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AP source: Goodell told to testify in Rice appeal

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been told to testify in Ray Rice's appeal of his indefinite suspension, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, the neutral arbiter selected to hear the appeal, informed the parties of her decision Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the appeal have not been made public.

It was uncertain whether Goodell will actually testify. He said this month he would leave the decision to Judge Jones.

"We will continue to respect Judge Jones' confidentiality order regarding this proceeding," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email.

NFL lawyers have argued that Goodell shouldn't have to testify, and instead were offering testimony from Jeff Pash, the NFL's general counsel, and Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president for labor policy. Pash and Birch were with Goodell when he met with Rice's side in June to talk about what happened when the former Pro Bowl running back hit his then-fiancee in an elevator.

Rice described details of the incident at that meeting. Goodell has called Rice's description "ambiguous" while Rice's side has maintained he gave exact details.

The hearing will be held Nov. 5 and 6, two people familiar with the case told the AP on Tuesday.

Rice was suspended indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after a video of the former Pro Bowl running back hitting the woman was released publicly. Goodell originally had suspended the running back for two games.

Once the video became public, the Baltimore Ravens cut Rice, and the league banned him indefinitely. The league considered the video to be new evidence, giving Goodell the authority to further suspend Rice.

The players' union appealed Rice's suspension, saying he should not be punished twice.

Jones was jointly picked by the commissioner and the players' union to hear the appeal. The union said at the time that Goodell's testimony as a witness would be crucial in the proceedings.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Rob Maaddi can be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ap-robmaaddi

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 08:38:00 +0000
Titans: Rookie Zach Mettenberger will start at QB

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have kicked their youth movement into high gear with rookie Zach Mettenberger starting at quarterback against the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Jake Locker has missed three of the past four games with injuries, and coach Ken Whisenhunt said Thursday that the decision to go with Mettenberger was made Tuesday. The coach said this is an opportunity to see what the sixth-round draft pick out of LSU can do with the Titans struggling at 2-5.

"No question he's a talented, young player, and maybe it'll give us a spark," Whisenhunt said. "Offensively, we haven't exactly been lighting it up, so that's part of it in consideration."

Whisenhunt waited to announce the change to make sure Locker - who has been sidelined with an injured thumb - is healthy enough to back up Mettenberger. The coach also was trying to buy a day to slow down the Texans' preparation for the rookie. The shake-up dropped Charlie Whitehurst, who started three of the past four games with the Titans losing two of those, to third on the depth chart.

Mounting losses and injuries seemed to make the change inevitable.

The Titans had stuck with Locker, the eighth pick overall in 2011, since hiring Whisenhunt in January. But Locker has missed 17 of a possible 39 starts and finished only three games this season because of injuries.

Mettenberger will become the fourth rookie quarterback to start in the NFL this season, the third quarterback for Whisenhunt. The Titans already are starting left tackle Taylor Lewan, linebacker Avery Williamson and running back Bishop Sankey with Mettenberger the fourth of six draft picks to start this season.

The quarterback dropped to the sixth round after tearing his left ACL on Nov. 29 playing for LSU but led the NFL this preseason with 659 yards passing. The rookie shaved the beard he started growing during training camp after practice just before talking to reporters.

"By no means am I a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning," Mettenberger said as he leaned back against his locker. "This is going to be my first game, so really I just got to get the ball out of my hands quick, avoid turnovers and put the ball in the (hands of) guys who can make plays for us. Really that's the biggest thing a young guy's got to do."

Whisenhunt had promised he would be more patient with quarterbacks in his second time around as a head coach. He reached the 2009 Super Bowl in Arizona with Kurt Warner, but the coach cycled through quarterbacks after the veteran left. Whisenhunt started Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and finally Brian Hoyer in his final season in 2012.

Once in Tennessee, he inherited Locker who was coming off a Lisfranc injury to his right foot that cost him the final seven games of the 2013 season. The Titans did not pick up Locker's option for 2015 in May, even as they stood behind him as their starter.

But Locker hurt his right wrist in a loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 21. He missed a loss at Indianapolis and then started Oct. 5 against Cleveland where he threw for a touchdown and ran for another TD before hurting his right thumb on a helmet.

"I understood after last year I didn't know kind of how it would go and coming into this year they gave me an opportunity," Locker said. "I haven't been in. I haven't played. That's been kind of one of those things that I've dealt with throughout my career, and I imagine it has something to do with that."

Fans have been clamoring to see Mettenberger with the Titans losing five of their last six. This franchise also needs to give people a reason to use their tickets and come to the stadium where they have won only two of their last nine home games.

Mettenberger fits the profile of the quarterback Whisenhunt has had the most success with: Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. Mettenberger is 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds who can stand in the pocket, and he has a strong arm throwing for 3,082 yards last season at LSU. With Locker's injured thumb, Mettenberger also had taken some practice work with the starters over the past two weeks.

He will be the first rookie this franchise has started since 2010. Rusty Smith started at Houston after Vince Young was placed on injured reserve and veteran Kerry Collins was hurt. Smith and the Titans lost 20-0.

