Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

Paternos issue report, challenge Freeh's findings


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A report commissioned by Joe Paterno's family says the late coach did nothing wrong in his handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and portrays Paterno as the victim of a "rush to injustice" created by former FBI director Louis Freeh's investigation of the case for Penn State.


The family's critique, released Sunday, argues that the findings of the Freeh report published last July were unsupported by the facts.


Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, one of the experts assembled by the family's lawyer to review Freeh's report last year to Penn State, called the document fundamentally flawed and incomplete.


Freeh's report reached "inaccurate and unfounded findings related to Mr. Paterno and its numerous process-oriented deficiencies was a rush to injustice and calls into question" the investigation's credibility, Thornburgh was quoted as saying.


In a statement released Sunday through a spokesman, Freeh defended his work.


"I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade," he said.


Paterno's family released what it billed as an exhaustive response to Freeh's work, based on independent analyses, on the website paterno.com.


"We conclude that the observations as to Joe Paterno in the Freeh report are unfounded, and have done a disservice not only to Joe Paterno and the university community," the family's report said, "but also to the victims of Jerry Sandusky and the critical mission of educating the public on the dangers of child sexual victimization."


Freeh's findings also implicated former administrators in university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz. Less than two weeks after the Freeh report was released in July, the NCAA acted with uncharacteristic speed in levying massive sanctions against the football program for the scandal.


"Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University — Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse" from authorities, trustees and the university community, Freeh wrote in releasing the report.


The former administrators have vehemently denied the allegations. So, too, has Paterno's family, though it reserved more extensive comment until its own report was complete.


The counter-offensive began in earnest this weekend. The family's findings said that Paterno:


— Never asked or told anyone not to investigate an allegation made against Sandusky 12 years ago, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2001.


— Never asked or told former administrators not to report the 2001 allegation.


— And never asked or told anyone not to discuss or hide information reported by graduate assistant Mike McQueary about the 2001 allegation.


"Paterno reported the information to his superior(s) pursuant to his understanding of university protocol and relied upon them to investigate and report as appropriate," the family's analysis said.


Paterno's widow, Sue, broke her silence Friday in a letter to hundreds of former players informing them of the report's impending release. "The Freeh report failed and if it is not challenged and corrected, nothing worthwhile will have come from these tragic events," she wrote.


"I had expected to find Louis Freeh had done his usual thorough and professional job," Thornburgh said in a video posted on paterno.com. "I found the report to be inaccurate in some respects, speculative and unsupported to the record compiled ... in short, fundamentally flawed as to the determinations made to the role — if any — Mr. Paterno played in any of this."


Freeh was brought in to conduct an independent investigation of the school's response to allegations and find any shortcomings in governance and compliance to make sure failures don't happen again, Penn State said in a statement Sunday. Freeh made 119 recommendations to strengthen policies, and the majority have been implemented, according to the school.


University trustees and leaders have been criticized by some dissatisfied alumni, ex-players and community residents for their handling of Paterno's dismissal, the Freeh report and the sanctions.


"It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report," the school said.


Freeh, in his report, said his team conducted 430 interviews and analyzed over 3.5 million emails and documents. The former federal judge said evidence showed Paterno was involved in an "active agreement to conceal" and his report cited email exchanges, which referenced Paterno, between administrators about allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001.


According to Thornburgh's findings, Freeh's report relied on about 30 documents, including three notes authored by Paterno, and 17 emails. Four emails referenced Paterno — none sent by the octogenarian coach who notoriously shunned modern electronic technology.


Sandusky, 69, was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison in October after being convicted last summer of 45 criminal counts. Prosecutors said assaults occurred off and on campus, including the football building.


His arrest in November 2011 triggered the turmoil that led to Paterno's firing days later. Under pressure, Spanier left as president the same day. Curley was placed on administrative leave, while Schultz retired.


Spanier, Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on obstruction and conspiracy, among other charges. They have maintained their innocence.


Critics have said that Freeh's team didn't speak with key figures including Curley, Schultz and Paterno, who died in January 2012 at age 85. The authors of the emails referenced in Freeh's report, which included Curley and Schultz, were not interviewed by Freeh, the family's analysis said.


Spanier spoke to Freeh six days before the report was released July 12.


"They missed so many key people. They didn't interview most of the key players, with the exception of President Spanier, who at the last minute we brought in and interviewed at a time when frankly the report ... was pretty well all prepared," Thornburgh said on the video.


Freeh said he respected the family's right to conduct a campaign to "shape the legacy of Joe Paterno," but called the critique self-serving. Paterno's attorney was contacted for an interview with the coach, he said, and Paterno spoke with a reporter and biographer before his death but not Freeh's team.


Curley and Schultz also declined numerous requests for interviews, Freeh said. They have been facing criminal charges since November 2011.


Freeh on Sunday cited grand jury testimony by Paterno in 2011 in which Paterno said a graduate assistant relayed to him the 2001 allegation against Sandusky of a "sexual nature" with a child.


He referred to a key point in the July report in which he said Spanier, Schultz and Curley drew up a plan that called for reporting Sandusky to the state Department of Public Welfare in 2001. But Curley later said in an email that he changed his mind "after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe," according to Freeh's findings.


Said Freeh on Sunday: "These men exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not even attempting to determine the identity of the child" in the 2001 allegation.


The Paterno family report said Freeh chose not to "present alternative, more plausible, conclusions" about Paterno's actions. Their attorney, Wick Sollers, responded Sunday that Freeh didn't take the time to read the family's critique, or address accusations of procedural shortcomings.


"A failure to consider the facts carefully is exactly the problem our expert analysis highlights," Sollers said. "Everyone, including Mr. Freeh, should take the time to study this report."


Sue Paterno had directed Sollers, to review Freeh's report and her husband's actions. Sollers brought in Thornburgh, as well as former FBI profiler and special agent Jim Clemente, described as a child molestation and behavioral expert.


Also brought in was Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychologist from Johns Hopkins Hospital and School of Medicine whose profile lists him as the founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic.


The analysis included interviews, including of Paterno before his death, as well as a review of documents and testimony and "information from our access to the lawyers for other Penn State administrators."


The Paterno family's analysis said Freeh's report turned into a platform for scapegoating Paterno rather than seizing on an opportunity to educate about identifying child sex abuse victims, and ignored "decades of expert research and behavioral analysis regarding the appropriate way to understand and investigate a child victimization case."


It said expert analysis showed Sandusky "fooled qualified child welfare professionals and law enforcement, as well as laymen inexperienced and untrained in child sexual victimization like Joe Paterno." The coach respected Sandusky as an assistant, but knew little about Sandusky's personal life, the analysis said, though Freeh's report "missed that they disliked each other personally, had very little in common outside work, and did not interact much if at all socially."


Actions by entities outside of Penn State were not a focus for Freeh's review. "This was an internal investigation into Penn State's response ... and that is how the University has utilized the report," the school said.


Penn State removed a bronze statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium on July 22. The next day, the NCAA in levying sanctions said Freeh's report revealed "an unprecedented failure of institutional integrity leading to a culture in which a football program was held in higher esteem."


