Ten weeks into the owners' lockout of the players, Commissioner Roger Goodell noted the negative effect the labor dispute is having on the NFL.
"Clearly it has had an impact on the fans," Goodell said Wednesday as the owners completed their spring meetings in Indianapolis. "We see it in various metrics. There's been a noticeable change. TV ratings were down on the draft roughly 4 million people. NFL.com traffic [is down], we see that."
Ticket sales also are down.
"Fans want certainty," Goodell said. "We can't underestimate that the fans are going through challenges just in the general economy."
That certainty is not likely to come soon. The sides have a date in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 3 for hearings on the league's appeal to uphold the lockout.
Also Wednesday, the NFL Coaches Assn. filed a brief with the circuit court expressing support for the players and saying that the lockout is putting their jobs in jeopardy. No individual coaches were identified in the brief, which said that the eight coaches hired this year face particularly daunting odds of success if the lockout is not lifted soon. The NFL grants new coaches two extra summer minicamps to get players familiar with the new staff.
Kicker Matt Stover will retire after a 20-year career in which he scored more than 2,000 points. The Baltimore Ravens said the 43-year-old would make the announcement Thursday. Stover ranks fourth in NFL history with 2,004 points.
Sparks win exhibition game
Candace Parker had 17 points and five rebounds, leading the Sparks to a 71-66 victory against the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm at Cal State Dominguez Hills in their only local exhibition game of the season. It was Parker's first game with the Sparks since she had shoulder surgery last June.
After trailing by as many as 18 points, the Storm opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run and took its first lead of the second half, 57-56, with 6:52 remaining. Natasha Lacy, a guard who played in 16 games last season for the Tulsa Shock, scored five of her nine points in the final minutes as the Sparks went on an 8-2 run to secure the win.
Potential starters Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and Katie Smith did not play for the Storm. The Sparks were without Tina Thompson, who has a strained back. The Sparks' final exhibition game is May 28 against the Phoenix Mercury at Albuquerque, N.M. Their home opener is June 3 against No. 1 draft pick Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx.
— Melissa Rohlin
Point guard Loree Moore is leaving the Sparks because of medical reasons after never playing a minute for them. The team didn't disclose the cause of Moore's health issues. Moore joined the Sparks in February after playing with the New York Liberty from 2005 to 2009.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry had surgery on his right ankle but is expected to be ready by training camp in the fall. … Chicago Bulls backup center Omer Asik will sit out the rest of the season because of a broken bone in his left leg.
Tony Stewart says he would be interested in signing Danica Patrick if she moves to NASCAR's top series. Stewart, the owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, said he has not had talks with Patrick about driving for his team. He also said he would not field a Nationwide Series team for Patrick. … Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne will sit out a fifth consecutive week of racing as Roush Fenway Racing holds him out from Charlotte Motor Speedway for precautionary reasons. Bayne has been sidelined by what doctors have termed an inflammatory condition. The team said he will make his return next week in the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Former Michigan star and NBA player Jalen Rose pleaded guilty to drunken driving, telling a judge in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., that he was embarrassed to admit that he drank six martinis the night he veered off a snowy road and rolled his Cadillac Escalade.
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time Olympic silver medalist with the United States, said he is retiring after 11 seasons in the NHL. The 37-year-old defenseman had knee and back injuries that limited him to a career-low 63 games this season. … Forward Kyle Okposo agreed to a five-year contract with the New York Islanders.
Paul Splittorff, the big, blond left-hander who became the winningest pitcher in Kansas City Royals history and a popular broadcaster for the team, died Wednesday of complications from skin cancer. He was 64. The Royals said Splittorff died at his home in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs, Mo.