November 07, 2013

By JANIE McCAULEY

Associated Press

 

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Aldon Smith believes he is on the path to being sober for good.

Part of the process for the San Francisco 49ers’ All-Pro linebacker to rejoin the team following a five-week stint in rehab included a verbal commitment to the NFL that he would stay out of trouble and keep clean.

“I think any time we could all look into our lives and find something we need to work on,” Smith said Tuesday, seemingly relaxed. “I’ve taken my time and I've done that.”

A clean-cut Smith — hair trimmed from his previous long, curly cut — returned to the 49ers’ locker room after his long absence and five missed games to cheers from teammates who chanted his first name. Everybody knows what he means to this franchise and defense — and the 49ers are hopeful he is as healthy as he looks and ready to return to the field as soon as Sunday’s home game with Carolina.

“I’m getting there. Every day’s just a step closer to getting to where I want to be,” Smith said at his locker after practice. “I’ve gotten a lot of support, from my family, friends, organization, teammates and everything. And it really says a lot that people care about me outside the field and they care about me as a person.”

Smith had been on an indefinite paid leave of absence before being activated to the 53-man roster Thurs­day, two days after he turned himself in to Santa Clara County authorities on weapons charges. He met last Wednesday with team officials.

The fearsome pass-rusher is in shape despite a couple of extra pounds gained during his stint at an in-patient treatment center for substance abuse. He was at a facility outside California, he said, while declining to offer further details. He said he returned to the Bay Area on Oct. 28 after entering rehab in late September — and he was away for his 24th birthday Sept. 25.

Defensive teammate and fellow linebacker Patrick Willis is among those who sent periodic text messages to Smith during his time away.

“Aldon has been a guy since he came in who has been very productive for our defense, has been a playmaker for our defense,” Willis said. “To get him back is a good thing, then, too, with his absence we were able to develop some depth with some of the other guys. It’s really going to be a strong point for us. When you have a guy such as Aldon with his talent, the biggest thing we can do for him is just let him know we’re here for him, let him know that we’re his teammates, but the main thing is just let him grow on his own.”

Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Colts on Sept. 22 and had five tackles just two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. He apologized for his behavior after the game then later announced he would leave for treatment.

San Francisco (6-2) has won five straight games in impressive fashion without him.

Also in September, Smith and former teammate Delanie Walker were named in a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by a Northern California man who said he was shot at a party at Smith’s house on June 29, 2012.

Smith, selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, had previously been arrested on suspicion of DUI in January 2012 in Miami shortly after the 49ers lost in the NFC championship game.

Now, Smith is moving forward. He’s thrilled to be reunited with not only his team but also his 10-month-old son, Aulis.

“He looks good, man,” running back Frank Gore said. “I’m a big fan of Aldon, a young guy who has the potential to be one of the best at the position. I’m happy he’s back with the family. I know he can help our team, so that’s great.”

While Smith is scheduled for court appearances each of the next two Tuesdays, he expects to be in practice.

Smith was charged Oct. 9 with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from that party at his home in June 2012.

“Of course, I didn’t want to be away from the sport I love. But it was good for me to get away and get my mind together and work, like I say, just to get to the positive spot I need to be at,” he said. “I caught some of the games, some that were broadcast over there. So I was able to keep up with the guys and chime in here and there and wish them good luck.”

Smith had a franchise-record 19½ sacks last season for the NFC champions. He has 4½ sacks and 18 tackles over three games in 2013.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time, getting back here, being around the guys and just getting my life back at home,” Smith said.

Also Tuesday, leading 2012 wideout Michael Crabtree was cleared to resume practicing following May surgery to repair a torn right Achilles tendon. The 49ers now have three weeks to activate him.

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October 31, 2013

Associated Press

 

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Say goodbye, A.I. Allen Iverson officially retired from the NBA on Wednesday, ending a 15-year career during which he won the 2001 MVP award and four scoring titles. Iverson retired in Philadelphia where he had his greatest successes and led the franchise to the 2001 NBA finals.

