National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Mercury crush Sky 97-68 in Game 2 of WNBA Finals

PHOENIX (AP) Chicago scratched Brittney Griner across the eyelid, chipped one of her teeth and bloodied her lip.

Staggered by the blows, Phoenix's lanky center fought back the best way she knows how; by scoring and swatting shots.

Now the Mercury are on the verge of delivering the knockout blow after finishing off the most lopsided game in WNBA Finals history.

Griner shook off two blows to the face to finish with 19 points, Diana Taurasi added 18 and the Mercury made it two straight routs in the WNBA Finals with a 97-68 win over the Chicago Sky on Tuesday night.

"That's pretty amazing how mature Brittney is to handle something like that because she did get pretty hurt," Taurasi said. "For her to keep her focus and not let herself get rattled and consumed by that, shows a lot of maturity. I know I couldn't have done that."

The underdog Sky were far more aggressive after being blown out in Game 1, fighting Phoenix for every inch while battering Griner in the first half.

Griner and her teammates shrugged it off, running away from Chicago with a 15-2 run in the second quarter and grabbing a firm hold on the best-of-five series.

Phoenix set a finals record by shooting 58 percent in the opener and almost topped it, hitting 56 percent from the floor after missing five shots in the final minute.

The Mercury outscored Chicago 52-24 in the paint and had all five starters score in double figures.

Taurasi keyed the big first-half run, DeWanna Bonner finished with 15 points and Penny Taylor added 14. Griner anchored the defense, blocking four shots after setting a finals record with eight in the opener.

Elena Delle Donne led the Sky with 22 points after playing 11 minutes in Game 1 due to lower-back pain.

Game 3 is Friday in Chicago, where the Sky will have to find some way of slowing the rising Mercury or the series will be over.

"We have to stop the bleeding a lot faster and we can't make as many mental mistakes because they make you pay for them," Delle Donne said. "We have a lot of things to clean up."

Game 1 was a blowout from the opening tip, the Mercury racing out to a 22-point halftime lead as Griner swatted Chicago's shots and Candice Dupree hit her first 10 shots.

The Sky were much more aggressive at the start of Game 2, pressuring the Mercury into mistakes and tough shots while taking their first lead of the series.

Even better news for Chicago, Delle Donne's cranky back appeared to be in decent shape. Last season's WNBA Rookie of the Year moved freely and had 12 points in the first half.

The Sky couldn't sustain it, no matter how much they knocked Griner around.

The league's defensive player of the year went down hard midway through the first quarter, when Sylvia Fowles inadvertently hit her on the right eye while fighting for a rebound.

Griner lay on the floor for several seconds and appeared to have trouble seeing before going to the bench with a scratch across her eyelid.

She returned to the game, but got hit again late in the second quarter, this time an elbow to the face by Sasha Goodlett.

Griner tossed aside her chipped tooth, spit blood behind the basket, hit two free throws and dropped in another shot at the rim on Phoenix's next possession.

"To her credit, BG is tough as nails," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said.

While Griner was getting beat up, Taurasi put on a show.

She hit a long 3-pointer and scored on a three-point play during the 15-2 run, and then added another 3 from the corner for 13 points in the quarter. Taurasi had 16 in the half and Phoenix led 51-36 after Erin Phillips scored on a three-point play in transition with 0.5 seconds left.

So much for Chicago's extra effort.

The Sky never recovered from Phoenix's big run, falling into a huge hole in the series.

"There were just so many horrible sequences," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. "You can't do that against any team, let alone the best team in the league in the finals. We never gave ourselves a chance."

Goodell says NFL didn't see video before this week

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) As questions arose about how the NFL investigated domestic violence allegations against Ray Rice, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday the league asked for, but was not given, video showing the ex-Ravens running back punching his then-fiancee on an elevator.

Goodell told CBS that "no one in the NFL, to my knowledge" had seen a new video of what happened on the elevator until it was posted online.

"We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity," Goodell said.

Two videos, one released by TMZ Sports and another shown later to The Associated Press by a law enforcement official, show Rice punching Janay Palmer - who is now his wife - at an Atlantic City casino in February. They are graphic, and show more detail than an initial video released by TMZ in July that showed him dragging her from an elevator.

After the latest TMZ video made its way around the Internet, the Ravens cut Rice and the league barred him indefinitely. But the video renewed criticism about the NFL's decision to initially suspend Rice for just two games, and raised questions about how strenuously the case was investigated.

Goodell has previously said he "didn't get it right" with Rice and the league set up new penalties for domestic violence: a six-game suspension for a first offense, at least a year for a second.

"I would tell you that what we saw in the first videotape was troubling to us, in and of itself," Goodell said. "But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear, is extremely graphic, and it was sickening. And that's why we took the action we took yesterday."

In the videos that surfaced Monday, Rice and Palmer are seen hitting each other before he knocks her off her feet and into a railing.

The higher-quality video shown to the AP shows Rice made no attempt to cover up what happened. After Palmer collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. Someone is heard saying, "She's drunk, right?" And then, "No cops." Rice didn't respond.

The video was shown to the AP on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to release it.

Palmer defended her husband on her Instagram account Tuesday, saying that barring Rice from playing football is "horrific" and that making the couple "relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he met with owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome after they saw the TMZ video, and they made the decision to let Rice go.

The action represented a complete reversal for the team, which had initially supported Rice. Rice had been charged with felony aggravated assault in the case, but in May he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to the charge being purged from his record. A prominent New Jersey lawmaker called Tuesday for that decision to be reviewed.

In a letter to fans, Bisciotti said the team should have done more to get the video as the investigation continued, and it was a "mistake" not to. He said the team tried to get the video from both the casino and law enforcement, but the casino wouldn't share it and that authorities refused. It is common for law enforcement to decline to release evidence when an investigation is ongoing.

"We should have seen it earlier. We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously," the letter said. "We didn't and we were wrong."

Rice's attorney, Michael Diamondstein, declined to comment when contacted by the AP. In a brief telephone interview with ESPN, Rice said: "I have to be strong for my wife. She is so strong. ... We are in good spirits. We have a lot of people praying for us and we'll continue to support each other."

Rice stood to make $4 million this year. In addition to his salary, he'll also lose income from canceled endorsement deals. Nike announced it has severed its business ties with him, and video game publisher Electronic Arts said it would scrub Rice's image from their latest Madden `15 release.

In public statements this summer, he expressed regret: "I let so many people down because of 30 seconds of my life that I know I can't take back."


AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.



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Mets 3B Wright done for season with sore shoulder

NEW YORK (AP) Mets third baseman David Wright will sit out the rest of the season because of a nagging injury to his left shoulder.

Wright was examined Tuesday by doctors at the Hospital for Special Surgery, where he had an MRI that showed persistent inflammation in his rotator cuff. Wright said he will rest to decrease the inflammation and then begin a six-week rehabilitation program to strengthen his entire shoulder.

"It's disappointing," Wright said Tuesday night. "But I think for me personally, making sure I end this year as healthy as can be and then do what I can, starting with this rehab program, to ensure that I will be as close to 100 percent for spring training is the goal."

General manager Sandy Alderson said Wright could have further tests, including another MRI with dye, after the inflammation subsides.

The seven-time All-Star and team captain was scratched from New York's lineup against Colorado because of increased soreness in his shoulder, which has bothered him since mid-June. He had a cortisone shot around the All-Star break.

