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Darvish earns 10th victory in Rangers’ win over Yankees

Yu Darvish struck out eight in seven innings for his 10th victory and J.P. Arencibia had a tiebreaking two-run single for the Texas Rangers in a 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Monday night.

Darvish (10-6) shouted out and pumped his fist after his final strikeout, when Brian McCann swung and missed to end the seventh with two runners on base.

Brett Gardner homered twice and Derek Jeter had three hits — to pass Carl Yastrzemski on the hits list — off the All-Star right-hander, who threw 80 of his 108 pitches for strikes five days after losing a rain-shortened game in New York.

David Phelps (5-5) lost for the first time in nine starts, allowing four runs and eight hits over six innings. The right-hander, like Darvish, was credited with a complete game last Wednesday in the 2-1 Yankees victory that didn’t resume after rain in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Cowboys hope Beasley can help out Bryant

By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

Follow reporter Todd Archer’s live updates from training camp in Oxnard, California.
Preseason Live
The Cowboys plan to give Beasley every opportunity to prove he can make plays as an outside receiver. It’s not just about expanding the role of a receiver who emerged as a significant contributor in his second NFL season, catching 39 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns. If Beasley can do more than just play in the slot, it opens up possibilities for the Cowboys coaches to create mismatches with their most dangerous weapon.

For the first few seasons of his NFL career, the Cowboys featured Dez Bryant solely as the X receiver, keeping his role as simple as possible. They moved him around some last season, and he’s mentally prepared for much more of that entering his fifth year, often working out of the slot in three-receiver sets with Beasley outside.

“I think there’s really no limit on what we can do with him, and I believe that,” receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “We started moving him around last year, and that’s the only way to continue to get him the production that he needs to get because defensive coordinators are too good. If they know where he’s going to be, it’s going to be a long Sunday.

“So the sky’s the limit. It’s a matter of repping. To your point, moving him into the slot, we’ve got to figure out what Cole’s role is, so that’s what we’re working through right now.” (more…)

McClain shows stuff at Cowboys camp

By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

OXNARD, Calif. — Linebacker Rolando McClain got thrown right into the fire in his return from retirement.

There was no acclimation period for McClain, the 25-year-old former eighth overall pick who sat out last season and missed the first two practices of the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp to attend his trial on two misdemeanor charges in Alabama. He put on the pads Saturday afternoon and got to thumping.

In fact, McClain hit a little too hard on his first rep of team drills, tackling running back Lance Dunbar to the ground, something that isn’t supposed to happen in practice.

The 6-foot-4, 259-pound McClain worked as the second-team middle linebacker but will have every opportunity to win the starting job with Sean Lee out for the season. McClain displayed the talent on that snap that made the Cowboys decide he’s worth the risk despite his red flags. He shed a block by tight end James Hanna and stuffed Dunbar for a short loss.

“I was glad to see him,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. “I was impressed that they put him right in. I really thought they might ease him in, might need to since he hadn’t had OTAs, hadn’t had the kind of drills. The deal with him, and because of the issue retiring, what you want to see is what you were seeing when he wasn’t in the drill. He was back over there, his body language was great.”

Nobody has ever questioned McClain’s ability. He’s big, athletic and has great “functional intelligence,” as linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said. It’s his commitment, or lack thereof, and off-field behavior that has derailed his career to this point. (more…)

Carter leads Astros homer-happy win over Athletics

Chris Carter, Jason Castro, Marc Krauss and Matt Dominguez each hit a home run as the Houston Astros snapped a five-game skid with a 7-3 win over the Oakland Athletics on Monday night.

Carter hit a monstrous three-run shot to center field in the third to give the Astros a lead, and Castro and Krauss went back-to-back in the sixth, with Castro’s homer a two-run shot.

Krauss’ homer found the upper deck in right field and chased A’s starter Jesse Chavez (8-7). Two batters later, Dominguez sent a drive onto the railroad tracks in left field off reliever Dan Otero.

The last time Houston hit three home runs in an inning was June 5, 2013, against Baltimore.

