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AP source: Gordon to meet with league Aug. 1

CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns may soon learn whether they'll have Josh Gordon this season.

The Pro Bowl wide receiver will have an appeal hearing with NFL officials in New York on Aug. 1, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press on Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

The game-breaking playmaker is facing a possible one-year ban for violating the league's substance abuse policy for at least the third time. Gordon, who had a history of marijuana abuse in college, was suspended for the first two games last season. He still led the NFL with 1,646 yards receiving.

The 23-year-old player is expected to report to training camp Friday and he'll be on the field Saturday as the Browns have their first practice under new coach Mike Pettine.

According to reports, Gordon recently checked himself into rehab following an arrest in North Carolina. ESPN's Adam Shefter said Gordon spent two weeks at a facility in California.

The Browns have been patiently waiting for a resolution on Gordon's playing status, and his uncertain future has left a cloud over the team. The Browns first learned of a potential extended suspension on the second day of the NFL draft in May. The ESPN report doused the optimism created after the Browns, who have had only two winning seasons since 1999, drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel.

On Wednesday, Pettine told the AP he's not consumed with worry about whether he'll have Gordon.

"The frustration has really faded," Pettine said. "It's just something that's there. It's equivalent of having that file folder with all the answers in it and it's sitting there ready to go. It's just got a lot of dust. We're just waiting to hear from the league and we'll act accordingly."

If Gordon loses his appeal, he could be banned by Commissioner Roger Goodell for a minimum of one year. He would then have to apply for re-instatement.

Gordon has complicated his case with two recent legal infractions. He was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated after speeding down a street in Raleigh, North Carolina, last month. In May, he was ticketed for speeding in Ohio, and a passenger in his car was cited for marijuana possession.

Pettine said the Browns have no plans to release Gordon. The team intends to support him and give him any help he may need.

"Josh is a Cleveland Brown and we want what's best for him and we want what's best for us," Pettine said. "He's smart. He's bright. He's creative. He's a guy that in a lot of ways that you root for."

---

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

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:50:00 +0000
Punished Priefer: 'I went way below the bar'

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings could hardly hold training camp without some kind of controversy or sideshow.

This version came with quite the twist: special teams coordinator Mike Priefer in the spotlight.

As players unpacked their vehicles carrying necessities and diversions for the three-week stay at Minnesota State University, signing autographs for clamoring purple-clad fans in this annual rite of reporting day, the usual prominent figures stepped to a makeshift podium for questions from the media outside the team's temporary residence.

This time, Priefer and long snapper Cullen Loeffler were among the interview subjects.

Strange, yes, but part of the process following former punter Chris Kluwe's complaint that Priefer taunted him two years ago with homophobic language. The Vikings commissioned an outside investigation that lasted six months and last week announced a three-game suspension for Priefer.

An unsatisfied Kluwe vowed a lawsuit, but his attorney has held off on filing it while continuing to talk with the team's lawyer about a settlement.

"In this situation, with my comment, I've failed. I didn't just go below the bar. I went way below the bar. I made a mistake. I was wrong. I brought a lot of undue attention to the Minnesota Vikings organization and brought an unwanted distraction, and I apologize," Priefer said.

According to a summary of the report released by the Vikings, Loeffler corroborated to the investigators Kluwe's claim that Priefer made a vicious anti-gay remark in their presence. Priefer was trying to agitate Kluwe, who became a supporter for same-sex marriage rights as Minnesota considered in 2012 a constitutional amendment to ban it. The amendment was voted down.

Loeffler said he never believed Priefer was being serious that day at practice.

"I always thought it was a joke. They both laughed about it," Loeffler said.

Kluwe and Loeffler were friends during their eight years together on the team, but Loeffler said Thursday he has not spoken with Kluwe since the outspoken ex-punter revealed in January his allegations of a bigoted atmosphere around the team and claimed he was cut prior to last season for his views and advocacy.

As for having to testify to the investigators against his position coach, Loeffler denied any hesitancy or awkwardness.

"I just told the truth, as the Vikings wanted me to tell the truth. They've been supportive throughout the process and it wasn't hard for me at all," he said.

General manager Rick Spielman clarified that Priefer's suspension will take effect with the start of the regular season, and he won't be allowed at team headquarters during that time.

Priefer will take sensitivity training classes through an outside firm during the first week of his ban, and the team will decide whether or not to reduce his punishment to two games.

Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer have been considering options for fulfilling Priefer's responsibilities while he's away, but they weren't ready to reveal the plan. Spielman said the suspension came directly from owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf.

"I can't tell you how much I respect him, not only as a family man and as a person but also as a football coach. He's made a mistake and he owned up to that mistake and he's going to serve his suspension, and then we're going to move on," Spielman said.

Neither Spielman nor Zimmer answered directly whether they considered firing Priefer, before or after the investigation was complete.

