Steelers QB Roethlisberger practices in limited capacity

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger practiced in a limited capacity on Monday, just two weeks after undergoing surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee.

Whether Roethlisberger is healthy enough to start under center when the Steelers visit their rival Baltimore Ravens on Sunday remains to be seen.

Still, Roethlisberger, who did not speak to reporters after practice, was initially expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks following the surgery, but he could return earlier than expected.

“We always talk about the next man up, but you can’t replace Ben Roethlisberger,” offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert said. “He’s one of the greatest. He’s our leader.”

Teammates confirmed that Roethlisberger practiced some with the first team and scout team on Monday. He also participated in 7-on-7 drills and ran the no-huddle offense during the team’s competition period.

“From what I saw, it was very encouraging,” Gilbert said. “He threw the ball and he moved around in the pocket pretty good. It’s just a matter if he’s game ready and if he’s willing and able to take those hits because (the Ravens) will be coming and he has to do what’s in his best interest so he doesn’t have any setbacks.”

If Roethlisberger can’t go, fourth-year veteran Landry Jones is likely to start. Jones finished 29 of 47 for 281 yards with a touchdown and an interception during a loss against New England.

“Landry did a great job,” wide receiver Markus Wheaton said. “No disrespect to Landry, but Ben’s our guy. It was exciting to see him get out there and sling it a little bit.”

Still, several teammates indicated they would like to see Roethlisberger return on Sunday only if he’s 100 percent healthy.

“We want him back, but at the same time, I don’t want him to be playing through a lot of pain,” running back Le’Veon Bell said. “It depends on how he feels during the course of the week, but I don’t want him to rush back.

“We have a long season ahead and we’re going to need him down the stretch. I’m sure he’ll be smart about it.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is expected to provide an update on Tuesday. The team doesn’t have to provide an official injury report until after Wednesday’s practice, but teammates were encouraged to see Roethlisberger practice on Monday.

“As a leader on this team, and a guy coming off surgery like that, to come out and practice is huge,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “It just shows his willingness to win and how much he cares about this team and the organization.

“I know all the guys around here appreciate that.”

Roethlisberger injured his left knee during a loss against Miami. He underwent surgery the following day and missed a home loss against New England the next Sunday, though he jogged onto the field to greet his defensive teammates and was spotted walking in the locker room without a limp.

Roethlisberger began throwing passes during individual portions of practice two days later, just eight days after surgery.

Now, he could be nearing an early return.

“Ben’s a competitor and he just wants to be out there with his team, so you can never count him out,” Gilbert said. “He loves football, he breathes football, and for him to be out there to push us, it gives us high hopes.”

NOTES: Gilbert (ankle), Wheaton (shoulder) and defensive end Cameron Heyward (hamstring) all practiced on Monday. Gilbert missed the previous three games, while Heyward sat out the past two. Wheaton is dealing with a lingering shoulder issue and missed four of the Steelers’ first seven games, including the past two.

 

Bill Cosby’s attorneys want accusers’ memories tested

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bill Cosby’s lawyers accused prosecutors Monday of trying to use the “tainted, unreliable memories of women, now in their senior years” to build their sexual assault case against him and will seek competency hearings on any accusers allowed to testify.

Prosecutors hope to have 13 of about 60 known accusers testify to show a pattern of “prior bad acts” when Cosby, now 79 and blind, goes on trial next summer on charges of drugging and molesting a former Temple University employee in 2004. Courts can allow the testimony if it shows a very specific “signature” crime pattern.

On the eve of a key pretrial hearing Tuesday, Cosby’s lawyers said the women’s memories have been marred by time, media coverage of the case and their friendship with one another. After a memory expert reviewed the women’s statements for the defense, the lawyers dismiss the other accounts as “stories of that night spent partying with a famous celebrity.”

The two sides will face off in court for two days to determine what evidence can be used at the entertainer’s scheduled felony trial in June.