Houston starter Brett Oberholtzer (3-7) won for the first time since May 30, giving up three runs on eight hits with two strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

Michele Roberts named NBPA chief

By Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein | ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS — Washington, D.C., attorney Michele Roberts has been voted in as the new executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, making her the first woman to head up a major North American sports union.

At the close of a chaotic Monday filled with meetings, conference calls, presentations and an array of emotions, NBPA executive committee members and team player representatives cast 32 votes in favor of Roberts as the successor to the ousted Billy Hunter, six more than she needed for election.

Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul said he was impressed by Roberts’ grace under fire, fresh ideas and quiet resolve during an extensive interview process.

“Today, we started out by telling the players how monumental today was,” said Paul, the president of the players’ association. “We’ve never had this amount of players here for a meeting, to give their input and feedback. After all the hours and time [put in by] our executive committee, along with an amazing search committee that helped throughout this process, it’s an unbelievable feeling to have the wonderful Michele Roberts now as a part of our team.”

Paul said Roberts was flush with fresh ideas.

“One particular member from our search committee … asked her a very tough question in the interviews and [vice president] Roger [Mason Jr.] almost fell out of his seat after she finished giving her answer,” Paul said. “Even though she’s a female, she’s very relatable to a lot of our players. I think that’s what really hit home for not only myself but some of these other guys as well.”

Roberts said she would assemble a management team to run the union, perhaps even changing the union bylaws, before diving into negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement. The players can opt out of the current CBA after the 2016-17 season.

“They’ve got their union back, and I’m going to make sure that they are empowered to take their union exactly where they want their union to go,” Roberts said. “It’s going to be a team that’s going to empower them to be able to do their business as they decide.

“I am a bad woman, but I’m not that bad,” Roberts said. “We are going to have a team, a very strong team, what I call a team of gladiators, that’s going to help these men and women, again, go in the direction they choose to go. It’s a new day. It’s not a one-person, Superman, ‘I’ve got this.’ It’s going to be a team.”

That was exactly what the executive committee seemed to like about Roberts’ vision.

NBPA @TheNBPA

We’re thrilled the players selected Michele Roberts as #NBPA Executive Director! Congrats to our players & exec comm for a historic choice.
1:23 AM – 29 Jul 2014

“It really is a new day for our union,” Mason said. “It started off with the players saying, ‘We’ve had enough, we’re taking our union back’ a year and a half ago with Billy Hunter. We decided we wanted to be inclusive with all our players and find not only a successor but a new-age players’ association executive director. We’re fortunate throughout a long and rigorous process, we found one.”

Roberts said she wanted to create “a system that will empower these players to run their union” and that they’d already begun talking about whether to opt out of the current CBA in 2017.

“We started yesterday preparing for CBA negotiations,” she said. “It’s not a question you direct to me. My clients are going to tell me where we’re going, and I’m going to make sure we get there.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement shortly after Roberts was elected, saying that he would “look forward to working with her and the NBPA Executive Committee to ensure the continued health and growth of our game.”

Roberts, once called the finest pure trial lawyer in the nation’s capital by Washingtonian magazine, was one of two original finalists for the post in February before a number of players and agents — insisting that the search for Hunter’s successor needed to be broader — convinced the union to relaunch the process.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson soon took charge of a newly formed search committee that, according to a USA Today report Monday, considered more than 300 applicants and interviewed some 70 candidates before pinpointing Roberts, Information Technology Industry Council CEO Dean Garfield and longtime Dallas Mavericks executive Terdema Ussery as its three finalists.

But at various points Monday, while the three finalists were preparing their 45-minute pitches to the assembled players, it appeared a vote might not take place, after several top agents urged their clients to push to delay the voting process again so other candidates could be considered.

“There was some chatter,” Mason said. “We want players to challenge everything to ensure a proper dialogue. We don’t want anyone to just go along with the process. So there were questions. I think there were answers that our players were comfortable with.”

Former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse, one of the most vocal critics of the selection process for months, was present Monday as well and strongly lobbied for the vote to be delayed a second time, despite the fact that the union had gone nearly 18 months without a replacement for the ousted Hunter. Upon leaving the meeting, Stackhouse told assembled reporters that the vote was being “rammed down our throats.”

Earlier in the day, one agent told ESPN.com that the situation was “a joke,” while another said, “none of these candidates are the right candidate.”

