National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

AP source: Gordon to meet with league Aug. 1

CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns may soon learn whether they'll have Josh Gordon this season.

The Pro Bowl wide receiver will have an appeal hearing with NFL officials in New York on Aug. 1, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press on Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

The game-breaking playmaker is facing a possible one-year ban for violating the league's substance abuse policy for at least the third time. Gordon, who had a history of marijuana abuse in college, was suspended for the first two games last season. He still led the NFL with 1,646 yards receiving.

The 23-year-old player is expected to report to training camp Friday and he'll be on the field Saturday as the Browns have their first practice under new coach Mike Pettine.

According to reports, Gordon recently checked himself into rehab following an arrest in North Carolina. ESPN's Adam Shefter said Gordon spent two weeks at a facility in California.

The Browns have been patiently waiting for a resolution on Gordon's playing status, and his uncertain future has left a cloud over the team. The Browns first learned of a potential extended suspension on the second day of the NFL draft in May. The ESPN report doused the optimism created after the Browns, who have had only two winning seasons since 1999, drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel.

On Wednesday, Pettine told the AP he's not consumed with worry about whether he'll have Gordon.

"The frustration has really faded," Pettine said. "It's just something that's there. It's equivalent of having that file folder with all the answers in it and it's sitting there ready to go. It's just got a lot of dust. We're just waiting to hear from the league and we'll act accordingly."

If Gordon loses his appeal, he could be banned by Commissioner Roger Goodell for a minimum of one year. He would then have to apply for re-instatement.

Gordon has complicated his case with two recent legal infractions. He was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated after speeding down a street in Raleigh, North Carolina, last month. In May, he was ticketed for speeding in Ohio, and a passenger in his car was cited for marijuana possession.

Pettine said the Browns have no plans to release Gordon. The team intends to support him and give him any help he may need.

"Josh is a Cleveland Brown and we want what's best for him and we want what's best for us," Pettine said. "He's smart. He's bright. He's creative. He's a guy that in a lot of ways that you root for."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Blake Griffin withdraws from US national team

LOS ANGELES (AP) Blake Griffin has withdrawn from playing for the U.S. national basketball team this summer.

The Los Angeles Clippers star was one of 19 players selected to the roster from which the World Cup team will be chosen.

Griffin said Thursday that he wants to dedicate all his energy on improving and preparing for the upcoming NBA season.

Griffin joins Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook in not participating. Westbrook dropped out to rest previous knee injuries.

The Americans begin training camp Monday in Las Vegas, a month before the World Cup of Basketball opens in Spain.

Punished Priefer: 'I went way below the bar'

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings could hardly hold training camp without some kind of controversy or sideshow.

This version came with quite the twist: special teams coordinator Mike Priefer in the spotlight.

As players unpacked their vehicles carrying necessities and diversions for the three-week stay at Minnesota State University, signing autographs for clamoring purple-clad fans in this annual rite of reporting day, the usual prominent figures stepped to a makeshift podium for questions from the media outside the team's temporary residence.

This time, Priefer and long snapper Cullen Loeffler were among the interview subjects.

Strange, yes, but part of the process following former punter Chris Kluwe's complaint that Priefer taunted him two years ago with homophobic language. The Vikings commissioned an outside investigation that lasted six months and last week announced a three-game suspension for Priefer.

An unsatisfied Kluwe vowed a lawsuit, but his attorney has held off on filing it while continuing to talk with the team's lawyer about a settlement.

"In this situation, with my comment, I've failed. I didn't just go below the bar. I went way below the bar. I made a mistake. I was wrong. I brought a lot of undue attention to the Minnesota Vikings organization and brought an unwanted distraction, and I apologize," Priefer said.

According to a summary of the report released by the Vikings, Loeffler corroborated to the investigators Kluwe's claim that Priefer made a vicious anti-gay remark in their presence. Priefer was trying to agitate Kluwe, who became a supporter for same-sex marriage rights as Minnesota considered in 2012 a constitutional amendment to ban it. The amendment was voted down.

Loeffler said he never believed Priefer was being serious that day at practice.

"I always thought it was a joke. They both laughed about it," Loeffler said.

Kluwe and Loeffler were friends during their eight years together on the team, but Loeffler said Thursday he has not spoken with Kluwe since the outspoken ex-punter revealed in January his allegations of a bigoted atmosphere around the team and claimed he was cut prior to last season for his views and advocacy.

As for having to testify to the investigators against his position coach, Loeffler denied any hesitancy or awkwardness.

"I just told the truth, as the Vikings wanted me to tell the truth. They've been supportive throughout the process and it wasn't hard for me at all," he said.

General manager Rick Spielman clarified that Priefer's suspension will take effect with the start of the regular season, and he won't be allowed at team headquarters during that time.

Priefer will take sensitivity training classes through an outside firm during the first week of his ban, and the team will decide whether or not to reduce his punishment to two games.

Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer have been considering options for fulfilling Priefer's responsibilities while he's away, but they weren't ready to reveal the plan. Spielman said the suspension came directly from owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf.

"I can't tell you how much I respect him, not only as a family man and as a person but also as a football coach. He's made a mistake and he owned up to that mistake and he's going to serve his suspension, and then we're going to move on," Spielman said.

Neither Spielman nor Zimmer answered directly whether they considered firing Priefer, before or after the investigation was complete.

Priefer initially denied making the remark, but he relented in a subsequent interview with the investigators. Neither Spielman nor Zimmer expressed any concern about Priefer's dishonesty.

"I've had a chance to visit with Mike Priefer on numerous occasions, almost every single day, to find out what kind of person he is. I knew his father. I know what kind of family guy is. He made a mistake. So I just go by what I see. I don't go by what I hear," Zimmer said.

Priefer's voice seemed to crack at one point during his session with reporters: "I feel like I let my family down," he said.

The coach declined to speak about other issues pertaining to the investigation, including Kluwe's claim that he made multiple homophobic remarks. Priefer said he hoped his news conference was the beginning of a rebuilding of his credibility. He also said he wasn't worried about losing his job.

"I learned a hard lesson. I've got to be sensitive to other people in what I say, and that's not going to happen again," Priefer said.

Football was still at least part of the theme Thursday, with players required to pass a conditioning test in order to be cleared for the first practice Friday.

