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In Sports from United Press International

March 12, 2003 at 3:27 PM   |   Comments

Christian retires from Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga., March 12 (UPI) -- Veteran Atlanta Falcons fullback Bob Christian retired Wednesday after 10 seasons in the National Football League.

Christian spent the last six seasons with the Falcons, rushing for 119 yards on 31 carries in 2002. The former Northwestern star also caught 13 passes for 174 yards.

He played in 15 games last year, finishing with 119 yards rushing on 31 attempts, with three touchdowns and 13 receptions for 174 yards, but missed the final game of the year at Cleveland and both postseason games, when he was placed on injured reserve after suffering his second serious concussion of the season in the game against Detroit on Dec. 22.

He suffered his first concussion in the Falcons 30-0 win over Carolina on Oct. 20 at the Georgia Dome.

In his career, he earned a reputation as one of the top blocking fullbacks in the league, in addition to being a threat both running and catching the ball out of the backfield.

His blocking paved the way for Jamal Anderson, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. In 1998, Anderson set a franchise record with 1,846 yards rushing, due in large part to Christian's blocking.

After a second knee injury to Anderson early in the 2001 season, Christian responded with the best year of his career, setting career highs in rushing attempts (44), rushing yards (284), receptions (45), and yards receiving (392).

"Without question, I've been around two great blocking fullbacks," said Coach Dan Reeves. "I played with one, a guy named Bob Perkins, who I thought was the greatest blocker I'd ever seen. And then Bob. To me there are three things you can say about Bob. He's a strong Christian, he's a strong blocker, and he's a strong team player. I don't know that you can say three things about someone from a football standpoint that have more significance than that. He's the most unselfish football player I've ever been around, bar none."

"(In Atlanta) I had a coach in Dan Reeves who believed in me and expected big things from me," Christian said. "That encouraged me and motivated me to give everything I had. The last thing I wanted to do was to fall short on what Coach Reeves believed I could do."

Christian, 34, played with Chicago and Carolina prior to signing with Atlanta as an unrestricted free agent in 1997. He had 831 yards and 12 touchdowns on 193 carries in 135 games, including 85 starts. He had 230 receptions for 2,048 yards and seven touchdowns.


Colvin, Harrison sign with New England

FOXBORO, Mass., March 12 (UPI) -- The New England Patriots have signed Roosevelt Colvin, who has recorded 10 1/2 sacks each of the last two years with the Chicago Bears.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Colvin, 25, is a productive hybrid defensive end-linebacker who appears to be a perfect fit for New England Coach Bill Belichick, who shuffles from a 4-3 front to a 3-4.

"Coach Belichick and his staff have developed a scheme that I feel is a better fit for me," said Colvin, who played strongside linebacker for the Bears.

The addition of Colvin will enable Belichick and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to disguise their schemes more efficiently. Willie McGinest used to fill that role for New England, but had just 5 1/2 sacks last season.

"I just felt like I could bring something to the table that they don't have," Colvin said. "But they have pretty good talent on defense. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the answer to any questions that they have, I'm just a piece of the puzzle."

Colvin underwent offseason shoulder surgery, but that did not stop the Patriots, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, and Houston Texans from meeting with him.

"The process was extensive and tiresome, and my thoughts in the last couple of days had been circling so many different ways," Colvin said. "I just waited for my gut instinct, and felt like the Patriots were the best place for me."

The 6-3, 245-pounder became the first player in club history to record back-to-back double-digit sack seasons since defensive end Richard Dent had 12 sacks in 1990 and 10 1/2 in 1991.

Last season, Colvin ranked fifth on the team with 72 tackles, including eight for losses, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery to go with his 10 1/2 sacks.

The fourth-round pick out of Purdue in 1999 became a starter midway through the 2000 season.

They also signed unrestricted free agent safety Rodney Harrison, late of San Diego.

Terms were not disclosed.

Harrison, 30, joins the Patriots after nine seasons with the Chargers, and has compiled 759 tackles, 21 1/2 sacks, and 26 interceptions.

His signing gives the Patriots flexibility with free agent safety Tebucky Jones, who has been given the franchise tag. New England can now remove the tag from Jones and make him a free agent.

Harrison was named to the Pro Bowl in 1998 and 2001, and was named the Chargers' Defensive Player of the Year four times. He was plagued by a groin injury last season that forced him to miss two games, but was second on the team with 88 tackles.

The hard-hitting Harrison has been fined more than $200,000 for a variety of infractions in his career. He was suspended for one game without pay, a penalty of over $100,000, for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Oakland's Jerry Rice.

