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News Summaries from The Sports Network - Friday, August 29



49ers LB Smith suspended 9 games



San Francisco, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was suspended nine games without pay on Friday for violating the NFL's Policy and Program for Substance of Abuse and the league's Personal Conduct Policy.

Smith can return in Week 11 against the New York Giants, as the 49ers have a Week 8 bye.

In July, Smith was sentenced to 11 days in jail and three years' probation on weapons and DUI charges, leading to this most recent suspension.

"Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement released by the team on Friday. "Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead."

Smith voluntarily took a leave of absence from the 49ers last year to seek help for a substance abuse problem, missing five games.

He has been one of the NFL's elite pass rushers since being drafted No. 7 overall by the 49ers in 2011. He has 42 sacks in just three seasons, but has had numerous run-ins with the law.

Vikings' Simpson suspended again



New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson has been suspended for the first three games of the 2014 season for again violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

Simpson will be eligible to return following the team's Week 3 contest against New Orleans.

It will be Simpson's second suspension in the past three years. He was also banned for three games in 2012, his first year with the Vikings, following a guilty plea to a felony drug charge.

In September 2011, when Simpson played for Cincinnati, police confiscated a package containing 2 1/2 pounds of marijuana that was being shipped from California to Simpson's Kentucky home.

The latest suspension stems from a DWI arrest last November.

Simpson had 48 catches for a career-high 726 yards and one touchdown in 16 games, including eight starts, last season. He has 145 receptions for 2,004 yards and eight scores in six seasons with Cincinnati and Minnesota.

Bengals release Green-Ellis



Cincinnati, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The Cincinnati Bengals have released running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Green-Ellis started all 16 games for the Bengals last season, rushing for 756 yards and seven touchdowns. In two seasons with Cincinnati, he rushed for 1,850 yards and 13 scores, starting all 31 regular-season games he appeared in.

Over six NFL seasons, Green-Ellis has 3,914 yards and 42 touchdowns rushing. He spent his first four seasons in the league with the New England Patriots.

The Bengals also waived linebacker Brandon Joiner, defensive tackle LaKendrick Ross and quarterback Tyler Wilson on Friday.

LB Angerer among those cut by Falcons



Flowery Branch, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Atlanta Falcons cut 12 players on Friday as they work to trim their roster to 53.

Linebacker Pat Angerer, offensive tackle Pat McQuistan and running back Josh Vaughan were released.

Angerer started 39 games the last four seasons with Indianapolis, while McQuistan has appeared in 72 career games.

The Falcons also waived defensive end Nosa Eguae, fullback Maurice Hagens, cornerback Jordan Mabin, wide receiver Freddie Martino, safety Kimario McFadden, tight end Jacob Pedersen, offensive lineman Adam Replogle, defensive tackle Donte Rumph and linebacker Yawin Smallwood.

Smallwood was selected by the Falcons in the seventh round of this year's draft.

Moorman given the boot by Bills



Orchard Park, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The Buffalo Bills released long-time punter Brian Moorman on Friday and it looks as if he is calling it a career.

In a letter released through his P.U.N.T. Foundation, Moorman said, "It may be the end of a career, but it's certainly not the end of a friendship."

Moorman averaged 43.8 yards per punt during his 13-year career, which was all spent with Buffalo except for 12 games in 2012 with Dallas. Last season, he punted 61 times for an average of 41.2 yards.

Moorman's P.U.N.T. Foundation was created in 2004 to make a difference in the lives of children in Western New York who are fighting cancer.

According to his letter, he plans to continue his work through his foundation for patients in Western New York.

On Friday, the Bills also released linebacker Xavius Boyd, defensive tackle Landon Cohen, tight end Dominique Jones, cornerbacks Kamaal McIlwain and Sam Miller, quarterback Jordan Palmer, fullback Evan Rodriguez, wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt and offensive lineman Jared Wheeler. The team placed cornerbacks Mario Butler and Bobby Felder and tight end Tony Moeaki on the reserve/injured list.

Bucs release K Barth



Tampa, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released veteran kicker Connor Barth on Friday.

Barth, 28, missed the entire 2013 season due to an Achilles injury. He holds Tampa Bay records for single-season field goal percentage (92.9 in 2011) and most consecutive field-goal attempts made with 25.

The move leaves Patrick Murray to handle the field goal and kickoff duties. He signed with the Bucs back in January after going undrafted out of Fordham.