The NCAA improperly relied on that report and never identified a rules infraction "based on Sandusky's crimes, much less an infraction by Penn State that implicated the NCAA's jurisdiction and core mission of ensuring competitive balance," the Paterno family report said.


An NCAA spokeswoman said the organization stood by its previous statements and declined comment Sunday.


A four-year bowl ban and steep scholarship cuts were included among the sanctions, while 111 wins between 1998 and 2011 under Paterno were vacated. It meant Paterno no longer holds the record for most wins by a major college coach.


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Snowstorm forces rescheduling of Bruins-TB game


BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Bruins have postponed Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning because of the blizzard that dumped more than 2 feet of snow on the area.


No makeup date had been scheduled yet, according to a Bruins spokesman.


Originally scheduled for 1 p.m., the game was pushed back until 7 p.m. to allow the storm to pass. But public transportation was not expected to resume on Saturday, and roads were still being cleared. A travel ban was in effect until 4 p.m.


The Bruins already are playing an abbreviated schedule because of the lockout that wiped out the first 3½ months of the season.


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AP Source: Hernandez on verge of new deal with M's


SEATTLE (AP) — Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners are working on a $175 million, seven-year contract that would make him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball, according to a person with knowledge of the deal's details.


The person spoke to The Associated Press Thursday on condition of anonymity because the agreement has not been completed. USA Today first reported the deal.


Seattle would add $134.5 million of guaranteed money over five years to the contract of the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner, whose current agreement calls for him to receive $40.5 million over the next two seasons.


Hernandez's total dollars would top CC Sabathia's original $161 million, seven-year contract with the New York Yankees and his $25 million average would surpass Zack Greinke's $24.5 million under his new contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and tie him for the second-highest in baseball with Josh Hamilton and Ryan Howard behind Alex Rodriguez ($27.5 million). Hernandez's new money would average $26.9 million over five years.


Hernandez agreed to a $78 million, five-year contract in January 2010 and has earned an additional $2.5 million in escalators and $300,000 in bonuses. He is due $20 million this year and $20.5 million in 2014, which would be superseded by the new deal.


Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said he could not comment when reached on Thursday, and Hernandez's representatives didn't immediately return messages.


If the deal is finalized, it would leave Detroit's Justin Verlander and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw as the most attractive pitchers eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. Tampa Bay's David Price is eligible after the 2015 season.


Hernandez has become the face of Seattle's struggling franchise, transforming from a curly haired 19-year-old who wore his hat crooked to one of the most dominant and exciting pitchers in baseball. Known as "King Felix," he became the first Seattle pitcher to throw a perfect game in a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay last August.


His fiery enthusiasm on the mound and his willingness to first sign a long-term deal in 2010 have endeared him to fans in the Pacific Northwest who have gone more than a decade without seeing postseason baseball.


Hernandez, who will turn 27 on April 8, is 98-76 with a 3.22 ERA in eight seasons with the Mariners. He won a career-high 19 games in 2009 when he finished second in the Cy Young voting then won the award a year later when he went just 13-12 but had a 2.27 ERA and 232 strikeouts.


Hernandez appeared to be making another Cy Young push last year before going 0-4 in his last six starts, which left him at 13-9 with 223 strikeouts.


His career record would be even better if he didn't play with one of baseball's worst offenses. Seattle had the lowest batting average in the major leagues in each of the last three seasons. Hernandez has taken 10 losses during that span when he's given up two earned runs or less.


For his career, Hernandez has allowed two earned runs or less in 141 of 238 starts, but the team is only 99-42 in those games due to the offensive problems.


Locking up Hernandez long-term won't solve all of the problems that have left Seattle looking up at Texas, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angles in the AL West for most of the last 10 years. The Mariners have tried to address some of those issues this offseason by trading for Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse to provide more punch to go along with young prospects Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero, who have all shown flashes early in their careers.


But should the deal be finalized, the Mariners at least have the security of knowing who'll be at the top of their rotation for most of this decade.


___


AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.


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Armstrong sued for $12 million bonus


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Dallas promotions company sued Lance Armstrong on Thursday, demanding he repay $12 million in bonuses and fees it paid him for winning the Tour de France.


SCA Promotions had tried in a 2005 legal dispute to prove Armstrong cheated to win before it ultimately settled and paid him.


Armstrong recently acknowledged using performance-enhancing drugs, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2012 detailed a sophisticated doping program by his Armstrong's teams. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories and given a lifetime ban from sports.


Now, the company contends in its lawsuit, Armstrong and agent Bill Stapleton conspired to cheat SCA out of millions. The lawsuit notes that Armstrong repeatedly testified under oath in the 2005 dispute that he did not use steroids, other drugs or blood doping methods to win, all of which he now admits to doing.


"It is time now for Mr. Armstrong to face the consequences of his actions," the lawsuit said. "He admits he doped; he admits he bullied people; he admits he lied."


The lawsuit names Armstrong, Stapleton and Tailwind Sports, Inc., the team's management entity, as defendants.


Tim Herman, an attorney for Armstrong and Stapleton, did not immediately return telephone messages. Herman has previously noted that SCA previously settled its case with Armstrong and said it should not be allowed to reopen the matter.


SCA's lawsuit counters that the case was settled only after Armstrong's lies under oath prevented it from proving he doped.


The lawsuit seeks to recover $9.5 million in bonus money and another $2.5 million paid to Armstrong for other costs and fees.


Separately, USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said Wednesday the agency has been in contact with him Armstrong and is giving him more time to decide if he wants to cooperate with its investigators and tell more about what he knows of doping in cycling.


USADA extended its original Wednesday deadline to Feb. 20 to work out an interview with investigators under oath.


Just two weeks ago, Herman had strongly suggested Armstrong would not be interested in talking with USADA investigators. Tygart said it was Armstrong who asked for more time.


"We understand that he does want to be part of the solution and assist in the effort to clean up the sport of cycling," Tygart said in a statement. "We have agreed to his request for an additional two weeks to work on details to hopefully allow for this to happen."


The agency has said cooperating in its cleanup effort is the only path open to Armstrong if his lifetime ban from sports is to be reduced.


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Braun says he used Fla clinic owner as consultant


NEW YORK (AP) — Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun said the person who ran the Florida clinic being investigated by Major League Baseball was used only as a consultant on his drug suspension appeal last year.


"I have nothing to hide," Braun said in a statement released by his representatives on Tuesday night.


Earlier in the day, Yahoo Sports reported the 2011 NL MVP's name showed up three times in records of the Biogenesis of America LLC clinic. Yahoo said no specific performance-enhancing drugs were listed next to his name.


The Miami New Times recently released clinic documents that purportedly linked Alex Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera and other players to purchases of banned drugs from the now-closed anti-aging center.


Rodriguez and Cabrera were on the list with Braun that also included New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and Baltimore Orioles infielder Danny Valencia.


Braun said his name was in the Biogenesis records because of an issue over payment to Anthony Bosch, who ran the clinic near Miami.


"There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch's work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under 'moneys owed' and not on any other list," Braun said.


"I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch," he said. "I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter."


On Tuesday, MLB officials asked the Miami New Times for the records the alternative newspaper obtained for its story.


