The number of recorded concussions dropped 25 percent during the regular season, according to the NFL, even as injury reporting and trips to injured reserve list rose overall.

Data released by the league Thursday shows there were 111 concussions in games during the 2014 regular season, down from 148 in 2013, and 173 in 2012, a 36 percent drop over that three-year span.

This follows repeated changes by the NFL meant to cut down on blows to the head, including reduced practice time and rules protecting defenseless receivers and barring leading with the crown of the helmet.

"It would have been nice if we had started this in 1930, but we didn't," said San Francisco 49ers chairman John York, who leads the owners' health and safety committee. "And as things came to our attention, we took more interest in looking at these questions."

When preseason games, plus preseason and regular-season practices, are included, the 202 concussions this season declined 12 percent from 2013, and 23 percent from 2012.

"Players are changing the way they're tackling," NFL Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Policy Jeff Miller said. "They're changing the way they play the game."

Addressing two other areas of player health, Miller said that as concussions have gone down, "We have not seen a correlation with an increase of knee injuries, at all," and that "for the fourth consecutive year, injuries on Thursdays are no greater than they are on Sunday and Monday."

According to STATS, there were 265 players placed on injured reserve during the regular season in 2014, a 17 percent jump from the 226 the year before.

... Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and been placed on probation in a case stemming from alleged assaults on his wife during arguments at their apartment last year.

... Browns receiver Josh Gordon said his latest trouble with the NFL results from having a few drinks with teammates. Gordon said in an open letter on Medium that he accepts responsibility for a failed alcohol test that could bring another suspension from the league.


Nationals' Werth pleads guilty

Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth pleaded guilty to reckless driving and been sentenced to five days in jail for driving 105 mph on the Capital Beltway. ... The Phillies signed righthander Chad Billingsley to a $1.5 million, one-year contract. Billingsley spent all of last season on the disabled list while he recovered from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Billingsley averaged more than 12 victories and nearly 180 innings from 2007-12.


Missouri A.D. steps down

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden is stepping down after a 17-year tenure marked by several high-profile coaching hires, significant facility upgrades and the school's 2012 move from the Big 12 Conference to the SEC.

Alden plans to leave in August but will remain at Mizzou as an instructor in its College of Education and an administrator in a new global service-learning program. The school announced the move Thursday and is planning a Friday morning news conference.


Auto racing: Chase Elliott will replace Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet when the four-time NASCAR champion gives up his seat at the end of this season.

Figure skating: Elena Radionova led a Russian sweep of the top three in the short program at the European Figure Skating Championships. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva trailed by less than 1.5 points, and Anna Pogorilaya was another three points back. France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won the ice dancing. Last year's champions, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, won silver and Russia's Alexandra Stepanova.