"This year speaks volumes about his character," second baseman Daniel Murphy said after the Mets' 2-0 win over the Rockies.

Despite the pain, Wright has missed only 11 games, but his power and production have dropped off dramatically in the second year of a $138 million, eight-year contract. He batted .269 with eight homers - none after July 11 - and 63 RBIs.

Wright had never hit fewer than 10 homers in any of his 10 previous major league seasons.

"I'm not one to make excuses and I'm not going to start doing it now," Wright said. "I think that there were times I should've done better, I could've done better. This season has left a sour taste in my mouth."

Alderson, though, defended Wright's performance.

"David did what captains do: He persevered, he gutted it out," Alderson said. "Numbers or no numbers, he did what we expected. He made a major contribution to the team."

The Mets did get back Murphy, who batted second in the win over the Rockies. Murphy was activated from the disabled list and went 1 for 3 with a walk. He had been out since Aug. 24 with a strained right calf.

The fourth-place Mets improved to 70-75 with 17 games remaining. They are 5 1-2 games out of a playoff spot.

AP Source: Pegulas bid $1.4 billion to buy Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula took a highly aggressive approach by bidding an NFL-record $1.4 billion to get the Buffalo Bills and keep them in western New York.

A person with direct knowledge of the sale process confirmed the winning bid to The Associated Press on Tuesday, hours after late owner Ralph Wilson's estate announced reaching a "definitive agreement" to sell the team to the Pegulas. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sale was conducted privately.

Sports Business Journal first reported the Pegulas' bid earlier in the day.

The price eclipses the previous high of $1.1 billion set in 2009, when Stephen Ross completed his purchase of the Miami Dolphins in a deal that also included the team's stadium.

The person said the Pegulas went well above the Bills' estimated value of $935 million to show Wilson's estate how serious they were in their desire to buy the team. And they also wanted to submit a bid the Pegulas believed would be significantly higher than other prospective ownership groups were willing - or capable - of matching.

That included a Toronto-based group led by rocker Jon Bon Jovi, which had raised concerns regarding the possibility eventually relocating the Bills north of the border. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump also submitted a formal bid Monday.

The value of the Toronto group's and Trump's bids were not revealed.

The Pegulas were motivated to keep the Bills in Buffalo and preserve Wilson's legacy.

"It is gratifying to reassure these great fans that the two franchises, so important to our region are here to stay," Terry Pegula said in a statement released by the Sabres. "Ralph Wilson left an indelible mark on our community and we will strive every day to honor his legacy."

The sale is subject approval by a three-quarters majority of the NFL's other 31 owners, which is expected to come at league meetings Oct. 8.

"Ralph would have been pleased with the sale of the team to the Terry Pegula family, who have been so committed to Buffalo and the western New York region," Wilson's widow and Bills controlling owner Mary Wilson said. "He loved his team and he cherished the fans, and his legacy will remain for all time."

Wilson, who died in March, was the team's founder and sole owner. He often spoke out and voted against franchise relocation.

One fan was so emotional about the sale that he began crying while discussing what the Pegula's purchase meant to him on Buffalo's WGR Radio.

Others expressed relief.

"One of the saddest thing for me to consider was that someday we may have had children and I would never had a chance to share what (the Bills) are like with them," said Dale Paradowski, a Bills season ticketholder, who is getting married next week. "This purchase isn't just a transaction. It's a symbol of a city and those who love it."

The agreement comes days before the Bills (1-0) play their home opener against Miami on Sunday.

The Bills are also holding an invitation-only tribute for their former owner at a downtown Buffalo theater Friday night. Former players are gathering in Niagara Falls, New York, for a reunion the following day.

The Pegulas, who live in Florida, have established roots in adopting Buffalo as their hometown since purchasing the Sabres in February 2011. Terry Pegula is from Pennsylvania and became a fan of the Sabres in the mid-1970s. Kim is from the nearby Rochester area.

Their commitment to Buffalo is becoming more evident with the construction of a privately funded $172 million downtown hockey/entertainment complex called HarborCenter that is nearing completion.

Under NFL ownership rules, the Pegulas are allowed to own both the Bills and the Sabres because they are located in the same market.

The Pegulas have a net worth of more than $3.5 billion, and made their fortune in the natural gas industry. They had the backing of local business leaders and public officials, and were regarded as the front runner to buy the Bills once they first expressed interest in late May.

"Today's announcement is great news for western New York, the Bills, and their passionate fans, who will now be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief," U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said. "The Pegulas are the perfect choice to carry on Ralph Wilson's indelible legacy."

Trump maintained his interest and had the deep pockets to buy the Bills, but lost out once the sale price rose beyond what he considered reasonable.

As for Bon Jovi, his group faltered because it failed to address numerous concerns about its plans to potentially relocate north of the border. The Toronto group was rounded out by Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and the Rogers family, which controls Rogers Communications.

The Bills' lease agreement, signed off by Wilson and approved by NFL owners last year, became a serious obstacle because of a strict non-relocation clause that essentially prevented the team from moving before the 2020 season.

The AP first reported in July that Rogers conducted a feasibility study that identified at least three potential stadium sites in the Toronto area that could potentially serve as the Bills' new home.


AP freelance writer Nick Mendola contributed to this report.


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Goodell does not rule out Rice's returning to NFL

NEW YORK (AP) NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did not rule out the possibility of former Ravens running back Ray Rice returning to play in the league after serving a suspension for domestic violence.

"But he would have to make sure that we are fully confident that he is addressing this issue clearly, he has paid a price for the actions that he's already taken," Goodell said in an interview with CBS that aired Tuesday.

Two videos, one released Monday by TMZ Sports and another shown later to The Associated Press by a law enforcement official, show Rice punching Janay Palmer - who is now his wife - in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino in February.

Goodell said the league asked for, but was not given, that video - and that "no one in the NFL, to my knowledge" had seen it - before it was posted online.

"We had not seen any videotape of what occurred in the elevator. We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity," he said.

After it was posted Monday, the Ravens cut Rice, and the league barred him indefinitely.

In July, after TMZ released a video showing what happened outside the elevator, but not inside it, Goodell suspended Rice for two games.

"We certainly didn't know what was on the tape," Goodell said.

"What we saw in the first videotape was troubling to us, in and of itself. But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear, is extremely graphic, and it was sickening," he told CBS. "And that's why we took the action we took yesterday."



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'Miracle On Ice' member Bob Suter dies

Bob Suter, a member of the "Miracle On Ice" team that won the Olympic gold medal in 1980 and the father of Minnesota Wild star Ryan Suter, died Tuesday at the age of 57.

Suter died suddenly in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, and is the first player from the famed 1980 Olympic men's hockey team that upset the Soviet Union and beat Finland for the gold medal to pass away.

Suter did scouting work for the Wild and was a pillar of the youth hockey community and owned a sporting goods store in Madison.

"We are very saddened by today's news that Minnesota Wild scout Bob Suter suddenly passed away," the Wild said in a statement. "The Wild organization sends its condolences to the entire Suter family during this difficult time. Not only was Bob a great hockey ambassador, he was a terrific person off the ice who will be greatly missed by all of us."

Bob Suter was born in Madison in 1957, starred in high school at Madison East and went on to play for the University of Wisconsin where he helped the Badgers win the national title in 1977.

"This is a heartbreaking day," said Wisconsin men's hockey coach Mike Eaves, who was teammates with Suter in college. "Bob was the ultimate teammate. He could skate like the wind and was as hard of a competitor that I ever knew. He has passed much too young."

