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In Sports from United Press International

Aug. 19, 2002 at 4:00 PM   |   Comments

Seattle inks Rypien

CHENEY, Wash., Aug. 19 (UPI) -- The Seattle Seahawks, who supposedly were not in the market for another signal-caller, Monday did just that, adding some insurance by signing former Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien.

Official contract terms were not disclosed.

Rypien, 39, played last season for the Indianapolis Colts backing up Peyton Manning after sitting out three seasons, 1998-2000. He attempted only nine passes last year.

The Seahawks had second thought about adding a quarterback because of poor play by backup Matt Hasselback, who inherited the job after Trent Dilfer suffered a torn MCL in his right knee in a preseason contest Aug. 10 against the Colts.

He sustained the injury when was hit by Colts' defensive linemen Chad Bratzke and James Cannida after releasing a pass in the second quarter of the 'Hawks' 28-10 loss. He may be out for as long as eight weeks.

Rypien is planning to be in Seattle for the entire campaign.

"They are not going to pay you and send you home and say thanks for one or two games," he said. "That is kind of what we envisioned too, that this would be something, if it did work out, was going to probably be for the whole year, which I wanted. You don't know how it is going to be, they might send me home in five weeks, who knows. But, from a standpoint of protecting yourself, I want to be somewhere where I can be for a whole year. I don't need the money, I just enjoy the fact that I can still play and still feel like I can offer something to the team, whether it is from a playing standpoint or a leadership standpoint and also for peace of mind for myself. It is nice to have routine and structure and get back in with the fellas, doing something you have been doing your whole life."

He also admits he has some work to do.

"I'm not great shape," Rypien said, "but I feel comfortable enough to come in and be called upon to get things done."

Rypien, who lives in nearby Spokane, Wash., played collegiately at Washington State. He was with for the Washington Redskins from 1987-93, and was named MVP of Super Bowl XXVI, when he passed for 292 yards and two touchdowns in their 37-24 rout of the Buffalo Bills in 1992. In that regular season, he threw for 3,546 yards and 28 touchdowns.

For his career, Rypien has played in 104 games, starting 78. He has tossed 115 touchdowns to 88 interceptions, and passed for 18,473 yards.

Both he and Jeff Brohm, another NFL journeyman quarterback, worked out for the Seahawks Sunday.


Drew Brees, who appeared in just one game as a rookie last season, Monday was named this year's starting quarterback for the San Diego Chargers.

Coach Marty Schottenheimer chose Brees as his starter in a tightly-contested competition with 39-year-old Doug Flutie.

"Drew Brees has earned the chance to play and get better," said Schottenheimer, who a few days ago said the competition was too close to call. "This gives Drew the opportunity to participate as the starter in the final two preseason games. He's 23 years old and will improve with every snap."

Brees was a second-round choice in the 2001 draft out of Purdue and completed 15-of-27 passes for 221 yards and one score in his only appearance with the Chargers.

Content that Brees is ready to take the next step, Schottenheimer bypassed Flutie, who has thrown for 13,249 yards in eight NFL seasons.

"Doug is better prepared and ideal for coming off the bench because of his mobility," Schottenheimer said. "He can come off the bench and create tremendous problems for the opponent's

defense."

Going with a new quarterback is not new for Schottenheimer, who, as coach of the Cleveland Browns, went with rookie Bernie Kosar in 1985.

The Chargers open their season at Cincinnati on Sept. 8.


Bills sign Ahanotu

PITTSFORD, N.Y., Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Veteran defensive end Chidi Ahanotu Monday joined his third NFL team in as many years when he signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Ahanotu, 32, spent his first eight NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, recording a career-high 10 sacks in 1997. He spent last season with the St. Louis Rams.

The 6-2, 285-pounder was used only on first and second down by the Rams, but the Bills will give Ahanotu a chance to prove if he has anything left as a pass rusher. The Bills have no sacks in two preseason games.

"He was looking for a chance to play and to mentor younger players," his agent, Scott Langley, told the Buffalo News. Langley said his client spoke with several other teams.

Ahanotu has appeared in 129 games, including 120 starts, and has 33 sacks.


Swoopes named top WNBA defender

NEW YORK, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Houston Comets forward Sheryl Swoopes, who set a franchise record with 88 steals this season, has been named the WNBA's Defensive Player of the Year.

Swoopes received 22 of a possible 60 votes from a nationwide panel of writers and broadcasters, winning the award for the second time in her career.

Indiana's Tamika Catchings, the WNBA's Rookie of the Year, finished second with 18 points. Lisa Leslie of Los Angeles and Miami's Debbie Black tied for third with six points.

Swoopes, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL in her left knee, averaged 2.75 steals per game, second in the league.

Swoopes also led the Comets in scoring with 18.5 points and assists with 3.3 per contest. She also averaged 4.9 rebounds, and her defense helped Houston hold opponents to league lows of 59.1 points per game and 37.5 percent shooting from the field.

Swoopes will receive a Tiffany-designed trophy and $5,000.

Phoenix guard Jennifer Gillom was the recipient of the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award.

AIG VALIC, a WNBA sponsor and member of American International Group, Inc., will award $5,000 to Gillom and will donate $5,000 to her high school alma mater, Lafayette High School in Oxford, Miss.

