Your road trip guide for the Eagles' 2014 schedule

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Your road trip guide for the Eagles' 2014 schedule

The 2014 Eagles schedule is finally out, and for thousands of fans, now it’s time to figure out which road game to go to.

We’ll eliminate East Rutherford and Washington, which are close enough for a day trip (not that you’d want to take a day trip to East Rutherford), and focus on the Eagles’ six other 2014 destinations.

So let’s take a look at the six potential weekend road trips for Eagles fans who like to travel. We’ll rank them in order, from best trip to worst, and give you some ideas for what you can do with your free time.

San Francisco, Sept. 28
If you haven’t been to the Bay Area, you simply have to go. Eagles game or not, it’s one of the greatest destinations in the Lower 48.

Plus, this year, you get the benefit of seeing the 49ers’ new stadium, the spectacular Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, about 45 miles south of downtown San Francisco. Anything would be an upgrade over the dilapidated Candlestick Park, but word is that Levi’s Stadium will be one of the league’s best facilities.

Top five attractions
1. Marin County, the Redwoods, Wine Country: To really appreciate the area, you need to drive north of San Francisco and experience the spectacular natural beauty of Marin County and nearby Sonoma and Napa counties. Wineries, redwood parks, the coastline ... a day north of San Francisco is worth the trip.

2. The Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Point: It’s not just a bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge affords amazing views of the city, the bay, Alcatraz, the ocean. There’s a pedestrian walkway across the bridge and Vista Point on the west end of the bridge, where you can park and take pictures. Best of all is Golden Gate Point on the Marin County side, accessible via Conzelman Road off Rte. 101 south. This is the vantage point seen on the cover of the Grateful Dead’s Dead Set, and the views are just astonishing.

3. Alcatraz: A short cruise from Pier 43 gets you to the Rock, and tours of the notorious prison and its grounds are available. Check out the cells once occupied by Al Capone, the Birdman of Alcatraz, Machine Gun Kelly and Whitey Bulger. Warning: Don’t go if you’re easily creeped out.

4. Fisherman’s Wharf: A little touristy, but the Fisherman’s Wharf area has tons of shops, bars, restaurants and vendors, plus the Wax Museum, the famous sea lions and the Pier 39 marketplace.

5. Lombard Street: Drive down the world’s crookedest street. Why? Why not. You’ll understand when you get there. But keep it slow. The speed limit is 5 mph.

Arizona, Oct. 26
Once upon a time, the Cardinals were in the NFC East, and it was good. It didn’t make geographical sense, but I wasn’t about to complain about an annual trip to the Valley of the Sun.

These days, a trip to Arizona is rare, and it’s highly recommended.

Top five attractions
1. The Grand Canyon: You’ve seen pictures, and trust me. They do not do it justice. You simply have to see the thing before you die. It is insane.

2. Sedona: If you don’t have time to make the 3½-hour trip to the Grand Canyon, Sedona is a heck of a consolation prize. Block after block of New Age shopping mixed with the spectacular beauty of the Sonoran desert makes Sedona one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

3. Historic Scottsdale: The ritzy northern suburb of Phoenix was once named the most livable city in the U.S. and it’s still one of the most visitable cities, with high-end shopping, restaurants, hotels, spas, much of it centered in Old Town. Oh, and bring your debit card, you’re going to need it.

4. Tonto National Forest: Driving through this vast wilderness area northeast of Phoenix is like driving through a living postcard. Cactus, wildlife, giant shards of rock jutting out of the ground, plenty of hiking areas ... just please watch out for snakes.

5. Montezuma Castle: You won’t believe your eyes when you see the 12th-Century cliff dwellings about an hour and a half north of Phoenix. Breathtaking. Just think ... people lived there nearly a thousand years ago. Crazy.

Green Bay, Nov. 16
There isn’t a whole lot to Green Bay other than the Packers, but if you’re a hardcore football fan, you have to make the pilgrimage to Green Bay at some point.

Top five attractions
1. Lambeau Field: Like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, Lambeau is one of a dying breed -- a stadium that manages to mix historic charm with modern amenities. It opened 15 years before the Vet, and it’s still as majestic as ever.

2. Packers Hall of Fame: Even if you’re not a Packers fan, you’ll appreciate the history of an NFL franchise that dates back to 1921. And several of the members have area ties -- long-time Eagle Reggie White of course, Mount Laurel native Dave Robinson and Philly native Herb Adderley among them.

3. Green Bay trolley tours: A great way to see the city and learn about the Packers and their history is the narrated trolley tours.

4. Outagamie County Historical Society: Located in nearby Appleton (where you’ll probably be staying), the historical society includes a display about the life of notorious senator Joseph McCarthy.

5. Hazelwood Historic House: The best example of Greek Revival architecture you’ll find in Green Bay. Seriously. (And, yes, finding five things to do in Green Bay isn’t easy, but it’s still a great trip!)

Dallas, Nov. 27
There’s the Grassy Knoll, and there’s everything else. Just like visiting the Grand Canyon is mandatory when you’re in Arizona, making your way to the Grassy Knoll and book depository is mandatory when you’re in North Texas.

