Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dilfer to start at QB vs. Rams

Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- After Alex Smith and 49ers coach Mike Nolan reached a temporary peace in their spat about the quarterback's injured arm, Trent Dilfer capped his first day as San Francisco's new starter by getting in a fight with a rookie defensive back in practice.

The 49ers might be losing every week, but at least they're getting interesting.

Dilfer will start for the 49ers (2-7) on Sunday in place of Smith, who aired one of his team's many problems in public this week by finally acknowledging a serious arm injury has been affecting his play during San Francisco's seven-game losing streak.

Dilfer, the 14-year veteran who struggled through three straight losses while filling in for Smith earlier in the year, reclaimed the starting job Thursday for at least one week, though Smith's injury could sideline him for the season.

Dilfer then went after cornerback Tarell Brown in Thursday's practice after an apparent exchange of trash talk. Teammates had to separate the 35-year-old Super Bowl winner from the 22-year-old rookie from Texas -- and given the way this week is going, Nolan wasn't even surprised.

"When things are important to people, they show their emotions in a lot of ways," Nolan said. "Out here on the football field, you can show your emotions in a lot of ways. The only thing I'm worried about it somebody getting hurt. Other than that, they can punch each other all they want."

In that case, a few haymakers might do the pent-up Niners a world of good.

A day after Smith and Nolan traded veiled criticisms, they were more harmonious Thursday. Smith and Nolan had a lengthy meeting Wednesday following the quarterback's public disclosure that his recently separated right shoulder led to a forearm injury that prevents him from throwing well. Smith and Nolan previously denied Smith's arm injury was causing his poor play.

"Alex has got good toughness," Nolan said. "I've never questioned that about him. In the long term, Alex is part of the solution here. ... Any time you're injured, it does something to you, but the communication needs to be better than it has been."

The 49ers still aren't certain whether Smith's injuries will keep him out for the season, though Smith has entertained the possibility. So with newly revealed fractures in a locker room that usually seems united under Nolan's leadership, the 49ers will turn to Dilfer as they attempt to stop their skid Sunday at home against the St. Louis Rams (1-8).
"There's no time for me to be sympathetic [toward Smith]," said Dilfer, who has a close relationship with the former No. 1 draft pick. "My job is to go out and play the best football I can play. ... My relationship with Alex won't change, but I don't have time for that drama or any other type of drama."

Dilfer got his first snaps since 2005 after Smith was injured on the third play of San Francisco's loss to Seattle on Sept. 30. Dilfer went 47-of-90 for 463 yards with three touchdown passes and five interceptions for the 49ers.

Though Smith's 57.2 passer rating is the worst among all quarterbacks with enough snaps to qualify, it's still higher than Dilfer's 55.0. Those struggling quarterbacks are just two reasons San Francisco's offense is last in the league in several categories.

"I have some major things I need to improve on from the last time I played, so it's time for me to do that," Dilfer said.

Smith, who sat out practice for the second straight day, acknowledged a bit of regret for airing his communication problems with Nolan in public before discussing them fully with the head coach.

"This is like a family, it's so tight," Smith said. "Mike and I have been close ever since I was drafted. You're going to have disagreements. It's going to happen in any family. It's working through this. Could I have done anything differently? Yeah, maybe. He said I need to communicate better, and I need to."

Smith will be in uniform Sunday, but Nolan hasn't decided whether Smith or third-stringer Shaun Hill will be the backup QB. Before Dilfer threw down with Brown, Hill hit his finger on a teammate's helmet Thursday -- so receiver Arnaz Battle, a former quarterback at Notre Dame, took the last few practice snaps for the scout team.

Smith said he might travel to Alabama to meet with Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist who has reviewed the results of his recent MRIs, but doesn't have any current plans to do so. Smith realizes he could be done for the season.

"It will have to do with what the doctors think is best for the long term," Smith said. "I think the point is to come back when you're functional."

Ricky Williams to rejoin Dolphins

By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer
November 15, 2007

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -- Ricky Williams stood at a window in the Miami Dolphins' player lounge and watched the start of practice as he chomped on an apple, so close to an NFL return he could taste it.