Asked specifically about Braun's name in the documents before the five-time All-Star released his statement, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said: "Aware of report and are in the midst of an active investigation in South Florida."


Braun tested positive during the 2011 postseason for elevated testosterone levels. He maintained his innocence and his 50-game suspension was overturned during spring training last year when arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in favor of Braun due to chain of custody issues involving the sample.


With that, Braun became the first major leaguer to have a drug suspension overturned.


"During the course of preparing for my successful appeal last year, my attorneys, who were previously familiar with Tony Bosch, used him as a consultant. More specifically, he answered questions about T/E ratio and possibilities of tampering with samples," Braun said.


The T/E ratio is a comparison of the levels of testosterone to epitestosterone.


Braun led the NL in homers (41), runs (108) and slugging percentage (.595) last season while batting .319 with 112 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. He finished second to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey in MVP balloting."


Cervelli, who spent nearly all of last season in Triple-A, posted a statement on Twitter later Tuesday night.


"Following my foot injury in March 2011, I consulted with a number of experts, including BioGenesis Clinic, for (cont)," Cervelli posted, "(cont)legal ways to aid my rehab and recovery. I purchased supplements that I am certain were not prohibited by Major League Baseball."


An email sent to Valencia's agent was not returned.


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Lindsey Vonn tears knee ligaments, out for season


SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) — Lindsey Vonn will miss the rest of the ski season after tearing knee ligaments and breaking a bone in her leg in a high-speed crash Tuesday at the world championships. The U.S. team expects her to return for the next World Cup season and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.


Vonn lost balance on her right leg while landing a jump in the super-G. She flipped in the air, landed on her back and smashed through a gate before coming to a halt.


The four-time overall World Cup winner and 2010 Olympic downhill champion received medical treatment on the slope for 12 minutes before being taken by helicopter to a hospital in Schladming.


The 28-year-old star tore her anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee. U.S. team medical director Kyle Wilkens said in a statement. The broken bone in her lower leg was described as a "lateral tibial plateau fracture."


Christian Kaulfersch, the assistant medical director at the worlds, said Vonn left the Schladming hospital Tuesday afternoon and will have surgery at another hospital.


"She first wanted to go back to the team hotel to mentally deal with all what has happened," Kaulfersch said.


Team physician William Sterett was with Vonn but declined to offer any more information when contacted by The Associated Press.


This is the sixth straight major championship in which Vonn has been hit with injuries. The crash in the opening event of the championships came almost exactly a year before the Olympics.


"She will be out for the remainder of this season but is expected to return to racing for the 2013-14 ... World Cup season and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi," the team said.


Vonn returned to the circuit last month after an almost monthlong break from racing to fully recover from an intestinal illness that put her in a hospital for two days in November.


The start of Tuesday's race was delayed by 3½ hours because of fog hanging over the course and the skiers began in waning light at 2:30 p.m. Even before Vonn's crash, a course worker fell and also had to be airlifted. He was reported to have broken his nose.


All the delays made for flat light when Vonn raced.


"Lindsey did a great job on top and Lindsey has won a lot of races in flat light so the flat light was definitely not a problem," U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml told the AP.


"We are upset obviously with what happened, but if you don't know the facts and why they decided to start and what the weather forecast was it's hard to say without any reasoning," Riml said. "And they probably had a reason, otherwise they wouldn't have started."


It was difficult to pinpoint when Vonn lost control as she came off a left turn into the jump.


"She jumped a little bit in the wrong direction and started to correct that a little bit in the air and put a lot of pressure on the outside ski exactly in the landing and she couldn't hold the pressure and then (she crashed)," International Ski Federation women's race director Atle Skaardal said.


Skaardal defended the decision to race.


"I can confirm that the visibility was great, there were no problems, and the course was also in good shape," he said. "I don't see that any outside factors played a role in this accident. ... The other factors were like they were supposed to be for ski racing."


Two years ago, Vonn pulled out midway through the last worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, because of a mild concussion. At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Vonn skied despite a severely bruised shin to win the downhill and take bronze in the super-G.


At the 2009 worlds in Val d'Isere, France, she sliced her thumb open on a champagne bottle after sweeping gold in the downhill and super-G, forcing her out of the giant slalom. At the 2007 worlds in Are, Sweden, Vonn injured her knee in training and missed her final two events.


And at the 2006 Turin Olympics, she had a horrific crash in downhill training and went directly from her hospital room to the mountain to compete in four of her five events.


Having regained her form in recent weeks, Vonn trailed eventual race winner Tina Maze of Slovenia by just 0.12 seconds at an intermediate interval shortly before Tuesday's crash.


The conditions varied from racer to racer.


Former overall winner Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany started immediately after Vonn and skied off course.


"It's not a very difficult course but in some parts you couldn't see anything," said Fabienne Suter of Switzerland, who finished fifth.


However, Vonn teammate Julia Mancuso thrived in the difficult conditions and won the bronze medal.


"It's the same for everybody," U.S. speed coach Chip White said. "Everyone had to wait for a long time and that's always difficult. And the holds were every 15 minutes so it really doesn't give you a chance to go and do something else. You're always kind of on edge at the ready. It's a difficult situation but everybody had the same difficult situation."


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Goodell: New Orleans 'terrific,' despite blackout


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says New Orleans was a "terrific" Super Bowl host and that the Superdome power outage that delayed the game for 34 minutes will have no effect on the city's future bids to host the league's championship.


Goodell says, "The most important thing is to make sure people understand it was a fantastic week," and that it "will be remembered as one of the great Super Bowl weeks."


New Orleans has now hosted 10 Super Bowls. Officials have said they will bid to host an 11th in 2018 to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the city's founding.


Goodell says the outage is not of great concern going forward because it is "fixable," and the league will look forward to evaluating New Orleans' next Super Bowl bid.


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What comes now for NFL after tumultuous season?


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Super Bowl closes a tumultuous year for the NFL.


Suicides by former NFL players. Thousands of others filing concussion lawsuits. New studies linking football to brain disease. Still no testing for human growth hormone. The specter of other purported performance-enhancing products — deer-antler spray, anyone? — being peddled to players.


A pay-for-pain bounty scandal. A lockout of officials resolved only after a ludicrous game-ending call. Zero minority hires for 15 coach or general manager openings.


And yet the league is as popular as ever.


Advertisers paid nearly $4 million per 30-second television commercial for the right to reach the 100 million or so Americans expected to tune in to Sunday's Super Bowl between the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens and NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. Eleven of the 12 most-watched TV programs during the last 2½ years were NFL postseason games, according to the league.


Uncertain, though, is what the future holds for an NFL still coming to grips with the dangers of a brutal sport that makes it tremendously wealthy.


"The game has changed and keeps changing. ... It is such a violent game, and such a collision game, that careers are going to be kind of like not long at all. Because you take those licks — you've only got so many in your body, and at some point that's going to wear it out," said Ravens running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, who played that position for the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions from 1977-85.


Montgomery said he got six concussions in one season alone, and others along the way, including one that knocked him out cold a few days before playing for the Eagles in the NFC title game at the end of the 1980 season.


"I know one thing: Back then, it didn't make any difference. They gave you smelling salts and then, after that, you went back in," Montgomery said. "I have headaches all the time. That's why I say my wife is always messing with me when I have outbursts, saying, 'You've been hit too many times upside the head.'"


