Roethlisberger fighting back

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger vowed Thursday to fight a Lake Tahoe casino hostess’ rape allegations against him, calling them "false and vicious."

Roethlisberger was served with a civil lawsuit last weekend when he returned to Lake Tahoe, where a 31-year-old Nevada woman alleges the quarterback raped her in a hotel penthouse in July 2008. Roethlisberger was in Nevada on both occasions to compete in a celebrity golf event.

The woman did not file a criminal complaint.


"Saturday was the first I heard of her accusations," Roethlisberger said. "Her false and vicious allegations are an attack on my family and on me. I would never, ever force myself on a woman."

In his first public comments on the matter, Roethlisberger read a statement at the Steelers practice complex in Pittsburgh. Dressed in a brown pinstriped suit with no tie, Roethlisberger spoke for less than two minutes and did not respond to questions.

Draft goes prime time

NEW YORK — The NFL is making its already popular draft even more television-friendly, moving the first round to Thursday night.

Next year’s draft will switch from a two-day, weekend format to a three-day event with the opening round in prime time for the first time.

The NFL said Thursday that the first round will begin at 6:30 p.m. on April 22. The second and third rounds will start at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, with the last four rounds beginning Saturday morning.

The draft will continue to be televised by ESPN and NFL Network and held at Radio City Music Hall.



Indians, Rockies make deal

TORONTO — Rafael Betancourt has watched teammates come and go during his tenure with the Cleveland Indians.

On Thursday, he was on the move.

The Cleveland Indians traded the reliable reliever to Colorado for minor league pitcher Connor Graham.

In 29 appearances this season, Betancourt is 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA. The right-hander has given up 25 hits and struck out 32 in 30 2-3 innings.

Betancourt has been primarily a set-up man since joining the Indians in 2003.

The 6-foot-7 Graham has spent the entire season with Class-A Modesto of the California League. The Indians will send Graham to Double-A Akron.



Griffin’s shoulder OK

LOS ANGELES — Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said he doesn’t expect Blake Griffin’s shoulder injury to have a lingering effect on the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

The club revealed on Wednesday that Griffin has a strained right shoulder that will require three to four weeks of rest. He was hurt in a July 16 summer game against Memphis in Las Vegas and will miss this week’s minicamp for USA Basketball.

Clippers physician Dr. Steven Shimoyama diagnosed the injury Tuesday and it was confirmed again by Dr. Lewis Yocum in a second examination.


Beckham unapologetic

CARSON, Calif. — David Beckham offered no explanations or apologies for the way he confronted an angry group of Los Angeles Galaxy fans.

"It’s not a setback for myself. It’s other people that have to change," Beckham said Thursday after practice. "It’s not about whether I can move on. I wasn’t the one booing."

Beckham confronted Galaxy fans in a group called the L.A. Riot Squad during Sunday night’s 2-2 exhibition tie with AC Milan.

Members of the Riot Squad booed and jeered him during the game and displayed banners saying, "Go Home Fraud" and "Is Evil Something You Are or Something You Do?"

At halftime, Beckham walked toward the group while shouting and pointing. He challenged fans to meet him on the field and tried to lift himself over advertising boards before security intervened. Police arrested a fan who left the stands.


Armstrong moves to third

ANNECY, France — Lance Armstrong finds himself in unfamiliar territory at this Tour de France — fighting just to remain among the top three riders.

Accustomed to dominating his way to victory, the seven-time Tour winner had to settle for a 16th-place finish in Thursday’s time trial and a tenuous grip on third place.

The 37-year-old Texan battled fatigue in the 18th stage, a 25.2-mile race against the clock around bucolic Lake Annecy that Alberto Contador won in 48 minutes, 31 seconds to close in on the overall victory.

Armstrong was 1:30 behind, but he entered the day in fourth and easily overcame a 30-second deficit to Frank Schleck. The Saxo Bank rider finished 2:34 behind Contador to slip from third to sixth overall, but is only 34 seconds behind Armstrong.

After Thursday’s stage, Armstrong said he had "mixed emotions. Sixteenth in a time trial is not a good result, but my ambition is to get on the podium, so I have to be happy with that."


Birdie run sparks Na

OAKVILLE, Ontario — Kevin Na birdied the final five holes and nine of his last 12 for a 9-under 63 and a two-stroke lead over Retief Goosen, Scott Verplank and Joe Durant on Thursday during the suspended first round of the 100th Canadian Open.

After playing one hole in the morning, Na waited out a 71⁄2-hour rain delay in the tournament plagued by wet conditions for the second straight year. Ninety-eight players were unable to finish the round, and 39 of them didn’t even begin play.

Jimmy Walker was 6 under with four holes to play when play was suspended for the day because of darkness. Mike Weir, trying to become the first Canadian to win the national championship since Pat Fletcher in 1954, opened with a 70.

Watson 3 shots back

SUNNINGDALE, England — Four days after his heart-rending playoff defeat to Stewart Cink at Turnberry, Tom Watson shot a 3-under 67 on Thursday to begin his pursuit of a fourth Senior British Open title.

The 59-year-old Watson, who almost became the oldest major champion at the British Open last weekend, was three shots behind leader Fred Funk.

Funk birdied five of his last eight holes, including holing a bunker shot at No. 17, for a 6-under 64 — the lowest opening round in the history of the championship.

Funk had a two-shot lead over fellow Americans Jay Haas and Loren Roberts, Des Smyth of Ireland and Christopher Williams of South Africa.

Watson was another stroke back and tied with Tom Kite, Jerry Bruner, Greg Norman of Australia and Sam Torrance of Scotland.

Trio share LPGA lead

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France — Becky Brewerton shot a 5-under 67 and was tied for the first-round lead at the Evian Masters on Thursday, while Michelle Wie rescued a disappointing start with two late birdies.

The South Korean duo of Na Yeon Choi and In-Kyung Kim also shot 67s in windy and overcast conditions that forced play to be suspended for one hour because of late-afternoon thunder.

Kim’s round was highlighted by holing out with a 9-iron for eagle at the 11th, while Choi made three birdies on both the front and back nine and only one bogey.

Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, teeing off with Alfredsson and Marianne Skarpnord of Norway, double-bogeyed her opening hole and finished an inconsistent day at 3 over.

Wie bogeyed Nos. No. 3, 6 and 13 before birdies on the last two holes for a 73. She had plenty of players between her and the lead, including defending champion Helen Alfredsson of Sweden, who is chasing her fourth Evian title and had four birdies in her round of 70.

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