He was a rugged defenseman for Team USA at the Lake Placid Olympics, playing in all seven games and helping the team to one of the greatest upsets in American sports history.

"Sad news at the passing of Bob Suter a great teammate on 1980 Olympic team," Mike Eruzione tweeted. "He will be missed by so many RIP BamBam."

He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1977 and later signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota North Stars in 1981, but never played a game in the NHL. But he did pave the way for his younger brother Gary and son Ryan to become stars in the league, making the Suters one of the most revered families in hockey. Ryan played for Team USA as well and is one of the top defensemen in the NHL.

"We are all stunned," said Wisconsin women's hockey coach Mark Johnson, a teammate of Bob Suter's in 1980. "Everyone is shocked. It's a sad day for not only the community of Madison but the hockey community who knew Bob and all of the players who he touched and who he gave an opportunity to play hockey and climb up the ladder."

USA Hockey called Suter "a great friend and ambassador of the game."

"Bob Suter will always be remembered for his role as a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice Team that captivated our country and whose impact is impossible to measure," the statement read. "His legacy, however, is far beyond that as he dedicated his life to advancing hockey and helping young people achieve their dreams.

"Bob's positive impact on our sport will be felt for generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Suter family at this difficult time."

Ex-NFL QB Ryan Leaf sentenced to 5 years

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf has been sentenced to five years in prison in Texas for violating terms of his probation.

A Texas prosecutor says the former San Diego Chargers quarterback and Washington State standout won't have to serve any time behind bars in Texas because of time he's served in Montana. Leaf violated his Texas probation when he ran afoul with the law in Montana for breaking into a home to steal prescription drugs. He pleaded guilty for felony burglary and criminal possession of a dangerous drug in 2012.

Leaf attorney Bill Kelly III said the Texas judge gave Leaf credit retroactively for his Montana prison time. The 38-year-old has been granted parole but has not been released.

He was a quarterbacks coach for Division II West Texas A&M.

Wife says taking football from Ray Rice 'horrific'

Ray Rice's wife says taking away football from her husband is horrific and making the couple relive a moment they regret is a "horrible thing."

Janay Palmer posted a statement Tuesday on her Instagram account, a day after TMZ Sports released video showing the couple Feb. 15 in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Each hits the other before Rice knocks Palmer off her feet and into a railing, knocking her out.

The Ravens released Rice hours after the video was released Monday, and the NFL followed by suspending him indefinitely.

Palmer wrote she awoke feeling as if she had a nightmare and accepting reality is "a nightmare in itself." She also wrote that this is their life and they will continue to show "what real love is!"



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Hawks discipline GM Ferry for racist comments

ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Hawks are sticking with general manager Danny Ferry even though the team's new majority owner wants him fired for racially charged comments about Luol Deng.

CEO Steve Koonin on Tuesday told the Hawks' flagship radio station that he made the decision to discipline Ferry but allowed him to keep his job managing the team. He did not say what the punishment was, but noted that he relied on a law firm's three-month investigation of Ferry and him describing Deng as someone who "has a little African in him."

Ferry made the inflammatory comments about Deng in a conference call with the Hawks' ownership group in June when the team pursued Deng as a free agent.

Deng, who now plays for the Miami Heat, responded saying, "I'm proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just `a little."'

A letter from co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. recommends that Ferry resign or be fired. Gearon said Ferry made that description of Deng to the team's ownership group.

His June 12 letter to co-owner Bruce Levenson said Ferry went on to say, "Not in a bad way, but he's like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back."

Added Gearon: "Ferry completed the racial slur by describing the player (and impliedly all persons of African descent) as a two-faced liar and cheat."

Deng, 29, was born in what is now South Sudan. His father moved his family to Egypt and then England. The 10-year NBA veteran is now a British citizen, played for England in the 2012 Olympics and said he's proud to represent his heritage "on the highest stage."

Deng, like Ferry, also played at Duke.

"Every person should have the right to be treated with respect and evaluated as an individual, rather than be reduced to a stereotype," Deng said. "I am saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting."

Koonin said Atlanta law firm Alston and Bird went through 24,000 documents, conducted 19 interviews and read "every email Danny Ferry has ever sent as general manager of the Atlanta Hawks." Koonin said no other negative information on Ferry was found in the probe.

"I took their advice and far exceeded their advice," Koonin said of the undisclosed punishment he imposed on Ferry.

Hawks spokesman Garin Narain said the investigation of Ferry's comments uncovered a racially inflammatory email written two years ago by Levenson. That discovery led to Levenson's announcement Sunday that he will sell his controlling share of the team.

Despite Gearon's desire to remove Ferry, Koonin is standing by him.

"I understand that emotion," Koonin said of Gearon's recommendation. "I certainly understand that emotion. I know people who have said that to me. But if we sentence people based on what everybody wanted, we wouldn't have a justice system.

"I listened to what (the law firm) said because they had done the work ... so that's a decision I'm willing to live with."

Gearon warned Levenson he believed Ferry's comments "could be fatal to the franchise" if made public.

Gearon said he and the other co-owners "were appalled that anyone would make such a racist slur under any circumstance, much less the GM of an NBA franchise on a major conference call."

Gearon declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press on Tuesday. Ferry apologized Tuesday but said he was only repeating what he had heard about Deng.

"In regards to the insensitive remarks that were used during our due diligence process, I was repeating comments that were gathered from numerous sources during background conversations and scouting about different players," Ferry said in a statement released by the team.

"I repeated those comments during a telephone conversation reviewing the draft and free agency process. Those words do not reflect my views, or words that I would use to describe an individual and I certainly regret it. I apologize to those I offended and to Luol, who I reached out to Monday morning."

Koonin has agreed to meet with Atlanta civil rights leaders on Wednesday. The Rev. Markel Hutchins said Monday he asked for the meeting to discuss what he believes is a racist attitude throughout the organization.

In his letter to Levenson, Gearon compared Ferry's remarks to much-publicized racist comments which forced Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers.

"We believe these comments by Ferry were far worse than Sterling's because they were not from a private personal conversation - they were in a business environment on a business matter in front of a dozen or more people," Gearon wrote. "If Ferry would make such a slur in a semi-public forum, we can only imagine what he has said in smaller groups or to individuals."

Ferry was named the Hawks' general manager in 2012 following two years as vice president of basketball operations for the San Antonio Spurs. He was general manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2005-2010 and helped build the team that advanced to the 2007 NBA Finals.

There was renewed optimism about the direction of the team after Ferry hired coach Mike Budenholzer from San Antonio in 2013.

Now, the turmoil threatens to derail all their efforts.

New ownership must be found and despite the support of Koonin, Ferry's ability to survive the crisis is unknown.

In his letter of apology, Ferry pledged he would learn from the incident.

"I am committed to learning from this and deeply regret this situation," Ferry said. "I fully understand we have work to do in order to help us create a better organization; one that our players and fans will be proud of, on and off the court, and that is where my focus is moving forward."


AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this story.


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Nike, others end business relationship with Rice

Ray Rice's indefinite suspension from the NFL for domestic violence will cost him income from endorsements in addition to his $4 million in salary.

Nike and Electronic Arts are among the businesses that announced Tuesday they have cut ties with Rice following the release of a video showing the former Baltimore Ravens running back striking his then-fiancee in February.

