National briefs: NFL ponders kickoffs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS ó Kickoff returns are among footballís most popular and exciting plays. The NFLís competition committee wants to make them safer.
Committee chairman Rich McKay said Monday at the owners meetings that moving kickoffs up to the 35-yard line and bringing touchbacks out to the 25 have spurred ěhealthy discussionsî among coaches and general managers. So much so that some alterations could be coming to proposed changes, which also include eliminating the blocking wedge and limiting coverage players from long run-ups.
Owners will vote on those proposals Tuesday, along with amendments to defenseless player rules for receivers, and allowing the replay official to review all scoring plays at any time in games.
ěThis is a rule 100 percent based on player safety,î said McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons, referring to the kickoff proposals. ěWeíve seen higher rates of injuries than we are comfortable with and weíre trying to remedy it.î
SOUTH BEND, Ind. ó Notre Dame star wide receiver Michael Floyd was pulled over by campus police after he ran a stop sign and was charged with drunken driving after failing three field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer test indicated he had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal driving limit, court records show.
Floyd was driving a white Cadillac at 3:18 a.m. Sunday when he ran a stop sign about a block from the schoolís main entrance, according to a probable cause affidavit from St. Joseph County deputy prosecutor Chris Daniels filed Monday.
Floyd failed three sobriety tests that consisted of a standing on one leg, walking and turning around, and a finger count, Daniels said. The breathalyzer test showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, well above Indianaís legal limit for driving of 0.08 percent.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. ó Tennesseeís last two spring practices were all about getting to know a new coach. The Volunteers are kicking off their second spring session under coach Derek Dooley focusing on how to return to being a competitive program again.
The Vols, who finished 2010 6-7 after a loss in the Music City Bowl, will work on becoming bigger, faster and stronger than their Southeastern Conference foes when they return to practice Tuesday afternoon.
ěAs long as our team is focused on continual improvement I feel like weíll continue moving in the right direction,î Dooley said Monday. ěI kind of feel like this is year one and last year was year zero. It was such a unique situation that we walked into last season. It didnít feel like your first year. I feel like right now this is year one.î
DARLINGTON, S.C. ó Two of the newest members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame will visit with select ticket purchasers for the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
The track said Monday that David Pearson and Bud Moore would hold a question-and-answer sessions with those people buying a special race package designed to honor the two South Carolina natives on their upcoming induction.
Pearson and Moore were both included in the hallís second group of inductees. Pearson won 105 races, second all-time to Richard Petty on NASCARís victories list. Moore fielded cars for Pearson, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt among others in nearly four decades in the sport.
Along with the visit with Pearson and Moore, purchasers will sit in Darlingtonís Pearson Grandstand named for the driver.
INDIANAPOLIS ó Tony Kanaan is back in IndyCar.
The 2004 series champion will drive the No. 82 KV Racing Technology-Lotus in 2011. The deal, announced Monday, ends Kanaanís quest to find a new home after splitting with Andretti Autosport last fall.
Kanaan will join E.J. Viso and Takuma Sato in KV Racing Technology-Lotusí three-car lineup when the 2011 season begins in St. Petersburg this weekend.
ěIíve spent the last six months looking for sponsorship and not thinking about racing, so I missed all the pre-season testing, but I really canít complain,î Kanaan said.
This is Kanaanís second team since leaving Andretti last fall after 7-Eleven declined to continue its sponsorship of his No. 11 car.
The 36-year-old Brazilian had signed on to drive for de Ferran Dragon Racing, but he didnít secure enough corporate backing to make it to the opener.
That wonít be an issue now after insurance company GEICO agreed to serve as the primary sponsor on the No. 82 for KV Racing Technology-Lotus, which is co-owned by former open-wheel star Jimmy Vassar.
Kanaan said he reached out to Vassar after his deal with de Ferran fell through. The two initially talked last fall but Kanaan said the timing wasnít right.
It is now.
ěJimmy and I go back a long way, we were rivals during the CART days, but more than that, we have always been good friends, which helped a lot with our negotiations,î Kanaan said.
The deal gives KV Racing Technology one of the seriesí top drivers to run alongside Sato, who finished 21st in the points last season during his first year in IndyCar, and the 25-year-old Viso, who was 17th in the points race in 2010.
ěTonyís knowledge and experience will be extremely valuable to our team,î said Vassar.