Legendary professional football coach and ESPN analyst Mike Ditka is recovering from a stroke he suffered Friday, the sports network said.
Ditka, 73, will not be on ESPN's football shows this weekend, the network said. But Ditka "wanted everyone to know he's OK," ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman said via Twitter.
Top-ranked Alabama was defeated Saturday night by Texas A&M, 29-24, shaking up the BCS National Championship picture.
A dramatic finish stunned the crowd in Tuscaloosa.
Despite the loss, Alabama, the defending national champion, still has a shot at this year's crown.FULL STORY
[Updated at 1:01 p.m. ET] New charges have been filed against three former Penn State officials in the Jerry Sandusky child rape scandal, accused of having "used their positions to conceal and cover up for years the activities of a known child predator," Pennsylvania's attorney general said Thursday.
Former Penn State University President Graham Spanier – charged for the first time in the case – and former Athletic Director Tim Curley and ex-Vice President Gary Schultz now face the same five charges: obstruction of justice, perjury, conspiracy, endangering the welfare of children and failure to report allegations of child abuse.
Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu - a Heisman Trophy finalist last year at Louisiana State University, only to be suspended from the football team months later - was arrested Thursday on a drug charge, Baton Rouge police said.
A former team doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers was arrested Friday on charges of conspiracy to illegally distribute anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and painkillers to his patients, though authorities declined to comment on whether the drugs were ever prescribed to players.
Dr. Richard A. Rydze, 62, faces a 185-count indictment for allegedly dispensing the drugs from September 2007 through March 2011, though other related charges date back to 2005, prosecutors said.FULL STORY
Jerry Sandusky's lawyers are seeking a new trial for their client, according to court documents filed Thursday in Centre County court in Pennsylvania.
The convicted sex abuser and former Penn State assistant football coach was sentenced to no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years in prison after being convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys during a 15-year period.
The once-beloved coach, whose abuse triggered a scandal for one of the nation's most storied college football teams, was given credit for 112 days served.
In addition to requesting a new trial, his lawyers also filed a motion Thursday to reconsider the sentence.
The lawyers argue that there was insufficient evidence to convict Sandusky, and that the court didn't allow them enough time to prepare for trial. They also argue, among other things, that certain counts should have been dismissed on the grounds that they were too general and non-specific, preventing Sandusky from preparing an adequate defense.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos overcame a 24-point halftime deficit and beat the San Diego Chargers 35-24 Monday night, one of the biggest comebacks in NFL history.
After looking anemic in the first half, Denver's offense - with Manning in his first year as the team's quarterback - got going in the second half. Manning threw three touchdown passes in the half, and the Broncos defense intercepted Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers four times. Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
"We have been here before," said Manning, who completed 24 of 30 passes for 309 yards. "We know we have the ability to score quickly."
And that's just what Denver did. The Broncos opened the second half with an eight-play drive that went 85 yards for a touchdown.
The Chargers turned the ball over on their next possession for another Broncos touchdown. San Diego had six possessions in the second half and turned the ball over on five of them.
The victory leaves Denver and San Diego atop the AFC West, both at 3-3.
Only four teams have come back from larger deficits, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The largest of those was in a 1993 playoff game, when the Buffalo Bills trailed by 32 points against the Houston Oilers before coming back to win.
[Updated at 11:32 a.m. ET] Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lions defensive tackle turned actor in the ABC sitcom "Webster," died Wednesday in his Los Angeles home following a battle with kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and stomach cancer, according to a family spokesman.
He was 77.
Karras, a Gary, Indiana native, was an All-American at the University of Iowa before becoming a four-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL, playing for the Detroit Lions from 1958 to 1970. He went on to star in the 1980s' sitcom “Webster” – he played George Papadapolis, the guardian of the newly orphaned Webster, played by actor Emmanuel Lewis – and also played the horse-punching Mongo in the 1974 movie “Blazing Saddles."
In April, he joined hundreds of former NFL players suing the league over concussion-related injuries, serving as lead plaintiff for what was then the 12th concussion-related complaint filed against the NFL by the Locks Law Firm in Philadelphia.
