49ers linebacker Aldon Smith suspended by NFL
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have been preparing for months to play on without Aldon Smith over an extended period.
Now they know the exact timeframe: He is suspended for more than half the season.
The star linebacker received his nine-game penalty from the league Friday stemming from a series of off-field legal issues.
A statement from the NFL said Smith had violated the NFL's substance abuse and personal conduct policies.
Smith won't be eligible to return until Nov. 10, the day after the 49ers' game against the New Orleans Saints.
"Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead."
The 24-year-old Smith, one of the NFL's top pass rushers, missed five games last season to undergo treatment at an in-patient facility following his DUI arrest Sept. 20.
It was unclear whether Commissioner Roger Goodell would consider that absence toward time served. Smith was suspended two days after Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon's indefinite suspension by the NFL was upheld and he will miss at least 16 games for another violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
Just before training camp began last month, Smith was sentenced to serve three years of probation and to spend 11 days with a work crew after he pleaded no contest to drunken driving and weapons charges.
He has repeatedly said he has been sober since his DUI arrest last September. Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Colts on Sept. 22, two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. After the game, he publicly apologized for his behavior and later announced he would leave for treatment.
While the Niners went on a five-game winning streak without him, Smith's menacing presence was sorely missed. The team still picked up his 2015 contract option this spring.
The 49ers, who went 14-5 last year and lost to the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in the NFC championship game, also are without injured All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman for at least half the season as he recovers from a left knee injury that required surgery after the NFC title game.
Coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio have expressed their confidence in the linebackers, who will be called upon to fill in with Bowman and Smith out - including rookie Chirs Borland, Dan Skuta, Michael Wilhoite and Corey Lemonier.
Third-round draft pick Borland made his case for a starting spot with a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown in Thursday night's 40-13 preseason win at Houston.
In his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. No charges were filed.
In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home. Investigators said several shots were fired, two partygoers were injured and Smith was stabbed. In the subsequent investigation, prosecutors say detectives found five unregistered, illegal weapons in Smith's house.
Last season, Smith finished with 8 1/2 sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games with eight starts. He was initially worked back in slowly, but demonstrated he had stayed in shape while away.
Selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, Smith had a franchise-record 19 1/2 sacks during the 2012 season for the 49ers, who lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl after that season.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Sat, 30 Aug 2014 01:25:00 +0000
Tony Stewart back at the track, looking to heal
HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) Tony Stewart took his seat on the podium - unshaven, his eyes glassy - and unfolded a sheet of paper. His voice quivered as he read, pausing to maintain his composure as he described the death of a driver he hit as "one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with."
This was a far cry from the brash driver known around the track as "Smoke."
Ninety minutes later, he climbed into his No. 14 car and sped toward the high-banked oval at Atlanta Motor Speedway, drawing a cheer from the crowd gathered around his garage. He quickly got up to speed, turning laps of nearly 190 mph, a racer back in his element.
Ready or not, Stewart is back on the track.
Describing himself as heartbroken but eager to heal, Stewart rejoined the race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship surrounded by those he considers a second family - his team, his crew, his rivals. He missed the last three races, going into seclusion after the sprint car he was driving struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., who had stepped on the track to confront him during a race.
He'll get back to work as an investigation continues in upstate New York. Authorities said Friday that the probe into the cause of the crash will last at least another two weeks. No decision has been made about whether Stewart will face charges.
"This is something that will definitely affect my life forever," Stewart said. "This is a sadness and a pain I hope no one has to experience in their life. That being said, I know that the pain and mourning that Kevin Ward's family and friends are experiencing is something that I can't possibly imagine."
He mentioned Ward's parents and three sisters by name, saying he wanted them "to know that every day I'm thinking about them and praying for them."
Stewart took no questions about Ward's death because of the ongoing investigation, and said he wasn't sure if he had the emotional strength to answer them anyway. But his timid, halting delivery presented a much different side to a racer whose infamous temper has sparked clashes with the media and fellow drivers.
It was business as usual when Stewart switched to his racing suit. He signed autographs. He talked with his crew about the car's setup. He chatted up Kurt Busch.
