Browns hire Chudzinski — Rob Chudzinski’s first head coaching job will be with the team he loved as a kid. Chudzinski, who spent the past two seasons as Carolina’s offensive coordinator, has been hired by the Cleveland Browns as their sixth full-time coach since 1999. The Browns are hoping the first-time head coach can end years of despair and constant losing and maybe resurrect a franchise that has made just one trip to the playoffs in the past 14 years. A Browns spokesman confirmed Chudzinski’s hiring Thursday night and said he will be introduced at a news conference today. Chudzinski has had two previous stints with the Browns as an assistant coach.
Jaguars fire coach — The Jacksonville Jaguars fired coach Mike Mularkey on Thursday after just one season, the worst in franchise history. New general manager David Caldwell made the announcement two days after he was hired, giving him a clean slate heading into 2013. Caldwell said he wants to immediately explore every avenue possible to turn the Jaguars around. Mularkey, who went 2-14 this season, became the eighth head coach fired since the end of the regular season.
No Tebow in J’ville? — Tim Tebow won’t be playing for his hometown team. The Jacksonville Jaguars made it clear Thursday that they have no plans to pursue the popular and polarizing New York Jets backup quarterback. The Jets are likely to release the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and Jacksonville native during the offseason, and many believed Tebow would land with the Jaguars. But new general manager David Caldwell nixed that idea at his introductory news conference. “I can’t imagine a scenario in which he’ll be a Jacksonville Jaguar — even if he’s released,” Caldwell said.
Eagles interview Lovie — Seven down. Who’s next? Lovie Smith interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday as the team continued its search to replace Andy Reid, who was fired after a 4-12 finish. Smith is the seventh candidate to meet with owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski. The Eagles haven’t announced who they plan to interview next, but they received permission to speak to three assistant coaches. Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden are on the list.
Akers to kick for 49ers — David Akers is keeping his job as San Francisco’s starting kicker. For now, anyway. Jim Harbaugh made the announcement after practice Thursday, two days ahead of the 49ers’ NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers (12-5) at Candlestick Park. “Suffice it to say we feel confident in David giving us the best chance to win,” Harbaugh said. The 49ers (11-4-1) signed Billy Cundiff on Jan. 1 to compete with Akers, a 15-year veteran who has struggled this season while making only 29 of 42 field-goal attempts.
Kosar gets help — Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar says he has finally found a treatment to ease years of pain from concussions he sustained during his NFL career. Kosar said he had more than a dozen documented concussions as a player. After more than a decade of constant headaches, insomnia and slurred speech, Kosar said he began to feel better following just a few weeks of treatments with Dr. Rick Sponaugle, who has a wellness institute in Florida. Kosar said he was skeptical about Sponaugle but he’s now convinced the complex therapy, which involves nutritional supplements, works. Kosar has spoken to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about Sponaugle’s “groundbreaking” treatments. Kosar hopes to help other former players who are suffering from too many blows to the head. Sponaugle said the NFL is interested in his research.
Upton won’t be an M — A person with knowledge of the situation says Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton has vetoed a trade to the Seattle Mariners. The person asked to remain anonymous because Upton’s decision had not been made public. Upton’s contract gave him the power to turn down the trade. The Diamondbacks have a glut of outfielders and Upton, a former All-Star, is by far the most marketable.
Tokyo’s 2020 bid — Tokyo began its international promotion campaign for the 2020 Olympics in London on Thursday, promising to match or surpass the success of the games held there six months ago. Getting a jump on rivals Madrid and Istanbul, Tokyo officials outlined their candidacy at a news conference three days after submitting bid documents to the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland. Tokyo played up Japan’s economic stability and safety and dismissed concerns about nuclear radiation, the territorial dispute with China and public support levels below those of Istanbul and Madrid. With a high-profile delegation featuring Tokyo’s new governor, Naoki Inose, the Japanese team sought to capitalize on the feel-good factor of the London Games.
NHL players to vote — NHL players will have 36 hours from Thursday night until Saturday morning to vote on the new labor deal that would end the four-month lockout. The players’ association announced that electronic voting would begin Thursday at 5 p.m. PST and will last until Saturday at 5 a.m. The union said it will announce the result after voting is finished. If a majority of the more than 700 players choose to accept the deal that NHL owners unanimously ratified on Wednesday, training camps will open Sunday, and a 48-game regular season will begin Jan. 19.
Vonn ready for return — Lindsey Vonn is “excited” to be back again on the World Cup circuit after a three-week layoff caused by an intestinal illness. Vonn spoke briefly after her downhill training run Thursday in St. Anton, Austria, saying, “I’m really excited to be back, feeling good, feeling happy and strong.” The four-time overall World Cup champion left the circuit in mid-December for three weeks to fully recover from her illness. She missed six races. She plans to have another training run Friday before competing in the downhill and a super-G this weekend.
No full confession from Armstrong? — Tour de France winner Andy Schleck said it is unlikely Lance Armstrong will fully admit using performance-enhancing drugs in his interview with Oprah Winfrey scheduled to air next week. The Luxembourg rider, in Australia for the Tour Down Under, said “I don’t think (Armstrong) goes there to say he’s innocent and that he didn’t do anything. It’s been many years. For him it’s not easy — the media, the pressure.” Schleck said he believed Armstrong had granted the interview to Winfrey “for a good reason. But if he confesses? We don’t know.”
Isner out Down Under — John Isner, the top-ranked U.S. player, pulled out of the Australian Open on Thursday, citing a bone bruise in his right knee. Isner, No. 13 in the ATP rankings, pulled out of his final match at the Hopman Cup six days ago citing the same injury.“I have been feeling some discomfort in my knee and have recently learned that I have a bone bruise,” Isner was quoted as saying on the tournament’s Twitter account. Isner’s withdrawal leaves Sam Querrey (ranked 22nd) as the lone U.S. man ranked in the top 50 in the tournament. Isner played through the injury Wednesday in Sydney, losing to fellow American Ryan Harrison, 6-4, 6-4. It was Harrison’s first victory over a top-15 opponent.
—From wire reports