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Former players sue NFL over brain injuries

Jamal Lewis, Dorsey Levens and two other former NFL players have sued the league over brain injuries that they say left them struggling with medical problems years after their playing days ended.

Lewis and Levens, along with Fulton Kuykendall and Ryan Stewart, filed the lawsuit against the National Football League and NFL Properties LLC this week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

The players maintain the NFL knew as early as the 1920s of the potential for concussions to harm its players but only went public last year.

“The NFL has done everything in its power to hide the issue and mislead players concerning the risks associated with concussions,” the players argue in the lawsuit.

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“While athletes in other professional sports who had suffered concussions were being effectively ‘shut down’ for long periods of time or full seasons, NFL protocol was to return players who had suffered concussions to the very game in which the injury occurred,” the lawsuit states.

The NFL responded that it has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so.

“Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit,” the league said in a statement to the Associated Press on Thursday. “It stands in contrast to the league’s actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”

Each of the four ex-players had long careers in the NFL. Their lawsuit is one of about a half-dozen suits filed against the NFL in recent months by past players who say the league did not do enough to protect them from concussions.

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Lewis, 32, is a former running back for the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns whose 10-year career ended in 2009. Levens, who is 41, also was a running back, playing 11 seasons until his career ended in 2003. Kuykendall, a former linebacker who is 58, played in the NFL between 1974 and 1985. And Stewart, 38, was a safety for the Detroit Lions for five seasons ending in 2000.

The men claim a range of medical problems stemming from their playing days, including memory loss, headaches and sleeplessness.

They are seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

Carlos Beltran, Cardinals agree to two-year deal

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Carlos Beltran and the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a two-year contract pending results of a physical, a move that would fortify the team’s lineup following the departure of Albert Pujols.

KMOX, the Cardinals’ flagship radio station, reported the deal is for $26 million over two years — the same figure cited by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke to the Associated Press.

The 34-year-old Beltran batted .300 with 22 home runs, 84 RBIs and a .385 on-base percentage for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants this year. He is expected to be the opening-day right fielder for the Cardinals next season. Lance Berkman is expected to move to first base, taking Pujols’ spot.

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Right-hander Jason Marquis has agreed to a one-year, $3-million deal with the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins announced the move Thursday.

The 33-year-old Marquis went 8-5 with a 3.95 ERA for the Washington Nationals last season before being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 30. Marquis went 0-1 with a 9.53 ERA in three starts for Arizona.

Marquis missed the last month and a half of the season with a broken right fibula after being hit by a line drive.

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Barry Bonds is appealing his felony obstruction conviction.

His attorneys paid $455 and filed a one-sentence notice to the federal trial court late Wednesday, saying that Bonds was asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal to toss out his conviction. The case will be randomly assigned to a three-judge panel later.

Bonds was sentenced Friday to 30 days of house arrest, two-years of probation and a $4,000 fine. But U.S. District Judge Susan Illston delayed imposition until the appeal is resolved.

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Bonds was convicted of giving an evasive answer to a grand jury investigating a Northern California-based steroids distribution ring.

IndyCar releases 2012 schedule

The Izod IndyCar Series finally released its full schedule for 2012 — sort of.

The series listed 15 races starting with a street race in St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 25 and ending with a new night race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Sept. 15.

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But IndyCar Chief Executive Randy Bernard said Thursday, “We are exploring adding additional events to the 2012 schedule.”

“We’re in the process of confirming a 16th event while also considering adding a 17th race to the calendar,” he said in a statement without identifying the possible venues.

In the current 15-race schedule there are races on only four oval tracks — at Fontana, Texas Motor Speedway (June 9), Iowa Speedway (June 23) and the famed Indianapolis 500 (May 27). And all of those races except the Indy 500 will take place at night.

Three of IndyCar’s races also are in California: At Fontana, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (April 15) and at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma (Aug. 26).

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IndyCar’ schedule also includes a new street race in China on Aug. 19.

— Jim Peltz

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Former champion Kurt Busch said Thursday he plans to drive for the small team of Phoenix Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next year.

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Busch, 33, was seeking a new ride because he parted ways with Penske Racing after a tumultuous 2011 season.

Phoenix Racing, owned by James Finch, fields the No. 51 Chevrolet that mostly was driven by 22-year-old Landon Cassill this year. The team has one Sprint Cup victory to its credit, at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama in 2009 with Brad Keselowski at the wheel. Keselowski now drives for Penske as well.

“I’m very happy to join Phoenix Racing and, after entertaining a lot of quality offers, there’s no better place for me,” said Busch, who won the Cup title in 2004, in a statement. Finch said “with Kurt Busch as our driver, we have a shot to win every week.”

Busch has 24 Cup victories in his career, including two this last season.

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— Jim Peltz

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Dewayne Russell, a senior point guard at Peoria (Ariz.) High School, committed to USC on Thursday while the 5-foot-10 guard was on campus for a visit, he said in a phone interview.

“It just feel like it’s a good fit for me,” said Russell, a four-year starter who is averaging 28.5 points, 5.6 assist, 5.1 steals and 3.3 rebounds this season for the 11-0 Panthers.

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Russell is eligible to sign as early as April 11, the first day of the spring signing period.

He’s poised to join forward Strahinja Gavrilovic and guard J.T. Terrell next season at USC.

— Baxter Holmes


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