Behind the wheel, Stewart looked as though he had never been away. He advanced to the final round of qualifying before settling for the 12th starting spot in Sunday night's race with a speed of 187.907 mph. One of his teammates at Stewart-Haas Racing, Kevin Harvick, claimed the pole at 190.398.
Stewart went out ahead of Harvick and advised him to take a lower line on the track.
"He was definitely a big help," Harvick said. Afterward the two chatted briefly, a conversation Harvick described as "all racing."
If Stewart should win in Atlanta, or next week's race at Richmond, he would qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. While NASCAR requires its drivers to compete in every event to make the playoff, Stewart was granted a waiver that is normally applied to a driver who misses a race for medical reasons.
Mike Helton, president of the governing body, said NASCAR made the decision after consulting with third-party experts who "were relevant under these circumstances." He would not elaborate.
"We want to join everybody in racing in welcoming Tony back," Helton said. "He's a great asset to NASCAR. He's a great champion, a great participant in our sport."
There was no word from Ward's family on Stewart's return. A woman who answered Friday at the home of Kevin Ward Sr. said the family would not be commenting.
During an Aug. 9 sprint-car event in upstate New York, Stewart and Ward's cars bumped while racing into a turn, sending Ward's car spinning. Ward climbed from his wrecked machine and wandered onto a darkened track in a black racing suit, wanting to make his displeasure known to the three-time NASCAR champion.
One car appeared to swerve to avoid Ward, but he was struck by the back right tire of Stewart's car.
The 43-year-old Stewart pulled out of the race at nearby Watkins Glen the morning after Ward was killed, and then skipped events at Michigan and Bristol.
"I've taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way," Stewart said. "It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car, and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time."
Asked if it was fair to make Stewart eligible for the Chase, rival driver Denny Hamlin wavered a bit.
"It's a very vague thing," he said. "It's tough to say what's considered medical and not."
Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said the driver sent flowers and a card to Ward's family around the time of the funeral. He hopes to meet with them at some point.
"He's been very respectful of them and their time to grieve," Frood said. "It's important for Tony to spend time with the family. I do think that will happen at the appropriate time."
Stewart said he knows there are plenty of questions surrounding Ward's death. Many of those have focused on whether he was trying to frighten a young driver who had the nerve to challenge him over a racing crash. But he emphasized that the best way for him to heal was to put on his helmet.
"Being in that car," Harvick said, "cures a lot of problems for a short time."
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
Sat, 30 Aug 2014 04:18:00 +0000
Change of plea hearing set for Colts owner Irsay
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (AP) A change of plea hearing has been set for Tuesday for Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who faces drug-related charges following a March traffic stop.
Hamilton County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andre Miksha said Friday that a not guilty plea had previously been entered on behalf of the 55-year-old Colts owner.
Miksha said in an email he cannot "provide any details of - or even verify the existence of - an agreement unless and until one" is filed Tuesday with Hamilton Superior Court or at a later date. Messages seeking comment were left Friday with Irsay's attorney, Jim Voyles.
Irsay was arrested March 16 near his suburban Indianapolis home after he was spotted driving slowly, stopping in the roadway and failing to use a turn signal. Officers said he had trouble reciting the alphabet and failed field sobriety tests.
A police report said an officer believed Irsay to be intoxicated, but not on alcohol. Various prescription drugs were found in his vehicle, along with more than $29,000 in cash.
Irsay was charged with driving while intoxicated and driving with a Schedule I or II controlled substance in his body. His trial had been scheduled for Thursday, but he requested and received a continuance.
Less than 48 hours after his March arrest, the Colts said Irsay had entered a treatment facility. He resumed his duties with the Colts at the NFL draft in early May.
Irsay acknowledged in 2002 he had become dependent on painkillers after several years of orthopedic operations. He said then that he had overcome the problem.
Irsay became the Colts owner in 1997 after the death of his father, Robert Irsay, and a lengthy legal battle with his father's second wife.
Fri, 29 Aug 2014 22:09:00 +0000
Stewart returning to competition after fatal crash
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Tony Stewart will return to Sprint Cup competition Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, ending a three-race hiatus taken after he struck and killed a fellow driver during a dirt-track race.
The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since his car hit Kevin Ward Jr. at an Aug. 9 sprint car event in upstate New York. Stewart pulled out of the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen the next morning, then skipped races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.
