FOOTBALL

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)As a sedated Damar Hamlin lay before him in a Cincinnati hospital bed surrounded by machinery feeding him oxygen and fluids, Indianapolis Colts safety Rodney Thomas provided a few words of encouragement to his friend.

”I just told him, `I got him.’ That’s all,” Thomas said Wednesday. ”Just saying the same thing: `I got his back and you’re going to get through it.”’

It didn’t matter to Thomas whether the Buffalo Bills safety could hear him. More important to Thomas, who made the two-hour drive from Indianapolis to Cincinnati, was being by the side of Hamlin – his former high school teammate in Pittsburgh – and the player’s family.

Two days after the 24-year-old Hamlin’s heart stopped and he needed to be resuscitated on the field during a game at the Bengals, an immense outpouring of support continued.

After fans held vigils in Cincinnati and at the Bills home in Orchard Park, New York, on Tuesday, it was time for the NFL community – those who know Hamlin and those who had never heard of him before Monday – to express its support with most teams returning to practice.

Though he’s still under sedation, Hamlin’s recovery from cardiac arrest continues moving in ”a positive direction,” the player’s marketing representative, Jordon Rooney, told The Associated Press by phone.

”We all remain optimistic,” Rooney said, adding that Hamlin’s family asked him not to go into further detail.

The Bills said Hamlin was still in critical condition but displayed signs of improvement. They said he was expected to remain in intensive care.

The NFL is still considering various options following the suspension of the Bills-Bengals game, including possibly eliminating the bye week before the Super Bowl. The Bills-Patriots game set for Sunday in Buffalo and the rest of the Week 18 games remain on schedule.

CANTON. Ohio (AP) – Joe Thomas, Darrelle Revis and Dwight Freeney are finalists in their first year of eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2023.

The 15 modern-day players who will be considered later this month by the selection committee include returning finalists DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis, Zach Thomas and Andre Johnson.

Six other returning finalists were announced Wednesday with Jared Allen, Willie Anderson, Ronde Barber, Devin Hester, Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne getting back to this stage.

Defensive backs Albert Lewis and Darren Woodson made it to this stage for the first time with Lewis having reached the semifinal stage in 2013 and Woodson getting there six times.

A maximum of five modern-day players can be elected for enshrinement in August. The inductees will be announced on Feb. 9 at NFL Honors.

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said he had ”successful” knee surgery to repair an ACL injury that he suffered against New England on Dec. 12.

The 25-year-old Murray posted a picture of himself laying in a hospital bed with the message: ”ACL surgery was successful, thank you for all the love and prayers. I appreciate the support and positivity more than I can express, I’ll be back.”

Murray was injured on the team’s first offensive drive in the 27-13 loss to the Patriots. The two-time Pro Bowl selection was flushed out of the pocket and running to his right when he tried to juke past a Patriots defender, but tumbled to the grass in obvious pain.

SOCCER

NEW YORK (AP) – The U.S. soccer team was plunged into public turmoil when the family of former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna said it notified the U.S. Soccer Federation of a decades-old incident involving Gregg Berhalter and his wife in response to the coach’s disparagement of Claudio’s son, young star Gio Reyna.

Berhalter said Tuesday his 1991 behavior in which he kicked the woman who would become his wife was ”shameful” and that he was ”looking forward to continuing my conversations with U.S. Soccer about the future.”

The U.S. Soccer Federation has commissioned an investigation by an outside law firm, along with the staff review of the team’s performance over the four-year cycle. All of it leaves the program’s leadership uncertain as the run-up begins to the 2026 World Cup, which the U.S. will co-host.

The controversy has become a messy public dispute involving Berhalter; Claudio Reyna, who was the best man at Berhalter’s wedding; Danielle Egan Reyna, a former U.S. women’s player; Rosalind Santana Berhalter, the coach’s wife and Egan’s college roommate; and Gio Reyna, the 20-year-old midfielder limited to 53 minutes by Berhalter at the 2022 World Cup.

For the time being, Anthony Hudson, a member of Berhalter’s staff, will coach the team ahead of exhibitions against Serbia on Jan. 25 and Colombia three days later. USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart, a former teammate of Reyna’s and Berhalter’s, has been delegated by Parlow Cone and the USSF board to make a coaching recommendation.

The USSF announced Tuesday that Berhalter was under investigation. The coach, whose contract expired last month, simultaneously issued a statement saying a person contacted the USSF ”saying that they had information about me that would ‘take me down.”’

Danielle Reyna said she told Stewart of the 1991 incident on Dec. 11, five days after Berhalter made remarks at the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership that did not cite a player by name but clearly were criticism of Gio Reyna. Excerpts were published in a newsletter by Charter Works, which said the remarks were ”erroneously greenlit for publication.”

BASEBALL

BOSTON (AP) – Rafael Devers has agreed to an 11-year extension worth $331 million with the Boston Red Sox, a person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Locking up Devers, a two-time All-Star third baseman, was an important move for the Red Sox and their uneasy fans after All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, slugger J.D. Martinez and pitcher Nathan Eovaldi departed in free agency.

The team and the 26-year-old Devers reached the deal a day after he agreed to a one-year, $17.5 million contract to avoid arbitration in his final year under team control. In 141 games last season, he batted .295 with 42 doubles, 27 home runs and 88 RBIs.

MILWAUKEE (AP) – The Milwaukee Brewers and veteran left-hander Wade Miley agreed to a $4.5 million, one-year contract, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Miley can make additional $1.5 million in incentives, and there is a $10 million mutual option for 2024.

The person confirmed the move to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract had not been announced. Milwaukee also acquired right-hander Bryse Wilson from the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash earlier in the day.

Miley, 36, went 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA in nine appearances with the Chicago Cubs last season. He has a career record of 99-94 with a 4.13 ERA in 292 appearances, including 285 starts.

CHICAGO (AP) – Eric Hosmer agreed to a $720,000, one-year contract with the Chicago Cubs, giving the team another option at first base and designated hitter.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it was pending a successful physical.

The 33-year-old Hosmer’s contract is for the major league minimum while the San Diego Padres are on the hook for the last part of a $144 million, eight-year deal that was finalized in February 2018.

Hosmer played for San Diego and Boston last season, batting .268 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 104 games.

PHOENIX (AP) – The Arizona Diamondbacks and right-hander Zach Davies have agreed to a $5 million, one-year contract that includes a mutual option for 2024, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the move had not been announced. The 29-year-old Davies signed with the Diamondbacks last season and went 2-5 with a 4.09 ERA over 27 starts.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The Philadelphia Phillies signed reliever Craig Kimbrel to a one-year contract, hoping the onetime elite closer can become a quality arm out of the bullpen.

An eight-time All-Star, the 34-year-old Kimbrel has 394 career saves, which is most among all active pitchers and ranks seventh on the career list. Kimbrel struggled last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was left off the postseason roster.

SKIING

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) – Mikaela Shiffrin won a slalom for her 81st World Cup victory, one short of fellow American Lindsey Vonn’s women’s record.

Shiffrin could match the best mark Thursday at another slalom on the same course.

Petra Vlhova was second, 0.76 seconds back. The Slovak star won the race on the outskirts of the Croatian capital the past three seasons.

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) – Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway dominated the field on the visibly deteriorating Gudiberg course, winning a World Cup night slalom by 1.22 seconds.

Kristoffersen won the World Cup season title in slalom for a third time last year but had not won a race in the discipline since back-to-back victories in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in February.

Austria’s Manuel Feller was second.