"It's a distraction today, but tomorrow, I'll be focused on football," Zimmer said.

Star running back Adrian Peterson was eager for Zimmer's first camp.

"I expect it to be tough. He's a hard-headed guy, and he expects the best from us," Peterson said.

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AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Twins trade 1B Kendrys Morales to Mariners

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Kendrys Morales is on his way back to Seattle to try and give the Mariners' struggling offense a boost as they chase a playoff spot.

The Minnesota Twins traded Morales to the Mariners on Thursday for minor-league pitcher Stephen Pryor. Morales hit 23 home runs and drove in 80 runs for the Mariners last season, but turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from Seattle to become a free agent.

"He's a professional hitter," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He gives us the opportunity to stretch out our lineup, so to speak. He's a nice fit, switch-hitter, hitting behind Robbie (Cano).

"He gives us options, what we want to do with (Kyle) Seager, where we want to hit him," McClendon said. "I like it."

Morales sat out the first two months of the season while searching for a new deal, signing a pro-rated $12 million contract with the Twins on June 8. But he hit .234 with 11 doubles, one homer and 18 RBIs in 39 games with the Twins, who have faded from contention in the AL Central.

The Mariners, who started the day with a half-game lead for the second wild-card spot in the AL, are hoping a return to Safeco Field could help Morales rediscover his swing. Seattle has the best ERA in the majors, but the Mariners offense is 14th in the American League in runs scored.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said missing spring training and the first two months of the season has had an impact on Morales' slow start. He believes he's close to his hitting stride.

"I don't think there is any question about that," Zduriencik said. "I thought it was interesting that he went right to the big leagues but that plays a part in the negotiations.

"Nevertheless, when you look at where he's at right now, we know what Kendrys is, we know his career as a hitter, we know what he did here and now that he's in a pennant race and technically has spring training under his belt - he did it at the major league level - I think we all feel that Kendrys is going to hit his stride and be the Kendrys Morales we all know," he added.

Morales was signed by the Twins to be the everyday designated hitter, but he played a lot of first base while filling in for the injured Joe Mauer.

"I think he was a good teammate. I think he was a good influence on some of the players in this clubhouse. He got off to a surprisingly quick start and then cooled off, of course," Twins GM Terry Ryan said. "We gave it a shot. Obviously, our club hasn't responded."

In the first sign that the Twins are starting to look at selling some of their veteran pieces to retool for next season, they acquired the 25-year-old Pryor in the exchange. Pryor has appeared in 34 games for the Mariners since 2012, posting a 2.81 ERA. He will report to Triple-A Rochester.

Pryor, who once regularly had his pitches clocked at 100 mph, started this season on the disabled list after having surgery to repair a torn right latissimus dorsi muscle. He made one appearance for the Mariners this season. He was 2-2 record with a 5.71 ERA in 34 2-3 innings for Triple-A Tacoma this season.

The Twins also recalled infielder Jorge Polanco from Class A Fort Myers.

Pucker up! NASCAR returns to Brickyard

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Dale Jarrett loved his win so much he had to celebrate it with a kiss.

His impromptu smooch with the bricks in 1996 has blossomed into a tradition for drivers of all series when they win at the famed Brickyard. It's time to pucker up again: NASCAR runs its 21st Sprint Cup race Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Jarrett started a love affair that lasts to this day, and has crossed racing series all the way to the Indianapolis 500. Back in '96, Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott kneeled down and planted a big ol' kiss on the bricks that serve as the start-finish line at the venerable speedway.

"It's something I would like to take all the credit for," said Jarrett, who also won in 1999.

Winners of the Indy 500 usually drink milk after the race. Jarrett and Parrott had discussed the idea for a new celebration at a track steeped in history should they win the race. But by the time Jarrett grabbed the checkered flag in only NASCAR's second year at the track, he forgot about sealing the win with a kiss.

Like a good crew chief, Parrott again made the right call.

"Todd grabbed me and said, `Hey, remember what we talked about?' It wasn't until then that I remembered that we were going to do something a little different," Jarrett said. "We hadn't told any of the crew or anything like that. So we just told them to follow us and went out and had our time on the yard of bricks."

And now, every driver from Ryan Newman (last year's Brickyard winner) to Ryan Hunter-Reay (this year's Indy 500 winner) kneel down and plant one on the row of bricks.

"It's pretty cool now to see that every race winner and their teams," Jarrett said. "Of course it's a lot more orchestrated now than what it was at that time because we took everybody by surprise. But to even see the guys that win the Indy 500 go out and be a part of it, it's pretty cool to know you started a tradition that will probably carry on for a long time."

It's just a small slice of what makes racing at Indy so special. The Brickyard may not be the marquee race to win on NASCAR's schedule - the Daytona 500 is still No. 1 - but it's close.

"It's definitely the biggest win of my career," said Ricky Rudd, the 1997 winner. "I was never fortunate enough to be able to win at Daytona. I'd probably put them in that order, Daytona out front. Right in there would be Indy. If I wasn't able to win Daytona, at least I got Indy."

NASCAR first kicked the tires of running in Indianapolis in the early 1990s. By 1992, the stock car series was ready to take a dip in the Indy pool with two days of tire testing. An estimated 30,000 fans at the speedway chanted "we want a race" as the cars roared from the pit past a hand-lettered sign, "Indy fans love NASCAR."

In 1993, former IMS President Tony George extended the official invitation for NASCAR to come aboard.

On Aug. 4, 1994, NASCAR hit the track for its first practice on the 2 1/2-mile track. Cup veteran Ken Schrader was the first driver to complete a lap. Greg Sacks was the first to bring out a yellow flag as his engine burst just minutes into the opening session.

Tim Steele became the first to crunch his car against the speedway's concrete walls in an official practice.

So it began - and there was no turning back. IMS later added Formula One, Grand-Am, and motorcycles to the racing schedule.

The Indy 500 is still the undisputed king race of the track. But NASCAR sure has made it known stock cars have as much a place at the track as a nice swig of milk.

"It's the win that keeps coming," said 2000 winner Bobby Labonte. "You haven't been forgotten. I'll just put it this way: I don't have many trophies in my house, there's like two, and one is the Brickyard trophy. Kind of shows you where I put that, if that makes sense to you."

