Dolphins' Pennington wins comeback award
For the second time in three years, quarterback Chad Pennington won the Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. The Miami Dolphins standout is the first player in the 11 seasons of the award to win it twice. "It's pretty special," he said yesterday. This time, Pennington was coming back from being benched by the Jets last season, then discarded this past summer when New York acquired Brett Favre. Two years ago, Pennington returned from two rotator cuff operations in eight months and led the Jets to the playoffs to grab comeback honors. The Dolphins, who improved from 1-15 last season to 11-5 this season, needed to lean on Pennington not only as a passer, but also as a leader. It resulted in an AFC East championship, Miami's first since 2000. The Dolphins will host the Ravens on Sunday. Pennington received 19 of 50 votes from a nationwide panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. For voting results, see For the Record below.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: : Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo was a nearly unanimous choice for the AP award, earning 49 of 50 votes. He led was the outstanding performer, leading the team in tackles, on a linebacking corps that often struggled during New England's 11-5 season. For voting results, see For the Record below.
Browns:: Owner Randy Lerner interviewed Scott Pioli, the Patriots' vice president of player personnel, to be his general manager. It is not known whether Lerner offered the job to Pioli, who has been coach Bill Belichick's right-hand man with New England for the past nine years. On Tuesday, Lerner met with fired Jets coach Eric Mangini in the New York area about his coaching vacancy. Picking up the pieces of a 4-12 season that ended with the firings of coach Romeo Crennel and GM Phil Savage, Lerner spent the final hours of 2008 meeting with the men who might take over his team. Lerner has also set up interviews with Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz (Mount St. Joseph) and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Broncos: : They were best friends as much as employee and boss. Nothing told that story better than the tears in the eyes of Pat Bowlen and Mike Shanahan as they talked about their sad farewell. "This is as tough as it gets," Bowlen, the team's owner, said, his eyes moist, as he explained his day-old decision to fire the coach who finally brought the Super Bowl trophy to Denver. "These are tough decisions, but that's what leaders do," Shanahan said, also trying to choke back tears. They held separate news conferences, back-to-back. Bowlen said he fired Shanahan after 14 seasons because he believed it was time for a change.
Et cetera:: 49ers coach Mike Singletary, a former Ravens assistant, announced the firings of quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and running backs coach Tony Nathan, also a former Ravens assistant. Singletary dismissed offensive coordinator Mike Martz on Tuesday. ... The Cowboys fired special teams coach Bruce Read, making him the first assistant ousted in the wake of a disappointing 9-7 season. ... The Lions are interested in speaking to Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier for their vacant coaching job, Minnesota coach Brad Childress confirmed.
Free-agent reliever Brian Fuentes and the Los Angeles Angels reached agreement on a two-year, $17.5 million deal, giving the American League West champions a replacement for closer Francisco Rodriguez. Fuentes will get $8.5 million next season and $9 million in 2010. There's a club option for $9 million in 2011. "He should solidify the back part of our bullpen," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. Fuentes, a left-hander, 33, was a three-time National League All-Star who went 1-5 with 30 saves in 34 chances and a 2.73 ERA for the Colorado Rockies this past season. Rodriguez had 62 saves for the Angels this season to break Bobby Thigpen's single-season record of 57. Rodriguez signed a three-year, $37 million contract with the New York Mets three weeks ago.
Indians-Cubs: : Cleveland acquired infielder Mark DeRosa in a trade that sent three minor leaguers to Chicago. The Indians traded pitchers Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer and John Gaub for DeRosa, who will likely slide into Cleveland's opening at third base. DeRosa, 33, hit a career-high 21 homers and drove in 87 runs last season in 149 games while playing six positions for the NL Central champions.
More Cubs: : The team and infielder Aaron Miles agreed on a two-year, $4.9 million contract. Miles, a switch-hitter, batted .317 with four homers and 31 RBIs in 134 games for the Cardinals last season.
Paterno plans to coach from press box today
Still recovering from hip surgery, Penn State coach Joe Paterno, 82, plans to run his team from the press box today in Pasadena, Calif., when the No. 6 Nittany Lions face No. 5 Southern California in the 95th Rose Bowl. Paterno had hoped to coach from the sideline, but he realized it's not the prudent way to go. "I wish we'd all get off this fact of where I'm going to be," he said. "These kids, it's a one time in their lifetime for so many of them." Paterno coached the final seven games of the season from the press box and then had surgery Nov. 23.
Alabama: : Coach Nick Saban hasn't ruled out the possibility of All-America left tackle Andre Smith returning for his senior season. Saban suspended the Outland Trophy winner for tomorrow night's Sugar Bowl against Utah after alleged dealings with a sports agent. Also, an NCAA spokeswoman said the governing body has spoken with university officials and determined it is an internal matter.
North Alabama: : Ex-Auburn coach Terry Bowden, the son of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, is returning to coaching at the Division II school. He replaces Mark Hudspeth, who left to become an assistant at Mississippi State.
PGA Tour suspends Daly for six months
John Daly has been suspended for six months by the PGA Tour for conduct that brought unwelcome publicity, including a night in a North Carolina jail to sober up. "Is it fair that I got suspended? It's not fair in reality, but it's probably fair in perception," he told the AP. This is the second time the tour has suspended the two-time major champion, along with at least two other times he agreed to take time off to get his life in order. Daly, 42, called this the lowest point in his wild 18-year career. He has not played on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut Oct. 17 in Las Vegas. Ten days later, police in Winston-Salem, N.C., said he appeared intoxicated outside a Hooters restaurant, and he was taken to jail to sleep it off. That led to a photo of Daly in an orange jail suit with his eyes half-open. Daly said he would continue playing the PGA European Tour.
College basketball:: North Carolina State women's coach Kay Yow was out for a third straight game, her team's 61-58 home win over Georgetown, because of health issues. The Hall of Fame coach, 66, is battling a recurrence of the breast cancer she first was diagnosed with in 1987.
NHL:: Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron, who hasn't played since suffering a concussion Dec. 20, was put on injured reserve and will miss at least another week.