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  • Steve Nash ruled out for season with back injury

    LOS ANGELES (AP) Steve Nash hoped for one more chance to show off his playmaking skills after fighting injuries and time for two miserable years with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Instead, Nash couldn't even make it to opening night in the 19th season of his remarkable career.

    Nash will miss the entire season because of a back injury, the Lakers announced Thursday, putting the two-time NBA MVP point guard's career in doubt.

    The Lakers and the 40-year-old Nash announced their joint decision less than a week before the start of the regular season. He played in only 15 games last season with nerve root irritation, but hoped for a comeback season after several months of rehabilitation.

    The Canadian star played in just three preseason games, feeling more back pain in the second outing. He then strained his back while carrying travel bags several days ago.

    "Being on the court this season has been my top priority, and it is disappointing to not be able to do that right now," Nash said. "I work very hard to stay healthy, and unfortunately my recent setback makes performing at full capacity difficult. I will continue to support my team during this period of rest, and will focus on my long-term health."

    Nash will "focus on rest and rehabilitation," according to the team's news release. He is in the final season of his three-year contract with the Lakers, but the club's announcement made no mention of possible retirement.

    Nash has played in only 65 games since the Lakers traded four draft picks for him in 2012 in a spectacularly failed attempt to assemble a title contender built around Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Nash.

    Bryant, who missed all but six games last season with two major injuries, has played in the same backcourt with Nash for just 48 games.

    "As disappointed as we are for ourselves and our fans, we're even more disappointed for Steve," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "We know how hard he's worked the last two years to try to get his body right for the rigors of the NBA, and how badly he wants to play, but unfortunately he simply hasn't been able to get there up to this point in time. Steve has been a consummate professional, and we greatly appreciate his efforts."

    Nash, the NBA's oldest active player, is due more than $9 million this season. His salary counts toward the Lakers' cap.

    If Nash's career ends with his latest injury, it likely won't dull the impact of the greatest player in Canadian history and one of the most complete offensive guards of his generation.

    He is third on the NBA's career assists list, trailing only John Stockton and Jason Kidd. Nash also is the most accurate free-throw shooter in NBA history, barely edging Mark Price's career mark at 90.4 percent.

    During training camp, Nash said he realized the upcoming season likely would be his last. Yet he refused to call it a farewell tour, holding out hope of playing beyond this season if his back held up under the pounding of a full NBA schedule.

    "Sorry to hear the news my man," injured Lakers teammate Nick Young tweeted at Nash.

    The British Columbia product starred at Santa Clara before starting his NBA career with the Phoenix Suns, who traded him to Dallas in 1998. He established himself as an elite point guard while playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley with the Mavericks, but returned to Phoenix in 2004 for a lucrative free-agent deal.

    Nash won two unlikely MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 as the catalyst for one of the most prolific offenses in NBA history under coach Mike D'Antoni. His playmaking and scoring abilities earned him worldwide recognition and eight All-Star game selections, including his final season with Phoenix in 2011-12.

    Nash agreed to join the Lakers for the chance to play for a title living relatively near to his ex-wife and three children. Despite several health struggles late in his career with the Suns, Los Angeles gave him a three-year deal and mortgaged its future by shipping out draft choices.

    But Nash's tenure in Hollywood has been mostly miserable from his second game, when he broke a bone in his left leg and missed the next 24 games.

    He also struggled with injuries to his hamstrings and back before last season, when he played in just nine of the Lakers' final 74 games due to recurrent pain in his back and legs.

    The Lakers had hoped Nash would be their starting point guard this season, but the club also acquired Jeremy Lin and signed veteran free-agent Ronnie Price. Los Angeles, which missed the playoffs last season for just the third time in 38 years, has been projected for a rough season even with a healthy Nash.



  • Giants' Hudson to face Royals' Guthrie in Game 3

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) In the middle of a champagne-and-beer-soaked clubhouse after the San Francisco Giants won the NL Championship Series, Tim Hudson was given the chance to speak to his team.

    The message was as simple as Hudson's approach on the mound: "World Series, baby!"

    After 16 years, 214 regular-season wins and seven failed trips to the postseason, Hudson has finally made it to baseball's biggest stage at age 39.

    Hudson is set to take the mound Friday night for the Giants when they return home to face Jeremy Guthrie and the Royals in Game 3 of the World Series after a two-game split in Kansas City.

