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  • NFL will hear Adrian Peterson's appeal Dec. 2

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Adrian Peterson's hearing for the appeal of his suspension will be held on Dec. 2. And it will not be in front of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

    The NFL announced Friday that longtime hearing officer Harold Henderson will preside over the proceedings involving the Minnesota Vikings star running back. Goodell has the authority to decide whether to hear the appeal himself or appoint someone else.

    Peterson has not played since the opening week of the season while dealing with child abuse allegations in Texas. He was placed on paid leave while the legal process played out, and he pleaded no contest on Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault for injuring his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch.

    Goodell suspended Peterson earlier this week for the rest of the season and told Peterson that he will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15 for his violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy. Peterson is appealing the punishment, which the NFL Players Association called "unprecedented, arbitrary, and unlawful."

    The union had been seeking a neutral arbitrator to oversee the appeal, saying the league "is making up the process and punishment as it goes."

    Henderson worked for the league as chairman of its powerful Management Council's executive committee for 16 years. He also was a league vice president of labor relations.

    He led the league's negotiation team, which settled several lawsuits by NFL players and ultimately entered into a new collective bargaining agreement which included expanded free agency and a salary cap. That agreement has been extended several times, most recently through 2021. He regularly deals with NFL team owners, team executives, players, players' union, player agents and attorneys on a variety of matters.

    Henderson's long history of working for the league did little to assuage the union's concerns about the process.

    "The NFL should stop attempting to position a former NFL executive as neutral and independent," the union said. "It is disappointing the league office made a decision to ignore the players' request for fairness."

    The NFL argued that Goodell's right to preside over appeals or choose an official has been part of the collective bargaining agreement since 1993. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said criticism of Henderson is unwarranted given his current position as president of the NFL Player Care Foundation, which is funded jointly by the union and the league; and his experience in hearing 87 appeals, including one from receiver Brandon Marshall that ended with his three-game suspension for a domestic violence incident being reduced to one game.

    Goodell's punishment of Peterson comes under the new player conduct policy he unveiled in August. That came in the wake of criticism he received for his initial light treatment of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was caught on camera punching his then-fiancee in the face in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Rice was later suspended indefinitely, cut by the Ravens, and recently had his appeal heard by an arbitrator.

    The new, tougher guidelines call for a six-game suspension for the first assault, battery or domestic violence offense.

    ---

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

    ---

    AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner, in New York, contributed to this report.



  • Free tickets for Bills-Jets game in Detroit

    DETROIT (AP) Are you ready for some free football at Ford Field?

    Fans are being offered free tickets to the NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets on Monday night that was moved to Detroit from snow-plagued western New York.

    The game was originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, but the league relocated it to the Lions' indoor stadium after a lake-effect storm dumped about 7 feet of snow on the Buffalo area since Monday.

    The Lions announced Friday that their season-ticket holders and those for the Bills can use Flash Seats - a digital entry ticketing system - for general admission seats to the game Monday night. Fans who had tickets for the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium and travel to Detroit will be admitted with their original tickets.

    The Bills also announced that full refunds will be given to all original ticket holders and season ticket members, whether or not their ticket is used to enter the rescheduled game.

    The general public can get tickets beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday via Flash Seats at Detroitlions.com, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Ford Field's box office.

    "We are pleased to be hosting the Bills and Jets for their game Monday night," Lions president Tom Lewand said. "While our thoughts are with the people of the Buffalo area during this difficult time, our team at Ford Field will do everything we can to be good hosts to their team this weekend."

    The NFL has offered fans free tickets in similar situations in the past, including in December 2010 when the Giants and Vikings were relocated to Ford Field after the roof of Minnesota's Metrodome collapsed after a blizzard. Vikings quarterback Brett Favre's streak of 297 regular-season starts came to an end that night because of shoulder and hand issues.

    A wildfire in Southern California in 2003 moved a game - also with free admission - between the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, because Qualcomm Stadium was turned into an evacuation center for displaced residents.

    Jets coach Rex Ryan thought the potential of less crowd noise at a neutral-site stadium could help Michael Vick and New York's offense.

    "Instead of having 70,000 screaming (Bills) fans, I would say it'd be easier," Ryan said. "I don't know who's going to be at the game." Then, he added: "I hope there are a lot of Jets fans."

    Detroit Sports 105.1 radio, an affiliate of ESPN, called for fans to wear green to the game in support of the Jets - and against Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who was fired last December after five seasons in which he went 29-51 as the Lions' coach.

    He was carried off the field by the Bills after they beat the Lions in Detroit in October.

    Using the hashtag GreenMonday, the station wrote on Twitter: "Monday, we all become Jets fans in Detroit to give Jim Schwartz some payback. Wear green and be loud."

    The Lions, in a partnership with Henry Ford Health Systems, will also be operating a 50/50 raffle when gates open, with proceeds benefiting the American Red Cross of Western and Central New York Disaster Relief Fund.

    ---

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



  • Ibanez, Cash, Wakamatsu finalists to manage Rays

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Raul Ibanez, Kevin Cash and Don Wakamatsu are the finalists to replace Joe Maddon as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Dave Martinez, the Rays' bench coach for the past seven seasons, was among seven candidates dropped Friday. Also cut were Barry Larkin, Doug Glanville, Manny Acta, Craig Counsell, Charlie Montoyo and Ron Wotus.