Nike Inc. confirmed its decision to end its relationship with Rice via an email. EA Sports made the announcement that it will take his image out of the Madden `15 video game on its "Madden NFL" official Twitter account.

Two other companies, BodyArmor sports drink and VertiMax sports training equipment, disassociated themselves from Rice earlier this year.

Rice made an estimated $1.6 million a year from endorsements, according to Forbes magazine.

On Monday TMZ Sports released a grainy video showing Rice and Janay Palmer in an elevator at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino. Each hits the other before Rice knocks Palmer off her feet and into a railing. Months ago, a TMZ video showed Rice dragging Palmer, now his wife, from the elevator at the Revel casino.

"He may have had a slight chance of saving his marketability before that video came out (Monday)," San Francisco sports marketing analyst Bob Dorfman said. "The violence of the video, and just the horrific nature of it, you've seen what it's done to the public opinion of him."

The Ravens said on Twitter that they're planning to offer an exchange for Rice jerseys. His No. 27 jersey no longer is available on the NFL fan shop website, and Dick's and Modell's are among the sporting goods stores that have pulled the jerseys from their racks.

Before the latest video was released, Rice also had been removed as a spokesman for East Coast-based M&T Bank.

Rice is among the high-profile athletes cut by Nike because of scandal. Cyclist Lance Armstrong and track star Justin Gatlin were let go after they were found to have used performance-enhancing drugs and South African paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius after he was accused of murdering his girlfriend.

The athletic clothing and footwear giant stood by Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant after their infidelity made headlines. Nike dropped Michael Vick for his involvement in dog fighting, but the company re-signed him upon his re-entry to the NFL.

"Nike does not drop their athletes unless it is something very, very heavy," Dorfman said. "Basically what they do is keep you on contract and maybe go dark with advertisements or marketing and wait for things to blow over and bring you back. It's very rare that they terminate with somebody."

Dorfman said Rice presented a wholesome image prior to the assault, noting that Rice became spokesman for the Milk Mustache's "Got Milk?" campaign after the Ravens won the 2013 Super Bowl.

The horrific nature of the video of Rice punching Palmer will make it difficult for Rice, even if he returns to the NFL, to resuscitate his marketing potential.

Dorman described Rice as "toxic, totally radioactive, untouchable."

Rice had signed with BodyArmor in 2012, but his picture was removed from the company website days after his February arrest.

"Ray Rice is no longer a BodyArmor partner," company spokeswoman Lindsey Raivich wrote in an email Tuesday. "When his contract expired the brand chose not to renew."

Raivich declined further comment.

Vertimax dropped Rice on Monday, according to A message was left for company publicist Al Marez.

In a statement to, VertiMax CEO Michael Wehrell said, "After internal discussion about the events that transpired, we determined that a future relationship with Ray did not align with our goals as a company."

Michael Schumacher heads home from hospital

GLAND, Switzerland (AP) Former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher has left a Swiss hospital and will continue his recovery at home, his manager said Tuesday.

The seven-time F1 champion suffered a serious head injury while skiing in France at the end of December.

"Considering the severe injuries he suffered, progress has been made in the past weeks and months," his manager, Sabine Kehm, said in a statement. "There is still, however, a long and difficult road ahead."

Schumacher was transferred to a hospital in Lausanne in June, after six months at a hospital in France. Kehm said he was now at his home in Gland, near Geneva, without specifying when the move happened or giving details about his current condition.

"We ask that the privacy of Michael's family continue to be respected, and that speculations about his state of health are avoided," Kehm said.

Schumacher's accident happened on a family vacation as he was skiing with his 14-year-old son at the Meribel ski resort in the French Alps.

The avid skier hit the right side of his head on a rock, cracking his helmet. Doctors operated to remove blood clots from his brain, but some were left because they were too deeply embedded.

Schumacher's condition stabilized after he was placed in a drug-induced coma, from which he has since emerged.

Report: Bills close to identifying owner; Pegula in lead

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The formal bids to buy the Buffalo Bills have been submitted, and a prospective ownership candidate could be selected as early as Tuesday.

Two people familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press on Monday night that late owner's Ralph Wilson's estate is closing in on naming a candidate. One of the people said the sale is "moving quick," and a prospective ownership group could be presented to the NFL for preliminary approval within days.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sale is being conducted privately.

Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula have been considered the favorites since they first expressed interest in purchasing the team in early June. They were among at least three groups to submit binding bids before a deadline on Monday. The other two groups to submit bids were New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump and a Toronto group fronted by rocker Jon Bon Jovi, four people told the AP.

The Pegulas have a net worth of more than $3.5 billion, and have the support of local business leaders and public officials because of their commitment to keep the Bills in western New York.

The bids were submitted to Morgan Stanley, the banking firm overseeing the sale.

Three of the people said the estate issued purchase agreements to at least four groups, and potentially five. The other groups' identities are not known, and it's unclear if they submitted bids.

The purchase agreements are formal documents that are negotiated separately by each of the parties and Proskauer Rose, the legal firm representing the estate. The agreements are binding documents that outline the terms and conditions of the sale.

Once those agreements were completed over the past week, the only outstanding question left was for each group to determine its bid price.

The franchise was last valued by Forbes at $935 million. But the sale price is expected to exceed $1 billion because NFL franchises rarely go on the block.

The Bills are on the market after Wilson, a Hall of Famer who founded the franchise, died in March.

The Cleveland Browns were sold for close to $1.05 billion two years ago. The Miami Dolphins sold for an NFL-record $1.1 billion in 2009, but their deal also included their stadium.

The timing of the sale process remains on track for the team to have a new owner before the end of the year - and potentially by next month.

Once identified, the prospective owner would be presented to members of the NFL Finance Committee, which is scheduled to meet next week. The candidate must also go through an extensive background check conducted by an NFL-contracted security firm.

The final step would be approval from three-quarters of the league's 31 other owners, which could come at league meetings next month. After that, NFL owners are next scheduled to meet in December.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer has stayed closely involved with the sale process to ensure the Bills stay in New York.

Last week, Schumer expressed his support of the Pegulas in conversations with at least 10 NFL owners.

During a stop in Buffalo on Monday, Schumer said he had conversations regarding the sale process with both Terry Pegula and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell earlier in the day.

"We talked about the lay of the land. I'm not going to get into details," Schumer said. "But I believe that (Pegula) is enthusiastic about owning and keeping the Bills in Buffalo for generations."

Under the lease agreement reached in December 2012 with New York State and Erie County, the Bills are essentially locked in to playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the end of the 2019 season. There is a one-time out clause that would allow the team to break the agreement for just under $28.4 million in 2020.

Rice cut by Ravens, banned by NFL after video release

BALTIMORE (AP) Ray Rice was let go by the Baltimore Ravens on Monday and suspended indefinitely by the NFL after a video was released showing the running back striking his then-fiancee in February.

The grainy video, released by TMZ Sports, shows Rice and Janay Palmer in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. Each hits the other before Rice knocks Palmer off her feet and into a railing. Months ago, a TMZ video showed Rice dragging Palmer, now his wife, from the elevator at the Revel casino, which closed Sept. 2.

In a higher-quality video shown to The Associated Press by a law enforcement official Monday night, Rice and Palmer can be heard shouting obscenities at each other, and she appears to spit at Rice right before he throws the knockout punch. After she collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. One of them can be heard saying, "She's drunk, right?" And then, "No cops." Rice didn't respond. The video, which is slightly longer than the TMZ version and included some audio, was shown to the AP on condition of anonymity because the official isn't authorized to release it.

