Patriots Lose Curtis Martin to Parcells

From Staff and Wire Reports

The New England Patriots conceded another player to Bill Parcells on Wednesday when the team declined to match the New York Jets' $36-million, six-year offer to star running back Curtis Martin.

Instead, the Patriots took the consolation prize--they now have the Jets' first three picks in next month's draft. New England got the Jets' first and third picks for Martin. The second pick came in the agreement that allowed Parcells to go from the Patriots to the Jets a year ago.

"We had an emotional attachment to Curtis," Patriot owner Robert Kraft said of Martin, who has gained more than 1,000 yards in each of his first three years in the league. "But we're going to take the draft picks and let him move on."

Martin sat out the last six games of the season because of injuries, but gained 1,160 yards in 274 carries. Adrian Murrell was the Jets' top rusher last season with 1,086 yards in 300 carries.

The Jets, who signed free-agent running back Keith Byars away from New England last month, were pleased with the acquisition.

"We know the price was high, but we think we got good value in return," Parcells said. "When I look at the draft and the 18th spot, I look to see if I can get a better player than Curtis Martin, and I don't think that I can."

The Patriots think that with six picks in the first 82 of the draft they can find a quality running back. They also will pursue veteran free agents like Chris Warren of Seattle; Gary Brown, who played for San Diego last season, and Rodney Hampton of the New York Giants.

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A fire struck the $3.2-million home of Troy Aikman in Plano, Texas, just a few weeks after the Dallas Cowboy quarterback had moved in. He was not home at the time and there were no injuries.

The 12,000-square-foot home had taken nearly 2 1/2 years to build and was finished about two months ago. Damages were estimated at $250,000.

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The Detroit Lions acquired linebacker Rob Fredrickson from the Oakland Raiders for a fourth-round draft pick.

Tennis

Anna Kournikova of Russia extended her winning streak against top-10 players by beating No. 2 Lindsay Davenport, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, in a quarterfinal match of the Lipton Championships at Key Biscayne, Fla.

Kournikova, 16, eliminated No. 5 Monica Seles and No. 9 Conchita Martinez of Spain earlier in the tournament. She'll face another top-10 opponent in the semifinals today--No. 8 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain, who defeated Jana Novotna, 6-1, 6-1.

"She's getting a lot more consistent with her shots than she used to be," Davenport said. "She hits the ball hard, and she's an aggressive player. When she's not making errors, she's going to be tough to beat."

Playing before a crowd of about 8,000 on stadium court, Kournikova wore down Davenport. Three games from the finish, Davenport threw her racket into the net and then kicked it--a rare display of temper from the mild-mannered Californian.

In the men's quarterfinals, Marcelo Rios closed within two victories of the No. 1 ranking by beating Thomas Enqvist, who hurt his wrist and retired trailing 6-3, 2-0. If Rios wins the tournament, he'll end Pete Sampras' 102-week reign at No. 1.

The Chilean's opponent Friday will be Englishman Tim Henman, who advanced to his first ATP Tour semifinal on U.S. soil by beating French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil, 6-2, 6-4.

French qualifier Sebastian Grosjean, 19, upset seventh-seeded Jordi Burillo of Spain, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5, in the Grand Prix Hassan II at Casablanca, Morocco, which opens the European clay-court season.

Baseball

Costa Rica has yet to notify the Bahamas that it will accept four Cuban baseball defectors being held in a Bahamian detention camp, a senior immigration official said.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Fernando Naranjo said Tuesday his country was prepared to grant the players' request for humanitarian visas.

"We are not aware of that statement. There's been nothing in writing," said Vernon Burrows, the Bahamas' deputy director of immigration.

As with all undocumented migrants, Burrows said, "until we are assured of their being able to enter a country with documents, we won't allow them to leave."

Cuban national team players Angel Lopez, Jorge Luis Toca and Jorge Diaz, junior Olympian Michael Jova and pitching coach Enrique Chinea fled Cuba by boat last Friday with five companions. They were picked up by a Bahamian fishing boat and turned over to Bahamian authorities.

The players requested asylum in Costa Rica, where under U.S. baseball rules they would be considered free agents eligible to negotiate lucrative U.S. contracts.

Names in the News

Roy Jones Jr., who plans to seek a heavyweight title, will first settle the dispute over who is king of the light-heavyweights. Jones, a former International Boxing Federation middleweight and super-middleweight champion, will face former World Boxing Assn. and IBF light-heavyweight champion Virgil Hill at Biloxi, Miss., on April 25.

Claudia Poll of Costa Rica, the Olympic and world champion in the 200-meter freestyle, won her specialty and the 800-meter freestyle at a short-course World Cup swimming event at Imperia, Italy. She swam the 200 in 1 minute, 58.45 seconds, well off her world record of 1:54.17. She was timed in 8:32.40 in the 800. Sandra Volker of Germany won two sprint events, the 50 freestyle in 24.98 and the 50 backstroke in 28.19. Four-time Olympic champion Alexander Popov of Russia won the men's 100 freestyle in 48.69 seconds.

Miscellany

Kristina Koznick of Burnsville, Minn., won the slalom title for the fourth consecutive year in the U.S. Alpine championships at Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Koznick, who recorded one victory and two runner-up finishes on the World Cup circuit this season, had a second run of 48.73 seconds, more than a second quicker than any other racer. She finished with a combined time for two runs of 1 minute, 37.22 seconds.

Sacha Gros of Vail, Colo., won the men's slalom.

Chinese swimmers who test positive for steroids will be banned for life under new rules adopted by Chinese officials, according to the international swimming federation. FINA, in its monthly newsletter published Wednesday, said China had decided to toughen its stance against banned performance-enhancing substances after a series of drug scandals involving its swimmers.

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