    "It's almost a sense of relief that it's finally here, that what I've hoped and dreamed for throughout my career is finally here, and there's not going to be anybody on the field that's more ready than I am tomorrow night," Hudson said Thursday.

    Hudson's brilliant career began on the other side of San Francisco Bay as he helped Oakland make four straight trips to the postseason that ended with Game 5 losses in the division series.

    Hudson got back to the playoffs with Atlanta, losing in the division series in 2005 to Houston and 2010 to San Francisco. The Braves made it again last year when Hudson was hurt but lost again in the division series.

    After signing a $23 million, two-year contract this offseason with San Francisco, Hudson finally got to experience postseason success.

    "You often wonder, is it ever going to happen? Obviously, last year the way my season ended with my ankle injury, things looked a little bleak there for a few moments," Hudson said. But I'm just really lucky."

    Hudson got no-decisions in his first two postseason starts, allowing five runs in 13 2-3 innings against Washington and St. Louis.

    The limited work of late has paid dividends. Hudson looks much fresher than he did in September when he went 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA in five starts to end the season while dealing with a bum hip. He finished the season with a 9-13 record for his first losing campaign ever.

    "It's hard enough to play this game when you're healthy, but when you're pitching and your hip's bothering you a little bit - and he's a warrior," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He was never complaining. He was never making excuses, but it was a fact. I think it was affecting him a little bit."

    Guthrie had a long wait just to get to the playoffs. He made his first postseason appearance at age 35 when he allowed one run in five innings of a no-decision against Baltimore in Game 3 of the ALCS.

    That start is Guthrie's only outing the past four weeks; he did not pitch in the division series sweep against the Angels. So Guthrie has done his best to stay sharp with side work instead of pitching in games.

    He has also spent time serving as a translator for some of Kansas City's Spanish-speaking players. Guthrie completed a Mormon mission to Spain when he was in college, not picking up a baseball for two years.

    But Guthrie revived his career when he returned and transferred to Stanford, becoming a first-round pick in 2002 and eventually a major leaguer.

    He said he learned at Stanford the importance of going deep into games - something that was most evident when he went 13 innings to beat Cal-State Fullerton in the NCAA tournament his final year there.

    "Four days before the draft, Scott Boras my agent, or adviser at that time, was there, and I don't think he was anticipating or hoping for 13 innings that close to the draft," Guthrie said. "But it was 147 pitches. Again, it was a reflection of competing to the end, it's yours to win, and watching kind of the pitchers pitch by pitch, and seeing how they're doing versus kind of letting the number dictate when they were going to be taken out."

    With a stellar bullpen led by Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis behind him in Kansas City, Guthrie knows he won't be asked to go that deep on a team that has had only one starter pitch into the seventh this postseason.

    "That's been the result, but we're out there trying to get as deep as we can," Guthrie said. "For us to win a game without having to throw all three of our relievers at the back end, Kelvin, and Wade, and Greg, will only give our team a better chance to win throughout the series."

    ---

    AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.



  • AP source: Goodell told to testify in Rice appeal

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been told to testify in Ray Rice's appeal of his indefinite suspension, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

    Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, the neutral arbiter selected to hear the appeal, informed the parties of her decision Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the appeal have not been made public.

    It was uncertain whether Goodell will actually testify. He said this month he would leave the decision to Judge Jones.

    "We will continue to respect Judge Jones' confidentiality order regarding this proceeding," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email.

    NFL lawyers have argued that Goodell shouldn't have to testify, and instead were offering testimony from Jeff Pash, the NFL's general counsel, and Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president for labor policy. Pash and Birch were with Goodell when he met with Rice's side in June to talk about what happened when the former Pro Bowl running back hit his then-fiancee in an elevator.

    Rice described details of the incident at that meeting. Goodell has called Rice's description "ambiguous" while Rice's side has maintained he gave exact details.

    The hearing will be held Nov. 5 and 6, two people familiar with the case told the AP on Tuesday.

    Rice was suspended indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after a video of the former Pro Bowl running back hitting the woman was released publicly. Goodell originally had suspended the running back for two games.

    Once the video became public, the Baltimore Ravens cut Rice, and the league banned him indefinitely. The league considered the video to be new evidence, giving Goodell the authority to further suspend Rice.

    The players' union appealed Rice's suspension, saying he should not be punished twice.