Montgomery laughed for a moment. Then he rubbed his forehead and continued talking, mentioning former teammate and friend Andre Waters and opponent Dave Duerson. Both committed suicide; researchers studied their brain tissue and found signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative disease also found in boxers and often linked with repeated blows to the head. Former star linebacker Junior Seau, who shot himself in May, also was found to have CTE. Baltimore's starting center on Sunday, Matt Birk, has pledged to donate his brain for study when he dies.


"It's a serious thing," Montgomery said. "It's scary."


When the President of the United States refers to fans perhaps having a guilty conscience when watching a game and parents thinking twice before allowing a child to play — as Barack Obama did in a recent interview with The New Republic — it sends a strong signal about what confronts the NFL today.


"If I was worried about my health," 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said, "I wouldn't be playing football."


So the league must figure out how to deal with "walking a fine line," as 49ers CEO Jed York described it: The two-sided task of making the game safer, which Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledges is imperative, while not making it "too safe," thereby diminishing the popularity of an enterprise that is violent by its very nature.


"There's no question that that is a bit of a conundrum. But to me, we've got to place more weight on player safety," New York Giants co-owner John Mara said. "The rules changes that we've implemented over the past five or six years have not made the game any less exciting. If anything, the game is as exciting as ever, and I strongly believe that we can make additional improvements in the rules and we're not going to lose anything in terms of excitement on the field."


Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is convinced the NFL will strike the proper balance.


"What did they do for boxing when they made them go from 6-ounce, to 8-ounce to 12-ounce gloves or whatever? Did it change boxing? Not really," Bisciotti said. "I believe that with every change, there will be a correction. ... And I believe that we as a league and the (players' union) will agree on things that don't take football out of football."


In a series of moves that began shortly after Goodell was grilled at a congressional hearing, the league has changed concussion return-to-play guidelines, adjusted rules for kickoffs — and floated the idea of eliminating them altogether — stepped up punishment of illegal hits, and stopped arguing against the players' wish for independent neurology specialists on the sidelines during games.


Even if there are some players who in one breath worry about whether their health is imperiled, and in the next say, "We're basically going to be playing two-hand touch in a while" — Baltimore nose tackle Terrence Cody's words this week — the head of their union points out that prudence and popularity do not have to be mutually exclusive.


"The reality of it is, 'football as we know it' has evolved over decades. ... Our job is to have an unqualified commitment to the health and safety of the people who play the game, and then to make those changes where we see necessary," NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said.


"I don't think there is this thing of 'football as we know it.' What we have is football that has constantly developed," Smith said. "And even with all of the (recent) rule changes ... my guess is this Super Bowl will be the highest-rated of all time."


Indeed, while the concussion lawsuits mount — a U.S. District Court judge in Philadelphia will hear oral arguments in April on the NFL's effort to dismiss a group of cases — and questions arise about what insurers will charge the league moving forward, the money does keep rolling in. Revenues already topped $9 billion at the time of the last labor deal in 2011, and new TV contracts will only help increase it.


"At $10-to-$12 billion? It ain't going nowhere," said Warren Sapp, a retired defensive tackle elected Saturday to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and who now works for the NFL Network, another piece of the league's marketing machine. "We play a beautiful game. We hit each other. (Players) have to take care of each other better. Then it will be fine."


Meantime, the NFL continues to look for new ways to increase its cash flow.


During his state of the league address two days before the Super Bowl, Goodell did not rule out increasing the regular season from 16 to 18 games, and he reiterated the possibility of expanding the postseason, too. He announced that two 2013 games in London already are sold out, and there could be three in future seasons — down a path that, eventually, could lead to a franchise based in Britain.


"For you to be adding games to the season, are you looking out for player safety? Or are you trying to generate more player revenue?" 49ers receiver Randy Moss said. "If you're trying to look and protect the players, and keep it healthier and better every year, I don't think it's a good idea."


Several players in this year's Super Bowl were incredulous that the league would even consider more games. A handful voiced concern over a disconnect between players and owners.


The president of the NFLPA, former Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, said he wonders how truthful Goodell and other NFL officials are being when they say — as they often do — that players' well-being is a priority.


"The league, their No. 1 focus — at least they say their No. 1 focus — is health and safety. And we say our No. 1 focus is health and safety. How come we have such a hard time moving the ball on some health and safety issues?" Foxworth said. "I believe health and safety is on their list of top five things, but it comes in well behind increasing the bottom line."


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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich


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Why is Beckham sitting on the bench for nothing?


PARIS (AP) — David Beckham has won league championships in three countries on two continents, earns millions of dollars in endorsements and his name is practically synonymous with celebrity itself. He has his own cologne, for goodness sake. So why is he even bothering to sit on the bench for the Paris Saint-Germain football club?


His royal highness of football doesn't need the money — and he's said he'll donate his PSG salary to charity — but he does need to start thinking about life after the game. At 37, Beckham is practically a dinosaur for the sport, and he acknowledged in his welcoming press conference on Thursday that he probably won't be in the team's starting lineup.


Instead, Beckham may be beginning to put in place a plan for life after the final whistle. Ellis Cashmore, a sociologist who writes about sports and media culture at Staffordshire University, said that prolonged exposure is always useful to celebrities building empires. In that way, the deal with PSG does double work: It keeps his name in lights for longer and also garners extra attention for the charitable contribution.


"When he does stop playing, which is going to be quite soon, his overall brand appeal will inevitably decline because we will inevitably forget about this guy," he said. "I think he's probably thinking, I want to stay in the shop window for a bit longer."


But Cashmore also cautioned against being too cynical in assessing Beckham's motives: "The guy is an athlete. He wants to do what he loves to do."


Bruno Satin, an independent players' agent who was with IMG for a decade, also said that the move to PSG — even if it's to sit on the bench — is a step up for Beckham.


"For him, to be on the PSG team, it's a higher level than being on the Los Angeles Galaxy," he said. "For the world of football, for real football, the Los Angeles Galaxy is nothing on the map of football."


Some wondered if Beckham was trying to avoid the notoriously sticky fingers of the French state with his plans to donate his salary.


But Sandra Hodzic, a tax lawyer with Salans, said the deduction an individual can take on such contributions is limited. Instead, it would be smarter for PSG to directly donate the salary — and take a big tax break in the process.


Doing so would have an added benefit for the club: UEFA, the governing body for European football, mandates that clubs break even. The donation could allow PSG to essentially write off Beckham's entire salary — a huge help for a team notorious for mega-contracts.


Beckham, meanwhile, would be better off trying to avoid becoming a French tax resident at all. So far, Hodzic said, he is making all the right moves: His family is staying in London, he plans to live only part-time in the country for less than six months, and his primary source of income —whether or not he donates his salary — isn't being earned in France.


Beckham's agent did not return calls for comment on specifics of the contract.


Still, the charitable contribution has raised the question about what Beckham is getting out of the deal. For one, he likely is still getting a cut of rights to his image. Jerseys with his name on them were already selling out at the PSG store on the Champs-Elysees on Friday.