Stewart, who was described by police as "visibly shaken" the night of Ward's death, has been in seclusion ever since. Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood has said the emphasis was on giving Stewart time needed to get him "in a better place than he is."
Stewart's only comment since the crash was a statement the day after the crash in which he said "there aren't words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr."
Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing for position with Stewart. The 20-year-old walked down onto the racing surface waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront Stewart.
Authorities said the first car to pass Ward had to swerve to miss hitting him. The front of Stewart's car then appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tire and hurtled through the air. He died of blunt force trauma.
Stewart will return with a decision pending on whether he will be charged in Ward's death. Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero has said investigators did not have any evidence to support criminal intent by Stewart. Povero said Thursday the investigation is still ongoing.
Meanwhile, the 43-year-old NASCAR superstar will move forward with his career and attempt to salvage his season.
NASCAR released a statement saying that Stewart was eligible to return because he "has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities." NASCAR said it would have no further comment until President Mike Helton speaks Friday afternoon.
Stewart, who has 48 career Cup wins in 542 starts, is one of the biggest stars in the garage. His peers have been protective of him as questions emerged in the aftermath of the crash, and it pained them that Stewart was grieving in private and had cut off communication with so many of them. He will talk to the media for the first time since the fatal crash on Friday.
NASCAR rules state a driver must attempt to either qualify or race the car in every points-paying event to be eligible for Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, unless a waiver is granted. There was no immediate word if NASCAR would grant that waiver.
Since Ward's death, NASCAR has announced a rule that prohibits drivers from exiting from a crashed or disabled vehicle - unless it is on fire - until safety personnel arrive. Last week, Denny Hamlin crashed while leading at Bristol and stayed in his car until safety personnel arrived.
But Hamlin then exited his vehicle and angrily tossed a safety device at Kevin Harvick as he passed by moments later. He was not penalized.
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:08:00 +0000
After Rice, NFL increases domestic violence bans
NEW YORK (AP) Acknowledging he "didn't get it right" with a two-game suspension for Ravens running back Ray Rice, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced tougher penalties for players accused of domestic violence, including six weeks for a first offense and at least a year for a second.
In a letter sent to all 32 team owners Thursday and obtained by The Associated Press, Goodell never mentions Rice by name but makes clear references to the Baltimore player who was charged with assault after being caught on video dragging his then-fiancee off a casino elevator.
"My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values," Goodell wrote. "I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."
Since January 2000, 77 players have been involved in 85 domestic violence incidents with six being cut by their teams, according to USA Today's NFL Arrests Database. The NFL suspended six players for one game each, and Rice was the second player to be suspended for two games.
Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was convicted in July of assaulting his ex-girlfriend and has appealed for a jury trial set for November. His league punishment has not been announced. Goodell's letter doesn't state clearly how the league will handle pending cases and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email, "Each case will be addressed individually on its merits."
Outrage over Rice's punishment prompted three members of Congress to write to the commissioner asking him to reconsider Rice's suspension; the governor of Maine also threatened to boycott the league, and numerous groups that advocate for women and families condemned the penalty as too lenient.
The commissioner told teams to distribute his memo to all players and to post it in locker rooms. It reads in part: "Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances."
The memo says that violations of the league's personal conduct policy "regarding assault, battery, domestic violence and sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to enhanced discipline."
The NFL Players Association said it had been informed of the increased punishments.
"As we do in all disciplinary matters, if we believe that players' due process rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will assert and defend our members' rights," the union statement said.
The personal conduct policy is not subject to collective bargaining with the players' union, and the commissioner has leeway to impose punishments for such off-field violations. Goodell's statement also did not stipulate whether the commissioner would act before a player is formally charged.
"We particularly applaud your decision to impose tougher penalties, and to give serious consideration to circumstances that may warrant even harsher consequences," said Esta Soler, chief executive of the advocacy group "Futures Without Violence," who met last week with Goodell.
"We know that this is not an issue that can be addressed overnight, and intimate partner violence will not be eliminated by tougher game penalties alone," the statement continued. Goodell promised more training and education for staff and players.
Rice's suspension begins Saturday. He has never said exactly what happened in the elevator, and he and the woman in the video are now married. Rice apologized publicly and said his actions were "totally inexcusable."
