Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

Signing Day: Ole Miss muscles in on power programs


Alabama. Ohio State. Michigan. Florida. Notre Dame. Mississippi?


Ole Miss muscled in on the powerhouses that usually dominate national signing day, landing some of the most sought-after prospects in the country on college football's annual first-Wednesday-in-February frenzy.


The Rebels, coming off a promising 7-6 season in their first season under coach Hugh Freeze, had the experts swooning by signing three of the bluest chips still on the board and building a well-rounded class otherwise.


"I do think (this class) has the possibility of being a program changer," Freeze said. "But it's all on paper right now.


The day started with defensive end Robert Nkemdiche from Loganville, Ga., rated the No. 1 recruit in the country by just about everyone who ranks them, deciding to join his brother, Denzel, in Oxford, Miss.


"I feel like it's the right place for me," Nkemdiche said after slipping on a red Ole Miss cap. "I feel like they can do special things and they're on the rise. I feel like going to play with my brother, we can do something special."


Nkemdiche originally committed to Clemson last year, then backed off that and narrowed his picks down to LSU, Florida and Mississippi — and the Rebels beat the big boys.


They weren't done. Coaches in the Ole Miss war room were exchanging hugs and high-fives again a couple hours later when Laremy Tunsil, a top-rated offensive tackle from Lake City, Fla., picked the Rebels over Florida State and Georgia.


"Tunsil to Ole Miss I think was the biggest surprise of the whole (recruiting season)," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports.com.


And, as if the Ole Miss needed more good news, highly touted defensive back Antonio Conner from nearby Batesville, Miss., chose the Rebels over national champion Alabama.


Ole Miss also landed Laquon Treadwell from Crete, Ill., one of the best receiver prospects in the country. He made a verbal commitment to the Rebels back in December, and sealed the deal Wednesday, the first day high school players can sign binding letters of intent.


The end result was a class good enough to even catch the attention of LeBron James.


"Ole Miss ain't messing around today! Big time recruits coming in. SEC is crazy," the NBA MVP posted on his Twitter account.


Crazy good. While the Rebels racked up, it's important to remember they still have plenty of ground to gain on the rest of their conference.


Nick Saban reloaded the Crimson Tide with a class that Rivals.com ranked No. 1 in the country.


SEC powers Florida, LSU and Georgia pulled in typically impressive classes. SEC newcomer Texas A&M cracked the top 10 of several rankings. Even Vanderbilt, coming off a nine-win season, broke into the top 25.


It's the cycle of life in the SEC, which has won seven straight BCS championships. Stock up on signing day and scoop up those crystal footballs at season's end.


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SLIPPING AWAY FROM USC


Signing day didn't do much to soothe the scars left from a difficult season for Southern California.


NCAA sanctions limited the number of scholarships coach Lane Kiffin and the Trojans could hand out this year, and then as signing day approached USC had several players who had given verbal commitments change their minds.


The most notable defection on signing day was five-star defensive back Jalen Ramsey of Brentwood, Tenn., who flipped to Florida State. Defensive end Jason Hatcher from Louisville, Ky., bailed on USC and signed with Kentucky, and defensive end Torrodney Prevot from Houston not only reneged on his USC commitment, but he landed at Pac-12-rival Oregon.


"People expected (Prevot) to flip from USC, but they thought it would be to Texas A&M," Shurburtt said.


USC's class won't be lacking blue chippers. Quarterback Max Browne from Washington is considered the next in a long line of topflight Trojans quarterbacks, and Kenny Bigelow from Maryland is rated among the best defensive linemen in the nation.


Kiffin will be banking on quality to make up for the lack of quantity, but that's a precarious way to play a game as uncertain as recruiting.


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IF MOMMA'S NOT HAPPY ...


Alex Collins, a top running back prospect out of Plantation, Fla., announced on Monday night that he was going to Arkansas instead of Miami.


It was considered a huge victory for new Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema.


But on Wednesday morning, when it was time to make it official, Collins' letter of intent didn't come spinning through the fax machine in Fayetteville, Ark.


There were some odd reports about Collins' mother not being happy with her son's decision to go so far from home.


College coaches aren't allowed to talk about specific players before they sign, but Bielema did acknowledge during his signing day news conference that Arkansas' class of 22 players could "grow by one."


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THE BIG TWO


Ohio State and Michigan received two thumbs up from experts on their signing day classes. They all had the Buckeyes and Wolverines around top five in the country.


After that, there was a drop off. Nebraska received solid grades and Penn State, despite NCAA sanctions that limited its class to 17 signees, held up pretty well.


"That's a tribute to the job (Penn State coach) Bill O'Brien and the staff did," Shurburtt said.


But signing day 2013 signaled that Urban Meyer's Buckeyes and Brady Hoke's Wolverines are primed to pull away from most of the Big Ten, and maybe — just maybe — give the league a team or two that can challenge those SEC teams for a national title.


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BUILT TO LAST


Notre Dame followed up its best season in more than two decades with a recruiting class that coach Brian Kelly hopes can keep the Fighting Irish contending for more national titles.


The class includes a famous name in Torii Hunter Jr., the son of the All-Star outfielder. Hunter Jr. is a top-notch receiver prospect, though he broke his leg during an All-Star game and it could be a while before he's back on the football field.


Linebacker Jaylon Smith from Fort Wayne, Ind., is generally regarded as the jewel of a class that experts have ranked among the best in the country.


"I love agreeing with experts," Kelly said.


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BASEBALL OR FOOTBALL?


Oklahoma hopes it has found the next Sam Bradford in Cody Thomas, a pocket passer from Colleyville, Texas.


One small problem. Thomas is also a big-time baseball player who could draw interest in the major league draft this summer.


"We wouldn't have pursued him if we didn't feel there was a great chance he'd be playing football," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.


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QUOTABLE


South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said recruiting classes "don't always pan out. Of course, they always seem to pan out at Alabama."


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AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Oxford, Miss., and Associated Press Writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed.


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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap


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Braun says he used Fla clinic owner as consultant


NEW YORK (AP) — Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun said the person who ran the Florida clinic being investigated by Major League Baseball was used only as a consultant on his drug suspension appeal last year.


"I have nothing to hide," Braun said in a statement released by his representatives on Tuesday night.


Earlier in the day, Yahoo Sports reported the 2011 NL MVP's name showed up three times in records of the Biogenesis of America LLC clinic. Yahoo said no specific performance-enhancing drugs were listed next to his name.


The Miami New Times recently released clinic documents that purportedly linked Alex Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera and other players to purchases of banned drugs from the now-closed anti-aging center.


Rodriguez and Cabrera were on the list with Braun that also included New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and Baltimore Orioles infielder Danny Valencia.


Braun said his name was in the Biogenesis records because of an issue over payment to Anthony Bosch, who ran the clinic near Miami.


"There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch's work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under 'moneys owed' and not on any other list," Braun said.


"I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch," he said. "I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter."


On Tuesday, MLB officials asked the Miami New Times for the records the alternative newspaper obtained for its story.


Asked specifically about Braun's name in the documents before the five-time All-Star released his statement, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said: "Aware of report and are in the midst of an active investigation in South Florida."


Braun tested positive during the 2011 postseason for elevated testosterone levels. He maintained his innocence and his 50-game suspension was overturned during spring training last year when arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in favor of Braun due to chain of custody issues involving the sample.


With that, Braun became the first major leaguer to have a drug suspension overturned.


"During the course of preparing for my successful appeal last year, my attorneys, who were previously familiar with Tony Bosch, used him as a consultant. More specifically, he answered questions about T/E ratio and possibilities of tampering with samples," Braun said.


The T/E ratio is a comparison of the levels of testosterone to epitestosterone.


Braun led the NL in homers (41), runs (108) and slugging percentage (.595) last season while batting .319 with 112 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. He finished second to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey in MVP balloting."


Cervelli, who spent nearly all of last season in Triple-A, posted a statement on Twitter later Tuesday night.


"Following my foot injury in March 2011, I consulted with a number of experts, including BioGenesis Clinic, for (cont)," Cervelli posted, "(cont)legal ways to aid my rehab and recovery. I purchased supplements that I am certain were not prohibited by Major League Baseball."


An email sent to Valencia's agent was not returned.


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Superdome officials worried about a power outage


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The cause of a 34-minute blackout at the Super Bowl remains under investigation, but public records released Monday show that Superdome officials were worried about a power outage several months before the big game.


An Oct. 15 memo released by the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, which oversees the Superdome, says tests on the dome's electrical feeders showed they had "some decay and a chance of failure."


Entergy New Orleans, the company that supplies the stadium with power, and the structure's engineering staff "had concerns regarding the reliability of the Dome service from Entergy's connection point to the Dome," the memo says. Those concerns were due in part to "circumstances that have previously occurred with the electrical service regarding transient spikes and loads."


The memo also cites 2011 blackouts that struck Candlestick Park, where the San Francisco 49ers were playing a nationally televised Monday night football game, as a reason for ordering the tests.


The board later authorized spending nearly $1 million on Superdome improvements, including more than $600,000 for upgrading the dome's electrical feeder cable system.


