Around the Nation (Jan. 21): Cleveland Browns safety Ward added to Pro Bowl roster

Associated Press Published:

Associated Press

FOOTBALL

Browns safety Ward added to Pro Bowl roster

CLEVELAND — Browns safety T.J. Ward has been added to the Pro Bowl roster, giving Cleveland six players at this year’s game.

Ward was selected as an alternate and will replace Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who is unable to participate because of an injury.

Ward had a solid fourth pro season and is eligible for free agency in March. He started all 16 games and finished with a career-high 129 tackles. He recorded 15 tackles for loss and had two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown in a win over Buffalo. He also returned a fumble for a TD against Chicago.

Ward has said he would like to re-sign with the Browns, who are still searching for a coach after firing Rob Chudzinski.

Ward joins tight end Jordan Cameron, wide receiver Josh Gordon, cornerback Joe Haden, center Alex Mack and tackle Joe Thomas in Honolulu for Sunday’s game.

Lombardi to lead Lions offense

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions hired Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator, the team announced Tuesday.

Lombardi, grandson of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, has been an offensive assistant for New Orleans since 2007. He was hired as quarterbacks coach in 2009, the season the Saints won their only Super Bowl over the Indianapolis Colts, who were then coached by current Lions coach Jim Caldwell. Saints quarterback Drew Brees has passed for more than 5,000 yards in a season three times with Lombardi as his position coach.

Licht named GM at Tampa Bay

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired Arizona Cardinals front-office executive Jason Licht to help coach Lovie Smith transform a team that hasn’t won a playoff game in more than a decade into a championship contender.

The struggling franchise confirmed the move Tuesday and plans to formally introduce him as the fifth GM in club history at a news conference Thursday.

Licht has been with the Cardinals for the past two seasons, the last one as vice president of player personnel.

Gonzalez selected for 14th Pro Bowl

ATLANTA — Tony Gonzalez has one more game to play after all.

Gonzalez, the Falcons’ tight end who is retiring, was named to his 14th Pro Bowl on Tuesday as a replacement for San Francisco’s Vernon Davis. The game is Sunday in Honolulu.

It is the fourth Pro Bowl selection for Gonzalez in five seasons with Atlanta. He had 79 receptions for 803 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, adding to the best career totals for any tight end in NFL history.

The Falcons had a disappointing 4-12 finish after the 37-year-old Gonzalez postponed his retirement for one year. He trails only Jerry Rice in career catches and ranks fifth in yards receiving and sixth in touchdown catches.

He finished his career with catches in 210 consecutive games, second all-time behind Rice’s 274.

Lawsuit against Saban’s daughter may get tossed out

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A judge is considering whether to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the daughter of University of Alabama coach Nick Saban after a fight with a sorority sister.

Lawyers for Kristen Saban are asking Circuit Judge James Robert to end the case. They say evidence proves she was only defending herself during an altercation in August 2010.

But attorneys for Sarah Grimes say the case should continue toward a trial. They say there’s a real dispute over what happened after a night of drinking.

The judge set a hearing for Tuesday morning.

Grimes sued Kristen Saban in 2012 seeking an unspecified amount of money for the fight, which Grimes says left her with serious injuries.

Evidence shows the fight began over a Facebook post, and each woman portrays the other as the aggressor.

BASKETBALL

Billion dollar prize offered for perfect NCAA bracket

DETROIT — Correctly predicting the outcome of every game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is no layup. There’s now a $1 billion prize waiting for anyone able to pull off the feat this spring.

Quicken Loans Inc. announced Tuesday that it will team with investor Warren Buffett’s Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway on the “Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge.”

The Detroit-based mortgage lender says any qualified entrant who correctly predicts the winners of every game in the tournament will be paid in 40 annual installments of $25 million. A winner also can elect to receive an immediate $500 million lump-sum payment or share in that payment if there’s more than one perfect bracket submitted.

It’s a safe investment by Buffett’s group. ESPN which has run a tournament challenge for the past 16 years that has included President Barack Obama — has never had a perfect bracket in over 30 million entries according to the network.

Quicken Loans Inc. said it will offer to split $2 million among the 20 most accurate predictions submitted for the contest. It will also donate $1 million to educational charities in Detroit and Cleveland, the two cities that are the main focus of Quicken founder and Chairman/Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s activities.

TENNIS

Cibulkova coasts into Australia semis

MELBOURNE, Australia — Dominika Cibulkova won the last eight games in a one-hour, 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinal rout of No. 11-seeded Simona Halep at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The diminutive Cibulkova, among the shortest women on the WTA tour at 1.61 meters (5-feet-3), pounded Halep from the back of the court to progress to her first Grand Slam semifinal since the 2009 French Open. It was her second win in five major quarterfinals and served as a harsh lesson for Halep, who was appearing in her first.

“I’m not so tall, but I’m intense on the court,” Cibulkova said, “and I’m powerful.”

Halep only won 10 points in the second set as Cibulkova relentlessly attacked.

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