Thursday's Sports In Brief - NBC Sports

Thursday's Sports In Brief
January 31, 2014, 3:58 am

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) PRO FOOTBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - The head of the NFL players' union said testing for human growth hormone is being held up by a disagreement with the league over whether the commissioner or a neutral arbitrator will handle certain types of appeals.

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said Thursday that otherwise, "The drug policy overall is 98 percent done."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says another outstanding issue is whether a second offense will draw a suspension of eight or 10 games.

The league and the union originally paved the way for HGH testing in the 10-year collective bargaining agreement signed in August 2011. But when the Super Bowl is played Sunday, three complete seasons will have come and gone without testing for HGH.

NEW YORK (AP) - The number of concussions in the NFL dropped 13 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to data the league released and touted as a result of its efforts to better protect players' heads.

Using information collected from team doctors during preseason and regular-season practices and games, the NFL also said there was a 23 percent decrease over the past two seasons in the number of concussions caused by helmet-to-helmet contact.

Speaking at a pre-Super Bowl news conference, Jeff Miller, the NFL's senior VP of health and safety policy, called the data "positive numbers from our perspective; positive trends."

NEW YORK (AP) - Investigators seized more than $21.6 million in knockoff souvenir football jerseys, caps and other merchandise, shut down illegal websites and made dozens of arrests in a crackdown on Super Bowl counterfeiters, authorities said.

The seizures and arrests were announced at a Manhattan news conference where NFL and law enforcement officials displayed fake Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson jerseys - complete with knockoff adidas labeling - Broncos and Seahawks hats, Super Bowl T-shirts and other goods made to look like official NFL gear.

NEW YORK (AP) - New York law enforcement authorities cracked down on a prostitution ring that they said advertised on public access cable TV, took credit cards and used text messages to market "party packs" of cocaine and sex to clients.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the gang had been under surveillance for 11 months, but authorities decided to act now in the hope of disrupting any parties that might have been in the works for the upcoming Super Bowl weekend.

More than half of the 18 suspects charged in the case were under arrest, including a Long Island woman who authorities said went by the code-name "Beige" and was the primary ringleader. The rest were being sought.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah ape that has correctly picked the Super Bowl winner for six straight years predicted that the Seattle Seahawks will be the next NFL champion.

Eli the ape ran into an enclosure Thursday morning and swiftly knocked down a papier-mache helmet bearing the Seahawks logo, signaling his pick, said Erica Hansen of Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City.

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AUTO RACING

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - NASCAR overhauled its championship format, creating a winner-take-all elimination system designed to reward "the most worthy, battle-tested" driver at the end of the season.

An expanded 16-driver field will be whittled down to a final four through three rounds of eliminations. The remaining four drivers will go into the season finale with an equal chance to win the championship: The first of the four to cross the finish line will be crowned Sprint Cup champion.

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PRO BASKETBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - The Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets each had two players picked as reserves for the NBA All-Star game, while the Indiana Pacers had to settle for just Roy Hibbert despite the league's best record.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard made it from the Trail Blazers, who have been among the Western Conference leaders all season.

Dwight Howard, who was passed late in fan voting for a starting spot, was chosen along with Houston teammate James Harden.

Old reliables Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Dirk Nowitzki round out the West reserves for the Feb. 16 game in New Orleans.

NEW YORK (AP) - Mark Tatum will become the NBA's new deputy commissioner when Adam Silver succeeds David Stern on Saturday.

NBA owners unanimously approved the appointment of Tatum, a 15-year veteran of the league office. He will also have the title of chief operations officer.

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BASEBALL

Infielder Michael Young is retiring after a 13-year major league career, nearly all of it with the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers have scheduled a Friday afternoon news conference where the 37-year-old Young is to formally announce his retirement.

The seven-time All-Star retires with a .300 career average and as Texas' hits leader with 2,230. He was the 2008 AL Gold Glove at shortstop.

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OLYMPICS

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - A day after the head of the Sochi organizing committee appeared to contradict IOC President Thomas Bach on the rights of Olympic athletes to freely express themselves at news conferences, organizers issued a back-pedaling statement "to clarify" their position.

Dmitry Chernyshenko said Wednesday that he didn't think athletes were allowed to speak about non-sporting issues at official Olympic news conferences. On Monday, Bach said athletes would be free to do so.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Brazilian gymnast who was expected to compete in freestyle skiing at the Sochi Olympics is unable to move her arms or legs and can't breathe on her own after she hit a tree while skiing in Utah this week, doctors said.

Lais Souza, 25, is fighting for her life and will definitely miss the Olympics, said Brazilian team doctor Antonio Marttos at a news conference in Salt Lake City.

She was injured Monday when she hit a tree while skiing recreationally in Park City, Utah, in an accident that doctors said could have happened to anybody. She was not injured while practicing her freestyle maneuvers.

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GOLF

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Rory McIlroy took another step toward regaining his form Thursday with his lowest score in more than three years, a 9-under 63 while playing with Tiger Woods to take a two-shot lead in the Dubai Desert Classic.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Phil Mickelson's back was better than his game in the Phoenix Open.

Returning to play after withdrawing from Torrey Pines last Friday night because of back pain, Mickelson opened his title defense with an even-par 71 at TPC Scottsdale. That left him seven strokes behind leaders Bubba Watson and Y.E. Yang.

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PRO HOCKEY

DENVER (AP) - The Colorado Avalanche signed goaltender Semyon Varlamov to a five-year extension that goes through the 2018-19 season.

The 25-year-old Varlamov is thriving under first-year coach and Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, posting a 26-9-5 record with a 2.43 goals-against average. He's second in the league in saves (1,199) this season and his 26 wins already match a career high.

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MADRID (AP) - Racing Santander players boycotted their Copa del Rey quarterfinal against Real Sociedad to protest unpaid wages.

The third-tier team refused to play after the opening whistle at El Sardinero Stadium because the Spanish club's president, Angel Lavin, and his board did not resign. Santander's players lined up near the midfield stripe, and the referee called off the game after one minute.

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