An initial domestic violence offense will draw a six-week ban without pay, although the memo says "more severe discipline will be imposed if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child."
A second offense will result in banishment from the league, but a player will be allowed to petition for reinstatement after a year.
"There is no assurance that the petition will be granted," the memo says.
Goodell's letter notes other steps the league will take to "strengthen our policies on domestic violence and sexual assault," including efforts to educate all NFL employees on the subject.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:54:00 +0000
Kenny Football: Hill surpasses Manziel's mark
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Kenny Hill broke Johnny Manziel's single-game passing record with 511 yards and No. 21 Texas A&M beat No. 9 South Carolina 52-28 on Thursday night, ending the Gamecocks' 18-game home win streak.
Hill's performance in his first career start proved there is plenty of life in the Aggies' offense without Manziel, a Heisman Trophy winner and first-round selection in the NFL draft. Hill finished 44 of 60 with three touchdowns.
Hill was steady and confident in the pocket, leading Texas A&M (1-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) to a 31-14 halftime lead and finishing up with the most passing yards allowed in Steve Spurrier's 10 seasons with the Gamecocks (0-1, 0-1).
The Gamecocks played their first game since the departure of star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney - and it showed. South Carolina gave up seven TDs on A&Ms first 11 possessions.
Fri, 29 Aug 2014 01:48:00 +0000
USC backup RB quits, coach refutes racism claims
LOS ANGELES (AP) Running back Anthony Brown has quit Southern California's football team, and coach Steve Sarkisian was stunned Thursday by Brown's apparent accusations of racism against him on social media.
A photo of the words "Couldn't play for a racist man!!!!" was posted on what USC said was Brown's Instagram account. The posting was later deleted.
"Sark treated me like a slave in his Office," was posted in the caption to the photo, along with the hashtag "Fighton."
Sarkisian was told about the apparent posts from Brown, who is black, shortly after USC finished practice Thursday. The visibly disturbed coach called them "ridiculous," saying Brown had shown no indication he felt slighted or insulted in their relationship.
"If you ask anybody in our building, any of our players ... that's about the furthest thing from the truth," Sarkisian said. "Quite honestly, I'm shocked."
Brown's acrimonious departure is another blow to a program already reeling from the bizarre saga of cornerback Josh Shaw, who was caught in a lie about the circumstances in which he sprained both of his ankles last weekend. Shaw has been suspended indefinitely.
Brown is a senior who played cornerback for the Trojans until this year, starting two games in each of his first three seasons. He played in only two games last year due to ankle injuries, racking up nine tackles at Notre Dame before missing the final eight games.
He switched positions to running back for his senior year, but Brown missed most of training camp with a hyperextended elbow.
"I had encouraged him to play," Sarkisian said. "I wanted him to play. I didn't want him to quit, and I thought he could get healthy."
Sarkisian said Brown asked the coaches to allow him to play running back this season, and the staff agreed with his move to a talent-rich position at Tailback U. After missing most of camp, he is listed sixth on USC's depth chart behind returning starters Javorius Allen and Tre Madden, as well as talented backups including Justin Davis.
"We thought he could be an asset to our team, especially when healthy," Sarkisian said. "(USC) really tried to make it a point to accommodate the position change. He wanted to move to running back. We did so. He unfortunately got injured and was working his way back in training camp, and decided he didn't want to play anymore."
Several current Trojans and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart immediately jumped on social media to defend Sarkisian. The first-year USC coach and former Trojans assistant hasn't even appeared on the Coliseum sideline this season before dealing with another dose of the turmoil that seems to follow this vaunted program.
"Coach Sark is who we all believe him to be," USC receiver George Farmer posted on his Twitter account. "Accusations like those couldn't be more untrue."
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 22:55:00 +0000
Giants' Petit retires 46 straight for MLB record
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) San Francisco Giants right-hander Yusmeiro Petit has set a major league record by retiring 46 consecutive batters.
Petit set down the first eight Colorado hitters he faced Thursday, setting the record by striking out Charlie Culberson and drawing a standing ovation at AT&T Park. That broke the mark held by Mark Buehrle with 45 in a row for the Chicago White Sox in 2009.