It sure does to any driver in NASCAR.

Canadiens agree to 4-year deal with Lars Eller

MONTREAL (AP) The Montreal Canadiens avoided arbitration with center Lars Eller, agreeing to a four-year contract with the 25-year-old Thursday.

"Now it's up to me to go out and play the best hockey I can," he said in a phone interview with the Canadian Press from the airport in Toronto, where he was waiting to catch a flight home to Denmark.

"This (Montreal) was the place I want to be. Four years was a term that both sides have been working on for quite some time."

Eller has 45 goals and 103 points in 286 games.

Eller was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing on Friday. He reportedly asked for $3.1 million for next season while the team offered $1.65 million.

"Going to arbitration was really a last resort if all other options failed," he said.

"We are very pleased to have agreed upon a long-term agreement with Lars Eller," general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement. "He is an important part of our group of young veterans.

"He has a tremendous work ethic and a great attitude. He is the type of player you can rely on for his play at both ends of the rink. Lars can play big minutes against the opponents' top players and still be an offensive threat. We are confident he will reach his full potential and become an impact player who will compete at a high level for many years to come."

Eller made up for disappointing regular-season production - 12 goals and 14 assists in 77 games - with a strong playoff performance. He had five goals and eight assists in 17 games as the Canadiens advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.

But he said the team was basing its decision on more than the playoffs.

"Of course it's been a very mixed season for me performance-wise. Certainly my playoffs probably helped my situation, there's no doubt about that. But this goes longer than just one playoff. I've been here for four years now. ... They know what they have in me and I know what I have in them."

Frank Lampard joins New York City FC of MLS

NEW YORK (AP) The newest team in Major League Soccer is doing its part to fill Yankee Stadium with stars.

New York City FC introduced Frank Lampard in Brooklyn on Thursday after signing the 36-year-old former Chelsea midfielder to a two-year contract.

"Why not New York? Talk about ticking all the boxes. I want to carry on challenging myself." Lampard said at a news conference . "That's a great challenge, isn't it? City of hopes and dreams. That's where you want to go to and play isn't it?"

The club owned by Manchester City of the Premier League and the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball previously signed David Villa of Atletico Madrid.

Both City and Atletico won league championships last year, meaning the expansion soccer team set to begin playing home games at the ballpark in 2015 is also bringing more champions to the Bronx than Yankee Stadium's full-time tenants have lately.

The news conference was held at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where several soccer fields share space on a pier in the East River across from Lower Manhattan. A couple dozen fans, many in blue Chelsea jerseys, gathered around to listen, at times cheering and getting laughs from the dais, where Lampard was flanked by club sporting director Claudio Reyna , chief business officer Tim Pernetti, and coach Jason Kreis.

Lampard, who has scored 211 goals for England and Chelsea, became the latest international star to move to MLS. Most famous was David Beckham, who joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 from Real Madrid.

"I think this is an incredibly exciting time for the league," Kreis said. Lampard is "a rare talent, one that scores a lot of goals from midfield, yet is also a disciplined defender and someone who reads the game brilliantly."

Lampard was asked about a widely reported encounter with American travelers in 2001, shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when he and teammates were fined following reports they were behaving drunkenly and boorishly in front of the distraught Americans.

"I was naive and a young boy at the time and I have some regrets," Lampard said. "I categorically didn't insult anyone, set out to insult anyone, behave badly in front of Americans or in fact anyone. I've tried in the last 13 years at Chelsea to build up - well, to just be a good man really and not just be a good footballer, but a good man off the pitch. ... Unfortunately it was very much misreported at the time in England and it's actually a chance for me to finally say that."

Lampard, speaking with the skyline behind him across the river, said he "of course" plans to visit the Sept. 11 memorial.

"You visit this great city, you know what it means to New Yorkers. I think you go and pay your respects, so yes I will," he said.

Kreis said the team examined the situation and considers the matter resolved. His newest player is someone with strong feelings about New York.

"I want New Yorkers to hear that and see that," Lampard said. "It's up to me to show them here and prove the footballer I am and the person that I am."

Chiefs, running back Jamaal Charles reach deal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles has agreed to a contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs announced the deal Wednesday night.

The two-year extension runs through the 2017 season, a person familiar with the contract said on condition of anonymity because the team didn't disclose terms of the contract.

The six-year NFL veteran ran for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns last year to help the Chiefs reach the playoffs. He also had 70 catches for 693 yards and seven more TDs as Kansas City went 11-5 before losing to Indianapolis in an AFC wild-card game.

"Jamaal is an elite player in the National Football League," Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said in a statement released by the team. "It was important for us to keep him here in Kansas City long-term."

Charles was expected to take part in the first practice scheduled for Thursday.

"I had no intention on holding out," Charles tweeted. "I just ran out of gas on the way to camp and my cellphone battery died. It was a long walk I tell ya."

Charles comes off a season with career highs in yards from scrimmage (1,980), rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Charles' earned a base salary of $1.75 million in 2013, according to NFLPA records. He was set to earn a base salary of $2.65 million, which ranked 11th among NFL running backs, before the contract extension. Various media reports, including from NFL.com and ESPN, put Charles' two-year extension at $18 million.

With Charles secured through 2017, the Chiefs can shift focus to quarterback Alex Smith and outside linebacker Justin Houston, both of whom enter the final years of respective contracts.

Smith, 30, comes off a season where he completed 308-of-508 passes for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. He established career highs in rushing attempts (70) and yards (431), and became the second quarterback in team history to start the season with nine consecutive wins.

Smith reported Sunday with rookies and quarterbacks and put in two morning practices before being excused from Wednesday's practice. The Chiefs' second-year quarterback attended voluntary organized activities and mandatory minicamp.

The same can't be said of Houston, who missed the Chiefs' offseason workout program. Houston is expected to report for training camp, however.

"From what I hear, he's going to be here," outside linebacker Tamba Hali said. "We're going to get it rocking again - Sack City. Whatever happened in the offseason, we put all of that behind us. He's here to play football just like every other man. That's our concern - get to that quarterback."

Houston, 25, comes off his second straight Pro Bowl selection and finished the season with 11 sacks in 11 games. He and Hali combined for 22 sacks in 2013.

