out single in the eighth. Kershaw ended his night by striking out Alfredo Marte to end the eighth. Los Angeles scored all three runs in the third. Kemp doubled in two runs but was out by a considerable margin trying to stretch it to a triple. On Miley's next pitch, Van Slyke homered just over the left field wall. Van Slyke is 8 for 18 with five home runs against Miley this season. Arizona's Marte doubled down the left field line to lead off the fourth. Jordan Pacheco followed with a single to left. Van Slyke fielded the ball and launched what should have been a routine throw back to the infield. But he rolled his ankle as he threw, allowing the unearned run to score. The Dodgers called it a "mild" sprain. TRAINER'S ROOM Dodgers: 1B Adrian Gonzalez had the night off with a stiff back. ... LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, hip strain, pitched a simulated game Wednesday and is expected to rejoin the rotation Sunday or Monday. Diamondacks: RHP Daniel Hudson, recovering from two Tommy John surgeries, pitched a perfect inning at Triple-A Reno Wednesday night. ON DECK Dodgers: Los Angeles has Thursday off before opening a three-game series at San Diego. Dan Haren (11-10, 4.44 ERA) goes for the Dodgers against Andrew Cashner (2-6, 2.43). Diamondbacks: Arizona is off Thursday before beginning a three-game series against Colorado in a matchup of the teams with the two worst records in the National League.

Thu, 28 Aug 2014 04:43:00 +0000
Sloane Stephens upset in US Open 2nd round

NEW YORK -- Once a sure bet to stick around for a while at Grand Slam tournaments, Sloane Stephens suddenly can't even win there.

The 21-year-old American had her earliest loss at the U.S. Open, upset in the second round Wednesday by 96th-ranked Johanna Larsson.

Down a set and a break, Larsson rallied to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to match her best performance at a major tournament. The 26-year-old Swede had been 0-4 at Flushing Meadows before this year.

When the match ended with her 63rd unforced error, the 21st-seeded Stephens was in such a hurry to leave Arthur Ashe Stadium that she briskly walked around the net to Larsson's side of the court for the handshake.

As Stephens had climbed the rankings, the knock on her was that she would shine in the big-time tournaments and slump in other events: Her Grand Slam record coming into Wimbledon this year was 32-12, while she's 58-57 everywhere else.

Stephens reached at least the fourth round at six straight major tournaments starting with the 2013 Australian Open, when she stunned Serena Williams to make the semifinals. The longest active streak at the time, it ended with a first-round loss at Wimbledon this summer.

Now her stay at her home Grand Slam event is over quickly after she had advanced to at least the third round in three previous trips to the U.S. Open.

On the verge of breaking into the top 10 last fall, Stephens has slid to No. 24 in the rankings.

"Everyone goes through times like this," she said. "I'm not the first person and won't be the last."

Larsson has now reached the third round at a major tournament twice this year after breaking through at the French Open.

"I just was trying to really tell myself to go for it," she said. "You won't win matches by holding back. Also, a lucky shot every here and there."

Her victory was the second big women's upset of the day. Peng Shuai beat fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, the first top-10 player knocked out of the tournament.

The 39th-ranked Peng won 6-3, 6-4, giving China a big win in the tournament with third-ranked Li Na out with a knee injury.

"It's an amazing time for me," Peng said.

The U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam tournament in which Radwanska, the 2012 Wimbledon runner-up, has failed to reach the quarterfinals.

"I really want to know the answer," Radwanska said. "Then maybe I will find a way to play better here and just try another way to be in the second week."

Peng had been 3-22 against top-five opponents, the last victory coming in 2011. That year was also the last time the 28-year-old made the third round at the U.S. Open.

On Wednesday, she won a 27-point rally with a sizzling backhand winner down the line to set up her third match point, then clinched victory with another backhand winner deep into the corner.

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:38:36 +0000