National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Browns owner details coaching search in letter

CLEVELAND (AP) Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is asking Cleveland fans to be patient as he looks to replace the coach he fired after one season.

With criticism growing as the search drags on, Haslam sent a letter to fans Wednesday in which he explained the Browns' "methodical" hunt for a "strong coach."

Haslam fired Rob Chudzinski last month following a 4-12 season, forcing the Browns to look for their seventh full-time coach since 1999 and fourth in six years.

The owner said the team has spoken to a "number of outstanding candidates" and indicated he and CEO Joe Banner will meet with assistant coaches currently in the NFL playoffs.

"We have purposefully been very methodical in our approach," Haslam said in the letter released by the team and posted on its website. "We believe it is very important to stay disciplined to this process and to interview all of the candidates on our list. We are strongly committed to finding the right person to coach the Cleveland Browns."

Buffalo confirmed Wednesday night that it had granted the Browns permission to interview Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. The 47-year-old just completed his first season with Buffalo after four as the New York Jets' defensive coordinator.

The Browns were the first team to fire a coach after the season, and they'll be the last to hire one now that the Minnesota Vikings have agreed to a contract with former Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who interviewed for the Cleveland opening a year ago.

When Chudzinski was dismissed, Haslam made it clear the Browns would take as long as needed to find a "proven winner." But as days turned to weeks and several candidates took jobs elsewhere or other names surfaced and were quickly dismissed, a perception took hold that the front office was not on the same page.

There also have been rumblings that the Browns have been spurned by candidates and are fixated on hiring Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

Haslam's unexpected letter seemed to be the team's attempt to quell some of the outside noise.

Cleveland has interviewed six known candidates and the team intends to meet with Gase when the Broncos' season ends. Gase was the first candidate contacted by the Browns after Chudzinski was let go. The 35-year-old Gase told the Browns and Vikings he wanted to wait until after the season.

Although Gase appears to be the front-runner, there's no guarantee he'll be hired by the Browns - or if he even wants the job.

Gase's interview likely will take place soon after the Broncos are finished playing. That could be as soon as Sunday or as late as Feb. 3, if Denver advances to the Super Bowl.

Haslam said the Browns, who haven't been to the AFC playoffs since 2002, will remain patient.

"We are prepared to wait as long as necessary because this is a very important decision," said Haslam, Cleveland's owner since 2012. "Everyone in our organization is committed to finding the right leader for our team."

The lingering search has created the appearance that the job is not appealing. Haslam, though, insists the Cleveland coaching spot is a "very attractive position."

"We have one of the youngest teams in the League, a roster that includes five Pro Bowlers," he said. "In addition, we have more salary-cap room than all but one NFL team. We also have three of the top 35 picks in the upcoming draft and five of the top 83 selections."

The Browns also interviewed Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who could get a second meeting when the Seahawks' season ends. New England coordinator Josh McDaniels and Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles removed their names from consideration. Ken Whisenhunt met with the Browns before he was hired by Tennessee, and Green Bay quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo interviewed with Cleveland but was hired Tuesday as the New York Giants' offensive coordinator.

Former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak met with Haslam and Browns CEO Joe Banner this week.

During the Browns' search, other prominent names emerged, including Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. However, neither is believed to be on Cleveland's radar.

It's also possible the team will ask to meet with San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

As they look for a new coach, the Browns have granted permission for offensive coordinator Norv Turner to interview with the Vikings, and they've told defensive coordinator Ray Horton he can interview for the same position in Tennessee.

AP source: Kershaw, Dodgers agree to $215M deal

LOS ANGELES (AP) Pitcher Clayton Kershaw agreed Wednesday to a $215 million, seven-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press, a deal that makes the two-time Cy Young Award winner baseball's first player with a $30 million average salary.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced.

Kershaw receives the most lucrative deal for a pitcher, breaking the mark of $180 million set by Justin Verlander last March for his seven-year contract with Detroit.

Kershaw would have been eligible for free agency after the upcoming season if the new deal hadn't been reached. He was eligible for salary arbitration, and those figures were set to be exchanged on Friday. He was coming off a two-year, $19 million deal.

General manager Ned Colletti said last week that both sides had been negotiating.

"It's our desire to sign him here for a very long time," Colletti said.

The average salary of $30.7 million tops the previous high of $27.5 million, set by the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez as part of a 10-year agreement December 2007. While Roger Clemens had a contract with a listed salary of $28 million with the Yankees in 2007, he joined the team in June and actually made $17.4 million.

The Dodgers had baseball's second-highest payroll at the end of the regular season last fall - more than $236 million.

Kershaw's agreement, first reported by ESPN.com, is baseball's seventh of $200 million or more. Among current contracts, it trails only the agreements of Rodriguez, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto ($251.5 million over 12 years), Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols ($240 million over 10 years) and Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano ($240 million over 10 years).

A left-hander who turns 26 in March, Kershaw won NL Cy Young Awards in 2011 and 2013. He was 16-9 for the NL West champion Dodgers last year and led the league with 232 strikeouts, and his 1.83 ERA was the best in the major leagues since Pedro Martinez's 1.74 for Boston in 2000. He has led the NL in ERA in each of the last three years.

Kershaw has been a powerful, yet low-key, presence on the team. In the offseason, the Dallas native has worked to build a charitable legacy alongside his wife, Ellen. The couple has made yearly trips to Africa, where his foundation that focuses on helping at-risk children built an orphanage.

The deal signifies further stability for a club that was in turmoil under former owner Frank McCourt, who sold the team to a group that includes Magic Johnson in 2012. The Dodgers signed manager Don Mattingly to a three-year deal last week and now have locked up their ace.

Last year, Kershaw pitched a career-high 259 innings between the regular season and the playoffs. The season ended on a sour note when he pitched a rare clunker in the Dodgers' 9-0 loss to St. Louis in the NL championship series that eliminated them.

Still up for discussion this winter is a new deal for Hanley Ramirez, who hit a team-leading .345 and played hurt during the NLCS. He has one year left on his contract.

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AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this story.