Houston is entering the final year of his rookie contract, which pays him a base salary of $1.4 million. His 26.5 sacks since 2011 matches Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews' sack production during that span.

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AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta and AP freelance writer Herbie Teope contributed to this report.

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Johnny Be Good: Browns expect Manziel to behave

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Johnny will be good.

That's what the Browns expect from Johnny Manziel now that training camp is about to start.

Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said he's not worried about the popular rookie's wild off-field behavior carrying into the season, and he's determined not to let any outside influences affect his decision in picking either Manziel or veteran Brian Hoyer to be his starting quarterback.

Pettine, who will open his first training camp on Saturday, discussed Manziel, Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon's clouded situation and several other topics during an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Manziel, the former Texas A&M star nicknamed "Johnny Football" for his dazzling skills, made headlines throughout the offseason with his weekend partying. And while most of it was seemingly innocent, a recent photo of him appearing to roll up a dollar bill brought him even more scrutiny.

Pettine said he's aware of the photo, and during his recent vacation, he called Manziel to discuss the young QB's conduct.

"I picked up the phone and called him," Pettine said. "It was a good conversation, positive and I'm confident going forward, especially now that it's all about football, I think some of this will and should quiet down because football season is different. The offseason is one thing, but it's all about preparation and I think he knows that in order for him to compete well, he's going to have to probably be more dedicated than he has ever been."

Manziel has insisted he will not change his ways and that he's entitled to have fun away from football.

Pettine said Manziel has been dedicated to learning his playbook, and has given the Browns no reason to think he's going to be a distraction. Pettine believes Manziel is beginning to understand the responsibility that comes along with being a high-profile athlete and social media sensation.

"I think that's a process for him and I think he's headed along the right path with that," Pettine said. "I think if you talk to him, he gets it. Some of the things I think he gets a little frustrated with, but I think he's coming to realize that, `Yeah, this all comes with the territory."'

Hoyer, who has worked his way back after undergoing knee surgery, begins camp with a lead over Manziel in their competition to be Cleveland's starter. Pettine said he would like to name his starter "reasonably quickly," and that he and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have discussed how to divide up the practice repetitions evenly.

Manziel might have a huge fan following - his No. 2 jersey has outsold all others since April in the NFL's online store - but Pettine said he won't be swayed to name him a starter.

"All the decisions we make will be based on football," he said. "We're not going to base our depth chart on jersey sales.

"The external pressure will not factor into our decision. It's an easy decision for us. It's who gives us the best chance to line up against the Pittsburgh Steelers in September and win that football game, that's what it boils down to and that's as simple as it is for us. But it's a decision that we want to make pretty quickly because there needs to be some chemistry developed."

As for Gordon, Pettine expects him to report on Friday and practice Saturday. The team is awaiting clarity from the league on Gordon, who could be facing an indefinite ban for another violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Pettine said he's beyond the point of worrying about whether Gordon will play at all this season. Gordon was suspended two games last season.

However, Pettine did make it clear the team has no plans to release Gordon and want to help him.

"Josh is a Cleveland Brown and we want what's best for him and we want what's best for us," he said. "He's smart. He's bright. He's creative. He's a guy that in a lot of ways that you root for."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Jerry Jones: Garrett not coaching for job

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) Jerry Jones doesn't like to repeat his good sound bites, so he found a new way to say Jason Garrett isn't coaching for his job.

The Dallas Cowboys owner said Wednesday it wasn't a "make or break" season for Garrett, a year after opening training camp by declaring that last season wouldn't be "Armageddon" for his coach if the once-proud franchise missed the playoffs again.

The Cowboys have identical endings to all three full seasons under Garrett, losing to NFC East rivals to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs.

This time, Garrett is in the final year of his contract. While he's not talking extension, Jones also isn't talking change.

"Did the record of 8-8, 8-8, 8-8 ... was that the factor? No," Jones said on the eve of the team's first camp practices. "In my mind he is more of an asset after this last 8-8 season than he was before the first 8-8 season we had three years ago."

In Jones' mind, that means Garrett is gaining experience since replacing Wade Phillips in the middle of the 2010 season. And the owner says he likes the continuity with Garrett going into his eighth season after he was hired as offensive coordinator before Phillips came on as coach in 2007.

"There's nobody that has a better feel for me than Jason, in terms of the relationship," Jones said. "We both know where our expectations are and when it's looking good and when it's looking dire. And I don't expect it to be the latter."

In other words, Jones isn't resigning himself to missing the playoffs a fifth straight time. Dallas hasn't done that since 1990, when the Cowboys entered his second year as owner coming off a two-year mark of 4-28.

"I don't want to have to stomach it," Jones said. "Let's put it like that."

Still, Jones was a bit cautious with his optimism, using his opening statement to point out that roughly half of the 90-man camp roster includes players who weren't with the Cowboys a year ago.

He also likes to say Dallas has gone from one of the oldest teams in the league to one of the youngest. Some might call that rebuilding. Not Jones.

"It's not about next year," Jones said. "I think we've got the fundamentals to compete and compete right now, and the decisions we've made are that."

The biggest decision was releasing franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware on the first day of free agency in March. The Cowboys hope to fill the void by finding quality in the large quantity of defensive linemen in camp.

Dallas also is looking for a replacement for Sean Lee at middle linebacker after he tore a knee ligament in the first offseason practice.

The offense is counting on a healthy Tony Romo, and Garrett said he would be ready "for all aspects" of camp.

The Cowboys will ease into workouts, even scrapping their traditional conditioning test to try to cut down on a two-year plague of injuries that helped wreck two of the worst defenses in franchise history. And that's one of the areas where Garrett figures he can be better.

"We want to evaluate how we used our players, what we asked them to do and how we can do stuff better," Garrett said. "So I can give you 50 examples of that, coverages we play, what we're doing up front with our guys, techniques we're using at the different levels of our defense. And we implemented all that stuff in the offseason."

So Garrett starts the process of trying to break out of his personal 8-8 rut for a franchise with a .500 record going back 17 years.