    Jones was jointly picked by the commissioner and the players' union to hear the appeal. The union said at the time that Goodell's testimony as a witness would be crucial in the proceedings.

    ---

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

    ---

    Rob Maaddi can be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ap-robmaaddi



  • Titans: Rookie Zach Mettenberger will start at QB

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have kicked their youth movement into high gear with rookie Zach Mettenberger starting at quarterback against the Houston Texans on Sunday.

    Jake Locker has missed three of the past four games with injuries, and coach Ken Whisenhunt said Thursday that the decision to go with Mettenberger was made Tuesday. The coach said this is an opportunity to see what the sixth-round draft pick out of LSU can do with the Titans struggling at 2-5.

    "No question he's a talented, young player, and maybe it'll give us a spark," Whisenhunt said. "Offensively, we haven't exactly been lighting it up, so that's part of it in consideration."

    Whisenhunt waited to announce the change to make sure Locker - who has been sidelined with an injured thumb - is healthy enough to back up Mettenberger. The coach also was trying to buy a day to slow down the Texans' preparation for the rookie. The shake-up dropped Charlie Whitehurst, who started three of the past four games with the Titans losing two of those, to third on the depth chart.

    Mounting losses and injuries seemed to make the change inevitable.

    The Titans had stuck with Locker, the eighth pick overall in 2011, since hiring Whisenhunt in January. But Locker has missed 17 of a possible 39 starts and finished only three games this season because of injuries.

    Mettenberger will become the fourth rookie quarterback to start in the NFL this season, the third quarterback for Whisenhunt. The Titans already are starting left tackle Taylor Lewan, linebacker Avery Williamson and running back Bishop Sankey with Mettenberger the fourth of six draft picks to start this season.

    The quarterback dropped to the sixth round after tearing his left ACL on Nov. 29 playing for LSU but led the NFL this preseason with 659 yards passing. The rookie shaved the beard he started growing during training camp after practice just before talking to reporters.

    "By no means am I a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning," Mettenberger said as he leaned back against his locker. "This is going to be my first game, so really I just got to get the ball out of my hands quick, avoid turnovers and put the ball in the (hands of) guys who can make plays for us. Really that's the biggest thing a young guy's got to do."

    Whisenhunt had promised he would be more patient with quarterbacks in his second time around as a head coach. He reached the 2009 Super Bowl in Arizona with Kurt Warner, but the coach cycled through quarterbacks after the veteran left. Whisenhunt started Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and finally Brian Hoyer in his final season in 2012.

    Once in Tennessee, he inherited Locker who was coming off a Lisfranc injury to his right foot that cost him the final seven games of the 2013 season. The Titans did not pick up Locker's option for 2015 in May, even as they stood behind him as their starter.

    But Locker hurt his right wrist in a loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 21. He missed a loss at Indianapolis and then started Oct. 5 against Cleveland where he threw for a touchdown and ran for another TD before hurting his right thumb on a helmet.

    "I understood after last year I didn't know kind of how it would go and coming into this year they gave me an opportunity," Locker said. "I haven't been in. I haven't played. That's been kind of one of those things that I've dealt with throughout my career, and I imagine it has something to do with that."

    Fans have been clamoring to see Mettenberger with the Titans losing five of their last six. This franchise also needs to give people a reason to use their tickets and come to the stadium where they have won only two of their last nine home games.

    Mettenberger fits the profile of the quarterback Whisenhunt has had the most success with: Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. Mettenberger is 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds who can stand in the pocket, and he has a strong arm throwing for 3,082 yards last season at LSU. With Locker's injured thumb, Mettenberger also had taken some practice work with the starters over the past two weeks.

    He will be the first rookie this franchise has started since 2010. Rusty Smith started at Houston after Vince Young was placed on injured reserve and veteran Kerry Collins was hurt. Smith and the Titans lost 20-0.

    ---

    Online:

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

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    Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker



  • Braves make Hart president of baseball operations

    ATLANTA (AP) John Schuerholz completed what he called "the best negotiation of my entire career" by convincing his longtime friend John Hart to accept the role of president of baseball operations.

    With Hart taking the newly created title on Thursday, the Braves aren't looking for a general manager. The 66-year-old Hart agreed to a three-year contract that will continue through the team's first season at its new stadium in Cobb County.