The Patriots also have announced the signing of cornerback Tyrone Poole, who had been released by the Denver Broncos.

Poole, 30, may compete with Leonard Myers and Ben Kelly for the right cornerback job or play as a nickel back with New England. He served as a backup with the Broncos last season.

The 5-8, 188-pound Poole was a three-year starter for both Carolina (1995-97) and Indianapolis (1998-2000) before joining the Broncos.


Successful surgery for Nevin

TUCSON, Ariz., March 12 (UPI) -- Doctors were able to stabilize the left shoulder of Phil Nevin during surgery Tuesday, but his timetable for returning to baseball remains unclear.

The 90-minute procedure at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, Calif., was deemed successful, but whether the slugger can return in 2003 is sketchy at best.

"The surgery was successful and we expect a full recovery," said San Diego General Manager Kevin Towers. "We don't have a timetable set for his return at this point, but know that when he does return he will once again play a key role on our team. He is one of the premier hitters in baseball, and he will be surely missed."

In the fourth inning of Friday's game against the Chicago White Sox, Brian Daubach lifted a fly ball down the left field line. After a long pursuit, Nevin made a diving backhanded catch, but immediately raised his hand to indicate he was hurt.

Manager Bruce Bochy and the team's medical staff attended to Nevin, who remained on the field for nearly 10 minutes before being taken to the hospital.

Beginning his major league career as a third baseman, Nevin also toyed with catcher for a couple of years before moving back to third. Last season, he agreed to switch to first to make room for rookie Sean Burroughs.

A shoulder injury to Burroughs resulted in a move back to third, but Nevin, 32, was given the choice of going to either left or right field this spring.

Nevin enjoyed a career year in 2001, batting .306 with 41 home runs and 126 RBI, but he could not duplicate those numbers in an injury-filled 2002, hitting just 12 homers with 57 RBI and a .285 average.

Nevin spent significant time on the disabled list last season with a strained right elbow and fractured left arm.

In 780 career games, he owns a .275 average with 135 homers and 469 RBI.

The Padres also will endure at least half of 2003 without closer Trevor Hoffman, who underwent right shoulder surgery on Feb. 28.


St. John's upsets Notre Dame

NEW YORK, March 12 (UPI) -- Marcus Hatten scored 18 points and Elijah Ingram added 17 as St. John's upset 19th-ranked Notre Dame Wednesday, 83-80.

The Red Storm built a 21-point lead before holding on for the win in the first round of the Big East Conference Tournament.

Notre Dame trailed, 47-26, at halftime, but staged a furious rally and had a chance to tie the game with 10.4 seconds remaining.

The Fighting Irish trailed, 82-80, when Torin Francis was fouled after grabbing the rebound off a missed layup by Chris Thomas, but Francis missed two free throws and Notre Dame fouled Hatten.

He made the first free throw, but missed the second with 8.6 seconds left. After the ball was tipped, Matt Carroll came up with it near the right sideline. He dribbled across midcourt and released a running jumper beyond the top the arc that bounced off the back rim as time expired.

Francis scored 19 points, while Thomas and Dan Miller each added 18 as Notre Dame fell to 2-8 in Big East Tournament play.

St. John's will face Boston College in Thursday's quarterfinals.


Mader shelved by hand injury

MADISON, Wis., March 12 (UPI) -- Reserve center Dave Mader of Wisconsin fractured a bone in his right hand Tuesday at practice, and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

Mader started the first five games before being replaced in the lineup by freshman Alando Tucker. Mader also sprained an ankle against Minnesota on Jan. 15, which caused him to miss the Ohio State game three days later, and hampered him in the following weeks.

The 6-11, 255-pound Mader, a junior, was averaging 2.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 9.4 minutes in 25 games this season.

No. 18 Wisconsin (22-6, 12-4), which won its first outright Big Ten Conference title since 1947, faces either Ohio State or Iowa in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament on Friday.


Johnsen to miss MWC Tournament with mono

SALT LAKE CITY, March 12 (UPI) -- Utah forward Britton Johnsen has been diagnosed with mononucleosis and will not travel with the team to this week's Mountain West Conference Tournament.

Johnsen fell ill on Feb. 27, two days before Utah's game against New Mexico. On the day of the game, he awoke with a headache, sore throat and the chills. Thinking he had the flu, he did not report his condition to the team trainer or his coaches.