Karras “sustained repetitive traumatic impacts to his head and/or concussions on multiple occasions” during his NFL career, and “suffers from various neurological conditions and symptoms related to the multiple head traumas,” the lawsuit said.
His wife, "Webster” co-star Susan Clark, said in April that Karras suffered from dementia.
The more than 2,000 NFL players who are suing the league claim the NFL misled players concerning the risks associated with concussions. The NFL has repeatedly said that player safety is a priority and that any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit.
According to his family, "Karras had always dreamed of being an actor," and got a boost when Lucille Ball "took him under her wing and allowed him to train in small parts."
Karras also co-wrote autobiographies called "Even Big Guys Cry" and "Alex Karras by Alex Karras."
"His love of nature and most especially of the ocean, where he spent many happy days on his fishing boat, led him to support numerous organizations committed to protecting our environment for future generations," his family said.
Memorial services are being planned and will be announced soon, his family said.FULL STORY
The National Football League reaffirmed Tuesday that it would suspend four players in connection with the New Orleans Saints' controversial "bounty" program, a month after the league postponed the suspensions after the players appealed.
Suspensions for two of the players – former Saint and current Cleveland Brown Scott Fujita and free agent Anthony Hargrove – have been reduced. But the suspensions for Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (the rest of the season) and defensive end Will Smith (four games) are unchanged.
The league suspended the four in May, concluding that they had leadership roles in the Saints' pay-for-injury program. But the league postponed the suspensions in September after an appeal, with an appeals panel saying Commissioner Roger Goodell would review the punishment and need to clarify the reasons for the punishments.
The delay allowed Fujita and Smith to play the first few games of this season. Although the other two were eligible to play, Vilma is on the Saints' list of those physically unable to perform, and Hargrove has no team.
"In letters to each player and a memorandum to the clubs, Commissioner Goodell clarified that his decision was based entirely on his finding that the bounty program represented conduct detrimental to the league and professional football," the NFL said Tuesday. "The Saints’ bounty program operated over a three-year period and offered incentives to players for plays including 'cart-offs' and 'knock-outs,' which were plays that caused injuries to opponents."
The following are the new punishments:
Vilma: Suspended for the season, as prescribed previously. He will retain the salary he earned while on the physically-unable-to-perform list during the first six weeks of the season.
Smith: Suspended for four games, as prescribed previously.
Hargrove: Suspended for seven games, down from eight. He will be credited with five games served as a free agent, so he will be suspended only two games when he signs with another team.
Fujita: Suspended for one game, down from three.
The NFL said the decision was made after Goodell met with the players: the "first time those players had agreed to speak directly to the NFL to give their side of the story," according to the league.
The players can appeal the new decision. The players' union, the NFLPA, has opposed the punishments.
The NFL has "failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever," the NFLPA said Tuesday.
"We will review this decision thoroughly and review all options to protect our players’ rights with vigilance," the NFLPA said.
The NFL previously suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season while levying an indefinite suspension on former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was accused of masterminding the bonus program.FULL STORY
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, 68, was sentenced to no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years in prison at a hearing on Tuesday. It is, effectively, a life sentence.
Sandusky was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, and faced a maximum of 400 years in prison.
Four of Sandusky's victims were in court with their families. The victims were emotional as they addressed the court and faced down the convicted pedophile.
Sandusky remained stone-faced, while his family looked down during the victims' testimony. Matt Sandusky, an adopted son of Jerry Sandusky who at the end of the trial accused the former coach of abusing him, was not in the courtroom, CNN's Laura Dolan reported. Matt Sandusky's birth mother, Debra Long, sat in the back row of the courtroom.
One of Sandusky's victims, known as Victim No. 5, addressed the court during his sentencing.
Editor's note: Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, after a judge handed down a prison sentence Tuesday for his convictions on child sexual abuse charges. Judge John Cleland said Sandusky will face no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years, with credit for time served. He was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. The 68-year-old had faced a maximum of 400 years in prison. His attorneys have 10 days to appeal the decision. They have already vowed to appeal his conviction. Follow along below as we learn more details.