    Hart became interim general manager Sept. 22. The team had sought a full-time replacement for Frank Wren, who was fired last month after a 79-83 finish this season.

    Hart, Schuerholz and former Braves manager Bobby Cox formed the GM search committee. Hart said last month his only interest was in the interim job, but Schuerholz, the team president, wouldn't accept that as a final answer.

    "We met as transition team quite a number of times and when we were at the meetings invariably I'd pull out my list and I'd say `OK, are we going to talk about the GMs?"' Hart said. "At some point John would get up, he'd take a phone call, he'd go to the bathroom. ... I think all along I did feel and know that John clearly wanted me to take this job."

    Hart, the former GM for the Rangers and Indians, joined the Braves last year as a senior adviser.

    Schuerholz described Hart as "a man who has demonstrated great ability in constructing winning baseball organizations, winning baseball teams, creating staffs of very capable people empowered to do great jobs in each of the organizations he has run."

    Hart said he has turned down similar opportunities with other teams that lacked the "personal component" he has with Schuerholz.

    Schuerholz, who was the Royals' GM before taking over as the Braves' GM in 1990, returned to Kansas City for Game 1 of the World Series this week. He said he was asked by owners and executives why he hadn't convinced Hart to take the full-time role in Atlanta.

    Schuerholz said he was told it would be great to have Hart back in baseball.

    "So I was motivated by that and came back and had my last and final conversation with my dear friend," Schuerholz said. "I was able to persuade him this was the place to be and this was the organization he could have so much of an impact on in a very positive and energetic way and get us to where we want to be, and that's at the very top, the gold standard baseball organization that we have always been regarded as."

    Schuerholz said assistant GM John Coppolella will be Hart's "right-hand man."

    "Coppy was a big part of the reason I took this job," Hart said. "I think you will see Coppy is a young man who is going to develop and grow."

    Schuerholz sat with Kansas City GM Dayton Moore at the World Series. Moore was a former assistant under Schuerholz with the Braves, but Schuerholz said he never approached Moore about the Braves' position.

    "It would be disrespectful for me to even talk to him about that," Schuerholz said.



  • AP sources: Rice's appeal hearing set for Nov. 5-6

    A hearing on Ray Rice's appeal of his indefinite suspension will be held Nov. 5 and 6, two people familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

    The people spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the hearing have not been made public.

    Rice was suspended indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after a video of Rice hitting his then-fiancee in an elevator was released publicly. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell originally had suspended Rice for two games.

    Once the video became public, the Baltimore Ravens cut the star running back, and the league banned him indefinitely. The league considered the video to be new evidence, giving Goodell the authority to further suspend Rice.

    The players' union is appealing Rice's suspension, saying Rice should not be punished twice.

    A neutral arbiter is expected to decide whether Goodell should testify. The arbiter had not yet made that decision as of Tuesday afternoon, the sources who informed the AP of the hearing said.

    The arbiter, former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, was jointly picked by the commissioner and the players' union. Union officials said when the appeal was announced that Goodell and his staff's testimony are key to the appeal and a central reason to have an outside arbiter.

    ---

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

    ---

    Rob Maaddi can be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ap-robmaaddi



  • Thunder star Durant won't rush return from injury

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder forward Kevin Durant is having a tough time getting used to the fact that he will miss the early part of the season with a bone fracture in his right foot.

    "I've been antsy since I got out of surgery," he said Tuesday. "Seen that Chicago-Cleveland game last night, and I wanted to get out there and play. As a competitor, I love to play basketball - that's all I've been doing. Injuries have never had me out this long, but it's part of the game."

    The reigning MVP spoke to the media Tuesday morning for the first time since the injury. He had surgery on Oct. 16 and will be re-evaluated in about five weeks, or late November. He rolled into the media session on a scooter with the lower half of his right leg in a cast.

    Durant said he's never had surgery, so he doesn't know how he will respond to it. He says he won't rush his return.

    "Blessed that it happened early in the season so I can get past it, and hopefully, by December, I'll be ready to play," he said.

    Durant, who has played more minutes than anyone since entering the league in 2007, is finding other ways to contribute to the team.

    "Just help out as much as possible, lead from where I am, which is the sideline," he said. "I feel like a coach, feel like (Alabama football coach) Nick Saban, rolling around on my scooter from court to court giving advice and trying to help out as much as I can. It's a different position for me, but I'm looking forward to growing mentally watching the game and learning from my teammates, trying to help them as much as I can."

