IRVING, Texas, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The Dallas Cowboys Thursday released running back Emmitt Smith, the most accomplished player in the history of the franchise.
Although both Smith and club owner Jerry Jones insisted the NFL's all-time leading rusher still had productive years left in him, they agreed that it was in the best interest of the Cowboys for him to move on.
"I knew the Cowboys were in a position where they had to make a tough decision," Smith said. "Did I want to hinder their future or take a pay cut or be ruled out of the equation all together.
"I knew there would be a lot of speculation what (new coach) Bill Parcells had in mind for me. I didn't want to go through that. I thought the best thing would be for me to step out of the equation and let the franchise start a move back to where it needs to be headed."
Smith, who appeared at a news conference with Jones, said he would consider offers from other teams.
"I still have a love and passion for the game," he said. "I still think I can contribute. I think I'm a 1,300 yard (a year) running back."
There had been speculation for months about Smith's status with the Cowboys because of his age and contract. He turns 34 in May and was due a base salary of $7 million next season with a salary cap figure of $9.8 million.
Even with his release, Smith still will count $4.9 million against next season's salary cap.
When Parcells was hired in January, he said any decision concerning Smith would be made by Jones. Parcells did not attend Thursday's news conference.
"I never had a meaningful conversation with Bill Parcells at all," Smith said in what was the closest thing to bitterness displayed during the media session. "I don't feel like I have to sell Bill Parcells about what I would bring to the ball club.
"My actions speak for themselves. I'm up here at 5 a.m. trying to prepare myself to play football. I don't feel I need to go around and say, 'Parcells, look at me.'"
Smith was one of the last links to the Cowboys' three Super Bowl titles in four years during the 1990s and Jones said he would have a hard time getting used to not having Smith around.
"He was such an instrumental part of what we have done," Jones said. "This is not a happy day for me, personally. This is not a red letter day for the Dallas Cowboys.
"I don't remember being involved at this level without Emmitt being here. I'm apprehensive, but we have to burn the bridges. There can be no looking back. We have to get it done without Emmitt."
Woods, Mickelson advance
Defending champion Kevin Sutherland, meanwhile, beat another young star to keep his hopes alive for a second straight title.
The second round of the only match play event on the PGA Tour was completed despite torrential rains that struck the La Costa Resort & Spa course in the middle of the day.
Play began in cool, drizzly conditions and then a storm swept through the area -- flooding greens and forcing a brief delay in play. Once the rains moved on, the sun came out. But small ponds formed on some of the fairways and water also was standing in many of the bunkers as matches resumed.
Woods shook off all of the weather difficulties to defeat K.J. Choi of South Korea, 5 & 3. For the second straight day, Woods lost the opening hole. But he won three of the next four, taking control when he almost aced the par-3 fifth.
Woods, who has yet to bogey a hole, will meet Australian Stephen Leaney in Friday's third round. Leaney stormed past Justin Leonard in the second round by winning the first four holes en route to a 6 & 5 victory.
Mickelson let a 2-up lead get away against Brad Faxon, but then captured three straight holes beginning at the 12th and pulled out a 3 & 2 win. Mickelson's opponent in the third round will be Jerry Kelly, who rallied from 3-down to beat Mike Weir, 2 & 1. Weir came into the event as the PGA Tour's leading money winner this year with victories at the Bob Hope Classic and Nissan Open.
Sutherland, meanwhile, continued to amaze in the match play format. He won this tournament last year and did little else the rest of the season and barely qualified for this event.
After rallying to defeat Sergio Garcia in the first round, he defeated young English star Justin Rose, 1-up. Sutherland, who has won eight straight matches in this tournament, now will face another of the sport's rising stars -- Australian Adam Scott.
Scott eliminated Rocco Mediate Thursday, 1-up.
Hoch was a 3 & 2 winner over Padraig Harrington of Ireland; Price downed Niclas Fasth of Sweden, 2 & 1; and Haas, the oldest player in the field at age 49, was a 1-up winner over Japan's Shigeki Maruyama. Price and Haas will meet in the third round while Hoch will take on Toshi Izawa of Japan, who eliminated Eduardo Romero of Argentina, 3 & 1.
One of Thursday's top attractions is expected to be Clarke's match against Jim Furyk in a battle of Ryder Cup members. Clarke trounced Love, 7 & 6, and Furyk crushed Steve Lowery, 6 & 5.
Jordan dominates overtime
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Michael Jordan scored 10 of his 35 points in overtime Thursday night, carrying Washington past Houston, 100-87.
Despite Jordan's heroics, the Wizards had to survive a botched final possession by Houston.