[Updated at 11:57 a.m. ET] Sandusky attorney Karl Rominger said that should the defense team succeed in getting a new trial, one of the strategies will be to argue that Sandusky may have crossed boundaries by showering with children, but that nothing illegal happened.
Rominger was responding to a question from In Session, after Tuesday’s sentencing, about how Sandusky’s showering with children can be defended.
“I don’t think it was ever couched as normal behavior ... but crossing boundaries may be Sandusky’s best defense,” Rominger said.
Rominger said that in a new trial, a psychologist would testify that crossing boundaries can “create victims that don’t exist."
“Nobody is saying (showering with children) is completely appropriate, but it’s not criminal,” Rominger said.
The defense team said it will appeal for a new trial, contending, among other things, that it was granted too little time to prepare for the case (see 10:45 a.m. entry). Sandusky contends he is innocent of the charges, and his team says he could have been acquitted if his lawyers had more time to examine the case.
[Updated at 11:20 a.m. ET] Here's a little detail of how Judge John Cleland explained his sentence in court:
The law allows a sentence of hundreds of years, the judge told Sandusky, but he called such a sentence too esoteric.
The judge wanted to give Sandusky a sentence that wasn't so “abstract,” something that Sandusky could understand, CNN’s Jason Carroll reported.
The judge effectively gave the 68-year-old Sandusky a life sentence, Carroll reported.
Sandusky will be 98 when he is first able to ask for parole.
Are American sports fans turning into the citizens of ancient Rome, turning up to sports events to see mayhem akin to gladiators fighting for their very lives?
Stars in two of the country's most prominent sports were asking those kinds of questions Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., arguably the sport’s most popular personality in NASCAR racing, said he wonders if fans are "bloodthirsty."
If they watch races to see what transpired at the end of Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, Earnhardt said they are.
And he’s had enough.
Earnhardt was part of a 25-car pileup at speeds of 200 mph on the final lap of Sunday’s Good Sam 500 that left the Alabama track looking like a junkyard.
"It's not safe. Wrecking like that, it's ridiculous. It's bloodthirsty if that's what people want,” Earnhardt said afterward, according to news reports, including SI.com.
"If this is what we did every week, I wouldn't be doing it. I'd find another job," Earnhardt said.
His New York Jets are struggling on the field, but team owner Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson told Bloomberg News today that it's more important to him to see Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan get elected.
Johnson, chairman of Johnson Co. and a great-great-grandson of the founder of Johnson & Johnson, is the New York state chairman of the Romney-Ryan campaign.
His Jets are 2-2 this season, and fans are smarting after Sunday's 34-0 pounding at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. Nevertheless, Johnson has his priorities. When an interviewer on Bloomberg Television's "Market Makers" asked him whether football or politics was more important, Johnson responded:
"Well, I think you always have to put country first. So I think it’s very, very important, not only for us but in particular for our kids and grandkids, that this election come off with Mitt Romney and Ryan as president and vice president.”
That might be the best news coach Rex Ryan and beleaguered quarterback Mark Sanchez will hear all week.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with leukemia, according to team owner Jim Irsay, and the coach's doctor describes it as a highly treatable form of the disease.
"I am very optimistic that he will beat this thing," Irsay said during a news conference Monday. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will take the team's helm during Pagano's absence, the owner said.
According to the National Cancer Institute, acute promyelocytic leukemia – the type with which Pagano was diagnosed – is an “aggressive (fast-growing) type of acute myeloid leukemia in which there are too many immature blood-forming cells in the blood and bone marrow.”
Football fans were rejoicing Thursday that the NFL's real officials were going to be back on the field for the evening's midweek matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Replacement officials hired by the NFL during a lockout of the regular officials had endured increasing criticism over a long list of what appeared to be bad calls.
Early arrivals at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium gave a rousing cheer to the game's seven officials, led by referee Gene Steratore, as they took the field before Thursday night's kickoff.