    He said the situation presents an opportunity for his teammates to grow, and he feels that the team will be better off in the long run as a result.

    "It's going to give guys opportunities to play, build confidence, build their chemistry as a team," he said. "So I'm looking at the positive side of it. It's a win-win, basically, because I'm learning a lot while I'm out about the game, and my teammates are getting a lot of opportunities because it's a lot of minutes out there to play and help contribute to the team."

    ---

    Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP



  • Kings GM: NHL should educate after Voynov's arrest

    EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi firmly supports the NHL's indefinite suspension of Slava Voynov, the quiet Russian defenseman arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.

    Lombardi also believes the NHL must supplement its swift discipline with an improved plan to provide hockey players with better preparation for many aspects of life outside the rink.

    "We need to do a better job," Lombardi said. "That's just the truth. I don't care if it's indicting ourselves or not."

    The defending Stanley Cup champions uniformly backed the NHL's suspension of Voynov when they returned to practice at their training complex Tuesday.

    Voynov hasn't been charged with a crime since his arrest early Monday morning, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter said the suspension was "very appropriate."

    "We're pretty close as a team," Sutter added. "It's not just (a) team. It's more of a family thing. We deal with distractions all the time. We've been able to handle a lot of adversity and pressure for three years now."

    Voynov's teammates spoke carefully about his absence, uniformly expressing surprise at the circumstances. The Kings still don't know the details of what happened between Voynov and the woman who was treated for injuries in the Torrance hospital where he was arrested.

    Sutter went to Voynov's house in Redondo Beach after his arrest, but the Kings' contact with Voynov has been limited because he turned off his phone.

    "Some of us have reached out to him, but we just hope everything is going to work out for the both of them," center Jarret Stoll said. "We're still a strong group. We're still a hockey team. We're still going to win games. Our goal has never changed. Our attitude in this room has never changed. It's adversity for us, but we're going to come through it."

    The events are a shock for the Kings, who have won two of the last three Stanley Cup titles with an extraordinarily close-knit roster. Nearly every player lives a few miles apart in the South Bay beach cities, and Lombardi has kept the Kings' core largely intact for several years.

    Lombardi assembled his roster with particular attention to team chemistry, but he believes Voynov's arrest should be a call for more player education on domestic violence and other off-ice concerns.

    Before Voynov's arrest, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman expressed confidence in the league's education and counseling services already in place. Lombardi said he first thought about doing more for the Kings last year, and he kicks himself for ignoring his instinct.

    "We have a bigger responsibility now," Lombardi said. "Just like we expect them to train, and we provide access to training physically, we provide meals so they eat properly, well, you know what? We've got a responsibility here now to train them in other areas, and I don't just mean having a guy come in and give a speech once a year. This is as much our organization's responsibility as anything. We have an obligation here, too. We have to do a better job in some of these areas."

    Lombardi supports the NHL's decision to act aggressively before any charges, acknowledging the effect of the NFL's disastrous handling of the Ray Rice case and others.

    "Now you have public awareness that would have never been there," Lombardi said. "I come from a lower, blue-collar neighborhood, a factory town, and we've seen this crap, and it's bad, and it happens a lot more often than we want to (acknowledge). But it's never going to come to the fore when a rat hits his wife. ... It can become a good thing overall, that now there's awareness. We've had issues in the past where sports teams swept it under the rug."

    Lombardi and the Kings say they never had reason to suspect bad behavior from Voynov, a second-round draft pick in 2008 from Chelyabinsk, a large city in Siberia. Lombardi felt Voynov repeatedly demonstrated strong character and commitment to the club, starting from his U.S. arrival as a teenager.

    Despite speaking little English, Voynov agreed to play for the Kings' AHL affiliate instead of staying in Russia's top league, where he would have made more money. He also stuck with the Kings when his father became ill back home, ignoring Russian teams' offers to take care of his family if he returned.

    After cracking the Kings' lineup in 2011, Voynov established himself as a top-level defenseman, earning a $25 million contract extension and playing in the Sochi Olympics.

    Voynov isn't likely to be charged for at least several days, and the Kings have no idea whether he will be suspended for weeks or months. The league's collective bargaining agreement doesn't spell out specific suspensions for specific charges, Lombardi said.