"As discussed in previous board meetings, this enhancement is necessary to maintain both the Superdome and the New Orleans Arena as top tier facilities, and to ensure that we do not experience any electrical issues during the Super Bowl," says a LSED document dated Dec. 19.


An attorney for the state board that oversees the Superdome said the blackout did not appear to be related to the replacement in December of electrical equipment connecting the stadium to Entergy. Officials with the utility and the Superdome noted that an NFL game, the Sugar Bowl and another bowl game were played there in recent weeks with no apparent problems.


The exact cause of Sunday night's blackout — and who's to blame — remained unclear late Monday, though a couple of potential culprits had been ruled out.


It wasn't Beyonce's electrifying halftime performance, according to Doug Thornton, manager of the state-owned Superdome, since the singer had her own generator. And it apparently wasn't a case of too much demand for power. Meters showed the 76,000-seat stadium was drawing no more electricity than it does during a typical New Orleans Saints game, Thornton said.


The lights-out game Sunday proved an embarrassment for the Big Easy just when it was hoping to show the rest of the world how far it has come since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But many fans and residents were forgiving, and officials expressed confidence that the episode wouldn't hurt the city's hopes of hosting the championship again.


To New Orleans' great relief, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the city did a "terrific" job hosting its first pro football championship in the post-Hurricane Katrina era, and added: "I fully expect that we will be back here for Super Bowls."


Fans watching from their living rooms weren't deterred, either. An estimated 108.4 million television viewers saw the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31, making it the third most-viewed program in television history. Both the 2010 and 2011 games hit the 111 million mark.


The problem that caused the outage was believed to have happened around the spot where a line that feeds current from Entergy New Orleans connects with the Superdome's electrical system, officials said. But whether the fault lay with the utility or with the Superdome was not clear.


Determining the cause will probably take days, according to Dennis Dawsey, a vice president for distribution and transmission for Entergy. He said the makers of some of the switching gear have been brought in to help figure out what happened.


The blackout came after a nearly flawless week of activity for football fans in New Orleans leading up to the big game.


"I hope that's not what they'll remember about this Super Bowl," French Quarter artist Gloria Wallis said. "I hope that what they'll remember is they had a great time here and that they were welcomed here."


Ravens fan Antonio Prezioso, a Baltimore native who went to the game with his 11-year-old son, said the outage just extended the experience.


"The more time we could spend at the game was a good thing, as long as it ended the way it did," he said, laughing.


The city last hosted the Super Bowl in 2002, and officials were hoping this would serve as the ultimate showcase for the city's recovery since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm tore holes in the roof of the Superdome and caused water damage to its electrical systems, and more than $330 million was spent repairing and upgrading the stadium.


Sunday's Super Bowl was New Orleans' 10th as host, and officials plan to make a bid for an 11th in 2018.


Mayor Mitch Landrieu told WWL-AM on Monday that the outage won't hurt the city's chances, and he joked that the game got better after the blackout: "People were leaving and the game was getting boring, so we had to do a little something to spice it up."


The chairwoman of the New Orleans City Council's Utility Committee has called an emergency meeting for Friday to discuss the power outage.


Jarvis DeBerry, a columnist for nola.com and The Times-Picayune, wrote that the power outage gave the media "an opportunity to laugh at the apparent ineptitude or suggest that the ghosts of Hurricane Katrina were haunting the Superdome."


"That's not the kind of attention the city was looking for, obviously," he wrote, "but it's certainly too soon to say if people will remember the power shortage over San Francisco's furious comeback attempt against Baltimore or if this will harm the city's future opportunities to host the Super Bowl."


Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's Center for Hospitality and Sports Management, said the episode shouldn't hurt the city's reputation as a big convention destination. "I think people view it for what it was: an unusual event with a near-record power draw," he said. "It was the equivalent of a circuit breaker flipping."


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Associated Press writers Beth Harpaz, Brett Martel, Stacey Plaisance and Barry Wilner contributed to this report.


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Ravens edge 49ers 34-31 in electric Super Bowl


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — For a Super Bowl with so many story lines, this game came up with quite a twist.


Try a blackout that turned a blowout into a shootout — capped by a brilliant defensive stand.


The Baltimore Ravens survived a frenzied comeback by the San Francisco 49ers following a 34-minute delay in the third quarter for a power outage Sunday night, winning their second championship 34-31. Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco threw three first-half touchdown passes, Jacoby Jones ran back the second-half kickoff a record 108 yards for a score, and star linebacker Ray Lewis' last play fittingly was part of a defensive effort that saved the victory.


"To me, that was one of the most amazing goal-line stands I've ever been a part of in my career," said Lewis, who announced a month ago he would retire when the Ravens were done playing.


They are done now, with another Vince Lombardi Trophy headed for the display case.


"What better way to do it," Lewis said, "than on the Super Bowl stage?"


That stage already was loaded with plots:


—The coaching Harbaughs sibling rivalry, won by older brother John, who said the postgame greeting with Jim was "painful."


—Flacco's emergence as a top-level quarterback, and his impending free agency.


—Colin Kaepernick's rapid rise in the last two months as 49ers QB.


—The big game's return to the Big Easy for the first time in 11 years, and the first time since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005.


—Lewis' self-proclaimed "last ride."


But when the Superdome lost power, well, that wasn't in anyone's scenario.


Flacco and the Ravens (14-6) were turning the game into a rout, leading 28-6 when, without even a flicker of warning, several banks of lights and the scoreboards went dark. Players from both sides stretched and chatted with each other in as bizarre a scene as any Super Bowl has witnessed.


"The bad part was we started talking about it," said safety Ed Reed, who had the game's only interception. "That was mentioned. It was like they were trying to kill our momentum."


After power was restored, the 49ers began playing lights out.


San Francisco (13-5-1), in search of its sixth Lombardi Trophy in as many tries, got back in the game almost immediately.


Michael Crabtree's 31-yard touchdown reception, on which he broke two tackles, made it 28-13. A few minutes later, Frank Gore's 6-yard run followed a 32-yard punt return by Ted Ginn Jr., and the 49ers were within eight.


Ray Rice's fumble at his 24 led to David Akers' 34-yard field goal, but Baltimore woke up for a long drive leading to rookie Justin Tucker's 19-yard field goal.


San Francisco wasn't done challenging, though, and Kaepernick's 15-yard TD run, the longest for a quarterback in a Super Bowl, made it 31-29. A 2-point conversion pass failed when the Ravens blitzed.


Tucker added a 38-yarder with 4:19 remaining, setting up the frantic finish.


Kaepernick couldn't get the 49ers into the end zone on the final three plays. The last was a pass into the right corner of the end zone to Crabtree that involved some incidental bumping. Jim Harbaugh insisted a flag should have been thrown.


"There's no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and then a hold," Jim Harbaugh said.


Ravens punter Sam Koch took a safety for the final score with 4 seconds left. Koch's free kick was returned by Ginn to midfield as time ran out.


"How could it be any other way? It's never pretty. It's never perfect. But it's us," John Harbaugh said of his Ravens. "It was us today."


Barely.


"Yeah, I think that last drive when we got the ball and had time to go down and score a touchdown," Kaepernick said, "we thought it was our game."


But the championship is Baltimore's.


As for the foul-up at America's biggest sporting event, officials revealed that an "abnormality" in the power system triggered an automatic shutdown, forcing backup systems to kick in. But no one was sure what caused the initial problem.


Everything changed after that until Lewis and Co. shut it down. But there were plenty of white-knuckle moments and the Ravens had to make four stops inside their 7 at the end.


"I think it speaks to our resolve, speaks to our determination, speaks to our mental toughness," John Harbaugh said. "That is what wins and loses games."


At 4 hours, 14 minutes, it was the longest Super Bowl ever.


Flacco's arrival as a championship quarterback — he had 11 postseason TD passes, tying a league mark, and no interceptions — coincides with Lewis' retirement. The win capped a sensational four games since Lewis announced he was leaving the game after 17 Hall of Fame-caliber years.


The Ravens will become Flacco's team now, provided he reaches agreement on a new contract.


Flacco's three TD passes in the opening half tied a Super Bowl record. They covered 13 yards to Anquan Boldin, 1 to Dennis Pitta and 56 to Jones.


That start boosted him to the MVP award.


"They have to give it to one guy and I'm not going to complain that I got it," Flacco said.


John Harbaugh had no complaints about getting that other trophy named after that Green Bay coach. But he struggled to balance it with the disappointment his brother was feeling.


"The meeting with Jim in the middle (of the field for the postgame handshake) was probably the most difficult thing I have ever been associated with in my life," the Ravens coach said.


The wild scoring made this the second championship in the NFL's 80-year title game history in which both teams scored at least 30 points. Pittsburgh's 35-31 win over Dallas in 1979 was the other.


The Ravens stumbled into the playoffs with four defeats in its last five regular-season games as Lewis recovered from a torn right triceps and Flacco struggled. Harbaugh even fired his offensive coordinator in December, a stunning move with the postseason so close.


But that — and every other move Harbaugh, Flacco and the Ravens made since — were right on target.


New Orleans native Jones, one of the stars in a double-overtime playoff win at Denver, seemed to put the game away with his record 108-yard sprint with the second-half kickoff.