Top five attractions
1. Dealey Plaza: Even all these years later, you still get chills exploring Dealey Plaza, the grassy knoll and the site of the Texas School Book Depository, where President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. There’s now a museum in the old book depository. Any list of things to do in Dallas has to start at Dealey Plaza.

2. Jerry’s World: The Cowboys’ new stadium, now called AT&T Stadium, is so ridiculous it has to be seen to be believed. It’s absurdly huge, hopelessly garrish and hilariously over-the-top. If you’re going to the game, make sure you allow extra time just to walk around and soak it all in.

3. George W. Bush Presidential Center: You don’t have to be a Republican to appreciate the history of one of only four two-term Presidents of the last 50 years. The Center is more historical than political, and even the most liberal Eagles fan will find plenty to see at the Bush Center.

4. Geo-Deck: From 470 feet above Dallas you’ll get the best views of Dallas and the entire North Texas region.

5. Cowboy Hall of Fame: No, not the Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame. This is the museum of actual cowboys. Hey, you’re just not going to find this stuff in Pennsauken.

Indianapolis, Sept. 15
No major city in the United States has grown in recent years as much as Indianapolis. Thanks in great part to the 2011 Super Bowl, Indy has added tons of new restaurants, hotels and attractions. It’s actually not a bad place to go these days.

Top five attractions
1. The Speedway: Whether or not you’re a NASCAR fan, the Brickyard is definitely worth checking out. There’s an Indy 500 museum and gift shop, lots of cars from throughout Indy 500 history and even a bus that takes you around the track ... a little slower than you’re used to.

2. Hinkle Fieldhouse: Once upon a time, Butler’s fieldhouse was the largest college arena in the country. Those days are gone, but along with the Palestra and Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym it’s one of the oldest and most historic on-campus arenas in college basketball. Hinkle opened in 1928, one year after the Palestra and three years after Rose Hill.

3. The Eiteljorg Museum: Located in the center of town, the Eiteljorg hosts countless Native American artifacts and artwork of Western artists.

4. Indianapolis Zoo: An easy walk from downtown across the White River, the Indy Zoo is one of the nation’s best, and it’s located within the White River State Park, a terrific destination in itself.

5. Fountain Square: Fun little neighborhood just south of downtown with tons of Bohemian shops, unique bars and restaurants and diverse attractions.

Houston, Nov. 2
OK, let’s face it. You don’t want to go to Houston. You’d rather spend a weekend in East Rutherford. But ... we’ll try here.

Top five attractions
1. NASA Space Center: The Johnson Space Center’s visitors center features lots of exhibits, displays, interactive games and theaters and even a restored space shuttle capsule that you can go inside.

2. Battleship Texas: Located just east of Houston in La Porte, the Battleship Texas rests now at the mouth of Trinity Bay. The Texas, first launched in 1912, participated in both World War I and World War II and has served as a museum since 1948.

3. The Beer Can House: Yes, there’s a house made out of beer cans. About 50,000 of them. This probably should have been ranked higher.

4. Underground Houston: A 7½-mile network of tunnels connects most of the buildings in downtown Houston and features tons of bars, restaurants and shopping areas. It’s great, since it allows you to not actually have to see Houston.

5. The Strand District: Located about an hour from Houston, the Strand is a historic landmark in Galveston filled with antique shops, galleries, restaurants, clubs, museums and hotels. Worth the drive.

NFL Notes: Panthers OT Michael Oher released

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USA Today Images

NFL Notes: Panthers OT Michael Oher released

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Panthers have released the former starting left tackle Michael Oher after he failed a physical.

The move was announced Thursday, six days before they report to training camp.

Oher, the subject of the movie "The Blind Side," started 16 regular games and three playoff games for the Panthers during their Super Bowl run in 2015. However, he sustained a concussion in the third game of last season and hasn't played since. He remains in the league's concussion protocol 10 months after sustaining the injury.

"The Brain is a scary thing. You have to be careful with it," Oher Tweeted after being released.

It's the first personnel move under Panthers new interim general manager Marty Hurney, who was hired on Wednesday.

Cardinals: RB Johnson re-signs on 1-year deal
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals have re-signed nine-year NFL veteran Chris Johnson to a one-year contract.

The 31-year-old running back is expected to provide backup support for All-Pro David Johnson at the position.

Chris Johnson spent the last two seasons with Arizona. He played in only four games last season before a groin injury sidelined him for the rest of the year.

Johnson led the Cardinals in rushing in 2015 with 814 yards on 196 carries, an average of 4.2 yards per attempt, but his playing time diminished with the emergence of David Johnson, who was a rookie that season.

Chris Johnson is a three-time Pro Bowl player and is one of only seven players to top 2,000 yards rushing in a season. He rushed for 2,006 yards for Tennessee in 2009.

Cowboys: LB Durant back for 2nd stint with team
FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are bringing back linebacker Justin Durant again with training camp just a few days away.

Durant signed Thursday for a second season in his second stint with the Cowboys. He spent the 2013-14 seasons with Dallas before going to Atlanta as a free agent for one year. He returned to the Cowboys last season, finishing with 54 tackles in a reserve role.