The streak ended when the next batter, Rockies pitcher Jordan Lyles, doubled to left field.
Petit's string covered eight games, six of them in relief.
The 29-year-old journeyman from Venezuela fell one out shy of a perfect game against Arizona last September. Petit made this start in place of struggling Tim Lincecum, who was recently sent to the bullpen.
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 20:41:00 +0000
NFL suspends Browns star WR Gordon for 2014 season
CLEVELAND (AP) Josh Gordon's wait is over, and so is his 2014 season. Now the star wide receiver's career is in peril.
The Browns learned Wednesday that Gordon's indefinite suspension by the NFL has been upheld and he will miss at least 16 games for another violation of the league's substance abuse policy. A repeat drug offender, Gordon had appealed the penalty, hoping it would be reduced so he could play this season.
The NFL, though, came down hard on Gordon, who must now pay the price for stepping out of bounds.
The league announced that arbitrator Harold Henderson supported Gordon's yearlong suspension for marijuana use. The Pro Bowler, who was subject to more frequent testing, will begin serving his suspension immediately and the league said in its statement that his "eligibility for reinstatement will be determined following the 2014 season."
In the meantime, Gordon is not allowed to practice with the team, attend meetings or other club functions.
Browns general manager Ray Farmer expressed some disappointment at the decision, but said the team has no choice but to move ahead without Gordon.
"While we may have strong feelings on the timing and the process of this decision, we have also consistently communicated that we will focus on what we can control in our day to day approach," Farmer said in a statement. "Right now that is preparing our team for the 2014 season and at the same time, supporting Josh however we are able under NFL guidelines during his suspension."
The Browns had feared for months this would be the outcome, and now that it's official, the club will have to somehow make up for the league-leading 1,646 yards, 18.9 yards per catch and nine touchdowns Gordon produced last season.
"I'd like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Cleveland Browns organization and our fans," Gordon said in a statement. "I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing office didn't exercise better discretion and judgment in my case. I would like to sincerely thank the people who have been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging time, including my family, my agent, my union, my legal team, and the Cleveland Browns staff."
While he's out, Gordon, who served a two-game suspension for a drug violation last season, will need to pass drug tests, comply with treatment and apply for reinstatement with Commissioner Roger Goodell before he plays again. Gordon could possibly return inside a year if he stays clean.
Gordon met with league officials in New York on Aug. 4 to appeal his suspension. As the days past, there was growing speculation he might not be punished to the letter of the collective bargaining agreement. But Henderson sided with the league's initial ruling after an exhaustive process.
The Browns have known Gordon could be banished for some time and they've been eager for a resolution to his case, which hung over their training camp. He continued to practice and played in Cleveland's first three exhibition games.
Gordon fought the suspension by hiring attorney Maurice Suh to represent him at the appeal hearing. Suh, who had successfully gotten a suspension reduced for Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, argued that Gordon tested positive for marijuana due to secondhand smoke. Gordon's representatives also said test results of his samples were inconsistent and should be thrown out.
There was speculation the league might go softer on Gordon following the public outcry after Baltimore running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games on a domestic violence charge. Instead, the league put Gordon on the sideline for all 16 games and will wait to see how he behaves before deciding whether to let him back.
Gordon didn't help his cause with two legal issues as his case dragged on. He was charged with drunken driving after his arrest in Raleigh, North Carolina, on July 5. In May, he was stopped for speeding in Strongsville, Ohio, and one of the passengers in his car was cited for marijuana possession.
The talented 23-year-old led the league with 1,646 yards receiving last season despite being banned from the first two games for a failed drug test. It was his second known violation as a pro and Gordon said he had inadvertently taken codeine contained in a prescription cough syrup.
Gordon's loss is a crippling blow to Cleveland's offense, depriving the Browns of their best big-play threat. Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron is now the team's primary target, and he may find himself double-teamed and without open spaces to run routes now that Gordon is missing.
The Browns took a risk in selecting Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft, forfeiting a second-round pick to take the speedy 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who failed at least three drug tests in college for marijuana abuse.
The team has vowed to do all it can to help and support Gordon. During training camp, owner Jimmy Haslam said the team never considered cutting him.