Iverson says he’ll be a Sixer “until the day I die.”

The 6-foot guard had not played in an NBA game since Feb. 20, 2010, and had a brief pro stint in Turkey. He also played for Denver, Detroit and Memphis. Iverson scored 24,368 points and was an 11-time All-Star.

Former Georgetown coach John Thompson and former Sixers great Julius Erving were in attendance for the ceremony.

Iverson says he always thought retirement would be a “tragic” day. But he says he’s happy in his personal life and at peace with his decision.

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October 31, 2013

 

NEW ORLEANS – Tulane has some memorable surnames on its roster: Steven Broccoli, Kenny Welcome, Corey Redwine, Jordan Sullen, Fudge Van Hooser, and Nick Montana (son of Joe).

The coolest name, though, is Marley. Nico Marley, freshman linebacker, is the grandson of one of the greatest musicians who ever lived.

Nico looks a bit like Bob, who died in 1981, 15 years before Nico was born. “I think they look exactly alike,” says head coach Curtis Johnson. Nico does have a similarly calm complexion. He loves “Redemption Song” because it’s “soothing.”

On the field, however, “soothing” is not the word. Nico Marley, direct descendant of a man who sung to the world about peace and harmony, is nicknamed “The Missile.”

Tulane beat Tulsa on Saturday to win its sixth game – more than in any one season since 2002. One of the highlights was Marley coming out of nowhere to make a soaring sideline tackle that had both home and visiting fans oohing. Marley is third on the team in tackles even though he wasn’t supposed to play as a freshman.

“Flying around and getting to the ball,” is how Marley describes his style, adding that his father, Rohan, who played for Miami in the early ’90s, had a similar flair.

“His father was just a great player,” Johnson says, remembering a game during his time as wide receivers coach with San Diego State. “He beat us by himself.”

The Missile isn’t sure where the football gene came from; his grandfather loved soccer, but there wasn’t much gridiron talk in Jamaica. The music gene didn’t get passed down; Nico doesn’t play an instrument. “Wish I knew how,” he says.

He definitely knows how to play linebacker: the freshman is another recruiting trail victory for Johnson, the same evaluator who brought Marshall Faulk to San Diego State as a running back and found lightly regarded Ed Reed in St. Rose, La., was the only FBS coach to offer Marley a full ride. Marley is ­undersized at 5-foot-8 and it was hard to see the advantages of bringing him in until he showed up on campus and started laying people out.

The playing style reflects the coach, who is loud and effusive. During Saturday’s win here, which he would call “magnificent,” Johnson bolted nearly 15 yards outside the coach’s box until a referee gave him a sharp look and sent him back. Even a normal conversation with Johnson makes small talk feel like a pep talk.

“He’s changing the attitude,” says Marley. “Even though we haven’t had a winning program, we’re expected to win. He’s upbeat, positive, a real great coach.”

How upbeat? Johnson said winning the team’s sixth game of the season was better than winning the Super Bowl as an assistant for the Saints. Johnson was so charged about getting the job with the Green Wave two years ago that he drove from Saints’ offices to Tulane’s campus after work every night to focus on recruiting and staffing. He says two and a half hours of sleep was a good night for him.

“I got some speeding tickets nobody wanted to pay for,” he says. “It was close to double digits.”

Unsurprisingly, Johnson doesn’t listen to much Bob Marley. “I’m a rhythm and blues guy,” he says.

He is a fan of the grandson, though, and compares Marley to Reed in demeanor if not play. “These guys, they have that conviction,” Johnson says. “They are smarter than their years. I call it ‘Grown-man sense.’ That intangible that they know more than you think.”