Earlier Monday, the Ravens said they never saw the new video. Hours later, they sent out a one-sentence release:

"The Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract of RB Ray Rice this afternoon."

Coach John Harbaugh said he met with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome after they saw the video, and they made the decision to let Rice go.

"It's something we saw for the first time today, all of us," Harbaugh said. "It changed things, of course. It made things a little bit different."

The action represented a complete reversal for the team, even though an Atlantic City police summons stated that Rice caused "bodily injury to Janay Palmer, specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious."

The Ravens had used words like "respect" and "proud" in referring to Rice following his arrest.

When the NFL announced Rice's two-game suspension for domestic violence on July 24, Newsome said: "We respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be. That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again."

In late July, Harbaugh said, "The thing I appreciate about it is how Ray has handled it afterward by acknowledging it was wrong and he'll do everything he can do to make it right. That's what you ask for when someone does a wrong thing. So, I'm proud of him for that."

Asked Monday night if Rice misled him, Harbaugh said he didn't want to get into "all that."

"I don't think of it that way. Everything I said in terms of what I believe, I stand by," he said. "I believe that still, and I'll always believe those things, and (we'll) always stand in support of them as a couple, and that's not going to change."

Rice said in a news conference this summer that his actions that night were "inexcusable." But the Ravens never took action against him until after the second video was released.

The NFL, which has been working hard to promote the game to women, also took action after the explicit video was released. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that, based on the new video evidence, Rice has been suspended indefinitely.

"We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday morning. "That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today."

Goodell indicated as much on Aug. 1 when during the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend.

"When we're going through the process of evaluating the issue and whether there will be discipline, you look at all of the facts that you have available to us," Goodell said. "Law enforcement normally has more ... information, facts, than we have. We'll get as much as we possibly can."

Rice's lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Rice, 27, stood to make $4 million this year.

"Obviously, any video that depicts an act of violence in that video is disturbing to watch. For our union, we have an unshakable position against any violence, certainly domestic violence included," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said at the Seahawks' facility in Renton, Washington. "It will be a time for us now to catch up with everything else that has occurred today."

He had been charged with felony aggravated assault in the case, but in May he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to the charge being purged from his record.

After Goodell drew criticism not being tough enough on Rice, in a letter to all 32 NFL owners in August saying he "didn't get it right."

First-time offenders now face a six-game suspension.

Rice began his suspension Sunday, when the Ravens opened their season with a 23-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He was scheduled to return after Thursday night's game against Pittsburgh.

He leaves the Ravens as the second-leading rusher in franchise history, behind only Jamal Lewis. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Rice is the team's career leader in total yards from scrimmage (9,214) and is the only player in Ravens history to rush for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.

But those are mere numbers, and his actions in that elevator shed a new light on him.

"I'm not going to go into what he told us or anything or if it matches or if it doesn't," Ravens receiver Torrey Smith said. "That doesn't matter. What matters is what you see. It wasn't a pleasant site at all."

Rice hasn't spoken often to the media since his arrest, but on July 31 he said this is "something I have to live with the rest of my life."

He added: "I know that's not who I am as a man. ... I let so many people down because of 30 seconds of my life that I know I can't take back."

Report: Colts' Mathis tore Achilles while working out

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Robert Mathis likely won't get a chance to defend his NFL sacks title.

Less than two weeks after starting a four-game, league-imposed suspension, the Colts' best pass rusher sustained an Achilles' tendon injury while working out privately in Atlanta.

A person with knowledge of the injury told The Associated Press on Monday that Mathis tore the tendon, which would keep him out the entire season. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not confirmed the diagnosis.

A few hours later, coach Chuck Pagano said he would not speculate on the severity of the injury or how much time Mathis could miss - until team doctors examine Mathis on Tuesday. But it sure didn't sound promising.

"We knew we were going to be without Robert for the first four games, but this is really a devastating blow for Robert and his family and this organization," Pagano said. "This one stings."

The injury occurred while Mathis was away from the team, serving his suspension.

League rules prohibit Mathis from working out at the team complex or communicating with those inside the organization during his absence, so the Colts sent Mathis home with a workout regimen.

On Monday, Mathis contacted head trainer Dave Hammer to inform the team that he had injured the Achilles and had already been seen by one doctor.

Pagano said league rules do allow suspended players to contact their team if they are injured.

Mathis' teammates were then told of the injury during Monday's team meeting and the news hit hard.

"He's a pillar guy," inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman said with uncharacteristic somberness. "He's definitely a leader and I hope he'll be on the sideline coaching when he gets back."

But it's also another odd twist in what had already been a tumultuous season for the Colts' career sacks leader.

In May, NFL officials announced Mathis would be suspended for the first four regular-season games after violating the league's performance-enhancing substance policy.

Mathis claimed he was taking a fertility drug, Clomid, so he and his wife could have another child. But the drug is on the league's banned list because it can be used as a masking agent for PEDs.

Mathis grudgingly accepted his fate after his appeals were denied.

Critics contended that the substance explained Mathis' sudden statistical surge last season, when at the age of 32 he set a single-season franchise record with 19 1/2 sacks and won his first NFL sacks crown. Mathis argued he was more comfortable playing his new position, outside linebacker, after converting from defensive end in 2012.

And also he was motivated to perform even better after some thought his numbers would drop significantly after longtime friend Dwight Freeney signed with San Diego.

At training camp, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Mathis was frequently seen playing with his newborn daughter following practice, and even though Pagano acknowledged the Colts needed Mathis to get some work before the suspension, Indianapolis held him out of all four preseason games.

Before departing the team complex Aug. 30, Mathis left an inspirational note in his locker urging players and coaches not to take the game they love for granted. Defensive end Cory Redding explained it was simply "Robert being Robert," a message that resonated throughout the team.

"I don't want to talk about another man's injury issues, medical issues, but, I do know I love Robert," Andrew Luck said. "He doesn't know how much he has meant to me as a rookie, second-year guy, offseason, everything.

"What he's done for this organization, what he will continue to do for this organization I know is going to be special."

So the Colts (0-1) must now figure out how to cope without their best pass rusher.

A year ago, Mathis' teammates combined for 22 1/2 sacks.

On Sunday night at Denver, it was obvious how much Indianapolis missed Mathis.

Indy struggled to consistently pressure Peyton Manning and wound up with only one sack, and Bjoern Werner, Mathis' replacement as the rush linebacker, had three tackles but no quarterback pressures. They host the up-tempo Eagles next Monday night.

"You can't replace a guy like Robert," inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "But we trust our guys, we trust the guys next to us."

Mathis is the second Indy player to sustain an Achilles tendon injury this season, joining running back Vick Ballard who is already on injured reserve after tearing his left Achilles in late July.

Indy already has 10 players on injured reserve, including offensive lineman Xavier Nixon, who was designated for a possible return later this season.

"It's a tough, tough pill to swallow and they're just absorbing it right now, the shock of it all," Pagano said. "Like Reggie (Wayne), I know he'll get through it with whatever he has to do and he'll be back."

Notes: Wayne had nine catches for 98 yards in his first game back after tearing the ACL in his right knee. ... Freeman (hamstring, thumb) said he felt fine Monday and expected to play next week. ... Luck blamed himself for calling a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal, which resulted in a Denver stop. Luck called it "stupid" decision.