As he awaited word from the league, Gordon was noticeably different. He dropped passes and seemed detached during an exhibition game in Washington. Recently, he posted a photo on Instagram of himself on the practice field catching a pass from rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. Gordon captioned the photo, "Only place I can find peace."
It's been taken away.
Gordon's on his own.
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:42:00 +0000
USC's Shaw admits to lying about injuries, rescue
LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern California cornerback Josh Shaw confessed that he lied to school officials about how he sprained his ankles last weekend, retracting his story about jumping off a balcony to save his drowning nephew.
The school swiftly suspended him Wednesday from all team activities and acknowledged his heroic tale was "a complete fabrication."
The tale began to unravel soon after the team captain was lauded for his heroics in a story on the team's website Monday. In the account, Shaw described how he instinctively jumped from a balcony, with no one around, to rescue his 7-year-old nephew in a pool in his hometown of Palmdale, California. The school said a day later callers questioned the story, and began vetting it.
But the biggest question remains unanswered: What was he doing, and how did he injure his ankles?
"We are extremely disappointed in Josh," USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. "He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story."
The Los Angeles Police Department has confirmed that a man named Joshua Shaw was mentioned - but not as a suspect - in a report involving a break-in at a downtown apartment building Saturday night. The department has not made the report public.
Shaw is a fifth-year senior, a captain and a key starter in USC's defensive secondary. He is widely considered a solid teammate and an important leader for the 15th-ranked Trojans, who begin their first season under Sarkisian at the Coliseum on Saturday against Fresno State.
Shaw issued a short statement through criminal defense attorney Donald Etra on Wednesday after being suspended.
"On Saturday, August 23, 2014, I injured myself in a fall," Shaw said. "I made up a story about this fall that was untrue. I was wrong not to tell the truth. I apologize to USC for this action on my part. My USC coaches, the USC athletic department and especially Coach Sarkisian have all been supportive of me during my college career and for that, I am very grateful."
Etra didn't respond to a request for further details about the cause of Shaw's injuries.
Shaw didn't attend practice Wednesday, missing his second straight day of workouts. Although he is barred from team activities, his injuries also would keep him out of workouts for at least a few weeks.
Shortly after Shaw's yarn was made public, the football program received phone calls contradicting Shaw's version of his injuries. Sarkisian has not said who made the calls, but the school acknowledged the discrepancies Tuesday morning and began investigating Shaw, who initially stuck to his story.
"I appreciate that Josh has now admitted that he lied and has apologized," Sarkisian said. "Although this type of behavior is out of character for Josh, it is unacceptable. Honesty and integrity must be at the center of our program. I believe Josh will learn from this. I hope that he will not be defined by this incident, and that the Trojan Family will accept his apology and support him."
It's unclear whether Shaw could face additional discipline from USC for lying to school officials. A USC spokesperson didn't immediately return a request for clarification about the school's student conduct policies.
Shaw and the school still haven't acknowledged any connection to the LAPD report from officers who responded to a woman screaming in a downtown apartment complex Saturday. USC is on the south end of downtown.
Officers interviewed several people at the building, and a woman told the police that someone had pried open a window, entered the third-floor apartment and fled, but nothing was taken. The woman also acknowledged "a relationship" with Shaw, according to LAPD Lt. Andy Nieman.
Sarkisian insisted the situation won't be a distraction for the Trojans, but still allowed only two of Shaw's defensive teammates to speak with the media after practice Wednesday morning.
Linebacker Hayes Pullard and defensive lineman Leonard Williams both acknowledged surprise at the situation that developed after Shaw's account was challenged, but remained supportive of their fifth-year senior captain.
"We were pretty shocked," said Williams, who hasn't spoken to Shaw. "Josh Shaw is a pretty loyal guy. I would never expect him to make up a story. I would never expect that out of him as a team leader."
Shaw's leadership and character were widely praised throughout his first two seasons of play at the school. He transferred back to his native Los Angeles area from Florida, in part to help out his ailing grandfather with the family landscaping business.
"Josh has been a great guy," Pullard said. "He has great character. I've never known him to lie about anything ... so it's surprising. This is exactly when our leadership roles come in. We talk to guys and let them know what's expected, and we'll keep us focused on our team."
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 01:58:00 +0000