T. C. Moore (@tc_moore) September 27, 2012
Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) September 27, 2012
skip balch (@skipbalch) September 28, 2012
Once news got out that the lockout had been resolved, NFL fans on Twitter let fly with some ref-fueled humor:
1st Ref call tonight should be: "Offensive Pass Interference. #81. Seattle. 3 days ago."—
Scott Hanson (@ScottHanson) September 27, 2012
Glad the regular officials are back. I'm much more comfortable criticizing them. I like knowing they're making more money to be wrong. #NFL—
Chris Carlin (@ChrisCarlinSNY) September 27, 2012
The National Football League's regular referees will return to the field Thursday night after reaching a tentative labor deal that kicked replacement officials to the curb, ending a major source of frustration and embarrassment for fans, players and the league.
In place of the replacement referees, most of whom had officiated no more than a handful of pro games, the league put together a veteran crew with a combined 70 seasons of NFL experience to handle Thursday night's game between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens, the first since league owners lifted the lockout Wednesday night.
"Never thought I would be excited for the refs to come back to work but it's about time," Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Cribbs tweeted Thursday. "It was definitely necessary!"
The eight-year deal - the longest ever for officials, according to the NFL - gives the union referees a pay raise and keeps their pension program in place for five years.
It suspends a lockout that began before the league's preseason, leading to a series of gaffes that climaxed in a furor over a botched call that allowed the Seattle Seahawks to walk away with a victory in Monday night's nationally televised game. The league acknowledged Tuesday that the Green Bay Packers should have won, but allowed the result of the game to stand.
Union members still must ratify the deal, but the league has lifted the lockout to allow crews to handle games, pending that vote.
While they have not called a game since last season, the league's veteran crews will be ready to go, said retired official Mason "Red" Cashion.
"These guys have been working every week, really since May, to get ready for the season, through conference calls, through video, through meetings of their own," Cashion said. "And that's something that the officials have done simply because they have enough pride in what they do that they wanted to be ready. And they are ready."
The eight-year deal includes details about officials' pensions and retirement benefits, and adds a pay bump from $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013. The pay will rise to $205,000 by 2019.
The agreement will also allow the NFL to hire some officials on a year-round basis and hire additional referees so they can be trained.
"This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
The return of the league's regular referees won't put an end to controversial calls, said retired NFL player Tiki Barber. But it will raise the respect level between coaches and players and officials, Barber said.
"There's still going to be arguing with referees," he said. "They're still going to make bad calls. But now we're going to know that it's coming from a base of knowledge. These guys know what they're talking about and they're going to have an argument for why they do what they do on the field."
The deal came almost exactly 48 hours after the controversial ending of the Monday night game, which the Seahawks won 14-12 after replacement officials gave possession of a disputed ball, and a touchdown, to Seattle receiver Golden Tate.FULL STORY
Even the leader of the free world had time Tuesday to comment about the National Football League after Monday night’s controversial Seahawks-Packers game.
Replacement referees, standing in for regular officials who are locked in a labor dispute with the NFL, controversially ruled that a Seahawks receiver caught a game-winning touchdown pass as time expired. The referees also missed what the NFL says was a penalty against that same receiver – a penalty that, had it been called, would have rendered the catch controversy moot and given the win to the Packers.
Airwaves and social media were buzzing with reaction Monday and Tuesday from NFL players, fans, and yes, President Barack Obama, who says he wants to see the regular referees get back to work.
NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs' lockout is settled soon. -bo—
Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 25, 2012
Discussion of the call virtually took over Twitter in the United States, with the game generating more than 1 million tweets, the social media company said Tuesday. Already disappointed in missed and botched calls since replacements began working in the preseason, many fans and players called for the NFL to quickly settle the labor dispute.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez told CNN that after Monday night’s 14-12 Seahawks victory over the Packers, “it’s becoming embarrassing.”
Replacement referees missed a penalty that would have rendered moot a controversy over whether a Seattle Seahawks receiver caught a game-winning touchdown pass a moment later, the National Football League said Tuesday.
The Green Bay Packers would have won the game had offensive pass interference been called against Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, but the missed penalty wasn't reviewable. So the officials' controversial on-field ruling that Tate subsequently scored a touchdown by having joint possession of the ball with a Packers defender stands.
The touchdown – which over the last day has become a symbol of player and fan frustration over the NFL's replacement referees – gave Seattle a 14-12 win. "The result of the game is final," the NFL said in a news release Tuesday.
