Hawks F Johnson hurt in serious car crash
ATLANTA, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Atlanta Hawks forward DerMarr Johnson suffered a serious head injury in an automobile accident early Friday morning.
A team spokesman said details of the accident were not immediately available, but John Steinberg said it took place in the Cascade section of Atlanta.
Johnson, 22, was taken to Southwest Community Hospital before being taken to Atlanta Medical Center.
An update on Johnson's condition is expected on Friday afternoon, but his injuries are not considered life threatening. He currently is listed as stable, with a vertebral body fracture, described by Dr. Paul King, a neurosurgeon at the Atlanta Medical Center, as a cervical spine fracture.
"All the signs appear to be very positive," said Atlanta Vice President and General Manager Pete Babcock. "There's no paralysis and none of his functions appear to be affected at all, so that's great news. The surgeon says the spinal fracture can be repaired."
According to Steinberg, two other individuals not affiliated with the Hawks were in the car with Johnson and it was not immediately clear who was driving the vehicle.
Johnson took part in a voluntary workout with teammates on Thursday at Philips Arena.
Johnson, a first-round draft choice of the Hawks in 2000 out of Cincinnati, averaged 8.4 points per contest in 72 games last season.
Cowboys dump DB Westbrook
IRVING, Texas, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The Dallas Cowboys Friday gave up on veteran defensive back Bryant Westbrook, releasing him after he struggled in the team's regular season opener last Sunday.
Westbrook committed two costly penalties in the 19-10 loss to the expansion Houston Texans and had yet to display the ability that allowed him to be a dominant player earlier in his pro career.
The Cowboys, gambling that Westbrook could return to his pre-injury form, signed him to a one-year contract worth nearly $1 million.
Westbrook played five seasons with the Detroit Lions and suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during the 2000 season. He admittedly returned too soon from the injury last season, but played nine games for the Lions, who released him at the end of the season.
"We've been hanging in there with him," said Cowboys Vice-President Stephen Jones. "It's not like we didn't have a lot of patience. And then he had a tough week of practice, too."
Duane Hawthorne, who was supposed to rotate in at left cornerback with Westbrook, will start Sunday's game against Tennessee.
The Cowboys had signed Westbrook to a one-year contract with a $750,000 base salary and $125,000 signing bonus. Because of his six years' experience, Westbrook is considered a "vested" veteran, meaning his entire salary is now guaranteed because he was on the roster in the first week of the season.
Dodgers P Ishii done for season
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers say that rookie southpaw Kazuhisa Ishii, who was struck in the forehead by a line drive on Sept. 8, will not play again this season.
Ishii has been released from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He had been transferred from Good Samaritan, where he was taken initially for a CT scan, which revealed a concussion and skull fracture.
Surgery on Ishii was performed at Cedars Sinai by Dr. John Yu, a neurosurgeon.
"Mr. Ishii underwent brain surgery to explore the covering of the brain which was intact and to fix a fracture of the frontal sinus of the skull," Yu said. "The surgery was done mainly to prevent infection of the brain. Mr. Ishii has made an excellent recovery. He has no signs of infection and the bruising of his brain is improving. He is also walking well, and will take oral antibiotics for a week to prevent infection. I expect Mr. Ishii to make a full recovery. The staples in his scalp will be removed next week. We will see on a day-to-day basis when he is ready for more physical activity. Judging by his steady improvement, I would anticipate a speedy recovery process."
"I regret causing concern with this incident, but I am currently doing well in my recovery," Ishii said. "At this point in the season, with the standings the way they are, I hope I have not troubled the team by this occurrence. I am also very disappointed that I am not able to compete with my teammates as we close out the season. However, no matter where I may be, my goals and thoughts are always one with the team. I am very thankful to Dr. Yu and the staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Also, I am thankful to the Dodgers personnel for their great support. I also received many messages of encouragement from many people. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude. Thank you very much."
In this his first major league campaign, Ishii opened up with six straight victories, but lost eight of his last 11 decisions to go 14-10. His 14 wins tied for the team lead, and he had an ERA of 4.27 ERA with 143 strikeouts in 154.0 innings pitched.
Bulls G Mason has shoulder surgery
BIRMINGHAM, Al., Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Roger Mason, who hasn't even played an NBA game yet after being drafted by the Chicago Bulls, underwent surgery Thursday to repair a dislocated right shoulder. He will be sidelined for about four months.
The surgery was performed in Birmingham, Al., by Dr. James Andrews.
"Dr. Andrews was very optimistic about Roger's recovery and we are looking forward to having him back with the team in the near future," said Vice-President of Basketball Operations Jerry Krause. "Roger is a tough kid. I know he will work very hard during his rehab of this injury."
