National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Rob Manfred elected next MLB commissioner

BALTIMORE (AP) Rob Manfred was elected baseball's 10th commissioner Thursday, winning a three-man race to succeed Bud Selig and given a mandate by the tradition-bound sport to recapture young fans and speed play in an era that has seen competition increase and attention spans shrink.

The 55-year-old Manfred, who has worked for Major League Baseball in roles with ever-increasing authority since 1998, will take over from the 80-year-old Selig on Jan. 25. It's a generational change much like the NBA undertook when Adam Silver, then 51, replaced 71-year-old David Stern as commissioner in February. And like Silver, Manfred was his boss's pick.

Manfred beat out Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner in the first contested vote for a new commissioner in 46 years. The third candidate, MLB Executive Vice President of Business Tim Brosnan, withdrew just before the start of balloting.

"I am tremendously honored by the confidence that the owners showed in me today," Manfred said. "I have very big shoes to fill."

Selig has led baseball since September 1992, first as chairman of the sport's executive council following Fay Vincent's forced resignation and as commissioner since July 1998. After announcing his intention to retire many times only to change his mind, he said last September that he really, truly planned to depart in January 2015.

One baseball executive who attended the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity because details of the 4 1/2-hour session were not to be divulged, said Manfred was elected on approximately the sixth ballot. The initial vote was 20-10 for Manfred, three short of the required three-quarters majority.

His total increased to 21 on the second and 22 on the third. While teams put written ballots into envelopes, keeping their choices secret, from team official speeches it was evident that Tampa Bay's Stuart Sternberg and Milwaukee's Mark Attanasio likely switched, the person said.

Manfred's total dropped to 20, then increased back to 22 before a dinner break. He got the needed 23rd vote on the next, apparently from Washington. Owners then made the final vote unanimous. The person said it appeared Arizona, Boston, the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati, the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland and Toronto had been the final holdouts.

"What I said to the owners when I came down after the vote is that I didn't really want to even think about who was on what side of what issue at points in the process," Manfred said, "and that my commitment to the owners was that I would work extremely hard day in and day out to convince all 30 of them that they had made a great decision today."

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Toronto president Paul Beeston spoke out strongly against Manfred, the person said. Angels owner Arte Moreno joined Reinsdorf in leading Werner's support.

"While Rob may not have been my initial choice for commissioner, the conclusion of a very good process was to name Rob as the person best positioned to help baseball endure and grow even stronger for the next generation of fans," Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Today's decision was reached by 30 owners voting separately but speaking, in the end, with one voice."

Werner, who made his career as a television executive, was preferred by those who wanted an owner to follow Selig, who was the longtime head of the Milwaukee Brewers when he took over MLB.

"I think the last two days have been productive because we've been able to share a number of ideas about the game and how to improve it and modernize it," Werner said. "I think that Rob agrees with many of the ideas that I espoused, and I am very confident that we are going to see some things, such as improved pace of play."

Brosnan quit the race when it became apparent he likely had one vote: Cincinnati.

"I cared too much about the game and really wanted the process to be as efficient as it could be," he said.

Manfred started with baseball in the late 1980s as an outside counsel in labor negotiations and was hired by Selig as executive vice president for labor relations and human resources in 1998. He received an expanded role of executive vice president of economics and league affairs in 2012 and last September was promoted to chief operating officer, becoming the likely heir apparent to Selig.

Manfred helped lead negotiations for baseball's last three labor contracts and the first joint drug agreement that was instituted in 2002, a program that has been strengthened repeatedly.

"There is no doubt in my mind he has the training, the temperament, the experience to be a very successful commissioner," Selig said, "and I have justifiably very high expectations."

In the last contested election, in 1968-69, owners turned to their outside labor lawyer, Bowie Kuhn.

Manfred, whose term was not specified, grew up in Rome, New York - about an hour's drive from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He must address issues that include decreased interest in baseball among young people and an average game time that has stretched to 3:03 - up 30 minutes from 1981. And he will be leading an opinionated group of multimillionaires and billionaires.

"I think some of Rob's greatest attributes are his ability to reach consensus," said St. Louis owner Bill DeWitt Jr., who chaired the committee that picked the three candidates.

Baseball has had labor peace since a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that canceled the World Series. Talks to replace the collective bargaining agreement with players that expires after the 2016 season will be conducted with a new union leadership headed by former All-Star first baseman Tony Clark.

"I have known Rob for more than 15 years, and I'm confident that his vast experience in all aspects of the sport will serve his commissionership well," Clark said in a statement.

While average attendance of about 30,500 is not far below the record of 32,785 set in 2007 before the Great Recession, national television ratings for the World Series have dropped by more than 50 percent under Selig - partly because of fractured viewing caused by the vast increase in available networks.

"We have to figure out ways to make it relevant to that 12-year-old," San Francisco Giants President Larry Baer said. "I have four children, and we want to make baseball as relevant as possible to them with their handheld and on television and getting more people playing the sport. Those are all big challenges, and I think Rob sees all of those in his purview, and I think he's ready to attack."

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AP freelance writer Ian Quillen contributed to this report.

Cousins hurts knee in US practice, not serious

CHICAGO (AP) DeMarcus Cousins had a big bag of ice on his right knee while he watched the end of practice Thursday. He briefly covered his face with a towel as trainers milled around his table next to the folded gym bleachers.

Just making it to the World Cup of Basketball is proving to be quite a chore for the U.S. national team.

Cousins was injured when he got tangled with Anthony Davis after both big men hit the floor going after a loose ball during a scrimmage. An MRI on Cousins' knee showed no structural damage, and USA Basketball said the Sacramento Kings star was day to day.

The test result for Cousins was a breath of fresh air for a U.S. team still recovering from the gruesome injury to Paul George.

"He said he got a little scared, obviously, when you go down after we had that prior injury," said Jerry Colangelo, the managing director of USA Basketball.

Cousins yelled out in distress as the practice pileup dissipated, leaving the center on his back near the free-throw line on one side of the court. He was helped off the floor, and then was confined to the training table for the remaining part of the first of two practices in Chicago before Saturday night's exhibition against Brazil at the United Center.

Cousins took a few ginger steps while players were coming off the floor at the end of practice.

"Definitely scary, not just the fact that he went down, but the fact that I actually was the one who dove on him," said Davis, a Chicago native who plays for New Orleans. "I kind of feel bad and I hope he's fine because he really wants to be here. He really wants to play."