NCAA lifts Penn State's postseason ban

Penn State football got out from under the most severe on-field sanctions imposed on it two years ago over the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, learning Monday that the NCAA will allow it to compete in this year's postseason and that all scholarships will return in 2015.

The surprise announcement, linked to progress the school has made reforming its athletic program, moved the university a step farther away from the fallout from Sandusky, the former assistant coach convicted of sexual abuse of 10 boys, including acts at university facilities.

The scandal badly tarnished what had been one of college sports' most respected programs, led to charges of a criminal cover-up against former university administrators Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley - whose cases are still pending - and the firing of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno.

Penn State had been halfway through a four-year postseason ban handed down during the summer of 2012. Some of the 40 scholarships the program was originally docked were restored earlier than expected a year ago.

The university still must pay a $60 million fine, vacate 111 wins that came under Paterno, plus another victory under interim coach Tom Bradley, and the school will remain under monitoring.

The decision by the NCAA's Executive Committee followed a recommendation by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, whose second annual report as Penn State's athletics integrity monitor concluded the university was in compliance with a 2012 agreement and consent decree.

"Senator Mitchell's report and recommendations, along with the actions taken by the NCAA today, are a recognition of the hard work of many over the past two years to make Penn State a stronger institution," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who took over in February.

Mitchell said the school had made progress toward implementing a new human resources system, "fostering an ethical culture" and improving security at its sports facilities. His own five-year oversight role, scheduled to continue to 2017, may end earlier as a result of the progress that has been made, he said.

Mitchell said his recommendation was focused on aspects of the penalties that affect student-athletes, many of whom stayed at Penn State despite the ability to transfer without penalty.

"In light of Penn State's responsiveness to its obligations and the many improvements it has instituted, I believe these student-athletes should have the opportunity to play in the postseason should they earn it on the field this year," Mitchell wrote.

His 58-page report said incidents involving the football team this year included only minor infractions.

In State College, junior kinesiology major Daniel Zambanini said seeing the news on television gave him a moment of shock.

"The sanctions kind of held the Sandusky scandal like it was a big black cloud that hung over the university because every year, every time they mentioned Penn State, they mentioned the sanctions," Zambanini said.

He said removal of the postseason ban "just takes that weight off our shoulders and you can kind of just be Penn State once more."

The penalties against Penn State were unprecedented in many ways and, because of that, not well-received by many in college sports. While lack of institutional control was cited, Penn State's missteps had nothing to do with competition and the areas that usually fall under the NCAA's jurisdiction.

"The biggest problem I had was the effect on the student athletes in the program," said former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who worked in NCAA enforcement during the 1980s, including on the SMU football death penalty case. "They (Penn State's players) weren't involved in a program that was cheating against their rivals and now all of sudden they're not able to participate in postseason."

The NCAA cutting the penalties down is also unusual. Beebe and Mike Gilleran, a sports law and ethics professor at Santa Clara University who worked in NCAA enforcement during the 1970s and `80s, said they were concerned the latest move would set another precedent.

"So what happens now when one of your old schools," Gilleran said, referring to Beebe's time in the Big 12, "gets whacked? `OK, we'll take that penalty with the understanding that we will be model citizens and we will expect the treatment that Penn State got."'

Beebe said rolling back the sanctions gives the appearance of the NCAA acknowledging it might have overreached by getting involved with the Sandusky scandal.

"My first blush is I don't know how it could be perceived differently," he said. "`I'd be very curious to dive into (the NCAA's) rationale."

On Friday, the NCAA said in a Pennsylvania state court filing it is willing to let the state government control the $60 million fine Penn State is paying under the consent decree. The NCAA wants the judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by state officials seeking to enforce a 2013 state law that requires the money remain in the state.

If the judge agrees, the NCAA said it also will move to end a federal lawsuit against Gov. Tom Corbett and others that challenges that same law.

Penn State went 15-9 during the first two seasons of the sanctions under coach Bill O'Brien, who was hired to replace Paterno.

Paterno was the winningest coach in major college football history when he was fired not long after Sandusky, his former defensive coordinator, was charged in November 2011. Paterno died in January 2012 and lost his record when the NCAA vacated those 111 victories

O'Brien left for the Houston Texans of the NFL after last season and James Franklin was hired away from Vanderbilt to take his place.

Penn State is 2-0 this season. If the Nittany Lions win the East division, they will be eligible to play in the Big Ten championship game.

Franklin said in a statement the team appreciates the opportunity.

"This team plays for each other. We play for Penn State, our families, the former players, our students, alumni, fans and the community," he said.

Stars crossed for unlikely Open champ Cilic

NEW YORK -- A few of the first words Marin Cilic found to define his U.S. Open victory could also describe the last two weeks and much of the year in tennis.

“The stars crossed,” the Croatian said.

Cilic, a man with fewer Twitter followers than Serena Williams’ coach, won the unlikeliest men’s Grand Slam final matchup in over a decade Monday night.

He swept Kei Nishikori, who ranked eighth in a recent Japanese poll of the nation’s favorite domestic sports stars, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 with power, precision and the resolve of a seasoned champion.

Nobody would have predicted this ultimate showdown before the tournament. Not many would have predicted these two would have advanced from the final four two nights before.

The 10th seed Cilic and 14th seed Nishikori earned their first career Grand Slam finals berths by ousting Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the semifinals Saturday. Federer and Djokovic have combined to make 39 career Grand Slam finals.

Cilic missed last year’s U.S. Open due to a doping ban for taking a banned stimulant. He since improved upon the talent that briefly broke him into the top 10 four years ago. He’s now taking advantage of his height under the tutelage of Croatia’s only other men’s Grand Slam champion, the 2001 Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic.

Nishikori, who had foot surgery one month ago, was forced to hit practice balls while sitting as recently as two weeks before the tournament. He doubted he’d be able to play. Now he’s realizing potential placed on him as the 2008 ATP Newcomer of the Year, when he won his first tour title at 18.

The 6-foot-6 Cilic and the 5-foot-10 Nishikori will always be remembered together for either contesting the forgotten final of this golden era of men’s tennis, or for ushering in a new time for the sport.

They may not be Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray, but they are younger than the Big Four and talented enough to now be expected to make deep runs again in 2015.

Cilic and Nishikori are joined by three more men -- Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and Wimbledon semifinalists Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic -- who made this a breakthrough year.

Cilic, after beating Federer on Saturday, predicted the next several Grand Slams would be extremely interesting.

“I feel it's gonna definitely be much bigger competition from next year,” Cilic said in between his cell phone going off in his press conference Monday night. “I feel the guys at the top are gonna pull the other guys, too. I think the game of tennis is definitely going to evolve much more.”

The tour’s power players’ grip over the field has eased.

Federer, ranked as low as eighth in January, is now third after making three of four Grand Slam semifinals. Still, he strives to win his first Grand Slam since 2012 next year. Others will try to push the 33-year-old closer to retirement.

Djokovic wasn’t too far away this season from reasserting the tour dominance he showed in 2011. He was barely beaten by Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open quarterfinals, as Wawrinka played the tournament of his life to win his first Grand Slam. Djokovic was the second-best man on clay behind Nadal for a third straight year and then won Wimbledon. He strangely faded in this summer hardcourt season, though.

Nadal won a ninth French Open but also lost to Wawrinka in Australia, bowed out early at Wimbledon for a third straight year and missed the U.S. Open due to injury for the second time in three years. Durability remains an issue.