    The Kings (4-1-1) have won four straight games heading into their visit from Buffalo on Thursday. Voynov's absence leaves them with just five healthy defensemen, but Jake Muzzin intends to return from injury.

    "We have a group that has been through a lot," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "Maybe not like this, but we need to lean on past experiences and trust each other that we can refocus."



  • Cowboys release Michael Sam from practice squad

    IRVING, Texas (AP) Michael Sam will have to wait for a third team to give the NFL's first openly gay player a chance to appear in a regular-season game.

    The Dallas Cowboys released Sam from the practice squad Tuesday, dropping the rush end as they prepare for several potential reinforcements to return to the defensive line.

    Sam spent seven weeks with the Cowboys after joining their practice squad Sept. 3, four days after he was among the final cuts by the St. Louis Rams at the end of the preseason. He was never placed on the 53-man active roster.

    The Rams drafted the former SEC defensive player of the year from Missouri late in the seventh round in May. He was pick No. 249 out of 256. Sam had three sacks in the preseason with St. Louis playing mostly against second- and third-stringers.

    Sam thanked the family of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Twitter, along with "friends, family, teammates, and fans for their support."

    "While this is disappointing, I will take the lessons I learned here in Dallas and continue to fight for an opportunity to prove that I can play every Sunday," Sam wrote.

    The signing of Sam by the Cowboys brought an overflow crowd to coach Jason Garrett's daily news conference, and he was surrounded by about two dozen reporters in the only interview he conducted on the same day.

    But he mostly blended in after that, making occasional appearances in the locker room when it was open to the media and earning praise from Garrett and defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli the few times they were asked about him.

    "Comes to work every day and practices hard," Garrett said last week. "One of 10 practice roster guys that we have, so he's working on his skills, trying to develop, but also doing a lot of other things. Playing offense, defense, playing the kicking game. That's what a lot of those guys do."

    Sam came out to his Missouri teammates before his senior season, when he had 11 1/2 sacks. He told the rest of the world three months before the May draft. After Sunday's 31-21 win over the New York Giants, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told USA Today that Sam's sexuality was "a dead issue."

    The Cowboys (6-1), off to their best start since they were 12-1 in 2007, are playing their second straight NFC East opponent at home, with Washington (2-5) visiting Monday night.

    The Rams didn't keep Sam because they had depth on the defensive front. The same situation is developing for the Cowboys, who are among the league's worst in sacks but have been getting solid production with a rotation in the front four of a defense exceeding expectations.

    Dallas has rookie second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence close to coming back after breaking his right foot in training camp. He was placed on short-term injured reserve and will be eligible to play next week against Arizona.

    Veteran defensive end Anthony Spencer gets stronger each week in his return from microfracture knee surgery that sidelined him all but one game last season.

    Defensive tackle Josh Brent, who is serving a 10-game suspension for his intoxication manslaughter conviction in the 2012 death of teammate Jerry Brown, returns to practice next week. He will be eligible to play Nov. 23 at the Giants.

    While releasing Sam, the Cowboys added linebacker Troy Davis of Central Florida and defensive tackle Ken Bishop of Northern Illinois to their practice squad.

    ---

    Online:

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



  • NCAA: SI allegations vs Oklahoma St 'unfounded'

    STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) The Oklahoma State football program escaped its "day of reckoning" nearly unscathed.

    The NCAA and the school announced Tuesday that allegations of widespread misconduct outlined in a Sports Illustrated expose last year were "fundamentally unfounded."

    A joint inquiry by the NCAA and an independent investigator retained by the school, former NCAA enforcement official Chuck Smrt, reviewed approximately 50,000 emails and documents, and included nearly 100 interviews of current and former administrators, coaches, staff, athletes, students and prospects as well as alumni and donors.

    Smrt said the number of emails and documents reviewed was unusually high for such a case, and the result of the search terms and large number of people involved.

    "If we had done something wrong or were doing something wrong, we wanted to know," Oklahoma State President V. Burns Hargis said. "Based on that review, we learned that the Sports Illustrated claims of monetary payments for athletic achievements, improper academic assistance provided by our academic services staff, rampant drug use and inappropriate interaction with football players during recruiting trips were fundamentally unfounded."

    Athletic director Mike Holder told The Associated Press last month that he wasn't sure what the investigation would find, but the "day of reckoning" was coming, and he had hoped the school would come out of it looking "like true Cowboys."

