FOOTBALL

Browns deny lying about Manziel concussion

CLEVELAND — The Browns are defending their handling of Johnny Manziel's late-season concussion.

The team issued a statement Tuesday saying Manziel was diagnosed with a concussion on Dec. 30 by an independent neurologist, countering an NFL Network report that they lied about the injury to cover up the troubled quarterback showing up intoxicated for practice.

"Johnny Manziel came to our facility on the morning of December 30th and complained of concussion symptoms," the statement read. "He was tested by an independent neurologist and entered the league's concussion protocol.

He remained in the protocol until January 12th after being cleared by the independent neurologist."

The league's in-house network reported citing an unnamed Browns player that the team "lied" to try to protect Manziel, who is being investigated by Dallas police on allegations of domestic violence.

NFL Network reporter Michael Silver sent out a series of comments on Twitter saying he stands by his report about Manziel. He also said he'll take the Browns at their word about not covering up Manziel's injury and "I regret using that term ('lied')."

There had been suspicions about Manziel's injury during the season's final week after Pettine first announced that the 23-year-old arrived at the team's complex on Dec. 30 complaining of "concussion-like symptoms."

Manziel missed the team's season finale against Pittsburgh because of the concussion. He also didn't report to a scheduled medical checkup for his head injury on Jan. 3 amid a report he was spotted partying in Las Vegas. The team did not know his exact whereabouts that day.

In other NFL news:

The Raiders terminated the contract of safety Nate Allen, less than one year after signing him as a free agent. Allen's $4.9 million salary for 2016 would have been guaranteed if he was on the roster Wednesday.

The Titans released safety Michael Griffin after nine seasons in their first step toward improving their secondary.

Griffin was a two-time Pro Bowl pick, in 2008 and 2010.

The Colts released backup quarterback Ryan Lindley and hired new assistants to their coaching staff.

Coach Chuck Pagano named Maurice Drayton assistant special teams coach, Lee Hull as wide receivers coach and Jemal Singleton as running backs coach.

Jets coach Todd Bowles has filled three vacancies on his staff, including promoting John Scott Jr. from defensive quality control coach to assistant defensive line coach.

The team also announced that it has hired David Diaz-Infante as assistant offensive line coach and Tim Atkins as Scott's replacement as defensive quality control coach.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank is planning surgery for what he says is a treatable form of prostate cancer.

Blank said in a statement posted on the team website that he was diagnosed with the cancer in December. He says he has visited doctors "across the country." He says "the overall prognosis is good."

Source: Ole Miss program cited in 13 of 28 violations

Mississippi's football program was cited by the NCAA in nearly half of the 28 rules violations levied against the school in the Notice of Allegations the university recently received, said a person with knowledge of the investigation.

The person said Tuesday that 13 allegations involve the football program, and nine of those occurred during current coach Hugh Freeze's tenure. The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The violations are a mix of Level I — which the NCAA considers most serious — and Level II and III. Many have already been self-reported by the school.

The school's women's basketball and track and field programs are also involved in the investigation.

In other college news:

Duke said quarterback Thomas Sirk has ruptured his left Achilles tendon.

Coach David Cutcliffe said Sirk injured the tendon during a team conditioning session and that he's scheduled for surgery Wednesday. There's no timetable for his return.

Stanford defensive line coach Randy Hart is retiring after 46 years as a college coach.

BASEBALL

Source: Donaldson, Blue Jays nearing two-year deal

NEW YORK — AL MVP Josh Donaldson and the Toronto Blue Jays are nearing agreement on a $28.65 million, two-year contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press on Tuesday because the agreement had not been completed.

Donaldson and the Blue Jays had been scheduled for a salary arbitration hearing next week. The 30-year-old third baseman had asked for a raise from $4.3 million to $11.8 million, and Toronto had offered $11.35 million when the sides exchanged proposed arbitration salaries last month.

Acquired from Oakland in November 2014, Donaldson made the AL All-Star team for the second straight season in 2015.

He led the majors with 122 runs, topped the AL with 123 RBIs, and hit .297 with 41 home runs to help the Blue Jays reach the playoffs.

In other news:

Mat Latos agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract with the White Sox, giving manager Robin Ventura another option for the back end of his rotation.

Latos played for the Marlins, Dodgers and Angels last season, finishing with a 4-10 record and a 4.95 ERA.

Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, coming back after arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow last October, threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday.

Skip Schumaker agreed to a minor league contract with the Padres and will be invited to big league spring training.

AUTORACING

NASCAR makes switch to franchise system for owners

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR announced a dramatic overhaul to its business model Tuesday, shifting to a franchise-like system that is intended to provide actual value and financial stability to team owners after decades of heavy reliance on sponsors.

The change gets away from the independent contractor model that had been used since NASCAR's 1948 inception. A car owner was responsible for all the financial obligations to race each week, depending on sponsorship to help foot the bills. When a sponsor pulled its funding, a car owner could go broke and be left with nothing but racing equipment.

Michael Waltrip Racing had nothing but old cars, used equipment and a building to sell when it closed its doors in November. Now MWR has two of the 36 coveted "charters" and the ability to sell them to the highest bidder. A charter guarantees revenue and a position in what will now be a 40-car Sprint Cup field, down from 43.

MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman, the architect of the Race Team Alliance group that brokered the deal with NASCAR, indicated that his two charters will be sold before the Feb. 21 season-opening Daytona 500. One is expected to go to Joe Gibbs Racing for Carl Edwards' car, the other to Stewart-Haas Racing for Kurt Busch.

Every organization is allowed a maximum of four charters. But in order to get one of the 36, a car had to attempt every race since 2013. Busch and Edwards both drive for recently added teams.

The charters are good for nine years, and there is a performance clause tied to them.

Selling or transferring a charter is only allowed once in a five-year period.

Compiled from press services.

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