It was the first practice for the Americans since George broke his right leg during an intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 1 in Las Vegas. George had surgery the next day, and the Indiana Pacers say their two-time All-Star is expected to make a full recovery.

Colangelo has guaranteed a spot for George for the 2016 Olympics, and the rest of the national team seems to have rallied around the talented small forward. They are planning to wear a special shooting shirt for him for their games before the Cup, and several players talked about winning the World Cup for him.

"The week off that we had, after we saw what happened to Paul, it kind of calmed us down a little bit because right afterwards it was kind of devastating," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "You put yourself in that position like him - that could have been me - but now that he's had surgery and it seems like he's recovering, our goal is just to come out here and compete for our country."

The U.S. absorbed another big blow last week when NBA MVP Kevin Durant withdrew from the player pool. The Oklahoma City star was the MVP of the world championship in 2010, leading the Americans to that title for the first time since 1994.

Durant said he "could not fulfill my responsibilities to the team from both a time and energy standpoint," joining previous withdrawals by All-Stars Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.

"It was a surprise, but Kevin is a terrific guy and a terrific USA Basketball guy and he was really despondent about not being able to play," Colangelo said. "He wanted to, but he found himself in a situation where he had no choice."

Asked to elaborate, Colangelo responded: "His contractual situation."

Durant's contract with the Thunder runs through the 2015-16 season, but he is believed to be talking to shoe companies about a new endorsement agreement. Messages were left Thursday seeking comment from Leon Rose, Durant's agent, and Nike, which has outfitted Durant for years.

In the meantime, the roster for the U.S. national team is at 16 players after Rudy Gay joined the pool following Durant's departure. It has to be cut to 12 before the World Cup begins on Aug. 30.

The trip to Chicago is a homecoming for Rose, Davis, Colangelo and U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau also is back in town as an assistant for the U.S. team. It's especially sweet for Rose, who has missed much of the last two NBA seasons due to knee injuries.

"It's going to be fun," Rose said. "Everybody's been talking about it in the city, it seems like there's a buzz."

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Rangers ace Darvish has mild elbow inflammation

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Rangers ace Yu Darvish has mild right elbow inflammation that isn't a long-term concern, although there is no timetable for his return to the Texas rotation.

After receiving results from an MRI, Darvish said Thursday through a translator there was "no pain, just discomfort". The Japanese star went on the disabled list Wednesday and will miss at least two starts.

The right-hander allowed six runs and nine hits over four innings in his last start Sunday at Houston. Darvish didn't have issues during the game but felt tightness when throwing on the side Monday.

Darvish is the 14th player currently on the DL for the Rangers, most in the majors. Texas has used 35 pitchers this season, two shy of San Diego's major league record set in 2002.

Stewart sitting out Michigan after dirt-car death

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Tony Stewart will not race Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, skipping a second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup race since striking and killing a driver in a dirt-track race at a small New York track.

Stewart announced the decision in a statement Thursday. His plans for the rest of the season have not been determined.

Jeff Burton will drive Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet in Michigan.

Stewart also sat out Sunday at Watkins Glen, a day after he struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car event in Canandaigua, New York. After Stewart clipped Ward's car, sending it spinning, Ward got out of the car during the caution period, walked down the track and was hit by Stewart.

Ward's funeral was Thursday in Boonville, New York. He died of blunt force trauma.

Stewart's dirt-racing career is on hold, and he could face criminal charges.

Stewart has not commented since he made a statement Sunday.

"There aren't words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.," Stewart said in the statement.

The three-time NASCAR champion is winless and 21st in the Cup standings this season. He would have needed a victory in one of the final four races to have a chance to become eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

It's not clear what sitting out does for Stewart's Chase chances. NASCAR rules says a driver must either qualify the car or race the car each weekend. NASCAR does have the power to grant a waiver.

Stewart has 48 career Cup wins in 542 starts.

Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said that investigators don't have any evidence at this point to support criminal intent. The investigation could last another two weeks.

His sponsors have stayed with him as the investigation unfolds. Mobil 1 has served as the primary sponsor of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet for 19 of the 22 Sprint Cup Series races this season.

"The investigation continues, and we are monitoring the situation," ExxonMobil spokesman Christian Flathman said Thursday.

Regan Smith started for Stewart at Watkins Glen and finished 37th.

Burton made only two starts this season, the last coming in July at New Hampshire. The 21-time Sprint Cup winner parted ways with Richard Childress Racing at the end of the season, and Ryan Newman replaced him at RCR. Burton works as an analyst for NBC.

Praise for 'small-town boy' hit by Stewart's car

TURIN, N.Y. (AP) They came to grieve and share stories about Kevin Ward Jr., who was born into a racing family and buried with racing flags in his casket.

A high school auditorium overflowed with friends, family and racing enthusiasts Thursday in tribute to the 20-year-old driver, who was hit on a dirt track by a car driven by NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.

With Ward in an open casket piled with orange flowers, his family's team colors, mourners wept and laughed at favorite stories about the boy who began racing not long after he began walking. The 90-minute service was held at the South Lewis Senior High School to accommodate crowds from this tight racing community in central New York.

"Even if he had rough day, he always had a smile," a tearful Dylan Swiernick said of his best friend and car-obsessed buddy. "We were just two small-town boys trying to make it in the big world. He was always working on something. It was unbelievable how smart he was. He never got down on himself when things weren't going his way."

Ward, a 2012 South Lewis graduate, was buried in his nearby hometown of Port Leyden, 55 miles from Syracuse.

"He was an amazing sprint car driver and had a family like no other," cousin Amanda Ward said in a eulogy. "We used to tell him before every race, `Drive it like you stole it.' He never let us down."

Sister Kayla Herring said the orange and white lapel ribbons worn by family and friends were to signify that the team colors would remain bright, even in the darkest times.

A recording of the Dixie Chicks singing "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)" was played at the request of Ward's mother.

After the service, as Ward's casket was taken to the hearse for the short trip to the cemetery, mourners let loose helium balloons in orange, white and black.

Ward died Saturday night at a track 140 miles away in Canandaigua, where Stewart was riding a day before the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen. Stewart did not race at Watkins Glen and said Thursday he won't race this weekend at Michigan.

The accident touched off debates as video of the crash circulated online, with fans questioning whether Stewart, known for his hot temper, tried to send his own message by buzzing Ward, or whether Ward recklessly stepped onto a dark track clad in black.