The 31-year-old Durant spent his first four seasons with Jacksonville before playing two years in Detroit. He has 809 career tackles.

The Cowboys, who have their first camp practice Monday in Oxnard, California, released defensive back Jeremiah McKinnon of Florida.

O.J. Simpson granted parole after 9 years in prison

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AP Images

O.J. Simpson granted parole after 9 years in prison

LOVELOCK, Nev. -- O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel-room heist, successfully making his case for freedom in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America's enduring fascination with the former football star.

Simpson, 70, could be released as early as Oct. 1. By then, he will have served the minimum of his nine-to-33-year sentence for a bungled attempt to snatch sports memorabilia he claimed had been stolen from him.

During the more than hour-long hearing on live TV, Simpson was, by turns, remorseful, jovial and defensive, heatedly insisting the items taken in the armed robbery were "my stuff."

At one point, the murder defendant in the 1995 "Trial of the Century" set off a storm of sarcasm and incredulity on social media when he said: "I've basically spent a conflict-free life, you know."

All four parole commissioners who conducted the hearing voted for his release after a half-hour of deliberations. They cited, among other things, the low risk he might commit another crime, his community support and his release plans, which include moving to Florida.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Simpson said quietly as he buried his head on his chest with relief. As he rose from his seat to return to his prison cell, he exhaled deeply.

Then, as he was led down a hall, the Hall of Fame athlete raised his hands over his head in a victory gesture and said: "Oh, God, oh!"

Simpson was widely expected to win parole, given similar cases and his good behavior behind bars. His defenders have argued, too, that his sentence was out of proportion to the crime and that he was being punished for the two murders he was acquitted of in Los Angeles in 1995, the stabbings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Inmate No. 1027820 made his plea for freedom in a stark hearing room at the Lovelock Correctional Center in rural Nevada as the parole commissioners questioned him via video from Carson City, a two-hour drive away.

Gray-haired but looking trimmer than he has in recent years, Simpson walked stiffly into the hearing room in jeans, a light-blue prison-issue shirt and sneakers. He chuckled at one point as the parole board chairwoman mistakenly gave his age as 90.

Simpson insisted he never meant to hurt anyone, never pointed a gun and didn't make any threats during the holdup of two sports memorabilia dealers.

"I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it just wasn't worth it," he told the board. "It wasn't worth it, and I'm sorry."

Even one of the dealers Simpson robbed, Bruce Fromong, testified on his behalf, telling the parole board that Simpson deserved to be released so he could be with his family.

"He is a good man. He made a mistake," Fromong said, adding the two remain friends.

Arnelle Simpson, at 48 the eldest of Simpson's four children, told the board, "We recognize that he is not the perfect man." But she said he has been "a perfect inmate, following all the rules and making the best of the situation."

"We just want him to come home, we really do," she said.

The commissioners said the murder case played no role in their decision, though a majority of letter writers opposed to Simpson's release asked the board to take it into account.

Among those angered by Thursday's decision were Goldman's father, Fred, and sister, Kim.

"The Goldmans are devastated," said family spokesman Michael Wright, adding they didn't want to say anything more.

Simpson said that he has spent his time in prison mentoring fellow inmates, often keeping them out of trouble, and that he has become a better person behind bars.

"I've done my time. I've done it as well and respectfully as I think anybody can," he told the board.

Asked if he was confident he could stay out of trouble if released, Simpson replied that he learned a lot from an alternative-to-violence course he took in prison and that in any case he has always gotten along well with people.

Several major TV networks and cable channels -- including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and ESPN -- carried the proceedings live, just as some of them did two decades ago during the Ford Bronco chase that ended in Simpson's arrest, and again when the jury in the murder case came back with its verdict.

Simpson said if released he plans to return to Florida to be near two of his adult children.

"I could easily stay in Nevada, but I don't think you guys want me here," he joked at one point.

"No comment, sir," board chairwoman Connie Bisbee replied.

Authorities must still work out the details of Simpson's release with Florida officials, including where he will live and what rules he must follow.

An electrifying running back dubbed "The Juice," Simpson won the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best college football player in 1968 and went on to become one of the NFL's all-time greats.

The handsome and charismatic athlete was also a "Monday Night Football" commentator, sprinted through airports in Hertz rental-car commercials and built a Hollywood career with roles in the "Naked Gun" comedies and other movies.

All of that came crashing down with his arrest in the 1994 slayings and his trial, a gavel-to-gavel live-TV sensation that transfixed viewers with its testimony about the bloody glove that didn't fit and stirred furious debate over racist police, celebrity justice and cameras in the courtroom.

Last year, the case proved to be compelling TV all over again with the ESPN documentary "O.J.: Made in America" and the award-winning FX miniseries "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story."

In 1997, Simpson was found liable in civil court for the two killings and ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors, including his children and the Goldman family.

Then a decade later, he and five accomplices -- two with guns -- stormed a hotel room and seized photos, plaques and signed balls, some of which never belonged to Simpson.

Simpson was convicted in 2008, and the long prison sentence brought a measure of satisfaction to some of those who thought he got away with murder.