December 20, 2012

Associated Press

 

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has been fined $10,000 by the NFL for wearing Adidas at his postgame news conference December 16.

The NFL on Wednesday confirmed the fine for “unauthorized apparel.”

Griffin was inactive for the game because of a sprained knee, and he wore an Adidas T-shirt and sweat jacket when he addressed reporters afterward. Griffin has a sponsorship deal with Adidas, but the league has a deal with Nike.

It’s the second time this season Griffin has been rebuked for his attire, but it’s his first time he’s been fined. He covered up the Nike swoosh on his official team warm-up shirt before the regular opener against the New Orleans Saints.

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December 20, 2012

Associated Press

 

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher apparently was worried he would lose his baby and money to his longtime girlfriend before fatally shooting her and killing himself, according to newly released police reports.

Belcher also complained about Kasandra Perkins, the mother of the couple’s 3-month-old daughter, in conversations and text messages sent to a woman he was dating on the side, the reports show.

In one text message sent in late October or early November, Belcher wrote he “would shoot” Perkins “if she didn’t leave him alone.” The girlfriend told police that Belcher said “his child’s mother threatened to take all his money and his child if they split up” and “knew exactly how to press his buttons and make him angry.”

Belcher shot Perkins multiple times in their home on Dec. 1 and then drove to team headquarters, where he killed himself in front of his coach and general manager after telling them he “wasn’t able to get enough help.”

The Jackson County prosecutor’s office reviewed the police reports, which first were obtained by The Kansas City Star, before closing the case Friday. It formally ruled the deaths of Belcher, 25, and Perkins, 22, a murder-suicide, prosecutor’s office spokesman Mike Mansur said Tuesday.

The reports provide new details about the final days and hours leading to the tragedy.

The night before the killings, Belcher went to a club with the woman he was dating while Perkins attended a concert with her friends, the reports said. A friend of Perkins has told The Star that the couple argued around 1 a.m., about Perkins being out late, although it wasn’t clear whether the argument happened in person or on the phone. The police report, which doesn’t mention this dispute, said that after Belcher kissed his girlfriend and she went inside her apartment, he fell asleep in his car.

About two hours later, police roused Belcher after someone called 911 to report his idling Bentley as suspicious. The report said Belcher was legally parked and didn’t smell of alcohol, but officers asked if he could stay inside the apartment for the night.

Belcher tried to call the girlfriend, but she didn’t discover the missed calls until the next morning and didn't hear him at her door. Two women who were up late invited Belcher to wait inside their apartment after he explained his plight. They said Belcher “appeared to be intoxicated” but “seemed to be in good spirits, laughing, joking.”

After taking him to a gas station to buy a sports drink, they gave him a pillow and blanket and he slept on the couch for a couple hours, leaving at 6:45 a.m. so he could make it to a team meeting planned for later that morning.

Upon arriving at the home he shared with Perkins, the couple began arguing over “one or both of them going out as in to a club or partying,” said Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd, who had moved in with them about two weeks earlier.

When Shepherd heard multiple gunshots, she ran to the bedroom and saw Belcher kneeling next to Perkins’ body, saying he was sorry. After kissing Perkins, his baby daughter and his mother, Belcher drove to Arrowhead Stadium, breaking off his Bentley’s rear-view mirror on the way, the police report said.

Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli saw Belcher holding a gun to his head and jumped out of his vehicle so he could find out what was happening.

“I’ve done a bad thing to my girlfriend already,” Belcher told Pioli, according to the report, adding that he wanted to talk with Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs.

When Crennel arrived, Belcher said, “You know that I’ve been having some major problems at home and with my girlfriend. I need help! I wasn't able to get enough help. I appreciate everything you all have done for me with trying to help ... but it wasn't enough. I have hurt my girl already and I can’t go back now.”

Belcher asked that Pioli and team owner Clark Hunt take care of his daughter. The Chiefs staff pleaded with Belcher to put down his gun, but he only lowered it to load a round. “You're taking the easy way out!” Crennel told Belcher, according to the report.