Tampa Bay also released defensive end Larry English and guard Jamon Meredith. The team waived cornerbacks Marc Anthony, Kip Edwards, Anthony Gaitor and Keith Lewis, linebackers Nate Askew and Ka'Lial Glaud, offensive linemen Edawn Coughman, Andrew Miller and Jeremiah Warren, defensive end T.J. Fatinikun and fullback Lonnie Pryor.

Sims to get start for Alabama



Atlanta, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - Blake Sims will reportedly be the starter for the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday when they take on West Virginia.

CBSSports.com, citing an unnamed source, is reporting that Sims will get the starting nod over Jacob Coker. The report adds that both Sims and Coker will play.

Sims is a fifth-year senior. He completed 23-of-39 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns as A.J. McCarron's backup a season ago.

Coker, a junior, was at Florida State last season, serving as backup to eventual Heisman winner Jameis Winston. In limited action last season, he completed 18-of-36 passes for 250 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

Athletics drop protest



Anaheim, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Oakland Athletics have decided to drop their protest of Thursday's game against the LA Angels of Anaheim.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin lodged the protest after a ninth-inning play that was ruled obstruction.

Athletics pitcher Dan Otero fielded Erick Aybar's high chopper along the first-base line and the two collided, along with Oakland first baseman Brandon Moss. Despite Aybar being on the infield grass, umpires ruled that Otero obstructed the runner's path and awarded him first base.

It was a judgment call and crew chief Gerry Davis said after the game that a judgment ruling cannot be protested.

"After further consideration, as well as conversations with the commissioner's office, the A's have decided to drop the protest from last night's game," the Athletics said Friday in a statement. "We have determined that, as stated after the game by the crew chief, Gerry Davis, the call in question was a judgment call and not worthy of pursuing further."

The Angels went on to load the bases with the score tied at 2-2 in the ninth inning, but failed to score. They went on to win the game in 10 innings.

Cards activate Molina from DL



St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Cardinals activated catcher Yadier Molina from the 15-day disabled list prior to Friday's game against the Chicago Cubs.

Molina suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb while sliding into third base on July 9 in a win against Pittsburgh. He underwent surgery to repair the ligament on July 11. The 32-yard-old has batted .287 with seven home runs and 30 RBI in 83 games this season.

St. Louis optioned catcher Tony Cruz to Double-A Springfield to make room for Molina on the active roster.

In addition, the club announced that left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales will be recalled from Triple-A Memphis to start the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader.

Gonzales, who has pitched at four different levels this season, will make his fourth start for St. Louis.

Mariners recall Jones



Seattle, WA (Sports Network) - The Seattle Mariners have recalled outfielder James Jones from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday.

Jones, who played center field for a majority of the season until the Mariners acquired Austin Jackson from Detroit at the trade deadline, has batted .256 with eight doubles, four triples and nine RBI in 83 games. The speedy outfielder has also swiped 20 bases, getting caught stealing just once.

Seattle optioned right-handed pitcher Erasmo Ramirez to Tacoma in order to make room on the roster for Jones. Ramirez went 1-6 in 14 starts this season for the M's.

Mets place Murphy on DL, call up prospect Herrera



Flushing, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Mets placed second baseman Daniel Murphy on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a strained right calf.

The move is retroactive to Aug. 25.

Murphy is batting .301 with nine homers and 53 RBI over 126 games this season.

The Mets called up Dilson Herrera, a 20-year-old infielder, from Double-A Binghamton to take the roster spot of Murphy.

Herrera has hit .323 with 13 homers, 33 doubles, 71 RBI and 98 runs scored in 128 games between High-A St. Lucie and Binghamton.

Outman in, Hill out for Yankees



Toronto, ON (SportsNetwork.com) - A day after trading for pitcher Josh Outman, the New York Yankees selected his contract from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and designated pitcher Rich Hill for assignment.

Outman was 4-0 with a 3.28 ERA in 31 relief appearances for the Indians this season. He was also 3-1 with a 4.43 ERA in 23 games at Triple-A Columbus.

The veteran lefty has a career record of 16-11 with a 4.49 ERA in 152 games, 32 of which have been starts, over parts of six seasons with Oakland, Colorado and Cleveland.

Hill, also a lefty, appeared in six games with the Yankees this season, allowing two hits in 2 1/3 innings.