    Tampa Bay said interviews with the finalists will be scheduled for the week of Dec. 1. Maddon left the Rays after nine seasons to manage the Chicago Cubs.

    "The decision on Dave Martinez was especially difficult," Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman said in a statement. "He's played a key role in our organization's evolution, and he's done all he can to put himself in position to be a manager. In the end, we determined that our clubhouse would best benefit from a new voice that will add to our already strong and cohesive culture."

    Ibanez, 42, has spent 19 seasons in the major leagues with Seattle, Kansas City, Philadelphia, the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels and has 305 homers and 2,034 hits. He helped the Royals win this year's AL pennant.

    The 36-year-old Cash played for Tampa Northside in the 1989 Little League World Series and was a big league catcher for eight seasons with Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston, the New York Yankees and Houston from 2002-10. He was a major league advance scout for Toronto in 2012 and Cleveland's bullpen coach in 2013-14.

    Wakamatsu, 51, was the first Asian-American manager in major league history and led Seattle to a 127-147 record in 2009-10. He played in the minor leagues from 1985-96, reaching the major leagues for 18 games with the Chicago White Sox in 1991. Wakamatsu has been bench coach of Texas (2003-06), Oakland (2008), Toronto (2011-12) and Kansas City (2014), and was the Rangers' third-base coach in 2007.



  • Dallas Stars sign Spezza to $30M, 4-year deal

    FRISCO, Texas (AP) Two-time NHL All-Star center Jason Spezza signed a $30 million, four-year contract extension Friday with the Dallas Stars.

    The deal came nearly five months after the Stars acquired Spezza from Ottawa just before the start of free agency, and keeps the 31-year-old center from becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer.

    Spezza has 18 points in his first 20 games in Dallas, with his 14 assists tops among the Stars and ninth in the NHL. He has 705 points (255 goals, 450 assists) in 706 career games since being the second overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft by Ottawa.

    "Jason is a world-class player and his commitment to the organization is a reflection of what we are building in Dallas," Stars general manager Jim Nill said. "The professionalism and production he brings to our group is key for our success moving forward and we value the leadership he brings to our team."

    The Stars acquired Spezza on July 1 in exchange for right wing Alex Chiasson, left wings Nick Paul and Alex Guptill and a second-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft. Spezza is in the final season of a $49 million, seven-year contract, so his new deal with the Stars is through the 2018-19 season.

    In 11 seasons with the Senators, Spezza had at least 65 points in a season six times, and three other seasons with at least 50 points. He was sent to the Stars only a few days after using his no-trade clause to turn down a possible deal to Nashville.



  • NHL teams slowly embracing advance statistics

    Far removed from punishing hits on the ice, the real crunching in the NHL these days is being done in front offices around the league with the numbers involved in the complex, lengthy calculations of analytics.

    The "Moneyball" approach popularized in baseball has slowly become as much a part of the NHL as the breakaway. More and more teams are turning to the same kind of analytics that have taken over Major League Baseball when they assess talent, players and performance.

    Never heard of Corsi and Fenwick statistics? And you call yourself a fan?

    It's a new era in the NHL and - much like in baseball - there's a still a divide between the new school thinkers and the hockey lifers stewing at the thought that newfangled stats could ever replace gut feel in building a Stanley Cup championship roster.

    Take Philadelphia, for example.

    The franchise known for decades as the Broad Street Bullies now has more use for an extra set of pocket protectors than rough-and-tumble goons.

    "Analytics is where we're going," general manager Ron Hextall said. "You can't overvalue it, but in my mind it's going to become more and more and more valuable, I think in all sports. It's another tool. Why not use every tool available? You still need eyes on hockey players. You need that. I don't think that will ever change, but the analytics, I wouldn't say it's a huge part, but it's going to get bigger and bigger."

    The Flyers, Toronto, Buffalo, Columbus, the Los Angeles Kings and others are leading the charge in using a new lens at scoping out the way players are judged. The key thought is, there are other ways to scout a player than the traditional means of goals, saves, plus/minus ratio and puck possession time.

    Here are some of the stats that are becoming part of the lexicon:

    - Fenwick Percentage: The percentage of unblocked shots (on goal or missed) taken by the player's team; also known as FF%.

    - Corsi: Named for former Buffalo Sabres goaltending coach Jim Corsi, this stat tracks shot attempts for and against taken by a team or player. It's the sum of a team or player's goals, shots on net, shots that miss the net and shots that are blocked.

    - League-Wide Success Rate: The league-wide shooting percentage from that area of the ice in the time frame selected.

    - PDO: The sum of a player's on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage.

    Sam Ventura, a 26-year-old Ph.D candidate at Carnegie Mellon, co-founded the analytics blog War On Ice. Ventura has become such a fan of NHL math, he has tinkered with creating his own advanced stats, working on a metric called zone transition times.

    He used zone information (which zone a hit or shot may come from) and measured how long it took for each team to transition between zones.

    "Over the long run, we should see the better teams holding the puck in the offensive zones longer and getting the puck out of their defensive zones faster," he said. "That's sort of what I found. The metric I created correlates pretty highly with the number of points in the standings."

    Ventura's stat could become the next big thing in the NHL. Or it could take years for some teams to adapt.

    "Hockey's such a free-flowing game that it's hard to determine automatically where each player is at each point of the game," he said. "It's not surprising that hockey has been slower in adopting analytics."

