By commissioner Roger Goodell, effective in Week 3 of the NFL season, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (above). After Vick completed his prison term for running a dogfighting ring, Goodell ruled that Vick could sign with a team but would be under suspension. Goodell said he'd consider Vick's reinstatement no later than Week 6; last week, citing Vick's "real progress," Goodell cleared him to play earlier. "I was surprised, but I'm just blessed to have an opportunity," said Vick, who had 45 yards on 11-for-15 passing plus one rushing TD in his two preseason appearances.
And accused of choking a reality TV star acquaintance, Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman. Tila Tequila (whose real name is Tila Nguyen), who starred in MTV's A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, called police early Sunday and accused Merriman of assaulting her. Merriman, 25, was taken into custody when Tequila signed a citizen's arrest warrant charging him with battery and false imprisonment, both of which are felonies. The alleged incident occurred as Tequila was leaving the suburban San Diego residence of Merriman, who said in a statement that he was trying to prevent Tequila, 27, from driving because she appeared intoxicated. Merriman, a two-time All-Pro who served a four-game suspension for testing positive for steroids, was freed on bail.
With inoperable cancer, Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, 91. The longtime voice of the Tigers, who retired in 2002 after 42 years with the team, told the Detroit Free Press that he has a tumor located in the area of his bile duct. Harwell has decided against any other form of treatment. The always optimistic Harwell said, "Whatever's in store, I'm ready for a new adventure. That's the way I look at it." Asked what he'd want written about him, Harwell told the Free Press, "I don't want to make it too sweet because I don't want to get diabetes as well as this other stuff."
At age 74 after a lengthy illness, Hall of Fame jockey Ismael (Milo) Valenzuela (right), whose bid for the 1958 Triple Crown ended when his mount, Tim Tam, broke down near the end of the Belmont. After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, Tim Tam was a 3--20 favorite in the Belmont, and Valenzuela had the colt where he wanted him—1½ lengths off the lead—at the top of the stretch. Then Tim Tam took a bad step and fractured his right foreleg but still staggered home second. "I couldn't pull him up until the clubhouse turn," Valenzuela recalled last year. "Then I felt the tears start to come." Valenzuela was credited with saving the horse's life by holding Tim Tam's leg off the ground until help arrived. (The horse lived until 1982.) Later in his career Valenzuela, who won more 2,500 races, was Kelso's regular rider for three of the gelding's five straight Horse of the Year campaigns in the 1960s.
At age 43 in a one-car accident, John Stephens, the 1988 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. A surprise first-round pick by the Patriots out of Northwestern State (La.), the 6'1", 220-pound running back bulled his way to 1,168 yards in '88, then a team rookie rushing record. ("He would be a tremendous linebacker," Pats coach Raymond Berry said at the time.) Stephens led New England in rushing the next two seasons, then was moved to fullback in '91. He retired two years later with 3,440 career yards. Stephens was killed when he apparently lost control of his pickup and crashed into some trees on a rural highway near Shreveport, La.
To six months in prison for income tax evasion, former major league pitcher Jerry Koosman, 66. Two weeks after he was honored at Citi Field along with Mets teammates from the 1969 world champions, the lefty was handed his sentence in Madison, Wis. Koosman, who won 222 games in a 19-year career, didn't file tax returns from 2002 through '04, defrauding the government of approximately $80,000. When he pleaded guilty in May, Koosman said he believed that the government only had the authority to tax federal employees, corporate workers and District of Columbia residents. "Like most people in their 60s, I've made some bad decisions in my life," Koosman said.
After a 12-year NBA career, forward Bruce Bowen (below), a move that will be a relief to some of the league's top scorers. An eight-time member of the NBA All-Defensive team, the 6'7" Bowen did the dirty work on three Spurs championship teams of this decade. Bowen was unafraid to launch a big three-pointer (he shot a respectable 39.3% from behind the arc), but it was his perimeter defense that got him noticed. In 2006 he was the last cut from the U.S. team for the world championships, despite the fact that Bowen was 35 and had averaged only 7.5 points per game the previous season. An undrafted free agent out of Cal State--Fullerton, Bowen kicked around the CBA and played overseas before making his NBA debut as a 25-year-old in 1996. "I hope my legacy would be as someone that never was satisfied with just being where they were," he said.