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Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 20:53:00 +0000
Braves make Hart president of baseball operations

ATLANTA (AP) John Schuerholz completed what he called "the best negotiation of my entire career" by convincing his longtime friend John Hart to accept the role of president of baseball operations.

With Hart taking the newly created title on Thursday, the Braves aren't looking for a general manager. The 66-year-old Hart agreed to a three-year contract that will continue through the team's first season at its new stadium in Cobb County.

Hart became interim general manager Sept. 22. The team had sought a full-time replacement for Frank Wren, who was fired last month after a 79-83 finish this season.

Hart, Schuerholz and former Braves manager Bobby Cox formed the GM search committee. Hart said last month his only interest was in the interim job, but Schuerholz, the team president, wouldn't accept that as a final answer.

"We met as transition team quite a number of times and when we were at the meetings invariably I'd pull out my list and I'd say `OK, are we going to talk about the GMs?"' Hart said. "At some point John would get up, he'd take a phone call, he'd go to the bathroom. ... I think all along I did feel and know that John clearly wanted me to take this job."

Hart, the former GM for the Rangers and Indians, joined the Braves last year as a senior adviser.

Schuerholz described Hart as "a man who has demonstrated great ability in constructing winning baseball organizations, winning baseball teams, creating staffs of very capable people empowered to do great jobs in each of the organizations he has run."

Hart said he has turned down similar opportunities with other teams that lacked the "personal component" he has with Schuerholz.

Schuerholz, who was the Royals' GM before taking over as the Braves' GM in 1990, returned to Kansas City for Game 1 of the World Series this week. He said he was asked by owners and executives why he hadn't convinced Hart to take the full-time role in Atlanta.

Schuerholz said he was told it would be great to have Hart back in baseball.

"So I was motivated by that and came back and had my last and final conversation with my dear friend," Schuerholz said. "I was able to persuade him this was the place to be and this was the organization he could have so much of an impact on in a very positive and energetic way and get us to where we want to be, and that's at the very top, the gold standard baseball organization that we have always been regarded as."

Schuerholz said assistant GM John Coppolella will be Hart's "right-hand man."

"Coppy was a big part of the reason I took this job," Hart said. "I think you will see Coppy is a young man who is going to develop and grow."

Schuerholz sat with Kansas City GM Dayton Moore at the World Series. Moore was a former assistant under Schuerholz with the Braves, but Schuerholz said he never approached Moore about the Braves' position.

"It would be disrespectful for me to even talk to him about that," Schuerholz said.

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:14:00 +0000
AP sources: Rice's appeal hearing set for Nov. 5-6

A hearing on Ray Rice's appeal of his indefinite suspension will be held Nov. 5 and 6, two people familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

The people spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the hearing have not been made public.

Rice was suspended indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after a video of Rice hitting his then-fiancee in an elevator was released publicly. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell originally had suspended Rice for two games.

Once the video became public, the Baltimore Ravens cut the star running back, and the league banned him indefinitely. The league considered the video to be new evidence, giving Goodell the authority to further suspend Rice.

The players' union is appealing Rice's suspension, saying Rice should not be punished twice.

A neutral arbiter is expected to decide whether Goodell should testify. The arbiter had not yet made that decision as of Tuesday afternoon, the sources who informed the AP of the hearing said.

The arbiter, former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, was jointly picked by the commissioner and the players' union. Union officials said when the appeal was announced that Goodell and his staff's testimony are key to the appeal and a central reason to have an outside arbiter.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Rob Maaddi can be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ap-robmaaddi

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 20:30:00 +0000
Thunder star Durant won't rush return from injury

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder forward Kevin Durant is having a tough time getting used to the fact that he will miss the early part of the season with a bone fracture in his right foot.

"I've been antsy since I got out of surgery," he said Tuesday. "Seen that Chicago-Cleveland game last night, and I wanted to get out there and play. As a competitor, I love to play basketball - that's all I've been doing. Injuries have never had me out this long, but it's part of the game."

The reigning MVP spoke to the media Tuesday morning for the first time since the injury. He had surgery on Oct. 16 and will be re-evaluated in about five weeks, or late November. He rolled into the media session on a scooter with the lower half of his right leg in a cast.

Durant said he's never had surgery, so he doesn't know how he will respond to it. He says he won't rush his return.

"Blessed that it happened early in the season so I can get past it, and hopefully, by December, I'll be ready to play," he said.

Durant, who has played more minutes than anyone since entering the league in 2007, is finding other ways to contribute to the team.

"Just help out as much as possible, lead from where I am, which is the sideline," he said. "I feel like a coach, feel like (Alabama football coach) Nick Saban, rolling around on my scooter from court to court giving advice and trying to help out as much as I can. It's a different position for me, but I'm looking forward to growing mentally watching the game and learning from my teammates, trying to help them as much as I can."

He said the situation presents an opportunity for his teammates to grow, and he feels that the team will be better off in the long run as a result.

"It's going to give guys opportunities to play, build confidence, build their chemistry as a team," he said. "So I'm looking at the positive side of it. It's a win-win, basically, because I'm learning a lot while I'm out about the game, and my teammates are getting a lot of opportunities because it's a lot of minutes out there to play and help contribute to the team."

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 20:13:00 +0000

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