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Testimony ends in trial over $2B Clippers sale

LOS ANGELES (AP) Testimony ended Wednesday in the trial to determine whether Donald Sterling's estranged wife can sell the Los Angeles Clippers in a proposed $2 billion deal with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Shelly Sterling, who had testified early in the trial, was expected to be the final witness, but her husband's lawyers decided not to call her back to the stand.

Instead, they called Dr. Jeffrey Cummings to discuss the protocol of examinations such as the ones given to Donald Sterling to determine his mental competency and ability to act as owner.

Most of his testimony drew objections from Shelly Sterling's attorneys, and the judge said he didn't see how it would help him reach a decision.

The trial will not be in session for the rest of the week. The two sides are scheduled to return for closing arguments on Monday.

Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas reminded Sterling's lawyers that both sides had agreed not to make Donald Sterling's mental capacity an issue in the trial.

Levanas said he was surprised when the lawyers made that move, and that he would have been interested in hearing about Donald Sterling's mental competency.

Given that decision by lawyers, the judge rejected most of Cummings' testimony and refused to receive the psychiatrist's report submitted by the Sterling lawyers.

Outside court, attorneys for Shelly Sterling and Ballmer said that if they win, they will ask the judge to allow the sale to go through immediately in spite of any appeals that might be filed.

Sterling's lawyers said they intend to seek an injunction to stop the sale if the judge rules against them. They have filed their own lawsuit in state court against Shelly Sterling, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league.

Shelly Sterling's potentially record-breaking deal with Ballmer was struck after Donald Sterling's racist remarks to a girlfriend were recorded and publicized. The NBA moved to oust him as team owner, fined him $2.5 million and banned him for life.

Sterling deputized his wife to negotiate the sale. But then he changed his mind and said he would fight the sale and spend the rest of his life suing the NBA.

Shelly Sterling went to probate court to ensure that the sale she negotiated with Ballmer would go through.

The trial was full of emotion and drama, especially for a probate-court trial to determine technical legal and financial questions.

Most of the fireworks came from Donald Sterling, who shouted at attorneys for both sides, denounced the NBA and its commissioner for trying to oust him from the league over racist recordings, and at one point called Shelly Sterling a "pig" as she left the witness stand.

Oregon is Pac-12 favorite after Mariota's return

LOS ANGELES (AP) Although Marcus Mariota knew he would be under a spotlight when he stepped onto the famed Paramount Studios lot Wednesday, the Oregon quarterback is getting quite comfortable in his starring role.

"I've had to get used to it and come out of my shell a little bit, but I'm trying to enjoy it," Mariota said at the Pac-12's media day. "I take it as an honor and a privilege, and hopefully an opportunity to provide a good influence."

Coach Mark Helfrich and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott both used the league's first session of its two-day Hollywood kickoff event to praise Mariota for staying in school. The rest of the Pac-12 isn't quite as excited about the Heisman Trophy candidate's return after two dynamite seasons for the Ducks, but he's just one reason why they're favored to win their highly competitive league again.

Mariota and Oregon were picked to claim the Pac-12 title in the preseason media poll, topping that chart for the fourth time in five years. The verdict was an unsurprising vote of confidence in the mobile passer and the perennially powerful Ducks, who highlight an impressive list of contenders in the West Coast's power conference.

Mariota is the biggest reason for excitement around the Ducks, and the quarterback is working to raise his leadership skills to the level of his play after turning down untold NFL millions for another shot at a national title.

"A lot of guys talk a good game, but everything that guy does is gospel," Helfrich said. "If I'm the backup guard and I see that guy forgo what he could have made - it's not some lip-service dream, this is a reality of a ton of money. Like, `That guy turned down how much? OK, I'll watch him.' That's huge. I think it speaks to the type of guy he is, and hopefully to the type of program that we have."

Mariota said he returned to enjoy university life in Eugene. Since he's only taking golf and yoga this fall to finish up his degree, he'll have plenty of time.

"First and foremost, I wanted to get my degree," Mariota said. "My family has always valued education, and that was basically the major factor that brought me back. Secondly, it was to come back and enjoy college. You experience so many new things, and I wasn't ready to leave all that just yet."

Mariota even has one more year of eligibility. Although he insists he still hasn't decided whether he'll head to the NFL next year, his family also took out an insurance policy for this season.

Otherwise, Mariota and the Ducks aren't thinking past what's certain to be another tough year in a rising conference built on impressive quarterback talent and depth.

"The Pac-12 is better than it's ever been," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Everybody is improving. There's a bunch of good players and coaches in this league, so how do you make that leap over everyone else? We talk about it as a staff. We've got to crank it up to another level, because the other teams aren't going backward."

UCLA is favored to win the South Division over second-place Southern California, but Oregon got 24 of the 39 votes to win the league title game in the Bay Area on Dec. 5. Stanford, last season's league champion, finished second behind Oregon in the North Division balloting.

USC coach Steve Sarkisian received nearly as much attention as Mariota in Hollywood. Sarkisian left Washington in the offseason to return to the Trojans, and he thinks his sanctions-depleted roster will be an immediate contender.

"We're going to focus on what we do have, not what we don't," said Sarkisian, who will have a full complement of scholarships next year. "We have a really talented roster of about 65 scholarship players. That is not ideal. That's OK. We're still really good. ... We've still got plenty of work to do, but if we can manage it the right way, we've got a chance."

NCAA infractions chair responds to 'cheating pays'

IRVING, Texas (AP) The chairman of the NCAA's infractions committee says a number of factors could be the cause for the lack of activity by the group that prompted Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to call the enforcement program "broken."

Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky, chair of the Committee on Infractions, on Wednesday listed reforms and restructuring in the enforcement system and expansion of the committee as possible reasons.

He also noted the NCAA enforcement director changed in the aftermath of two investigators and two key leaders leaving in less than a year after an internal investigation uncovered problems with the NCAA's investigation of the University of Miami.

At Big 12 media days Monday, Bowlsby said "cheating pays" and that anyone who conspired to bend the rules could do so successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions.

"They're in a battle with a BB gun in their hand. They're fighting howitzers," Bowlsby said of NCAA enforcement officials, while also saying he didn't believe cheating was rampant.

Banowsky said the last NCAA infractions hearing was in the Miami case in June 2013.