Murray has fallen out of the top 10 for the first time in six years. He hasn’t made a tournament final since winning Wimbledon last year.

“They attract the most, the fans and the TV, and everybody else,” Cilic said of the Big Four. “But sort of one day definitely they gonna go out, and there's gonna be a need for somebody else.”

Cilic likes to call the group he’s now a part of, pushing the Big Four, the “second line.” Their shift may be starting.

“Everything I was working toward and dreaming came true today,” Cilic said. “For all the other players that are working hard, this is a big sign and big hope that if you’re working hard, things are going to pay off.”

Colts' rally falls short in 31-24 loss to Broncos

DENVER (AP) Andrew Luck nearly spoiled the party at Peyton's place.

However, fourth-quarter comeback No. 12 in the career of No. 12 fell just short.

Luck rallied the Indianapolis Colts back into the game - even made the Denver Broncos rely on their revamped defense to make one last stop - in a 31-24 loss in the season opener on Sunday night.

His predecessor in Indy, Peyton Manning, simply built too big of a lead for the Broncos, throwing three touchdown passes to tight end Julius Thomas.

Luck gave it quite a run, though. Trailing by seven points with the ball at the Denver 39, his fourth-down pass was swatted away from Reggie Wayne.

A valiant comeback in Manning's backyard.

"A loss is a loss," said Luck, who finished 35 of 53 for 370 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. "A lot of mistakes were made."

Still, he earned high praise from Rahim Moore, the safety who picked off two of Luck's passes.

"He's at the top of his game," Moore said. "When Manning retires, Andrew Luck, I believe, is going to take over the game. There's nothing he can't do. There's no throw he can't make.

"He has no weaknesses to me."

Entering this game, Luck had 11 winning drives in fourth quarters and overtime, the most through a quarterback's first two seasons since 1970. He looked poised to possibly make something magical happen again.

Down 31-10 with 9:54 remaining, Luck went to work - with the raucous crowd beginning to file out, thinking a win was in the bag.

What transpired left those that stayed in their seats bewildered.

Luck hit Dwayne Allen for a 41-yard TD pass. Moments later, he connected with Hakeem Nicks for a 9-yard score.

Just like that, a rout turned into a nail-biter that went down to the wire. The crowd exhaled only after Manning took a final knee.

The Broncos insisted they didn't let their guard down, especially not after watching video of Luck leading the Colts back from a big deficit in a playoff win last season against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Playing against a great guy like Andrew Luck, and just the way he plays, you can't give up on him," said DeMarcus Ware, who finished with 1 1/2 sacks. "He's going to score points like he did. Got to put the clasp back on, be able to stop him.

"You're going to see that team probably later on in the season. They're good. They're a really good team."

Manning couldn't be stopped early, hooking up with Thomas for scoring strikes of 3, 35 and 5 yards - all in the second quarter. The Broncos led 24-0 with 1:57 left before halftime.

In the end, it was up to the Denver defense, which the team committed more than $100 million to bring in thumpers such as Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and strong safety T.J. Ward.

"Thank goodness our defense came up with some big stops," Manning said.

By beating his former team, Manning joined Brett Favre as the only QBs to earn a win over each of the current 32 NFL franchises.

"It means you have to be old," Manning said. "I don't think I'll have that one up on my mantle or anything like that."

This game featured so many missed opportunities for the Colts:

- Griff Whalen took a 92-yard punt return for a score early in the fourth quarter. The call was challenged and overturned when officials ruled his knee had touched down. Instead of six points, the Colts had the ball back at their 10 yard line.

- Luck was kept out of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal call in the third quarter.

- Indianapolis settled for a field goal after having a first down inside the 5-yard line.

"We had a ton (of missed opportunities)," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "You can't let those opportunities slip away."

NOTES: Colts LBs Cam Johnson (triceps) and Jerrell Freeman (hamstring) left the game. They will undergo MRI exams, Pagano said. ... WR Reggie Wayne had a 22-yard catch on the first play of the game. He has a reception in 191 regular-season games, moving him past Marvin Harrison for most in Colts history. ... The Colts were without starting center Khaled Holmes and backup tackle Joe Reitz, both because of ankle injuries. Luck was under constant pressure and was sacked three times. ... The Colts had won six straight over Denver, including Manning's homecoming game last October at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Serena adds to legacy with 18th Slam

NEW YORK -- Serena Williams has heard her name discussed among the greatest of all time.

“Obviously,” she said, “but I don't think about it.”

The chatter will grow after perhaps Williams’ greatest Grand Slam performance ever at the U.S. Open over the last two weeks.

She capped it by dominating longtime friend and former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-3 in a 75-minute final to win her 18th Grand Slam title on Sunday. She said minutes before the match she would “try to just hang in there,” but, minutes into it, clearly had a grip on the proceedings despite a shaky serve.

“When Serena is on her game,” said Wozniacki, who hit one groundstroke winner all match, “there’s not much we can do.”

Let’s get the accomplishments out of the way.

Williams matched Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for second all time with 18 Grand Slam titles in the Open era. Steffi Graf won 22.

“I am thinking about 19, which I'm kind of disappointed,” Williams said, lamenting looking ahead rather than cherishing the moment a couple hours after lifting the trophy. “But not 22 [yet]. I'm taking it one at a time.”

She won her sixth U.S. Open, also matching Evert for the most all time in the Open era. She won her third straight U.S. Open, becoming the first woman to do so since Evert won four from 1975-78.

“I think she's just born for tennis,” said Russian Ekaterina Makarova, after taking just four games off Williams in the semifinals. “Kind of [like Roger] Federer.”

Williams now owns one more Grand Slam title than Federer, the men’s all-time leader.

Williams and Federer, born seven weeks apart in 1981, have been the pre-eminent tennis players this century but dominated over different stretches. Williams won six Grand Slam titles before Federer won his first, then Federer matched Williams at seven apiece with his win at the 2006 Australian Open and began opening up a gap.

Therefore, Williams now has more Grand Slam titles than Federer for the first time in 3,145 days.

In female greatest of all time talk, the biggest chip in Williams’ favor is simply an ability to beat the best. Williams is 18-4 in Grand Slam finals, with two of the four losses coming to her sister. (Navratilova was 18-14, Evert 18-16 and Graf 22-9.)

When she’s lost in Grand Slams, it usually came in fluke fashion rather than a defeat to a more talented player. Her recent vanquishers at Slams included Alize Cornet, Garbiñe Muguruza and Virginie Razzano.

Williams hasn’t lost to a top-10 player at a Slam in three years and a top-five player in six. She’s 30-5 all time against chief rivals Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

Outside tennis, the greatest female athlete list may lead with Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who won six Olympic medals, including back-to-back golds in the heptathlon in 1988 and 1992. If the decathlon decides the world’s greatest male athlete, the heptathlon is certainly the female equivalent.

And Joyner-Kersee won her golds over the suspicious East Germans and Soviets of that era.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias was deemed the greatest female athlete of the 20th century by ESPN. She was incredible in track and field in her 20s and golf in her 30s and 40s, but consider the depth of talent in those sports in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s.

Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm and Lisa Leslie merit mentions, too, but had little competition in team sports where their measuring sticks were primarily international tournaments.

Williams, like most athletes, hasn’t been one to argue for her place in history.

“I don't think about it so much because I'm still playing,” she said. “I think once you do you become a little satisfied ... I don't want to become that. I want to continue to rise.”