    The hard-liners agree that fancy math should go the way of Fox's glowing puck.

    "There are guys that leave people on the ice in bad situations and don't get punished for it in terms of the numbers," Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "What analytics doesn't show for me is when the game's on the line, when games or important situations happen, it doesn't show me who's going to win them."

    The Sabres were at the forefront of analytics with stats developed by Corsi. He has moved on to St. Louis, leaving the heavy lifting in the front office to Jason Nightingale. The Pittsburgh Penguins hired Jason Karmanos as vice president of hockey operations in June to be their analytics guru. The Blue Jackets turned to Josh Flynn. The Capitals hired Tim Barnes. The Flyers use Ian Anderson. The Maple Leafs hired Kyle Dubas, a twentysomething former player' agent without any previous NHL experience.

    Teams have largely refused to make the analytics experts available to the media for fear they'll expose classified ideas.

    Most advanced stats debunk the idea that the oldest stats are still the most reliable. Ventura said he found in his research that hits and blocked shots - bread and butter for many NHL general managers - tend to be overrated.

    "If you hit someone, that means you didn't have the puck before. Not having the puck is bad," Ventura said.

    And blocked shots?

    "Not that it's bad to block shots, but if you have a lot of blocked shots, it means your team rarely has the puck when you're on the ice," he said.

    There's really no stopping the movement. The Stanley Cup champion Kings serve as a blueprint for finding undervalued players and consistently ranking among the league leaders in FenClose (the percentage of unblocked shot attempts a team takes in a game when the score is within one goal or tied).

    It's up to a team's stats whiz to convey what's important in clear terms to the guys on the bench.

    "If I cross the blue line with possession of the puck, I don't need to be a math major to know that the percentage of shots that I get are going to be higher," Trotz said. "Every coach in the league wants to enter the zone with possession of the puck, they really do. And for us, when it gets thrown in a coach's face, you go, `Yeah, I get that."'



  • Peterson says 'fresh start' might be best

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Adrian Peterson says he realizes moving on from the Minnesota Vikings might be best for both him and the team.

    In an interview published Thursday by USA Today, Peterson said he believes the coaches and players on the team are fully behind him but that feelings in the organization toward him are mixed after he was charged with felony child abuse in Texas for using a wooden switch to discipline his 4-year-old son. He pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault.

    "I know who loves me. The coaches and the players, it's not going to be a problem. I've felt so much support from those guys. The organization, I know there's people in the organization that support me and there's people that I know internally that has not been supporting me," Peterson told the newspaper. He said he has given a lot of thought to the idea that "maybe it's best for me to get a fresh start somewhere else."

    "I would love to go back and play in Minnesota to get a feel and just see if my family still feels comfortable there," he told USA Today (http://usat.ly/1F6vQN7). "But if there's word out that, hey, they might release me, then so be it. I would feel good knowing that I've given everything I had in me."

    Peterson said he spoke last week with his son for the first time in five months. He told the newspaper he "won't ever use a switch again," that he has been seeing a therapist and meeting a pastor certified in counseling near his Houston-area home, and has learned other ways to discipline his children.

    On paid leave from the Vikings for more than two months, Peterson was informed this week by the NFL he will be suspended without pay for at least the rest of the season. The NFL Players Association has appealed the punishment on his behalf, and Peterson will continue to draw his salary on the exempt list until the appeal is resolved.

    Regardless of which team he plays for next year, assuming he's reinstated by the league, Peterson said his focus has been on family - restoring his relationship with the boy and becoming a better parent. Peterson has fathered six children by six different women. He was married July 19.

    "No one knows how I felt when I turned my child around after spanking him and seeing what I had left on his leg," Peterson said. "No one knows that Dad sat there and apologized to him, hugged him and told him that I didn't mean to do this to you and how sorry I was."

    Peterson said he declined to meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week because of unanswered questions he and the union had about the process.

    "I didn't want to go into a situation blind. I didn't know what to expect. Who's going to be there? Who will I be meeting with? What details are we going to get into?" he said.

    Peterson also said he was upset by Goodell's accusation in the letter about the suspension that he showed "no meaningful remorse" about injuring the boy.

    "Ultimately, I know I'll have my opportunity to sit down with Roger face to face, and I'll be able to say a lot of the same things that I've said to you," Peterson told the newspaper. "Don't say that I'm not remorseful, because in my statement, I showed that I was remorseful. I regretted everything that took place. I love my child, more than anyone could ever imagine."



  • LA Kings' Voynov charged with domestic violence

    LOS ANGELES (AP) Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was charged with felony domestic violence on Thursday by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

    Voynov faces one felony count of corporal injury to a spouse with great bodily injury. In a statement providing the first public details of the incident, the district attorney's office said Voynov "caused his wife to suffer injuries to her eyebrow, cheek and neck" during an argument at their home, several hours after the Kings won an afternoon game.

    The 24-year-old Russian Olympian has been suspended since his arrest early Oct. 20 at a hospital in Torrance, California. He had taken his wife to the hospital for treatment of injuries from their home in nearby Redondo Beach.

    Craig Renetzky, Voynov's attorney, has repeatedly said his client didn't hit his wife. Renetzky also said Voynov shouldn't have been arrested, blaming a misunderstanding between police and Voynov's wife, who speaks even less English than her husband.

    "Mr. Voynov is extremely disappointed that the district attorney's office elected to file charges," Renetzky said in a statement. "Mr. Voynov maintains his innocence and looks forward to clearing his name in court. We remain confident."