Mayweather: Pacquiao's desperate now

Floyd Mayweather Jr. says his next opponent will be decided within a week. One thing's for sure, it's not Manny Pacquiao.

Mayweather Jr., who arrived in South Africa on Wednesday, named Britain's Amir Khan and Argentina's Marcos Maidana as contenders for his next bout in Las Vegas on May 3 but said "we don't know. We will know within the next seven days."

The undefeated Mayweather, now 45-0 after dominating Canelo Alvarez for a majority decision in September, also passed off Pacquiao's renewed attempts at making their mega fight happen as desperation because of the Filipino's unpaid tax issues.

Mayweather said of Pacquiao "two losses and tax problems later, now he all of a sudden want to say: `You know what? I'd do anything to make the fight happen."'

Warriors acquire Crawford, Brooks in 3-team trade

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Golden State Warriors have been searching for a suitable backup to point guard Stephen Curry since veteran Jarrett Jack signed with Cleveland as a free agent last summer.

The Warriors had hoped Toney Douglas could help fill the void - he couldn't.

Now they're counting on Jordan Crawford for more production.

The Warriors acquired Crawford and reserve shooting guard MarShon Brooks from the Boston Celtics on Wednesday as part of a three-team trade.

Golden State sent Douglas to the Miami Heat, who traded seldom-used center Joel Anthony, two draft picks and cash considerations to the Celtics in a move that creates financial flexibility for the two-time defending NBA champions.

Miami gave Boston its 2015 protected first-round pick - originally acquired from Philadelphia - and 2016 second-round pick. If the 76ers don't make the playoffs the next two seasons, the 2015 first-round pick will be a second-round selection.

The deal gives Golden State more scoring punch behind Curry after the defensive-minded Douglas had struggled to provide much support.

Crawford is averaging 13.7 points and 5.6 assists this season, but he became expendable with Boston expecting All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo to return soon from a knee injury that has kept him out since last January. Crawford also is shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from 3-point range.

Brooks had two up-and-down years with the Nets before splitting time with Boston and the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League this season. He's averaging 3.1 points in 10 games with the Celtics.

Crawford and Brooks were not expected to be in uniform for Golden State's home game against Denver on Wednesday night.

The Warriors had hoped Douglas could serve as the primary ball-handler behind Curry, but he missed 14 games because of a stress reaction in his left tibia and he hasn't been able to find a rhythm since he returned. Douglas averaged 3.7 points, 0.8 assists and 11 minutes in 24 games this season.

For the Heat, the gains are largely financial, both short- and long-term.

Anthony was making $3.8 million this season - more than double what Douglas is earning - and is on the books for another $3.8 million next season. The deal should save the Heat more than $10 million in salary and luxury tax payments over the next two seasons, and that may help when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all decide to become free agents this summer.

"It's always difficult trading a player like Joel who was a big part of the past two championship teams and will always be a part of the Miami Heat family," Heat President Pat Riley said in a statement. "This trade gives us great flexibility moving forward in our journey to win an NBA Championship. Joel was a true professional who worked hard every day and we wish him the best in the future."

And because point guard Mario Chalmers is currently dealing with an Achilles problem, Douglas also could provide some insurance there as well. Another option is that the Heat choose to simply absorb whatever's left on Douglas' $1.6 million contract this season to open a roster spot, one that they could possibly target free agent center Andrew Bynum with.

Anthony played in 12 games for Miami this season, logging more than three minutes just four times. He scored a total of six points and has been largely an afterthought in the Heat rotation since the team signed forward Chris Andersen to be their top big-man reserve last year.

The Heat also are awaiting the return of center Greg Oden, who has not played in a regular-season game in more than four years but has been steadily progressing in a rehab program since signing with Miami in the offseason.

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AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this story.

AP Source: Vikings pick Mike Zimmer as new coach

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Vikings have picked Mike Zimmer to be their new head coach, according to a person with knowledge of the process.

The person spoke Wednesday to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Zimmer's contract had not been completed and the team had not announced the hiring of the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator. Zimmer will be the ninth head coach in the franchise's 54-year history, replacing Leslie Frazier, who was fired Dec. 30 after the team finished 5-10-1 this season.

General manager Rick Spielman interviewed at least seven candidates, and he and Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf settled on the one who was widely considered around the league to be the most overdue for a head coaching job. Zimmer has been an NFL defensive coordinator for the last 14 seasons, including six with the Bengals, and he has interviewed for several head coach vacancies in recent years, including this month with Tennessee.

"Today is one of the happiest and yet saddest days for me. Happy Coach Zimm finally gets to be a head coach and spread all of his knowledge," Bengals cornerback Terence Newman said on Twitter.

The Bengals were third in the league in yards allowed and fifth in points against this season, though they lost in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year. Tweeted linebacker Rey Maualuga: "Gonna miss you coach Zimmer! Wish you nothing but the best in Minnesota. You brought out the best in each of your players! So honored to have been coached by you!"

The 57-year-old Zimmer played at Illinois State and spent 14 seasons coaching in the college ranks before being hired in 1994 as an assistant with Dallas. He got a Super Bowl ring the following season as defensive backs coach.

Then he became defensive coordinator of the Cowboys in 2000 and spent seven seasons at that post, the last four under coach Bill Parcells. Zimmer led defenses in Dallas that operated in both the 4-3 and 3-4 alignments, including the 2003 group that surrendered the fewest yards in the league.

The Wilfs, natives of New Jersey, grew up as New York Giants fans and are admirers of Parcells from his days coaching that team.

After one tumultuous year as the defensive coordinator for Atlanta, when Falcons coach Bobby Petrino quit midseason in 2007, Zimmer went to Cincinnati to work for coach Marvin Lewis. In 2009, when his wife, Vikki, unexpectedly died, Zimmer was named the winner of several NFL assistant coach of the year awards.

Zimmer has a fiery personality, as evidenced by his profanity-laced appearances on HBO's "Hard Knocks," which featured the Bengals in 2009 and 2013. That overt intensity is a contrast to Frazier, who went 21-33-1 in three-plus seasons with one appearance in the playoffs.

