Players' union decertifies; antitrust lawsuit filed
NFL labor talks broke down just hours before the latest contract extension expired Friday. The union decertified, and 10 players including star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees sued the league, putting the country's most popular sport on a path to its first work stoppage since 1987. The league said it hadn't decided whether to lock out the players, who went to court to request an injunction to block such a move.
By dissolving and announcing that it no longer represents the players in collective bargaining, the NFL Players Association cleared the way for class-action lawsuits against the NFL, which opted out of the CBA in 2008. The CBA originally was due to expire last week, then was extended twice, in hopes that the sides could find common ground on the key issues: how to divide more than $9 billion in annual revenues, and how much financial information the league would be willing to turn over. It all set the stage for a lengthy court fight that eventually could threaten the 2011 season. The last work stoppage came when the players struck 24 years ago, leading to games with replacement players. The NFLPA also decertified in 1989. Antitrust lawsuits by players led to a new CBA in 1993 that included free agency, and the union formed again that year.
"We informed the owners that ... if there was going to be a request for an extension, that we asked for 10 years of audited financial information to accompany that extension," union head DeMaurice Smith said outside the mediator's office.
About 15 minutes later, the union decertified.
"No one is happy where we are now," NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said. "I think we know where the commitment was. It was a commitment to litigate all along."
A league statement added: "The union left a very good deal on the table." It said the offer included splitting the difference in the dispute over how much money owners should be given off the top of the league's revenues. Under the expiring CBA, the owners immediately got about $1 billion before dividing the remainder with the players; the owners originally were asking to roughly double that by getting an additional $1 billion up front.
■ Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams has ended his legal fight with the NFL over a failed drug test and the league's plan to suspend him. His friend and teammate Pat Williams has decided to keep going. Attorney Peter Ginsberg said Friday that Kevin Williams has had enough of the case, which began in October 2008 when reports emerged that the two Vikings were among a handful of players who tested positive for a banned diuretic in the weight-loss supplement StarCaps. The NFL said the two players violated its anti-doping policy and sought to suspend the Williamses for four games.
Cueto leaves outing early but feels 'fine'
Reds starter Johnny Cueto cut short his start because of tightness in his right forearm, and Cincinnati tied the Rangers 5-5 Friday in Surprise, Ariz.
"It wasn't near his elbow, which is a good sign," Reds trainer Paul Lessard said. "We took him out for precautionary reasons."
Scheduled to pitch four innings, Cueto went two, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk with two strikeouts. He is not expected to miss any time. "I felt it when I threw breaking balls," Cueto said. "I felt it in the bullpen. I'm fine."
■ Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook fractured bones in the ring finger on his throwing hand and will be out indefinitely, Rockies Manager Jim Tracy said Friday. The Fort Campbell native, already on the shelf with shoulder stiffness, caught the finger in a door. His nail was scattered, and X-rays revealed the fracture.
Rogers shuts down Niagara for Bat Cats
Sophomore left-hander Taylor Rogers allowed two runs with one walk and five strikeouts over seven innings, and junior Michael Williams hit his third homer of the year as the Kentucky baseball team beat Niagara 9-2 Friday to open its weekend series at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
■ Ethan Settlemires led the Kentucky rifle team to a national title in smallbore on the first day of the NCAA championships in Columbus, Ga. Settlemires won the individual title with a 590, and the Cats edged No. 1 West Virginia 2,336-2,329 with one day of competition remaining. Teams will compete in air rifle Saturday at Columbus State.
■ Sophomore Alice O'Brien hit her first two career home runs to lead Kentucky's softball team, ranked No. 23 by ESPN/USA Softball, to a 9-6 upset of No. 7 Tennessee in the Cats' Southeastern Conference opener at the UK Softball Complex. O'Brien's second homer sparked a five-run sixth inning that put UK ahead for good.
Stocker improves at Vols' pro day
Madison Southern graduate Luke Stocker improved his 40-yard-dash time at Tennessee's pro day. The former Vol said he was happy with all of his drills at the NFL combine except for his 4.79 time in the 40 yard-dash. On Friday, he clocked times of 4.71 and 4.74 in front of scouts from 24 NFL teams. Stocker has been projected as the second-best tight end prospect for this year's draft.
"The tight end comes down to teams' needs. It could fall between second to fourth (round) if a team doesn't need a tight end," the 6-foot-4, 257-pound Berea native said.
■ Marshall has named former University of Kentucky player Gerad Parker as wide receivers coach, Coach Doc Holliday announced Friday. Parker, a standout at Lawrence County and a four-year letter-winner at UK from 2001-2004, spent the past three seasons as the passing game and recruiting coordinator at Tennessee-Martin. He also served as the wide receivers coach in 2009. The Herd also hired Todd Hartley to oversee the safeties.
■ Auburn Coach Gene Chizik dismissed four players from the team after they were arrested on robbery and other charges early Friday morning. Auburn police said Mike McNeil, Antonio Goodwin, Shaun Kitchens and Dakota Mosley were each charged with five counts of first-degree robbery, one count of first-degree burglary and one count of third-degree theft of property. McNeil, 22, was a starting safety who had 14 tackles in the national title game against Oregon.
Mahan leads at Doral; Tiger, Phil falter
Hunter Mahan stretched his lead to four shots Friday in the Cadillac Championship until he stumbled with a pair of bogeys toward the end of his second round, had to settle for a 1-under 71 and suddenly had the No. 1 player right on his heels. PGA champion Martin Kaymer, in his second week atop the world ranking, played bogey-free in a steady breeze at Doral, Fla., for a 70 that put him one shot behind Mahan and in the final group. Tiger Woods again struggled with his putter, missing four birdie putts inside 10 feet and looking bad at the end. He wound up with a 74, nine shots behind. Phil Mickelson dropped three shots when he returned to finish the storm-delayed first round, which led to a 73. He was slightly better in the second round with a 71.
■ Nick Price matched the lowest round in Champions Tour history, eagling two of his final four holes Friday for a career-best 11-under 60 in the Toshiba Classic. Seeking his fourth victory on the 50-and-over tour, Price eagled the par-5 15th and 18th holes and had seven birdies in a bogey-free round at Newport Beach Country Club in California.
Kurt Busch bungles drag-racing debut
Kurt Busch's professional drag-racing career is off to a slow start — really slow. Busch, the 2004 NASCAR champion, botched both qualifying passes on Friday at the NHRA Gatornationals, leaving him little room for error heading into his final two runs on Saturday.
The last word
A day after Yogi Berra, 85, tripped and fell in the clubhouse while going to get a bowl of soup, he was at the ballpark Friday for the Yankees' game against Atlanta and had little to say about the accident:
"I didn't like the soup."