    Voynov was suspended indefinitely by the NHL before he even posted bail on the morning of his arrest. The Kings have wholeheartedly supported the league's disciplinary actions, and they affirmed that position in a statement issued by the team after Voynov was charged.

    "We are aware of the actions taken today in California, which we will review and evaluate before making any decisions," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. "Until further notice, the current terms of Mr. Voynov's suspension remain in place."

    The NHL's position means the Kings will not receive salary cap relief in the absence of Voynov, who is still being paid his $3 million salary during his suspension. With Voynov still counting against the cap, Los Angeles was forced to play with five defensemen earlier this month while unable to recall anyone from the minors to fill in for an injured player.

    "As an organization we will continue to closely monitor the developments of the legal proceedings and work in partnership with the NHL to determine the proper course of action in the future," the Kings said in their statement.

    Voynov isn't allowed to practice or play for the team, but he has been skating at the Kings' training complex after their practices, sometimes under the supervision of an assistant coach.

    Voynov will be arraigned Dec. 1 in Torrance. The charge carries a maximum penalty of nine years in prison, and Voynov also could face deportation.

    Voynov is a two-time Stanley Cup champion who also played for Russia at the Sochi Olympics. He will miss his 14th straight game Thursday night when the Kings host Carolina.

    Through her own attorney, Voynov's wife previously said she didn't want charges filed against the defenseman, but California authorities aren't required to consider such wishes when deciding to file charges.

    Voynov and his wife got married during the summer. They are still living together and raising her child from a prior relationship.

    Voynov earned a spot in the Kings' lineup as a rookie during their run to their first Stanley Cup title in 2011-12. He scored a career-best 34 points last season, and he has two assists in six games this year.

    The Kings signed Voynov to a six-year, $25 million contract extension in June 2013.



  • NBA union head: Taylor suspension violates CBA

    NEW YORK (AP) The executive director of the NBA Players Association said Thursday the suspension given to Charlotte's Jeffery Taylor by Commissioner Adam Silver is "excessive, without precedent and a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement."

    Michele Roberts adds that the union is ready to file an immediate appeal, but that the choice is Taylor's.

    Silver suspended Taylor for 24 games without pay on Wednesday after the forward pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor domestic violence assault and malicious destruction of hotel property. Taylor will lose nearly $200,000 of his $915,000 salary this season.

    Taylor will get credit for the 11 games he has missed, and will sit out an additional 13 for a total which is slightly more than one-fourth of the league's 82-game schedule.

    "The CBA contemplates a minimum 10-game suspension in any case involving a conviction for a violent felony, including domestic violence. In contrast, Jeff Taylor was charged with a misdemeanor that is likely to be dismissed at the end of a probationary period," Roberts said in a statement.

    Taylor was sentenced to 18 months of probation. As part of his probation, he must complete 26 weeks in a domestic violence intervention program.

    Silver issued a statement Wednesday in which he said: "This suspension is necessary to protect the interests of the NBA and the public's confidence in it. Mr. Taylor's conduct violates applicable law and, in my opinion, does not conform to standards of morality and is prejudicial and detrimental to the NBA."

    But Roberts notes that the penalty is one of the longest in NBA history.

    "We have a scheme of discipline that was the result of collective bargaining between the parties that has been applied consistently over the years," she said. "While we appreciate the sensitivity of this societal issue, the Commissioner is not entitled to rewrite the rules or otherwise ignore precedent in disciplinary matters."

    Taylor can appeal the suspension to an independent arbitrator.

    "While ultimately this is Jeff's decision, we stand ready to file an immediate appeal on his behalf," Roberts said.



  • Manfred given 5-year term as baseball commissioner

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Praising the transition as quick and orderly, Bud Selig announced Thursday that baseball owners unanimously approved a five-year term for Rob Manfred, who will succeed the longtime commissioner early next year.

    Selig spoke at the conclusion of two days of meetings in Kansas City, where owners discussed a variety of issues that included pace of play, instant replay and domestic violence initiatives.

    Selig will chair his final owners' meeting in January in Arizona.

    "I've been so busy and every day is so frenetic that the last month or two, I'm sure I'll spend a lot of time thinking about it," Selig said, "but you know, we are where we want to be. We're having a wonderful transition, orderly transition, good transition. That's very important."

    Manfred, who has worked for MLB since 1998, was chosen to replace the 80-year-old Selig in August over Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner. He will assume office Jan. 25.

    "It hits me every day when I go to work," Manfred said. "I agree with Commissioner Selig, we've had a really productive and smooth transition."

    One of Manfred's mandates will be to attract young fans back to baseball, and many believe that will involve speeding up the game. The average time of a nine-inning game increased from 2 hours, 33 minutes, in 1981 to a record 3:02 this year, with postseason games stretching nearly 4 hours.

    Selig appointed a committee chaired by Braves President John Schuerholz to discuss ways to improve the pace of play. Among the ideas experimented during the Arizona Fall League were pitch clocks and requiring hitters to remain in the batter's box between pitches.

    MLB can't alter the rules for 2015 without agreement from the players' association, though it can implement changes unilaterally with one year advance notice. Selig said union head Tony Clark and other representatives from the players' association provided their input.

    "I want the committee to continue to do its work," Selig said. "This was very productive in terms of ideas. The experience in the Arizona Fall League made quite an impact on a lot of people."