“The league revenue is probably $6-7 billion a year in this industry for the next six years,” Stackhouse said. “That’s almost $40 billion. You just hire somebody to control the next five or six years for the players, $40 billion worth of money, in a four-hour presentation?”

Among the concerns voiced during the meeting, sources say, was the fact that two of the three finalists (Roberts and Garfield) had no institutional knowledge of the NBA’s inner workings and limited negotiating experience, while the third (Ussery) had a longstanding relationship with former NBA commissioner David Stern after serving as the commissioner of the old Continental Basketball Association before spending nearly two decades as the Mavericks’ president and CEO.

By night’s end, though, Roberts had won the backing of many players in attendance and some of the leading agents — Dan Fegan, Jeff Schwartz and Arn Tellem — to collect the necessary votes to prevail in a first-ballot win.

According to union bylaws, Roberts needed at least 26 of 39 votes from the 30 team reps and nine executive committee members to be declared the executive director.

Roberts’ reputation as a top civil litigator ultimately won out. She collected all but four of the 36 available votes, with three undisclosed teams not represented in Vegas. Union officials announced late Monday that a total of 117 players from around the league attended the meeting.

“Anytime you get 90 percent of the vote or more and full participation from the entire body, it signals that guys understand that this is a very big deal,” union treasurer James Jones said. “This is a big decision and we did not want our guys to take it lightly, to do as we’ve done in the past, which is rubber stamp a process.”

But questions about that effort, led by Johnson, were raised throughout the league all weekend when word began to spread that the Sacramento mayor was abruptly cutting ties with the union.

“It’s a joke when you’re telling everybody that Kevin Johnson is leading the process and then all of a sudden he drops out of the process in the final hour, it reeks,” Stackhouse said. “And when you’re trying push it on the guys in a four-hour period to make such a major decision is unbelievable.”

Longtime NBPA attorney Ron Klempner, known for his collective bargaining agreement expertise, had served as the union’s acting executive director since Hunter’s ouster in 2013.

Clippers player rep Jared Dudley said he was satisfied with the process and the choice the players made.

“The board put a lot of time into this,” said Dudley, who said he voted for Roberts. “You could tell they were trying to do this the proper way. They brought in three candidates. Would I have liked to see more? Sure. But they put in a lot of time and we only had the one day and she stood out early in the process.

“I wasn’t there when they did the extensive thing. They’re there. That’s what we elected them to do. I’m going to go with them. I say it strongly because I have to trust in them.”

Dudley said it was imperative the union elect a new executive director Monday because of how soon it must start strategizing for the collective bargaining agreement.

“We had to get it done,” he said. “If they didn’t do it now, it could be another year. There’s two years until we can opt out [of the CBA]. LeBron [James], signing his two-year deal, set the tone. We know that the league is making money. They can’t hide behind that now.”

NCAA settles head-injury lawsuit

Associated Press

CHICAGO — The NCAA agreed Tuesday to settle a class-action head-injury lawsuit by creating a $70 million fund to diagnose thousands of current and former college athletes to determine if they suffered brain trauma playing football, hockey, soccer and other contact sports.

College sports’ governing body also agreed to implement a single return-to-play policy spelling out how all teams must treat players who received head blows, according to a Tuesday filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Critics have accused the NCAA of giving too much discretion to hundreds of individual schools about when athletes can go back into games, putting them at risk.

Unlike a proposed settlement in a similar lawsuit against the NFL, this deal stops short of setting aside money to pay players who suffered brain trauma. Instead, athletes can sue individually for damages, and the NCAA-funded tests to gauge the extent of neurological injuries could establish grounds for doing that.

The filing serves as notice to the federal judge overseeing the class-action case that the parties struck a deal after nearly a year of negotiations. In addition to football, ice hockey and soccer, the settlement also applies to all men and women who participated in basketball, wrestling, field hockey and lacrosse.

Joseph Siprut, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney who spearheaded talks with the NCAA, said the sometimes-tough negotiations ended with a deal that will make college athletics safer.

“I wouldn’t say these changes solve the safety problems, but they do reduce the risks,” the Chicago attorney said Tuesday. “It’s changed college sports forever.”

