Williams’s hiring cleared with Goodell

Before hiring Gregg Williams as his defensive coordinator for the second time, Rams coach Jeff Fisher cleared it with commissioner Roger Goodell. Williams was part of Fisher’s first staff with the Rams in 2012, but only for a few weeks before getting suspended for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal. After a news conference to introduce Williams Thursday, Fisher said he’d been in contact with Goodell throughout the process two years ago and ‘‘I wanted to inform him about the direction I was thinking about going. He was very excited, and he endorsed it.’’ . . . The Lions are releasing wide receiver Nate Burleson and safety Louis Delmas, two starters from last season’s team. Burleson caught 39 passes for 461 yards and a TD last season in nine games. The Lions drafted Delmas in the second round in 2009, and he had been a consistent starter for them since then . . . The Houston Police Departmant confirmed that safety Ed Reed reported $50,000 in cash was stolen from his car Wednesday.


Saban backs proposal to slow offense

Alabama football coach Nick Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema voiced their concerns about the effects of up-tempo, no-huddle offenses on player safety to the NCAA committee that passed a proposal to slow down those attacks. The proposal, passed Wednesday, allows defenses time to substitute between plays by prohibiting offenses from snapping the ball until 29 seconds are left on the 40-second play clock. The proposal must be approved by the playing rules oversight panel, which meets March 6 . . . Michigan tight end Jake Butt is out indefinitely with a torn ACL that he suffered during winter conditioning. Butt finished his freshman season with 20 catches for 235 yards and two TDs . . . Southern California quarterback Max Wittek plans to visit Texas this weekend and has been in contact with several other schools as he considers where to transfer . . . Autopsy results show that pneumonia killed 18-year-old Wayne State football player Eddie Key III last weekend. Key, a freshman defensive end, was found Saturday evening in his dorm room at the campus in northeast Nebraska . . . Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self said MRI exams on freshman center Joel Embiid’s back and knee came back negative, and Embiid is feeling better after missing practice all week. But he’d need to work out Friday in order to play Saturday against TCU . . . The NCAA approved moving the women’s basketball Final Four to a Friday-Sunday format beginning in 2017. The current model, Sunday-Tuesday, has been in place since 2003 . . . All of Southern University’s athletic programs are ineligible for postseason competition while the school attempts to satisfy NCAA requests for additional and corrected paperwork regarding the academic progress of student-athletes dating to 2009.


Ex-Revolution captain Simms retires

Former Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms announced his retirement from professional soccer. Simms spent two of his nine professional seasons in New England after joining the club ahead of the 2012 season. Simms suffers from Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, the same kidney disease as Alonzo Mourning, and it factored into his decision. He served as the club’s captain for much of the 2012 season and the early part of the 2013 season . . . Two Revolution Academy players — Under-16 goalkeeper Austin Aviza (Medway) and Under-18 midfielder Zach Herivaux (Brookline) — will join the Revolution’s first team next week in Tucson for part of its second preseason trip . . . Abby Wambach scored her record 165th international goal and the US women’s team beat Russia, 8-0, in an exhibition in Atlanta to extend its unbeaten streak to 42 games . . . The US men’s team will host Mexico in an exhibition game April 2 at Glendale, Ariz., as both nations prepare for the World Cup.


Na suffers first loss of year in Qatar


Australian Open champ Li Na was upset by Czech qualifier Petra Cetkovska, 7-6 (7-2), 2-6, 6-4, in the third round of the Qatar Open in Doha. It was the top-seeded Na’s first loss of the year having won her two previous tournaments. Na had a 3-1 lead in the third set, but Cetkovska came back . . . American qualifier Alex Kuznetsov upset Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), to reach his first ATP Tour quarterfinal at the US National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis . . . Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams will play in the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C., in April . . . Seven-time Formula One champ Michael Schumacher is still in the process of waking up from an induced coma following a skiing accident more than six weeks ago, his manager, Sabine Kehm, said in a statement . . . Carl Froch and George Groves agreed to a rematch on May 31 following their super-middleweight fight in November. Froch retained his WBA and IBF titles against Groves Nov. 23 . . . Larry Collmus will replace Mark Johnson as the race caller at Churchill Downs starting April 26.