Under Armour to sponsor '09 scouting combine

The Baltimore Sun

Under Armour will serve as the presenting sponsor of the NFL's 2009 scouting combine, the league will announce today.

Under the deal, players will wear Under Armour apparel made for the event as they audition for NFL scouts in anticipation of the 2009 draft. Under Armour signs will also appear around Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the combine will be held from Feb. 18 to 24.

The combine is broadcast on the NFL Network.

The new deal is the latest in a growing relationship between the league and the Baltimore-based apparel company. Under Armour is one of three licensed shoe providers for the NFL and has sponsorship deals with players such as Ray Lewis, former Maryland star Vernon Davis and linebacker A.J. Hawk of the Green Bay Packers.

"We're proud of what we've been able to accomplish with the NFL in a short period of time, and we want to continue to provide participants with state-of-the-art performance apparel in what could be the most important moment of their lives - their performance at the NFL combine," Kevin Plank, Under Armour CEO and chairman, said in a statement.

Under Armour is smart to expand the relationship to a draft-related event, said Shawn McBride, vice president of sports marketing at Ketchum, a marketing communications agency. "It increases their presence at a time of year that many avid NFL fans have circled on their calendar," he said.

Photos and video of players in Under Armour apparel will trickle into all formats of sports media, he noted. "It will increase the perception that elite-level athletes wear Under Armour," McBride said.

Under Armour declined to provide financial details of the agreement. CHILDS WALKER

Vick: : Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick plans to plead guilty to state dogfighting charges in Virginia, a step that could allow him to qualify for an early release from federal prison and into a halfway house, court papers show. In a motion filed Oct. 15 in Surry County Circuit Court, Vick's attorneys asked to have him enter his plea by video teleconference. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Oct. 30, Surry County Circuit Court administrator Sally Neblett said. In a statement, Vick attorneys Billy Martin and Lawrence Woodward said their client "is committed to taking responsibility for his actions. He is hopeful that, through this motion, the trial court will allow him to finally resolve these matters and put the charges behind him so that he can begin to focus on his future and to prepare to be reunited with his family."

Patriots: : Rodney Harrison's career is almost certainly over after the hard-hitting but injury-hampered safety tore his right thigh muscle. "It appears as though the rehab could take eight to 10 months," a person familiar with the injury told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the team has not made an official announcement. "For all intents and purposes, his career is over," the person, who confirmed the nature of the injury, said in an e-mail. Harrison, a 15-year veteran, two-time Pro Bowl player and two-time Super Bowl champion, tore the quadriceps without being hit while chasing Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler in Monday's 41-7 win.

Browns: : Cleveland suspended tight end Kellen Winslow for one game without pay for critical comments he made after Sunday's loss at Washington. Winslow spent three days at the Cleveland Clinic this month with a staph infection. He said the team, which has had at least six known cases of staph in the past three years, asked him to hide his illness. Winslow will miss Sunday's game against the Jaguars, which will cost him $235,294.

Cowboys: : Tony Romo will miss his second straight game because of his fractured right pinkie, and he did not sound confident he would be able to return before Dallas' Nov. 9 bye week. The quarterback made the announcement on wide receiver Terrell Owens' radio show. Brad Johnson will start Sunday against Tampa Bay. "Brad is going to go this week unless something happens that I don't foresee," Romo said. "It will be very difficult to change. Right now we've got to get two wins going into the bye and go from there."

Chiefs: : Coach Herm Edwards hinted that running back Larry Johnson, under NFL investigation for allegedly assaulting a woman, could be benched for a second straight game regardless of what the league decides. Police are looking into the allegations, and Chiefs president Carl Peterson acknowledged that the league has also taken the matter under investigation. ... Kansas City released kicker Nick Novak (Maryland) and signed Connor Barth as his replacement.

Vikings: : Minnesota re-signed linebacker Erin Henderson (Maryland, Aberdeen) and waived linebacker Rufus Alexander.

49ers: : Mike Singletary replaced his coaching mentor with a vow to build on what Mike Nolan started. "Right now, the guys realize that we do have something here," Singletary said. "To what degree, I don't know, but we do have something special here." Nolan, like Singletary a former Ravens assistant, was fired Monday.

Saints: : Reggie Bush had surgery on his left knee Monday, and it's unclear when the running back will return. Aaron Stecker or Pierre Thomas will be called on to play alongside Deuce McAllister in the backfield.

Et cetera: : Steelers safety Troy Polamalu hasn't been ruled out for Sunday despite suffering the seventh concussion of his career last weekend. ... Fullback Kyle Eckel (Navy) signed a two-year contract with the Eagles, who released safety J.R. Reed.

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