Soon after, the lights went out — and when they came back on, the Ravens were almost powerless to slow the 49ers.


Until the final moments.


"The final series of Ray Lewis' career was a goal-line stand," Harbaugh said.


Lewis was sprawled on all fours, face-down on the turf, after the end zone incompletion.


"It's no greater way, as a champ, to go out on your last ride with the men that I went out with, with my teammates," Lewis said. "And you looked around this stadium and Baltimore! Baltimore! We coming home, baby! We did it!"


Jim Harbaugh, the coach who turned around the Niners in the last two years and brought them to their first Super Bowl in 18 years, had seen his team make a similarly stunning comeback in the NFC championship at Atlanta, but couldn't finish it off against Baltimore.


"Our guys battled back to get back in," the 49ers coach said. "I thought we battled right to the brink of winning."


The 49ers couldn't have been sloppier in the first half, damaging their chances with penalties — including one on their first play that negated a 20-yard gain — poor tackling and turnovers. Rookie LaMichael James fumbled at the Baltimore 25 to ruin an impressive drive, and the Ravens converted that with Flacco's 1-yard pass to Pitta for a 14-3 lead.


On San Francisco's next offensive play, Kaepernick threw behind Randy Moss and always dependable Reed picked it off. A huge scuffle followed that brought both Harbaughs onto the field and saw both sides penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.


Reed, also a New Orleans native, tied the NFL record for postseason picks with his ninth.


Baltimore didn't pounce on that mistake for points. Instead, Tucker's fake field goal run on fourth-and-9 came up a yard short when Chris Culliver slammed him out of bounds.


The Ravens simply shrugged, forced a three-and-out, and then unleashed Jones deep. Just as he did to Denver, he flashed past the secondary and caught Flacco's fling. He had to wait for the ball, fell to the ground to grab it, but was untouched by a Niner. Up he sprang, cutting left and using his speed to outrun two defenders to the end zone.


Desperate for some points, the 49ers completed four passes and got a 15-yard roughing penalty against Haloti Ngata, who later left with a knee injury. But again they couldn't cross the goal line, Paul Kruger got his second sack of the half on third down, forcing a second field goal by Akers, from 27 yards.


When Jones began the second half by sprinting up the middle virtually untouched — he is the second player with two TDs of 50 yards or more in a Super Bowl, tying Washington's Ricky Sanders in 1988 — the rout was on.


Then it wasn't.


"Everybody had their hand on this game," 49ers All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis said. "We point the fingers at nobody. We win together and we lose together, and today we lost it."


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Peterson double winner of AP NFL awards


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Adrian Peterson called it a blessing in disguise.


Strange way to describe career-threatening major knee surgery.


The Minnesota Vikings' star came back better than ever, just missing Eric Dickerson's longstanding rushing record and closing out the season with two of the top NFL awards from The Associated Press: Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year.


As sort of an added bonus, he beat Peyton Manning for both of them Saturday night.


"My career could have easily been over, just like that," the sensational running back said. "Oh man. The things I've been through throughout my lifetime has made me mentally tough.


" I'm kind of speechless. This is amazing, " he said in accepting his awards, along with five others at the "2nd Annual NFL Honors" show on CBS saluting the NFL's best players, performances and plays from the 2012 season. The awards are based on balloting from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL.


Manning's own sensational recovery, from four neck surgeries, earned him Comeback Player honors.


"This injury was unlike any other," said the only four-time league MVP. "There really was no bar or standard, there were no notes to copy. We were coming up with a rehab plan as we went."


Before sitting out 2011, Manning had never missed a start in his first 13 seasons with Indianapolis. But he was released by the Colts last winter because of his neck issues, signed with Denver and guided the Broncos to the AFC's best record, 13-3.


"Certainly you have double variables of coming off injury, not playing for over year and joining a new team. That certainly added a lot to my plate, so it was hard to really know what to expect," Manning said. "I can't tell you how grateful and thankful I am. I can't tell you how happy I am to be playing the game of football we all love so much."


Also honored were:


—Washington's Robert Griffin III, who beat out a strong crop of quarterbacks for the top offensive rookie award.


— Houston end J.J. Watt, who took Defensive Player of the Year, getting 49 of 50 votes.


Bruce Arians, the first interim coach to win Coach of the Year after leading Indianapolis to a 9-3 record while head man Chuck Pagano was being treated for leukemia. Arians became Arizona's head coach last month.


—Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, the league's leader in tackles with 164, who won the top defensive rookie award.


Peterson returned better than ever from the left knee surgery, rushing for 2,097 yards, 9 short of breaking Dickerson's record. He also sparked the Vikings' turnaround from 3-13 to 10-6 and a wild-card playoff berth.


He received 30 1-2 votes to 19 1-2 for Manning.


"I played my heart out, every opportunity I had," Peterson said. "The result of that is not what I wanted, which is being in the Super Bowl game. But I have a couple of good pieces of hardware to bring back and (put) in my statue area. So it feels good."


Was the knee injury the toughest thing he'd ever overcome?


"Losing my brother at 7, seeing him get hit by a car right in front of me, that was the toughest," he said. "But as far as injuries, yes."


New England QB Tom Brady was the last winner of MVP and Offensive Player in 2010.


"Trying to get two or three like Peyton, trying to get to your level," Peterson said of his first MVP award. "But I won't be there to accept it because I'll be winning with my coach, the most important award, the team award, the Super Bowl."


Dickerson predicted Peterson could get back to 2,000 yards.


"I hope he does have a chance to do it again," Dickerson said, adding with a laugh, "but do I want him to break it? No, I do not."


Wearing a burgundy and gold tie in honor of his Redskins, Griffin said his goal is to be ready for the season opener.


"It's truly a blessing to be up there — to be able to stand, first and foremost," said Griffin, who underwent knee surgery last month. He added that next season "you'll see a better Robert Griffin."


Arians moved up from offensive coordinator and helped Indianapolis make the playoffs at 10-6, making him an easy winner in the balloting.


"It's hard to put into words the feelings of this past year," he said. "This was kind of the cherry on the top, whipped cream and everything else you put on top."


Watt swatted the competition as Denver's Von Miller got the only other vote in the most lopsided balloting of all the awards.


"It sets the bar for me," Watt said. He led the NFL with 20 1-2 sacks and also blocked an astounding 16 passes. "I want to go out and do even better. I want to do even bigger things."


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Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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NFL's Goodell aims to share blame on player safety


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to share the blame.


"Safety," he said at his annual Super Bowl news conference, "is all of our responsibilities."


Not surprisingly, given that thousands of former players are suing the league about its handling of concussions, the topics of player health and improved safety dominated Goodell's 45-minute session Friday. And he often sounded like someone seeking to point out that players or others are at fault for some of the sport's problems — and need to help fix them.


"I'll stand up. I'll be accountable. It's part of my responsibility. I'll do everything," Goodell said. "But the players have to do it. The coaches have to do it. Our officials have to do it. Our medical professionals have to do it."


Injuries from hits to the head or to the knees, Goodell noted, can result from improper tackling techniques used by players and taught by coaches. The NFL Players Association needs to allow testing for human growth hormone to go forward so it can finally start next season, which Goodell hopes will happen. He said prices for Super Bowl tickets have soared in part because fans re-sell them above face value.


And asked what he most rues about the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation — a particularly sensitive issue around these parts, of course — Goodell replied: "My biggest regret is that we aren't all recognizing that this is a collective responsibility to get (bounties) out of the game, to make the game safer. Clearly the team, the NFL, the coaching staffs, executives and players, we all share that responsibility. That's what I regret, that I wasn't able to make that point clearly enough with the union."


He addressed other subjects, such as a "new generation of the Rooney Rule" after none of 15 recently open coach or general manager jobs went to a minority candidate, meaning "we didn't have the outcomes we wanted"; using next year's Super Bowl in New Jersey as a test for future cold-weather, outdoor championship games; and saying he welcomed President Barack Obama's recent comments expressing concern about football's violence because "we want to make sure that people understand what we're doing to make our game safer."


Also:


— New Orleans will not get back the second-round draft pick Goodell stripped in his bounty ruling;


— Goodell would not give a time frame for when the NFL could hold a game in Mexico;


— next season's games in London — 49ers-Jaguars and Steelers-Vikings — are sellouts.


Goodell mentioned some upcoming changes, including the plan to add independent neurologists to sidelines to help with concussion care during games — something players have asked for and the league opposed until now.


"The No. 1 issue is: Take the head out of the game," Goodell said. "I think we've seen in the last several decades that players are using their head more than they had when you go back several decades."


He said one tool the league can use to cut down on helmet-to-helmet hits is suspending players who keep doing it.


"We're going to have to continue to see discipline escalate, particularly on repeat offenders," Goodell said. "We're going to have to take them off the field. Suspension gets through to them."


The league will add "expanded physicals at the end of each season ... to review players from a physical, mental and life skills standpoint so that we can support them in a more comprehensive fashion," Goodell said.


With question after question about less-than-light matters, one reporter drew a chuckle from Goodell by asking how he's been treated this week in a city filled with supporters of the Saints who are angry about the way the club was punished for the bounty system the NFL said existed from 2009-11.