Mason, who was injured during a recent pickup game, will start rehabbing the shoulder next week. In three months, he is expected to start functional basketball drills, and in four months, he will be able to begin playing basketball again.
The 6-5, 200-pounder was the Bulls' second-round pick in the 2002 draft following a three-year career at the University of Virginia. As a junior, he averaged a team-leading 18.6 points per contest, shooting 41 percent from the floor and 88 percent from the free throw line.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Mason aggravated an injury that plagued him in college. He was hurt at a facility called Hoops.
When Krause learned of the need for surgery, he declared the facility off-limits for Bulls' players.
Hoops is most widely known as the summer home of former Chicago superstar Michael Jordan, who is perceived as Krause's arch-enemy. That relationship adds an interesting twist to the story, especially considering that guard Jamal Crawford tore his left ACL during a game at Hoops last year and missed most of the 2001-2002 season.
A large number of NBA players take part in summer pickup games at Hoops, including Ray Allen, Quentin Richardson, Darius Miles, Michael Finley, Jerry Stackhouse, and Antoine Walker, but the paper reported that current Bulls forward Marcus Fizer also was injured there.
OSU, WSU heads weekend gridiron slate
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The weekend in college football features four more contests between schools in the current ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
Saturday's schedule will be highlighted by games involving schools from the Big Ten Conference as No. 6 Michigan (2-0) renews its rivalry with No. 24 Notre Dame (2-0), and, in a possible Rose Bowl preview, eighth-ranked Ohio State (2-0) hosts Washington State (2-0).
The 11th-ranked Cougars have been mentioned as an outside contender for a national title and face their first notable test of the season this week.
In the school's most hyped game since Ryan Leaf played in the 1998 Rose Bowl, Washington State will try to beat Ohio State for the first time in eight all-time meetings.
Washington State is led by quarterback Jason Gesser, who threw for 3,010 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. The Buckeyes counter with freshman sensation Maurice Clarett, who has 241 rushing yards and four touchdowns in two games.
Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Notre Dame tangle as Fighting Irish coach Tyrone Willingham goes for the first win over a Top-O team in his Notre Dame tenure.
Both teams are 2-0 but have serious issues.
Notre Dame has yet to score an offensive touchdown in its first two games, and quarterback Carlyle Holiday went just 7-of-22 passing for 50 yards in last week's win over Purdue.
"When you did as poorly as we did in the passing game, I don't think there's one area that needs attention," Willingham said. "We have to make sure we get in ship shape because if not, we won't have a lot of success against the University of Michigan because they are very good."
Willingham can become the first Notre Dame coach to win his first three games since Dan Devine in 1975.
Michigan's worries are with a kicking game that has missed five of six field goal attempts in two games.
Elsewhere, seventh-ranked Nebraska (3-0) visits No. 25 Penn State (1-0) in the first meeting between the traditional college football powers in close to two decades, and the 19th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes (1-1) welcome No. 16 Southern California (1-0).
Saturday will be just the seventh night game in the 245-game history of Beaver Stadium. The last time the two schools met, the Nittany Lions were blown out, 44-6, in the first Kickoff Classic in 1983. It was one of the worst losses in the storied career of Penn State Coach Joe Paterno.
Penn State has not beaten a Top-10 team since a 27-23 win at Miami on Sept. 23, 1999. Its last game against a Top-10 team was a 33-7 loss to the Hurricanes last September.
Colorado will be without quarterback Craig Ochs for its meeting with USC. Ochs suffered his third concussion in 14 months last week against San Diego State and will be replaced by senior Robert Hodge, a native of Torrance, Calif.
USC has won all four meetings with Colorado, most recently a 17-14 victory in 2000 in which Carson Palmer completed 25-of-28 passes for 275 yards.
Top-ranked Miami should have little resistance from Temple in its Big East Conference opener. The Hurricanes have the nation's longest winning streak at 24 games, and have won their last 12 road games.
Mack Brown makes his return to Chapel Hill as second-ranked Texas (1-0) visits North Carolina. Brown spent 10 years as coach of the Tar Heels before coming to Texas in December 1997.
Third-ranked Oklahoma (2-0) will have Nate Hybl as its starting quarterback in Saturday's game with Texas-El Paso. Hybl is back as the starter after Jason White tore his ACL in last week's win over Alabama.
No. 5 Florida State (2-0) tries to remain unbeaten against Maryland in a key ACC game.
The Seminoles are 12-0 against Maryland, including 10 wins since joining the league.
