College Football

PORTLAND — A University of Oregon football player, severely beaten after coming to the aid of a friend during a fight, has been upgraded from critical to fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said Monday.

Rob Beard, 19, who handled kickoffs last season, was battered to unconsciousness Sunday after stepping in to help fellow place-kicker Mike Bowlin, said Melinda Kletzok, a Eugene police spokeswoman.

"One guy was on the ground, essentially getting kicked," Kletzok said of Beard.

Doug Beard, 17, of Fullerton, Calif., who has spoken with his brother by phone, said the altercation happened at a party. He said his brother was punched by one man before the kicking commenced, and had to have surgery after suffering a broken nose and other facial injuries.

Kletzok said officers reponded to the scene, an area just off-campus where many students live, after receiving a report of a brawl. Kletzok said 20 to 40 people were at the gathering.

Beard was taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend. Roz Ramberg, a spokeswoman for the Springfield hospital, said Monday that Beard's condition has improved and he is no longer in the intensive care unit. Bowlin sustained minor injuries and declined medical help.

Unless there are complications, Beard should be released from the hospital this week, said Dave Williford, the athletic department spokesman. He said university officials have yet to talk to Beard or Bowlin about what happened.

No arrests had been made as of Monday afternoon. Kletzok said police are looking for multiple suspects, including one described as a man in a red sweatshirt who may have left the scene in a car with Washington license plates.

MOBILE, Ala. — Florida receiver Riley Cooper is setting his sights on the NFL, not the major leagues.

Cooper, a 25th-round draft pick of baseball's Texas Rangers, said Monday that he has decided to focus on a pro football career. He was set to receive half of his signing bonus at a scheduled physical on Jan. 17, which had to be put on hold while he was playing football.

"Football's definitely the route I want to take," Cooper said. "Toward the last couple of weeks of the football season, I knew that's what I wanted to do. That's my makeup, my mentality. I'm just a football player not a baseball player."

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Urban Meyer is working out, eating better and has gained 20 pounds since the end of the season — all good news for the Gators.

As for that leave of absence?

Well, it might not even happen. Or at least not like anyone thought it would.

Meyer, speaking publicly for the first time since Florida beat Cincinnati 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl, said Saturday night that his workload has been about the same as it has been during other recruiting seasons. The biggest difference is he is traveling less.

He also plans to coach the Gators during spring practice.

Meyer announced his resignation last month, citing health concerns three weeks after he was rushed to a hospital with chest pains. He changed his mind the following day and instead said he planned to take an indefinite leave following the bowl game.

NFL

BOSTON — Tom Brady said Monday he won't need surgery for rib and finger injuries that bothered him for much of the season.

The New England Patriots quarterback described his ailments as "just bumps and bruises" that all players deal with.

"I'm feeling good. I really am," Brady said at a commercial appearance. "I'm excited I don't have to have surgery this offseason. A year ago at this time, there were all these concerns about whether I was going to play this year. It's nice to be in an offseason where I really feel I can get started right away."

Brady missed all but the first quarter of the 2008 season with a left knee injury that required surgery during that season.

He played all 17 games this season, ending with the Patriots' 33-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs. Brady was selected as an AFC backup quarterback for the Pro Bowl scheduled for Sunday in Miami but withdrew because of the injury to his finger, the Patriots said. Brady, an assistant player representative with the team, will be entering the final year of his six-year contract next season.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Kerry Rhodes might have played his last game with the New York Jets.

The veteran safety, who was demoted earlier this season, had a solid postseason but declined to say Monday whether he'll be back with the team next season. Coach Rex Ryan said he and Rhodes have had private conversations, but declined to go into detail about what was discussed.

"I'm just going to keep it between us," Ryan said. "I'd rather not make a comment on it"

Rhodes, once considered one of the cornerstones of the franchise, is due a $2 million roster bonus in March. The Jets could decide not to pay Rhodes, who had issues with Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

NEW YORK — The NFL's conference championship games drew the most viewers in 28 years.

The two games Sunday averaged 52.9 million viewers, up 34 percent from last season.

The dramatic NFC championship attracted 57.9 million viewers, the most since San Francisco beat Dallas on "The Catch" in 1982. New Orleans' overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Fox was the most watched non-Super Bowl program since the series finale of "Seinfeld" 12 years ago.

The fast national rating of 30.6 was the highest for a conference championship game since Packers-Cowboys in 1996.

Baseball

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Infielder Maicer Izturis and the Los Angeles Angels have reached agreement on a $10 million, three-year contract and avoided going to arbitration. The 29-year-old Izturis set career highs last season by hitting .300 with eight home runs and 65 RBIs. He has mostly split his time between shortstop and second base. Izturis made $1.6 million last year with the AL West champions. He asked for $3 million and the Angels offered $2.3 million.

The deal Monday provides a $500,000 signing bonus, with salaries of $2.6 million this year, $3.1 million in 2011 and $3.8 million in 2012.

SAN DIEGO — Mark Loretta retired as a player on Monday and was hired by the San Diego Padres as a special assistant to baseball operations.

Loretta's playing career spanned 15 big league seasons. He played with the Padres from 2003-05. Loretta most recently was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The two-time All-Star played with the Red Sox in 2006, when new Padres general manager Jed Hoyer was in Boston's front office.

"It was clear to me that he could have a great impact on an organization in a front-office role once he finished his playing career," Hoyer said. "I feel fortunate that the timing of my arrival in San Diego and Mark's retirement coincided and I was eager to bring Mark on board to help in all aspects of the department."

Soccer

MEXICO CITY — Salvador Cabanas, the top player on Paraguay's World Cup team, was shot in the head before dawn Monday in the bathroom of a bar in a well-off neighborhood in Mexico City.

The 29-year-old striker underwent surgery in which doctors failed to remove a bullet lodged in his skull. Dr. Ernesto Martinez, who was part of the surgical team, said "we cannot guarantee that his life is out of danger." He called the player's condition stable.

"Injuries like this are unpredictable," Martinez added. "We don't know what kind aftereffects he might have — perhaps none, or perhaps there will be many. We don't know right now."

Mexico City Attorney General Miguel Angel Mancera visited the bar and said from the crime scene robbery did not appear a motive "because nothing was taken."

Cabanas plays for the Mexico City team America. Club president Michel Bauer said Cabanas was conscious when he arrived at the hospital and was speaking as he awaited surgery.

"He was a bit confused and didn't know what had happened and he was asking where they were taking him and why they were taking him there," Bauer told Mexico television Televisa.

Golf

LA QUINTA, Calif. — Bill Haas followed his father's advice to be patient through six long days at the Bob Hope Classic until his final hole, when a highly impatient shot clinched his first PGA Tour victory.

Haas made a short birdie putt after an aggressive approach shot on the 18th hole to win the Hope Classic on Monday, beating Matt Kuchar, Tim Clark and Bubba Watson by one stroke with an 8-under 64.

"I'd been wanting to win from the first tournament I played, but it's a process, and there's a lot to it," said Haas, a rookie in 2006. "It's special, but I don't know if it's a monkey off my back. I know how hard it was to win, and I'm grateful."

The 27-year-old son of 1988 Hope Classic champion Jay Haas was the last of three co-leaders to play the par-5 18th. Kuchar and South Africa's Clark had both missed birdie putts at the Arnold Palmer Private course, with Kuchar lamenting the execution of his approach shot before Clark laid up.

— The Associated Press

Haas expertly dropped his 3-iron behind the pin, allowing him to two-putt his way to a 30-under 330 finish and his long-anticipated first victory.

Fourth-round co-leader Watson birdied the 18th to grab a share of second place.