"My picture, as you point out, is in every restaurant. I had a float in the Mardi Gras parade. We got a voodoo doll," Goodell said.


But he added that he can "appreciate the passion" of the fans and, actually, "couldn't feel more welcome here."


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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich


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Carville, Matalin enjoy role as Big Easy boosters


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When Mary Matalin heard a baby cry during a Super Bowl news conference this week, she paused midsentence, peered in the direction of the fussing child and asked: "Is that my husband?"


Matalin, the noted Republican political pundit, isn't shy about making jokes at the expense of Democratic strategist James Carville, who went from being her professional counterpart to her partner in life when they were married — in New Orleans — two decades ago.


This week, though, and for much of the past few years, the famous political odd couple have been working in lockstep for a bipartisan cause — the resurgence of their adopted hometown.


Their passion for the Big Easy and its recovery from Hurricane Katrina was why Carville and Matalin were appointed co-chairs of New Orleans' Super Bowl host committee, positions that made them the face of the city's effort to prove it's ready to be back in the regular rotation for the NFL's biggest game.


"Their commitment to New Orleans and their rise to prominence here locally as citizens made them a natural choice," said Jay Cicero, president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, which handles the city's Super Bowl bids. "It's about promoting New Orleans, and their being in love with this city, they're the perfect co-chairs."


Carville, a Louisiana native, and Matalin moved from Washington, D.C., to historic "Uptown" New Orleans in the summer of 2008, a little less than three years after Katrina had laid waste to vast swaths of the city. There was not only heavy wind damage but flooding that surged through crumbling levees and at one point submerged about 80 percent of the city.


The couple had long loved New Orleans, and felt even more of a pull to set down roots here, with their two school-age daughters, at a time when the community was in need.


"The storm just weighed heavy," Carville said. "We were thinking about it. We'd been in Washington for a long time. The more that we thought about it, the more sense that it made. We just came down here (to look for a house) in late 2007 and said we're just going to do this and never looked back."


Matalin said she and Carville also wanted to raise their daughters in a place where people were willing to struggle to preserve a vibrant and unique culture.


"It's authentically creative, organically eccentric, bounded by beauty of all kinds," she said. "People pull for each other, people pull together. ... Seven years ago we were 15 feet under water. ... This is unparalleled what the people here did and that's what you want your kids to grow up with: Hope and a sense of place, resolve and perseverance."


Carville has been an avid sports fan all his life, and Matalin jokes that he now schedules his life around Saints and LSU football.


An LSU graduate, Carville has been a regular sight in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, often wearing a purple and gold rugby-style shirt.


In New Orleans, he and Matalin have lent their names not just to the Super Bowl host committee, but to efforts to prevent the NBA's Hornets from leaving when the ownership situation was in flux.


"I was scared to death they would leave the city," said Carville of the Hornets, who were purchased by the NBA in December of 2010 when club founder George Shinn wanted to sell and struggled to find a local buyer. "We were starting to do better (as a community). It would have been a terrible story to lose an NBA franchise at that time."


Saints owner Tom Benson has since bought the NBA club and signed a long-term lease at New Orleans Arena, ending speculation about a possible move.


Carville and Matalin also have taken part in a range of environmental, educational, economic and cultural projects in the area. Matalin is on the board of the Water Institute of the Gulf, which aims to preserve fragile coastal wetlands that have been eroding, leaving south Louisiana ecosystems and communities increasingly vulnerable to destruction. They have supported the Institute of Politics at Loyola University and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.


Carville teaches a current events class at Tulane University and he looks forward to getting involved in the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans in 2015 and New Orleans' tercentennial celebrations in 2018, when the city also hopes to host its next Super Bowl, if the NFL sees fit.


Leading a Super Bowl host committee, the couple said, has similarities to running a major national political campaign, but takes even more work.


"This has been going on for three years and it's huge," Matalin said. "It's bigger, it's harder, it's more complex — even though it's cheaper."


The host committee spent about $13 million in private and public funds to put on this Super Bowl, and the payoff could be enormous in terms of providing a momentum boost to the metro area's growth, Carville said.


"For us — New Orleans — I think this is going to be much more than a football game Sunday," Carville said of the championship matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. "We'll know how we feel about it on Monday. It's a big event, it helps a lot of people, but I think we have a chance if it goes the way we hope it does, it'll go beyond economic impact. It'll go beyond who won the game. I think there's something significant that's coming to a point here in the city."


So there's a bit of anxiety involved, to go along with the long hours. But Carville and Matalin say they've loved having a role in what they see as New Orleans' renaissance.


"I always say I'm so humbled by everyone's gratitude," Matalin said. "We get up every day and say, 'Thank you, God. Thank you, God.' It's a blessing for us to be able to be here, to live here."


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2 NFL seasons since agreement, still no HGH tests


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Count Baltimore Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones among those NFL players who want the league and the union to finally agree on a way to do blood testing for human growth hormone.


"I hope guys wouldn't be cheating. That's why you do all this extra work and extra training. Unfortunately, there are probably a few guys, a handful maybe, that are on it. It's unfortunate. It takes away from the sport," Jones said.


"It would be fair to do blood testing," Jones added. "Hopefully they figure it out."


When Jones and the Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Sunday, two complete seasons will have come and gone without a single HGH test being administered, even though the league and the NFL Players Association paved the way for it in the 10-year collective bargaining agreement they signed in August 2011.


Since then, the sides have haggled over various elements, primarily the union's insistence that it needs more information about the validity of a test that is used by Olympic sports and Major League Baseball. HGH is a banned performance-enhancing drug that is hard to detect and has been linked to health problems such as diabetes, cardiac dysfunction and arthritis.


"If there are guys using (HGH), there definitely needs to be action taken against it, and it needs to be out of (the sport)," Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. "I'm pretty sure it'll happen eventually."


At least two members of Congress want to make it happen sooner, rather than later.


House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland wrote NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith this week to chastise the union for standing in the way of HGH testing and to warn that they might ask players to testify on Capitol Hill.


Smith is scheduled to hold his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference Thursday.


"We have cooperated and been helpful to the committee on all of their requests," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said. "If this is something they feel strongly about, we will be happy to help them facilitate it."


Several players from the Super Bowl teams said they would be willing to talk to Congress about the issue, if asked.


"I have nothing to hide. I can't speak for anyone else in football, but I would have no problem going," said Kenny Wiggins, a 6-foot-6, 314-pound offensive lineman on San Francisco's practice squad.


But Wiggins added: "There's a lot more problems in the U.S. they should be worried about than HGH in the NFL."


That sentiment was echoed by former New York Giants offensive lineman Shaun O'Hara, who now works for the NFL Network.


"Do I think there is an HGH problem in the NFL? I don't think there is. Are there guys who are using it? I'm sure there are. But is it something Congress needs to worry about? No. We have enough educated people on both sides that can fully handle this. And if they can't, then they should be fired," said O'Hara, an NFLPA representative as a player. "I include the union in that, and I include the NFL. There is no reason we would need someone to help us facilitate this process."


Issa and Cummings apparently disagree.


In December, their committee held a hearing at which medical experts testified that the current HGH test is reliable and that the union's request for a new study is unnecessary. Neither the league nor union was invited to participate in that hearing; at the time, Issa and Cummings said they expected additional hearings.


"We are disappointed with the NFLPA's remarkable recalcitrance, which has prevented meaningful progress on this issue," they wrote in their recent letter to Smith. "We intend to take a more active role to determine whether the position you have taken — that HGH is not a serious concern and that the test for HGH is unreliable — is consistent with the beliefs of rank and file NFL players."


Atallah questioned that premise.


"To us, there is no distinction between players and the union. ... The reason we had HGH in our CBA is precisely because our players wanted us to start testing for it," Atallah said. "We are not being recalcitrant for recalcitrance sake. We are merely following the direction of our player leadership."


Wiggins and other players said no one can know for sure how much HGH use there is in the league until there is testing — but that it's important for the union's concerns about the test to be answered.


"The union decides what is best for the players," said Ravens nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who said he would be willing to go to Capitol Hill.


"I feel like some guys are on HGH," said 49ers offensive lineman Anthony Davis, who would rather not speak to Congress. "I personally don't care if there is testing. It's something they have to live with, knowing they cheated, and if they get (outplayed) while they're on it, it's a hit on their pride."


___


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich


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A-Rod implicated in PED use again as MLB probes


NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Rodriguez is in the middle of Major League Baseball's latest doping investigation after an alternative weekly newspaper reported baseball's highest-paid star was among the big leaguers listed in the records of a Florida clinic the paper said sold performance-enhancing drugs.


The Miami New Times said Tuesday that the three-time AL MVP bought human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing substances during 2009-12 from Biogenesis of America LLC, a now-closed anti-aging clinic in Coral Cables, Fla., near Rodriguez's offseason home.


The new public relations firm for the New York Yankees third baseman issued a statement denying the allegations.


New Times said it obtained records detailing purchases by Rodriguez, 2012 All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera, 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon and 2011 AL championship series MVP Nelson Cruz of Texas.