After a bump from Stewart sent Ward's car spinning into the wall, the young driver climbed out and walked onto the track in his firesuit, gesturing angrily. Stewart's No. 14 car hit him and Ward was thrown through the air as his parents and fans watched in horror.

No charges have been filed, but Ontario County Sheriff's deputies are still investigating.

Ward grew up in a racing family and started racing go-carts at age 4. He moved on to sprint cars and was Empire Super Sprint racing rookie of the year in 2012. He was one of a small, tight group of drivers that traveled to races around New York state and parts of Canada and Pennsylvania.

Racing and working on cars in his father's shop, Westward Painting Co. of Lyons Falls, were his "double love," Ward's father told the Post-Standard of Syracuse this week.

"His goal was to race in the World of Outlaws," the top level for sprint cars, he said.

ASU player gets plenty of support after coming out

CAMP TONTOZONA, Ariz. (AP) Chip Sarafin watched the others before him break down the barriers, athletes like Jason Collins and Michael Sam who let the world know they were gay.

The Arizona State offensive lineman had already told his teammates and coaches long before, without causing so much as a ripple.

But when Sarafin finally took his turn to pass through the door, he was a little surprised to find what was on the other side.

"I was a little nervous when it came to my attention what a big influence this was having," Sarafin said Thursday. "I did not intend for it to get to the magnitude that it did."

Sarafin became the first active openly-gay Division I football player when he talked to Compete, a Tempe-based magazine for gay sports, about his sexual orientation for a story in its August issue.

The fifth-year senior follows in the footsteps of Sam, the St. Louis Rams linebacker who came out after his playing days at Missouri were over. Sam became the first openly-gay player to be drafted in the NFL and is competing for a roster spot with the Rams.

Collins set the original precedent, becoming the first openly-gay athlete in the four major U.S. sports when he came out to Sports Illustrated in April 2013. He broke another barrier when he played for the Brooklyn Nets late last season.

Numerous other athletes have come out since then, including Massachusetts sophomore Derrick Gordon, the first active openly-gay player in Division I basketball.

With so many precedent-setters before him, Sarafin figured his announcement would be treated with little more than a shrug.

It wasn't quite the same fervor as Sam's announcement, but it still was big news, drawing more than a dozen reporters and cameramen to the Sun Devils' fall camp retreat at Camp Tontozona.

"I'm hoping that stuff like this won't be such a big news story, that people will hear stories like this and it won't be such a big thing," Sarafin said. "Eventually, players will be who they are and it's just that, but right now there still needs to be role models for those types of players."

It certainly wasn't a big thing for Sarafin's teammates and coaches.

Sarafin said he began telling teammates in an informal fashion individually and answered questions when people had them, never addressing the team as a group. He told his coaches over a year ago and has had universal support from everyone associated with the football program and the athletics department.

When Sarafin's sexual orientation became public, it barely registered at Arizona State, other than the increased media coverage.

"I'm really proud of our guys. It's not something that's a surprise to us," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "Obviously, our guys were aware of that and we're proud of Chip just like we're proud of the rest of our guys. Really proud of him and the courage he has. Our guys are behind him 100 percent."

Reaction to Sarafin's announcement outside of Arizona State was mostly positive, with Sam and Collins both offering encouraging comments on Twitter. Sarafin hasn't seen the posts since players are not allowed to get on the Internet or use cellphones at Camp Tontozona, though he appreciated the support.

But attention wasn't what Sarafin was looking for - at least not the living-in-the-spotlight kind.

Though he hasn't played a down for Arizona State, he's given the Sun Devils some needed depth on the offensive line and worked on the scout team.

Sarafin has been exceptionally productive off the field, graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering last spring before enrolling in Arizona State's master's program. He has been active in the community, particularly in youth sports, and is a member of ASU's prestigious Tillman Scholars program.

Sarafin has helped with research on football-related concussions and has worked with numerous groups to end discrimination and bullying in youth sports.

If the attention that comes with coming out sheds more light on those things, Sarafin is all for it, even if he did feel a little uncomfortable talking in front of so many people.

"It (coming out) was something I initially intended to do, but I didn't intend for it to blow out of proportion like it did," he said. "I originally did it to get some of the stuff I was working on out into the world, bring attention to some of the issues I thought were important. Obviously, it got to the magnitude that it did and I support this."

Redskins appeal trademark decision on team name

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) The Washington Redskins on Thursday formally appealed a ruling that stripped the team of trademark protection, the latest legal maneuver in the franchise's attempt to defend its name against those who consider it a racial slur.

The team announced that it had filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and that it "points out the many errors" in the decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board voted 2-1 on June 18 to cancel six uses of "Redskins" trademarked from 1967 to 1990, saying the name is "disparaging of Native Americans."

"We believe that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ignored both federal case law and the weight of the evidence, and we look forward to having a federal court review this obviously flawed decision," Redskins lawyer Bob Raskopf said in the team's statement.

The team had previously said it would appeal the ruling and had two months to do so. The trademark protection remains in place while the matter makes its way through the courts, a process that could take years. A similar ruling by the trademark board in 1999 was overturned on a technicality in 2003. Native Americans have been challenging the trademark since 1992.

The Redskins say they will ask the court to consider "serious constitutional issues," including whether the ruling penalizes the team's right of free speech and whether the team has been unfairly deprived of "valuable and long-held intellectual property rights."

The group of five Native Americans challenging the name is equally confident.

"This effort is doomed to fail," said Amanda Blackhorse, the lead plaintiff. "But if they want to prolong this litigation which has already gone on for 22 years, I guess they have that prerogative."

The Redskins have been under sustained pressure to defend the name over the last 18 months, with major political, church and sports figures joining the debate and saying it should be changed.

Team owner Dan Snyder has vowed never to change the name, calling it a "badge of honor."

"If people wouldn't dare call a Native American a `redskin' because they know it is offensive, how can an NFL football team have this name?" Blackhorse said. "We know that time is on our side for a change in the team's name, and we are confident we will win once again at this stage of the litigation."

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

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Djokovic upset by Robredo in Cincinnati

MASON, Ohio -- Top-seeded Novak Djokovic was upset by Tommy Robredo 7-6 (6), 7-5, in the round of 16 at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday.