    Hargis said three potential infractions were discovered and reported to the NCAA. He said "it appears we may have misapplied our drug testing policy and on-campus recruiting practices" and the policies have been modified.

    Now that the investigation has concluded with mostly good results for the school, the stigma no longer hangs over football coach Mike Gundy's program.

    "It's a big relief," Hargis said. "I'm gratified and I'm relieved, but I must say I'm not terribly surprised. It didn't come as a shock to me what happened. Even going back to when I first read the articles, what they were claiming was so opposite to my experience with this program and with coach Holder and coach Gundy, and it made no sense to me."

    SI said it interviewed more than 60 former players and found evidence of potential NCAA violations under coaches Les Miles and current coach Gundy dating back to 2001. The series of stories included numerous former Oklahoma State players making allegations of cash payments to players, academic misconduct, inconsistent enforcement of drug policies and some of the school's recruiting hostesses having sex with prospects from 2001-10. Miles is now the coach at LSU.

    The magazine issued a statement Tuesday defending its reporting.

    "Sports Illustrated firmly stands behind its comprehensive series on the Oklahoma State program. The investigation by the NCAA and an outside consultant hired by Oklahoma State was limited in scope but nonetheless revealed multiple NCAA violations including a `failure to monitor,"' the magazine said. "Nowhere does the report say our work is fundamentally unfounded and in fact it points to its own limitations in its ability to corroborate SI's findings."

    After the allegations, Hargis endorsed both Gundy, who has been leading the program since 2005, and Holder, who also took over his current role in 2005. None of the accusations directly implicated Gundy of inappropriate conduct.

    According to the series, three former players told SI that they dealt marijuana while members of the 2001, `04 and `06 teams. Defensive end William Bell told SI he made between $300 and $400 each week selling marijuana. Thomas Wright said there was cocaine use at times.

    The magazine named 13 former players who said they had work done for them or received other improper academic assistance. One of them, former receiver Artrell Woods, said he didn't write "a single paper" during his three years at Oklahoma State and simply typed what tutors dictated to him.

    Some players described a weekly counseling session during the 2003 season for those who had tested positive for marijuana. SI reported that the sessions were allegedly reserved for top players who could attend and still continue to use marijuana without penalty.

    Illinois head coach Tim Beckman, the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2007 and 2008, and North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, the Cowboys' offensive coordinator from 2005-07, were among several people with previous affiliations with the program who disputed the allegations.

    T. Boone Pickens, who has given more than $500 million to Oklahoma State for athletics and academics, said when the report was initially released that he was disappointed in Sports Illustrated, and the articles don't indicate what the program has become.

    "You'd think people were running wild here, just breaking the rules," Hargis said. "It was so extreme, I think most people kind of read it and said this doesn't make sense."

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    Online:

    Oklahoma St investigation site: http://response.okstate.edu

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    Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP



  • New advisers say NFL is serious about reform

    CHICAGO (AP) Beth E. Richie is a professor and a college administrator. She has written articles and books about feminism, battered women and the prison system, and provided training for police, judges and other groups.

    So when the NFL called to ask for help with its domestic conduct policy, Richie wanted to make sure it was more serious than window dressing.

    "The players and the teams are one thing that almost could be easily managed," said Richie, the director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at Illinois-Chicago. "I wanted to know are they interested in the fan base, the sponsoring organizations, the other corporate interests?

    "We almost haven't had a moment like this in the work to end violence when such power, such attention, such resources could go to prevention, changing culture, bystander education, those kinds of things."

    Intrigued by the possibilities, Richie joined a high-profile effort that is hoping to have an impact on domestic violence beyond the sports world. Richie is one of five senior advisers recently hired by the NFL to help shape the league's policy on abuse.

    Any action by the league after the Ray Rice scandal will be closely watched by the other sports. But the NFL's new group of advisers believes the process also could have a more far-reaching impact.

    "I think that they have the opportunity to model some cutting-edge policies and protocols or guidelines, and I'm excited at the opportunity for that reach to go beyond just the NFL, but into all of corporate America," said Jane Randel, a co-founder of No More, a campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault.

    Randel and the other advisers had a hand in a 40-minute educational presentation at last week's NFL meetings in New York. The presentation focused on the dangers of spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual assault and other domestic violence topics.