Frazier was a popular figure in the locker room and throughout the organization, but as a former defensive coordinator his area of expertise became the team's biggest downfall. Despite a carousel at quarterback, the aged, injury-depleted defense was mostly responsible for the sorry showing this season. The Vikings allowed an average of 30 points per game, the most in the league, and 397.8 yards per game, the second-most.

Five of the seven reported candidates who interviewed for the vacancy had defensive backgrounds: Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, San Francisco defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and Zimmer. The other two were offensive coordinators: Seattle's Darrell Bevell and San Francisco's Greg Roman.

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AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.

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AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org

Crosby embracing challenge of Vancouver repeat

PITTSBURGH (AP) The gold medal, the one that electrified a country and cemented Sidney Crosby as part of Canadian hockey royalty forever, is "tucked away" somewhere out of sight and - Crosby insists - out of mind.

No need to have it displayed on the mantle or a coffee table. No wearing it around the house on a rainy day.

While he's brought it out once or twice upon request, Crosby doesn't sit around holding it in his hand.

Sure, it was a "nice moment" - Crosby's go-to phrase when asked to describe his golden goal 7:40 into overtime in the final against the United States - but it was just that, a moment.

"I've kind of moved on," Crosby said.

Fate didn't give him much of a choice.

Crosby's glove-flinging celebration in the corner of Rogers Arena as Maple Leaf flags draped the stands in a sea of red and white capped his ascendant rise from Sid the Kid to Sid the Savior. His wrist shot by Ryan Miller provided a fitting bookend to Crosby's triumphant hoisting of the Stanley Cup eight months earlier, when the youngest captain in NHL history led the formerly moribund Penguins to their first title in 17 years.

Four years later, on the surface not much has changed.

On the ice the 26-year-old remains one of the top players in the world. He's the NHL's leading scorer for one of the league's premier franchises and is the unquestioned face of the Canadian team as it looks to defend its gold medal in Sochi next month.

Off it he remains the ever-polite, ever-humble son of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, the one who refuses to get caught up in his own hype.

It all looks so normal these days, it's easy to forget just how close Crosby came to nearly losing it all. The launching pad Vancouver was supposed to provide for Crosby's evolution from superstar to icon instead turned into a cautionary tale.

Less than a year removed from his golden goal, Crosby's career was at a crossroads.

Concussion-like symptoms sustained in a loss to Washington in the NHL's Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2011, turned him into a reluctant touchstone for head injuries. As weeks turned into months and 2011 turned into 2012 and the symptoms persisted, the world's best player was forced to watch the game go on without him.

He missed two years in his prime, playing just 28 games during a 744-day span between Jan. 5, 2011-Jan. 19 2013, a bystander of sorts as teammate Evgeni Malkin, Chicago's Patrick Kane and Washington's Alex Ovechkin tried to wrest away Crosby's unofficial title of the game's best player.

It seems like a long time ago now. The questions that lingered when Crosby declared himself symptom free at the end of the NHL lockout last January have vanished. Ironically, he's now one of the few players on the Penguins who have remained healthy this season as injuries have cost nearly a dozen regulars - including Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang - significant playing time.

It is Crosby who has kept Pittsburgh afloat. He entered Wednesday night's game against Washington with an NHL-high 67 points, well clear of Kane and New York Islanders center John Tavares.

The Crosby who will wear No. 87 in Russia looks an awful lot like the one who dashed to glory in Vancouver, only wiser and perhaps more comfortable in his own skin. More consistent, too.

The player who struggled with faceoffs earlier in his career is now winning nearly 52 percent of his draws. After being chastised by coach Dan Bylsma for perhaps being too unselfish at times, Crosby is one hot streak away from threatening the career-high 51 goals he put up in 2009-10 while averaging a career-high 22 minutes of ice time a night.

"One of Sid's best abilities is his ability to challenge himself and get better," Bylsma said. "He's gotten better with his demeanor and the maturity with which he plays the game."

It's a maturity that's hard won. Crosby has spent most of his life dealing with overwhelming expectations while trying to be deferential to his more experienced teammates. He never let it get to him in Vancouver, even though it was Crosby - and not players like Jarome Iginla or Scott Niedermayer or Martin Brodeur - who faced the most scrutiny.

"He's gone through a lot," said Steve Yzerman, general manager of the Canadian team. "Playing in the Olympics in Vancouver was a tremendous experience for him. (There was) so much pressure - more so than anybody in the entire Canadian Olympic program - on Sid there and he scored the winning goal. Four years later, he's going to be more comfortable."

There's certainly a sense of ease about Crosby that didn't necessarily exist earlier in his career. When he steps into the dressing room for the team's first practice next month, he's aware that the eyes will drift toward him for leadership.

Press Crosby on what's in it for him, what could he possibly to top what happened in Vancouver and the hockey nerd in him emerges. He points to the long hockey rivalry between Canada and Russia - dating all the way to the Summit Series in 1972 - and the unique challenge of trying to win Olympic gold in Russia.

It won't be Vancouver, but that doesn't mean the quest for gold is any less meaningful.

"If you have a record time in the Olympics prior to this one, you're not settling for that time this time around," he said. "You want to do better."

And last he checked, two golds were better than one. Ask Crosby if there's room in his house for a medal to bookend the one he grabbed in Vancouver and he just nods.

"Yeah, 100 percent," he said with a laugh, "100 percent."

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

QB Tom Brady not spotted at Patriots practice

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Tom Brady has taken time off from practice before the New England Patriots play the AFC championship game against the Denver Broncos.

Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett says Brady missed the full practice Wednesday. But Mallett says but he's not worried about the star quarterbacks' availability for Sunday's game in Denver.

Brady had a cold last week and then led the Patriots to a 43-22 win Saturday night over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC divisional round.

Coach Bill Belichick isn't giving any information on Brady's absence. He is referring reporters to the team's practice report due out Wednesday afternoon. Brady also skipped a scheduled media availability.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Klinsmann thrilled with return of Americans to MLS

Jurgen Klinsmann is confident the return of top American players to Major League Soccer will give a boost to the U.S. national team.