Cabrera left San Francisco after the season to sign with Toronto, while Oakland re-signed Colon.


Other baseball players the newspaper said appeared in the records include Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who finished third in last year's NL Cy Young Award voting, and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal.


Biogenesis, which the New Times said was run by Anthony Bosch, was located in a beige, nondescript office park. The former clinic is no longer listed as a business in its directory,


"There was a flier put out by the building management a couple weeks ago. It was put on all the doors and windows of all the offices," said Brad Nickel, who works in a cruise planning company on the floor above where the clinic was located. "It just said this guy's not really a doctor, he doesn't belong here, he's no longer allowed here, call the police or the building management if you see him."


The New Times posted copies of what it said were Bosch's handwritten records, obtained through a former Biogenesis employee it did not identify.


Bosch's lawyer, Susy Ribero-Ayala, said in a statement the New Times report "is filled with inaccuracies, innuendo and misstatements of fact."


"Mr. Bosch vehemently denies the assertions that MLB players such as Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez were treated by or associated with him," she said.


Rodriguez appears 16 times in the documents New Times received, the paper said, either as "Alex Rodriguez," ''Alex Rod" or the nickname "Cacique," a pre-Columbian Caribbean chief.


Rodriguez admitted four years ago that he used PEDs from 2001-03. Cabrera, Colon and Grandal were suspended for 50 games each last year by MLB following tests for elevated testosterone. Responding to the testosterone use, MLB and the players' union said Jan. 10 they were authorizing the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory outside Montreal to store each major leaguer's baseline testosterone/epitestosterone (T/E) ratio in order to detect abnormalities.


"We are always extremely disappointed to learn of potential links between players and the use of performance-enhancing substances," MLB said in a statement. "Only law enforcement officials have the capacity to reach those outside the game who are involved in the distribution of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. ... We are in the midst of an active investigation and are gathering and reviewing information."


A baseball official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, said Monday that MLB did not have any documentation regarding the allegations. If MLB does obtain evidence, the players could be subject to discipline. First offenses result in a 50-game suspension and second infractions in 100-game penalties. A third violation results in a lifetime ban.


Rodriguez is sidelined for at least the first half of the season after hip surgery Jan. 16. A 50-game suspension would cost him $7.65 million of his $28 million salary.


"The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true," Rodriguez said in a statement issued by a publicist. "He was not Mr. Bosch's patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in the story — at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez — are not legitimate."


Jay Reisinger, a lawyer who has represented Rodriguez in recent years, said the three-time AL MVP had retained Roy Black, an attorney from Rodriguez's hometown of Miami. Black's clients have included Rush Limbaugh and William Kennedy Smith.


Bosch did not return a phone message seeking comment.


MLB hopes to gain the cooperation of Bosch and others connected with the clinic, another baseball official said, also on condition of anonymity because no public statements on the matter were authorized. In order to successfully discipline players based on the records, witnesses would be needed to authenticate them, the official said.


Players could be asked to appear before MLB for interviews, but the official said MLB would be reluctant to request interviews before it has more evidence.


Rodriguez spent years denying he used PEDs before Sports Illustrated reported in February 2009 that he tested positive for two steroids in MLB's anonymous survey while with the Texas Rangers in 2003. Two days later, he admitted in an ESPN interview that he used PEDs over a three-year period. He has denied using PEDs after 2003.


If the new allegations were true, the Yankees would face high hurdles to get out of the final five years and $114 million of Rodriguez's record $275 million, 10-year contract. Because management and the players' union have a joint drug agreement, an arbitrator could determine that any action taken by the team amounted to multiple punishments for the same offense.


But if Rodriguez were to end his career because of the injury, about 85 percent of the money owed by the Yankees would be covered by insurance, one of the baseball officials said.


Gonzalez, 21-8 for the Washington Nationals last season, posted on his Twitter feed: "I've never used performance enhancing drugs of any kind and I never will, I've never met or spoken with tony Bosch or used any substance provided by him. anything said to the contrary is a lie."


Colon was not issuing a statement, agent Adam Katz said through spokeswoman Lisa Cohen.


"We are aware of certain allegations and inferences," Cruz's law firm, Farrell & Reisinger, said in a statement. "To the extent these allegations and inferences refer to Nelson, they are denied."


Cruz and Gonzalez had not previously been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Cruz hit 24 home runs last year for the Rangers.


The New Times report said it obtained notes by Bosch listing the players' names and the substances they received. Several unidentified employees and clients confirmed to the publication that the clinic distributed the substances, the paper said. The employees said that Bosch bragged of supplying drugs to professional athletes but that they never saw the sports stars in the office.


The paper said the records list that Rodriguez paid for HGH; testosterone cream; IGF-1, a substance banned by baseball that stimulates insulin production; and GHRP, which releases growth hormones.


___


Associated Press writers Jennifer Kay in Coral Cables, Fla., and Curt Anderson in Miami, and AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich and Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.


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Woods makes short work at Torrey Pines


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Tiger Woods never looked so irritated winning a golf tournament so comfortably.


His record eighth victory at Torrey Pines was all but over when Woods ripped a 5-iron from 244 yards over the corner of a bunker and onto the green at the par-5 13th hole, setting up a two-putt birdie that gave him an eight shot lead in the Farmers Insurance Open.


At least he had plenty of time to savor this victory. The final five holes felt like they took forever.


Woods twirled his club on the tee and leaned on it in the fairway as the final round dragged on. He lost rhythm and appeared to lose interest, and it showed. A bogey from the bunker on the 14th. A tee shot that caromed off a eucalyptus tree on the 15th hole that led to double bogey. A tee shot he popped up on the 17th hole that left him 50 yards behind the other players and led to another bogey.


"It got a little ugly at the end," Woods said. "I started losing patience a little bit with the slow play."


No matter. It only affected the margin, not the outcome. Woods had to settle for an even-par 72 that gave him a four-shot win over defending champion Brandt Snedeker and Josh Teater, who each had a 69.


For a tour that has been criticized for slow play, this wasn't an ideal start to the network portion of its schedule. With Woods virtually a lock to win, CBS Sports wanted the final round to resume Monday later than normal so that it could be televised in late afternoon on the East Coast. Play was so slow that CBS went over its allotted time.


Woods, meanwhile, had the ideal start to his tour season.


Only a week earlier, he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, in part because of a two-shot penalty assessed after his second round for taking an illegal drop. Woods had never missed the cut on the European Tour, and he had never started his season with the weekend off.


He might have been the only one who didn't panic.


Woods seized control with a 65 on the North Course at Torrey Pines, the spent the rest of the week pulling away from the field until no one could catch him.


"I don't know if anybody would have beaten him this week," said Nick Watney, who got within five shots of Woods when the tournament was still undecided until making three bogeys on his next five holes. "He's definitely on his game."


It's still too early to figure out the state of his game, especially in relation to Rory McIlroy, who also missed the cut in Abu Dhabi.


Torrey Pines is a public course that Woods treats like his private domain. He won the tournament for the seventh time, one short of the PGA Tour record for most wins in a single event. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times. Woods won for the eighth time at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, and that's a PGA Tour record that Woods previously shared with ... himself. He also has won seven times at Firestone and Bay Hill.


"I think he wanted to send a message," said Hunter Mahan, who shares a swing coach with Woods. "I think deep down he did. You play some games to try to motivate yourself. There's been so much talk about Rory. Rory is now with Nike. That would be my guess."


And it was his 75th win on the PGA Tour, seven short of the record held by Snead. Woods has won 23 of those tournaments by at least four shots.


"I'm excited the way I played all week," Woods said. "I hit the ball well — pretty much did everything well and built myself a nice little cushion. I had some mistakes at the end, but all my good play before that allowed me to afford those mistakes."


Woods mostly had reason to be excited about his short game.


In the third round Sunday, he was furious with himself for going long on the par-3 eighth green, without much green between his ball and the hole. Woods hit a chip solidly, with just enough loft, to leave himself a tap-in par. In the conclusion of the final round Monday, he pulled his tee shot into a bad spot in the bunker on the par-3 11th. The lie was good, but he had to aim well left, meaning his legs were spread wide on the slope of the sand.


He blasted it out with his 60-degree wedge to a top shelf, and then watched it feed down a slope to the right. It lost pace at the end or it might have gone in.


It looked good for television. It was a difficult shot, but not impossible.


But Woods believes those are the shots he wasn't converting a year ago. And that's one reason his outlook was so bright on the rest of the year, even after having to cope with so much fog along the Pacific bluffs.


He played the par 5s in 12 under for the lead — that alone would have been enough to win — and attributed that to his short game.


"My short game was back to how I know it can be," Woods said. "My shots that I hit, especially out of these nasty little lies, I hit some really good ones this week. And that allowed me to save some pars, make some birdies, and move my way up the board. And basically, that's what I did."


Woods figures his swing change under Sean Foley took root at some point last year, but that he had devoted so much time to the swing that he neglected his wedges. Now that he is practicing more on his short game, he expects better results — turning a 74 into a 70, and not losing leads at the majors, like he did twice last year.


Still, the season is young.