Cashmore, who wrote a book called "Beckham," calls him a "marketing phenomenon" and estimates that about 70 percent of Beckham's income comes from endorsement deals — with Adidas, for instance. That makes salary almost irrelevant — especially for a man estimated by the Sunday Times Rich List to be worth 160 million pounds ($253 million).


But the football feeds the endorsements, Cashmore says.


"It makes an awful lot of business sense to perpetuate, to prolong his active competitive football career," he said, especially with a team that's doing fairly well this year. "It makes an awful lot of sense for him to showcase himself because it will generate more income from his various other sponsorship and licensing activities."


But certainly this move, as any at this late-stage in his playing career, is being made with an eye on what will come next. Cashmore said that when Beckham signed with the L.A. Galaxy, there was an understanding that he would eventually become an ambassador for American soccer. That plan clearly fell by the wayside — perhaps because Major League Soccer decided it was just too expensive to keep on the star after his presence on American soil failed to generate more interest in the game.


It's possible, Cashmore said, that Beckham is looking for a similar deal after his stint at PSG, which is Qatari-owned. The tiny, wealthy nation is hosting the World Cup in 2022, and Beckham's contract with PSG will establish a relationship with it; from there, a role as, say, an ambassador for the tournament would seem more natural.


"For his after-career conversion, it's important to have links with major actors in the world of sports," said Satin. And Qatar is certainly one. It has poured money into PSG, drawing major names like striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It also funds the satellite network Al Jazeera, which could provide Beckham with a platform. And then there's the World Cup.


In the end, though, Satin said the clue to Beckham's thinking may be as simple as the eternal draw of Paris.


"PSG has become a glamorous club, a pretty nice club in a beautiful city," said Bruno Satin, an agent. "It's just two hours on the Eurostar (train) from London."


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AP Sports Writer Rob Harris contributed to this report from London.


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NFL's Goodell: Proper tackling, HGH key issues


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league needs to make football safer by doing more to eliminate blows to the head and knees and by suspending players for illegal hits.


During his annual news conference two days before the Super Bowl, Goodell also said Friday he wants a "new generation" of the Rooney Rule because "we didn't have the outcomes we wanted" when none of 15 recent coach and general manager jobs were given to a minority candidate.


Goodell hopes and expects testing for human growth hormone to start next season, even though the league and the players' union are still at an impasse after 18 months of back-and-forth.


He vowed to be "relentless" about keeping pay-for-pain bounties out of the game.


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49ers' Culliver apologizes for anti-gay remarks


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver apologized Thursday for anti-gay comments he made to a comedian during Super Bowl media day, saying "that's not what I feel in my heart."


"I'm sorry if I offended anyone. They were very ugly comments," Culliver said during an hour-long media session. "Hopefully I learn and grow from this experience and this situation."


He said he would welcome a gay teammate to the 49ers, a reversal of his remarks to Artie Lange two days earlier during an interview at the Superdome.


"I treat everyone equal," Culliver said. "That's not how I feel."


He added that he realized his comments were especially offensive to many people in San Francisco and the Bay Area, which is home to a large gay community.


"I love San Francisco," Culliver said.


During the interview with Lange, Culliver responded to questions by saying he wouldn't welcome a gay player in the locker room. He also said the 49ers didn't have any gay players, and if they did those players should leave.


San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh met privately with Culliver to discuss the remarks.


"I reject what he said," Harbaugh said. "That's not something that reflects the way the organization feels, the way the rest of the players feel."


The coach would not discuss if Culliver would face discipline from the team, such as a fine or loss of playing time.


"He pledged to grow from it," Harbaugh said.


The interview began with Lange asking Culliver about his sexual plans with women during Super Bowl week. Lange followed up with a question about whether Culliver would consider pursuing a gay man.


"I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that," Culliver said during the one-minute taped interview. "Ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff."


Lange asked Culliver to reiterate his thoughts, to which the player said, "It's true." He added he wouldn't welcome a gay teammate — no matter how talented.


"Nah. Can't be ... in the locker room, nah," he said. "You've gotta come out 10 years later after that."


The 24-year-old Culliver, a third-round draft pick in 2011 out of South Carolina, made 47 tackles with two interceptions and a forced fumble this season while starting six games for the NFC champion Niners (13-4-1).


He had his first career postseason interception in San Francisco's 28-24 win at Atlanta for the NFC title, which sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. They will face the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.


The 49ers participate in the NFL's "It Gets Better" anti-bullying campaign. Three organizations working for LGBT inclusion in sports — Athlete Ally, You Can Play, and GLAAD — reacted to Culliver's remarks and later acknowledged his apology.


"Chris Culliver's comments were disrespectful, discriminatory and dangerous, particularly for the young people who look up to him," said Athlete Ally Executive Director Hudson Taylor. "His words underscore the importance of the athlete ally movement and the key role that professional athletes play in shaping an athletic climate that affirms and includes gay and lesbian players."


Calling Lange's questions "real disrespectful," Culliver said he realized he was speaking to a comedian and not a journalist.


"That was pretty much in a joking manner," the player said. "It's nothing about how I feel."


Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who made headlines this season with his vocal support of a gay-marriage initiative in Maryland, said Culliver's comments to Lange were reflective of how many players in the NFL feel, even if they don't express it publicly. He hopes the 49ers cornerback will learn from this experience and become a positive role model in the quest for equality.


"You can't fight hate with hate," Ayanbadejo said. "You've got to fight hate with love."


Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard said Culliver should be allowed to express his views, even if some people found them offensive.


"The guy's entitled to his own opinion," said Pollard, who has acknowledged that he disagrees with Ayanbadejo's stand on gay marriage. "I'm not going to sit here and knock him. I'm not going to sit here and judge him. It's freedom of speech. If you don't like it, don't listen to it."


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Lewis says he's 'agitated,' not angry about story


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Smiling, even laughing, at questions about a report linking him to a company that purports to make performance-enhancers, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said Wednesday he "never, ever took" the stuff.


Lewis described himself as "agitated," not angry, that the story has become part of the Super Bowl-week prelude to Baltimore's game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.


He added that he's certain his teammates won't be distracted by the report in Sports Illustrated. The magazine said Lewis sought help from a company that says its deer-antler spray and pills contain a banned product connected to human growth hormone. The 37-year-old Lewis is the leading tackler in the NFL postseason after returning from a torn right triceps that sidelined him for 10 games.


In a private conversation with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, and later in the public setting of a news conference, Lewis distanced himself from Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (SWATS). SI reported that company owner Mitch Ross recorded a call with Lewis hours after the player hurt his arm in an October game against Dallas. According to the report, Lewis asked Ross to send him deer-antler spray and pills, along with other items made by the company.


"It's so funny of a story because I never, ever took what he says or whatever I was supposed to do. And it's just sad once again that someone can have this much attention on a stage this big, where the dreams are really real," Lewis said Wednesday, wearing his white No. 52 Ravens jersey, gray sweatpants and a black hat with the team's purple logo. "I don't need it. My teammates don't need it. The 49ers don't need it. Nobody needs it."


The magazine reported that when it spoke to Lewis for its story, he acknowledged asking Ross for "some more of the regular stuff" on the night of the injury and that he has been associated with the company "for a couple years."