As a police officer approached, Belcher knelt behind a vehicle, saying, “Guys, I have to do this. ... I got to go, can’t be here and take care of my daughter.” He made the sign of the cross on his chest and fired a bullet into his head, the report said.

Crennel said Belcher had blamed Perkins for missing a team meeting a few weeks earlier, saying he had to watch the baby after Perkins didn’t come home the night before. Crennel said he thought the couple had “trust issues” and Perkins expected “a better life” with an NFL player.

Crennel said Belcher, whose base salary this season was more than $1.9 million, “didn’t live outside his means.” He said he thought Belcher was talking to an attorney about getting custody of his daughter.

Shepherd, Belcher’s mother, attributed the couple’s relationship problems to “financial issues associated with Perkins’ spending habits.”

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December 20, 2012

By NANCY ARMOUR Associated Press

 

Greg Jennings is not naive and he's not ignoring reality, either.

The veteran wide receiver is in the final year of his contract, and has yet to hear from the Green Bay Packers about an extension. Common sense - and Green Bay history - would suggest that means he'll be playing somewhere else next season, a notion Jennings doesn't dispute.

But even with the Packers playing their final home game of the regular season Sunday, Jennings isn't ready to say goodbye just yet.

''It's a sensitive subject, a sensitive topic to talk about,'' he said Wednesday. ''The reality is, we're going to have to cross that bridge at some point. But right now, we don't have to. We're playing Tennessee and I'm part of that game.''

Drafted by the Packers out of Western Michigan in 2006, Jennings wasted little time establishing himself as one of the NFL's top receivers. He caught a career-high 12 touchdown passes his second year, and his average of 17.4 yards per catch ranked fourth in the NFL. He went over the 1,000-yard mark in 2008, 2009 and 2010, when he led the NFC with 12 TD catches.

Even with missing the last three regular-season games last year, he ranked a close second to Jordy Nelson in all receiving categories, finishing with 949 yards and nine touchdowns on 67 catches.

But with James Jones under contract through 2013, Nelson signed through 2014 and Randall Cobb emerging as a big-play threat pretty much anywhere the Packers want to put him, Jennings has become somewhat expendable. This season has been a stark reminder of that, with Jones, Cobb and Nelson keeping the offense afloat while Jennings was out for eight games with a torn muscle in his lower abdomen.

Jones leads the NFL with 12 touchdowns, while Cobb has a chance to become the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards in kick returns. Nelson has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but he has six TDs and his 14.3 yards per catch average is the best of Green Bay's receivers.

''If these guys were jerks it would be different. But we're all so close,'' Jennings said. ''I love that they're having success. They were applauding me when I was having my success, so it's a two-way street.''

Jennings would like nothing more than to stay in Green Bay, and he can count Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy as two of his biggest fans. He's also a fan favorite, his No. 85 jersey among the must-haves in any Cheesehead's wardrobe.

But Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson has never been one for sentimentality, doing whatever is necessary to keep the Packers among the NFL's elite. Just look at the team's bitter divorce with Brett Favre.

''It's tough. Because you put everything into it. And at the end of the day, the only thing an organization really owes you is a paycheck. That's it. That is absolutely it,'' Jennings said. ''When you get raw and uncut about it, the only thing they really owe you is a paycheck. And they can stop that if they want to.''

The Packers could always use the franchise tag on Jennings, an option that doesn't have much appeal for the receiver. As much as he'd like to stay with his original team, he and his wife have four young children and their stability is his priority.

''You want your job to have some sense of sustainability, some foundation where you can just sit your family and know you'll be somewhere for a certain amount of time,'' Jennings said. ''Franchise tags give you one year. So it's like, 'OK, we've got one year.' Who knows? I'll be in the same position talking about the contract situation all over again. It's just not clear. It's not in the best interest of the player to be in that position.''