"I have to say that a lot of what (Bowlsby) says is true relative to the inactivity," Banowsky said at his league's media day. "I've been assured and encouraged that there's a lot in the pipeline and the thing is kind of ramping back up again and the new system is going to get engaged and functioning.

"I do appreciate what Bob is saying. I have a lot of respect for him and I think he's smart and honest and accurate in the way that he sees these things," Banowsky said. "I'm a little more measured because I live in it. ... I think this next year is a really important year for that process and for that system, and for the NCAA as an organization really."

Padres OF Maybin tests positive for amphetamine

CHICAGO (AP) San Diego Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin was suspended 25 games by Major League Baseball on Wednesday for testing positive for an amphetamine.

Maybin said in a statement released by the Major League Baseball Players Association the failed test was the result of a change in the medication he was using to treat Attention Deficit Disorder.

"I have been undergoing treatment for several years for a medical condition, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), for which I previously had a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). Unfortunately, in my attempts to switch back to a medicine that had been previously OK'd, I neglected to follow all the rules and as a result I tested positive," Maybin said. "I want to assure everyone that this was a genuine effort to treat my condition and I was not trying in any way to gain an advantage in my baseball career."

Under the drug agreement between MLB and its players' union, 25 games is the penalty for a second positive amphetamine test. A first positive results only in six unannounced follow-up tests over the next year.

The 27-year-old Maybin was batting .247 with one home run and nine RBIs in 62 games this season.

"I understand that I must accept responsibility for this mistake and I will take my punishment and will not challenge my suspension. I apologize to my family, friends, fans, teammates, and the entire Padres organization. I look forward to returning to the field and contributing to the success of my Club."

Padres President and CEO Mike Dee and manager Bud Black responded in statements.

"I'm disappointed in Cameron's violation of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program, but I am pleased that he's taking responsibility for his mistake," Dee said. "The joint agreement was put into place to protect both the player and the game, and the Padres fully support it."

"Our club fully supports Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," Black said. "Cameron has accepted full responsibility for his violation and apologized to his teammates and coaches. We are all looking forward to his return."

MLB permits an exemption for players with attention deficit disorder. The annual report from the drug program's independent administrator, Dr. Jeffrey M. Anderson, said 119 therapeutic use exemptions were granted for ADD drugs in the year ending with the conclusion of the 2013 World Series.

There were seven positive tests for Adderall in that span that resulted in discipline.

Broncos owner giving up control due to Alzheimer's

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Even as dementia began to rob him of some of his fondest memories over the past few years, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen reported to work every day to oversee multimillion-dollar upgrades to the team's training facilities and roster.

So his absence from Dove Valley headquarters on Wednesday as players reported for physicals on the eve of training camp was as jarring as the announcement that the 70-year-old Bowlen was giving up control of the team because of Alzheimer's disease.

"This place will never be the same," a choked-up general manager John Elway said. "... It's going to be very hard to not see him walk through the front doors every day."

Yet, Elway and team president Joe Ellis pledged to continue Bowlen's legacy and winning culture he fostered during his long stewardship of the franchise.

Ellis is adding the title of chief executive officer and will have final say on all matters.

"Mr. Bowlen has entrusted Joe to take his spot and he couldn't have appointed a better guy to step in for Pat," Elway said. "Joe's a guy that bleeds orange and blue."

Ownership of the franchise is held in a trust Bowlen set up more than a decade ago in hopes that one of his seven children will one day run the team, Ellis said Bowlen asked him to run that trust.

Elway, who brought Bowlen two Super Bowl rings during his Hall of Fame playing career, demurred when asked if he aspired to one day own the team.

"That family owns the Broncos. Pat Bowlen still owns the Broncos. We have total respect for that," Elway said. "They've hired me to run the football operations and I'm thrilled to do that. I work for Pat still, as well as the Bowlen family, and I'm going to continue to do that."

Ellis said that with Bowlen no longer able to run the team, the community and fan base deserved to know what was going on, so the family agreed to make public the condition he's dealt with privately for several years.

"Alzheimer's has taken so much from Pat, but it will never take away his love for the Denver Broncos and his sincere appreciation for the fans," Bowlen's wife, Annabel, said in a statement.

After acknowledging in 2009 that he suffered short-term memory loss, Bowlen stepped back from day-to-day operations in 2011 when he promoted Ellis to president. For the first time this offseason, Ellis represented the Broncos at the annual owners meetings.

Under Bowlen's guidance, the Broncos won six AFC titles and two Super Bowls. At 307-203-1, Bowlen and New York Giants founder Tim Mara are the only three-decade owners in pro football history to win 60 percent of their games.

The Broncos' 186 home victories are the most in the NFL since he bought the team in 1984, when Elway was his quarterback, and the Broncos' five losing seasons during those 30 years are the fewest in the league over that span.

Bowlen was known as much for his humility as his competitive fire, doing his best to stay out of the spotlight even as he built a winning culture and a fan base that extends throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

He was instrumental in the league's explosive growth at its longtime chairman of the broadcast committee, Ellis said, and Elway said Bowlen deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I'd love (his bust) to be right next to mine," Elway said.

When Elway brought Bowlen his first of consecutive championships in the late 1990s, the owner took the Lombardi Trophy in his hand at center stage after an epic win over heavily favored Green Bay and declared, "This one's for John."

"That was the highlight of my career," Elway said Wednesday.

Bowlen's affable style endeared him to employees and players alike.

When Bowlen received the Mizel Institute's 2013 Community Enrichment Award, Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe said: "I would be hard-pressed to believe that there's an owner that cares more about his city, about his state, about his players than Mr. Bowlen does."

Hall of Famer Gary Zimmerman said at that same event he realized Bowlen was a different type of owner when he signed up for a turkey in his first Thanksgiving in Denver, thinking it was all a joke.

"Then I come into the locker room and there's Pat sticking turkeys into our lockers," Zimmerman recounted.

During Peyton Manning's whirlwind free agency tour in 2012, Zimmerman said, he knew any other teams pursuing the four-time MVP were just wasting their time.

"I knew he'd be a Bronco before he did," Zimmerman said, "because once he visited here and met with Mr. Bowlen, I knew there was no way he could go anywhere else."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Mavericks' Felton pleads guilty in NYC gun case

NEW YORK (AP) Dallas Mavericks point guard Raymond Felton pleaded guilty Wednesday in a New York gun case, taking a plea deal that involved admitting a felony but spares him jail.