In other games, No. 10 Georgia (1-0) is at South Carolina; No. 12 Oregon (2-0) hosts Idaho; No. 13 Florida (1-1) plays Ohio; No. 15 Michigan State (2-0) welcomes California; No. 18 Wisconsin (3-0) plays Northern Illinois; No. 20 North Carolina State (3-0) hosts Wake Forest; No. 22 LSU (1-1) hosts Miami of Ohio; and No. 24 Brigham Young (2-0) is at Nevada.
No. 4 Tennessee (2-0), No. 14 Washington (1-1) and No. 23 Texas A&M (2-0) are idle.
The weekend began Thursday night in Blacksburg, Va., where ninth-ranked Virginia Tech trampled No. 17 Marshall, 47-21.
de la Hoya, Vargas square off in Vegas
LAS VEGAS, Nev., Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Oscar de la Hoya and Fernando Vargas meet Saturday night to decide who is boxing's top junior middleweight in the world.
De la Hoya and Vargas both lost to retired champion Felix Trinidad, and each holds one of the three major 154-pound belts. Both also are Mexican-Americans, but have never been friendly and the bout is being billed as "Bad Blood."
De La Hoya (34-2, 27 KOs) captured the WBC super-welterweight title on June 23, 2001 with a unanimous decision over Francisco Castillejo. He was scheduled to fight Roman Karmazin last December, but tore a ligament in his left wrist and underwent surgery.
de la Hoya, 29, initially injured his wrist in a victory over Oba Carr in May 1999. He lost two of his next three fights, including a controversial majority decision to Trinidad for the WBC welterweight title in September 1999.
Trinidad went on to beat Vargas with a 12th-round technical knockout in December 2000. Trinidad was considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, when he was beaten by Bernard Hopkins in a bout that unified the middleweight class last September. Trinidad fought in May, but announced his retirement shortly after.
With Trinidad no longer in the picture, the winner of Saturday's fight could meet IBF junior middleweight champion Ronald "Winky" Wright, or move up to fight Hopkins.
"I believe that de la Hoya will win the fight," Trinidad said in a conference call on Monday. "It's a very close fight, whoever can keep control, will win the fight."
De la Hoya, who started his professional career as a junior lightweight, is 20-2 in world championship fights.
"I'm going to get a win," de la Hoya said. "That's all I know and if a knockout comes, it comes. I'm not looking for it. But this fight is meant for a knockout and I feel very excited by it."
De la Hoya showed his punching power in posting a fifth-round technical knockout of Arturo Gatti in March 2001, but Vargas feels the former lightweight champion does not have as much strength at 154 pounds.
"Who has he knocked out? Not even Arturo Gatti. I mean, who?" Vargas responded when asked about de la Hoya's punching power. "He hasn't knocked out anybody above 135-140 pounds."
Vargas rebounded from the loss to Trinidad with a sixth-round technical knockout of Wilfredo Rivera in May 2001. He then captured the WBA junior middleweight belt with a seventh-round knockout of Jose Flores last September. The punching power of Vargas is always visible, but against de la Hoya, he most likely will need his skill as a boxer as well.
Flames goalie Vernon retires
CALGARY, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Mike Vernon of the Calgary Flames, who is fourth all time in NHL postseason games played among goaltenders, Friday announced his retirement after 19 seasons.
Vernon was 385-273-92 with a 2.98 goals-against average in 781 career games. He won the Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1988-89 and with the Detroit Red Wings in 1996-97.
In the 1997 playoffs, Vernon was 16-4 with a stellar 1.76 GAA, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Red Wings captured their first Stanley Cup in 42 years.
"I have a lot of great memories that I can look back on," Vernon said. "Winning the Stanley Cup with Calgary and then again with Detroit were obviously career highlights."
Vernon, 39, is seventh on the all-time regular-season wins list and fourth on the all-time playoff list with 77 victories in 138 games. Only Patrick Roy, Grant Fuhr and Ed Belfour have played in more postseason games among goaltenders.
He was a five-time All-Star and is Calgary's all-time leader with 262 wins and 526 games.
"I'm very fortunate to have fulfilled a childhood dream to play in the NHL," Vernon said. "It was fun every day to get up and go down to the rink and be around the guys. I would like to thank everyone who supported me from my minor hockey days playing at the South Calgary Community Center through my career in the NHL."
Vernon was selected by Calgary with the 56th pick in the 1981 draft and made his NHL debut in the 1982-83 season.
He had a career-high 39 wins in 1987-88, and the following season led the Flames to their only Stanley Cup as he posted a 16-5 record in the 1989 playoffs. Calgary has not won a playoff