As the U.S. began a 12-day training camp with MLS players in Sao Paulo, where it will be based during the World Cup in June, Klinsmann said the recent returns of Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley to the league are "exciting" and "huge for football in the United States."

Dempsey joined Seattle in the summer and Bradley signed with Toronto FC this week.

Although Klinsmann indicated in the past he would rather see top American players testing themselves in top leagues overseas, he said Tuesday a stronger MLS benefits the national team.

"We said a couple of years ago that we wanted to be one day in the top 10, top 15 in the world," said Klinsmann, a German who moved to California in 1998. "We have to develop better players, we have to develop better coaches, and it's not going to happen overnight, but we will keep working and the MLS is helping us a lot."

He said MLS is sending a "serious signal" that it wants the best American players back in the United States so it can build a stronger league.

"We are not there yet, and we know that," Klinsmann said. "But it's exciting. The players who are in Europe, many of them some big players, are now back in MLS.

"MLS is getting better every year," he added. "We are working at full pace, hopefully we can prove a lot of good work already this summer."

Klinsmann said it has been crucial for the league to attract strong owners with the financial means to recruit top Americans from Europe.

"People jump in financially, want the best American players in America," Klinsmann said. "Suddenly they bring back a Clint Dempsey from Tottenham, they bring back a Michael Bradley from AS Roma, and they are working on other players as well. This is huge for football in the United States."

Klinsmann is using mostly U.S.-based players in the camp in Sao Paulo, including 10 who helped the Americans qualify for their seventh straight World Cup.

"We can bring more players because the European-based players are not coming in, obviously," Klinsmann said. "So it gives more spots to young players who want to show how good they are. Maybe they can still jump on the train for the World Cup. They all have a point to prove. They all want to prove to me that they deserve to be back during the World Cup."

He said he wants to give the players an early chance to get to know Brazil ahead of the soccer's biggest tournament.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for us," Klinsmann said after the team's first practice session at the training center of Sao Paulo Futebol Clube.

"It gives us the opportunity to be already at the facility we are going to stay in the World Cup, to get to know the hotel we are going to stay at and to get a feeling for the country," Klinsmann said.

He even wants his staff to start learning Portuguese in order to know some basic words by the time the team returns.

The Americans will stay in Brazil until Jan. 25 before heading home for an exhibition against South Korea on Feb. 1 at Carson, Calif., where they began their 11th annual January training camp last week.

The U.S. opens the World Cup against Ghana on June 16, plays Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal six days later and closes the group stage against Germany on June 26.

Angels invite ESPN analyst Mulder to spring camp

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Mark Mulder has been invited to spring training with the Los Angeles Angels, nearly six years after he last pitched in the major leagues.

The Angels announced a deal Tuesday with the 36-year-old Mulder and 18 additional non-roster invitees.

Mulder won 103 games over nine major league seasons with Oakland and St. Louis, including a 21-win season in 2001. The left-hander struggled with arm injuries and surgery over his final two campaigns with the Cardinals, throwing his most recent major league pitch on July 9, 2008.

Mulder worked as a television analyst before retooling his delivery and beginning a comeback attempt late last year.

He agreed to a deal two weeks ago with the Angels, hoping for a shot to earn a spot on their pitching staff in spring training.

Pacers' Vogel earns East All-Star coaching spot

NEW YORK (AP) Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel has clinched the Eastern Conference coaching spot for next month's NBA All-Star game.

The Pacers improved to 30-7 with their 116-92 victory over Sacramento on Tuesday night, guaranteeing they will have the best winning percentage in the East among eligible teams. Miami's Erik Spoelstra is ineligible after coaching in last year's game.

It will be the first All-Star coaching assignment for Vogel, in his fourth season leading the Pacers.

The West coach for the Feb. 16 game in New Orleans is still to be determined. Gregg Popovich, whose San Antonio Spurs lead the West, is ineligible.

Ferrell, Indiana send No. 3 Wisconsin to first loss

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell scored 25 points Tuesday night, leading Indiana to a stunning 75-72 upset over previously unbeaten Wisconsin.

The third-ranked Badgers (16-1, 3-1 Big Ten) were trying to become the first team ever to win 13 straight games over the Hoosiers (12-5, 2-2).

Wisconsin started the night as one of Division I's four remaining unbeaten teams and it looked like it would stay that way when the Badgers took a 10-point lead with 13:27 to play.

But the Hoosiers, playing their best game of the season, answered with 12 straight points to take a 54-52 lead with 9 minutes left.

Indiana led 70-65 with 2:03 remaining but still had to fend off Wisconsin's late challenge. Ferrell made two free throws with 18.3 seconds left to give Indiana the three-point lead and both of Wisconsin's potentially tying 3-pointers came up short.

Traevon Jackson led the Badgers with a career-high 21 points.

The hometown fans stormed the court after Indiana won its second straight and prevented Wisconsin from tying another dubious record by winning its sixth in a row in Bloomington.

Instead, some of the young Hoosiers came up big.

While senior Will Sheehey scored 13 points, freshman Stanford Robinson added a career-high 13. And another freshman, Noah Vonleh had 10 points, five rebounds and two 3s.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, did not play its usual brand of mistake-free basketball. It turned the ball over 10 times, went just 1 of 4 from the free throw line and couldn't quite catch the Hoosiers late.

Jackson did everything he could to rally the Badgers after spending the final 8 minutes of the first half on the bench in foul trouble. He opened the second half by scoring Wisconsin's first nine points, helping the Badgers take a 52-42 lead with 13:27 to go.

But Ferrell, Sheehey and Robinson helped the Hoosiers storm back.

Gordon started Indiana's big run with a 17-footer. Sheehey and Robinson followed with consecutive layups and when Vonleh posted up for a short jumper in the paint with 9 minutes left, the Hoosiers led 54-52.

Indiana went up 70-65 on Ferrell's 18-footer with 2:03 to play.

After Wisconsin cut the led to 73-72 on Frank Kaminsky's putback with 28.5 seconds left, Ferrell hit two free throws and the Badgers missed the two 3-point attempts.