Coach Cam Cameron decided Thursday to welcome Williams back, and he'll be on the field starting with Monday's workout. His first game in nearly two years could come a week later, Nov. 26 at Pittsburgh.

"He'll be a member of this team," Cameron said. "He's a Miami Dolphin."


Williams has tested positive for marijuana at least four times since the Dolphins acquired him in 2002. Miami's franchise-record playoff drought began that same year.
But it's difficult to imagine how Williams could sabotage a team that's 0-9, and so the long, strange trip continues. Cameron said his players favored Williams' return from a 1 1/2 -year suspension, and the 2002 NFL rushing champion embraced yet another fresh start.

"I'm at a place now where it's easier for me to appreciate being a football player," he said. "I hated being a football player before."

As part of the NFL drug program, Williams underwent therapy for the past 5 1/2 months in Boston. He declined to discuss the treatment, but said he was confident drug testing won't derail his latest comeback.

"If I wasn't confident, I wouldn't have even tried," he said. "I wouldn't have made the effort."

Cameron said his faith in the treatment program and in commissioner Roger Goodell was a factor in allowing Williams to return.

"I have a lot of respect for the commissioner and how he has handled a lot of situations in this offseason, and this situation in particular," Cameron said. "I know how thorough everything was done as it relates to Ricky. For him to be reinstated by our commissioner, knowing what he stands for, that impacted me tremendously."

When Williams' most recent suspension was lifted, he quickly flew to South Florida and met Thursday morning with Cameron.

"The meeting was positive," Cameron said.

For months, Miami's first-year coach had been mum regarding whether he would want Williams. In May, when discussing Williams' latest relapse, the coach said it's difficult to salvage the careers of troubled players.

He conceded an 0-9 record altered his perspective.

"Circumstances have changed," Cameron said. "However, you still rely on the leadership of your locker room and quality professionals like we have, and you get their input, and that was the major part of the decision."

Those endorsements of the decision were as quirky as Williams.

"I don't know if I had a daughter if I'd want her to date him," linebacker Channing Crowder said, "but as a football player, as a teammate, I love him."

Added linebacker Zach Thomas: "He won't be a cancer in the locker room. He has always had a good work ethic. He's always been a good person and a good teammate. Everybody deserves a second and third chance."

And fourth and fifth, apparently, at least in this case.

Other teams were buzzing about Williams, too. Fellow University of Texas alum Cedric Benson, a third-year pro with the Chicago Bears, described Williams' comeback as "awesome."

"We've got this thing that when he gets in the league we're going to compete to see who's the better running back," Benson said. "We always wanted to see who's the better running back."

Ricky's return created a familiar circus-like atmosphere at the Dolphins' complex. Photographers and cameramen began a stakeout across the street at 7 a.m. and awaited the arrival of the elusive running back. He showed up around 11, riding in a team van.

Cameron's daily news conference was almost all about Williams, with not a single reference to rookie quarterback John Beck, who'll make his NFL debut Sunday at Philadelphia.

Williams followed Cameron to the microphones and wrestled with the first question.

"My motivation for coming back to the NFL? Could we start with an easier question?" he said with a chuckle.

"My motivation is to get my life going again. Being out of football in the situation I was in makes it difficult, you know? I want to create a better life for myself and for my family, and being a football player, for me, is a big part of that."

Williams, who has played in only 12 games since retiring in the summer of 2004, said he has been working out for about six weeks and is in "pretty good shape." He offered no prediction regarding when he might play, and offered no pledge that his latest chapter with the Dolphins would end on a high note.

"I'm not necessarily looking for it to end on a high note," he said. "It's just going to help me get to where I want to be. I want to get on with my life. I want to go back to school and pursue a profession outside of football. Playing football is the best way for me to get there."

The Dolphins were thinking more in terms of Williams getting them to the end zone. Maybe that will happen, too.

AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman contributed to this report.

Titans cornerback 'Pacman' Jones gets plea deal in Las Vegas strip club triple shooting

By KEN RITTER, Associated Press Writer
November 15, 2007

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A judge accepted a plea deal Thursday reducing felony charges against suspended NFL player Adam "Pacman" Jones to a gross misdemeanor that will get him probation in return for his testimony about a strip club triple shooting.

