The NFL Players Association will do its own investigation of the New Orleans Saints’ bounty system and asked the league to help set up interviews with the team’s coaches and front office staff. In a statement released Wednesday, the union vowed to “vigorously protect the rights of all players.’’ “If the facts prove that players voluntarily and willingly participated in conduct that jeopardized health and safety, we will work with them and the league to put in place additional safeguards to prevent this in the future,’’ the statement said. “Dangerous play and acts on the field by players intended to injure have no place in football. We must do better to ensure that this activity is not a part of our game.’’ There was no mention of possible punishment for players involved. After the NFL made its investigation public last Friday, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams admitted to running a bounty pool of up to $50,000 over the past three seasons, rewarding players for knocking targeted opponents out of games. The league now wants to know whether Williams - who recently left the Saints to become defensive coordinator of the Rams - ran a similar scheme while a head coach or assistant with the Titans, Redskins, Jaguars, and Bills . . . The Seahawks released cornerback Marcus Trufant, who missed most of last season with a back injury . . . Toxicology reports show the son of Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was drunk and had marijuana in his system when he fell into a river in Wisconsin and drowned. The police department in Oshkosh, Wis., said Michael Philbin, 21, had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system to drive and also had marijuana before he fell through the ice. His Jan. 8 death was classified as an accidental drowning.
Temple football returning to Big East
Temple will join the Big East Conference for football next season and all other sports in 2013. The Owls football program played in the Mid-American Conference last season, while all other Temple programs, including men’s basketball, are in the Atlantic 10. The MAC confirmed the move and said the Owls will pay an exit fee of $6 million. Temple played in Big East football from 1991-2004, but was forced out of the league because the program was one of the worst in major college football . . . Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame, and sisters Nnemkadi and Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford are among 15 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, given to college basketball’s top female player.
Lionel Messi became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match, helping defending champion Barcelona crush Bayer Leverkusen, 7-1, as Barcelona advanced to the quarterfinals with a 10-2 aggregate win. The three-time FIFA player of the year had the first five-goal game of his career . . . The Revolution placed midfielder Sainey Nyassi on the disabled list with a left hamstring injury suffered in a preseason match against Boston College Feb. 10. Nyassi will miss a minimum of six league matches. . . . Alex Morgan scored her first career hat trick and Abby Wambach added her 134th goal, leading the United States over Sweden, 4-0, in the third-place match of the Algarve Cup in Parchal, Portugal. Germany won the title for the second time, beating world champion Japan, 4-3.
Maple Leafs’ Lupul sidelined a month
Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul will be sidelined 3-4 weeks with a separated shoulder. Lupul, second in scoring for the Leafs with 25 goals and 42 assists in 66 games, was hurt by a check from David Krejci in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Bruins. Forward Colby Armstrong was also injured in the game, breaking his nose in a fight with Dennis Seidenberg. He’s listed as day to day.
Mavericks’ Kidd hit with $25,000 fine
The NBA fined Dallas guard Jason Kidd $25,000 for criticizing the officiating following the Mavericks’ 95-91 loss to the Thunder Monday night . . . The Boston Lobsters open July 9 against the Sacramento Capitals at Ferncroft Country Club in Middleton. The eight-team league runs from July 9-28 . . . American golf course architect Gil Hanse, who designed Boston Golf Club in Hingham and has done renovation work at several Massachusetts courses, including TPC Boston, will design the 2016 Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro, winning the selection over seven other finalists, including Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, and Gary Player . . . Kikkan Randall of Anchorage clinched the overall sprint title to become the first American in 30 years to win a cross-country ski championship. She finished 11th in a race in Norway to secure the title.