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PR CHALLENGED COWBOYS BACK SPILLMAN

Times wires

IRVING, Texas - C.J. Spillman practiced Thursday with the Cowboys a day after his name surfaced in a sexual assault investigation. Not far away, Josh Brent was in a weight room working out on an exercise bike.

America's team is in the midst of an unusual public relations nightmare, with owner Jerry Jones embroiled in a sexual assault lawsuit even as he steadfastly supports Brent, who is back after his arrest two years ago in a drunken-driving crash that killed a teammate.

The Cowboys are also standing behind Spillman, with coach Jason Garrett saying the special teams player will remain active because he hasn't been arrested or charged in a police investigation into his role in a reported assault last month at a suburban Dallas hotel.

"We've been very clear with our team about consequences that there will be if there is a situation where charges or arrests are made for a crime," Garrett said. "That doesn't apply in this particular case."

Brent was convicted of intoxication manslaughter earlier this year in the 2012 wreck that killed practice squad player Jerry Brown. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail but avoided a long prison term. He was suspended for the first 10 games but allowed to rejoin his teammates for limited work at the practice facility Monday, two weeks earlier than the league originally ruled.

The team was aware of the allegation against Spillman within hours of it being reported, the Associated Press reported.

Police spokesman Sgt. Robert Eberling said Wednesday night that the reported assault took place early Sept. 20 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine. The Cowboys flew to St. Louis later that Saturday, and the 28-year-old Spillman played on special teams against the Rams the next day. He has played in all four games, including last weekend at home against New Orleans, and is listed as a safety though he hasn't played on defense.

League spokesman Greg Aiello said the NFL has been "looking into the matter and will continue to do so."

Deion says 49ers want Harbaugh out: NFL Network analyst and Hall of Fame player Deion Sanders said he stands by his report that 49ers players want coach Jim Harbaugh out. During the NFL Network's Sunday pregame show, Sanders said several unnamed players had told him they wanted Harbaugh replaced. Sanders reiterated the story during Thursday's pregame show. "I have sources that wear football uniforms, coats, suits and ties. I didn't stutter, nor did I stammer. This is real," Sanders said. "You can shoot the messenger, but the message is real."

Draft moves:The 2015 draft will be held April 30-May 2 at Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in Chicago. The draft has been held for decades at Radio City Music Hall in New York but was held in Chicago in 1938, 1942-44, 1951 and 1962-64.

Cardinals: A visit to a spine specialist confirmed what already had been diagnosed: quarterback Carson Palmer has a "dead" nerve in his throwing shoulder. Palmer visited the specialist Wednesday, and he said Thursday that no structural damage was detected. "No surgery," he said. "It's not career-ending, it's not season-ending, nothing like that. So that was all positive." Palmer has not officially been ruled out of Sunday's game at Denver, but all signs point to Drew Stanton making his third straight start.

49ers: The Santa Clara District Attorney's Office said it has received the domestic violence case involving defensive lineman Ray McDonald. The office made the announcement on Twitter. "Prosecutors will review, decide whether or not to file criminal charges, or seek further investigation," the announcement said. McDonald, a former Gator, was arrested on Aug. 31 on suspicion of domestic violence while celebrating his 30th birthday at his home. He has continued to practice and play.

Raiders: ReceiverRod Streater will miss at least the next eight weeks after being placed on the injured reserve list with a designation to return. He had surgery on the foot he broke Sept. 21. Streater will be eligible to return to practice Nov. 13 and can play again starting on Nov. 30.

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