Li handles the Melbourne heat, reaches 3rd round

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Coming from one of China's three "Stove Cities" had its benefits for Li Na on another scorching day at the Australian Open, where she completed back-to-back wins over the two youngest players in the draw to reach the third round.

The 2011 French Open, a two-time finalist at Melbourne Park, raced through the first set against 16-year-old Belinda Bencic in 22 minutes on Wednesday, conceding just 10 points. She had to work harder in the second, with temperatures topping 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit), before winning 6-0, 7-6 (5).

Li, from Wuhan, one of three cities in central China renowned for hot temperatures, turns 32 next month. In the first round, she dropped just two games as she accounted for 16-year-old Ana Konjuh, the youngest player in the tournament. Bencic and Konjuh each won two of the four junior majors in 2013.

"It's warm, but it's OK," Li said of her 1-hour, 20-minute second-round match.

Temperatures topped 42 Celsius (108F) on Tuesday, and there were a total of nine retirements in the first round, equaling a Grand Slam record. The forecast is for the heat wave to continue until Friday, with daily maximums above 40 C (104F).

The players are finding ways to cope, using ice vests and wet towels in the changeovers. In Wednesday's first match on Margaret Court Arena, the heat rule went into effect allowing the No. 15-seeded Sabine Lisicki and Monica Niculescu a 10-minute break after the second set.

Top-ranked Serena Williams was playing Vesna Dolonc in the second match on Rod Laver Arena and three-time defending men's champion Novak Djokovic was to follow on the center court.

In other completed matches, No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova followed up her first-round win over Venus Williams with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over American Irina Falconi.

On the men's side, No. 7 Tomas Berdych became the first man into the third round with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 win over Kenny de Schepper of France.

Kershaw, Price, Scherzer among 146 in arbitration

NEW YORK (AP) Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers headed 146 players who filed for salary arbitration.

Tampa Bay pitcher David Price, Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Cincinnati pitcher Aroldis Chapman, Arizona outfielder Mark Trumbo, Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters and Washington pitcher Jordan Zimmermann also were among those who filed Tuesday.

Players are set to swap proposed salaries with their clubs Friday, and hearings will be scheduled for next month in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Of the 133 players who filed last year, none went to hearings - the first time since the process began in 1974 that every case settled. After peaking at 35 hearings in 1986, the number of cases argued hasn't reached double digits since 2001.

Players in arbitration averaged a 119 percent increase last year, according to a study by The Associated Press.

Lions hire ex-Colts coach Jim Caldwell

DETROIT (AP) Jim Caldwell got a ringing endorsement from one of his mentors when Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew was doing his homework.

The Lions hired Caldwell on Tuesday to replace fired coach Jim Schwartz, ending a search that included a phone conversation between Mayhew and Tony Dungy.

"Martin called me and said we're looking for a leader who can help turn our locker room into a winning one and to help us get the most out of our investment in Matthew Stafford," Dungy recalled in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I told Martin that Jim Caldwell is exactly what you're looking for. He'll lead by making people accountable and by being a role model on and off the field. And with his attention to detail and history of developing quarterbacks, Stafford is going to flourish just like Peyton Manning did with us in Indianapolis."

Detroit wanted to replace Schwartz with someone with experience as a head coach, ideally with a track record of tutoring quarterbacks.

Caldwell helped the Indianapolis Colts reach the Super Bowl after his debut season in 2009, but was fired two years later after a 2-14 season while Manning was injured, dropping his three-year mark to 26-22.

Before Caldwell was hired by the Dungy-led Colts in 2002 to be their quarterbacks coach, he had the same job for Dungy with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Caldwell was hired by Baltimore two years ago to be their quarterbacks coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season. The Ravens went on to win the last Super Bowl.

The Lions will introduce Caldwell as their coach Wednesday during a news conference at Ford Field.

"We believe Jim is the right man to lead our team and deliver a championship to our fans," Lions owner William Clay Ford said in a statement.

The Ravens struggled on offense in 2013 and might've replaced Caldwell if he didn't get another job. Baltimore ranked 29th on offense overall - 30th rushing and 18th passing - last season with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice.

Still, Caldwell's body of work was enough to also make him a candidate to lead the Washington Redskins and Titans. Former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak and ex-Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak were also considered by the Lions.

"I'm excited because he has worked with some good coaches and he did a good job with the Colts," Lions offensive guard Rob Sims said in a telephone interview. "Players seem to like him, so I'm looking forward to being a part of the next chapter of Detroit Lions football with him leading us."

Caldwell won his first 14 games with the Colts in 2009 before losing the final two games of the regular season while resting Manning and most of the other starters. The Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl. Indy was 10-6 the following season and won another AFC South title, then lost to the New York Jets in a wild-card game. With Manning out for all of Caldwell's third season, the Colts lost 14 games and Caldwell lost his job.

In Baltimore, Caldwell replaced offensive coordinator Cam Cameron toward the end of the 2012 regular season and he seemed to give the offense a boost as it went on to win the Super Bowl against San Francisco.

Helping the Lions win one playoff game would be a relative feat: Detroit has only one playoff victory - more than two decades ago - since winning the 1957 NFL title.

Caldwell, who won two playoff games in his first season with the Colts, will be counted on to use his experience with quarterbacks to make Matthew Stafford better. Detroit drafted Stafford No. 1 overall in 2009 and after two injury-shortened seasons, he has been spectacular at times and shaky at others.

When the Lions needed him most, he was at his worst last season. He had an NFL-high 14 turnovers from Week 11-16 as Detroit dropped five of six games, plummeting out of first place in the NFC North and wasting an opportunity to win a division title for the first time since 1993.

Caldwell's first job as a head coach was at Wake Forest, which fired him in 2000 with a 26-63 record over eight seasons. Caldwell, who is from Beloit, Wis., played defensive back for Iowa and began his coaching career in 1977 as a graduate assistant with the Hawkeyes.

Caldwell later went on to coach quarterbacks, wide receivers and outside linebackers from 1982-84 for Bill McCartney at Colorado.