Felton pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm. He admitted he knowingly had a large-capacity ammunition magazine and a semi-automatic pistol without a license.

"Are those charges true?" Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Larry Stephen asked.

"Yes, sir," Felton said, later adding in a soft voice: "I apologize. I realize what I did was wrong."

He was immediately sentenced to 500 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Rebold said Felton will be allowed to do the service outside New York.

If he complies, the case will be closed without jail time or probation.

"At this point, Raymond is looking forward to starting the next chapter of his life and focusing on success in Dallas," his lawyer, James Walden, said after court.

The criminal case arose last winter, as Felton grappled with the breakup of his marriage and navigated a struggling season with the New York Knicks. He was traded to Dallas last month, two days after his plea plan was announced.

The team declined to comment Wednesday.

About a week after Felton's law student wife filed for divorce, her attorney brought a loaded semi-automatic handgun to a police precinct and said it was Felton's and she wanted it out of the house, authorities said. Walden has said Felton never threatened anyone with the gun.

After police contacted Felton, he turned himself in shortly after a Mavericks-Knicks game at Madison Square Garden.

Felton was charged under a state law that bans many large-capacity ammunition magazines. Prosecutors said Felton's could hold about 20 rounds.

The NBA, which has said it is monitoring the case, had no immediate comment Wednesday. The league usually waits until criminal cases against players are resolved before deciding whether to impose any fine or suspension.

Felton, 30, was a star at the University of North Carolina and was the fifth pick of the 2005 NBA draft. Besides Dallas and New York, he's played for the Charlotte Bobcats, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers.

Last season, Felton missed 17 games while battling injuries and averaged a career-low 9.7 points as the Knicks went 37-45 and missed the playoffs.

Headley wins it in 14th inning of Yankees debut

NEW YORK (AP) Chase Headley came through with a storybook swing at the stroke of midnight in his Yankees debut, hitting a game-winning single in the 14th inning to give New York a 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.

Derek Jeter broke Lou Gehrig's franchise record for doubles, and the Yankees won an unlikely pitching duel after both rookie starters entered with a 5.10 ERA.

J.P. Arencibia snapped a scoreless tie with a leadoff homer in the 13th against New York reliever David Huff, but the Yankees responded with Brett Gardner's leadoff double and Jacoby Ellsbury's tying single off closer Joakim Soria in the bottom half.

It was the second blown save in 19 chances for Soria, who kept Texas in it by getting Brian McCann to ground into an inning-ending double play with runners at the corners.

CEO: Clippers coach Rivers to quit if Sterling stays

LOS ANGELES (AP) The interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers testified Tuesday that coach Doc Rivers told him he will quit if Donald Sterling remains the owner of the team.

CEO Richard Parsons testified at a trial to determine whether Sterling's wife, Shelly, can sell the team for $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as the NBA looks to force Donald Sterling from the league over racist statements.

"Doc is troubled by this maybe more so than anybody else," Parsons said about Rivers, who is black. "If Mr. Sterling continues as owner, he does not want to continue as coach."

Parsons said he fears there would also be an exodus of key players, including team captain Chris Paul, who heads the NBA players union.

The judge stopped Parsons from giving an account of his conversations with Paul when an NBA lawyer objected over privacy issues.

Parsons is a former chief executive at Time Warner and Citigroup who took over leadership of the Clippers in May during the media blitz surrounding the banishment of Sterling.

Under questioning by Ballmer's lawyer, Parsons said the departure of Rivers would "accelerate the death spiral" of the Clippers.

"If Doc were to leave, that would be a disaster," Parsons said. "Doc is the father figure, the one who leads."

The discussion of Clippers players and coaches is new territory for the trial that has mostly explored the dealings between the Sterlings.

It wasn't immediately clear what effect the new information might have on the narrow question under consideration - whether Shelly Sterling can sell the team under the family trust.

Messages left for team officials seeking comment from Rivers weren't immediately returned.

Parsons, who is considered an expert in the management of major corporations, said he was certain that big corporate sponsors would pull out and season ticket holders would demand their money back if Donald Sterling remains the owner.

"If your coach leaves, if your players don't want to play with you, what do you have?" Parsons asked. "If your sponsors leave and the fans leave, it's going to spiral down and down."

Parsons also said he doesn't believe that anyone will offer as much money for the team as Ballmer. That opinion was seconded by witness Anwar Zakkour, an investment banker who helped broker the deal for Ballmer's purchase and said he never expected a bid so big.

Explaining why Ballmer would have bid over the value of the team, Zakkour said, "It was a trophy asset."

"This is the highest price ever achieved for a sports team," he said. "However way you count it, this is an amazing price that anyone should be satisfied with."

Parsons and Zakkour said that if the NBA seized the team and put it up for auction, the price would drop because there would be less certainty about the team's future.

Outside court, Sterling's lawyer, Bobby Samini, said the billionaire would persist in his opposition to the sale because "he feels he was wronged" by the NBA.

"He has no desire to destroy the team," Samini said. "He is fighting to protect his rights."

Later Tuesday, Sterling fired off another legal volley, filing a new lawsuit against his wife, the NBA and league Commissioner Adam Silver that alleges fraud, breach of contract, unfair business practices and infliction of emotional distress. He claimed, among other things, that he was tricked into being examined by psychiatrists to establish whether he was mentally competent.

The high-stakes financial fight centers on whether Shelly Sterling was authorized to make a deal with Ballmer on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust.

Outside court, Shelly Sterling's lawyer, Pierce O'Donnell, said Donald Sterling is being driven by "a perverted egotism."

"Right now, we're in the grips of Donald Sterling's craziness," he said.

Report: Cavs to sign Wiggins amid Love rumors

CLEVELAND (AP) Andrew Wiggins will sign his rookie contract with the Cavaliers. It's still not clear if he'll play for them.

A person familiar with the negotiations says the Cavs will sign the No. 1 overall pick to his deal, an agreement that would prevent any potential trade involving the small forward from being completed for 30 days.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Cavaliers have been discussing a potential deal that would send All-Star forward Kevin Love to the Cavaliers for Wigging, Anthony Bennett and other pieces. The person familiar with the talks says Wiggins will sign with Cleveland as early as Wednesday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the team is not commenting on its plans.

