Wednesday's Sports in Brief

Wednesday's Sports in Brief

Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams testified that he tried to shut down the team's bounty system when the NFL began investigating but was overruled by interim Saints head coach Joe Vitt, according to transcripts from appeals hearings obtained by The Associated Press.

According to the transcripts, Williams said that then-assistant Vitt responded to a suggestion that the pay-for-pain setup be abandoned with an obscenity-filled speech about how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ``wasn't going to ... tell us to ... stop doing what won us the Super Bowl. This has been going on in the ... National Football League forever, and it will go on here forever, when they run (me) out of there, it will still go on.''

Williams and Vitt were among a number of witnesses whose testimony was heard by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who on Tuesday overturned four player suspensions in the case. Tagliabue was appointed by Goodell to handle the final round of appeals. The AP obtained transcripts of Tagliabue's closed-door hearings through a person with a role in the case.

One day after his suspension in the bounty probe was overturned, Jonathan Vilma moved forward with his defamation claims against Goodell, while Drew Brees and other teammates went on the offensive against Goodell and the league office.

``What I would like to see is a level of accountability on the part of the NFL and Commissioner Goodell in regards to mishandling of this entire situation,'' Brees said after practice Wednesday. ``We as players hold ourselves and are held to a very strict code of conduct both on and off the field. We have to be accountable to that, as it should be, and I feel like they should be held to the same standards.''

For his part, Goodell said he ``fundamentally disagrees'' with Tagliabue's decision not to discipline players in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal.

Speaking after an owners meeting in the Dallas area, Goodell said he respected his predecessor's decision, and believed it backed up his conclusion that the Saints ran a bounty program for three years and covered it up.

IRVING, Texas - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the owners meetings that the league would spend the next few months exploring playoff expansion to 14 or 16 teams.

Currently, 12 teams make the playoffs - eight division champions and two wild cards in each conference.

IRVING, Texas (AP) Josh Brent was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list by the Dallas Cowboys, a move that ends his season, but allows the defensive tackle to remain with the team.

The move came a day after a memorial service for practice squad player Jerry Brown, Brent's close friend who was killed in a car accident when Brent was driving. Brent is facing an intoxicated manslaughter charge related to the accident Saturday morning, and is free on bond.

DIX HILLS, N.Y. (AP) - Jovan Belcher was remembered for the accomplishments of a life that ended so suddenly and violently.

Several hundred mourners gathered for the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker's funeral near his hometown on Long Island. The 25-year-old Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend on Dec. 1, then drove to the Chiefs practice facility and committed suicide in front of team officials.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Construction work at Lambeau Field sparked a minor fire that caused about $5,000 in damage to the Green Bay Packers stadium.


NEW YORK (AP) - Different location, different format, same old result in the ongoing fruitless NHL labor talks.

``All I am going to say is there wasn't any change in position,'' players' association executive director Donald Fehr said.

In what was expected to be the resumption of negotiations between the league and the players after talks fell apart last week, the sides got to the same location but never made it into the same room to work through their problems.

Federal mediators rejoined the conversation following two failed days last month, but still couldn't achieve a breakthrough in this hockey labor fight. The mediators met separately with the NHL and the union, but failed to bridge the gap.


SAO PAULO (AP) - The image of Brazilian soccer in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup took a hit when the final of the Copa Sudamericana was abandoned after visiting club Tigre accused security officials of pulling guns and beating its players.

Sao Paulo was awarded the title when Tigre refused to take the field for the second half of the final's second leg. Sao Paulo was leading 2-0, with the first leg having ended scoreless.

Officials of the Argentine club said their players and staff were beaten by security officials in the dressing room area at halftime and guns were drawn. The trouble off the pitch followed scuffles between the teams at the end of the first half.

Nestor Gorosito, the coach of Tigre, declined to take his team back on the field for the second half. He said security officials pulled guns on his players while others clubbed players and team officials.