    When changes may be implemented at the major league level remains to be seen. Selig said he wants to "push them" and will have more to say on the subject in the next couple months.

    Owners also spent time discussing the first season of expanded instant replay, largely considered a success after several calls were overturned during the postseason.

    The system also slowed games. Given the opportunity to challenge everything from force and tag plays to fan interference and home runs, managers often stalled in the middle of the diamond while awaiting word from their dugout whether to contest a call.

    "I think the core of replay will be similar," Manfred said. "I think the changes we're contemplating - without getting into them - are largely technology improvements. ... I think there are also some issues related to exactly how long it takes to get replay going."

    MLB Executive Vice President Joe Torre said during a recent meeting of general managers in Phoenix that putting a stop to all the lingering would be a priority.

    "That's one area we'll do something differently," Torre said. "I'm not sure what that is, but certainly we will eliminate some of that standing around because 10 seconds is a long time."

    Selig also applauded the record-breaking $325 million. 13-year deal reached by the Miami Marlins and Giancarlo Stanton, calling it the "objective of everything we did" in changes to the game's economic model, which included revenue sharing and luxury taxes.

    "What I like is individual franchises making decisions to make themselves better, Selig said. "I've been reading all the clips, and I do think they're happy in South Florida, and they should be. It's a good sign, a very good sign for them, and that's how you have to look at it."

    MLB Executive Vice President Dan Halem provided owners with an update on a comprehensive domestic violence program that is being developed for players and non-players alike. Domestic violence has become an issue of increased importance across professional sports.

    To underscore that point, Selig announced the Seattle Mariners had received the Commissioner's Award for Philanthropic Excellence for their "Refuse to Abuse" program. The state-wide educational initiative is designed to promote healthy relationships in Washington state.

    "It was really great competition. We had three or four clubs, tough decisions to make," Selig said. "It's a program that goes around the state of Washington on domestic abuse, and they've been doing it a long time. This isn't something that just happened."



  • Hall of Fame coach Tarkanian hospitalized in Vegas

    LAS VEGAS (AP) Family members say Naismith Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian remains hospitalized in stable condition at a Las Vegas hospital where he's being treated for pneumonia.

    His son and daughter-in-law, Danny and Amy Tarkanian, said Friday that doctors at Valley Hospital Medical Center are still conducting tests.

    Danny Tarkanian says doctors were "pretty positive" about his dad's prognosis.

    Family members including Lois Tarkanian say the 84-year-old former UNLV Runnin' Rebels coach has had several visitors since he was admitted Wednesday to the hospital intensive care unit.

    Tarkanian was hospitalized for 10 days in April after a heart attack, his second.

    Tarkanian led three schools to the NCAA tournament, including the 1990 UNLV team that won a national title.



  • NFL fines Lynch $100K for not speaking to media

    RENTON, Wash. (AP) For all the noise he creates on the field, Marshawn Lynch's silence with the media has now cost him six figures in fines.

    The NFL fined Seattle's star $50,000 on Wednesday for violations of the league's media policy. League spokesman Michael Signora confirmed the fine.

    Along with the $50,000 for violating the NFL Media Policy this year, the league is 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.

    The league's media policy mandates that players must be available during the week and in the locker room following all games. Lynch has only spoken to reporters postgame after Seattle's Week 9 victory over Oakland and did not talk the past two weeks after games against the Giants and Kansas City.

    This is Lynch's third fine for violations of the league's media policy.

    "I'm aware of it," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "It's the rules and all of that."

    Lynch spoke at his locker on Wednesday for nearly 10 minutes, but almost every question was answered by talking about music or his shoes.

    When asked if he had any input in designing his shoes, Lynch said, "In this league you really don't have a lot of input in nothing. Just your play. That's about it."

    The news of Lynch's fine came after he helped light up social media along with teammate Ricardo Lockette. The duo went out of their way to return a lost wallet on their way back from an appearance at the site of a recent school shooting.

    Lynch and Lockette appeared at Marysville-Pilchuck High on Tuesday along with other Seahawks players. While stopping at a gas station on their way back, the pair noticed that Jason Lynch had dropped his wallet. The pair found that Jason Lynch lived about 20 minutes away and drove to his neighborhood, eventually leaving the wallet with a neighbor because Lynch was not at home.

    Jason Lynch later posted about the events on social media.

    "It was all (Marshawn's) idea pretty much, though. He was like `We should take it back,"' Lockette said.

    Lynch's reclusiveness with the media became a major story at this year's Super Bowl media day. Lynch appeared for 6 1/2 minutes, left the Newark, New Jersey, arena, then returned to a `'mixed zone" the NFL created for players not on podiums or in microphone-equipped speaking areas at the Prudential Center. With the exception of briefly speaking with the NFL Network, to the Seahawks' website, and to Armed Forces Network, he did not deal with reporters that day.

    `'Players are required to participate and he participated. We will continue to monitor the situation," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said back in January.

    Lynch appeared at league-mandated media sessions the next two days, again briefly.

    The NFL has meted out fines to players and coaches before for not adhering to media policies.

    Buffalo coach Marv Levy was hit for $5,000 for missing the `91 Super Bowl media day. Bills running back Thurman Thomas, like Levy a future Hall of Famer, was docked $5,000 for failing to participate in a mandatory interview session, though not on media day, in `92.

