Wednesday's Sports in Brief

Wednesday's Sports in Brief
December 13, 2012, 7:32 am
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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.

PRO HOCKEY

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.

SOCCER

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.

BASEBALL

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.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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.

GOLF

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.