The NFL also said that it supports a referee's decision, after he reviewed the play Monday night, that no indisputable evidence existed to overturn the on-field ruling that Tate scored.
Commentators on ESPN, which showed the "Monday Night Football" game, questioned whether Tate really caught the ball, penalty or not. The play has sparked a full-open revolt by fans and players over replacement referees, who are standing in for officials that the NFL has locked out during a labor dispute.
"Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs," Packers guard T.J. Lang tweeted minutes after the game ended, one in a series of profanity-laced tweets accusing the referees of taking the game from his team.
Here's how the play unfolded: With seconds remaining and Seattle down 12-7, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a deep pass into the end zone. Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings went up for the ball, and referees eventually ruled - after officials gave competing signals - that both possessed the ball simultaneously. Under NFL rules, simultaneous possession goes to the offense, so the officials ruled the play a touchdown for Tate with time expired.
Replays, however, showed two potential problems: First, Tate appears to shove Packers defender Sam Shields in the back while the ball is in the air, a move that normally would draw an offensive pass interference penalty. Second, the footage appears to show Jennings first having both arms wrapped around the ball while Tate had one arm on it, so simultaneous possession appears questionable. The ball eventually was pulled tight to Jennings' chest.
The referees reviewed the play, and let it stand, giving Seattle the win.
The NFL essentially said Tuesday that the Packers should have won because Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference, "which would have ended the game" with the Packers ahead.
However, a missed offensive pass interference call is not reviewable, the NFL said, so nothing could be done about that part of the play when it was reviewed by referee Wayne Elliott.
As for the ruling on the catch, the NFL said: "Eliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood."
"The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review," the NFL said Tuesday.
Discussion of the call virtually took over Twitter in the United States and sparked rising calls for the NFL to quickly settle its labor dispute with officials.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy declined to specifically address the call in his post-game news conference but said later that he had "never seen anything like that in all my years in football."
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers called the officiating "awful."
When Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith showed up Sunday night for the game against the Patriots, he had a lot more on his mind than the AFC championship rematch so many fans were waiting to see.
Smith had barely slept and wasn't even sure if he would play. He had driven home to Virginia after learning hours earlier his younger brother Tevin had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Shortly before grabbing an hour of sleep, at around 5:30 a.m., he tweeted about how much his brother meant to him.
I can't believe my little brother is gone...be thankful for your loved ones and tell them you love them...this is the hardest thing ever—
Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) September 23, 2012
An hour later, as tributes to his brother were pouring in, Smith posted a picture of the two of them together, saying, "I can't say a bad thing about him... proud to have him as a brother. ..."
I can't say a bad thing about him...proud to have him as a brother...RIP Tevin instagr.am/p/P61i4nk-QR/—
Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) September 23, 2012
At 4:30 p.m. Sunday, he finally made the decision he would play – in honor of his brother.
"It was tough emotionally. I didn’t know how I would hold up," Smith said after the game. "I was telling my teammates a minute ago that this is new territory for me personally. I never really had to deal with a death in the family, let alone my brother. In our family, everyone’s so tight. Just like a lot of other families. It’s part of life and, due to my teammates and my family and friends, I’ll be able to get over it.”
When Smith got to the stadium, he said he texted his mother.
"That’s when I really made my decision I was going to play," Smith told reporters at a press conference after the game. "So she was excited about it. She was like, ‘Of course, he’d want you to play.’ He’d admired me so much ... and it’s just a tough situation altogether."
Smith received words of encouragement from everyone inside the club and around the globe. On Twitter, fans shared their condolences. Inside the clubhouse, safety Ed Reed, who lost his brother in 2011, gave Smith a psalm that he hoped would help him through the tough time.
"God’s in control, and God has a plan bigger than ours. We don’t know our time, none of us. We all experience the same things, so I just told him that we’re here for him; I’m here for him," Reed said, recalling his conversation with Smith to reporters after the game.
"I can relate to him. I told him we get so caught up, like our pastor said today, in the physical and what we see. I still talk to my (late) brother to this day because I know there's much more to us than just being here. I told him that he could still have those conversations. Just know that he’s in a much better place."