MADRID (AP) - Lionel Messi scored two goals for the seventh straight game he started, raising his total for the year to 88, as defending champion Barcelona won 2-0 at second-tier Cordoba in the first leg of the fifth round of the Copa del Rey.

HOUSTON (AP) - Abby Wambach scored twice to become only the second soccer player to reach 150 international goals, and the United States beat China 4-0 in an exhibition game Wednesday night.


NEW YORK (AP) - The Los Angeles Dodgers are on track to become only the second major league team with a $200 million payroll and could end the New York Yankees' streak of 14 years as baseball's biggest spender.

The Dodgers are at $214.8 million for 21 signed players next season, according to a study of their contracts by The Associated Press. That follows last weekend's additions of free agent pitcher Zack Greinke for a $147 million, six-year contract and South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin for a $36 million, six-year deal.


LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - Texas Tech hired one of its own, bringing back former Red Raiders quarterback Kliff Kingsbury to become the head coach.

The 33-year-old Kingsbury was the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, coaching Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, this year and was the first in a string of record-setting quarterbacks for the Red Raiders under former coach Mike Leach.

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - An internal investigation into a former player's allegations of abuse by Washington State football coaches didn't turn up any evidence of abuse, athletic director Bill Moos said.

A dozen players were interviewed by two members of Moos' staff, and all reported they were having a positive experience at Washington State under head coach Mike Leach and his assistants, Moos said.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who has led the Crimson Tide to its second straight national title game, said he will return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft.


COOLUM, Australia (AP) - Daniel Popovic shot an 8-under 64 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Australian PGA Championship.

Popovic, on his first year on the Australasian PGA Tour, birdied his first four holes at the Palmer Coolum Resort, and later had a string of five straight birdies.

Fellow Australian Scott Strange shot 66 and was alone in second, followed by 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and two OneAsia Tour regulars - China's Zhang Xinjun and Singapore's Choo Tze-huang - with 67s.

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.


Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.


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Three takeaways from Matt Ioannidis' media session, including his belief in the D-line

Three takeaways from Matt Ioannidis' media session, including his belief in the D-line

Matt Ioannidis virtually met with the local media on Friday. Here are three key takeaways from what was discussed with the 26-year-old.

1) He very much believes in the defensive line

When he had a chance to address reporters earlier this week, D-line coach Sam Mills III completely embraced the fact that his unit needs to take charge for the Washington Football Team.

"Let's be honest," Mills III said, "this room is supposed to lead this defense."

It turns out that Ioannidis sees eye-to-eye with his position coach.

"I share that sentiment," he said. "100-percent."

Ioannidis later described how he, Chase Young, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Tim Settle, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan have to be the "tip of the spear" for the franchise this season. It's encouraging that they're so aware of that challenge, and it seems like that awareness could lead to tremendous success.

"This is a D-line group that I feel is highly capable," Ioannidis said.


2) Chase Young is meshing perfectly

Asking every defender for their take on Young is becoming a tradition in these Zooms, and it was No. 98's turn on Friday to share his thoughts on the second overall pick.

"He fits in great," he said. "Right off the bat, mentally, I think he fits in the group, how we all gel together."

Over the past few years, Ioannidis has become particularly close with Allen and Payne. Together, those three are as serious and as focused as they come. Young would surely benefit from learning from those guys, and it sounds like he's well on his way to doing just that.

3) He's very conscious of the current pandemic

Ioannidis decided not to opt out of 2020 after really thinking it over and having extensive talks with his wife, but just because he's playing doesn't mean he is getting too comfortable. 

"I see it as my responsibility not to put myself in at-risk positions, whether that be places I'm in or what I'm doing in the facility," he said. "I hope that everyone shares that same thought process."

Ioannidis also gave a little insight into how the organization as a whole is approaching day-to-day operations during coronavirus.

"It's definitely been expressed in meetings and when speaking with our medical team," he said when asked about being careful.

There's so much excitement from many at the thought of the NFL commencing its season, but unless every athlete is cautious, the season won't last. Fortunately, Ioannidis isn't messing around. Hopefully he's not alone.

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