Sports briefs: Sept. 11

September 11, 2013 

NFL

AFC North off to dismal start

Cincinnati Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis watched a little video of Pittsburgh's season-opening disaster and felt a kinship with the failure. "I just watched the first half of their game and I'm sure they feel the same way we do," Lewis said.

Not just them. They're all feeling the blues this week in the AFC North. All four teams in the NFL's most successful division over the last five years have started the season at 0-1. It's only the second time that's happened, according to STATS LLC. The other time? Way back in 2002, when the league went to the current division format.

And it's not just that all four lost, it's how they lost:

■ The defending Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens went back to Denver, the scene of their improbable playoff comeback last season, and had their revamped defense get taken apart for a record-seven touchdown passes by Peyton Manning in a 49-27 rout.

■ Over in Pittsburgh, the towel-waving crowd at Heinz Field put those towels away and filed out quietly near the end of a shocking 16-9 loss to the Titans that was in most ways the worst of the division's opening flops.

■ In Cleveland, the Browns did their annual looking-a-little-better tease before falling apart and losing to the Dolphins 23-10, dropping their ninth straight opener and their 14th in the last 15 years.

■ Lewis' team actually looked the best of the bunch before bungling one away in Chicago, 24-21, with personal fouls, wasted timeouts and turnovers.

None of them looked like a playoff-caliber team for very long.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said. "Nobody cares about our problems. They're glad we've got them. We need to understand that. We need to stick together and persevere."

Pittsburgh, which hasn't opened a season 0-2 since 2002, gets Cincinnati next on Monday night.

■ Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was fined $100,000 by the NFL for his illegal low block on Minnesota center John Sullivan in the Lions' season-opening victory Sunday. Suh hit Sullivan during an interception return by Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy, and the penalty negated what would have been a touchdown.

Suh has also been fined in previous seasons for roughing up quarterbacks Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler and Jake Delhomme.

■ The Patriots will be without leading rusher Shane Vereen on Thursday against the Jets after he was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. He hurt his wrist and must miss eight games.

■ The Giants signed running back Brandon Jacobs, who played for the Giants from 2005-2011 and was a part of two Super Bowl-winning teams. "Whatever they need me to do," Jacobs said. "Whatever role they want me to play, I'll come in and do it."


NASCAR

Bowyer insists spinout wasn't deliberate

Clint Bowyer feels awful for costing Ryan Newman a win, though his apology for spinning at Richmond is not an admission of guilt.

Newman also feels terrible. Only his sympathy is for Martin Truex Jr., the unwitting participant in a botched race-fixing attempt by Michael Waltrip Racing that has put two friends in an awkward position and spoiled the start of NASCAR's championship race.

"I feel bad for Martin, and I feel he didn't know anything about it and he had the carpet ripped out from underneath him," Newman said Tuesday. "And I know exactly how that feels."

It's been a roller-coaster for NASCAR since there were seven laps to go in Saturday night's race at Richmond. Newman was on his way to a victory that would have given him the final spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. Then Bowyer spun to bring out a caution, setting in motion a chain of events that cost Newman the win and the Chase berth, cost Jeff Gordon a Chase berth and put Truex and Joey Logano in the final two spots.

There were way too many questions about the final moments of the race and NASCAR launched an investigation, determining Monday that MWR had manipulated the outcome of the race.

Bowyer, previously scheduled to spend the day at ESPN, denied the spin was deliberate. In his first interview, he said he had apologized to Newman in a phone call for bringing out a caution while Newman was leading, but said it was racer protocol for costing Newman a win. Asked specifically if the apology was an admission of guilt, Bowyer said: "Let's not dig too much into this."

The topic was covered again in a second appearance, and Bowyer denied deliberately spinning.

"No," he said. "Anytime something happens on the race track, it's unfortunate. If I had a crystal ball and could have told you everything lined up just perfectly the way it did, there's no way you could do all that math and know everything that happened."

Bowyer also revealed he had poison oak all over his arm from cutting a tree down last week when asked about his team allegedly talking in code during the race. His crew chief had inquired about his arm right before he spun, at one point saying, "I bet it's hot in there. Itch it."

NASCAR said they could not prove Bowyer's spin was intentional.

Newman said he accepted Bowyer's apology and the two will move on — they have a previously scheduled hunting trip together next week. But while Bowyer discussed the spin in Monday night's phone call, Newman said Bowyer never said it was intentional.

"I could tell by the sound of his voice, I really feel he was genuine with his remorse," Newman said. "He said it was a heat of the moment thing, and he told me the biggest thing was he was glad NASCAR did what they did and took the action they did to get me in the Chase. I believed him and that made me feel good about what he was saying. But, no, he did not say with the exact words that he spun on purpose."

Tony Kanaan wants to stay in IndyCar, but if he doesn't have a ride, the Indianapolis 500 champion said he'll look elsewhere for a place to race, even if that means moving to NASCAR. Kanaan, whose contract with KV Racing ends this year, visited Joe Gibbs Racing last week. "I can tell you that I'm a free agent so I'm looking everywhere," he said Tuesday. "The report, some people doubt it, but I'm going to say it's true."


College football

Report: Former Oklahoma State players say they took money from boosters

Boosters and assistant coaches at Oklahoma State handed out tens of thousands of dollars to players for at least a decade as the football program grew into a national power under coaches Les Miles and then Mike Gundy, according to a Sports Illustrated article released Tuesday. The article, which quoted several former players by name, said some players received $2,000 to $10,000 annually, with a few stars receiving $25,000 or more. Eight players told SI they received cash, while 29 others were named by teammates as taking money. The transgressions cited stretched from 2001 until at least 2011, the magazine said. Oklahoma State said it has notified the NCAA about the report and launched its own investigation.


Etc.

UK women's golf leads Texas tourney

Kentucky's women's golf team led Virginia and Texas A&M by eight shots through two rounds in the "MO"Morial Invitational in Bryan, Texas. The Cats, at 10-over par, were led by freshman Haley Mills, who shot an even-par 72 and tops the individual leader board. The Texas native has a one-shot lead over teammate Sarah Harris and Texas A&M's Katerina Ruzickova.

Thomas Bach was elected president of the International Olympic Committee, keeping the powerful sports body in European hands. Bach, a 59-year-old German lawyer, succeeds Jacques Rogge, the Belgian who is stepping down after 12 years as head of the Olympic body. A former Olympic fencing gold medalist who heads Germany's national Olympic committee, Bach becomes the ninth president in the 119-year history of the IOC.


The last word

Golfer Rory McIlroy on the rest of his schedule this year:

"I've still got eight tournaments left. I've got a Steve Stricker season left to play."

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