Lewis' stance Wednesday was different.


"He told me there's nothing to it. ... He's told us in the past, he's told us now, that he's never taken any of that stuff, ever. And I believe Ray. I trust Ray completely. We have a relationship. I know this man. And I know what he's all about," Harbaugh said. "It's just too bad it has to be something that gets so much play."


Harbaugh didn't think his players would be bothered a bit by the subject this week, dismissively waving his left hand while saying: "As a football team, it's not even a factor for us."


Known for his frequent references to God and faith, 2001 Super Bowl MVP Lewis called the whole episode a "joke" and a "trick of the devil," adding that he told teammates: "Don't let people from the outside ever come and try to disturb what's inside."


Faced with a handful of questions about SWATS, and on-field topics, Lewis never had to deal with a single reference to a dark chapter in his life: He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with a double murder after a Super Bowl party at an Atlanta nightclub in 2000.


"We all in here have a past. You know? But how many people actually dwell into it? You know? Nah, it ain't about your past. It's about your future," Lewis said in response to a question about the Ravens keeping focused on Sunday's game.


"And for me and my teammates, I promise you, we have a strong group of men that we don't bend too much," he said, raising a clenched right fist, "and we keep pushing forward. So it's not a distraction at all for us."


Asked about deer-antler spray, San Francisco's tight end Vernon Davis' take was, "I don't think Ray would take any substance."


Carlos Rogers, a 49ers cornerback, chuckled when asked about it and what effect the headlines could have on the Ravens.


"I don't think they'll get a distraction. I don't know what to make of that. I heard it was something that can't be detected. They can't test (for) it, anyway," Rogers said. "Him saying that he's never failed a test, he probably hasn't failed a test for what they test for."


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Glance: 5 teasers to watch before the Super Bowl


At least 15 advertisers are expected to launch teasers for their ads running during Super Bowl XLVII. The goal is to create interest for ads without spilling the beans on the Game Day spot. Here are 5 teaser ads to seek out online before the game on Sunday:


1. Mercedes-Benz: In a spot that has gotten 5.4 million views on Youtube.com, supermodel Kate Upton wears a low-cut tank top as she oversees football players washing her car.


On the Web: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPq7jVGPs3g


2. Volkswagen: Volkswagen's teaser spot shows people who have starred in videos online previously erupting in temper tantrums on a sunny hilltop to sing "Get Happy" with reggae singer Jimmy Cliff


On the Web: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfCm9P8naDQ


3. Gildan Activewear: First-time Super Bowl advertiser Gildan Activewear teases a spot that shows a man waking up dazed in a bedroom with furry handcuffs around his wrist.


On the Web: http://www.youtube.com/user/GildanTV?v=_KIKjcMTKPk


4. Kraft's Mio: "30 Rock" star Tracy Jordan appears to say a bleeped out profanity in a teaser to introduce Mio's sports drink drops, Mio Fit.


On the Web: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eenSfU7YYnY


5. Toyota: "Big Bang Theory" star Kaley Cuoco grants wishes to a peppy song in the teaser for Toyota's spot.


On the Web: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKnuMIIEtoo


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Who are these guys at QB in Super Bowl?


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tom Brady is not playing in the Super Bowl. Neither is Ben Roethlisberger or either of the Mannings.


This Super Bowl has a pair of fresh faces in Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco, one of whom will leave New Orleans as the latest and greatest at football's glamour position.


For each, this is new territory.


Flacco, the only quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five NFL seasons, will lead the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens into Sunday's matchup with second-year QB Kaepernick and the NFC winners, the San Francisco 49ers. Not exactly a superstar matchup — yet.


It's the first time in a decade that neither Brady, Roethlisberger, Eli Manning or Peyton Manning has gotten to the Super Bowl.


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Djokovic completes Australian Open hat trick


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — No shirt ripping or bare-chested flexing this time.


Novak Djokovic completed his work before midnight, defeating Andy Murray in four sets for his third consecutive Australian Open title and fourth overall.


It was also the second time in three years Djokovic had beaten his longtime friend in this final. So the celebration was muted: a small victory shuffle, raised arms, a kiss for the trophy. No grand histrionics, although that's not to say the moment was lost on him.


"Winning it three in a row, it's incredible," Djokovic said after his 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 victory Sunday night. "It's very thrilling. I'm full of joy right now. It's going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, that's for sure."


Nine other men had won consecutive Australian titles in the Open era, but none three straight years. One of them was Andre Agassi, who presented Djokovic with the trophy.


A year ago, Djokovic began his season with an epic 5-hour, 53-minute five-set win over Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, the longest Grand Slam final. He tore off his shirt to celebrate, the TV replays repeated constantly at this tournament.


He mimicked that celebration after coming back to beat Stanislas Wawrinka in five hours in a surprisingly tough fourth-round victory this time.


Since then, he's looked every bit the No. 1 player. He said he played "perfectly" in his 89-minute win over fourth-seeded David Ferrer in the semifinals Thursday night. Murray struggled to beat 17-time major winner Roger Federer in five sets in the semifinals Friday night, and still had the bad blisters on his feet to show for it in the final.


In a final that had the makings of a classic when two of the best returners in tennis were unable to get a break of serve in the first two sets that lasted 2:13, the difference may have hinged on something as light as a feather.


Preparing for a second serve at 2-2 in the second set tiebreaker, Murray was rocking back about to toss the ball when he stopped, paused and then walked onto the court and tried to grab a small white feather that was floating in his view. He went back to the baseline, bounced the ball another eight times and served too long.


After being called for a double-fault, Murray knocked the ball away in anger and flung his arm down. He didn't get close for the rest of the tiebreaker and was the first to drop serve in the match — in the eighth game of the third set. Djokovic broke him twice in the fourth set, which by then had turned into an easy march to victory.


"It was strange," said Djokovic, adding that it swung the momentum his way. "It obviously did. ... He made a crucial double-fault."


Murray didn't blame his loss on the one distraction.


"I mean, I could have served. It just caught my eye before I served. I thought it was a good idea to move it," he said. "Maybe it wasn't because I obviously double-faulted.


"You know, at this level it can come down to just a few points here or there. My biggest chance was at the beginning of the second set — didn't quite get it. When Novak had his chance at the end of the third, he got his."


Djokovic had five break-point chances in the opening set, including four after having Murray at 0-40 in the seventh game, but wasn't able to convert any of them.


Then he surrendered the tiebreaker with six unforced errors. Murray appeared to be the stronger of the two at the time. He'd beaten Djokovic in their last Grand Slam encounter, the U.S. Open final, and had the Serb so off balance at times in the first set that he slipped to the court and took skin off his knee.


Murray held serve to open the second set and had three break points at 0-40 in the second game, but Djokovic dug himself out of trouble and held.


"After that I felt just mentally a little bit lighter and more confident on the court than I've done in the first hour or so," Djokovic said. "I was serving better against him today in the first two sets than I've done in any of the match in the last two years."


Djokovic said he loves playing at Rod Laver Arena, where he won his first major title in 2008. He now has six Grand Slam titles altogether. Federer has won four of his 17 majors at Melbourne Park, and Agassi is the only other player to have won that many in Australia since 1968.


