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Sports briefs, Oct. 25

Two Skowhegan players are Miss Maine Field Hockey finalists

Skowhegan High School’s Nicole Sevey and Jessica Skillings, along with Nokomis of Newport’s Marissa Shaw and Messalonske of Oakland’s Katie Bernatchez have been named finalists for Miss Maine Field Hockey, the Maine Field Hockey Association announced Monday.

The winner will be announced during the MFHA’s awards banquet at the Augusta Civic Center on Dec. 4.

Red Sox RHP John Lackey to have Tommy John surgery

BOSTON — Red Sox starter John Lackey will undergo Tommy John elbow surgery and miss the 2012 season.

Boston general manager Ben Cherington made the announcement Tuesday during a news conference at which he was introduced as the successor to Theo Epstein, who left to become president of baseball operations with the Chicago Cubs.

Lackey, a right-hander, was 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA in the second year of a five-year, $82.5 million contract. The Boston Globe reported after the season that he and fellow starters Josh Beckett and Jon Lester drank beer in the clubhouse during games in which they were not pitching.

Cherington said the surgery would be performed in California by noted orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum but he did not know when.

Dolphins sign QB Losman to replace Rosenfels

MIAMI — The Miami Dolphins’ revolving door at quarterback spun anew Tuesday, when the team placed quarterback Sage Rosenfels on the reserve-non-football illness list and signed J.P. Losman, who last completed a pass in 2008.

A blood disorder sent Rosenfels to the hospital in August, and he said in a statement that he hasn’t fully recovered.

“When I first joined the Dolphins, all tests showed that I was healthy and ready to go,” Rosenfels said. “But after practicing for a few weeks, especially in the heat, some new indications made it obvious that I need to rest and allow my body to regain all requisite strength.”

Rosenfels joined the team Oct. 6 after Chad Henne suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. The only other quarterback on the roster is Matt Moore, who this month became Miami’s 16th starter at QB since Dan Marino retired.

Losman, a first-round draft choice in 2004, started 33 games in five seasons with the Bills, with 33 touchdown passes and 34 interceptions. He spent part of the 2010 season with the Seattle Seahawks but didn’t play.

The Dolphins (0-6) play on the road Sunday against the New York Giants (4-2).

Bills place LB Shawne Merriman on IR

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The lights have been turned off on Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman’s season.

Merriman, who earned the nickname “Lights Out” when he was one of the NFL’s most feared players, was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday because of a right Achilles’ tendon injury. It’s the same injury that forced the Bills to place him on IR last November after they signed him as a free agent following his release from the San Diego Chargers.

“Shawne has worked extremely hard, but unfortunately his Achilles flared back up and it doesn’t appear that he will be able to return to the field anytime soon,” Bills general manager Buddy Nix said in a statement released by the team Tuesday. “We felt it was in the best interest of our team and for Shawne to put him on IR.”

After being bothered by a nagging shoulder injury for the past month, Merriman’s Achilles suddenly became a problem on the Thursday before the Bills’ 27-24 loss to the New York Giants. Merriman missed that game, but he expressed confidence that he’d be able to return and not miss any significant time when the Bills came back from the bye.

“I’m expecting it to hold up well and bounce back and do what I need to do,” the 27-year-old told the Associated Press last week. “I’m feeling a lot better than I did a week ago as of right now. It’s going to be a work in progress. Personally for me, it’s about peaking at the right time, and this bye week has been perfect for me.”

But the Achilles didn’t make as much progress as the Bills had hoped, and it’s left them with a severe dent in a pass rush that’s generated only four sacks this season. Coach Chan Gailey and several players spoke last week about the need to pressure the quarterback to take the heat off Buffalo’s defensive backfield, which has allowed 300-plus yards passing three times already this season.

Overall, Buffalo ranks 31st in total defense.

“I think we just need to keep finetuning the things that we’re not doing well,” Gailey said. “I think what we’re doing is good, but I think we’re not doing it very well. We’re playing hard, we’re not playing better.”

Merriman’s season was average at best, mostly due to his inability to stay healthy. After recording a pair of sacks in Buffalo’s preseason opener against Chicago, he hurt his right knee in practice. That kept him out of two preseason games.

He then hurt his shoulder in Week 2 against Oakland, and the Bills began to monitor both his playing and practice time. That basically made him a part-time player.

Nix has always been a big believer in Merriman after previously working in the Chargers front office when they made Merriman their first pick (12th overall) in the 2005 draft. Hoping Merriman could rekindle some of his past glory with a Bills defense that was in desperate need of a pass-rushing specialist, Nix re-signed Merriman to a two-year deal just a day before Buffalo’s 2010 season finale at the New York Jets.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Merriman finishes the season with nine tackles, one sack and five games. Coming into the season, he had 43 1/2 sacks in 60 career games — but only four sacks from 2008-10 when his production was slowed by injuries.

He missed most of the 2008 season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery, and after sitting out most of the 2010 offseason workouts and part of training camp to protest his contract status, he was slowed by an Achilles’ tendon injury and then a calf injury before being released.

Vikings’ Cook charged with felony domestic assault

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook was charged Tuesday with trying to strangle his girlfriend, leaving her with a bloody nose and lip in an alleged attack that jeopardizes his status with the team.