Any measure of Woods likely will have to wait until the road to the Masters gets going during the Florida Swing. Woods headed home to Florida on Monday night and is not expected to return until the Match Play Championship in Arizona a month from now. McIlroy also isn't expected to play until then, and match play being such a fickle format, the better gauge could come in the Honda Classic and at Doral.


Woods, however, likes where he is headed.


Torrey Pines is a good omen for the rest of his year. Whenever he starts a PGA Tour season with a win at Torrey, he tends to have big years — eight wins and two majors in 2006, seven wins and a major in 2007, four wins in only six starts in 2008.


Where will this lead?


"Does it feel good? Yes. Does it give me confidence? Absolutely," Woods said. "But as far as the other stuff, as I said, I'm excited about this year. I'm excited about what I'm doing with Sean and some of the things that I've built. This is a nice way to start the year."


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Team flag waves as 49ers arrive for Super Bowl


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jim Harbaugh stepped to the podium, smirked a bit, and greeted his first news conference as a Super Bowl coach.


"We're super happy to be here," he said Sunday night as his NFC champion San Francisco 49ers arrived in the Big Easy for the big game.


"I think this team has the best focus on unity and winning I've ever been a part of."


Considering that Harbaugh was an NFL quarterback for 14 seasons and a successful college coach before joining the 49ers, he knows something about winning.


Under Harbaugh, San Francisco has been to two NFC title games and, now, to its first Super Bowl in 18 years. The Niners (13-4-1) will play Baltimore (13-6), coached by Harbaugh's older brother, John, in next Sunday's Super Bowl.


He is certain his team is ready for the task as the 49ers seek their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy; they are 5-0 in Super Bowls.


"These are uncharted waters for a rookie Super Bowl coach," Harbaugh said. "But that's exciting. It's a great thrill, and we have a desire to be in uncharted waters. We always strive for that kind of challenge."


Earlier in the evening, with a team flag waving from an open window of their chartered plane, the 49ers arrived in a businesslike manner. The players calmly walked off the airplane — no video recorders or cameras, no waves to onlookers.


Most of the team's veteran players disembarked first, including center Jonathan Goodwin, who won a Super Bowl three years ago with the Saints.


"You get to go to the Super Bowl with your childhood team, so that's something special to me," he said. "So hopefully I can find a way to win the Super Bowl with my childhood team."


Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, wearing a red wool cap sporting "49ers" on it, mouthed the words to a song on his headphones as he walked on the tarmac.


He seemed just as relaxed 90 minutes later as he met the media.


"Pressure comes from a lack of preparation," said Kaepernick, who took over as the starter when Alex Smith got a concussion in November and has been sensational in keeping the job. "This is not a pressure situation. It's a matter of going out and performing."


Harbaugh said the 49ers came to New Orleans on Sunday to simulate a normal week. He likened their trip to his strategy the last two seasons when the 49ers spent a week in Youngstown, Ohio, between Eastern games rather than return to the Bay Area.


He liked the way the players and coaches bonded during that experience.


"Same approach," Harbaugh said. "Enjoy the moment and the preparation. I think our team enjoys that the most: the meetings, the preparation and then, especially, the competition."


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In New Orleans, an unwelcome mat for Goodell


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An effigy of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell dangles from the front porch of a New Orleans home that is otherwise festively decorated with Saints paraphernalia.


With restaurants and bars gearing up for an influx of Super Bowl XLVII visitors, the "Refuse to Serve Roger Goodell" page on Facebook had 107 likes as of Friday.


A portrait of Goodell covers the bull's-eye on the dart board at Parkview Tavern.


And floats in the unabashedly lowbrow Krewe du Vieux parade in the French Quarter last weekend displayed larger-than-life likenesses of Goodell in acts that defy polite description.


New Orleans is celebrating the return of Saints coach Sean Payton after a season of NFL banishment as a result of the "bountygate" scandal — when the team ran a pay-for-hits program. But Goodell, who suspended Payton and other current and former Saints players and coaches last year for their roles in the system, is being ridiculed here with a vehemence usually reserved for the city's scandal-scarred politicians.


"They believe he completely used the Saints as an example of something that was going on league-wide," said Pauline Patterson, co-owner of Finn McCool's, an Irish Bar in the Mid-City neighborhood where the words "Go To Hell Goodell" are visible over the fireplace.


Some of Goodell's critics say the disarray resulting from what they believe were unfair suspensions led to the Saints' 7-9 performance this year — and a missed chance to make history.


"We had a real shot of being the first team in history to host the Super Bowl in our own stadium," Parkview Tavern owner Kathy Anderson said. "He can't give that back to us."


Goodell suspended the coaches and players after an investigation found the Saints had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits. The player suspensions eventually were overturned, but the coaches served their punishments.


Mayor Mitch Landrieu is among those saying that people in this city, known for its hospitality and history, should mind their manners and remember the not-too-distant past.


"Roger Goodell has been a great friend to New Orleans, and it's a fact that he's one of the people instrumental to making sure that the Saints stayed here after Hurricane Katrina," Landrieu said in a statement. It was a reference to the days after the storm, when 80 percent of the city was underwater and the damaged Superdome became a shelter for thousands of the displaced.


Then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his second-in-command, Goodell, are credited with working to keep the team from abandoning New Orleans for San Antonio.


"If not for Roger Goodell, we would not have this Super Bowl," Landrieu added. "And we will need him since we want to host another one."


Saints quarterback Drew Brees said the game is validation of everything the city's gone through to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.


"There's no question, yeah. And I think people will see that when they come down, as soon as people come down that haven't been there in a while," Brees said Friday while in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. "The city knows how to entertain, knows how to treat people right. The tourism industry's huge, so we're excited to host this big game. Obviously it's the biggest sporting event in the world, and the city will be ready for it."


But some are in no mood to back off when it comes to Goodell.


Anderson said she understands city leaders' desire to put their best foot forward, but that it also is important for Saints fans to be able to vent.


"Whether I have Roger Goodell's face on my dart board is not going to change anybody's mind about the Super Bowl," Anderson said.


People should not take the barbs too seriously, said Lynda Woolard, a Saints fan who has been tracking some of the barbs on social media. "Nobody's saying there should be violence against the man," Woolard said.


"It's tongue-in-cheek," Patterson agreed.


Still, some diehards are ready to put it all behind them.


Patrick Brower, owner and manager of the Dirty Coast T-shirt shop, said Friday that he's pushing black-and-gold wear at his shop, choosing to unify Saints fans without bashing the commissioner.


"We've got to look forward here," Brower said. "The more time we spend in the past, it's just not beneficial."


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Armstrong meeting with USADA appears unlikely


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong's lawyers say the cyclist will talk more about drug use in the sport, just likely not to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that led the effort to strip him of his Tour de France titles.


In a testy exchange of letters and statements revealing the gulf between the two sides, USADA urged Armstrong to testify under oath to help "clean up cycling."


Armstrong's attorneys responded that the cyclist would rather take his information where it could do more good — namely to cycling's governing body and World Anti-Doping Agency officials.


USADA's response to that: "The time for excuses is over."


The letters, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, underscore the continuing feud between Armstrong and USADA CEO Travis Tygart, the man who spearheaded the investigation that uncovered a complex doping scheme on Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service teams.


Armstrong's seven Tour de France victories were taken away last year and he was banned for life from the sport.


In an interview with Oprah Winfrey last week, Armstrong admitted doping, said he owed a long list of apologies and that he would like to see his lifetime ban reduced so he can compete again.


His most realistic avenue toward that might be telling USADA everything he knows in a series of interviews the agency wants started no later than Feb. 6.


That seems unlikely.


Armstrong attorney Tim Herman responded to USADA's first letter, sent Wednesday, by saying his client's schedule is already full, and besides, "in order to achieve the goal of 'cleaning up cycling,' it must be WADA and the (International Cycling Union) who have overall authority to do so."


By Friday night, Herman strongly suggested Armstrong won't meet with USADA at all but intends to appear before the UCI's planned "truth and reconciliation" commission.


"Why would we cooperate (with USADA)?" Herman said in a telephone interview. "USADA isn't interested in cleaning up cycling. Lance has said, 'I'll be the first guy in the chair when cycling is on trial, truthfully, under oath, in every gory detail.' I think he's going testify where it could actually do some good: With the body that's charged with cleaning up cycling," Herman said.


In its last letter to Armstrong, sent Friday evening, USADA attorney William Bock said his agency and WADA work hand-in-hand in that effort.


"Regardless, and with or without Mr. Armstrong's help, we will move forward with our investigation for the good of clean athletes and the future of sport," Bock's letter reads.


The letters confirm a Dec. 14 meeting in Denver involving Armstrong, Tygart and their respective attorneys, which is when, in Tygart's words, Armstrong should have started thinking about a possible meeting with USADA.


"He has been given a deadline of February 6th to determine whether he plans to come in and be part of the solution," Tygart said in a statement. "Either way, USADA is moving forward with our investigation on behalf of clean athletes."


The letters were sent to the AP after details about a Tygart interview with "60 Minutes," being aired Sunday, were made public.


Among Tygart's claims: Armstrong is lying when he says he didn't dope during his 2009-10 comeback.


Tygart said USADA's report on Armstrong's doping included evidence Armstrong was still cheating in those years.