This 6-2 start – only a decade after Tulane nearly gave up its Division I status – has revved up the campus enough that school president Scott Cowen has dyed his hair green and blue. But it’s something more sobering that has made perhaps the biggest difference for the team. Devon Walker, the safety who was paralyzed in a game last season and nearly lost his life on the field, is now giving all the speeches before home games. He sits in his wheelchair on the sideline and smiles and nods as players walk past. They come off after big plays and touch his hand.

“He’s an inspiration,” says Marley. “It really gets to me. Everything he says is real and from the heart. He makes me play harder.”

Whether it’s Walker, Johnson, or Marley, the collection of names is working. The Green Wave will almost certainly be playing at Christmastime for only the fourth time since 1980. Only a year removed from a two-win season, the name Tulane no longer means losing.

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October 31, 2013

Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Retiring his “The Executioner” nickname in favor of the “The Alien,” Bernard Hopkins tried to give Karo Murat a close encounter of the knockout kind.

With his first KO in almost a decade within reach, the 48-year-old Hopkins turned his title defense with Murat into a brawl, and retained his share of the light heavyweight championship with a unanimous decision Saturday night.

Out of this world

Hopkins walked to the ring in a green mask with black eyes, and a cape, attire straight out of a campy sci fi flick. He had the “The Alien” emblazoned on the green waistband of his black trunks. “The alien don’t get old,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins (54-6-2) was dominant in his most convincing — and entertaining — bout in at least a decade. He turned the later rounds into his own personal mission to score his first knockout win since beating Oscar De La Hoya in September 2004 — 15 fights ago.

He battered Murat and busted open the challenger with a series of rights to the face to help successfully defend his championship at Boardwalk Hall.

Hopkins won 119-108, 119-108, 117-110.

A tought fight

“I really wanted the knockout, but he was tough,” Hopkins said. “You know you’ve got to take some punches. Yeah, I have a little bit of blood on me but this is what they want to see. They wanted to see the knockout, so I took some shots.”

Already the oldest fighter to win a major championship, Hopkins wants to keep fighting until he’s 50. Up next, he’d like a date with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the spring — when Hopkins would be 49.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get the biggest possible fight,” Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said.

The Philadelphia fighter also had the crowd on his side, with chants of “B-Hop! B-Hop!” echoing through the arena with each right hand in the late rounds.

He also heard encouragement from undefeated Philly fighter Danny Garcia, groomed as the next big star, who screamed “throw that right hand into the body! All day, every day!” from press row.

Hopkins, who weighed in at 172 1/2 pounds, pretty much did that as he pounded away at Murat.

Cat and mouse

He smiled and shook his head no after absorbing some blows in the third round. Hopkins kissed Murat on the back of his head coming out of a clinch in the fifth. He also taunted Murat’s corner late in the fight, barking at them to stop the fight.

“I’m just glad he brought the dog out of me,” Hopkins said. “I saw this guy was all cut up and I’m just going to keep beating him. They didn’t listen.”

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October 31, 2013

NFL.COM

 

When Jay Z established Roc Nation Sports and aligned himself with New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith and New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, it was natural to wonder when Sean “Diddy” Combs would throw his hat into the sports ring.

Wait, no one wondered that? Well, Diddy thrust himself into the national sports conversation anyway this week when he told Bloomberg TV that he plans to own an NFL team one day.

“I love sports, but I’m more of a owner type of guy, so I have aspirations to become — which it will happen — I will become the first African-American majority owner,” Diddy said. “Not having a small stake but actually owning an NFL team. I think it’s time for that. A majority of players that are in the NFL are African-American, but there are no African-American owners. So that's one of my dreams.”

Diddy told Bloomberg that people have asked him if he planned to start his own agency to rival Jay Z’s, but Diddy said he has no plans to represent athletes. His eyes solely are set on ownership.

“When I get the calls, ‘Well, we need to do Bad Boy Sports,’ I’m like, ‘No, that’s not my lane,’” Diddy said. “I stay in my lane. This is the lane that I want to do. And I’m just me; I do my own thing.”

Earlier this year, Forbes estimated Diddy’s net worth at $580 million.

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