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Patriots may put franchise tag on quarterback Cassel

From staff and wire reports

The New England Patriots plan to put the franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel, according to a published report.

Cassel’s future hinges heavily on Tom Brady’s recovery from a season-ending knee injury in the first game this season.

Franchising Cassel would keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent and give the Patriots an option if they feel Brady might not be ready for the start of the 2009 season. If they’re confident that Brady will be ready, they’d be able to trade Cassel.

Without a franchise tag, Cassel would become an unrestricted free agent starting Feb. 27. The period in which a team can designate a franchise player is Feb. 5 to Feb. 19.

Cassel completed 327 of 516 passes with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His 3,693 yards passing were fourth-most in the AFC, and his 63.4 completion percentage was third-best in Patriots history.

Packers make cuts: Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy released six assistants, including five on defense: Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, defensive ends coach Carl Hairston, defensive tackles coach Robert Nunn, secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer and nickel package/cornerbacks coach Lionel Washington.

Also let go was strength and conditioning coordinator Rock Gullickson.

•Hall of Famer sues Minneapolis police: Vikings great Carl Eller sued the Minneapolis Police Department alleging officers violated his civil rights, used excessive force and concealed videotape evidence when they subdued him during an arrest last April.

The Hall of Fame player was arrested after he allegedly drove through a stop sign and narrowly missed hitting a squad car. Officers followed him home, where they say he became combative. He was charged with fourth-degree assault and making terroristic threats, which are felonies, and driving while impaired and refusing to take a chemical test for alcohol, which are gross misdemeanors.


Rangers ice Penguins

Henrik Lundqvist became the fifth NHL goalie to start a career with four 20-win seasons, and the Rangers defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0 in New York.

Lundqvist (20-11-3) made 27 saves for his first shutout of the season and 18th overall. He is the fourth Rangers goalie to post four consecutive 20-win seasons.

College Basketball

Irish men beat Hoyas

Luke Harangody had 31 points and 11 rebounds and No. 13 Notre Dame (11-3, 2-1 Big East) shot 45 percent against No. 9 Georgetown in a 73-67 victory in South Bend, Ind., that ended a five-game losing streak to the Hoyas.

Georgetown (10-3, 1-2) closed to 71-67 with 15 seconds left when Chris Wright scored inside, but Kyle McAlarney, who missed the front end of a 1-and-1 14 seconds earlier, hit two with 12 seconds left.

Sooners earn big win: Blake Griffin had 20 points and 16 rebounds as No. 6 Oklahoma (14-1) beat Maryland Eastern Shore (1-9) 100-64 in Norman, Okla.

•Purdue women beat Texas: Freshman guard Brittany Rayburn scored 19 points to lead Purdue (9-5) to a 66-55 victory over No. 8 Texas (12-2) in West Lafayette, Ind.

•Florida State rallies past No. 3: Tanae Davis-Cain scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half and Florida State (12-4) upset No. 3 Texas A&M (12-1) 60-53 in Tallahassee, Fla.


Spurs hold off Heat

Tim Duncan scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs held off the Miami Heat 91-84 in Miami.

George Hill scored 15 points on 4-of-4 shooting for the Spurs, who got 11 points from both Roger Mason and Matt Bonner.

•Anthony injured in Denver win: Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points and had a season-high nine assists despite fracturing his right hand in the Denver Nuggets’ 135-115 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Denver.

Anthony injured his hand when the ball was slapped away early in the third quarter. He had the Nuggets trainer check it out a few times when play stopped and left for good late in the fourth quarter.

He’ll see a specialist today.

•Jazz hold off Warriors: Deron Williams had 25 points and 15 assists, Ronnie Brewer scored seven crucial points down the stretch, and Utah held off the Golden State Warriors 119-114 in Salt Lake City.

Paul Millsap posted his 18th consecutive double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds for Utah.


U.S. races shortened

After watching subzero temperatures cancel a weekend of races, athletes in U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships in Anchorage, Alaska, finally hit the trails, albeit for shortened races.

The women kicked off the competition by racing 5 kilometers in the individual freestyle race instead of 10; men had their race shortened to a 10K from 15.

Women’s winner Caitlin Compton of Minneapolis finished in 14:48. Elizabeth Stephen, of East Montpelier, Vt., was third.

Kris Freeman, of Thornton, N.H, placed first in the men’s division, finishing in 24:17, while Leif Zimmermann of Bozeman, Mont., took second in 25:07.

Winners crowned at World Cup ski cross: Michael Schmid of Switzerland and Marion Josserand of France won the season-opening World Cup ski cross races in Oberndorf, Austria.

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