"His comeback was totally clean," Herman said. "It's pretty fashionable to kick Lance Armstrong around right now."


Tygart also reiterated that an Armstrong associate offered USADA a donation of more than $200,000. Armstrong denied that in his interview with Winfrey, too.


In advancing his claim that USADA is only a bit player in the investigation, Herman noted in his letter, sent to USADA on Friday, that most cycling teams are based in Europe.


"I'm pretty sick of people trying to blame a European cycling culture that goes back to the 1920s on one guy," Herman said.


Bock's response to that: "Your suggestion that there is some other body with which Lance should coordinate is misguided," he said in his final letter.


___


AP National Writer Eddie Pells contributed to this report.


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Voice of Te'o prankster? Couric plays voicemails


NEW YORK (AP) — The person Manti Te'o says was pretending to be his online girlfriend told the Notre Dame linebacker "I love you" in voicemails that were played during his interview with Katie Couric.


Taped earlier this week and broadcast Thursday, the hour-long talk show featured three voicemails that Te'o claims were left for him last year. Te'o said they were from the person he believed to be Lennay Kekua, a woman he had fallen for online but never met face-to-face.


After the first message was played, Te'o said: "It sounds like a girl, doesn't it?"


"It does," Couric responded.


The interview was the All-American's first on camera since his tale of inspired play after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day in September unraveled as a bizarre hoax in an expose by Deadspin.com on Jan. 16.


Te'o's parents appeared with him for part of the interview and backed up his claim that he wasn't involved in the fabrication, saying they, too, had spoken on the phone with a person they believed to be Kekua.


Couric addressed speculation that the tale was concocted by Te'o as a way to cover up his sexual orientation. Asked if he were gay, Te'o said "no" with a laugh. "Far from it. Faaaar from that."


He also said he was "scared" and "didn't know what to do" after receiving a call on Dec. 6 — two days before the Heisman Trophy presentation — from a person who claimed to be his "dead" girlfriend.


The first voicemail, he said, was from what was supposed to be Kekua's first day of chemotherapy for leukemia.


"Hi, I am just letting you know I got here and I'm getting ready for my first session and, um, just want to call you to keep you posted. I miss you. I love you. Bye," the person said.


In the second voicemail, the person was apparently upset by someone else answering Te'o's phone.


The third voicemail was left on Sept. 11, according to Te'o, the day he believed Kekua was released from the hospital and the day before she "died."


"Hey babe, I'm just calling to say goodnight," the person on the voicemail said. "I love you. I know that you're probably doing homework or you're with the boys. ... But I just wanted to say I love you and goodnight and I'll be ok tonight. I'll do my best. Um, yeah, so get your rest and I'll talk to you tomorrow. I love you so much, hon. Sweet dreams."


Couric suggested the person who left those messages might have been Ronaiah Tuisasosopo, a 22-year-old man from California, who Te'o said has apologized to him for pulling the hoax.


"Do you think that could have been a man on the other end of the phone?" she asked.


"Well, it didn't sound like a man," Te'o said. "It sounded like a woman. If he somehow made that voice, that's incredible. That's an incredible talent to do that. Especially every single day."


Tuiasosopo has not spoken publicly since news of the hoax broke. The Associated Press has learned that a home in California where Te'o sent flowers to the Kekua family was once a residence of Tuiasosopo and has been in his family for decades.


Also on Thursday, the woman whose pictures were used in fake online accounts for Kekua said Tuiasosopo confessed to her in a 45-minute phone conversation as the scheme unraveled.


Diane O'Meara spoke with The Associated Press in a telephone interview. She said Tuiasosopo told her he'd been "stalking" her Facebook profile for five years and stealing photos.


O'Meara's attorney, Jim Artiano, said they had not decided on whether to take any legal action.


The 23-year-old O'Meara, of Long Beach, Calif., said she knew Tuiasosopo from high school and he contacted her through Facebook on Dec. 16. She said that, over the next three weeks, Tuiasosopo got in touch with her several times, attempting to get photos and video of O'Meara. She said he made up a story about wanting them to help cheer up a cousin who was injured in a car crash.


O'Meara learned her identity had been stolen on Jan. 13 when she was contacted by Deadspin.com.


The next day she got in touch with Tuiasosopo.


"When I contacted Ronaiah I got a very bizarre vibe from him, he became very nervous, he wasn't asking the questions I expected. He was asking 'Who contacted you? What did they say?'" O'Meara said.


Later that day, he confessed, O'Meara said. She said she asked Tuiasosopo why he didn't simply stop the hoax.


"He told me he wanted to end the relationship," O'Meara said. "He said he wanted to stop the relationship between Lennay and Manti, but Manti didn't want Lennay to break up with him ... He said he tried to stop the game many times."


When news of the hoax broke a few days later, O'Meara said she received a text from Tuiasosopo asking her to call him as soon as possible. O'Meara said she didn't respond.


___


Associated Press writer Tami Abdollah contributed to this report from Los Angeles.


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Defending champ Azarenka into final against Li


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Victoria Azarenka overcame some anxiety, a sore left knee, and a slew of frustrating forehand errors before fending off American teenager Sloane Stephens to reach the Australian Open final against Li Na.


For the second time in two days, 19-year-old Stephens sat patiently in a courtside chair late in the second set while an experienced, older player took a medical timeout.


On Thursday, the top-seeded Azarenka asked for a medical timeout after wasting five match points with a sequence of forehand errors, but returned to quickly finish off a 6-1, 6-4 win on her sixth match point. The outcome was different on Wednesday, when Stephens rallied from a set and a break down to beat an injured Serena Williams in three sets.


After dropping serve in the ninth game of the second set, Azarenka went to the locker room for treatment — the tournament confirmed later it was for left knee and rib injuries — and then returned to break the 29th-seeded Stephens' serve to finish off the match.


"Well I almost did the choke of the year right now at 5-3 having so many chances I couldn't close it out," Azarenka said in an on-court TV interview. "I just felt a little bit overwhelmed. I realized I'm one step away from the final and nerves got into me for sure."


The crowd had tried to get Stephens back into the match in the second set. Fans yelled encouragement after almost every point and a few in the crowd heckled Azarenka by mocking the noise she makes when she hits the ball.


Azarenka started to lose her composure when she hit a forehand way beyond the baseline on her third match point, her hooting sound elevating to a louder, high-pitched shriek.


After Stephens saved the match points, the crowd gave her a huge round of applause and a few people jumped out of their seats. Azarenka got a tepid applause after clinching the match.


The 23-year-old Azarenka later said she'd had difficulty breathing.


"I couldn't breathe. I had chest pains," she said. "It was like I was getting a heart attack.


"After that it wasn't my best, but it's important to overcome this little bit of a struggle and win the match."


Stephens said the timing of the medical break didn't affect the match.


"It's happened before. Last match, match before, I've had people going for medical breaks, going to the bathroom," she said. "Didn't affect me. Just another something else that happens."


The temperature hit 97 degrees during the second women's semifinal, slightly hotter than it had been when Li Na beat No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-2 to reach the Australian Open final for the second time in three years.


Sharapova was the heavy favorite after conceding only nine games in her first five matches, a record at the Australian Open.


But the semifinal started badly for the 25-year-old Russian, serving double-faults to lose the first two points and conceding a break in the first game.


Li was the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam final when she lost to Kim Clijsters at Melbourne Park in 2011. She had her breakthrough a few months later when she won the French Open, beating Sharapova in the semifinals along the way.


The crowd got behind Li early in the match, yelling "Come on, Li Na!" and others yelling "Jia You!" which is "Come on" in Chinese. After she broke Sharapova to take a 5-2 lead, the Chinese fans in the crowd shook Chinese flags and shouted again, "Jia You!"


"I don't know what happened (but) I always play well here, so thanks guys," said Li, who was playing her third Australian Open semifinal in four years. "I just came to the court feeling like, 'OK, just do it.'"


The heat and the speed of the court surface suited Li's game.


She broke Sharapova in the third game of the second set and served an ace to move within a point of a 4-2 lead, but lost the next three points to give her opponent a break opportunity.


Two big second serves took Sharapova by surprise, and Li fended off the challenge.


Li's coach, Carlos Rodriguez — who worked with retired seven-time major winner Justine Henin — pumped his fist over his heart after Li won the game.


Sharapova had control in her next service game, but Li scrambled from side to side and pushed the reigning French Open champion to go for the lines, getting a series of unforced errors and another break.


The sixth-seeded Li has been working since August with Rodriguez, and credits him with reviving her career with a renewed emphasis on condition.


"I'm happy. I know I have a tough coach, a tough physio," Li said, looking across to the stands and adding: "You don't need to push me anymore. I will push myself."


Sharapova, who lost the 2012 Australian final in straight sets to Azarenka, admitted it was hard to get into the match against Li.


"She was certainly much more aggressive than I was, dictating the play. I was always on the defense," said Sharapova, who could have gained the No. 1 ranking by reaching the Australian final. "When I had my opportunities and break points in games that went to deuce, I don't think any of them really went my way."


The composition of the women's semifinals was somewhat unexpected.