    Richie praised the NFL owners for their attentiveness, and Randel said it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Richie and Randel said the owners seemed serious.

    "You can see what people in the room are doing, and they were watching and engaged and taking notes and doing all the things that you would want them to do," she said, "because these things really only work if they start from the top."

    Randel's background is in cause marketing and corporate communications. She helped start No More in 2009 in an effort to raise awareness and money for organizations working to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

    Lisa Friel, another senior adviser, was the head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney's Office for more than a decade, and Rita Smith is the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Tony Porter is a co-founder of A Call to Men, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women.

    "The first thing that we're going to look at is the league's personal conduct policy and how we can educate people about that," Friel said at the owners' meetings. "In a perfect world, the hope is you never have to use the disciplinary end of that policy, right? That you have your standards of behavior, you educate people about them and they don't violate your policy. That's what we're hoping to do."

    Sports have been a part of Richie's family life for a long time. She learned more about the business and organizational side of sports when her sister Laurel became president of the WNBA in 2011.

    Laurel Richie said in an email to The Associated Press that the NFL made a smart choice in asking Beth for help.

    "As a researcher, service provider, and advocate, my sister is one of the nation's leading experts on domestic violence and sexual assault in the African-American community," she wrote.

    Beth E. Richie was the last addition to the NFL panel, and her appointment was announced after the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a leading black women's group criticized the league for not including any African-American women in the group of consultants.

    It was clear the NFL was "looking for someone to fill that particular niche of race and community accountability," Richie said.

    The league is mulling over when to act in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, particularly when criminal cases drag on.

    "I emphasize really, when possible, alternatives to only relying on the criminal legal system because in black communities that's been such a difficult tension," Richie said.

    "My instinct has always been to try to find ways that communities can hold people accountable, and only rely on the criminal justice system when communities can't hold people accountable."

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    AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg and AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report.

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    Online:

    No More: http://nomore.org

    National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: www.ncadv.org

    A Call to Men: www.acalltomen.org

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

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    Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap



  • Ex-clinic owner pleads guilty in MLB drug case

    MIAMI (AP) The former owner of a South Florida anti-aging clinic pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of illegally providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes including high-profile Major League Baseball players, most notably New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.

    Anthony Bosch, former owner of the Biogenesis of America clinic in Coral Gables, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute testosterone before U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles. Bosch, who was not a medical doctor yet called himself "Dr. T," faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence but is likely to get far less because of cooperation with prosecutors and with MLB's investigation into player drug use.

    "The message is clear: cheating doesn't pay and individuals like Bosch, who distribute performance enhancing drugs to athletes and, more importantly, to our children, will be held accountable for their actions," said Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, noting that some customers were high school age.

    Defense attorney Guy Lewis said Bosch, 51, provided key information to MLB investigators that led to suspensions of 14 players, including the record season-long suspension handed to Rodriguez for this past year. Bosch also met numerous times with federal prosecutors and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, Lewis said.

    "He was faithful in terms of appearing each and every time he was requested to," Lewis said. "Each and every time he appeared, answered questions and was available."

    Rodriguez has denied taking illegal substances while with the Yankees but did admit to doing so earlier in his career with the Texas Rangers. He remains on the Yankees' roster for next season.

    MLB previously sued Bosch and his clinic but withdrew the lawsuit in February. The league had accused Bosch and others with conspiring to violate player contracts by providing them with banned substances.

    In a plea agreement, Bosch admitted to providing testosterone to baseball players, from professionals to high school athletes. Six other people are charged in the case, and Bosch has agreed to testify against them if they go to trial.

    "We are quite satisfied with what he promised he would do," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael "Pat" Sullivan.

    Earlier this month, Gayles revoked Bosch's $100,000 bail because he twice tested positive after his August arrest for cocaine use and had missed appointments at drug treatment programs. On Thursday, Gayles agreed to release Bosch on bail with several new conditions, including a requirement that Bosch attended a 24-hour inpatient drug treatment program.

    Prosecutors did not object, and Lewis said Bosch needs the treatment badly.

    "You have before you an individual who does need counseling. We recognize that. He's begging for it," Lewis said.

    When Bosch is not in the treatment program, he will remain on house arrest with electronic monitoring, Gayles said. Sentencing for Bosch is set for Dec. 18.

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    Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt




 
 
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