The Tennessee Titans cornerback did not appear before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Tony Abbatangelo, who accepted the written agreement and waived Jones' preliminary hearing on two felony coercion charges.

Abbatangelo scheduled Jones to plead no contest Dec. 5 in state court to one charge of conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct.

Jones will be sentenced later to one year of probation, Clark County prosecutor Victoria Villegas said after a brief hearing. Two charges of coercion, a felony carrying a possible sentence of one to six years in prison, will be dropped.

"The goal is to find the shooter," Villegas said.Las Vegas police have not linked Jones to the Feb. 19 gunfire that left three people wounded outside the Minxx Gentlemen's Club at the end of NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas. No one has been charged in that case.

But police called the 24-year-old Jones "an inciter" of a melee that broke out after he showered dancers inside the strip club with dollar bills pulled from a black plastic trash bag -- a stunt known as "making it rain."

Witnesses told police that Jones and members of his entourage threatened people while they were being ejected, and that Jones spoke outside the club with a man who was suspected of opening fire minutes later.

Defense attorney Robert Langford declined to say if Jones knew the identity of the gunman. He cited the ongoing police investigation.

Las Vegas police Lt. George Castro declined to say what information police believe Jones can provide.

Under the Las Vegas plea deal, Jones will received a suspended one-year jail sentence. He also must attend an anger management program, complete 200 hours of community service within a year and submit to random drug testing.

Langford said the probation and community service requirements might be fulfilled near Jones' home in Tennessee. Jones already is subject to the NFL's drug testing program.

The three people who were wounded -- club employee Tommy Urbanski, co-worker and bouncer Aaron Cudworth and club patron Natalie Jones -- have each have filed civil lawsuits seeking damages from Jones.

The lawsuit by Urbanski, who was paralyzed from the waist down, also seeks damages from the NFL, the Titans and the owners of Harlem Knights, a Houston strip club that hosted events at the Minxx club.
Urbanski's wife, Kathy, expressed anger this week about Jones' plea deal and said she wants the shooter identified and charged. She declined comment Thursday.

Two co-defendants in the case also are taking plea deals, said Langford, who represents all three.

Jones' bodyguard, Robert "Big Rob" Reid, 37, of Carson, Calif., is scheduled to plead no contest Dec. 5 to conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct and receive one year probation. Reid faced one felony coercion charge.

Sadia Morrison, 25, of New York, will plead no contest to a felony battery charge in return for dropping other felony charges. Morrison faced five charges, including coercion, felony assault with a deadly weapon and battery. She is expected to receive up to three years' probation, and her conviction would be reduced to a gross misdemeanor if she stays out of trouble, Langford said.

Jones' Atlanta-based attorney, Manny Arora, has said he believed Jones could beat the coercion charge, but a trial might hurt Jones' chances for reinstatement to the NFL. Arora did not immediately respond Thursday to messages seeking comment.

Jones has been arrested six times since the Titans drafted him in April 2005 from West Virginia, and has other criminal cases pending. A felony count of obstruction in Georgia from a February 2006 arrest has been postponed, and August 2006 public intoxication and disorderly charges in Tennessee were delayed pending the outcome of the Las Vegas case.

Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Jones for the 2007 season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The NFL Players Association is asking Goodell to reconsider.

Barry Bonds indicted on 4 perjury counts, obstruction of justice

Lance Williams, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007

The perjury case against former Giants star Barry Bonds is built on documents seized in a federal raid on a Burlingame steroids lab and positive drug test results indicating that baseball's all-time home run king used steroids, court records show.

Bonds, perhaps the greatest hitter of his generation, was indicted Thursday on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. He is accused of lying under oath in December 2003 when he told the grand jury that investigated the BALCO steroid ring that he had never used banned drugs.

The 43-year-old free-agent outfielder faces arraignment Dec. 7 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, months of legal proceedings - and a federal prison term of about 30 months if he is convicted at trial, legal experts said.
In the indictment, federal prosecutors said Bonds lied when he denied using a long list of banned drugs, including steroids, testosterone, human growth hormone and "the clear," the undetectable designer steroid marketed by BALCO.

