NFL: Browns to meet with Bowles
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns will reportedly meet with an old friend today.
The team scheduled an interview with Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles in the Cleveland area, NFL Network reported. Bowles was an assistant with Cleveland from 2001-04, coaching defensive backs on Butch Davis’ staff.
In his first season with the Cardinals, the 50-year-old Bowles helped Arizona to a 10-6 record. He spent 2012 with Philadelphia, starting the season coaching the secondary before finishing as coordinator when Juan Castillo was fired.
Bowles played eight seasons in the NFL with Washington and San Francisco. He won a Super Bowl with the Redskins in 1988.
• LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — If the Bears make changes this offseason, it will not be at quarterback.
Chicago signed Jay Cutler to a seven-year contract, ending speculation they might make a change after five seasons of good and bad from their talented signal-caller. Cutler clearly thrived under first-year coach Marc Trestman and now has some of the best complements on offense he’s had since arriving in Chicago in 2009.
The Bears also signed cornerback Tim Jennings, who has led the team in interceptions in each of the past two seasons, and guard Matt Slauson to four-year deals. Like Cutler, both players were scheduled to become free agents.
• MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe said his special teams coordinator made anti-gay comments while Kluwe was with the Vikings, an allegation the coach “vehemently denies.”
In an article posted on the website Deadspin, Kluwe wrote that coach Mike Priefer made several anti-gay comments in objection to Kluwe’s outspoken opposition of an anti-gay marriage amendment in Minnesota.
Kluwe also said former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and current general manager Rick Spielman encouraged him to tone down his rhetoric in an effort to reduce distractions to the team. At the same time, Kluwe said, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf expressed support for Kluwe’s championing of gay rights.
Hours later, Priefer issued a statement disputing Kluwe’s portrayal of the events.
• EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Kevin Gilbride has retired as offensive coordinator for the New York Giants. The 62-year-old Gilbride, a veteran of 39 years in coaching, says Thursday he wants to devote more time to his family.
He spent the last decade with the Giants, winning two Super Bowls, but was under pressure this season for New York’s inconsistent performance on offense.
Gilbride was quarterbacks coach in his first three seasons with the Giants, helping in Eli Manning’s development.
Group gives up L.A. Sparks
NEW YORK (AP) — The Los Angeles Sparks’ ownership group has given up control of the franchise.
WNBA President Laurel Richie told The Associated Press that Sparks chairman Paula Madison informed the league right before Christmas that her family-owned company would no longer be involved with the team.
Madison said in a phone conversation that the team had lost $12 million since she took over ownership in 2007, including 1.4 million this past year and her family couldn’t sustain the losses any more.
All Sparks front office personnel, including the team’s president and general manager, were laid off on New Year’s Eve via email. The players, including star Candace Parker, and coaching staff have already been paid and their benefits will continue to be taken care of by the league.
The move comes after a banner year for the WNBA with attendance and viewership both up.
• KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Candace Parker didn’t think much about having her jersey retired when she played at Tennessee, saying she was more concerned about putting national championship banners in the Thompson-Boling Arena rafters. Now she has both.
Parker, who led Tennessee to national titles in 2007 and 2008, had her No. 3 jersey retired before the fifth-ranked Lady Vols lost to No. 16 LSU.
Parker, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the reigning WNBA most valuable player, joined Tennessee coach Holly Warlick and Lady Vols head coach emeritus Pat Summitt for the midcourt ceremony.
Celski, Smith lead at trials
KEARNS, Utah (AP) — J.R. Celski and Jessica Smith won both of the men’s and women’s time trials at the U.S. Olympic short track trials Thursday.
Celski won the opening nine-lap time trial in 1 minute, 21.667 seconds at the Utah Olympic Oval. He came back later to claim the four-lap trial in 36.269 seconds. He won two bronze medals at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Seeking her first Olympic berth after missing out four years ago, Smith won the women’s 9-lapper in 1:28.117 and followed up with a win in the four-lapper with a time of 39.317. The former inline skater from Melvindale, Mich., finished one spot out of an Olympic spot in 2010.
Both Celski, of Federal Way, Wash., and Smith earned a total of 1,000 points for their two victories, putting them atop their respective overall classification standings after the first of four days of competition.
Fans honor injured Schumacher
GRENOBLE, France (AP) — Scores of Michael Schumacher’s fans converged today on a hospital in the French Alps to honor the Formula One great on his 45th birthday, just days after he was critically injured in a skiing accident.
Schumacher has been in a medically induced coma since Sunday, when he struck his head on a rock while on a family vacation.
About 100 fans came by bus from Italy or by car from northern France and other places, saying they felt compelled to honor a man who had given them so many reasons to celebrate in the past.
“With all the joy he has given us, it was important for us to return the favor and be here for Michael,” said Gulio Carissomi, who drove four hours from Italy to reach Grenoble.
One group of fans quietly assembled in view of the Grenoble hospital’s windows, unfurling a large banner for Ferrari, the racing team that Schumacher had anchored.
The seven-time F1 champion has undergone two brain operations since the accident.