"He's one of the finest people I've ever met," McCartney said in a telephone interview. "He has tremendous character. If he says something, you can take it to the bank and hang your hat on it. His players will trust them and they'll rally for him. He's ready for this.

"Every home, every business and every NFL team rises or falls because of leadership. And, the Lions have a leader now."

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AP Sports Writer Noah Trister in Allen Park, Mich. contributed to this report.

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Biathlete Tracy Barnes gives up her Olympic Team spot to twin sister

Tracy Barnes could think of only one greater honor than making the U.S. Olympic Team.

Letting her twin sister go instead.

Barnes, 31, earned a spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team following last weekend’s final qualifying races. She declined it to allow the woman next in line to go to Sochi.

That woman was Lanny Barnes.

Lanny fell ill over the weekend, missed three of the final four selection races in Italy, and her hopes of going to a third Olympics vanished. Five women go to the Olympics. Lanny was just out of the running until Tracy informed her of a decision she made before that final race.

“Love is selfless dedication,” Tracy said, according to 3 Wire Sports. “Love means giving up your dream so someone else can realize theirs.”

Tracy, a 2006 Olympian and five minutes younger than Lanny, knew the weight of her choice — a “heavy situation” — and wanted to give her sister a second chance.

They hiked in the mountains after the final race Sunday. That’s where Tracy told Lanny of her choice, which was received by protest from Lanny and tears from both, according to 3 Wire Sports.

“As the old saying goes, ‘Only the strong will survive,’” Tracy said, according to US Biathlon. “Most of the time, that is the case. On occasion the strong don’t survive for whatever reason. And that is what I feel happened to Lanny. She’s having a stellar season and she bound to do great things this year, but she fell ill during the trials and couldn’t race. Because of that she didn’t make the team. While most people would say, ‘That’s biathlon,’ or, ‘That’s life,’ — and they’d be absolutely correct in saying that – but what if that person who was hit with a little bit of bad luck got a second chance? What if someone believed in them enough to give them that chance? Well, that’s what I did.”

Tracy emailed her friends and family Monday, according to the Durango (Colo.) Herald.

“I think that her selfless act encompasses what an Olympian truly is,” Lanny said, according to US Biathlon. “Often times during the hype of the Games we forget what the Olympics are really about. They aren’t about the medals and the fame and all of that. The Olympics are about inspiration, teamwork, excellence and representation. I can think of no better example of the true Olympic spirit than what Tracy.”

Lanny, who has trained with her twin for 15 years, relishes the opportunity.

“It’s not every day that you are given a second chance like this,” Lanny said. “I thought my chance at the Olympics was over, but now I’ve got a second chance and will do everything I can to bring honor to her and our country in Russia.”

It’s often said the Olympics are about more than medals, that they are about taking part, sportsmanship and fair play.

“The Olympics are about more than just winning gold, or even competing,” Tracy said. “They are about friendship, cooperation, sacrifice, and a whole host of other things. Lanny is my best friend and my teammate. I see how hard she works on a daily basis, so I know first hand that she is deserving of a spot on the Olympic Team. If I can be the one to give her that opportunity, than that is an honor and a sacrifice that I am willing to make.”

Mikaela Shiffrin wins World Cup slalom under the lights

Mikaela Shiffrin reinforced her Olympic favorite status by winning her second straight World Cup slalom event and third this season in Flachau, Austria, on Tuesday night.

Shiffrin, 18, conquered the course in a two-run time of 1 minute, 45.83 seconds, beating Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter by .83. Another Swede, Maria Pietilae-Holmner, was third.

Shiffrin led by a comfortable .90 after the first run in the early evening.

“The first run I really let it go and gave myself a little bit of a cushion for the second run,” said Shiffrin, now a seven-time World Cup race winner and $59,000 richer. “But second run I had a couple moves where I kind of hit the rut. I was like, ‘No, just stay the course!’ So I’m really psyched.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with a downhill and a super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Saturday and Sunday. The last slalom before the Olympics is in Maribor, Slovenia, on Feb. 2, five days before the Opening Ceremony.

“It’s nice to sing my national anthem a couple of races before the Olympics,” Shiffrin said. “Hopefully, I can keep it going.”

Shiffrin’s gold medal hopes wavered in late December, when Austrian Marlies Schild won two straight World Cup slaloms.

The Austrian Schild was fourth after the first run Tuesday and fell in her second run to finish 26th.

Schild, 32, owns the record for most career World Cup slalom wins and won the World Cup season title four times in six years before suffering a major right knee injury in December 2012.

Shiffrin, who lists Schild as an idol, took the reins from Schild and won the World Championship in February.

The American is guaranteed to be leading the World Cup slalom standings going into the Olympics no matter the results in Maribor.

“If I’m a medal contender, then that just means that I’m going to try to contend for a medal,” Shiffrin said. “When my nana tells me that my ski racing is keeping her alive, I think that’s more pressure than any race.”

Flachau Slalom
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) 1:45.83
2. Frida Hansdotter (SWE) 1:46.66
3. Maria Pietilae-Holmner (SWE) 1:46.97
4. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 1:47.23
5. Michaela Kirchgasser (AUT) 1:47.38
6. Nicole Hosp (AUT) 1:47.82
7. Nina Loeseth (NOR) 1:47.98
8. Kathrin Zettel (AUT) 1:47.99
8. Wendy Holdener (AUT) 1:47.99
10. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) 1:48.01

Judge: $765M might not cover NFL concussion claims

PHILADELPHIA (AP) A federal judge is slowing down the proposed $765 million settlement of NFL concussion claims, questioning if there's enough money to cover 20,000 retired players.

U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody denied preliminary approval of the plan on Tuesday because she's worried the money could run out sooner than expected. She also raised concerns that anyone who gets concussion damages from the NFL would be barred from suing the NCAA or other amateur football leagues.

"I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their (families) ... will be paid," the judge wrote.

The proposed settlement, negotiated over several months, is designed to last at least 65 years.

The awards would vary based on an ex-player's age and diagnosis. A younger retiree with Lou Gehrig's disease would get $5 million, those with serious dementia cases would get $3 million and an 80-year-old with early dementia would get $25,000. Retirees without symptoms would get baseline screening and follow-up care if needed.