The 16th-seeded Spaniard beat a top-ranked player for the second time in his career. The first time, he edged Lleyton Hewitt in the 2003 French Open.

"When I finish my career, and when I will be sitting at home and talking with friends, I will remember days like this," Robredo said.

Djokovic, who has never won the tournament, dropped the first set after fighting back from a 6-3 deficit in the tiebreaker. Robredo took the set with an ace that Djokovic challenged. The replay showed the ball caught the slimmest sliver of the line.

Robredo failed to convert two match points before completing the victory with a slam on Djokovic's short lob.

"It's disappointing that I'm finishing Cincinnati again with a tough loss, but it's the sport," said Djokovic, who lost in the third round at Toronto last week. "I didn't play well in Toronto, didn't play well here. Hopefully, it's going to be different in New York (at the U.S. Open)."

Robredo had lost six straight matches against the Serb after winning their first encounter.

"I knew that if I wanted to win I had to go for it, and try to hope that he will not play his best match," Robredo said. "Both things happen and then I could win."

Earlier, Andy Murray fought off two late match points and edged John Isner of the U.S. 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (2) to reach the quarterfinals.

Isner, who lost to Rafael Nadal in last year's final, had two chances to win the match with a 6-5 lead in the third set, but Murray salvaged both points before taking control with a mini-break for a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker.

Stan Wawrinka shook off losing the first set to roll through the next two and advance with a 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 win over Marin Cilic of Croatia. Wawrinka, the Australian Open champion, will meet unseeded Julien Benneteau of France in the quarterfinals.

Benneteau eliminated Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 7-5, 6-1. Fabio Fognini of Italy also needed three sets to get past Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, and Milos Ranoic of Canada held off wild card Steve Johnson of the U.S. 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-6 (4).

In women's play, top-seeded Serena Williams continued her pursuit of her first title in this tournament with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Flavia Pennetta. Williams immediately took command, breaking Pennetta's first serve of the match. Williams, who's never won this tournament, also led, 5-0, in the second set.

"I got the early break, and I didn't let go," she said. "That's what I wanted to do. She can try and come back. She tried to come back, I wanted to stay focused."

Simona Halep of Romania also reached the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, but Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain was upset by unseeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Halep and Maria Sharapova will meet in the quarterfinals - a rematch of the French Open final won by Sharapova. The fifth seed advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (2) win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia. Jelena Jankovic also moved on with a 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over Sloane Stephens of the U.S.

Red Wings sign GM Holland to 4-year deal

DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Red Wings have signed executive vice president and general manager Ken Holland to a four-year contract through the 2017-18 season.

Holland has been Detroit's GM for the last 17 seasons, and since he took over in July 1997, his teams have won more regular-season games (746) and postseason games (115) than any other organization. The Red Wings won Stanley Cups in 1998, 2002 and 2008 - and another in 1997 while he was an assistant GM.

"Ken is regarded as one of the premier executives in the National Hockey League and has been instrumental in the success of the Red Wings over the last two decades," Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said in a statement. "We feel strongly that stability is key to the success of any organization and having this new agreement in place with Ken is important to the organization and its future."

Detroit fought through injuries in 2013-14 to make the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive season, but the Red Wings lost in the first round to Boston. Coach Mike Babcock has one year remaining on his contract.

Holland has been with the Red Wings in some capacity for the last 31 seasons. He was a player and a scout before joining management.

During his tenure as GM, the Red Wings have won four Presidents' Trophies, five regular-season conference titles and 10 division titles.

Hernandez due in court in drive-by shooting case

BOSTON (AP) Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was due in court for a pretrial hearing in the drive-by killings of two men outside a Boston nightclub in 2012.

Prosecutors say Hernandez fatally shot Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado after one of them apparently spilled a drink on him in the club. They say Hernandez and a friend later found the men waiting in their car at a red light. He allegedly fired at least five shots into the car, killing the two men and injuring a third.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the murders, which came about six weeks before he signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots. The team has since released the former University of Florida standout.

Hernandez also is charged in the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating his fiancee's sister. Lloyd's bullet-ridden body was found in an industrial park near Hernandez's North Attleborough home last summer.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in Lloyd's murder. His trial in that case is scheduled for October.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley, said Thursday afternoon's hearing is expected to be "purely administrative in nature," as both sides prepare for a May 28, 2015 trial. He said prosecutors are not expected to file any motions.

Hernandez's lawyers, who did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, have told the judge previously that they don't plan to file any motions until after the Lloyd trial wraps up in Bristol County court in Fall River.

Woods pulls out of US Ryder Cup consideration

Tiger Woods removed himself from consideration for the Ryder Cup team Wednesday evening with a clear message that he is not healthy enough to play.

One day after U.S. captain Tom Watson said he trusted Woods to give him the "straight skinny" on the condition of his back injury and his game, Woods said he called the 64-year-old captain to say he would not be available.

The decision spares Watson from having to leave Woods off the team, and it eliminates a distraction over the next three weeks before Watson announces his three captain's picks for the Sept. 26-28 matches against Europe at Gleneagles.

"I have already spoken to Tom about the Ryder Cup, and while I greatly appreciate his thinking about me for a possible captain's pick, I took myself out of consideration," Woods said in a statement on his website. "The U.S. team and the Ryder Cup mean too much to me not to be able to give it my best."

That he was even under consideration was mildly surprising.

Woods' best finish this year was a tie for 25th because of nagging back issues at the start of the year that led him to have surgery on March 31. He missed two majors, including the Masters for the first time, and did not return for three months. In the four events he played upon his return, he missed the cut twice, withdrew during the final round at Firestone and finished 69th in the British Open for his worst 72-hole result in a major.

"My primary wish is for Tiger to be healthy and competitive, and I hope that he'll return to the game very soon," Watson said in a statement released by the PGA of America. "Of course, I'm disappointed that Tiger Woods has asked not to be considered for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and that his health is not where he would like it to be. However, I think we can all agree that we need Tiger Woods in this great sport, and he has taken the high road by informing me early on in the selection process.

"My focus will remain on identifying three players to join the U.S. team and give us the best chance for success at Gleneagles."

Woods said his recent back trouble was not related to the impinged nerve that led to surgery.

He missed the cut by five shots at Valhalla, and he grimaced for the final three hours of the second round at the PGA Championship.

"I've been told by my doctors and trainer that my back muscles need to be rehabilitated and healed," Woods said. "They've advised me not to play or practice now. I was fortunate that my recent back injury was not related to my surgery and was muscular only."