“Because Mr. Cosby was never charged, let alone convicted, the jury could be tempted to convict him in this case simply to punish him for the other incidents which are now nothing more than vague recollections,” defense lawyers Brian McMonagle and Angela Agrusa wrote in their filing Monday.

The defense said the accounts range from rape to other sex acts to fondling. And they said some of the women took drugs or alcohol knowingly, while others say they did not. Prosecutors argue that the drinks, even if taken knowingly, were also laced with drugs that knocked the women out and left them unable to give consent.

Some of the accusers don’t even know what year they met Cosby, and many of them knew Cosby before the former Temple employee, Andrea Constand, was even born, they wrote. Cosby’s memory is also fading, they said, to the point he could not answer 90 questions in a civil deposition last year.

Cosby has pleaded not guilty and argues that he can’t defend himself against vague accusations that stretch back to the 1960s.

At least four of the women “did not realize that they were victims until they heard the accusations of other women in the media,” according to Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, the defense psychologist who studies human memory. Her preliminary findings were excerpted in the brief.

Prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia say Cosby, a Temple alumnus and longtime booster, routinely used his fame and power to befriend impressionable young women, knocked them out with drugs or alcohol and then sexually assaulted them.

The testimony of the 13 others — should Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill allow some or all of it — could bolster a case that turns on the question of consent. Cosby, in a decade-old deposition, acknowledged some of the encounters but said they were consensual. Prosecutors will also push to use the deposition at trial. The hearing is expected to run through Wednesday, with another pretrial hearing on the evidence set for December.

The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they are sexual assault victims. However, Constand has given consent through her lawyer.

DA: Man who had kids with 14-year-old abused her 5 sisters

FEASTERVILLE, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man accused of fathering two children with a 14-year-old girl gifted to him by her parents was charged Monday with sexually assaulting five other girls in that family, calling them his wives.

Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub announced new child sex abuse charges against 51-year-old Lee Kaplan, of Feasterville, calling it a “sad but critical new development.”

“He played on their trust and affection for him and he groomed them to see him as a religious and cult-like figure,” Weintraub said.

The victims were among 11 girls found living in Kaplan’s home when he was arrested in June. The girls ranged in age from 6 years old to 18 years old during the time of abuse, Weintraub said.

Police have said the teen’s father told them he and his wife “gave” their 14-year-old daughter to Kaplan after he financially helped the couple. By the time she was 18, she had two children with him. It wasn’t clear when the other girls moved in with him.

The oldest girl told police the six sisters were Kaplan’s wives, and he told them he had dreams telling him it was what God wanted, according to an affidavit released Monday.

Kaplan’s attorney, Ryan Hyde, said Monday he has not seen the complaint and couldn’t yet comment.

Kaplan has been in the Bucks County jail on $1 million bail, and an additional $1 million cash bail was added after the new charges were filed. He was arraigned by video.

Kaplan and the girls’ parents, Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, were supposed to go on trial next week, but the proceedings have been canceled, according to online court documents.

The children are all together now and are safe, Weintraub said.

“This man obviously groomed these children for a long time,” Weintraub said. “He accomplished his objective and now we have to accomplish ours and bring him to justice.”

Sponsor issues mean ‘Eddie’ is off this season

HONOLULU (AP) — The Eddie Aikau big-wave surfing contest is headed for a missed season after the family could not reach a sponsorship agreement with Quiksilver.
Hawaii News Now has reported that the family is planning a news conference for today and says other options are being explored.
A Honolulu official said the application and bidding process means that at this point the contest cannot be held during the 2016-2017 surf season.
The competition requires 30-foot waves or bigger in Waimea Bay.
John John Florence of Oahu won the “Eddie” in February — that was the first time the competition had been held in six years.