"I felt sick and my wind wasn't very good, but I've fought through colds and flu before so I didn't tell anyone," said Johnsen, who averaged just six points in the next three games before breaking out with a 17-point, six-rebound effort in Utah's final home game last Saturday.

The condition was diagnosed this week.

"Britton is not acutely ill at this time," said team physician Dr. Dave Petron. "But we can't take the chance of him participating this week since the ultrasound showed he has an enlarged spleen. I am optimistic that he will be able to play in the NCAA Tournament."

"Britton showed great heart and tremendous spirit in trying to play through a case of mono," said Coach Rick Majerus. "He was ill-advised in trying to conceal his condition from the trainers and coaches, but he wanted to be a team player. If Britton Johnsen is anything, it's a team player. He has been the heart and soul of our team for two years. Britton wanted to accompany the team to Las Vegas and cheer on his teammates, but the physicians advised him he would be better off staying in Salt Lake City. I agree wholeheartedly with that decision."

Johnsen, a former McDonald's All-American, averages 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Utes, who finished in a tie for the MWC regular-season title with Brigham Young. They earned the top seed for this week's tournament in Las Vegas.

Utah will face Air Force in Thursday's quarterfinals.


Three more NCAA bids determined

KANSAS CITY, Mo., March 12 (UPI) -- A jumper by Matt Crenshaw with one second left Tuesday night gave IUPUI a stunning 66-64 win Valparaiso in the Mid-Continent Conference championship game.

The win gave the school its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.

IUPUI (20-13) was not the only first-time school to earn a berth on Tuesday as Wisconsin-Milwaukee buried perennial Indiana power Butler, 69-52, to capture the Horizon League title.

Western Kentucky earned its third straight trip to the field of 65 by rallying from an early 11-point deficit for a 64-52 victory over Middle Tennessee State in the Sun Belt tournament championship.

IUPUI is in its fifth season in Division I under Coach Ron Hunter, who is in his ninth season. The Jaguars had suffered an 88-55 loss to Valparaiso, the No. 1 seed, in last season's title game, and had lost six straight to the Crusaders, who had won seven of the last eight titles.

"Last year, we were young," Hunter said. "We got to the finals and we were just happy. (This year) I told them that we were going to beat this great team and shock the world. What a great day for our institution."

Valparaiso got a three-pointer from Stalin Ortiz and a follow shot by Raitis Grafs in a nine-second span to forge a 64-64 tie with 10 seconds left. That set up the heroics from Crenshaw, a junior guard, who spent three years in the Army. He drove to his right and drilled his jumper to give the Jaguars the lead.

"I wanted to see if they would pressure me," Crenshaw said. "They didn't, so I just relaxed and brought the ball up. I just drove and took the shot."

After Valpo's final inbounds was stolen, the IUPUI bench erupted in joy. Hunter fell to his knees and pounded the ground with both fists. He later learned that he ripped his pants in the celebration.

"No one believed in us," Hunter said. "We've got Butler in our town (Indianapolis), a great program. This is great."

Butler (25-5) captured the regular-season crown over Wisconsin-Milwaukee on March 1, when freshman Avery Sheets nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer for a 66-64 victory. That gave the Bulldogs the top seed for the conference tournament.

Second-seeded Wisconsin-Milwaukee (24-8) had the advantage of playing just minutes from its campus at Milwaukee's U.S. Cellular Arena, and raced out to a 14-0 lead on a layup by Clay Tucker with 16:31 left before halftime.

Tucker, the tournament MVP, made 8-of-11 shots for 18 of his 23 points in the first half as Wisconsin-Milwaukee built a 38-20 halftime bulge and never looked back. The Panthers earned their first NCAA berth in the school's 107 years.

Butler now is at the mercy of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee for the second straight year. The Bulldogs were snubbed last season after going 25-5 and losing in the tournament quarterfinals. This season, Butler's only other nationally-televised appearance was a blowout loss at Duke.

Western Kentucky (24-8) ran its winning streak to 12 games after a slow start on its home floor in Bowling Green, Ky. A dunk by John Humphrey 4:13 before halftime gave Middle Tennessee State a 20-9 lead, prompting a timeout.

The Hilltoppers used a 14-3 run to close the half to tie the game, and carried the momentum over to the second half, ripping off the first nine points. A jumper by Patrick Sparks opened up a 43-29 lead with more than 11 minutes left, and Western Kentucky was on its way.