Indians activate C Gomes



Kansas City, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - The Cleveland Indians activated catcher Yan Gomes from the 7-day disabled list on Friday.

Gomes developed concussion symptoms from a deflected pitch he took off his mask last Thursday against Minnesota. He is batting .284 with 17 homers and 53 RBI this season.

The Indians placed catcher Chris Gimenez on the paternity list to clear room for Gomes on the roster.

Oilers agree to terms with Schultz



Edmonton, AB (SportsNetwork.com) - The Edmonton Oilers and defenseman Justin Schultz have agreed to a one-year contract.

Financial terms for the restricted free agent were not disclosed, but TSN.ca is reporting it to be worth $3.675 million.

Schultz notched 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 points in 74 games last season. He led all Edmonton defensemen in goals, assists and points, and led all Oilers in average ice time at 23:20 per game.

The 24-year-old British Columbia native appeared in 48 games for the Oilers during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign and has compiled 19 goals with 41 assists for 60 points in his first 122 NHL games.

"Excited for another year with the oilers!!" Schultz wrote on Twitter. "Thanks for all the support."

Schultz signed with Edmonton as a free agent following the 2012 NHL Entry Draft after playing three seasons at the University of Wisconsin.

Clippers waive Delfino, Raduljica



Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Los Angeles Clippers waived guard/forward Carlos Delfino and center Miroslav Raduljica.

Delfino and Raduljica were acquired on Tuesday by the Clippers from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for forward Jared Dudley and a protected 2017 first-round draft pick.

Delfino missed all of last season with a foot injury that he suffered during the 2013 NBA playoffs with the Rockets. The native of Argentina has averaged 8.1 points and 3.6 rebounds over eight seasons with Detroit, Toronto, Milwaukee and Houston.

Raduljica scored 3.8 points per game with 2.3 rebounds over 48 games for the Bucks last season.

Former Villanova coach Kraft dies at 93



Villanova, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Former Villanova basketball coach Jack Kraft died on Thursday in New Jersey, the school said in a release Friday. He was 93.

Kraft coached Villanova from 1961-73 and he finished with 238 victories. He guided the program to six NCAA Tournament appearances, including a run to the 1971 title game. The Wildcats lost 68-62 to UCLA in the final.

"The Villanova community mourns the loss of Jack Kraft," university president Rev. Peter M. Donohue said. "His leadership style inspired great play and nurtured the development of skills and interests off the court that contributed to successful and rewarding lives. This inspired great loyalty and love among those he coached, and created a rich legacy that will endure at Villanova."

Kraft's winning percentage of .715 is the highest in Villanova history.

Stewart: Ward's death 'will definitely affect my life forever'



Hampton, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - Nearly three weeks after he struck and killed driver Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race at a dirt track in Upstate New York, Tony Stewart spoke publicly for the first time, expressing his sorrow.

During a press conference on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the site of this weekend's 500-mile Sprint Cup Series race, a somewhat subdued Stewart read from a prepared statement, which lasted a little more than two minutes, but he did not take any questions from the media. He left the conference immediately after his statement.

"This has been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with, both professionally and personally, and this is something that will definitely affect my life forever," Stewart said during his opening remarks. "This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life.

"With that being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward's family and friends are experiencing is something that I can't possibly imagine. I want Kevin's father, Kevin Sr., and his mother, Pam, and his sisters, Christi, Kayla and Katelyn, to know that everyday I am thinking about them and praying for them."

On Thursday, Stewart-Haas Racing announced that Stewart would return to his driving duties in the No. 14 Chevrolet at Atlanta.

Stewart, a three-time champion in NASCAR's premier series, missed the last three races -- Watkins Glen, Michigan and Bristol -- while he was in seclusion following his involvement in the fatal accident on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

The incident occurred during a caution when Ward climbed out of his car and then walked down the dirt track, pointing his finger in the direction of Stewart and apparently yelling at him to express his displeasure. The right rear of Stewart's car hit Ward and dragged him briefly across the track.

The caution came when Stewart and Ward made contact while battling for position, with Ward spinning out and hitting the wall.

Currently, there are no criminal charges pending against Stewart. The investigation regarding Ward's death is still ongoing. Ward died from massive blunt trauma.

"The racing community is a large family, and everyone is saddened with this tragedy," Stewart added. "I want to thank all of my friends and family for their support through this tough and emotional time. And the support from the NASCAR community, my partners and all of our [Stewart-Haas Racing] employees has been overwhelming.