He also said that stricter oversight and return-to-play rules should help ensure the viability of football by allaying the fears of parents who are currently inclined to not let their kids play.

“Changes were necessary to preserve the talent well of kids that feeds the game of football,” he said. “Absent these kinds of changes, the sport will die.”

Phone and email messages seeking comment from the NCAA, based in Indianapolis, were not immediately returned Tuesday morning.

There is no cutoff date for when athletes must have played a designated sport at one of the more than 1,000 NCAA member schools to qualify for the medical exams. That means all athletes currently playing and those who participated decades ago could undergo the tests and potentially follow up with damage claims.

To keep the NCAA from having to hold unwieldy talks with multiple plaintiffs, 10 lawsuits filed from Georgia and South Carolina to Minnesota and Missouri were consolidated into the one case in Chicago, where the first lawsuit was filed in 2011. Combined, the suits identified several dozen athletes by name as having suffered brain trauma.

The lead plaintiff is Adrian Arrington, a former safety at Eastern Illinois. He said he endured five concussions while playing, some so severe he has said he couldn’t recognize his parents afterward. Subsequent headaches, memory loss, seizures and depression made it difficult to work or even care for his children, filings said.

Another named plaintiff is former Central Arkansas wide receiver Derek K. Owens. After several concussions, he said he found he could no longer retain what he had just studied. His symptoms became so severe that he dropped out of school in 2011, telling his mother: “I feel like a 22-year-old with Alzheimer’s.”

Among other settlement terms, all athletes will take baseline neurological tests to start each year to help doctors determine the severity of any concussion during the season, concussion education will be mandated for coaches and athletes, and a new, independent medical science committee will oversee the medical testing.

The NCAA admits no wrongdoing in the settlement and has denied understating the dangers of concussions. As proof it has tried to mitigate the risks, it has cited recent changes in equipment, medical practices and playing rules, including ones prohibiting football players from targeting an opponent’s head or neck.

The NCAA also announced in May a three-year, $30 million concussion study co-funded by the U.S. Defense Department. Plans call for initial data collection on about 7,200 athletes from 12 colleges, increasing to 37,000 athletes at 30 sites, with the aim of better understanding concussions and developing better prevention methods.

The settlement is still subject to approval by U.S. District Judge John Lee in a process that could take months. He must grant preliminary approval and then, after affected athletes weigh in, give a final OK.

Plaintiffs’ filings say the number of athletes who may require testing to learn if they suffered long-term damage runs into the tens of thousands. They cite NCAA figures that, from 2004 to 2009 alone, 29,225 NCAA athletes suffered concussions — including about 16,000 in football, 5,751 in women’s soccer and 3,374 in men’s soccer.

Internal emails unsealed in the lawsuit illustrate how pressure mounted on the NCAA over the issue.

In a Feb. 23, 2010, email, the NCAA’s director of government relations, Abe Frank, wondered about debates elsewhere, including in Congress, about recommended new safeguards for young children playing contact sports.

“Do you think this renewed emphasis on youth sports will increase the pressure on the NCAA to do more at the college level?” he asks in the email sent to the NCAA’s then-director of health and safety.

David Klossner responded bluntly a few hours later. “Well since we don’t currently require anything all steps are higher than ours,” he wrote.

Later that year, the NCAA established a new head-injury policy that requires each school to have a concussion management plan on hand and states that athletes should be kept from play for at least a day after a concussion; it also requires players to sign a statement “accepting responsibility for reporting their injuries.”

But plaintiffs argued schools put too much of the onus on athletes with little understanding of concussions to self-report injuries. And they blamed a tendency of some teams to hurry concussed players back into games according to patchy, uneven plans and the NCAA’s lax enforcement of the concussion policy.

In a 2012 deposition, Klossner conceded the NCAA provides virtually no oversight of concussion management plans and that schools aren’t required to submit them to the NCAA. Asked if any schools had been disciplined for having subpar plans, Klossner said, “Not to my knowledge.”

Prior to the settlement, plaintiffs were scathing about how the NCAA handled the head-injury issue for decades.