The timing of Jennings' injury makes matters even more complicated. If he'd had a typical year, there would be no shortage of teams interested in him. But he has only 201 yards receiving and one touchdown on 21 catches.

Since his return, however, Jennings has averaged double digits per catch, his best numbers of the year.

''I've made plays in the past. My resume isn't the thinnest,'' Jennings said. ''It's pretty filled up with plays that I've made over my career. But is there room for improvement? Absolutely. Do I feel like I can get better and continue to grow? Absolutely.''

Notes: OL T.J. Lang and RB Alex Green have concussions and did not practice, but McCarthy was optimistic they will be ready for Sunday's game against Tennessee. ... DB Charles Woodson practiced Wednesday, but still has not been cleared to return from his broken collarbone. ... McCarthy said Nelson is ''getting better'' and his work Tuesday was ''pretty extensive.'' But McCarthy said they'll have to see how he recovers this week before deciding on his availability. ... DE C.J. Wilson, who has missed the last three games with a knee injury, has extra incentive to return this week. He played at East Carolina with Titans running back Chris Johnson. ''It's been my dream to go and hit the guy,'' Wilson said, grinning. ''We couldn't hit him in practice because he wore the red jersey and you didn't want to hurt your star player, but now that he's on the opposing team, I'd like to get my shot at him.'' 

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December 20, 2012

By BOB BAUM Associated Press

 

Arizona safety Kerry Rhodes says teammate Patrick Peterson will never catch up with his confidence.

But, as Rhodes says, ''it works for him.''

In his second NFL season, Peterson does not hesitate when asked if he's already the best cornerback in the game.

''I believe so,'' he said after practice on Wednesday. ''I believe I'm playing at a top level right now. Week in and week out, I'm given the opposing team's No. 1 receiver and I believe I'm handling that pretty well so far.''

It's an attitude instilled in him while growing up in the football-crazy state of Florida, an attitude essential at a position where the odds and the rules are stacked against you.

''I believe all the good corners have something in common, that's confidence in their ability to go out there and make plays for their team and themselves as well,'' he said. ''I believe the confidence started when I was back in high school. My dad, just something he always instilled in me as I was growing up - just always be confident in your ability and be confident in what you're doing at all times.''

Peterson has seven of Arizona's NFL-leading 22 interceptions this season, one in each of the last four games. His pick of Matthew Stafford's pass and 29-yard return to the Detroit 3-yard line set up the go-ahead touchdown in a 38-10 victory last Sunday that ended the Cardinals' nine-game losing streak. That pick came when Stafford overthrew Calvin Johnson.

Some of Peterson's interceptions have been far more spectacular.

The former LSU star has a knack for appearing to be beat on a play, only to somehow catch the receiver when the pass arrives and take the football away.

''It's just a God-given talent,'' Peterson said, ''having the ability to have that makeup speed, to catch up with guys who maybe break away from me and having the knowledge on where the quarterback is looking to throw the ball. When the guy does beat me across the crease, I want to beat him to his landmark.''

Peterson found out in a hurry as a rookie that God-given talent was enough to excel in an NFL secondary. Both he and coach Ken Whisenhunt said the difference between Peterson's play this year and last is technique.

''He's always been very gifted as far as seeing the ball and making plays on the ball,'' Whisenhunt said, ''but he's a guy that's worked very hard on his technique and that's one of the things I think is paying off for him.''

Peterson studied the video of last season and knew what to work on.

''Coming into this year I wanted to get better at the line of scrimmage,'' he said. ''Last year I wasn't patient. I was always opening up the gate, giving receivers the easy advantage to pretty much go wherever they want. Now this year I basically get my hands on them at the line of scrimmage, stand square, being patient, understanding what teams want to do in basic situations.''

Whisenhunt said Peterson is that rare athlete with an abundance of natural talent combined with the drive to do what is necessary to be among the best players in the NFL.

''He's one of those types of guys that have tremendous talent and that's very driven to be great,'' Whisenhunt said, ''and there's not a whole bunch of those, but I'm glad we've got him.''