Stephens produced the upset of the tournament to advance to a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time with her 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over 15-time major winner Serena Williams on Wednesday. Williams, who had been bidding for a third consecutive Grand Slam title, hurt her back in the second set and, after leading by a set and a break, ended a 20-match winning streak.


While there were surprises in the composition of the women's last four, the makeup of the men's semifinals was as expected.


Top-ranked Novak Djokovic will continue his bid for a third consecutive Australian title when he takes on No. 4 David Ferrer on Thursday. No. 2 Roger Federer and No. 3 Andy Murray will meet Friday.


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Callahan denies allegations of Super Bowl sabotage


ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Former Oakland coach Bill Callahan has denied allegations made by two of his former players that he "sabotaged" the Raiders in their Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay 10 years ago.


Former Raiders receivers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice both said in recent interviews they believe Callahan undermined his own team in the Super Bowl in 2003 because of his close friendship with Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden by altering the game plan less than two days before Oakland's 48-21 loss.


"While I fully understand a competitive professional football player's disappointment when a game's outcome doesn't go his team's way, I am shocked, saddened and outraged by Tim Brown's allegations and Jerry Rice's support of those allegations made through various media outlets over the last 24 hours," Callahan said Tuesday in a statement. "To leave no doubt, I categorically and unequivocally deny the sum and substance of their allegations."


The hubbub over a game played a decade ago began Monday when Brown said on Sirius XM Radio that he believed Callahan altered the game plan because of his close ties to Gruden, the former Raiders coach who hired Callahan, and because Callahan hated the Raiders.


"We all called it sabotage, because Callahan and Gruden was good friends, and Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, hated the Raiders, and only came because Gruden made him come," Brown said.


While many of Brown's teammates, including quarterback Rich Gannon, came to Callahan's defense on radio and Twitter on Tuesday, Rice sided with Brown that Callahan's decision to shift the game plan from a run-oriented attack to a pass-heavy offense after a week of practice was done to hurt the team.


"I was very surprised that he waited till the last second and I think a lot of the players they were surprised also so in a way maybe because he didn't like the Raiders he decided 'Hey look maybe we should sabotage just a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one,'" Rice told ESPN.


Both Rice and Brown also said the decision to alter the plan less than two days before the game might have contributed to starting center Barret Robbins leaving the team that Friday night to go party in Tijuana. Robbins missed a team meeting and walkthrough and was suspended for the game. He was hospitalized and diagnosed as bipolar.


Former Raiders offensive lineman Frank Middleton said in a phone interview that he didn't believe Callahan's change in game plan contributed to Robbins' problems or that Callahan purposely lost the game even if there were bad feelings between the coach and players.


"Callahan hated us," Middleton said. "He didn't want to see a lot of us succeed because of who we were. I do believe Callahan had bad feelings against us. But to say he threw the game, I can't say that."


Middleton acknowledged that the plan the team used in the game was different than what was practiced but said he didn't know if that was because Robbins had left the team and the Raiders were forced to use backup center Adam Treu.


The Raiders threw a then club-record 619 passes in the 2002 season but originally planned to run the ball more in the Super Bowl to take advantage of Tampa Bay's undersized defensive front. But Oakland fell behind early in the game and had 49 pass plays and a season-low 11 runs.


Gannon threw five interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns, in the lopsided loss.


Callahan, currently the offensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys, said he tried to win the game and suggestions to the contrary were "ludicrous and defamatory."


"Any suggestion that I would undermine the integrity of the sport that I love and dedicated my life to, or dishonor the commitment I made to our players, coaches and fans is flat out wrong," he said. "I think it would be in the best interests of all, including the game America loves, that these allegations be retracted immediately."


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Jim, John Harbaugh ready for rematch at Super Bowl


SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jim and John Harbaugh have exchanged a handful of text messages, and plan to leave it at that. No phone conversations necessary while the season's still going. No time for pleasantries, even for the friendly siblings.


There is work to be done to prepare for the Super Bowl, prepare for each other, prepare for a history-making day already being widely hyped as "Harbowl" or "Superbaugh" depending which nickname you prefer.


"It doesn't matter who the coach is, what relationship you have with the person on the other side," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said so matter-of-factly Monday afternoon.


Their parents sure aren't picking sides for the Feb. 3 matchup in New Orleans.


These days, the Harbaughs' longtime coaching father, Jack, stays away from game-planning chatter or strategy sessions with his Super Bowl-bound coaching sons. Baltimore's John Harbaugh and little brother Jim have been doing this long enough now to no longer need dad's input.


Yet, they still regularly seek it. And, their father does offer one basic mantra: "Get ahead, stay ahead."


"Probably the greatest advice that I've ever been given and the only advice that I've ever found to be true in all of coaching, I think we mentioned it to both John and Jim ... the coaching advice is, 'Get ahead, stay ahead,'" Jack Harbaugh said.


"If I'm called upon, I'll repeat that same message."


His boys still call home regularly to check in with the man who turned both on to the coaching profession years ago, and the mother who has handled everything behind the scenes for decades in a highly competitive, sports-crazed family — with all the routine sports clich├ęs to show for it.


The Harbaugh brothers will become the first siblings to square off from opposite sidelines when their teams play for the NFL championship at the Superdome.


Not that they're too keen on playing up the storyline that has no chance of going away as hard as they try.


"Well, I think it's a blessing and a curse," Jim Harbaugh said Monday. "A blessing because that is my brother's team. And, also, personally I played for the Ravens. Great respect for their organization. ... The curse part would be the talk of two brothers playing in the Super Bowl and what that takes away from the players that are in the game. Every moment that you're talking about myself or John, that's less time that the players are going to be talked about."


Both men love history, just not the kind with them making it.


"I like reading a lot of history ... I guess it's pretty neat," John Harbaugh offered Monday. "But is it really going to be written about? It's not exactly like Churchill and Roosevelt or anything. It's pretty cool, but that's as far as it goes."


Nice try, guys.


John watched the end of Jim's game from the field in Foxborough, Mass., as Baltimore warmed up for the AFC championship game. Jim called his sister's family from the team plane before takeoff after a win at Atlanta and asked how his big brother's team was doing against New England.


The improbable Super Bowl features a set of brothers known around the NFL as fierce competitors unafraid to make a bold move during the season. Unafraid to upset anyone who stands in their way.


In fact, each one made a major change midseason to get this far — John fired his offensive coordinator, while Jim boosted his offense with a quarterback switch from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick.


Leading up to Sunday's games, parents Jack and Jackie said they would wait to decide whether to travel to New Orleans if both teams advanced or stick to what has been working so well — watching from the comfort of their couch in Mequon, Wis.


"We enjoy it very much. We get down in our basement, turn on the television and just have a fantastic day watching outstanding football," Jack said last week. "We share our misery with no one but ourselves. Not only the misery, but the ups and downs, the ins and outs of an outstanding professional game."


And, no, the Harbaughs weren't looking ahead to a potential big trip to the Big Easy.


Jack insists his wife is quick to pull out that old sports cliche: "It's one game at a time. I think it's very appropriate," he said.


Jim figures they won't possibly miss this history-making game.


"I think they'll be there," he said with a smile.


The brothers, separated in age by 15 months, have taken different paths to football's biggest stage — years after their intense games of knee football at the family home. They tried to beat each other at cards, or whatever other game it was at the time. Sometimes, they tried to beat each other up. Sister, Joani Crean, often got in on the fun, too.


The 49-year-old Jim never reached a Super Bowl, falling a last-gasp pass short during a 15-year NFL career as a quarterback. The 50-year-old John never played in the NFL.


Still, both will tell you, "Who's got it better than us? No-body!" — one catchphrase they got from their dad.


"We can't put into words what it means to see John and Jim achieve this incredible milestone," their brother-in-law, Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean, said on Twitter. "We talked to Jim (before) his team plane left. All he wanted to know was how was John doing? How were they playing? One incredible family who puts the care, well-being and love for each other at the forefront like most families do. Again, we are very proud of them. Going to be exciting to watch it unfold."


John worked his way up from the bottom of the coaching ranks, while Jim was the star college quarterback at Michigan, a first-round draft pick and eventual Pro Bowler who made coaching his career once he retired.


John already has the one-up, while Jim's team is the early favorite. John's Ravens beat the 49ers 16-6 on Thanksgiving night 2011, in Jim's rookie season as an NFL coach — though both know that means nothing now.


"I just want everybody to know, that was a four-day deal and every story has been told," John said. "We're not that interesting. There's nothing more to learn. The tape across the middle of the room story, OK, you got it? It's OK. It was just like any other family, really. I really hope the focus is not so much on that. We get it, it's really cool and it's exciting and all that."


Said Jim, "Completely new business."


In spite of his efforts to avoid the topic, Jim did take the opportunity to express how proud he is of John.


"He's a great football coach, a real grasp of all phases — offense, defense, special teams. I think he could coordinate at least two of those phases and do it as well as anyone in the league," Jim said. "I've got half the amount of coaching experience he does. Again, it's not about us. I keep coming back to that. I'm really proud of my brother. I love him. That's the blessing part, that this is happening to him."


And, fittingly for the big brother, John feels the exact same way.


___


AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this story.


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