"Even if only 10 percent of retired NFL football players eventually receive a qualifying diagnosis," the judge wrote, "it is difficult to see how the Monetary Award Fund would have the funds available over its lifespan to pay all claimants at these significant award levels."

She asked for more raw financial data before scheduling a fairness hearing this year, when objectors can question the plan. The objectors could later decide to opt out of it.

Law professor Gabe Feldman, who directs the sports law program at the Tulane University Law School, called the ruling a setback but said "there's no reason to panic."

"The question remains whether this gives pause to some of the retired players and makes them question whether this is a settlement they want to be a part of," he said.

Some critics said the NFL, with more than $9 billion in annual revenue, was getting away lightly. But the players' lawyers said they would face huge challenges just to get the case to trial. They would have to prove the injuries were linked to the players' NFL service and should not be handled through league arbitration. They could end up with nothing.

Sol Weiss, a lead lawyer for the ex-players, remained confident the class action settlement will ultimately be approved. He said he was confident "that there will be enough money to cover these claims for 65 years."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said league officials were "confident that the settlement is fair and adequate and look forward to demonstrating that to the court."

More than 4,500 former players have filed suit, some accusing the league of fraud for its handling of concussions. They include former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett and Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, who suffers from dementia.

The judge's hand-picked mediator, former federal judge Layn R. Phillips, led several months of negotiations last year and has called the deal fair to both sides.

The settlement would include $675 million for compensatory claims for players with neurological symptoms, $75 million for baseline testing for asymptomatic men and $10 million for medical research and education. The NFL also would pay an additional $112 million to the players' lawyers for their fees and expenses, for a total payout of nearly $900 million.

The NCAA clause is apparently designed to prevent plaintiffs from double dipping. Feldman said he was unsure why the NFL would insist on that.

Given the judge's ruling, the two sides could offer more evidence the fund would be stable, change the payout formula or perhaps have the NFL add more money to the pot. Otherwise, they may be left to start over.

"I think it's a pretty efficient way of doing things, rather than bring it up for the first time at the fairness hearing," Matt Mitten, who directs the National Sports Law Institute at the Marquette University Law School, said of the judge's opinion. "Some of these guys need the money right now."

Georgia hires FSU's Pruitt to head defense

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia coach Mark Richt moved quickly to name a new defensive coordinator, hiring Jeremy Pruitt from Florida State on Tuesday, only two days after losing Todd Grantham to Louisville.

Richt said he is "ecstatic" to add Pruitt to the Georgia staff. Pruitt has coached on three straight national championship teams at Alabama and Florida State.

Under Pruitt, undefeated Florida State led the nation in scoring defense, allowing 12.1 points per game, and ranked third in total defense while winning the national championship.

Pruitt also was Florida State's defensive backs coach, and the Seminoles ranked second in the nation in passing efficiency defense.

Pruitt, who was in Athens on Tuesday, said the move to Georgia "is an outstanding professional and personal opportunity."

"I'm looking forward to meeting the current players and getting on the road to visit with recruits," Pruitt said.

Georgia expects to return 10 starters on defense.

Pruitt already has a close relationship with at least one Georgia assistant coach. Pruitt began his playing career at Middle Tennessee State before transferring to Alabama, where he was roommates with Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend.

Georgia did not release terms of Pruitt's contract. Grantham was earning $850,000. Pruitt, 39, earned $500,000 in 2013 and was expected to receive a raise at Florida State.

Before moving to Florida State, Pruitt was the secondary coach at Alabama for three seasons, including the Crimson Tide's national championship teams in 2011 and 2012.

With the Feb. 5 national signing day only three weeks away, Richt moved quickly to hire Pruitt, who is known as a strong recruiter.

Pruitt produced instant results in his one season at Florida State.

"He taught us the ins and outs of everything," Florida State safety Terrence Brooks said recently. "Just the way to pursue to the ball, the way to go get the ball, everything you can think about in football he's taught us. He really broke the game down to us as to why we're running this type of defense.

"He makes you understand it so much better and I feel like everyone bought into it and that's why we're so successful."

Grantham was named Louisville's defensive coordinator on Sunday. He was the second defensive assistant to leave Georgia. Secondary coach Scott Lakatos resigned on Thursday, citing undisclosed personal reasons.

Under Grantham, Georgia's defense produced mixed results.

In 2011, the Bulldogs ranked fifth in the nation in total defense. His 2012 defense was packed with talented players, sending seven players to the 2013 NFL draft, but was perceived as underachieving.

Grantham had to rebuild the defense in 2013, when Georgia ranked only eighth in the Southeastern Conference in total defense and 78th in the nation in scoring defense. Georgia gave up 29 points per game to rank 78th in the nation as the Bulldogs finished 8-5.

Georgia did not announce if Pruitt will coach defensive backs at Georgia, as he did at Florida State. Pruitt is scheduled to meet with reporters in Athens on Wednesday.

The signature play of the 2013 season for Georgia's defense came in the Bulldogs' 43-38 loss to Auburn. Nick Marshall's 73-yard pass was deflected by Georgia defensive back Josh Harvey-Clemons and then caught by Ricardo Louis for the go-ahead touchdown with 25 seconds remaining.

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Associated Press Writer Kareem Copeland in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report.

Basketball star Farmer gets 2-plus years in prison

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) Richie Farmer left his rural upbringing to pursue basketball fame with the University of Kentucky and two terms as the state's agriculture commissioner, but it was a sense of entitlement that brought down his political career.

Farmer was sentenced Tuesday to more than two years in prison for abusing his public office, hiring friends and having them do little to no work and using state employees to build a basketball court at his home, prosecutors said.

Farmer will head to federal prison March 18 to being serving 27 months behind bars. U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove recommended that Farmer, 44, be allowed to serve his time at the minimum-security facility near his home in Manchester, the seat of Clay County in southern Kentucky where he grew up.

If the Bureau of Prisons allows the assignment, Farmer would be near his family, including three sons who are in or nearing their teenage years.