Instead of adopting stricter protections for athletes, the lawsuit said the NCAA chose “to sacrifice them on an altar of money and profits,” an approach that occurred even though the NCAA had known for at least a decade “of the correlation between concussions and depression, dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s disease.”

The plaintiffs cited a 2010 internal NCAA survey that found almost half of college trainers put athletes with signs of a concussion back into the same game.

Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press

Jersey estimated to sell for $100K

By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

An auction house believes an autographed, game-used Johnny Manziel jersey it is selling will set the record for the highest price ever paid for a college football jersey.

SCP Auctions announced on Monday that it has obtained the Texas A&M jersey that Johnny Manziel wore for all six of his home games at Kyle Field during his 2012 Heisman season.

“This is his only game-used jersey from his college career that has come to market,” said Dan Imler, vice president of the company. Imler said that given the interest around Manziel, the auction house estimates a winning bid of about $100,000.

“It has been a long time since we’ve seen a player as polarizing as Johnny Football,” Imler said. “He has got an electrifying personality and everyone is either rooting for or against him.”

Imler said not only does he expect well-heeled Aggies fans to bid, but also collectors who want to buy the best and the most interesting items that make it into the hands of the public.

Imler would not say who consigned the item, but said that the auction house has fully vetted the uniform’s source and his ownership of the jersey. SCP Auctions also says it has photomatched the jersey with very specific tailoring repairs and wear that can be seen on both photos and on the jersey itself.

Manziel autographed the back of the jersey in metallic silver pen with his stats from his Heisman-winning season.

The auction will take place online from Aug. 6 through Aug. 23, but the jersey will be on display at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland this week.

This jersey was originally posted on eBay in May with the seller hoping to get $300,000. Last year, a lot that included a pair of cleats that Manziel wore for his iconic win over Alabama during his Heisman season and a jersey he wore on the sidelines for the 2011 season sold at auction for $7,760.

Imler said he believes the record for the highest price paid for a game-used college football jersey was a Notre Dame Paul Hornung jersey, which sold for around $27,000.

Strong offseason fueling Brandon Weeden

By Todd Archer | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas – Brandon Weeden’s bid to be the Dallas Cowboys’ No. 2 quarterback in 2014 got a lot easier when the club decided to release Kyle Orton.

Barring something unforeseen, Weeden, who signed a two-year deal in the offseason, will be Tony Romo’s backup. But Weeden does not look at the move as “weight off my shoulders.”

“Given the situation Kyle has been in in previous years in Dallas, he’s been the backup quarterback, so I think if he was there it would be one more obstacle I would have to kind of hurdle,” Weeden said. “But at the same time I can’t really get wrapped up in putting all of my attention on that. I need to do what I did in the [organized team activities] and continue to play well and get better. I think hopefully things will work out that way regardless.”

The Cowboys felt confident enough to jettison Orton, who skipped the entire offseason program and minicamp, in part because of what Weeden did in the spring. With Romo recovering from back surgery and being kept out of competitive drills and Orton missing, Weeden took all of the first-team snaps.

“I think the reps I got in the OTAs were kind of irreplaceable,” Weeden said. “If I was in a situation where God forbid something happened to Tony and I’m asked to play, those are the guys I’m going to battle with, so those reps I got were invaluable. I know I won’t get many of those in [training] camp, but fortunately I had 12 practices where I was able to get out with those guys. Now it’s, ‘Let’s get to work.’ I’m ready to get to California and get things rolling.”

Orton had the same benefit last year of taking all of the offseason snaps in 2013 as Romo recovered from surgery to remove a cyst from his back. When Romo hurt his back in Week 16 against the Washington Redskins, he was able to step into the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles and play well. He completed 30 of 46 passes for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, but a late turnover sealed the Cowboys’ loss.

“[Gavin] Escobar and [Jason] Witten are two totally different players. Dez [Bryant] and Terrance [Williams] are two totally different players,” Weeden said. “You kind of learn what certain guys’ strengths are and little nuances of what they do. That’s the thing more than anything. You kind of get a feel for what Dez likes on fades and all that stuff a certain way where Terrance might like it another way. You’ve got to learn what each guy likes. When you’re with so many new guys it takes time. You always want more time, but it’s nice to have the reps I did get there to get a head start.”