Woods said he would not return until his World Challenge in Orlando, Florida, the first week of December.

That would mean he doesn't play the Frys.com Open or an exhibition in Argentina with Matt Kuchar scheduled for October. Woods was considering the Frys.com Open, a requirement for eight players who competed in an exhibition in Turkey two years ago.

Watson and Woods have never been close, and they only talked about his Ryder Cup situation for the first time a few weeks ago. Even so, Watson said all summer that he wanted Woods on the team provided he was healthy and playing well.

And while Woods was injured and not playing at all, Watson remained interested.

"I don't make this comment loosely. He is Tiger Woods and he brings a lot to the team - if he has the ability to play and he's healthy, "Watson said Monday. "He brings a lot to the team. And I'd be a fool not to consider him."

Watson already has lost Dustin Johnson, who went 3-0 at Medinah in the last Ryder Cup, because he has taken a "voluntary leave" to face "personal challenges." Jason Dufner, who went 3-1 in his Ryder Cup debut two years ago, has a neck injury and is out indefinitely. Dufner fell out of the top nine who automatically qualified.

Watson already has three rookies on his team - Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed - facing a European team that features Rory McIlroy and three other players from the top five in the world.

American players have three weeks to audition for Watson before he announces his picks Sept. 2 in New York.

This will be only the second Ryder Cup that Woods does not play. He missed the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla while sitting out the second half of the season following reconstructive knee surgery. That was the last time the Americans won the Ryder Cup.

Sterling loses appeal to block LA Clippers sale

LOS ANGELES (AP) Donald Sterling's latest effort to block the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was rejected Wednesday by a California appeals court.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal issued a brief order Wednesday saying it couldn't halt a sale that had been completed.

"The evidence before this court indicates the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to Steven Ballmer has closed," the court wrote. "Thus, there is nothing for this court to stay."

Even if the sale hadn't closed, the three judges said the former owner failed to show he was harmed enough to get a temporary stay.

Ballmer sealed the deal Tuesday after a probate judge cleared the way for Sterling's estranged wife to sell the team. The Los Angeles Superior Court judge said Shelly Sterling could complete the sale she negotiated after removing her husband of 58 years from the family trust that owned the team because of questions about his mental competence.

At the time she negotiated the record price for an NBA team the league was threatening to seize the team and auction it after banning Donald Sterling for life for making derogatory remarks about blacks.

Sterling's lawyers, who acknowledged in recent court filings that he isn't a sympathetic figure, derided the "popular" ruling against the unpopular owner. They said they were deeply disappointed with the appellate order.

"He has been deprived from ownership of the Clippers after 33 years without being accorded appellate review of this harsh result," attorneys Max Blecher and Bobby Samini said in a written statement.

Ballmer's lawyer, Adam Streisand, said they were "supremely confident" that even with further Sterling appeals, Ballmer is the "undisputed owner."

"Clipper nation rejoices," Streisand said. "He's got the ability to seek review by the California Supreme Court, where he has a one in 2 billion chance."

Shelly Sterling's lawyer said she was thrilled to have the court's blessing.

"It is time for Donald to accept that the game is over and he has run out of courts," attorney Pierce O'Donnell said in a statement.

Donald Sterling, 80, a billionaire lawyer who bought the team in 1981 for $12 million, still has lawsuits pending in state and federal court against the NBA. He has vowed to fight the league for the rest of his life.

His lawyers said he will be vindicated in the federal case.

Tottenham signs Seattle's Yedlin to 4-year deal

TUKWILA, Wash. (AP) U.S. national team defender DeAndre Yedlin signed a four-year deal with Tottenham on Wednesday but will remain in the United States with the Seattle Sounders through the remainder of the MLS season and potentially into 2015.

Both clubs announced the deal after Yedlin spent last weekend in London visiting with Spurs officials and the sides were able to finalize the deal. Tottenham said Yedlin would join the club ahead of the 2015-16 season, but Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer said the window for the move is still unknown.

Hanauer said Yedlin could make the move during the January transfer window depending on where Tottenham stands. Or the move could come next summer and Yedlin could remain with the Sounders a little longer.

"We didn't put the full-court press on DeAndre staying," Hanauer said. "We weighed all the different factors, the benefits to our club, what DeAndre wanted, what the market was telling us out there in terms of the size of the transfer fee and ultimately made the decision based on that group of factors. We thought it was ultimately a good decision for our club, although a difficult one."

Yedlin made his international debut this year and impressed when he came in for injured right back Fabian Johnson in the second-round loss to Belgium. He was immediately linked with clubs throughout Europe and Hanauer said there were a number of serious offers.

But Tottenham eventually became his destination. The 21-year-old was the first MLS homegrown player to appear in the World Cup and has been an MLS all-star selection each of his first two years in the league. The first inkling of Tottenham's interest came in July when the Spurs were in Seattle for an exhibition with the Sounders as part of their preseason North American tour.

Yedlin could join Seattle teammate Clint Dempsey and goalkeepers Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel as Americans who have played for Tottenham. However, he may not be eligible for a British work permit. The rules of the British Home Office state a player must have appeared in 75 percent of his nation's competitive international matches over the previous two years, and American forward Juan Agudelo was turned down when Stoke applied for a permit last year.

"DeAndre clearly wanted this transaction to occur as well and we want to do right by our players as well as our club," Hanauer said.

NBA schedule sends LeBron to Miami for Christmas

NEW YORK (AP) LeBron James will play his first game since rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers at home Oct. 30 against New York, then return to Miami for the first time on Christmas.

The NBA regular season will open Oct. 28, with the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs hosting the Dallas Mavericks in one of the three games that night.

The league released its schedule, featuring a lengthened All-Star break, on Wednesday night during an NBA TV special, with James' return to his original NBA team putting the Cavaliers in a number of prime positions.

That includes the game at Miami in the third spot on the five-game Christmas schedule, traditionally a highlight of the NBA season. James led the Heat to two championships and four NBA Finals appearances in four years before deciding to return to his native Ohio.

The other Christmas day games are: Washington at New York; Oklahoma City at San Antonio in a rematch of the Western Conference finals; the Los Angeles Lakers at Chicago; and Golden State at the Los Angeles Clippers.