Mike Wells had 18 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double, and Sparks finished with 12 and seven assists for the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky's third straight title was surprising because All-American center Chris Marcus saw action in just four games this season before being shutting it down for the season because of foot problems. In addition, starting forward Todor Pandov was lost to a knee injury in the season opener at Arizona.

The number of automatic qualifiers now is up to 12.

On Monday, Manhattan won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, North Carolina-Wilmington captured the Colonial Athletics Association, and San Diego topped Gonzaga for the West Coast Conference crown.

Two more berths will be awarded on Wednesday.

Wagner (20-10) hosts St. Francis of New York (14-15) in the Northeast Conference championship, which will be the first time a pair of schools from New York City are squaring off for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Weber State (25-5) hosts Eastern Washington (18-11) in the Big Sky championship. The Wildcats own the second longest winning streak in the nation at 16 games, and feature 6-2 dynamo Jermaine Boyette in its backcourt.


Bears match offer to Edinger

LAKE FOREST, Ill., March 12 (UPI) -- The Chicago Bears Wednesday matched the offer sheet placekicker Paul Edinger, who had signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

He is the most accurate kicker in Bears' history.

Edinger signed a five-year, $7 million offer sheet with the Vikings on Saturday, giving the Bears a week to match or the option of receiving a sixth-round draft pick as compensation.

He had received a one-year tender offer on Feb. 28.

In three seasons with the Bears, Edinger has made 69-of-86 field goal attempts. Last year, he tied a team record by making 5-of-8 kicks of at least 50 yards, and led the NFL with a yard-per-attempt average of 41.9 yards.

Edinger, who begins a kick with his back to the end zone, has kicked 35 field goals of 40 yards or more in his career, the most in the NFL over the last three seasons.

In 2001, Edinger led the team in scoring, and ranked fifth in the NFC after becoming just the sixth player in team history to eclipse 100 points in a season.

With Chicago matching the offer, the Vikings still need a kicker to replace 43-year-old Gary Anderson, who is accurate but can no longer kick for distance, and is weak on kickoffs.


Colvin signs with New England

FOXBORO, Mass., March 12 (UPI) -- The New England Patriots have signed Roosevelt Colvin, who has recorded 10 1/2 sacks each of the last two years with the Chicago Bears.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Colvin, 25, is a productive hybrid defensive end-linebacker who appears to be a perfect fit for New England Coach Bill Belichick, who shuffles from a 4-3 front to a 3-4.

"Coach Belichick and his staff have developed a scheme that I feel is a better fit for me," said Colvin, who played strongside linebacker for the Bears.

The addition of Colvin will enable Belichick and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to disguise their schemes more efficiently. Willie McGinest used to fill that role for New England, but had just 5 1/2 sacks last season.

"I just felt like I could bring something to the table that they don't have," Colvin said. "But they have pretty good talent on defense. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the answer to any questions that they have, I'm just a piece of the puzzle."

Colvin underwent offseason shoulder surgery, but that did not stop the Patriots, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, and Houston Texans from meeting with him.

"The process was extensive and tiresome, and my thoughts in the last couple of days had been circling so many different ways," Colvin said. "I just waited for my gut instinct, and felt like the Patriots were the best place for me."

The 6-3, 245-pounder became the first player in club history to record back-to-back double-digit sack seasons since defensive end Richard Dent had 12 sacks in 1990 and 10 1/2 in 1991.

Last season, Colvin ranked fifth on the team with 72 tackles, including eight for losses, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery to go with his 10 1/2 sacks.

The fourth-round pick out of Purdue in 1999 became a starter midway through the 2000 season.

The Patriots also have announced the signing of cornerback Tyrone Poole, who had been released by the Denver Broncos.

Poole, 30, may compete with Leonard Myers and Ben Kelly for the right cornerback job or play as a nickel back with New England. He served as a backup with the Broncos last season.

The 5-8, 188-pound Poole was a three-year starter for both Carolina (1995-97) and Indianapolis (1998-2000) before joining the Broncos.


Kivilev dies in crash

ST. ETIENNE, France, March 12 (UPI) -- Cyclist Andrei Kivilev died Wednesday from head injuries sustained in a crash in Tuesday's second stage of the Paris-Nice race.

He was 29.

Kivilev, a native of Kazakhstan who rode for the French Cofidis team, had been in a coma following the crash that took place after he appeared to get caught up with another driver and catapulted over his bicycle onto the road.

Kivilev, who was not wearing a helmet, underwent surgery Tuesday night, but his condition worsened.

Kivilev had his best year in 2001, when he finished fourth in the Tour de France, and also claimed his two career victories.


© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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