Priefer initially denied making the remark, but he relented in a subsequent interview with the investigators. Neither Spielman nor Zimmer expressed any concern about Priefer's dishonesty.

"I've had a chance to visit with Mike Priefer on numerous occasions, almost every single day, to find out what kind of person he is. I knew his father. I know what kind of family guy is. He made a mistake. So I just go by what I see. I don't go by what I hear," Zimmer said.

Priefer's voice seemed to crack at one point during his session with reporters: "I feel like I let my family down," he said.

The coach declined to speak about other issues pertaining to the investigation, including Kluwe's claim that he made multiple homophobic remarks. Priefer said he hoped his news conference was the beginning of a rebuilding of his credibility. He also said he wasn't worried about losing his job.

"I learned a hard lesson. I've got to be sensitive to other people in what I say, and that's not going to happen again," Priefer said.

Football was still at least part of the theme Thursday, with players required to pass a conditioning test in order to be cleared for the first practice Friday.

"It's a distraction today, but tomorrow, I'll be focused on football," Zimmer said.

Star running back Adrian Peterson was eager for Zimmer's first camp.

"I expect it to be tough. He's a hard-headed guy, and he expects the best from us," Peterson said.

---

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

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:06:00 +0000
Twins trade 1B Kendrys Morales to Mariners

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Kendrys Morales is on his way back to Seattle to try and give the Mariners' struggling offense a boost as they chase a playoff spot.

The Minnesota Twins traded Morales to the Mariners on Thursday for minor-league pitcher Stephen Pryor. Morales hit 23 home runs and drove in 80 runs for the Mariners last season, but turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from Seattle to become a free agent.

"He's a professional hitter," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He gives us the opportunity to stretch out our lineup, so to speak. He's a nice fit, switch-hitter, hitting behind Robbie (Cano).

"He gives us options, what we want to do with (Kyle) Seager, where we want to hit him," McClendon said. "I like it."

Morales sat out the first two months of the season while searching for a new deal, signing a pro-rated $12 million contract with the Twins on June 8. But he hit .234 with 11 doubles, one homer and 18 RBIs in 39 games with the Twins, who have faded from contention in the AL Central.

The Mariners, who started the day with a half-game lead for the second wild-card spot in the AL, are hoping a return to Safeco Field could help Morales rediscover his swing. Seattle has the best ERA in the majors, but the Mariners offense is 14th in the American League in runs scored.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said missing spring training and the first two months of the season has had an impact on Morales' slow start. He believes he's close to his hitting stride.

"I don't think there is any question about that," Zduriencik said. "I thought it was interesting that he went right to the big leagues but that plays a part in the negotiations.

"Nevertheless, when you look at where he's at right now, we know what Kendrys is, we know his career as a hitter, we know what he did here and now that he's in a pennant race and technically has spring training under his belt - he did it at the major league level - I think we all feel that Kendrys is going to hit his stride and be the Kendrys Morales we all know," he added.

Morales was signed by the Twins to be the everyday designated hitter, but he played a lot of first base while filling in for the injured Joe Mauer.

"I think he was a good teammate. I think he was a good influence on some of the players in this clubhouse. He got off to a surprisingly quick start and then cooled off, of course," Twins GM Terry Ryan said. "We gave it a shot. Obviously, our club hasn't responded."

In the first sign that the Twins are starting to look at selling some of their veteran pieces to retool for next season, they acquired the 25-year-old Pryor in the exchange. Pryor has appeared in 34 games for the Mariners since 2012, posting a 2.81 ERA. He will report to Triple-A Rochester.

Pryor, who once regularly had his pitches clocked at 100 mph, started this season on the disabled list after having surgery to repair a torn right latissimus dorsi muscle. He made one appearance for the Mariners this season. He was 2-2 record with a 5.71 ERA in 34 2-3 innings for Triple-A Tacoma this season.

The Twins also recalled infielder Jorge Polanco from Class A Fort Myers.

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 23:20:00 +0000
Smith plans to meet soon with Commissioner Goodell

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith expects to sit down with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "in the near future" to discuss any potential suspension for his off-field issues.

Smith was sentenced last Friday to serve three years of probation and to spend 11 days with a work crew after he pleaded no contest to drunken driving and weapons charges. Smith said he hasn't had time to begin the work yet, and will do so as his time permits.

Of the ruling, Smith said he is "glad how it worked out." He didn't want to guess whether he would face a suspension from the league, and said he is unsure whether Ravens running back Ray Rice's two-game penalty Thursday for his offseason arrest for domestic violence provides any indication.

"I'm glad it's behind me. I'm ready to move on. ... I've never been in this situation so I'm not going to speculate," Smith said of possible punishment. "I know I'm meeting with him in the near future - as soon as possible. We don't have a solid date, so I'm not sure."

Smith said he has been sober since entering rehab last year following his Sept. 20 DUI arrest. He underwent treatment at an in-patient facility and missed five games. Coach Jim Harbaugh was asked Thursday whether he thought the NFL might take the rehab stint into account as time served.

