League, union go to court over $4 billion in TV revenue
The NFL and the players' union took their fight over $4 billion in TV and wireless revenue before a federal judge in Minnesota on Thursday, a potentially critical issue just one week before their current labor pact expires. U.S. District Court judge David Doty in Minneapolis, who has jurisdiction over NFL labor matters since a 1993 settlement that paved the way for unrestricted free agency, unsealed some details in the case.
He did not immediately rule on the NFL Players' Association appeal of a special master's decision earlier this month that lets the league keep $4 billion in broadcast rights fees. The union contends that money was carved out as a financial cushion — leverage — if NFL owners impose a lockout and the 2011 season is lost. The NFLPA argues that money should be escrowed.
Doty said he didn't want to put his "thumb on the scale of the collective bargaining" process, as NFL attorney Gregg Levy contended union lawyers are asking. Levy said "it would be repugnant to federal labor law" for Doty to intervene in this issue.
NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler countered that it's the league's "thumb on the scale" in the labor talks, saying the billions in leverage was part of a long-devised lockout plan.
"We'd like the thumb removed," Kessler said.
■ NFL coaches and general managers now know what they can and cannot do if there is a lockout. Jacksonville Coach Jack Del Rio says league officials spent 45 minutes updating team decision-makers about negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, what is expected over the next 10 days before the current CBA runs out and possible contingency plans. He did not elaborate. League spokesman Greg Aiello said the discussion focused on the "possible" expiration of the agreement, set to expire at the end of next Thursday. Earlier, federal mediator George Cohen issued a statement in Washington saying players and owners have made "some progress" but "very strong differences" remain. The league and union will resume mediation Tuesday.
Pacman sentenced to probation
Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones was sentenced on Thursday to probation and 200 hours of community service under a plea deal for his role in a 2007 strip club melee in Las Vegas. Clark County courts spokeswoman Mary Ann Price said Jones received a suspended sentence and was also ordered to receive anger-management counseling. The sentence requires Jones to undergo random drug testing. Jones told the Las Vegas Sun after the sentencing that he's glad to finally have the case behind him and has been praying for the victims of the shooting.
"This has been a long, long haul and has affected a lot of families," Jones told the newspaper. "It has affected me personally."
The shooting left a Minxx strip club employee paralyzed and two others wounded, prosecutors said. Police have said Jones instigated the brawl by throwing wads of dollar bills from a large plastic bag onto a stage, then becoming angry when the strippers picked up the cash.
Orton named starter over Tebow
Kyle Orton didn't want to return to Denver next season as Tim Tebow's backup. He's getting his wish: his name will be atop the Broncos' depth chart at quarterback whenever players reconvene following the league's labor negotiations. New coach John Fox said Thursday that Orton is his starting quarterback, not the popular but unpolished Tebow. That could change in camp, but Tebow has a long way to go to catch up to the sixth-year pro.
Ryan guarantees Jets will win Super Bowl
Brimming with confidence after his team reached the AFC Championship game the past two seasons, Jets Coach Rex Ryan promised a Super Bowl win next season.
"I believe this is the year we're going to do it," he said Thursday. "I believe this is the year we're going to win the Super Bowl. The fact is, I thought we'd win it the first two years.
"I guarantee we'll win it this year."
■ NFL doctors and trainers will use standardized sideline testing next season to diagnose concussions, the league's latest move in a national debate over implementing stronger policies toward head injuries. On Friday, league officials are scheduled to unveil new guidelines by which all 32 teams use the same questions for players' baseline tests. The policy would also add a balance test to the list of other tests already being used.
■ Chad Henne is Miami's quarterback for now, General Manager Jeff Ireland said Thursday. "Right now, he's the guy on our football team we have to commit to," Ireland said. "We're committed to him right now, and that's where we're at." But Ireland said he isn't ruling out selecting a quarterback in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft. There's been speculation about the Dolphins pursuing Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton of Auburn.
SPORTS IN THE COURTS
Buckeyes sign exonerated lineman
Chris Carter, the offensive lineman who was arrested the night before national signing day, has signed a national letter of intent to attend Ohio State, the university said Thursday night. Carter was arrested Feb. 1, and officials later said he would not face criminal charges stemming from an allegation that he fondled a girl while pretending to measure her for an ROTC uniform. Police said there wasn't enough evidence of sexual contact or conduct. A 6-foot-6, 350-pound guard, Carter was a special-mention All-Ohio selection.
Federer, Djokovic on track to finals
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, winners of six of the last eight Dubai Championships, remained on course to play for the title by winning quarterfinal matches Thursday in straight sets. Federer was broken for the first time in three matches but defeated Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4. Djokovic, the two-time defending champion, beat Florian Mayer of Germany 7-5, 6-4.
Federer will play Richard Gasquet, and Djokovic will play Tomas Berdych in a rematch of their Australian Open quarterfinals.
■ Vera Zvonareva rallied from 5-3 down in the deciding set to defeat Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 6-7 (5), 7-5 Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Ladies Open. Zvonareva reached a semifinal match against Jelena Jankovic, who defeated Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4. Top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki won 12 straight games to beat Flavia Pennetta of Italy 6-2, 6-0 and set up a semifinal match with Marion Bartoli of France.
Lane's End buys interest in Twirling Candy
Lane's End Farm in Versailles and California breeder Martin Wygod have purchased an interest in Twirling Candy, ranked by the Daily Racing Form as the top older horse in the country, breeder Jenny Craig announced Thursday. Twirling Candy has won six of his seven starts, from ages 2 to 4, including four stakes victories on all surfaces. In his final start at 3, he broke Spectacular Bid's track record in the Grade I Malibu Stakes.
■ Garrett Gomez won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey award Thursday in a nationwide vote of his fellow riders. Gomez will receive the honor at Santa Anita on March 20. He outpolled Joe Bravo, Javier Castellano, Corey Lanerie and Gallyn Mitchell. Gomez, who led the nation's riders in purse earnings from 2006-09, rode Blame to a narrow victory over Zenyatta in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic despite an injured shoulder. He also won two other Breeders' Cup races. The Woolf award is named for one of the greatest jockeys of his era. Woolf died after a riding accident at Santa Anita in 1946.
The last word
Former Auburn basketball star Charles Barkley weighed in on the possibility that an Alabama fan poisoned the trees at Toomer's Corner:
"We're from Alabama — you can't make this (stuff) up. Some things just happen there, and people want to know why we rank 48th in education?"