Bonds also lied when he testified that his longtime personal trainer, Greg Anderson, had never injected him with drugs, the government contended. The trainer, who was imprisoned for contempt of court after he refused to testify against Bonds, was freed Thursday night, hours after Bonds' indictment was unsealed.

To buttress its perjury case, the government has what prosecutors have called a "mountain of evidence" seized in a raid on the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in September 2003 - documents including doping calendars showing Bonds' drug regimen and payment records of drug purchases. In addition, the indictment says investigators have obtained "positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds."

The indictment gave no details. But a source familiar with the case said BALCO founder Victor Conte had arranged repeated private steroid tests for Bonds to track the effects of his drug regimen. In the BALCO raid, the government seized those test reports, said the source, who asked not to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

Since the BALCO scandal began to unfold, Bonds has adamantly denied using steroids. He told the grand jury he used only flaxseed oil and an arthritis balm, not BALCO's designer drugs. In August, when he broke Hank Aaron's record to become baseball's all-time home run leader, Bonds declared that his record was "not tainted at all."

On Thursday, his lawyer, Michael Rains, vowed to fight the charges and predicted Bonds would be exonerated at trial.

Bonds' indictment roiled a sport that has been struggling to put an end to what's been called its "steroid era." Mostly in response to exposes about BALCO, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has ratcheted up the sport's drug-testing programs and hired a former U.S. senator, George Mitchell, to investigate steroid use in the game.
On Thursday, Selig issued a statement saying he was watching the Bonds case carefully, but he gave no indication what action he might take. Mitchell's report is supposed to be released by the end of the year.

The indictment also marked the end of a yearlong government effort to force Anderson, Bonds' trainer and boyhood friend, to testify about Bonds and drugs. Anderson pleaded guilty to a steroid conspiracy charge in the BALCO case and was jailed for three months.

Then, last year, the government subpoenaed Anderson to testify before the grand jury investigating Bonds for perjury. Anderson refused and was imprisoned for contempt of court. Thursday night, more than a year after he went to prison, a federal judge ordered him freed. His lawyer, Mark Geragos, said Anderson had not cooperated with the government.

Bonds won the National League's Most Valuable Player award an unprecedented seven times - five times as a Giant and twice as a young player with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He led the Giants to the pennant and the World Series in 2002. On Aug. 7, in his 15th year as a Giant, he broke Aaron's mark of 755 career home runs, perhaps the most hallowed record in all sports.

Bonds finished the season with 762 home runs. His $17 million-per-year contract expired in 2007, and the Giants refused to offer him a new one. He has said he hopes to sign with another team and play in 2008.

Bonds is the most famous baseball star to be accused of a crime since 1989, when Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose, holder of the lifetime record for most hits, was banned from the game and indicted for tax evasion in a gambling scandal. Rose served five months in federal prison.
Former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent called the prospect of Bonds' indictment "a terrific blow to the game," more troubling than the Rose scandal.

Rose was "one guy betting on baseball," Vincent told The Chronicle last year, while Bonds' indictment reflects a problem that strikes "right at the heart and the gut of baseball" - the sudden rise in the use of steroids and human growth hormone.

Vincent likened the Bonds case to the worst scandal in baseball history: the 1919 "Black Sox" affair, in which Chicago White Sox hitting star "Shoeless Joe" Jackson and seven teammates were indicted for conspiring with gamblers to fix the World Series. The players were acquitted at trial, but baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a former judge who had been hired to clean up the game, banned them all for life anyway.

Selig cannot act so boldly, experts said. If Selig were to respond to the indictment by banning Bonds from the game, baseball's powerful players' union almost certainly would object, and an arbitrator might well reinstate him, said baseball labor historian Robert Burk, a professor at Muskingum College in Ohio. In the modern era, baseball players accused of crimes have been allowed to continue playing until their cases are resolved, he said.

Bonds set off down the path that led to his indictment during the 1998 season, when St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire was winning acclaim for breaking the single-season home-run record then held by Roger Maris.
According to Bonds' former girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, and other people who know him, Bonds became jealous of the attention paid to McGwire, whom he regarded as an inferior player and a steroid user. In the offseason, Bonds began training with Anderson, a friend from the San Carlos Little League.

