Sports briefs for Thursday, Dec 6 , 2012

Posted Dec. 05, 2012, at 9:02 p.m.

Jeter says he should be ready for season opener

NEW YORK — Derek Jeter says his surgically repaired left ankle feels good and he expects to be the New York Yankees’ starting shortstop on opening day.

Jeter was at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night to surprise more than 500 children from New York City at his Turn 2 Foundation’s holiday party. It was his first public visit to the Bronx since having surgery in late October to repair the ankle he broke in Game 1 of the AL championship series against the Detroit Tigers.

Looking trim and walking with a restrictive boot on his left foot, Jeter made several jokes about a photograph published last week in a New York tabloid that made him appear overweight.

The Yankees’ 38-year-old captain had been bothered by the ankle since mid-September but said it was his choice to play through the pain.

Stewart passes on Penke’s Indy 500 offer

INDIANAPOLIS — Tony Stewart passed up a chance to race for Roger Penske in the Indianapolis 500.

The three-time NASCAR champion said Wednesday at the International Motorsports Industry Show that he wouldn’t attempt to race in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

“I’m not going to do it this year, but there’s nothing saying that down the road that I may not take him up on that same offer,” Stewart said.

Stewart has raced five times in the Indy 500. His highest finish was fifth in 1997.

Seattle CB Browner suspended 4 games

RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks are about to find out how much losing at least one of their top cornerbacks means to their defense.

Brandon Browner has dropped the appeal of his suspension for using performance-enhancing substances and will miss the final four games of the regular season, the league announced Wednesday.

Browner’s loss leaves the Seahawks without a Pro Bowl cornerback whose size and physical play has flustered wide receivers for much of the past two seasons. Walter Thurmond, who was a starter for a short time during the 2011 season before suffering a leg injury, will take Browner’s spot.

Browner will be eligible to rejoin the team on Dec. 31 and will be able to play in the postseason should the Seahawks make the playoffs.

Utah State basketball player improving

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah State basketball player who collapsed at practice and had to be revived after he stopped breathing is improving and making good progress, school officials said Wednesday night, although the player remains in critical condition.

Danny Berger is awake and talking to his family in a Salt Lake City area hospital, Utah State basketball team doctor Trek Lyons said at a press conference in Logan. Tubes used to help Berger breathe have been removed.

“He recognizes his family, his doctors and the instructions he is given,” Lyons said. “It is a good sign and a sign of improving.”

Doctors still don’t know what caused the 22-year-old Berger to collapse on the court during a practice Tuesday in Logan.

Butch Jones denies being hired by Colorado

BOULDER, Colo. — Butch Jones denied he has agreed to become the football coach at the University of Colorado.

In a text message to The Associated Press on Wednesday night, Jones called a report that he’s accepted the position “absolutely false.”

The University of Cincinnati coach has been weighing his options since meeting with athletic director Mike Bohn and other Colorado officials on Monday.

Asked about the hiring, Bohn responded in a text that “our process is not complete.”

Jones was Colorado’s top choice to replace Jon Embree, who was fired last week after going 4-21 in two seasons.

Lionel Messi carted off with bruised knee

BARCELONA, Spain — Lionel Messi, grimacing in pain, was taken off the field on a cart with bone bruise to his left knee as Barcelona was held to a 0-0 tie by Benfica in a Champions League match on Wednesday night.

With Barcelona already assured of advancing to the second round, Messi entered as a reserve in the 58th minute.

Messi’s left knee collided with the right hand of Benfica’s Artur as he ran onto Gerard Pique’s long pass and tried to round the goalkeeper in the 85th minute. Messi took a left-footed shot from an angle, then fell to the field in pain. He rolled onto his back and held the knee, then was loaded onto a cart.

Mich. Senate OKs bill to help build Red Wings home

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate has approved legislation to help finance a downtown project that would include a new home for the Detroit Red Wings.

Team owner Mike Ilitch this week announced plans for a $650 million multiuse development, which would include an events center where NHL hockey could be played. He has said for years he’d like a new arena for the Red Wings, who now play at the aging Joe Louis Arena.

A bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday would allow use of tax dollars collected by the city’s Downtown Development Authority for the project.

Florida International fires coach Mario Cristobal

MIAMI — Mario Cristobal took over a winless team at Florida International and wound up leading the Panthers to consecutive bowl appearances.

One bad season later, Cristobal is looking for work.

The Panthers fired Cristobal on Wednesday, a somewhat surprising move that came nearly two weeks after FIU finished an injury-filled season with a 3-9 record. Cristobal was told by athletic director Pete Garcia of the decision in a morning meeting, one that caught both the sixth-year coach and his team by surprise.

FIU had 19 returning starters from a year ago and was expected to contend for a Top 25 spot this season, its last before going to Conference USA. The three wins this season came against teams that combined to win a total of six games.

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