The Cavs and Timberwolves have had ongoing discussions about a trade for Love since before Cleveland selected Wiggins first in May. The Timberwolves have always insisted that Wiggins be involved in any package, a stipulation the Cavaliers initially resisted.

To help in their pursuit of Love, the Cavs traded guard Carrick Felix to Utah on Tuesday for three players with non-guaranteed contracts.

Cleveland acquired guard John Lucas III and forwards Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy from the Jazz in exchange for Felix, a second-round draft pick and cash considerations.

The trade will allow the Cavs to clear $3.3 million in salary cap space, room to potentially sign Love or other players.

Wiggins' inclusion in any deal has been a sticking point for the Cavs.

Last week, two people familiar with the discussions said the team was not willing to include Wiggins in a deal. But as talks continued this week, the Cavaliers have softened their stance on including Wiggins, who played well during the team's summer league in Las Vegas, to try and get superstar LeBron James another veteran All-Star teammate.

The Cavs have considered acquiring Love and teaming him with James, who recently announced he was returning to Cleveland and signed a two-year, $42.1 million deal with the team. With Love, James and All-Star point guard, Cleveland would have a "Big 3" comparable to what Miami had in James and All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Timberwolves have also had discussions with the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors, among other teams, in recent weeks as they entertain offers for Love, who can opt out of his contract next summer and has told Minnesota he wants to play for a contender.

Signing Wiggins to a contract wouldn't necessarily prevent a trade from eventually happening. Under league rules, Wiggins cannot be officially traded for 30 days after he signs. But the Timberwolves and Cavaliers could come to some sort of agreement before that end date and then execute the trade after the window closes.

Signing Wiggins could make a trade easier to complete. League rules require teams that are at or over the salary cap to exchange packages of similar dollar values when they make trades. Before Wiggins signs a deal, he has a contract of $0, so his inclusion does not help the Cavaliers get closer to the $15.7 million value they would receive with Love's contract.

But when he does sign, Wiggins will have a value of around $5.5 million, which would get the Cavaliers a big step closer to the 80 percent of Love's contract that they need to reach to make any deal conform to league rules.

Having to wait that long to finalize a deal does complicate the negotiating process, with both teams leery of the other backing out during that monthlong moratorium.

If the Timberwolves and Cavaliers do come to an agreement, the trade could evolve into a three-team deal. The Wolves have been searching for another team to bring another established, veteran player to the package while potentially moving guard J.J. Barea or other contracts to create room for the incoming players.

Andre Johnson's holdout could cloud Texans camp

HOUSTON (AP) As the Houston Texans prepare for the start of training camp on Saturday, their biggest question mark involves a player who probably won't be there when they take the field.

Disgruntled receiver Andre Johnson skipped offseason workouts and mandatory minicamp after wondering in May if Houston was "still the place for me."

A holdout by the face of the franchise and the team's longest-tenured player could cast a pall on the beginning of coach Bill O'Brien's first season.

O'Brien has tried to downplay the situation so far, but that tact will be much more difficult if Johnson's holdout stretches much longer.

Johnson joined the franchise in its second season and has said that playing on just three teams with winning records in 11 seasons "can become very frustrating."

The Texans were among the favorites to reach the Super Bowl entering last season after reaching the playoffs the previous two years.

But things quickly fell apart due in large part to poor play by quarterback Matt Schaub, coach Gary Kubiak was fired in December and they finished 2-14 to tie the worst record in franchise history.

The 33-year-old Johnson, whose 1,407 yards receiving in 2013 ranked second in the AFC, is unhappy at the prospect of enduring another rebuilding project after seeing the moves the Texans made in the offseason.

If they can't get him back on the field it will leave a big hole in O'Brien's new offense and put much more pressure on last year's first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins.

Here are some things to know about the Texans as camp begins.

CLOWNEY'S HEALTH: Jadeveon Clowney, the top overall pick in this year's draft, may not be ready to practice on the first day of training camp after having sports hernia surgery in June.

O'Brien said that he expected Clowney to be ready for training camp when he disclosed the procedure on June 13. But the former South Carolina standout told reporters recently that he isn't sure if he'll be cleared to practice by Day 1. Training camp will be important for the former defensive end who is making the transition to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel's system.

O'BRIEN'S TEAM: O'Brien returns to the NFL for his first head coaching job in the league after spending the past two seasons coaching Penn State. He took over the Nittany Lions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and led the team to winning records in both 2012 and 2013 before being hired in Houston. He comes to the Texans with a reputation as a quarterback guru after spending three seasons working as Tom Brady's position coach with the Patriots.

FITZPATRICK TAKES OVER: Houston traded Schaub to Oakland in the offseason and signed veteran free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was selected as the starter during minicamp by O'Brien. Fitzpatrick started nine games for the Titans last season after Jake Locker was injured, but there are questions about whether he's the answer to Houston's quarterback woes.

"He does a good job of controlling the offense and ... getting together with other groups and trying to let them see everything through the quarterback's eyes," quarterbacks coach George Godsey said. "I think he's done a good job of trying to keep that steady."

They also have Case Keenum, who started eight games last season after Schaub was benched, and drafted Tom Savage in the fourth round of this year's draft.

CRENNEL'S RETURN: Crennel returns to coaching for the first time since he was fired as coach of the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2012 season. He inherits a defense that features 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and should get a boost with the return of middle linebacker Brian Cushing, who suffered a second straight season-ending knee injury in Houston's seventh game last year.

Crennel's excited about coaching again and said at age 67 the most important factor was the people he'd be working with.

"We all want to win, but if you've got good people and you can work with good people that makes the job easier," he said. "I felt that the people were good people and that I would enjoy working with them. That made it easier for me to come and give it a shot."

CAN FOSTER RETURN TO FORM: Arian Foster has recovered from back surgery that ended his season in 2013 after eight games. He participated in minicamp and the Texans are counting on him to return to form this year. Before the injury shortened season he ran for at least 1,200 yards in three straight seasons, highlighted by his breakout 2010 season when he rushed for an NFL-leading 1,616 yards.

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