According to documents seized by investigators, Anderson began supplying the Giants star with steroids and human growth hormone. Through the drug use and weight training, Bonds became far more muscular and transformed himself into the greatest slugger of his era.

After the 2000 season, Anderson took Bonds to BALCO and introduced him to Conte, who at the time was providing undetectable steroids to Olympic athletes so they could beat drug tests. After baseball began steroid testing in 2003, Anderson began supplying an undetectable steroid to Bonds to ensure that he would pass baseball's new drug tests, the trainer said on a tape recording made without his knowledge.

By then, BALCO was the target of a drug probe led by a dogged investigator from the Internal Revenue Service's criminal division, agent Jeff Novitzky, a former basketball player at San Jose State. In September 2003, he led raids on BALCO and Anderson's home in Burlingame, taking away significant evidence of drug use by a long list of elite athletes - including Bonds.

After the raid, more than 30 athletes with ties to BALCO were subpoenaed before a federal grand jury, where they were granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for truthful testimony about BALCO and drugs.Five baseball players - including New York Yankees star Jason Giambi - acknowledged using banned BALCO drugs obtained from Anderson. A sixth, outfielder Gary Sheffield, testified that Anderson, at Bonds' direction, had provided him "the cream" and "the clear." Sheffield said he had been told the substances weren't steroids.

But Bonds testified that he had never used banned drugs, telling the grand jury Anderson had only given him flaxseed oil and arthritis balm. Those denials form the crux of the perjury allegations.

After Bonds' grand jury testimony, federal agents began a wide-ranging investigation of the Giants slugger. In March 2005, Bell testified that Bonds had told her he had used steroids in 1999.

She also told the grand jury that Bonds had given her $80,000 cash to make the down payment on a house in Arizona. Bell said Bonds obtained the money by selling sports memorabilia for cash.

For more than three years, the BALCO probe was directed by U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan. In December 2006, Ryan was among nine U.S. attorneys who were abruptly fired by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Since then, the Bonds probe has been supervised by an acting U.S. attorney, Scott Schools.
Last month another star athlete suspected of lying about her role in BALCO - track and field superstar Marion Jones, sweetheart of the 2000 Sydney Olympics - pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to falsely telling federal agents she had not used banned drugs and making false statements about her participation in a check fraud scheme. After Jones pleaded guilty, BALCO investigators turned their attention back to Bonds.

Bonds joins a long list of celebrities and historic figures accused of perjury, the crime of making a false statement under oath.

Former U.S. State Department official Alger Hiss spent 44 months in prison for lying in a Cold War-era probe of a Communist spy ring. In his 1999 impeachment trial, then-President Bill Clinton was acquitted of perjury in the Monica Lewinsky affair. In March, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying to a grand jury in connection with the leak of an undercover CIA operative's name to news reporters.

But the perjury case that many experts liken to the Bonds case is that of former NBA star Chris Webber, indicted in 2002 after denying under oath that during his college basketball career that he had received money and gifts from a University of Michigan booster. Webber pleaded guilty to criminal contempt, paid a $100,000 fine and was ordered to perform community service rather than be imprisoned.

Steve Fishman, the Detroit lawyer who represented him, said Webber was able to settle the case because the prosecution's evidence was weak and Webber was a sympathetic defendant.
"The accusation against Webber was that he was not telling the truth about something that occurred when he was a teenager," Fishman said in an interview last year. "There are miles of differences between allegations that you received gym shoes when you were playing at the University of Michigan versus you received steroids while you were the National League MVP."

If convicted of perjury, Bonds would be lucky to avoid prison, legal experts said. Technically, the maximum sentence on a conviction for a single count of perjury is five years in prison and 10 years for obstruction of justice. But Patrick Mullin, a criminal defense specialist who practices in New York and New Jersey, said federal sentencing guidelines would call for a term of from 24 to 30 months if Bonds is convicted of all the charges.

"It could go higher," Mullin said. "This is tough stuff."