Wie finishes in tie for 27th; Feng wins title

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Michelle Wie completed her third round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia on Sunday with a quadruple-bogey 8 for a 2-over-par 73, and shot a 71 in the fourth round to tie for 27th place.
Shanshan Feng won the event, beating Suzann Pettersen by three strokes. Feng finished off a third-round 64 in the morning at TPC Kuala Lumpur, then shot 67 for a 17-under total of 267.
Wie finished at 280, and is winless in 58 tournaments since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. She had opened with a 66 that left her in third place.
Feng has finished no worse than a tie for fourth in her last six events, a run that includes a runner-up finish in Taiwan and a bronze medal at the Olympics in Brazil. She now has five LPGA Tour wins  — her most recent victory had been at the same event in 2014.
Pettersen closed with a 66. Amy Yang (69) and Anna Nordqvist (70) tied for third at 12 under.

Browns wondering when streak will end after falling to 0-8

By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) — There’s a light in the Cleveland Browns’ locker room at FirstEnergy Stadium that splashes the phrase “Expect to Win” on the carpet for all the players and staff to see.

The sign doesn’t mention anything about when the winning is supposed to start.

Not that it matters. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess, including the luckless Browns.

Another halftime lead morphed into another befuddling loss, this time a 31-28 setback against the New York Jets that sent Cleveland spiraling to 0-8 at the season’s midway point. The Browns have dropped 11 straight overall and are 3-26 over their last 29 games.

Next week, the Dallas Cowboys come to town. Then, it’s a trip to Baltimore, followed by games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants. The weight of the ‘0’ is sure to only grow heavier as time goes by.

“It’s a no-brainer. Nobody wants to be 0-8, but that’s where we’re at,” cornerback Jamar Taylor said. “This game is real simple sometimes when you don’t get it done. We’ve still got eight games left — a long time — but you’ve got to fix the things you do bad.”

It’s not that Cleveland isn’t competitive. The Browns dominated the first half against the Jets (3-5), moving up and down the field with remarkable ease at times during quarterback Josh McCown’s return from a fractured collarbone. Yet, when the Jets responded after halftime, the Browns didn’t have an answer. Again.

“This is rough, but that is part of it,” coach Hue Jackson said. “We have to get better.”

Cleveland had a chance to put the Jets in a 17-point hole late in the first half, driving to the New York 10 with 47 seconds to play. An incompletion, a sack and a scramble by McCown forced the Browns to settle for a field goal instead. New York then took the opening kick of the second half and went 78 yards in 12 plays before Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Quincy Enunwa for a 24-yard touchdown in which he bounced off four Cleveland players on his way to the end zone. By the time Matt Forte scored the first of his two touchdowns later in the third, the Browns had seen their early momentum evaporate completely.

It’s hardly the first time. The Browns have been outscored 61-13 in the third quarter this season.

“When we do really good in the first half, we’ve got to figure out how to kickstart that thing in the second half,” cornerback Joe Haden said.

It simply didn’t happen. The Browns managed all of 133 yards after the break, most of them coming on a garbage-time drive in which the Browns lazily made their way toward the end zone even though they were trailing by 11. When McCown hit Andrew Hawkins for a second touchdown and followed it up with a 2-point conversion to Terrelle Pryor Sr., only 12 seconds remained.

McCown completed 25 of 49 for 341 yards and two scores, but also threw interceptions on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter that all but ended any chance of the Browns leaving FirstEnergy Stadium with their first victory in 322 days. The veteran fell to 18-41 in his career as a starter in his return from a fractured collarbone suffered in a Week 2 loss to Baltimore, a game Cleveland led by 20 at one point. Nearly two months later, nothing has really changed.

“One half, we played the way we always talk about playing, the way coach talks about playing,” McCown said. “That is how we played in the first half. In the second half, we didn’t. I say we, but I didn’t. I take this one squarely on me.”

It’s hardly McCown’s failure to own. On a day the franchise celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1986 team that reached the AFC championship game and the hometown Cleveland Indians were a game away from clinching an unlikely World Series, the glory days for the Browns seem farther away than ever.