Djokovic was just finding his way at the top level when Agassi retired in 2006, but he had watched enough of the eight-time major winner to appreciate his impact.


"He's I think one of the players that changed the game — not just the game itself, but also the way the people see it," Djokovic said. "So it was obviously a big pleasure and honor for me to receive the trophy from him."


Agassi was among the VIPs in the crowd, along with actor Kevin Spacey and Victoria Azarenka, who won the women's final in three sets against Li Na the previous night.


Murray broke the 76-year drought for British men at the majors when he won the U.S. Open last year and said he'll leave Melbourne slightly more upbeat than he has after defeats here in previous years.


"The last few months have been the best tennis of my life. I mean, I made Wimbledon final, won the Olympics, won the U.S. Open. You know, I was close here as well," he said. "No one's ever won a slam (immediately) after winning their first one. It's not the easiest thing to do. And I got extremely close.


"So, you know, I have to try and look at the positives of the last few months, and I think I'm going the right direction."


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Stan Musial remembered during funeral Mass


ST. LOUIS (AP) — Stan Musial was remembered as a Hall of Famer on and off the field during a 2-hour funeral Mass.


Broadcaster Bob Costas, his voice cracking at times, pointed out during Saturday's lengthy tribute that in 92 years of life, Musial never let anyone down.


Among those in attendance were baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, former St. Louis standout Albert Pujols and Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Bruce Sutter and Red Schoendienst.


The 90-year-old Schoendienst once roomed with Musial.


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After beating Federer, Murray reaches Aussie final


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Andy Murray was sucking in deep breaths, trying to recover from his exhausting win over Roger Federer. Pain was very much on his mind.


The U.S. Open champion defeated Federer 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2 in a four-hour Australian Open semifinal Friday night. It was Murray's first victory against the 17-time major winner at a Grand Slam event.


But with the clock about to strike midnight, Murray was already thinking about Sunday's final against two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic, who is on a 20-match winning streak at Melbourne Park. This will be a rematch of their U.S. Open final.


"Every time we play each other it's normally a very physical match," Murray said. "I'll need to be ready for the pain. I hope it's a painful match — that'll mean it's a good one."


Murray had a 10-9 record against Federer, but had lost his three previous Grand Slam matches to the Swiss star. One of those defeats came at Wimbledon last year. Murray says the disappointment of that loss triggered his run to the gold medal at the London Olympics, and then his drought-breaking triumph at the U.S. Open.


"You know, I've obviously lost some tough matches against him in Slams," Murray said. "So to win one, especially the way that it went tonight, yeah, was obviously nice."


Murray ended a 76-year drought for British men at the majors when he beat Djokovic in five sets in the final at Flushing Meadows.


He's hoping the step-by-step manner in which he has crossed career milestones off his to-do list will continue Sunday. He lost four major finals, including two in Australia, before winning a Grand Slam title. He lost three times to Federer in a major before beating him. Even then, he wasted a chance to serve out in the fourth set Friday night as Federer rallied.


"Those matches ... have helped obviously mentally," he said. "I think going through a lot of the losses that I've had will have helped me as well. Obviously having won against Novak before in a Slam final will help mentally."


Djokovic will not be the only defending champion this weekend playing for another title. Victoria Azarenka will face China's Li Na on Saturday night for the women's crown.


Azarenka hasn't added a major title since her breakthrough in Australia last year. She's coming off a semifinal victory over American teenager Sloane Stephens in which she had to answer a torrent of questions over her nine-minute medical timeout after wasting five match points and then dropping serve in the next-to-last game.


Li, who is seeded sixth, lost the 2011 Australian final before claiming her first major title months later at the French Open. She made the final with less commotion, beating No. 2 Maria Sharapova in straight sets.


The first title of the 2013 Australian Open, women's doubles, was decided Friday when top-seeded Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci of Italy beat unseeded Australians Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.


That was a prelude to the night match, where 15,000 people packed Rod Laver Arena, including the great Laver himself, to see if Federer could reach a sixth Australian final. The 31-year-old Swiss has won four of his 17 titles at Melbourne Park.


He showed flashes of his customary genius, but also rare bursts of anger. Murray showed his frustration as well. The crowd started to turn on him after he challenged a call in the eighth game of the fourth set, booing each time he complained to the umpire. His unforced error into the net on the next point prompted a huge cheer.


In the 12th game of the fourth set, Federer appeared to yell across the net after Murray stopped momentarily behind the baseline during the rally.


Murray shrugged it off and seemed to dig in. He'd won that point but lost the game and was taken to another tiebreaker, which he lost.


"We were just checking each other out for bit," Federer said. "That wasn't a big deal for me — I hope not for him."


Murray said "stuff like that happens daily in tennis," and added that it was "very, very mild in comparison to what happens in other sports."


When Federer got break point with Murray serving for the match at 6-5, the applause was so prolonged Murray had to wait to serve. And when Federer got the break to force a tiebreaker, the crowd stood and roared as Murray slammed a ball into the court in anger.


The crowd cheered for every Murray error in tiebreaker. One man yelled, "Andy, don't choke."


He didn't.


Rather than wilting under the pressure in the fifth set, Murray hit his stride. He allowed Federer only four points in the first three games of the fifth set, bolting to a 3-0 lead and carrying it through to the end.


"It's big. I never beat Roger in a Slam before. It definitely will help with the confidence," Murray said. "Just knowing you can win against those guys in big matches definitely helps."


Federer could see improvement in Murray's approach in the tough situations.


"With the win at the Olympics and the U.S. Open, maybe there's just a little bit more belief," Federer said. "Or he's a bit more calm overall."


Djokovic already owns three Australian titles and is aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win three in a row. The 25-year-old Serb was nearly flawless in his 89-minute disposal of No. 4-ranked David Ferrer in Thursday night's semifinal, and said he was hoping Murray and Federer would go to five sets.


"Obviously, Novak goes in as the favorite, I would think, even though Andy beat him at the U.S. Open," Federer said. "Novak is the double defending champion here. He's done really well again this tournament. Obviously a tough match again, and give a slight edge to Novak just because of the last couple of days."


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Te'o tells Couric 'pain' and 'sorrow' was real


NEW YORK (AP) — Manti Te'o told Katie Couric the feelings he had for what turned out to be a fake, online girlfriend were real and reiterated he had nothing to do with the hoax.


The All-American linebacker said he was truly sorrowful and pained after finding out the woman he knew as Lennay Kekua died in September.


Te'o's once-heartwarming tale of inspired play after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day in September was exposed as a bizarre hoax on Jan. 16. Deadspin.com broke the news that the woman Te'o had claimed to be in love with did not exist.


Te'o, who led Notre Dame to a spot in the national championship, has admitted that when his girlfriend's "death" became a story, he misled reporters into thinking he had met her in the flesh.


The star player recounted the whole, strange episode in an interview with Couric that was broadcast Thursday.


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Seau's family sues NFL over brain injuries


The family of Junior Seau has sued the NFL, claiming the former linebacker's suicide was the result of brain disease caused by violent hits he sustained while playing football.