Cook was charged with felony domestic assault by strangulation, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The 24-year-old Cook was arrested early Saturday and released from custody Tuesday on $40,000 bail. He is barred from contact with the alleged victim and cannot leave Minnesota, which would prevent him from traveling with the Vikings to Sunday’s game at Carolina.

Cook has a court appearance set for Wednesday afternoon.

According to the complaint, Cook became upset early Saturday when he found out his girlfriend of 10 months had spoken to an ex-boyfriend. The woman told police Cook threw her on the bed at his home near the team’s suburban headquarters in Eden Prairie, got on top of her, and grabbed her neck with an open hand, constricting her ability to breathe.

The complaint said the woman freed herself by grabbing Cook’s hair, which he wears in shoulder-length dreadlocks. Cook then struck her in the ear, sending her crashing into a wall. As the woman ran to the living room, he grabbed her neck again and squeezed it.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said at a news conference that Cook answered the door to the house and officers found the woman with a bloody nose and upper lip. She had marks on her neck and hemorrhaging in her eye, Freeman said, consistent with victims of strangulation. State guidelines call for a sentence of a year and a day, he said.

Multiple messages left with Cook’s attorney and his agent were not returned. Cook apologized Tuesday on his Twitter account to the fans, Vikings ownership and the coaching staff, his teammates and friends and family and said, “There’s always two sides to a story!!”

Earlier this year, Cook was found not guilty of brandishing a firearm after allegedly pulling a gun on a neighbor in Virginia. Freeman noted that case but said, “As far as we’re concerned, there’s no record.”

Freeman also said he’s unaware of any prior abuse in the relationship. But a recent amendment to state law makes the case against Cook more serious. The penalty for domestic abuse strangulation was enhanced to a felony in 2005.

“Before the law was changed, you could strangle someone nearly to death and the most serious thing you could be charged with was a misdemeanor punishable by at most 90 days in jail,” said Minneapolis attorney Susan Gaertner, who helped spearhead the legislation while serving as Ramsey County attorney. “There was a great deal of research showing that an incident of strangulation is a huge red flag that a pattern of violence is escalating.”

Freeman said his office has prosecuted more than 20 of these cases this year.

“It’s a precursor in tragically too many cases to more serious events,” Freeman said.

He said the alleged victim has been cooperating with the investigation.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier spoke with Cook during the offseason to reiterate the importance of staying out of trouble off the field, and the second-year player emerged as the team’s best in pass coverage. At 6-foot-2, he has the size to match up with taller receivers and the speed to keep up with smaller ones.

But while the Vikings fell to 1-6 in losing to Green Bay Sunday, Cook was in the county jail a few blocks away. His absence forced cornerbacks Asher Allen and Marcus Sherels into more significant playing time.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is reviewing the matter. Such charges often bring suspensions, per the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Vikings officials didn’t respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

Ag group wants Kemper Arena torn down, replaced

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Forty years ago R. Crosby Kemper Jr. donated some land in Kansas City’s west bottoms and provided funding for what would become Kemper Arena, named in honor of his father, who had just died.

On Tuesday, Kemper and his son Mariner Kemper were among several people urging the city to tear down the massive building and replace it with a new equestrian and agricultural center that’s better suited to the needs of the American Royal, Kansas City’s premier annual livestock show.

American Royal leaders said it makes financial sense to get rid of Kemper Arena, which once was the city’s top venue for sporting events and concerts before the new Sprint Center was built downtown. These days, the arena sees little activity beyond events connected to the American Royal.

Among its more notable events over the years, Kemper was host to several NCAA basketball tournament regionals, and in 1988 hosted the Final Four, where Kansas beat Oklahoma. The arena also was home to the Kansas City Kings before the team left for Sacramento, Calif.

Dave Fowler, chairman of the American Royal board, said the city has 34 years left on its 50-year lease with the Royal, which means the city is obligated to keep Kemper up for its events. The city still owes $10 million on a $23 million expansion project in 1997, and there is about $20 million in deferred maintenance needed for the city to fulfill its lease agreement.

On top of that, Kemper Arena is losing about $1 million a year.

The Kempers joined other American Royal board members, city council members and other civic leaders to endorse the idea of tearing the arena down to make room for a 5,000-seat coliseum and facility tailored to year-round livestock and horse shows, in addition to the Royal’s annual barbecue and festival events.

Cost of the new facility is estimated at $70 million, including $50 million in new construction, $10 million for demolition and upgrades to the existing American Royal complex, and $10 million to pay the outstanding Kemper debt.

The Kempers said their foundation would try to raise about $10 million. It’s unclear where the rest of the money would come from.

Mariner Kemper said the arena has outlived its useful life, since the city can’t support two big arenas. Kemper Arena has been losing events since the Sprint Center opened in 2007.

“The Sprint Center is built. It is the city’s arena for concerts and sports,” Kemper said. “Instead of trying to hold on to what we have and this wonderful history, 40 years of history, let’s build for the next 40 or 50 years.”

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said in an emailed statement that while no decision has been made, he is excited about the proposal to replace the arena.

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