    Three players have been fined $20,000 for missing media availabilities at the Super Bowl: Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora in 2012; Patriots left tackle Matt Light and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork for refusing to speak to the media following that Super Bowl.

    The Oakland Raiders were fined $50,000 as a team for not making all coaches and players available for a required media session in 2003.

    Two star receivers, Randy Moss and Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson, also drew league fines for ignoring media requirements.



  • Disappointed Vikings drop hope of Peterson return

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Adrian Peterson's last appearance in the Minnesota locker room was nearly 10 weeks ago. The Vikings have played all but one game this season without his swift and strong running ability.

    Optimism for his return remained among Peterson's teammates, particularly following his plea agreement earlier this month that freed him from the court system with only a misdemeanor charge and probation requirements.

    The hope, now, has vanished.

    "We know now he's not coming through those doors and coming back this year to be on our team," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said Wednesday, the day after the NFL gave Peterson a suspension without pay for at least the rest of the season. "We're kind of hurt that he's not, but we knew it was kind of coming, so we just have to move on."

    Commissioner Roger Goodell ruled Peterson violated the personal conduct policy for the severe injuries to his 4-year-old son he acknowledged to authorities occurred from corporal punishment with a wooden switch.

    Even if Peterson were to shorten his suspension with a successful appeal, the Vikings actually using him yet this year would be an implausible scenario given the heat they took for initially reinstating him to the roster. Then add in the long time Peterson has been away from practices and meetings, let alone games.

    "I guess it is a sense of knowing that it is over with. Kind of, I guess, puts people at ease. It's not what we wanted, but at the same time we hope that he gets another shot," running back Jerick McKinnon said. "Great player, great mentor, and I'll still look up to him. I'll stay in touch. I'm praying for him, hoping for the best."

    The Vikings have six games left and host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

    "We can't have a dark cloud over our facility or over our team," quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said, adding: "We would love to have him, but it's out of our hands."

    Coach Mike Zimmer addressed the Peterson situation with the players Wednesday morning.

    "I support him and his family and he's been great with me, but other than that ... we've got to move forward. It's just the way life is," Zimmer said.

    Regardless of their feelings about boundaries of parental discipline and punishment Peterson might have deserved for what was originally a felony charge, Vikings players were unanimous in their support for him and his return. Even rookies like Bridgewater and McKinnon raved about the effort Peterson put into being a leader and a mentor.

    "There were times in training camp where I'd get down on myself because I may have had a bad practice or didn't like this throw or that throw, and he would always come up to me and tell me, `Hey, you're not going to be perfect. You can't control what everyone's saying about you. You can't control every throw. You just have to trust yourself, play football and trust your God-given abilities,"' Bridgewater said. "Hearing that from Adrian, it just meant a lot."

    The Vikings were also in lock-step disagreement with Goodell's decision. The NFL Players Association has accused the league of handling the process inconsistently and unfairly, believing Peterson has already been punished by being on the exempt list with pay for the last nine weeks. Goodell has sole discretion to put a player on or take him off the list, which has rarely been used.

    "Once he got taken care of what he got taken care of in the games he's already missed, I feel like he should be back," fullback Jerome Felton said.

    Peterson's salary for the season was $11.75 million. He will keep the money accrued while on the exempt list. But the NFL's punishment has now amounted to a 14-game ban, with six unpaid weeks. That's the equivalent of a fine of more than $4.1 million.

    There are three years and $45 million remaining on his contract, but none of it is guaranteed. The Vikings would take only a $2.4 million hit on their 2015 salary cap if they cut him before next season.

    NOTES: McKinnon missed practice Wednesday with a lower-back injury, and so did running back Matt Asiata with a concussion. With Joe Banyard the only other ball carrier on the active roster, the Vikings claimed running back Ben Tate off waivers from Cleveland. Tate was overtaken for playing time by rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West after signing as a free agent with the Browns to be their featured back. He sprained his right knee in season opener and missed two games, but returned after the bye week with a bang, rushing for a career-high 124 yards.

    ---

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



  • Stanton agrees to record deal with Marlins

    MIAMI (AP) The Marlins persuaded Giancarlo Stanton to say yes. He couldn't afford to say no.

    Stanton agreed to terms Monday on a $325 million, 13-year contract, team owner Jeffrey Loria said. It's the most lucrative deal for an American athlete and averages $25 million per season.

    "It's a landmark moment for the franchise and Giancarlo," Loria said.

    The deal includes a no-trade clause, and Stanton can opt out after six years, Loria said. A news conference was planned Wednesday.

    The Marlins right fielder and centerpiece wasn't due to become eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, and signing him to a long-term deal was considered a long shot. The Marlins haven't reached the playoffs since 2003, and he was distrustful of the franchise's direction.

    Miami's 2014 payroll of $52.3 million was the lowest in the majors. The last time they spent big was before the 2012 season, the first in their new ballpark. Then came a disastrous season and salary purge, intensifying fan animosity toward Loria.

    That sell-off and subsequent roster rebuilding set the stage for the Stanton deal, Loria said.

    "Unfortunately people didn't understand that two years ago, we had no choice," the owner said. "I had to get to today."

    Loria's frugal ways in the past angered the players' union and made the franchise the butt of jokes. Given such thriftiness, the generosity toward Stanton becomes even more stunning.

    His contract tops the $292 million, 10-year deal Miguel Cabrera agreed to with the Detroit Tigers in March. Alex Rodriguez signed the largest previous deal, a $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.