"Going through a process, which is, there's accountability for some mistakes made. And also he's been given the opportunity to do what he says he's going to do. So far he's doing that," Harbaugh said. "That's in their hands. They will discipline if they warrant it."

Tight end Vernon Davis said before the team's first practice that his desire for a new contract is no longer a focus and he will leave that to the team and his agent to discuss.

"That's in the past, I'm not really worried about the contract," he said. "That's between the team and my agent. That's not my focus right now. My focus is out here, trying to get better."

Of being fined up to $70,000 for missing the mandatory minicamp last month, Davis said, "I'm sure they did, absolutely."

So, why did he sit out the offseason program with two years remaining on his current deal?

"It was a very easy decision. All you have to do is think about the team," Davis said. "That's what I did. I thought about my teammates, especially some of the guys like Frank Gore, guys that they're on the last end of their contract. There's nothing like being here."

For Smith, he hopes 2014 is a fresh start - and he insists he is in the best shape ever entering his fourth NFL season.

In his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said the 24-year-old Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb.

In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home. Investigators said several shots were fired, two partygoers were injured and Smith was stabbed. In the subsequent investigation, prosecutors say detectives found five unregistered, illegal weapons in Smith's house.

Yet, what Smith brings on the field makes him one of the NFL's best at pressuring quarterbacks.

Smith emerged as one of the league's most-feared pass rushers in 2012. He had a franchise-record 19 1/2 sacks that year, but failed to record a sack in his final six games including the team's postseason Super Bowl run.

Smith finished with 8 1/2 sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games last season, making eight starts. His 42 sacks are second-most in the NFL since he entered the league.

Harbaugh, for one, is only thinking about another year and another opportunity for success after three straight seasons coming oh so close.

"It's like it's your own birthday. It's a family reunion. It's like a rebirth, feel like you come out of the womb and reborn into football," Harbaugh said in his first news conference at new Levi's Stadium. "And definitely having Vernon there added to that. Everybody sees their friends, sees their family, haven't seen them for a month or so as we've been apart after the minicamp. ...

"Our team is the least unhappy team I've ever been around."

NOTES: Rookie first-round pick S Jimmie Ward made a diving interception on a tipped pass by Colin Kaepernick. "If I keep making plays like that I'm going to be seen," Ward said.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:54:00 +0000
Frank Lampard joins New York City FC of MLS

NEW YORK (AP) The newest team in Major League Soccer is doing its part to fill Yankee Stadium with stars.

New York City FC introduced Frank Lampard in Brooklyn on Thursday after signing the 36-year-old former Chelsea midfielder to a two-year contract.

"Why not New York? Talk about ticking all the boxes. I want to carry on challenging myself." Lampard said at a news conference . "That's a great challenge, isn't it? City of hopes and dreams. That's where you want to go to and play isn't it?"

The club owned by Manchester City of the Premier League and the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball previously signed David Villa of Atletico Madrid.

Both City and Atletico won league championships last year, meaning the expansion soccer team set to begin playing home games at the ballpark in 2015 is also bringing more champions to the Bronx than Yankee Stadium's full-time tenants have lately.

The news conference was held at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where several soccer fields share space on a pier in the East River across from Lower Manhattan. A couple dozen fans, many in blue Chelsea jerseys, gathered around to listen, at times cheering and getting laughs from the dais, where Lampard was flanked by club sporting director Claudio Reyna , chief business officer Tim Pernetti, and coach Jason Kreis.

Lampard, who has scored 211 goals for England and Chelsea, became the latest international star to move to MLS. Most famous was David Beckham, who joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 from Real Madrid.

"I think this is an incredibly exciting time for the league," Kreis said. Lampard is "a rare talent, one that scores a lot of goals from midfield, yet is also a disciplined defender and someone who reads the game brilliantly."

Lampard was asked about a widely reported encounter with American travelers in 2001, shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when he and teammates were fined following reports they were behaving drunkenly and boorishly in front of the distraught Americans.

"I was naive and a young boy at the time and I have some regrets," Lampard said. "I categorically didn't insult anyone, set out to insult anyone, behave badly in front of Americans or in fact anyone. I've tried in the last 13 years at Chelsea to build up - well, to just be a good man really and not just be a good footballer, but a good man off the pitch. ... Unfortunately it was very much misreported at the time in England and it's actually a chance for me to finally say that."

Lampard, speaking with the skyline behind him across the river, said he "of course" plans to visit the Sept. 11 memorial.

"You visit this great city, you know what it means to New Yorkers. I think you go and pay your respects, so yes I will," he said.

Kreis said the team examined the situation and considers the matter resolved. His newest player is someone with strong feelings about New York.

"I want New Yorkers to hear that and see that," Lampard said. "It's up to me to show them here and prove the footballer I am and the person that I am."

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:45:00 +0000

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