The NFL says the players' union is more intent on protecting the New Orleans Saints involved in the team's bounty scandal than supporting its members who could have been hurt by the pay-for-pain plan, league counsel

Jeff Pash

said Friday.

"They were protective of the players who could be disciplined in the next phase of this," Pash told a group of Associated Press sports editors. ". . . That's unfortunate; the players who could have been or even were injured are also members of the union."

Pash said he expects commissioner Roger Goodell to punish players soon.

George Atallah, a union spokesman, said, "Given the current dynamic, we have an obligation to ensure that players have fair due process and we protect them from the league."

Denver Broncos defensive tackle Ben Garland has rejoined the team after getting an early release from his commitment to the Air Force. Garland was placed on the reserve/military list in 2010 to serve his five-year military commitment. He said he's returning to the NFL through a program that allows servicemen to end their commitment after two years for a career that would benefit the Air Force in recruiting or public affairs.

WRESTLING: Forty-year-old heavyweight wrestler Rulon Gardner didn't show up for the weigh-in at the U.S. Olympic team trials in Coralville, Iowa, ending his comeback bid. "I'm disappointed I didn't make the weigh in. I worked hard," Gardner said.

Gardner won the gold medal in Sydney in 2000 and bronze in Athens eight years ago, but added nearly 200 pounds after retiring from wrestling. But a stint on the NBC reality show The Biggest Loser persuaded him to give wrestling one final shot.

GYMNASTICS: UCLA led a three-team sweep for the Pac-12 in the first semifinal of the NCAA women's gymnastics championship in Duluth, Ga.

The No. 2-seed Bruins had the top score, 197.40, in the first semifinal and will be joined by Utah (197.200) and Stanford (197.125) in Saturday's Super Six final. UCLA won the 2010 championship and finished second last year.

Four SEC teams - No. 1- seed Florida, defending champion Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas - will compete against Oregon State and Ohio State in Saturday night's second semifinal.

BOXING: An associate of Floyd Mayweather Jr. took a plea deal that could get him 18 years in prison for shooting at two men in a BMW sedan after one of the men argued with the boxer at a Las Vegas skating center. Ocie Harris, 29, of Chicago, avoided a scheduled trial with his Alford plea. He didn't admit guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors could prove their case involving the August 2009 shooting outside the Crystal Palace Skate Center.

Authorities say seven shots were fired and six hit the car, but neither man in the car was wounded. Mayweather was never charged in the case, and his name wasn't spoken during Harris' brief court appearance.

- Associated Press