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Coast Guard ends search for boaters

Two NFL players and another man have been missing at sea since Saturday.

March 04, 2009|Kurt Streeter | Staff and Wire Reports

After three days of combing 24,000 miles of ocean, the Coast Guard on Tuesday stopped searching for two NFL players and a third man lost in rough, chilly Gulf of Mexico waters off the Florida coast.

Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, free-agent defensive lineman Corey Smith, who played with the Detroit Lions last season, and former South Florida player William Bleakley had been missing since Saturday when their boat capsized during a fishing trip.

Bleakley's father said he thought the Coast Guard did everything it could and that his expectations lowered after only one survivor was found Monday, nearly two days after the four friends were knocked out of their 21-foot boat.

"I think they were not to be found," Robert Bleakley said.

Coast Guard Capt. Timothy Close said officials were sure that if there were any more survivors, they would have been found.

Crews did rescue Bleakley's former South Florida teammate, 24-year-old Nick Schuyler, who managed to stay with the boat.

Scott Miller, a friend of the college teammates, said Schuyler told him that on the first night, a chopper shone a light right above them and that later on, as they continued to drift, he could even see lights from the shore.

It was Bleakley who swam underneath to retrieve three life jackets, along with a cushion, a groggy Schuyler told Miller from a Tampa hospital. Bleakley used the cushion and the other men wore the jackets, Miller said.

But the waves were powerful, and after Cooper and Smith got separated from the boat, the college teammates tried to hang on.

Family and friends embraced and sobbed outside the Coast Guard station shortly before the announcement. They left without talking with reporters.

The four men left Clearwater Pass early Saturday in calm weather, but heavy winds picked up through the day and the seas got stronger, with waves of 7 feet and higher, peaking at 15 feet on Sunday. The Coast Guard said it did not receive a distress signal.

NFL

Seahawks sign Houshmandzadeh

T.J. Houshmandzadeh signed with the Seattle Seahawks after a weekend during which the top free-agent wide receiver weighed an offer from Minnesota and dismissed his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Seahawks President and General Manager Tim Ruskell called it "quite an ordeal."

Seattle's top wide receiver last year was Bobby Engram with 47 catches. The Seahawks had seven injuries at the position last season and slid from NFC West champions to 4-12.

The New York Jets signed safety Jim Leonhard, the second player new Coach Rex Ryan has lured away from the Baltimore Ravens, along with linebacker Bart Scott.

Free-agent running back Derrick Ward signed a four-year, $17-million contract with Tampa Bay, joining a team that's trying to build a new identity after watching an aging defense falter during a season-ending collapse that cost the Buccaneers a playoff spot.

Free-agent running back Cedric Benson decided to stay with the Bengals, accepting a two-year deal.

BASEBALL

Garciaparra close to deal with A's

Nomar Garciaparra is nearing agreement on a one-year contract with the Oakland Athletics. The 35-year-old infielder, who was limited to 55 games with the Dodgers last year because of injuries, could finalize a contract within a few days, a person familiar with the negotiations said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet final.

Oakland, a late player in the free-agent market, also is close to finalizing a one-year, $4-million contract with Orlando Cabrera, who would displace former American League rookie of the year Bobby Crosby as the team's starting shortstop.

SOCCER

U.S., Denmark in Algarve Cup

The U.S. women's team starts defense of its Algarve Cup title today in Portugal against Denmark, the country it beat in the last two finals.

The Americans have won the annual women's tournament six times in the last eight years. In last year's final, they defeated the Danes 2-1.

Swiss World Cup veteran Raphael Wicky has retired. The midfielder played for Chivas USA last season, making only five appearances because of injuries.

COLLEGES

Pepperdine will cut men's track

Pepperdine will drop its men's varsity track program this year, and women's swimming and diving will get a one-year reprieve before being disbanded after the 2009-10 school year so the school can reduce its budget.

Women's swimming and diving initially was going to be dropped this year, but enough outside money has been offered to allow the program to compete for one more season.

ETC.

USOC trimming its work force

The U.S. Olympic Committee approved cutting the federation's work force by up to 15% as a way of saving more than $7.1 million in the 2009 budget.

Bode Miller won't ski again this season but has yet to decide on retirement. "At this time I find more happiness doing other things than being on tour," the defending overall World Cup champion said in his online diary. He still had a shot at the downhill title.

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