She will also receive a Tiffany-designed trophy during an on-court presentation in Houston during the first round of the playoffs.


Bates suffers broken ankle

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Ace kick returner and special teams performer Michael Bates likely saw his return season to Carolina end before it really started after he suffered a broken right ankle in Saturday night's preseason loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Bates, a 10-year veteran who spent the 2001 season with the Washington Redskins, was hit by a Dallas blocker as he ran down field to cover a first quarter kickoff. The leg was immediately placed in a brace.

A series of tests showed the break.

According to the Charlotte Observer, the five-time Pro Bowler appeared to be upset about the block that injured him, angrily gesturing to the Cowboys' bench as he was carted off the field at Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte.

The 5-10, 189-pounder from Arizona is one of only 24 players in league history to be selected to the Pro Bowl at two positions, making it as the kick returner and as the special teamer. In 1996, he averaged 30.2 yards per kickoff return, marking the first time in nearly 20 years that a returner had an average of 30 yards or better.

Bates, 32, returned to the Panthers when the Redskins were forced to release him in March for salary cap purposes. He was selected by the Seattle Seahawks as the 151st overall pick in the 1992 draft, and was chosen to play fort the NFC in the Pro Bowl each year from 1996-2000.

Bates, also a good tackler on opposition kickoffs, has a career average of 24.3 on 347 returns.


Toney nears title shot

TECMECULA, Calif., Aug. 19 (UPI) -- James Toney took another step toward a title shot Sunday night by knocking out contender Jason Robinson in the seventh round of their cruiserweight elimination bout.

Toney dropped Robinson with a devastating right hand at the end of the fifth round and finished him late in the seventh with a left hook to the chin.

With the win, Toney, 65-4-2 with 42 knockouts, the former IBF middleweight and super-middleweight champion, earns a title shot at Vassily Jirov. He ran his winning streak to 11 fights in a row.

Robinson fell to 16-3.

On the undercard, former IBF junior-lightweight champion Steve Forbes posted a split decision over mandatory contender David Santos, but the victory the victory was hollow for Forbes, who lost his title on the scales Saturday. Forbes could not make the 130-pound limit and reportedly entered the ring at 152 pounds. Reportedly, following his victory Sunday, the title was declared vacant.

Two judges had Forbes, who improved to 21-1, ahead, 117-111, while a third judge had the bout in favor of Santos, 115-113.

Santos, who now is 42-5, lost to Forbes for the second time in two years and had a five-bout winning streak snapped.


Wild's Laaksonen wins arbitration case

ST. PAUL, Minn., Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Left wing Antii Laaksonen, the only player to appear in all 164 games for the Minnesota Wild.

Monday was awarded a one-year contract worth $750,000 by arbitrator Gil Vernon.

Laaksonen had career bests of 16 goals and 17 assists last season as the Wild went 26-35-12-9, a five-point improvement over their inaugural season, and finished last in the Northwest Division.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the ruling was $250,000 less than what Laaksonen sought, but it almost doubled his $475,000 salary from last season. The team submitted a proposal for $625,000 during a two-hour hearing last Thursday in Toronto.

"The number aside, we're pretty happy with the process," Tom Lynn, the Wild's Director of Hockey Administration and Legal Affairs, told the paper. "The important thing for us is that it's a one-year deal. We're trying to get better as a team. Having a player with a one-year deal, we can make the decision next summer whether to make him a qualifying offer (as a restricted free agent). And from Antti's perspective, he has the same (arbitration) rights next year."

Laaksonen, 28, was selected by the Boston Bruins in the eighth round of the 1997 draft and signed with Minnesota as a free agent on July 20, 2000. He has 35 goals and 38 assists in 202 career games and was a Group II free agent.

In two seasons in Minnesota, Laaksonen has 28 goals and 61 points and has played in all 164 games. He scored seven goals in parts of two seasons with the Boston Bruins.


Top thoroughbred dies at 16

TOKYO, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Sunday Silence, the winner of the first two legs of the 1989 Triple Crown who went on to become Horse of the Year, died Monday in Tokyo) from complications of a disease in his left foreleg.

The 16-year-old thoroughbred had been in failing health since contracting laminitis, a disease of the hoof, last month. He died at around 11 a.m. local time of heart failure, according to an official of the Shadai Stallion Station.

Last week, the horse underwent surgery for a third time to improve his right foreleg. He was expected to recover, but his condition worsened as his stable pondered whether to put

him down. The stable said euthenasia was not involved.

Sunday Silence never placed lower than second in his 14 starts career starts. The son of Halo and Wishing Well, Sunday Silence became the fourth horse since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 to capture the first two legs of horse racing's ultimate prize, but fell short at the Belmont.

Sunday Silence will be best remembered for his rivalry with Easy Goer, winning three of their four meetings in 1989. He won the Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths and the Preakness in an exciting stretch duel. He lost the Belmont to Easy Goer but gained revenge.

At the end of the season, Sunday Silence was named champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year. The next year, he ran in two races, winning the Californian and coming in second at the Hollywood Gold Cup.

The horse's career ended at four years old because of to an injury, and was sold to stud to Shadai Farm in Japan, where he was an immediate success. His progeny produced 457 winners, including 43 in stakes races.

In all, Sunday Silence took home nearly $5 million and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.


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