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BC-AP Sports Preview Digest,1st Ld-Writethru

BC-AP Sports Preview Digest,1st Ld-Writethru

Eds: Updates.

Some of the sports stories The Associated Press is covering Sunday. A full Sports Digest will be sent about 3 p.m. All times EST:

- MELBOURNE, Australia - Novak Djokovic becomes the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles when he beats Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

- SAN DIEGO - Tiger Woods has a two-shot lead and faces a long day in the Farmers Insurance Open. With a day lost to fog, plans call for golf from sunrise to sunset with no winner determined until Monday.

- HONOLULU - The best in the AFC and NFC meet with a mandate that they take the NFL's all-star game more seriously or face the prospect of the game going away. Game starts 7 p.m.

- OWINGS MILLS, Md. - In this age of high-powered offenses, the 49ers and Ravens provide a reminder in the Super Bowl that defense still matters.

- SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Now a backup quarterback for the 49ers, Alex Smith's trip to New Orleans this week is hardly how he envisioned it.

- OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Nothing was going to stop the Ravens' Torrey Smith this season. Beating NFL cornerbacks was nothing compared to coping with the death of his brother in a motorcycle accident.

- NEW YORK - It might be the most interesting TV drama at the Super Bowl. How will Jack and Jackie Harbaugh look as they watch their sons coach in the NFL championship?

- BOSTON - Ray Allen plays in Boston for the first time since signing with the Miami Heat. The Celtics are trying to break a six-game losing streak. Game starts 1 p.m.

- LOS ANGELES - Kevin Durant leads Oklahoma City against a Los Angeles Lakers team that is seven games below .500. The Thunder have the best record in the NBA. Game starts 3:30 p.m.

- CHICAGO - The Blackhawks try to set a franchise record with their sixth straight win to start the season when they play the Detroit Red Wings. Game starts 7 p.m.

- BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Coach Tom Crean squares off against former boss Tom Izzo when No. 7 Indiana faces No. 13 Michigan State in Big Ten basketball. Game starts 1 p.m.

- OMAHA, Neb. - Jeremy Abbott can win his fourth title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but he'll have to hold off Ross Miner and Joshua Farris. Men's free skate starts 1:15 p.m.

- MARIBOR, Slovenia - Slovenia's Tina Maze wins a World Cup slalom before home fans a day after she just missed capturing the giant slalom.

- KITZBUEHEL, Austria - Austria's Marcel Hirscher wins a World Cup slalom, and Croatia's Ivica Kostelic takes the combined for the fourth year.

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Ravens safety Eric Weddle was nearly a Patriot this season

Ravens safety Eric Weddle was nearly a Patriot this season

When Eric Weddle was released by the San Diego Chargers after last season he had plenty of offers to sign with other NFL teams.

One of those teams was the New England Patriots, the team Weddle will play against on Monday Night Football this week. 

When the two-time All-Pro safety hit the open market, he said he was looking to play for a winning organization. He ended up choosing the Ravens over the Patriots because there was a more clear-cut opportunity for playing time. 

“I’m good buddies with Patrick Chung,” he said. “I grew up playing with him and Devin McCourty is one of the best to play, so I don’t know if it would have worked out personnel-wise. But obviously, I could have seen myself fitting in there seamlessly.”

Although the Ravens don't have quite as many wins as the Patriots this season, Weddle clearly made a good choice. The Ravens are tied for first place in the AFC North with the Steelers and Weddle is currently the highest graded safety in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. 

The Ravens defense is playing dominant football as a whole as well. Through week 13 Baltimore ranks first in the NFL in total defense surrenduring just 296.1 yards per game. 

RELATED: Weddle consumes a gallon of ice cream after Ravens wins

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Injured guard Lewis makes surprise return to practice

Injured guard Lewis makes surprise return to practice

Ravens offensive guard Alex Lewis returned to practice on Friday, almost a month to the day after he suffered a right ankle injury against the Cleveland Browns.

Lewis’ recovery is ahead of schedule, considering coach John Harbaugh initially estimated the high ankle sprain to be a six-week injury. Even as recently as Monday, Harbaugh said Lewis was “a good ways away” from returning.

“He’s done a great job” on his rehabilitation, Harbaugh said after Friday’s workout, adding that Lewis has been at it “practically 24/7. …  To see him back out there today is a real plus. Credit to him.”

Lewis was carted off the field when the injury occurred, leading some to speculate his promising rookie season could be over.

“We’ve been in there working, trying to get treatment, trying to back out there as quick as I can,” Lewis said on Friday. “I want to be part of the fun. I want to get out there and win some games with the fellas.”

Lewis is unlikely to suit up Monday night at New England, and his role after that remains unclear; Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda has taken Lewis’ spot at left guard, in large part because it allows Yanda to play through an injured shoulder.

Lewis was the Ravens starting left guard when the season began, and then started three games at left tackle while Ronnie Stanley was injured. The Ravens went through a stretch where they started a different offensive line in eight straight games, but have now found some consistency with an offensive line group that has not included Lewis.

Yanda is likely to stay at left guard, and veteran Vladimir Ducasse has filled Yanda’s spot at right guard.

Presumably Lewis would be an option to play on the right side, although he said he not played right guard since high school.

“If that’s my calling card, then I’ll do it,” he said.

Harbaugh said given the injuries the Ravens have had up front this year, having a surplus of healthy linemen would be a nice problem to have.

“(Lewis) being added to the mix is going to be a plus,” he said. “We’ll just have to see how it goes as we go forward.”

RELATED: Former Patriot: Joe Flacco 'not a guy that strikes fear in your heart'