The nightcap is a rematch of a testy Christmas night matchup from last season that featured multiple ejections. The Clippers then went on to beat the Warriors in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

The last game before the All-Star break in New York is Feb. 12, when the Cavaliers visit the Bulls. The regular season doesn't resume until the following Thursday, two days later than usual, with a doubleheader on TNT.

The three-game opening night closes with Houston visiting the Lakers, which should feature Kobe Bryant's return from an injury-shortened 2013-14 season. Derrick Rose's first regular-season action since season-ending knee surgery early last season should come the next night, when Chicago visits the Knicks on the first full night of action.

Other items of note:

-A 12-game Martin Luther King Jr. Day, four televised nationally, is highlighted by another Cleveland-Chicago matchup.

-The NBA Finals rematches between the Spurs and Heat are scheduled for Feb. 6 in San Antonio and March 31 in Miami.

-If a Kevin Love trade to Cleveland is completed, his return to Minnesota would be Jan. 31.

-James' first game in San Antonio since his final one in a Miami uniform is March 12.

-Pau Gasol heads back to Los Angeles for the first time since leaving the Lakers for Chicago on Jan. 29.

-Jason Kidd's first visit to Brooklyn since leaving the Nets to coach Milwaukee is Nov. 19.

-International games scheduled for Mexico City (Houston-Minnesota on Nov. 12) and London (New York-Milwaukee on Jan. 15).

-TNT will televise 53 regular-season games, including an opening night doubleheader and 19 Thursday night doubleheaders, along with the Feb. 13-15 All-Star festivities.

-ESPN has 75 games in the regular season and ABC will show 15. NBA TV will televise 97 games.

The regular season ends April 15.

Lester leads Athletics, stops Royals' run at 8

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Jon Lester pitched six strong innings and Josh Donaldson homered twice and drove in four runs as the Oakland Athletics beat Kansas City 11-3 Tuesday night, snapping the Royals' eight-game losing streak.

Lester (13-7) has won all three of his start since the A's acquired him in July 31 trade for All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Lester struck out nine and allowed three runs on six hits and two walks.

The Royals have won 11 of 13 with both losses to Lester, who is 9-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 13 career starts against Kansas City.

Donaldson homered in the seventh and eighth off left-hander Bruce Chen for his third multi-homer game of the season.

Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie (8-10) allowed six runs on 11 hits in 4 2-3 innings.

Cowboys CB Scandrick apologizes after 4-game ban

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) Dallas cornerback Orlando Scandrick blamed his positive drug test that led to a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs on a recreational drug he took in Mexico that he didn't know contained an amphetamine.

Scandrick took the blame for the error Tuesday and apologized to his family, teammates and organization for the mistake that will force him to miss the first month of the season.

"It was just a bad decision," he said. "I should have never done it. I didn't do it with the intent of knowing it would test positive. I know we get random tests, but I don't take anything to enhance my performance. I wasn't taking anything to enhance my performance."

Scandrick tested positive in April but appealed the penalty. The suspension was upheld Monday and the league officially announced the suspension on Tuesday.

Scandrick apologized to his teammates Monday night and said he appreciated the support he got from them.

"We're here for each other," Scandrick said. "I just let them know that I was sorry and that if they can learn anything from this, it's you need to do all the right things even when no one is looking or you don't think anyone is looking."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones praised Scandrick for the way he owned up to the mistake and said he will be welcomed back after the suspension.

"The most important thing to him is letting us all down and he recognizes that," Jones said. "As a person, he's one of the best people we've had on the Dallas Cowboys. He made a mistake."

Scandrick's agent, Ron Slavin, says he believes that if testing for human growth hormone was in place that Scandrick would have been subjected to the substance abuse policy and been warned instead of receiving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

"More than 80 missed games, millions of dollars in fines and bonus repayments have been issued because the NFLPA and NFL cannot come to an agreement," Slavin said in a statement. "The only people who are losing in this standoff are the players and fans."

This is just the latest hit to a defense that allowed the most yards in the NFL last season. Linebacker Sean Lee is out for the season after tearing a left knee ligament in the offseason, defensive end Anthony Spencer is still working his way back from knee surgery and franchise career sack leader DeMarcus Ware was released in March.

The Cowboys have known for some time that Scandrick was facing the ban and coach Jason Garrett said the team will miss Scandrick's versatility as an outside and slot cornerback and his leadership.

"He brings a great spirit to our team," Garrett said. "He plays the right way. Not to have him for the first four games will impact us. Like with an injury it's the kind of situation that provides an opportunity. We have some young corners who are going to vie for his role in the early part of the season."

Scandrick, who is going into his seventh season, became a starter last year when former top 10 pick Morris Claiborne struggled. Now Claiborne is battling tendinitis in his right knee and missed the preseason opener for the third time in his three seasons in Dallas.

Brandon Carr, the other starter, missed the first two weeks of camp to be with his mother in the final days of her battle against breast cancer. He might only play one preseason game, but is expected to be ready for the regular season.

Carr and Claiborne are expected to start on the outside with Sterling Moore, B.W. Webb and rookie Terrance Mitchell expected to get looks as the slot cornerback in nickel formations.

"It's definitely big shoes to fill," Moore said. "He's one of the premier inside corners in this league. I'm definitely going to come to him for some advice and tips that he has. He's played there for a long time. But it's next man up and they expect no drop-off."

The Cowboys acquired cornerback Justin Green from New England on Tuesday in a deal for defensive tackle Ben Bass.

Scandrick will be eligible to participate in exhibition games, but will miss the first four games of the regular season. He can return after Dallas' game against New Orleans on Sept. 28.

Garrett said he will try to get Scandrick as much work as possible before the end of the exhibition season to make sure he is not too rusty when he returns. But the Cowboys also need to make sure that the other cornerbacks get enough practice time to be ready for the start of the season.

NOTES: Jones said Spencer is ahead of where the team expected he would be at this time and might not need to start the season on the physically unable to perform list. ... The Cowboys signed OL Stephen Goodin and waived OL Andre Cureton. ... Dallas also signed P Tom Hornsey.

Broncos linebacker Trevathan out 6-8 weeks

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Denver Broncos leading tackler Danny Trevathan is out six to eight weeks after fracturing his left knee during a particularly intense padded practice Tuesday.

The Broncos said their weakside linebacker has what's called a medial tibial impaction fracture but, fortunately, no torn ligaments.

