NFL: William Clay Ford, Detroit Lions owner, dies at 88


DETROIT — William Clay Ford, the owner of the Detroit Lions and last surviving grandchild of automotive pioneer Henry Ford, has died. He was 88.

Ford Motor Co. said in a statement Sunday that Ford died of pneumonia at his home. Ford helped steer the family business for more than five decades. He bought one of his own, the NFL franchise in the Motor City, a half-century ago.

He served as an employee and board member of the automaker for more than half of its 100-year history.

“My father was a great business leader and humanitarian who dedicated his life to the company and the community,” William Clay Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. and Lions vice chairman, said in a statement. “He also was a wonderful family man, a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, yet he will continue to inspire us all.”

Ford was regarded as a dignified man by the select few who seemed to know him well. To the masses in Detroit, he was simply the owner of the Lions who struggled to achieve success on the field despite showing his passion for winning by spending money on free agents, coaches, executives and facilities.

Ford’s first full season leading the Lions was in 1964, seven years after the franchise won the NFL title. The only playoff victory he enjoyed was in 1992. The Lions are the only team to go 0-16 in a season, hitting rock bottom in 2008. After an 11-year postseason drought, the Lions improved enough to make the playoffs in 2011 only to lose a combined 21 games over the next two seasons.

“No owner loved his team more than Mr. Ford loved the Lions,” Lions President Tom Lewand said in a statement released by the team. “Those of us who had the opportunity to work for Mr. Ford knew of his unyielding passion for his family, the Lions and the city of Detroit. His leadership, integrity, kindness, humility and good humor were matched only by his desire to bring a Super Bowl championship to the Lions and to our community. Each of us in the organization will continue to relentlessly pursue that goal in his honor.”

Agent: RB Mendenhall, 26, retiring

PHOENIX — Running back Rashard Mendenhall is retiring from the NFL at the age of 26.

Agent Mike McCartney confirmed via Twitter on Sunday that Mendenhall had decided to end his playing career after six NFL seasons, all but one of them with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mendenhall, the Steelers’ first-round draft pick and 23rd overall selection out of Illinois in 2008, gained 4,326 career yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry.

After signing a free-agent contract with Arizona, he was hampered by a toe injury much of last season and was most effective down the stretch. Mendenhall finished with a team-high 687 yards in 217 carries.

Mendenhall had consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Steelers in 2009 and 2010. A knee injury limited him to six games with Pittsburgh in 2012.

Jets release CB Cromartie

NEW YORK — The New York Jets have released cornerback Antonio Cromartie, a decision that saves the team millions of dollars under its salary cap.

Cromartie was entering the final year of his four-year deal and was scheduled to cost the Jets’ cap $14.98 million this season — including a $5 million roster bonus that would kick in later this month. There’s a chance the Jets could bring back Cromartie at a lesser salary, unless the two-time Pro Bowl selection chooses to explore free agency.

The 29-year-old Cromartie is coming off perhaps his worst season as he struggled with a hip ailment for most of the year while continuing to play as the Jets’ No. 1 cornerback.

By wire sources