Nobody wants to talk about 0-16. Yet the Browns head into November halfway there.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Dallas owner spoke to NFL counsel about Elliott abuse probe

By STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has acknowledged speaking with the NFL’s special counsel for domestic violence investigations, and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott said he was interviewed by the league this season about an abuse claim made against him.

Elliott said after Sunday night’s 29-23 overtime victory over Philadelphia that he was interviewed once by league investigators about six weeks ago. He characterized there being “an ongoing investigation” but said he didn’t really know what was going on.

Prosecutors in Ohio declined to press charges over the summer in a domestic violence case involving the fourth overall draft pick.

“All I can do is not worry about it, focus on this team and do whatever I can do to help these guys get wins,” Elliott told the AP after running 22 times for 96 yards and catching four passes for 52 yards against the Eagles.

CBS Sports reported earlier Sunday, citing multiple unnamed sources, that Jones raised the topic of the probe during league meetings in Houston about two weeks ago with Lisa Friel, a former New York prosecutor serving as special counsel. That report said they were within earshot of other league and team executives.

Jones said after Sunday night’s game that the two had a “good discussion.” He said the conversation might have gotten loud, but said it was a situation where he had “to talk over the music.”

Asked if the interaction was contentious, he responded, “Well, I don’t know about that, but certainly, the volume of it had a lot to do with noise in there.”

In September, when Ohio officials decided not to file criminal charges, the Columbus city attorney’s office cited conflicting and inconsistent information in evidence.

A police report said Elliott, who played at Ohio State, denied allegations that he assaulted his girlfriend in July, causing bruises and abrasions.

Three witnesses told police they didn’t see Elliott assault the 20-year-old woman. Elliott said the woman got the bruises and abrasions in a bar fight.

That same report included documents that had a text exchange between Elliott and the woman indicating concern over the running back passing a drug test.

The report was released less than two weeks after video surfaced of Elliott in a legal marijuana shop in Seattle, which led to admonishments from Jones and coach Jason Garrett. Elliott apologized then for that, saying he realized he made a mistake.

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Freelance reporter Jeff Carlton contributed to this report.

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Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Redskins’ Norman blasts official’s decisions after tie

By ZAC BOYER, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Josh Norman berated field judge Brad Freeman following the Washington Redskins’ 27-27 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals, saying Freeman made a number of questionable officiating decisions during the game.

Norman was asked about his matchup with Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, but instead used the question to launch into a tirade against Freeman.

“Who is official 88? He sucked,” Norman said, referring to Freeman’s number because he did not know his name. “I’m just gonna be honest with you. I’m gonna be straightforward. He was terrible. I feel like he should be reprimanded. I feel like some of the plays that was going on out there , it was just — I mean, it was terrible.”

Norman was called for five penalties — two of which were declined — and was flagged four times for illegal use of hands. Each of those violations occurred when the cornerback was matched up with Green.

He also found it inexcusable that the officiating crew did not assess a facemask penalty on Bengals strong safety Shawn Williams for grabbing wide receiver Jamison Crowder at the goal line on a 33-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.

“We get a touchdown, no call,” Norman said. “Now, defense? We go out there, and on the same sideline, we stop them for a run. We get in there and he said he called a facemask, but there was no evidence of that. It was a scrum. How did you see the scrum facemask, but you did not see the blatant one when it was just him?”

Freeman was unavailable to respond to Norman’s comments after the game. When approached, a Redskins spokesman said he had already seen the bus carrying the officials leave the stadium.

Green finished with nine catches for 121 yards, including a 40-yard grab over Norman with 8:04 remaining in which the 2015 All-Pro cornerback was also called for pass interference.

There were two occasions when Norman could have intercepted Andy Dalton, but the ball bounced off his hands — once on the Bengals’ the final drive before halftime, once on their first drive of the third quarter.

Norman also broke up a pass down the left sideline by pushing Green out of bounds, and he recovered a fumble by Giovani Bernard in the second quarter that was negated by defensive holding on cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

While Green refused to speak about Norman in the days leading up to the game, Norman, who sustained a concussion a week ago, called Green a “top-three” wide receiver on Friday and said he was looking forward to the challenge.