"Well, we were hoping it was a bruise. That would have been the best news," coach John Fox said after the team's evening walk-through. "But obviously, that's better than ligament damage. Those are out-for-the-season types of things. So, at some point we will get him back."

Trevathan, who didn't put any weight on his left leg after being carted off the field during team drills, is expected to return to the Broncos right around their bye week in late September, meaning he'd only miss three regular season games, at most.

He was hurt on an 11-on-11 run play in which center Will Montgomery rolled over him.

Trevathan, a sixth-round draft choice out of Kentucky in 2012, is coming off a breakout season in which he led the Broncos with 124 tackles and intercepted three passes before leading the team with two dozen tackles in the playoffs.

"You just hate it," Peyton Manning said while Trevathan was being examined by the team's medical staff. "You hate it in a game when you see that. And you hate it out here in practice. So, our prayers are with Danny. We're praying for positive results and hopefully he's OK. He's an important part of our football team."

The Broncos were hoping for a repeat of what happened last October, when Trevathan was carted off with a scary knee injury only to return to practice that week after his MRI came back negative.

"It's pretty scary. He got carted off last year, so I'm like, `OK, he'll be good,"' said Trevathan's backup, Brandon Marshall. "But you never know how these things go. The defense was kind of like, `Man, that's our guy, that's one of the playmakers on our team.' So, we all got a little worried, but we're just hoping he'll be OK."

Before Trevathan was diagnosed with a fracture, Fox said, "Obviously, we hope for the best. And if not, it'll be next man up."

That's Marshall, an undrafted third-year pro from Nevada who spent most of last season on Denver's practice squad before being promoted to the active roster and playing in the regular season finale and all three playoff games.

"I guess it was like a redshirt year, so to speak. I know they don't have those in the NFL, but I feel like it was for me," Marshall said. "And I feel good. On special teams I feel good, on defense I feel good."

Marshall has already been playing alongside Trevathan in the nickel defense, a role that rookie Lamin Barrow, a fifth-round draft choice from LSU, will assume.

Asked if he felt good about the linebacker depth, which also includes rookie Corey Nelson, Fox said, "Well, time will tell. I think in this league, it's all about opportunity, so we'll see what they do."

What makes this injury difficult is that Trevathan is an every-down player.

"He's obviously a vital part of our defense, but not too many people heard of Danny a couple of years ago, and you never know what might happen.

Marshall said he's certain the coaching staff would allow him to make the defensive calls just as Trevathan for any time that he's filling in.

"I know I can do it," Marshall said. "We only have smart linebackers on this team."

About an hour before he got hurt, Trevathan was involved in one of three skirmishes in a four-play sequence during a four-minute drill. Finally, Fox called his players together and told them to quit losing their cool.

The Broncos added several defensive players through free agency this offseason to give them more of an edge, but the offense wasn't backing down any.

"If we're going to get hit, we might as well deliver the blow," said rookie running back Brennan Clay, who was at the center of a scuffle that spilled into the defensive sideline.

Manning said he's no fan of fisticuffs at training camp because fights in games only hurt your team.

"The thing about this game is it's controlled violence. At times, that's hard to control your violence," wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "It's good to see a team that's physical. Physicality is everything. That's what the Seattle Seahawks had last year when they won the Super Bowl.

"But it's bad because at the end of the day we're a team. So, you don't want guys hitting each other and trying to knock guys out or hurt guys out here."

Twitter campaign backfires on Florida St, Winston

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A Florida State social media campaign turned ugly Sunday when the university's athletic department opened their Heisman-winning quarterback up to nationwide mockery.

The department attempted to engage fans on Twitter by soliciting questions to be used for a video on the team website.

The hashtag "(hash)AskJameis" became a trending topic on Twitter for a time Sunday - for all the wrong reasons.

The Twitter feed was bombarded by accounts making fun of Winston and taking shots at the sophomore. Winston has been heavily criticized for several off-the-field incidents during his time at Florida State.

He was investigated in an alleged sexual assault of a female student last season, but was never charged. Winston was suspended from the baseball team for three games and ordered to perform 20 hours of community service after being cited for stealing $32 of crab legs from a local grocery store. There were also other minor run-ins with authorities, but no arrests.

The Twitterverse quickly went on the attack.

"I knew there was going to be some negativity going into it," said Elliott Finebloom, FSU sports information director. "The goal of the Twitter Q&A was to continue to find ways to connect our fans and the players they support. That's important to us ... and social is a big way of doing it these days.

"That was the ultimate goal."

The tweets covered a wide range from witty to malicious. Most were aimed at Winston, but others questioned why the university would risk this type of response.

One post read: "Do you know that you have to Buy One to get One Free at Publix?"

Another read: "Who gave you better protection last year - your offensive line or the TPD?"

TPD is shorthand for the Tallahassee Police Department.

"This was doomed from the beginning," said Robert Stewart, director of the Ohio University school of journalism. "It's basically a setup. Whoever thought this was a good idea had not done P.R. 101, which is to think about what all could go wrong. Everything about this was naive."

Winston has grown accustomed to the chatter.

He was relentlessly heckled at away games during the baseball season. Hundreds of online memes were generated after the crab legs incident. Winston said during Florida State's football media day on Sunday that he doesn't focus on the negative things, but has become more guarded.

Florida State still plans to run the video of Winston answering questions. And a large number of people had to be turned away from a winding line hoping for an autograph from Winston during Fan Day on Sunday.

"There is definitely a group of people that" are looking to attack Winston, Finebloom said. "He's done such a good job of reaching our fan base in so many different ways. You'd hate to not be able to continue to make sure people knew about how many good things he does."

Experts said universities and businesses need to have a thoughtful conversation and consider researching ideas before soliciting social media feedback - especially when the subject has been mired in controversy.

McDonald's had a hashtag campaign in 2012 titled "(hash)McDStories" that turned into a string of jokes made at its expense.

The vitriol was directed at NCAA President Mark Emmert in April when he made an appearance on ESPN's "Mike & Mike."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was the punching bag during a (hash)AskCommish campaign in May.

The Washington Redskins asked supporters to tweet their "(hash)RedskinsPride" in May and were awash with posts from opponents of the team nickname.

Stewart said a differently worded hashtag that limited the scope to football in Winston's case may have helped, but the open-ended nature gave "people dynamite and asking if they can help you light the fuse."

Niklas Myhr, social media professor at Chapman University, said group thought can easily snowball on social media. He explained that it's easy to be involved in casual bullying with thousands of others on the sites.

