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Sports briefs, Tuesday, Sept. 6

Marlins shake up baseball operations

MIAMI — The Florida Marlins have shaken up their baseball operations by hiring Marty Scott and reassigning Jim Fleming, who has been with the franchise for nine years.

Owner Jeffrey Loria expressed disappointment earlier this season with the state of the Marlins’ minor-league system. The team has had little draft success in recent years, especially in the first round.

Scott, who has spent 34 years in professional baseball, replaces Fleming as vice president of player development, the team said Tuesday. Scott was director of player development for the Texas Rangers from 1985 to 1994, and he spent the past three seasons as manager of the Lincoln Saltdogs.

Fleming will become special assistant to president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest.

Jaguars release Garrard, plan to start McCown

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — David Garrard lost his starting job the same way he got it: Just days before the season opener and in stunning fashion.

The Jacksonville Jaguars released Garrard on Tuesday, making a “pure football decision” that will save the franchise $9 million in 2011.

Whether it saves coach Jack Del Rio’s job remains to be seen. Team owner Wayne Weaver has said Jacksonville needs to make the playoffs for Del Rio to stick around for a 10th season.

Del Rio made it clear late last season that he had grown tired of Garrard’s inconsistent ways, but the coach remained steadfast through training camp and the preseason that Garrard was his starter. That changed Tuesday, when the Jaguars parted ways with Garrard after nine up-and-down seasons.

Del Rio turned the starting job over to Luke McCown, who outplayed Garrard and rookie Blaine Gabbert in the preseason. Playing mostly with and against second- and third-teamers, McCown completed 12 of 18 passes for 133 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks.

Garrard missed the preseason opener because of a sore back, but started the final three games. He completed 50 percent of his passes for 216 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked three times.

Cardinals activate Punto from DL

ST. LOUIS — Infielder Nick Punto has been activated from the 15-day disabled list by the St. Louis Cardinals.

The 33-year-old Punto rejoined the roster Tuesday after missing 36 games because of a strained left oblique. He was out earlier this season with a sports hernia and a right forearm injury.

Punto said this offseason he may alter his training routine, perhaps emphasizing speed and flexibility over strength. He’s been bothered by injuries the last two seasons and believed the oblique injury was connected to the sports hernia.

“I think I’m just going to take a step back and adjust some of the things I’ve done the last two offseasons,” Punto said. “Really focus on running, that kind of stuff. Maybe Yoga. Pilates for sure.”

He was batting .271 with 13 RBIs in 44 games, with 21 starts at second base, three at third base and three at shortstop. Manager Tony La Russa gave no assurances Punto would get a lot of playing time.

“He’s been gone for a while,” La Russa said. “Just watch the games and whatever we need, we’ve got plenty of reinforcements.”

Punto was 3 for 15 in a five-game injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Memphis. He was not in the lineup Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I want to help the team however I can,” Punto said. “I don’t know how many at-bats are going to be here for me, but I’ll be at the end of the bench ready to go.”

PepsiCo and NFL renew sponsorship deal

PepsiCo Inc. and the NFL said Tuesday that they are renewing their marketing deal with a new 10-year deal that begins next year.

The financial terms of the contract weren’t disclosed.

However, a person close to the matter who asked not to be named because the person wasn’t permitted to speak publicly told the Associated Press that PepsiCo would pay roughly $90 million a year in rights fees.

That’s nearly $1 billion over the length of the contract to make its Pepsi, Gatorade, Frito-Lay, Tropicana and Quaker Oats brands official marketing partners of the league.

PepsiCo would then spend more on marketing and promoting its ties to the NFL. The company, based in Purchase, N.Y., said it does not disclose its marketing spending. But the Wall Street Journal, citing an unnamed source, said that spending could run roughly $1.3 billion more during the length of the contract.

The deal also ensures that Gatorade would remain the featured drink on the sidelines at games. In addition, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay snack foods brand will promote big events like the Super Bowl.

David Carter, a sports business professor at the University of Southern California, said while the contract seems excessive at first glance, it might be worth it for Pepsi. The company gets 10 years of promotion for five brands, and it is unclear if that marketing figure includes the millions it would already spend on Super Bowl or other expensive advertising during the period.

“What it might suggest to other partners or potential partners … is what the NFL is expecting in terms of contracts,” Carter said.

The deal extends a 28-year relationship between Pepsi and the NFL.

Next NBA meeting set for Wednesday

NEW YORK — NBA players and owners will resume talks on Wednesday, two people with knowledge of the plans said Tuesday. This comes a week after the sides vowed to meet more frequently in hopes of reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.

The session will be just the third between top negotiators since the lockout started July 1. But with the opening of training camps less than a month away, both sides said they recognized the urgency to pick up the pace.

The meeting — expected to be a small group — will be in New York. The site hasn’t been disclosed.

No new proposals were exchanged last week during a meeting that lasted about six hours. Neither side shared many details, saying they preferred to keep the nature of the talks private.

Commissioner David Stern said afterward there was still “clearly enough time” to make a deal that would allow the regular season to open as scheduled on Nov. 1. However, a gap remains between the financial changes owners are seeking and what players have been willing to accept.

“I could see it going either way,” two-time MVP Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns told The Canadian Press on Tuesday. “It looks like right now we probably won’t start on time.

“Hopefully, as we start to get into the time of year where everyone is missing basketball, we can all start to concede on some points that each other are looking for and find a middle ground. That would be the best of both worlds.”

Before last week, the only other meeting between top officials was on Aug. 1, after which Stern criticized the players for an unwillingness to compromise. The league filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board and a lawsuit against the players the next day, adding to the complaint the union had already filed with the NLRB.

But both sides have stressed that a deal can only be reached at the bargaining table, not the court system, and Stern and players’ association president Derek Fisher of the Lakers said last week they would be holding many meetings.

One of the people confirmed an report that there could even be additional ones this week if Wednesday’s session goes well.

Training camps are scheduled to open the first week of October, with the first preseason games set for Oct. 9.

NBC widely promoting NFL football’s new season

NEW YORK — NBC won’t be missing any opportunity this week to promote the opening of NFL football’s new season.

The “Today” show, the Weather Channel, Telemundo and E! Entertainment all are reporting live this week from Green Bay, where NBC is televising Thursday’s opening game between the Packers and New Orleans Saints.

Jay Leno is promoting the start of NBC’s football schedule in his monologue, “Today” will encourage viewers to wear football jerseys to work or school on Friday and Jimmy Fallon has promised football-related sketches on his late-night show. All are NBCUniversal products.

Still up in the air is NBC’s planned coverage of a one-hour football entertainment show prior to the game, which may conflict with President Obama’s jobs speech.

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