Questionable with a bruised right thigh, Jordan had a terrific all-around game. In 50 minutes, the 40-year-old superstar made 15 of 26 shots and collected 11 rebounds and six assists.
Jordan made his first five shots of the extra session. But with the Wizards clinging to a two-point lead, he missed a 15-footer from the right side that was rebounded by Rockets rookie Yao Ming with five seconds to go.
Instead of calling timeout, Yao threw an outlet pass to Steve Francis, who dribbled upcourt as he eyed the clock. He pulled up for a potential game-winning three-pointer but did not shoot and appeared to commit a traveling violation before dropping a pass for Cuttino Mobley.
Mobley, whose three-pointer at the end of regulation forced overtime, fired this one long as the horn sounded, dropping the Rockets to 3-5 in overtime games. Houston fell one game behind Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
In Dallas, Keon Clark made a layup with one second left in overtime to give Sacramento a wild
126-124 victory over the Mavericks. Sacramento forced the overtime by making up a seven-point deficit in the final 70 seconds of regulation.
Marquette pulls off key road win
LOUISVILLE, Ky., Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Dwayne Wade scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half Thursday night to rally No. 11 Marquette past No. 9 Louisville, 78-73.
Wade added seven rebounds and seven assists to help Marquette clinch a share of the Conference USA American Division title.
Scott Merritt added 18 points and Travis Diener 16 for the Golden Eagles (21-4, 12-2 C-USA), who opened a 2 1/2-game lead over the second-place Cardinals (19-5, 9-4). Marquette will share the title only if it loses its final two contests and Louisville wins its final three.
Paced by 17 points from freshman Francisco Garcia, Louisville led, 42-23, with four minutes remaining in the first half before Marquette closed to within 46-35 at the break.
Marquette carried its late momentum into the second half and Wade made a short banker to give his team the lead for good, 66-65, with seven minutes remaining. The shot commenced an 8-2 run which was capped by a three-pointer by Diener with 4:33 left that gave the Golden Eagles their biggest lead at 72-67.
Senators score in overtime
OTTAWA, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Magnus Arvedson scored 84 seconds into overtime Thursday night to give Ottawa a 3-2 win over Dallas in a battle of conference leaders.
Unbeaten in its last 10 games away from home, Dallas had a 2-1 lead before Radek Bonk completed his fourth multi-goal game of the season 13 minutes into the second period.
In overtime, Mike Fisher forced a turnover by Stars defenseman Richard Matvichuk at the blue line and led a two on one the other way. After Fisher's slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle was stopped by former Ottawa goaltender Ron Tugnutt, the rebound caromed right to Arvedson, who put it into an open net for his 200th NHL point.
It was Arvedson's third goal in as many games and completed his first three-point game of the season.
Other NHL results: New Jersey 3, New York Islanders 3; Tampa Bay 3, Florida 1; Columbus 3, Los Angeles 1; Detroit 7, Toronto 2; Minnesota 6, Montreal 3; New York Rangers 4, Boston 1; PHiladelphia 5, Chicago 2; St. Louis 4, Edmonton 1; Nashville 6, Pittsburgh 0; Atlanta 4, Colorado 3 in overtime.
Alinghi nears America's Cup triumph
AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Alinghi moved to within one victory of winning the America's Cup Friday when the mast on Team New Zealand snapped.
The latest embarrassing setback for the two-time defending champions came after nine days of inactivity caused at first by a lack of wind and then by too much of it.
With New Zealand's Russell Coutts at the helm, the challenger yacht from Switzerland is poised to take the biggest prize in sailing back to Europe for the first time since the initial competition was held 151 years ago.
With a 4-0 advantage, Alinghi needs one more win to capture the best-of-nine series.
It had been more than 70 years since a boat had been forced to abandon an America's Cup race and now Team New Zealand has done so twice in the span of four races.
In the first race, the New Zealand boat took on water, had a boom break and had two sails rip. New Zealand led the second race by 26 seconds heading onto the last three-mile let, but was overtaken.
After high winds forced postponements this week, conditions were finally right for sailing Friday with the breezes reaching as high as 23 knots but generally blowing less than 20.
Alinghi won the start Friday, was able to cross in front of New Zealand halfway up the first windward leg and owned an eight-second lead at the first mark.
That advantage grew to 17 seconds after the initial downwind leg and then, about halfway along the second windward leg, the mast broke.
Alinghi was about 100 yards in front when the incident occurred and the New Zealand crew had to frantically work to make sure the mast did not slice a hole in the hull.
One crew member used a hacksaw to cut the sails away from the mast.
Matsui displays power
TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Baseball's exhibition season got underway Thursday with the latest import from Japan enjoying a big debut.