    Stanton, who turned 25 on Nov. 8, is perhaps the game's most feared slugger. He has 154 career homers, including 37 this year, despite playing home games in spacious Marlins Park.

    The two-time All-Star right fielder recently won the NL Hank Aaron Award and was voted the NL's outstanding player in balloting by his fellow major leaguers. He won a Silver Slugger Award and finished second to Clayton Kershaw in NL MVP voting.

    "Giancarlo Stanton has come of age, and he's going to be here a long time," Loria said. "It's wonderful to have a young man this caliber, integrity and ability, and I'm very happy."

    Loria said he doesn't expect Stanton to opt out when he's 31, and sees a positive side to the no-trade clause.

    "There will be no distraction about, `Will he be traded?"' Loria said.

    Stanton's 2014 season ended Sept. 11 when he was hit in the face by a pitch and suffered fractures in his face and other injuries. Despite missing the final 17 games, he led the NL in homers and slugging for the Marlins, who went 77-85 but ended a three-year streak of last-place finishes in the NL East.

    The Marlins have said they're not concerned the injuries will have lingering effects. They made locking up Stanton their top offseason priority and overcame his skepticism about their efforts to fielding a winning team.

    The Marlins believe they're poised to contend next year with a young roster than includes right-handers Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez, Gold Glove left fielder Christian Yelich, center fielder Marcell Ozuna and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.



  • Muschamp out as Florida coach after 4 seasons

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Despite trying three coordinators and five quarterbacks, Will Muschamp never figured out one side of the ball at Florida.

    And it cost him his job.

    The Gators parted ways with Muschamp on Sunday, one day after a gut-wrenching loss to South Carolina that summed up the former defensive coordinator's four-year tenure as head coach.

    Muschamp's close-to-the-vest style proved to be too conservative and too unsuccessful for a school with three national champions, eight Southeastern Conference titles and sky-high expectations.

    Muschamp, who cleaned up a troubled program and made Florida one of the best defensive teams in the SEC, will stick around for the final two regular-season games against Eastern Kentucky and Florida State. He is 27-20, including 17-15 in conference play, in three-plus seasons in Gainesville.

    "Upon evaluation of our football program, we are not where the program needs to be and should be," athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. "I've always said that our goal at the University of Florida is to compete for championships on a regular basis. ... I will be forever grateful to Will and his staff for their unwavering commitment to the University of Florida and the mission of our athletic program."

    The decision came less than 24 hours after a 23-20 loss to South Carolina in overtime. It was Florida's sixth defeat in its last eight games in Gainesville.

    The last two were debacles that sealed Muschamp's fate, making the guy nicknamed "Coach Boom" a bust at Florida.

    "I was given every opportunity to get it done here and I simply didn't win enough games - that is the bottom line," Muschamp said in a statement. "I have no bitter feelings, but this is a business and I wish we would have produced better results on the field. We have a great group of players and a staff that is committed to this University and this football program. They have handled themselves with class and I expect them to continue to do so.

    "As I've said many times, life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond."

    The Gators didn't respond well enough, especially in their last two home games.

    The Gamecocks blocked a field goal and a punt in the final four minutes of regulation Saturday, special teams gaffes that turned what should have been a 10-point lead into a third consecutive home defeat.

    The previous loss was equally troubling for Foley. The Gators (5-4, 4-4 SEC) turned the ball over six times in a 42-13 drubbing against Missouri on homecoming last month. Chants of "Fire Muschamp" could be heard throughout an emptying Florida Field.

    Foley stuck with Muschamp after that one, saying the coach and the season would be evaluated "as it plays out." The Gators regrouped, benched turnover-prone quarterback Jeff Driskel and won consecutive games in dominating fashion, including a stunner against rival Georgia. They even had an outside shot at winning the SEC's muddled Eastern Division.

    But that ended against the Gamecocks, which entered the game with one of the country's worst defenses.

    "Hate to see it about coach Muschamp," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. "Will is a good person and a good coach. He's been a bit unlucky. We all, as coaches, complain about close losses and he's had his share of them. I was telling somebody that in the four meetings we've had with his team, we've not scored more than 20 points in regulation, but we've won three out of four somehow."

    Spurrier also made it clear he has no intentions of returning to his alma mater, where he won the 1966 Heisman Trophy, spent 12 years (1990-2001) coaching and led the Gators to the 1996 national title.

    "I've already had my run at Florida," Spurrier said. "They need to hire a coach that hopefully will be there 10 years."

    Florida fell to 17-8 under Muschamp at home, where Spurrier (68-5) and fellow former coach Urban Meyer (36-5) dropped a combined 10 games in 18 seasons.

    Florida fans expected and demanded better results.

    The former head-coach-in-waiting at Texas, Muschamp was Foley's pick to replace Meyer after he stepped down at the end of the 2010 season.

    Foley extended Muschamp's contract twice and gave him a raise. Because of those shows of good faith, Florida owes Muschamp more than $6 million for the final three years left on his deal.

    Paying off the rest of the coaching staff could cost about another $2 million.

    It's unclear how long it will take for Foley to find a replacement. But the hire likely will be someone with head-coaching experience who comes from an offensive background. After all, the last two defensive guys with no head-coaching experience Foley hired - Muschamp and former coach Ron Zook - didn't pan out.