The wrongful death lawsuit, filed Wednesday in California Superior Court in San Diego, blames the NFL for its "acts or omissions" that hid the dangers of repetitive blows to the head. It says Seau developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) from those hits, and accuses the NFL of deliberately ignoring and concealing evidence of the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries.


Seau died at age 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot in May. He was diagnosed with CTE, based on posthumous tests, earlier this month.


An Associated Press review in November found that more than 3,800 players have sued the NFL over head injuries in at least 175 cases as the concussion issue has gained attention in recent years. More than 100 of the concussion lawsuits have been brought together before U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia.


"Our attorneys will review it and respond to the claims appropriately through the court," the NFL said in a statement Wednesday.


Helmet manufacturer Riddell Inc., also is being sued by the Seaus, who say Riddell was "negligent in their design, testing, assembly, manufacture, marketing, and engineering of the helmets" used by NFL players. The suit says the helmets were unreasonably dangerous and unsafe.


Seau was one of the best linebackers during his 20 seasons in the NFL. He retired in 2009.


"We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from CTE," the family said in a statement released to the AP. "While Junior always expected to have aches and pains from his playing days, none of us ever fathomed that he would suffer a debilitating brain disease that would cause him to leave us too soon.


"We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations."


Plaintiffs are listed as Gina Seau, Junior's ex-wife; Junior's children Tyler, Sydney, Jake and Hunter, and Bette Hoffman, trustee of Seau's estate.


The lawsuit accuses the league of glorifying the violence in pro football, and creating the impression that delivering big hits "is a badge of courage which does not seriously threaten one's health."


It singles out NFL Films and some of its videos for promoting the brutality of the game.


"In 1993's 'NFL Rocks,' Junior Seau offered his opinion on the measure of a punishing hit: 'If I can feel some dizziness, I know that guy is feeling double (that)," the suit says.


The NFL consistently has denied allegations similar to those in the lawsuit.


"The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and other leading organizations, is committed to supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels," the league told the AP after it was revealed Seau had CTE.


The lawsuit claims money was behind the NFL's actions.


"The NFL knew or suspected that any rule changes that sought to recognize that link (to brain disease) and the health risk to NFL players would impose an economic cost that would significantly and adversely change the profit margins enjoyed by the NFL and its teams," the Seaus said in the suit.


The National Institutes of Health, based in Bethesda, Md., studied three unidentified brains, one of which was Seau's, and said the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people "with exposure to repetitive head injuries."


"It was important to us to get to the bottom of this, the truth," Gina Seau told the AP then. "And now that it has been conclusively determined from every expert that he had obviously had CTE, we just hope it is taken more seriously. You can't deny it exists, and it is hard to deny there is a link between head trauma and CTE. There's such strong evidence correlating head trauma and collisions and CTE."


In the final years of his life, Seau went through wild behavior swings, according to Gina and to 23-year-old son, Tyler. There also were signs of irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression.


"He emotionally detached himself and would kind of 'go away' for a little bit," Tyler Seau said. "And then the depression and things like that. It started to progressively get worse."


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NFL lifts suspension of Saints coach Sean Payton


NEW YORK (AP) — Sean Payton is back as coach of the New Orleans Saints.


Payton's season-long suspension for his role in the Saints' bounty program was lifted by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday, nearly two weeks earlier than expected.


The decision allows Payton to attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Saturday, where some of the top college players available for the NFL draft will be competing.


Payton, along with assistant head coach Joe Vitt, general manager Mickey Loomis, and four players including Jonathan Vilma, was suspended after an investigation found the club had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits. The player suspensions eventually were overturned.


"I clearly recognize that mistakes were made, which led to league violations," Payton said in a statement. "Furthermore, I have assured the commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed."


The suspension was scheduled to end after the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, but was moved up after Payton and Goodell met on Monday.


"Coach Payton acknowledged in the meeting his responsibility for the actions of his coaching staff and players and pledged to uphold the highest standards of the NFL and ensure that his staff and players do so as well," Goodell said in a statement. "'Sean fully complied with all the requirements imposed on him during his suspension.


"More important, it is clear that Sean understands and accepts his responsibilities as a head coach and the vital role that coaches play in promoting player safety and setting an example for how the game should be played at all levels."


Saints owner Tom Benson welcomed back his coach.


"We are all thankful that Sean Payton has been reinstated," Benson said. "We have a lot of work to do and we are in the middle of it right now."


Payton also needs to fill a key position on his coaching staff following the departure last week of offensive line coach and running game coordinator Aaron Kromer, now the offensive coordinator in Chicago.


Loomis and Vitt are in Mobile evaluating players. Loomis said he was caught off guard by the news of Payton's return. But he said having Payton back sooner than expected will help the Saints.


"Every day makes a difference. We've certainly missed Sean in terms of the football team and all the things that go with our business and the game. But look, I miss his friendship. We all miss his friendship. We miss him as a person. I'm excited that he's going to be back here and fired up that he's back."


Vitt said he talked to Payton Tuesday morning and that he should join the Saints' contingent in Alabama on Wednesday.


"We just found out on the way to practice," Vitt said. "Mr. B called Mickey and we're all excited. Sean went and spent the day in New York (Monday). He just got back in Dallas. I talked to him on the phone about 5 o'clock this morning. He's packing his bags so we'll expect he'll be here some time" Wednesday.


Vitt agreed with Loomis that the timing of Payton's return is good for the team.


Payton is "going to hit the ground running with both feet. His jaw is going to be set. He'll have a note pad full of thoughts and ideas and he's going to have to get himself caught up with the evaluation process of our team and looking at film, which he'll do. This is perfect, getting him back now, because he's going to be here for the readings of our players. He's going to be here for the readings of these college seniors. We start handing out unrestricted free agent tape on Thursday and Friday of this week.


"This is where you're building the foundation of your football team, with the evaluation process of these draft eligible juniors and seniors and the free agents that are out there."


There remains one outstanding issue for the Saints stemming from the bounty probe: What will become of the Saints' second pick next spring. As part of the bounty punishment, Goodell fined the Saints $500,000 and took away second-round picks in 2012 and 2013. However, Goodell left open the possibility of restoring the 2013 second-rounder and instead docking the team a later-round pick if he is satisfied with the club's level of cooperation in the bounty matter.


What the Saints do know is that the 49-year-old Payton is set to return to New Orleans for the next five seasons. Earlier this month he signed a contract extension running through the 2017 season.


The coach is the last person punished in the bounty probe to return to work. Before Tuesday, Payton had not been at work since mid-April, when Goodell rejected the coach's appeal of his suspension.


Loomis was suspended for eight games, Vitt for six and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams remains suspended indefinitely


Vilma and current Saints defensive lineman Will Smith, along with former Saints Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove, were given suspensions of various lengths, but never served a game. Their punishments were overturned after lengthy appeals which also coincided with exhaustive litigation in federal court.


The litigation included Vilma's defamation lawsuit against Goodell, which was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan last week.


Payton's reinstatement is one more step for the Saints to return to normalcy, but for Vitt, said it doesn't bring closure to the bounty scandal.


"It doesn't for me. You're going to have ask Sean that question, Mickey that question, Vilma that question. It certainly doesn't for me. I can forgive. I'm not going to forget. It is what it is."


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