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Sports Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Little says Martinez, Garciaparra, Varitek ready

Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek have healed from last year's injuries and will be able to play on opening day.

''All three of them are coming along fine, and it looks like they'll be ready to start the season,'' Boston Red Sox manager Grady Little said Monday at Fort Myers, Fla.

Martinez threw 66 pitches in four innings Saturday, and although he surrendered six runs, said his shoulder feels great. He threw pain-free on the side Monday and is scheduled to make his fourth start Thursday.

Martinez is scheduled to make a fifth start in Florida and, barring setbacks, would start opening day, April 1. Little said Martinez should be ready to pitch five to seven innings on opening day.

NFL schedule could have late-season TV switches

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Important late-season NFL games this season might be switched from Sunday afternoon to Monday night to attract more viewers.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Monday the 2002 schedule, expected to be released in the next week or two, probably will allow one Sunday game in each of the last four weeks to be moved to Monday night. Any changes would be decided at least four weeks in advance.

The new plan must still be signed off on by Fox and CBS, although Tagliabue can unilaterally approve it for the NFL.

''We are surprised to hear of this through the press, since our executives met with the commissioner socially last night, and he didn't mention it,'' Fox Sports VP Lou D'Ermilio said. ''That said, we look forward to hearing from the NFL with great interest.''

Richardson, university president meet

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Nolan Richardson's bid to keep his job as Arkansas coach will be decided by the middle of the week.

Richardson and university President B. Alan Sugg met for more than three hours Monday, and Sugg said he would decide in a day or two whether to overturn Chancellor John White's decision to buy out the last six years of Richardson's contract for $500,000 a year, about half its face value.

''I'm still in the process of reviewing Dr. White's decision to terminate,'' Sugg said. ''I have a great deal of personal and professional respect for Coach Richardson. This is a tough issue, and I'll do my best to make the very best decision that I can.''

Richardson, who wants to remain as the Razorbacks' coach, said the session was a ''good meeting.''

''We presented our side. When you have a lot to talk about, it takes time,'' he said.

Naismith Awards announced

ATLANTA -- Duke's Jason Williams and Connecticut's Sue Bird won the Naismith Awards on Monday as the top college basketball players in the country.

Bird's coach at UConn, Geno Auriemma, and Pittsburgh's Ben Howland were the Atlanta Tipoff Club's choices for top coaches.

Blank moves closer to making Wolf an offer

ATLANTA -- Ron Wolf has dropped his demand for minority ownership in his contract talks to become the Atlanta Falcons' new executive vice president and general manager.

''The way the National Football League is right now, I couldn't have ownership and work,'' Wolf said Monday night. ''But there could be a possibility down the line when I retire for something to be worked out along those lines.''

Wolf, who retired nine months ago as Green Bay's executive vice president and GM, has two years left on a contract worth $1 million as a Packers consultant. He paused when asked if he's made up his mind to accept an offer from Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

The 63-year-old Wolf admitted being ''burned out'' when he resigned nine months ago from the Packers.

''I'm thinking about that, and before I comment on anything, I've got to hear where we are,'' Wolf said. ''I've got to make sure in my own mind that I can give Arthur Blank what he needs. I have to be sure of that.''

Asked about an ESPN.com report that the Falcons have offered a $4 million salary, Wolf laughed.

''That sounds a little high,'' he said before adding that he thinks the parameters are in place for a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year.

In an interview last week, Wolf told The Associated Press he would consider backing off his stated demand for equity in a franchise if ''the price was right'' for a lucrative salary.

Wolf has not met with Blank since interviewing March 8 in Atlanta, but that ''my representative and his representative are continuing to talk about all kinds of things.''

Blank, attending the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, told Falcons sposkesman Aaron Salkin that he still has not heard from Green Bay coach Mike Sherman as to what kind of compensation the Packers will seek from Atlanta.

Sherman, whom Wolf hired two years, is unlikely to ask for much more than the second-round pick the Packers received from Seattle in 1999 when Mike Holmgren left to become the Seahawks' GM and head coach.

Wolf admitted being impressed with a new Falcons board of directors, announced by Blank on Friday -- a list that includes former Washington coach Joe Gibbs, former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, Atlanta Olympic chief Billy Payne and former Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski.

Gibbs, along with Post Properties CEO John Williams and Atlanta venture capitalist John Imlay, also were announced as minority owners who purchased a total of 5 percent of the franchise for $27 million.

''Arthur Blank is showing all the signs that he is serious about building a winner in Atlanta,'' Wolf said. ''He is one very, very impressive individual.''



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