Williams does admit to nervousness when milestones are at stake. It took her three attempts to get from Grand Slam No. 17 to No. 18. She lost before the quarterfinals in this year’s previous three Slams.

“It was definitely on my shoulders,” said Williams, wearing a gold bracelet on her left wrist with the No. 18 on it, gifted to her after the match. “It was definitely like, oh, get there, get there, get there. Now I've gotten there, so now it's a little bit of a relief.”

Graf is the easiest elite female athlete for comparison, dominating tennis the decade before Williams.

Graf won her 18th Grand Slam at age 26, almost seven years younger than Williams. But Williams, the oldest U.S. Open women’s champion in the Open era, has won five of the last 10 Slams.

It’s very arguable Williams just played the greatest Grand Slam out of the 57 in her career. She won all 14 sets here and never dropped more than three games in a set. A first for her.

So it’s very possible, perhaps probable, that an aged Williams will catch and pass Graf. Like her place in history, Williams doesn’t have much to say about retirement, either.

“Hopefully that will be a long time from now,” she said.

Kaepernick, 49ers top rusty Romo, Cowboys 28-17

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Colin Kaepernick threw two touchdown passes to Vernon Davis, one right after the first of three interceptions by Tony Romo, and the San Francisco 49ers opened the season with a 28-17 win over the sloppy Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

The 49ers (1-0) also got a 35-yard fumble return on the second play of the game when Chris Culliver picked up a loose ball stripped from DeMarco Murray. They led 21-3 after the first quarter despite running just four offensive plays.

Coming off a spotty preseason for his offense, Kaepernick was efficient if not prolific, going 16 of 23 for 201 yards without an interception.

Romo was playing his first meaningful game for the Cowboys (0-1) since back surgery in December.

Captain cool as always, Jeter honored by Yankees

NEW YORK (AP) Standing on the field with a microphone, the end of his baseball career likely three weeks away, Derek Jeter remained as cool and collected as his play at shortstop over the past two decades.

The New York Yankees honored their retiring captain Sunday with a 45-minute pregame ceremony that included surprise appearances by NBA great Michael Jordan and baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr.

Reserved as always and with no hints of tears, Jeter thanked people a dozen times as he spoke to a capacity crowd of 48,110 at Yankee Stadium for about 3 minutes before a 2-0 loss to Kansas City further damaged New York's slim playoff chances.

"It's kind of hard to believe that 20 seasons has gone by so quickly," the 40-year-old Jeter said following a 1 1/2-minute ovation. "You guys have all watched me grow up over the last 20 years. I've watched you, too. Some of you guys getting old, too. But I want to thank you for helping me feel like a kid for the last 20 years."

A 14-time All-Star who is sixth on the career hits list, Jeter sparked a Yankees renaissance that began with a World Series title in 1996 as he won the AL Rookie of the Year award. He led the team to three consecutive championships from 1998-2000, was named captain in 2003 and then won a fifth Series in 2009 that raised the team's record total to 27.

He missed most of 2013 after breaking his ankle during the playoffs the previous October, made his retirement announcement just before spring training in February and has followed with a respectable but unspectacular final season, his speed, range and power diminished but a starting shortstop until the end. He beat out a grounder to the shortstop hole for an infield single in the first inning and ended the day batting .260 with three homers and 40 RBIs.

Jeter produced a series of indelible moments: his homer and over-the-shoulder catch on his first opening day in 1996, backhanded flip to the plate against Oakland in the 2001 playoffs and Mr. November home run just after midnight a few weeks later that won World Series Game 4. There was a face-first dive into the seats for a popup against Boston in 2004, the farewell speech at old Yankee Stadium in 2008 and the home run for his 3,000th hit in 2011.

But a player known as a winner could go out without a coda: The Yankees may miss the playoffs for just the third time since he first came up to the major leagues in 1995.

"In my opinion, I've had the greatest job in the world. I got a chance to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees, and there's only one of those," he said. "I always felt as though it was my job - was to try to provide joy and entertainment for you guys. But it can't compare to what you brought me."

Yankees teammates, at the suggestion of Chase Headley, stayed in the dugout and allowed Jeter to run to his position alone before "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played on a crisp, sunny afternoon.

While calling it "a day that I'll remember forever," Jeter felt "very strange" and "odd" to take in a tribute with 21 games remaining.

"I had to guard against being emotional," he said. `I think my hand was shaking a little bit."

Jeter embraced Jordan, describing him "like an older brother that I never had."

Jordan, who played with Jeter in the 1994 Arizona Fall League, praised his pal for surviving New York, where the former basketball star opined "one little hiccup can fry your personality, your persona."

"He's maintained doing things the right way, in this time and era that few people take the time to say `what if' before they make a decision," Jordan said. "He's made the right decision each and every time."

Ripken also lauded Jeter's celebrated composure.

"He's loved and respected across the league and for good reason," the retired Baltimore Orioles star said. "He plays the game the right way and handles himself beautifully. And off the field, he's a true professional."

There were markings of Jeter's retirement throughout the ballpark. Instead of team flags showing the standings, a No. 2 logo was flapping above each flagpole. The logo was painted in foul territory on each side, affixed to the left shoulder of each Yankees uniform and also on every cap. When players arrived in the clubhouse, each padded navy chair had a wine bottle with the logo in silver along with the date.

A 30-by-30 banner of Jeter was unveiled in the stadium's Great Hall. Video messages from athletes and celebrities and even astronauts in space were shown throughout the day, which was proclaimed "Derek Jeter Day" by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The Yankees didn't retire Jeter's No. 2 or unveil a plaque in Monument Park, no doubt setting up a Derek Jeter Day 2 at some future time. New York took a similar approach a half-century ago, holding a Mickey Mantle Day in September 1965 before his 2,000th game, then retiring his No. 7 in June 1969 with another ceremony after his playing days.

New York retired former manager Joe Torre's No. 6 last month, leaving Jeter as the last of the Yankees' single digits. Torre was among the Hall of Famers on hand, joined by Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and Ripken - who blazed a path for the type of modern, offensive shortstop that Jeter became.

There were 34 white chairs lined up across the infield for the invited guests, which also included Jeter's family, his foundation's "Jeter's Leaders" and former teammates Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Tim Raines and Gerald Williams.

Fellow Core Four member Andy Pettitte was absent because of a family obligation.

The ceremony was more modest than the send-off the Yankees gave Rivera last September, when they retired his No. 42 - already retired for all major league teams in honor of Jackie Robinson but grandfathered for the great reliever. Jeter was given five gifts from the team: a message machine, framed patches from All-Star appearances, a 10-day trip to Tuscany, an inscribed crystal with a "2" logo and a check for Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation in the amount of $222,222.22.

New York is five years removed from its last title and hasn't won a postseason game since the night Jeter collapsed on the field with a broken ankle.

"Is it sad he's retiring? Yes, because it's the end of an era," O'Neill said.

Jeter hopes to be back in baseball, but not as a coach, manager or broadcaster.

"He says that he wants to own a team one day," Rivera explained. "I trust him, and I believe him, and he will. One day he will own a baseball team."

NOTES: The Royals won on a pair of unearned runs. A throwing error by pitcher Shane Greene (4-3) allowed Josh Willingham to score in the second, and Eric Hosmer hit an RBI single in the third that drove in Alex Gordon, who reached when right fielder Carlos Beltran dropped his easy fly ball. Yordano Ventura (12-3) and three relievers combined on a four-hitter, leaving the Yankees 4 1/2 games out for the second AL wild card.