The Cardinals selected Peterson with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 draft. While he had plenty to learn about playing cornerback at this level, he wasted no time in making an impact as a punt returner. He became the first player, let alone first rookie, to have four punt returns of 80 or more yards for touchdowns. That included a 99-yarder to beat St. Louis in overtime.

But there have been no such plays this season with teams focused on pinning him to the sidelines on returns or making other adjustments to neutralize him.

''It doesn't bother me in a sense because, at the end of the day, the Arizona Cardinals drafted me to be a defensive back,'' he said. ''The punt return is just a plus. It's something that I'm good at as well. When the opportunity comes, I'll definitely do my best to break one.''

Arizona also has worked him into the offense on occasion, usually in the wildcat. With the worst offense in the NFL, the Cardinals could be expected to try that a time or two when they are home against Chicago. Peterson has often said he relishes any chance to touch the ball.

''We'll see if it gets called this week,'' he said, flashing the big smile that has already helped make him one of the most popular players on the team. ''You guys will find out on Sunday.'' 

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December 13, 2012

By HOWARD FENDRICH Associated Press

 

Accusing the NFL players’ union of “trying to back out” of an August 2011 agreement to start checking for human growth hormone, a congressman worried aloud Wednesday that the league will head into next season without a test for the banned drug.

“Hopefully as we move down the line, players will see how incredibly ridiculous it looks for them not to ... straighten this thing out,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s ranking Demo­crat. “We’re now getting ready to go into a third season, and it does not look very good.”

The panel held a hearing to examine the science behind the testing, and heard from experts that it is reliable.

“No test is perfect ... but there hasn’t been a single false positive,” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Chief Science Officer Larry Bowers testified.

While the latest, 10-year labor contract paved the way for HGH testing in professional football once certain parameters were set, the NFL Players Association wants a new study before it will agree to the validity of a test used by Olympic sports and Major League Baseball. The sides haven’t been able to agree on a scientist to help resolve that impasse.

HGH is a banned substance that is hard to detect and used by athletes for what are believed to be a variety of benefits, whether real or only perceived — such as increasing speed or improving vision. Among the health problems connected to HGH are diabetes, cardiac dysfunction and arthritis.

“They say they need more time ... before doing what they agreed to do. To me, it seems obvious the Players Association is simply running out the clock,” Cummings said. “Although they agreed to HGH testing, they are now trying to back out of the contract.”

Cummings and committee chairman Darrell Issa, a California Repub­lican, both said additional hearings are expected.

“It is our hope (to) move these parties closer together,” Issa said.

“This isn’t the players” who are objecting to the test, Issa said after the hearing. “This is lawyers making a statement. Players want to know that the rules are the rules for everybody. ... We’re not seeing a vast amount of players stand up. We’re seeing a few lawyers stand up on an unfounded technicality.”

The NFL and union were not invited to testify at the hearing, but representatives of both attended Wednesday’s session.

Asked about Cummings’ comments, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said after the hearing: “I respect his opinion. We have a contract, and the contract says both sides have to agree to protocols to move forward.”

Atallah said the union was “absolutely not” trying to back out of the agreement on HGH.

NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch, who oversees the league’s drug program, called the union’s insistence on a population study to determine whether current HGH tests are appropriate for NFL players a delay tactic.

“As a league, we need to look at it in terms of competitive integrity, in terms of being consistent with the NFL having a leadership position in the world of performance-enhancing drugs,” Birch said. “And frankly, I think this delay in implementing this program has put our leadership position at risk.”

Even once scientific issues are resolved, there will be other matters the league and union need to figure out, including who administers the test and what the appeals process will be.

“First, I applaud the NFL and players for taking a bold and decisive position on HGH in their 10-year agreement. Now let’s get on with it,” one witness, Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, told the committee Wednesday. “The HGH testing process is proven to be reliable. It’s time to send a clear message that performance-enhancing drugs have no place in sports, especially the NFL.”

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