With a throng of Japanese reporters on hand and the game being televised live in Tokyo at 3 a.m local time, Hideki Matsui hit a three-run homer in the New York Yankees' 9-3 Grapefruit League loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
Matsui, a power hitter in Japan who signed a three-year, $21 million contract with New York, grounded out in his first at bat. But he homered off Jimmy Anderson in the bottom of the third inning.
"You could tell he had done it before," said New York Manager Joe Torre said.
However, the Reds already had a 7-0 lead as Jose Contreras was roughed up in his first appearance with the Yankees.
A Cuban defector who also signed in the offseason, Contreras surrendered five runs -- all in the top of the third -- and took the loss. The big hit in the inning was a grand slam by Adam Dunn.
In Bradenton, Fla., Jim Thome homered in his first at bat and the Philadelphia Phillies went on to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-3.
Big things are expected of Thome, who left the Cleveland Indians and signed a six-year, $85 million contract with the Phillies in December. He gave a display of his power on Thursday when he belted a pitch from Jeff D'Amico the opposite way into a stiff wind over the left field fence.
Thome hit 334 homers in 12 seasons with the Indians.
No major league ban on ephedra
NEW YORK, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Major leaguers still will not be penalized for using ephedra, the substance linked to the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler.
Major League Baseball has implemented a policy banning minor league players from using ephedra. Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said Thursday that the ban was implemented Monday and has been transmitted to the front offices of the 30 major league teams over the past two days.
"It's part of our new policy," Levin said.
However, the ban covers players in the minor leagues and those not on 40-man rosters. It makes no provisions for players on 40-man rosters governed by the collective bargaining agreement reached last August.
The agreement does not ban major league players from using the supplement, which often is used to help speed weight loss.
Minor leaguers have no union and have been tested for drugs by baseball for several years.
Ephedra has been mentioned as a contributing factor in the death of Bechler, a husky, 240-pound player who collapsed due to heatstroke on Feb. 16 during a spring training workout in Fort Lauderdale and died the the following day.
The substance has been linked to heart attacks, strokes and seizures.
Available without a prescription, ephedra is banned by the NFL, NCAA and the International Olympic Committee.
Baker out of action
BOSTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Boston Celtics forward Vin Baker was excused from practice Thursday after a report he will be suspended for alcohol-related issues.
The Boston Globe reported Thursday that Baker was to meet with his teammates and coaches Thursday morning and begin serving a suspension that will last at least two weeks.
Baker, however, was excused from practice by Celtics coach Jim O'Brien.
A team spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the Boston Globe report but said that the 6-11 Baker planned to meet with Celtics' management later in the day.
The 31-year-old Baker is listed at 250 pounds but appears to be battling weight problems. He has not appeared in the last three games, including Wednesday night's 71-69 win over the Indiana Pacers.
A suspension would be another setback in an already disappointing season for Baker, who was acquired last summer in a trade with the Seattle SuperSonics. He came to Boston with four years and $56.25 million left on his contract but is averaging just 5.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 18.1 minutes in 52 games.
Green signs for the long term
KANSAS CITY, Mo., Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Kansas City quarterback Trent Green signed a seven-year contract Tuesday.
Last year, Green joined Hall of Famer Len Dawson as the only Kansas City quarterbacks to start every game for two straight seasons.
The Chiefs did not release financial terms, reports said the deal is worth $50 million and includes a $9.5 million signing bonus.
Kansas City also signed linebacker Mike Maslowski to a six-year contract and defensive end Gary Stills to a four-year deal. Financial terms of those contracts also were not disclosed.
Green, who was scheduled to receive an $8 million roster bonus Friday, had three years remaining on his existing contract. The Chiefs could have been forced to release Green had they not signed him by Thursday.
Acquired from the St. Louis Rams before the 2001 season, Green has completed 583 of 993 passes for 7,473 yards with 43 touchdowns and 37 interceptions in two seasons with the Chiefs.
Plummer cut by Cardinals
TEMPE, Ariz., Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The Arizona Cardinals announced Thursday they had elected not to tender a contract offer to six-year veteran quarterback Jake Plummer.
Plummer now becomes a free agent. A local hero who guided Arizona State to the 1997 Rose Bowl, Plummer has spent his entire six-year NFL career with the Cardinals, completing nearly 56 percent of his passes for 17,622 yards with 90 touchdowns and 114 interceptions.
In 1998, Plummer sparked the Cardinals to their first and only playoff appearance since moving to Arizona. However, the Cardinals managed just one .500 finish in Plummer's other five seasons.
Although inconsistent at times and prone to interceptions, the 28-year-old will be the top quarterback on the free agent market.