"I've taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident my own way. It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates, and I miss being back in the race car. I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time."

"I also understand that all of you [in the media] have many questions and want a lot of answers, but however, I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time. Emotionally, I'm not sure if I could answer them anyway. I'm here to race this weekend, and I appreciate your respect. And there will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions."

Shortly after Stewart spoke, the Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff's Department released a statement on the progress of its investigation. It will continue for at least two more weeks.

"The investigation into the death of Kevin A. Ward Jr., which occurred August 9, 2014, at the Canandaigua, New York Motorsports Park, will continue for at least another two weeks," Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said in the statement. "The Ontario County Office of Sheriff has reviewed this investigation, as it has been developed to date, with members of the District Attorney's Office.

"The Office of Sheriff will continue to apprise the District Attorney of information as it is developed. When the investigation is completed, the news media will be advised as to what action will be taken. The Ontario County Office of Sheriff thanks all media outlets for their patience and understanding as we continue to thoroughly investigate this tragic crash."

Sprint Cup practice at Atlanta took place on Friday afternoon, and qualifying for Sunday's 500-mile event was scheduled for the evening. This will be the first time Stewart has competed in a Sprint Cup race since Aug. 3 at Pocono.

Stewart is presently 26th in the point standings and has yet to win a race this season. Atlanta and Richmond (Sept. 6) are the two remaining races during the regular season. The Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins on Sept. 14 at Chicagoland.

Regan Smith substituted for Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet at Watkins Glen, while Jeff Burton filled in for him at Michigan and Bristol.

Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing, participated in Stewart's press conference and took questions from the media after Stewart had departed. Frood explained why Stewart decided to return to racing at Atlanta.

"I think for Tony, it's all about this healing process," Frood said. "That's part of why he's in the car. Besides, his mom, his dad, his sister, and his niece and nephew are here at this racetrack.

"It's part of the healing process of being with his family that he's been with since 1999, knowing that these people are going to help him get through this. I think that's one side of it. The other side of it is he's a racer. We have 270 employees [at SHR]. I think him putting a helmet on will help him cope with this situation."

Frood also noted that Stewart has personally reached out to Ward's family members.

"Tony has sent the family flowers and a card around the services," he said. "Besides that, he's been very respectful of them and their time to grieve. I do know that it will be very important, it's important for Tony, to spend time with the family. I do believe that will happen in the appropriate time."

NASCAR allowing Stewart to remain eligible for Chase



Hampton, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - Despite his absence from the last three races, NASCAR will allow Tony Stewart to remain eligible for a spot in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship due to "a very unique set of circumstances."

Stewart is currently 26th in the Sprint Cup Series standings and has yet to win a race this season. But if Stewart wins either Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway or next week's Chase-cutoff event at Richmond International Raceway then he would clinch a position in the 16-driver Chase field.

When announcing the new playoff format for its premier series in January, NASCAR noted that a driver eligible for the Chase must be in the top-30 in points following the first 26 races (regular season) and have attempted to qualify for all of those events. However, in rare instances, NASCAR can waive the requirement of attempting to qualify for all regular-season races.

NASCAR has decided to waive the requirement for Stewart based on the circumstances for him missing Watkins Glen (Aug. 10), Michigan (Aug. 17) and Bristol (last Saturday).

"This has been a very unique set of circumstances to Tony and to our sport," NASCAR president Mike Helton said during a press conference on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "As a league and our responsibility to try to make decisions that are correct and right, sometimes we evaluate circumstances that are given to us and then make those decisions as correctly as we can.

"After evaluating the circumstances around this occurrence, we've come to the conclusion that Tony would be eligible to participate in the Chase if he were to earn a spot in it."

Stewart, a three-time Cup Series champion, had been in seclusion following his involvement in a fatal accident on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. He struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race. As of now, there are no criminal charges pending against Stewart, but the investigation into Ward's death is still ongoing.

On Thursday, Stewart-Haas Racing announced that Stewart would return to his driving duties of the No. 14 Chevrolet this weekend at Atlanta. On that same day, NASCAR issued a statement in regards to Stewart's return, saying he "has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities, and therefore is eligible to compete."

Helton gave some details on the process that NASCAR used to clear Stewart for his return to racing.

"As typical, our process calls for us to rely on third-party experts to assure us that a NASCAR driver or a NASCAR member is ready to return, and all those forms of processes were met, and we cleared him, based on those inputs from third-party experts," Helton said.