"There's always going to be haters out there, there's always going to be people that are negative," Myhr said. "If you leave it up to them to be the first responders in a case, they can have a bigger impact than they deserve and make it easier for others to follow."

Finebloom said people learn from everything that happens.

"And social media, it has its plusses and minuses," he said. "And we know that. ... There are hundreds of thousands of Seminoles fans that interact with us in a positive way and we're going to keep interacting with them positively, too."

NBA: Sale of Clippers to Ballmer now official

The sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is now official, the NBA announced on Tuesday.

“I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” Ballmer said in a released statement. “Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times. I will be hard core in giving the team,our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court”

In a statement, the league said:

"The transaction in which Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers closed today following the entry of an order by a California court confirming the authority of Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, to sell the team.

"The NBA Board of Governors previously approved the sale and Ballmer is now the Clippers Governor."

NBA commissioner Adam Silver ordered the removal of Donald Sterling as Clippers owner following the late April release of audio clips detailing Sterling making racist remarks. Sterling was also banned for life from the NBA, and fined $2.5 million. In May, Sterling vowed to fight the league on its forced sale, but it was announced that the team had been sold to Ballmer for $2 billion in an agreement reached with Shelly Sterling, wife of Donald.

Sterling continued to appeal the NBA's decision prior to the sale going official on Tuesday.

The Clippers responded simply on Twitter:

#ItsANewDay

— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) August 12, 2014

Stay with NBCSports.com for updates.

Ward crafted reputation as wheelman before death

PORT LEYDEN, N.Y. (AP) Kevin Ward Jr. was crafting a reputation as a wheelman, the kind of driver who could race vehicles on any track without fear.

He'd sit up on his seat, floor it, and zip his way through a maze of cars straight toward the front of the pack.

For points. For fun. Often for little money.

"He would go to tracks that a lot of other drivers wouldn't go to," Chuck Miller, the race director and president for the Empire Super Sprints circuit, said Monday. "If we had co-sanctioned races with other organizations where we really weren't giving points or anything, but it was a deal where you wanted to see how you stacked up against the other competition, the Wards were willing to go and do that and see where they were at."

Ward began racing go-karts in 1998 at age 4. In 2010, he moved on to sprint cars and was Empire Super Sprint racing rookie of the year in 2012. The 20-year-old raced mostly on dirt tracks a few hours from his home in Port Leyden, a village of 700 in northern New York.

Ward was killed Saturday night about 140 miles away at a clay track in Canandaigua. NASCAR champion Tony Stewart was the big name in the field, racing with the young guys while he was in the area for a Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen the next day.

Ward and Stewart tangled, and Ward hit the wall. Ward walked on the track apparently to confront Stewart, and was struck when Stewart's vehicle seemed to fishtail.

On Monday, several cars were parked in front of the Ward home in Port Leyden. A police officer stood across the street, politely asking reporters not to park on the road's shoulder.

Helen McHale has lived across the street for 30 years and remembers hearing the noise when Ward raced go-carts. Kevin Ward Sr. runs a successful painting business, and locals thought his son might make it big in the racing world.

"His dad goes to every race," she said. "He's a good kid, polite, big smile, and they're a good family."

Stewart and Ward shared a love of racing sprint cars: high-powered, winged cars built for running on short oval or circular dirt and paved tracks. Drivers have to hit the gas to turn, not necessarily use the wheel.

After the crash, Ward was standing to the right of Stewart's familiar No. 14 car on the dimly lit track. According to video and witness accounts, Ward was struck by the right rear tire and hurtled through the air.

Authorities questioned the 43-year-old Stewart once on Saturday night and went to Watkins Glen to talk to him again Sunday. Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said that investigators don't have any evidence at this point to support criminal intent. Povero said Monday there were no plans "at this time" to talk to Stewart again.

"At this time, there are no facts that exist that support any criminal behavior or conduct, or that any probable cause of a criminal act, in this investigation," he said.

Povero said the autopsy was completed Monday and found Ward died of blunt force trauma.

Stewart said Sunday "there aren't words" to describe his sadness over Ward's death.

Stewart hasn't announced whether he'll drive in this weekend's NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway, but his short track "hobby" is on hold. He won't appear Saturday in a race in Warsaw, Indiana.

"It is still an emotional time for all involved, Tony included. He is grieving, and grief doesn't have a timetable," spokesman Mike Arning said Monday.

Canandaigua Speedway promoter Jeremie Corcoran said the track has canceled Wednesday's event to give "my family, staff, fans, and racing teams time to grieve and process all that has occurred."

Driver Matt Tanner, a friend of Ward's, was a few cars back from the collision. Ward had been a good friend for years, a member of a small, tight group of drivers who traveled to various races around New York state, parts of Canada and Pennsylvania.

"I saw his car sitting there and when the ambulances pulled up I realized what was happening," Tanner said.

He hasn't watched the video and doesn't plan to.

"Your emotions are running so high. Stewart's known for being competitive, and Kevin was just as competitive," said Tanner.

So competitive that he'd take his life into his own hands by stepping into traffic in a black firesuit on a dark track?

No one will know for sure why Ward made the treacherous decision to stalk Stewart.

But perhaps he was inspired by Stewart himself. Known for his volcanic temper, Stewart is among the drivers who made highlight reels by tossing helmets at windshields or throwing punches at competitors. The action captivates fans and is part of NASCAR's allure - and inspires the next generation to mimic the bumping and brawling of their heroes.

What better way for a young driver to make a name for himself than being the one that stood up to Smoke?

Driver Cory Sparks, a fellow driver in Saturday's race, said he and Ward became friends five years ago. He said Ward was aggressive and competitive and that the two men had "had our feuds" but that he was proud to call him a friend.

"I don't want Kevin Ward to be remembered as a victim in a Tony Stewart accident," he said. "He definitely had a future in this sport. He was a very aggressive driver. He was one hell of wheel man."

Doug Elkins is a former race announcer who now writes about the sport. He had known Ward and his father for several years. Elkins said he expected rules prohibiting drivers from getting out of their cars during races will be better enforced around the country.

He hadn't heard of any bad blood between Stewart and Ward.

"Anyone would want to beat him, Elkins said, "he's Tony Stewart."

Memorial services will be held Wednesday at the Trainor Funeral Home in Boonville, New York. The funeral is Thursday.

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