"It's pretty easy to be a hero to your kids when your jersey hangs in Rupp Arena," Van Tatenhove said. "Your chance to be a dad and a good dad to your kids is exponential because now you get to tell them what to do when you fail."

Farmer pleaded guilty in September to two counts of misappropriating government resources. He was also ordered to pay $120,500 in restitution.

Farmer was a shooting guard for the 1991-1992 team known as "The Unforgettables" for their gutsy play and for turning the Wildcats around after a couple of years on probation.

Both during the sentencing hearing and outside the courthouse, Farmer apologized but didn't talk specifically about what he had done.

"If you make bad decisions and poor judgments, you own up to them," he said.

The judge said Farmer's misdeeds ran wide and deep during his eight years in office.

"It's sad to read," Van Tatenhove said. "There is a sense of entitlement. There's greed ... kind of a culture of entitlement is not really understating it."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Taylor said the sentence will ensure the end of Farmer's political career.

"This sentence should speak more to others who might be disposed to do what he's done," Taylor said.

After the hearing, Farmer's attorney, J. Guthrie True, said everyone was glad the legal battle was over.

"He served our state quite well in many respects as commissioner of agriculture," True said. "He's accomplished a lot in life and he'll be able to accomplish more."

Prosecutors have outlined a wide-range of abuses by Farmer, including using state employees for personal business and keeping some items, such as laptops, small refrigerators and filing cabinets after leaving office in 2012.

As a high school standout, Farmer was named Kentucky's Mr. Basketball in 1988. He played shooting guard for Kentucky from 1988 to 1992, and had career averages of 7.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game.

The Wildcats' run in the NCAA Tournament ended in a regional final against Duke, a matchup often cited as the greatest college game ever played. The heavily favored Blue Devils survived an overtime thriller when Duke forward Christian Laettner caught a long pass near the free throw line, took one dribble and hit the jump shot at the buzzer to win the game.

It was Kentucky's first trip to the postseason after a two-year ban for NCAA infractions. Farmer and teammates Deron Feldhaus, Sean Woods, and John Pelphrey became well-known and their jerseys, including Farmer's No. 32, were retired.

Farmer had been a rising star within the Kentucky GOP until an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 2011 on a ticket with Republican state Senate President David Williams. They lost overwhelmingly to incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, in part because of the brewing scandal.

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Follow Associated Press reporter Brett Barrouquere on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBarrouquereAP

Harbaugh leads 49ers back to NFC championship

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Jim Harbaugh pirouetted in frustration following a personal foul on Dan Skuta. He got hit with his own unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing following a catch by Vernon Davis that went to review before being ruled a touchdown.

And that was just last Sunday.

Harbaugh has been at his emotional best - or, to some, worst - with his cartoon-like faces and quirky sideline antics in leading San Francisco back to the NFC championship game for the third time in as many years since taking over as 49ers head coach in January 2011. On Davis' TD during Sunday's 23-10 win at Carolina, Harbaugh ran well onto the field during the play.

"I think Harbaugh gets away with murder myself," former Seahawks coach and ex-49ers assistant Mike Holmgren said. "If I ever did that it would be a penalty."

Harbaugh should be as charged up as ever come Sunday, when he faces off once more against the rival Seattle Seahawks in an NFC championship game featuring that familiar coaching sideshow with Pete Carroll. This time, there's a Super Bowl berth on the line.

But if you ask Harbaugh, "What's your deal?" is so five years ago. Enough already, he insists, keep it about the players.

"That might have been something four or five years ago," Harbaugh said. "But, I haven't seen it as of late. And, it would be as irrelevant now as it would have been then when people made a bigger deal out of it. So, irrelevant, irrelevant."

Sorry, not this week. There's no avoiding such chatter. Harbaugh has to expect that infamous phrase to come up often.

It dates back to their college days coaching in the Pac-10 Conference. In 2009, Harbaugh and No. 25 Stanford ran up the score on 11th-ranked USC in a surprising 55-21 rout, even attempting a 2-point conversion with the game way out of reach - prompting Carroll's infamous "What's your deal?" when they met afterward at midfield.

Whatever their past or perceived differences, Harbaugh knows what to expect every time a Carroll-coached team takes the field.

The Seahawks ended San Francisco's two-year reign as NFC West champion.

"It's hard to get to this position," Harbaugh said. "Talking about a year of preparation and planning and offseason and training camp and games. And they did it better than anybody did it this entire season. So, a great task, great challenge ahead of us."

The 49ers have already accomplished plenty this postseason by winning in the bitter cold of Green Bay and at Carolina. Harbaugh is the first coach in the Super Bowl era to reach the NFC championship in each of his first three years.

Place kicker Phil Dawson wanted to be part of the winning vibe after 14 mostly disappointing years with Cleveland. Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey left Kansas City to join a team with Harbaugh at the helm.

Even if Dorsey's first impressions of the coach left him shaking his head.

"I noticed what everybody else noticed: a coach going crazy on the sideline having fun," Dorsey recalled. "Always pumped up and always getting his team hyped. He works hard, even now being on the inside seeing him every day and how he goes about doing his job, the enthusiasm that he has and the motivational stuff that he has, the knowledge that he has. He's a great coach."

Dawson appreciates how Harbaugh takes chances in the kicking game based on his trust in the veteran - and it certainly didn't hurt that Dawson converted a franchise-record 27 straight field goals until the streak ended in the regular-season finale at Arizona.

The 50-year-old Harbaugh, a 15-year NFL quarterback himself, regularly moves around the team plane to visit with players about football and life. He shares meals with rookies and veterans alike on occasion in the team cafeteria.

"He's the kind of coach you want to win for," Dawson said. "There's a special satisfaction with having a relationship with the head coach. Being a place kicker, on a lot of teams the head coach never even speaks to the kicker. He's around, he gets it, he's been there. He's sat in those seats. I think it's probably one of the biggest reasons he's successful is his ability to communicate with the guys and relate to them on their level and be able to instill whatever it is he's trying to instill in a way that guys will receive it."

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AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Renton, Wash., contributed to this report.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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