Helton did not reveal any names or their fields of expertise.

Roughly an hour before Helton met with the media, Stewart spoke publicly for the first time since Ward's death. Stewart expressed his sorrow while reading from his prepared statement.

Stewart will not qualify for the Chase if he does not win at either Atlanta or Richmond. Points-wise, he is too far behind 16th-place Greg Biffle on the provisional Chase grid. Twelve drivers have already clinched a spot in the playoffs based on their race wins this season. At least two positions will go to drivers who are without a victory.

Last year, Stewart missed the Chase after he broke his right tibia and fibula during an accident in a sprint car race in Iowa. He underwent three surgeries to repair his injured leg and was sidelined for the final 15 Sprint Cup races of the season.

Otto shoots 62 to take lead at Italian Open



Turin, Italy (SportsNetwork.com) - Hennie Otto cruised to a 10-under 62 on Friday to take a 3-shot lead heading into the weekend at the Italian Open.

Beginning the day one shot back of the leaders at Circolo Golf Torino, Otto finished 36 holes at 15-under-par 129 and leads first-round co-leader Bernd Wiesberger by three shots.

"I really played well, hit some good shots and the greens were running well so you were able to make some putts," Otto said. "Something about courses in Italy suits my eye and it would be great to win the tournament. Hopefully I can keep it up and keep going over the weekend."

Otto, who won this event back in 2008, is a two-time winner on the European Tour and he is seeking his first victory since winning the South African Open Championship in 2011. Otto nearly took home the same title earlier this season, but he finished tied for second.

Wiesberger, another two-time winner on tour who ended tied for 15th at this year's PGA Championship after playing in the final pairing with eventual champion Rory McIlroy, carded his second straight 66 and he is in sole possession of second place at 12-under 132.

Ross Fisher is alone in third at 9-under 135 following a 66 on Friday. Rafael Cabrera-Bello (63), James Morrison (66), David Lipsky (67), Morten Orum Madsen (68) and Richie Ramsay (69) are all right behind Fisher at minus-8.

Stephen Gallacher, who is the only player that can clinch an automatic spot on the European Ryder Cup team with either a win or a second-place finish this week, shot a 65 to jump into a tie for ninth at 7-under 137.

"When you tee it up 15 and 12 behind you know you're going to have to be more aggressive and make some birdies so I was delighted to shoot 65 with a double- bogey in the end," said Gallacher. "It would be nice to follow it up with more of the same. I knew I had to go low at some stage and I'm just delighted to get on a run on the back nine."

Francesco Molinari, the 2006 champion of this event who was tied atop the leaderboard with Wiesberger after round one, shot an even-par 72 on Friday and he is tied for 16th with six others at 6-under 138.

Following a bogey-free, 5-under 67 on day one, which put him just one shot behind the leaders, Otto came storming out of the gate to begin his second round.

Back-to-back birdies on one and two had Otto in red numbers early and he added another gain on the par-4 fourth. After two pars at five and six, Otto rattled off three straight birdies from seven to complete a 6-under 30 on the front nine.

Otto did not slow up on the back nine either. Two more pars preceded a big eagle on the par-5 12th to get him to minus-7. Otto kept rolling with two more birdies at 13 and 15, meaning if he was able to make three birdies to close out his round, Otto would have been the first player to ever shoot a 59 on the European Tour.

A par on 16 dashed those hopes, however, and Otto's first bogey of the week on 17 was the only speed bump in an otherwise incredible round. Otto got that shot back immediately as he closed the day with a gain on 18 to get him back to 10-under for the day.

"It's always special to shoot a 62, but a 59 never even crossed my mind," said Otto. "I didn't really think about my score until my caddie said if I made par on 17 we would have been on course for a 10-under par round."

Wiesberger completed his second straight bogey-free round on Friday. He made two birdies on the back nine, his opening nine, at 12 and 16. After making the turn with four straight pars from 17, Wiesberger made back-to-back birdies on three and four, and again on seven and eight.

NOTES: Otto also finish tied for eighth at this event last year ... Cabrera- Bello's 63 on Friday was 10 shots better than his first-round 73 ... Molinari and amateur Edoardo Raffaele (70), both of whom are at 6-under, are the only two Italians in the top 20 ... With the cut falling at 2-under 142, 77 players advanced to the weekend, including seven Italians.

08/29 18:50:28 ET