“I think if you want to be one of the best in this league, you have to go against the best competition, and that’s Josh,” Green said after the game. “Josh is one of the best corners in this league and I consider myself one of the best receivers in this league, so I go out there and take that as a challenge.”

Norman, who has been fined multiple times this season for unsportsmanlike conduct and illegal hits, began his five-minute press conference by introducing Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba. It ended when a Redskins spokesman, concerned about opportunities for other players to speak, returned to the auditorium and cut him off.

Norman also objected to the penalty assessed to wide receiver Pierre Garcon for pass interference at the start of the Redskins’ final drive of overtime. That negated Garcon’s 5-yard gain.

So Norman took it upon himself to address a discussion that had been taking place in the Redskins’ locker room.

“We come over here in an international game and it seems like we threw everything out the window on what we do,” Norman said. “Get the guy on the line: 5-yard penalty. Hands to the face. Hands to the face. Hands to the face. But yet, every time I touched (Green), he knocked the hands up into him. I tell him that, but he still called it. How do you play like that?”

When pressed to address other penalties he objected to, Norman demurred.

“Whatever they say about it, I just don’t care,” he said. “This is how I feel and how the team feels right now. I’m speaking on their behalf. Here and now, this is just how I feel about it. They reprimand us? What’s the reprimand for them?”

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Suspect in slaying of 4 women in Ohio due in court

ASHLAND, Ohio (AP) — A man linked to the killings of at least four women in Ohio is due back in court.

Shawn Grate is scheduled to appear at a pre-trial hearing on Monday in Ashland.

Grate is charged in the deaths of two women whose bodies were found in a house that was thought to be vacant in Ashland.

Police arrested him in September after another woman called 911 and said she was being held inside that same house.

Authorities say Grate also has confessed to killing two other women. He hasn’t been charged in those deaths.

His attorneys haven’t returned phone calls seeking comment.

Groups: Work curbing Lake Erie algae need to target hotspots

By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The algae bloom in parts of Lake Erie this summer didn’t come close to matching the record-breaking one from a year ago that covered an area roughly the size of New York City.

That’s because the spring and early summer months this year lacked the rainfall that has in recent years swept huge amounts phosphorus-filled farm fertilizer and livestock manure into the lake’s tributaries, fueling the harmful algae outbreaks.

Despite what was a relatively mild bloom, there’s still a long way to go before the problem is solved.

While environmental groups, farmers and state regulators don’t always agree on what steps to take, they seem to have found some common ground — the efforts need to focus on hotspots where most of the phosphorus originates.

Just over 40 percent of the farmland in the western Lake Erie region accounts for nearly 80 percent of the phosphorus that flows into the lake through the Maumee River, said Jeff Reutter, a former director of the Sea Grant Program, who has studied the lake for decades.

Getting all farmers to follow voluntary efforts that encourage using the right amount of fertilizer at the right time and the right place would go a long way to improving water quality, he said.

But studies have shown that about one-third don’t seem willing to make those changes without being offered incentives or faced with more regulations, he said.

There are two bills that have been introduced that would offer Ohio farmers tax incentives — one for investing in manure storage sites and another for installing grass strips that filter and reduce the phosphorus washing into streams and rivers.

Karl Gebhardt, who oversees water resources for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said incentives need to be targeted to make sure they are making a difference.

Ohio officials are working to finalize a plan to make a 40 percent reduction in the amount of phosphorus that flows into the lake’s western end.

Changes put in place by the state’s legislature, including a ban on spreading manure and fertilizer on frozen and soggy fields, are too new to determine how much they will help.

Environmental groups doubt those steps and the voluntary efforts to encourage farmers to use less fertilizer will be enough to stop the lake from turning unsightly shades of green from the algae.

Adam Rissien, the Ohio Environmental Council’s director of agricultural and water policy, said more work is needed is to determine what works best.

“Regulations need to be reasonable and targeted,” he said.