    Muschamp hired Charlie Weis, Brent Pease and Kurt Roper to run the offense but all failed to impress a following that had grown accustomed to seeing points a plenty under Spurrier and Meyer.

    The Gators finished 105th, 103rd and 113th in total offense during Muschamp's first three seasons. They rank 88th this year through nine games.

    Players were told of the decision during a team meeting Sunday and quickly reacted via social media.

    "I'm hurt man," offensive tackle Rod Johnson posted on his Twitter feed.

    "Great coach but an even better person," kicker Frankie Velez tweeted. "I'm thankful everyday for the opportunity coach Muschamp gave me. Sad day for Florida."



  • Harvick wins Homestead to claim 1st championship

    HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) There was no trick to Kevin Harvick's first Sprint Cup championship. Competing for the title against three other drivers, he seized his opportunity with a relentless dash through the field in the closing laps of the season finale.

    It was exactly what NASCAR was looking for when it revamped its playoff format this year to try to force drivers to win races.

    Harvick picked off car after car, and passed two other title contenders on a series of restarts as he aggressively chased both the victory and the title Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His desperate drive from 12th to first over the final 15 laps gave Harvick the championship over Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.

    All four were determined to claim their first career title, and all four raced to win - because winning, it turned out, mattered in this Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

    "If you want to win the championship, you're going to have to figure out how to win races," Harvick said. "In the end, that's what it came down to, was winning the race to win the championship. It all worked out."

    The four drivers all found themselves racing each other at the front of the field after the sun went down on the 400-mile race. It was Hamlin, the Charlotte Bobcats season-ticket holder who had Michael Jordan cheering from his pit, who seemed to have the race in control until a caution with 20 laps to go.

    All four teams were forced to make tough strategy decisions that ultimately decided their fate.

    Joe Gibbs Racing decided not to pit Hamlin, which moved him to second on the restart. Richard Childress Racing gave Ryan Newman two tires, while Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers made the risky call for four tires.

    Team Penske also had planned to give Joey Logano four tires, but a problem with the jack destroyed Logano's chances and he plummeted from sixth to 21st, ending his championship bid.

    Harvick restarted 12th with 15 laps to go and not much time to pick his way through traffic. As Hamlin passed leader Jeff Gordon on the restart, Harvick shot past four cars to move to seventh.

    "The seas kind of parted down the backstretch and we were able to get three or four cars or six, I guess, or five. You've got a very short time to do it," he said. "You had all the championship guys show up at the front of the pack. I was just going to hold the pedal down and hope for the best."

    Then came another caution, and Hamlin, on old tires, knew he was in trouble. Harvick, on the four fresh tires, rocketed through the middle on the restart, dicing his way through traffic to pick up another four spots and move into second.

    "I loved our chances, but they weren't there at the end," Hamlin said. "Strategy is part of winning, and the strategy for us didn't work out with the cautions."

    Harvick got by Hamlin, then Newman passed Hamlin for second and the championship became a battle of drivers who had essentially swapped seats this year. There was one more caution, forcing Harvick to nail one final restart with three laps remaining, and he eased his way ahead of Newman on his way to the win.

    The victory capped a magical first season at Stewart-Haas Racing, where Harvick moved this year after 13 seasons with Richard Childress that failed to produce a championship.

    Harvick, who had to win last week at Phoenix just to advance into Sunday's final four, wrapped up his third victory of this Chase and fifth of the season. He leaned this week on team co-owner Tony Stewart, a three-time champion, and Jimmie Johnson, the six-time champion who moved from California to North Carolina to chase a career in NASCAR about the same time as Harvick made the move east.

    "Been trying for 13 years," an emotional Harvick said. "This week ate me up. If it wasn't for Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart, I would have been in bad trouble this week. Those guys really helped me get through the week. After every practice, Jimmie was in there, and in our team debriefs Tony was constantly telling me just to go race and that it's just another race."

    Stewart shared an emotional hug with Harvick, and then beamed during the celebration.

    "That's about as emotional as you can get, to have one of your greatest friends go out in one of your race cars and win a championship in the toughest series in the country," Stewart said.

    Newman, winless on the season, finished second. Hamlin faded to seventh and Logano was a distant 16th.

    Harvick's wife, DeLana, sobbed on the pit stand and buried her head in her hands when Harvick crossed the finish line. She hugged Childers, who dabbed his eyes, before she made it down to the victory celebration. She met Stewart, who had retired from the race earlier with a car problem and was in street clothes, for an embrace and kiss before holding her son for the victory celebration.

    Harvick hugged Childers and showered his jubilant crew with Budweiser, the beer company that followed him this year from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas. Harvick spoke with a catch in his voice, trying to compose himself when it was his turn to hold 2-year-old Keelan.

    Stewart threw his arms around Harvick and the close friends and teammates held each other tight for several moments. It was Stewart who in 2012 convinced Harvick that if he left RCR when his contract expired at the end of 2013, he could help Harvick win his first title.

    Stewart, co-owner Gene Haas, and Childers, who left Michael Waltrip Racing for the chance to build Harvick's team, delivered.

    "They gave us all the resources we needed," Harvick said. "We never talked about money, we talked about building a team. It was just go get what you need."

    For Stewart, it took the sting off his 15-year winning streak coming to a close Sunday.

    "It doesn't make up for a bad year," Stewart said. "I mean, I've had a terrible year. But this makes the end of November great."




 
 
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