By KEN RITTER
In this March 24, 1978 file photo, O.J. Simpson, left, smiles next to San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. at a news conference where the 49ers announced that Simpson had been traded to them from the Buffalo Bills, in San Francisco. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate, will have a lot going for him when he appears before state parole board members Thursday, July 20, 2017, seeking his release after more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia. (AP Photo/Sal Veder, file)
LAS VEGAS (AP) O.J. Simpson, the former football star, TV pitchman and now Nevada prison inmate No. 1027820, will have a lot going for him when he asks state parole board members this week to release him after serving more than eight years for an ill-fated bid to retrieve sports memorabilia.
Now 70, Simpson will have history in his favor and a clean record behind bars as he approaches the nine-year minimum of his 33-year sentence for armed robbery and assault with a weapon. Plus, the parole board sided with him once before.
No one at his Thursday hearing is expected to oppose releasing him in October - not his victim, not even the former prosecutor who persuaded a jury in Las Vegas to convict Simpson in 2008.
''Assuming that he's behaved himself in prison, I don't think it will be out of line for him to get parole,'' said David Roger, the retired Clark County district attorney.
Four other men who went with Simpson to a hotel room to retrieve from two memorabilia dealers sports collectibles and personal items that the former football star said belonged to him took plea deals in the heist and received probation.
Two of those men testified that they carried guns. Another who stood trial with Simpson was convicted and served 27 months before the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Simpson's fame tainted the jury. Simpson's conviction was upheld.
Prison life was a stunning fall for a charismatic celebrity whose storybook career as an electrifying running back dubbed ''The Juice'' won him the Heisman Trophy as the best college player in 1968 and a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
He became a sports commentator, Hollywood movie actor, car rental company spokesman and one of the world's most famous people even before his Los Angeles ''trial of the century,'' when he was acquitted in the killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Simpson, appeared grayer and heavier than most remembered him when he was last seen, four years ago.
He will appear Thursday by videoconference from the Lovelock Correctional Center, to be quizzed by four state parole commissioners in Carson City, a two-hour drive away.
Two other members of the board will monitor the hearing, said David Smith, a parole hearing examiner.
The commissioners will have a parole hearing report that has not been made public, plus guidelines and worksheets that would appear to favor Simpson. It plans to make its written risk assessment public after a decision.
They will consider his age, whether his conviction was for a violent crime (it was), his prior criminal history (he had none) and his plans after release, Smith said.
Nevada has about 13,500 prison inmates, and the governor-appointed Board of Parole Commissioners has averaged about 8,300 annual hearings for the past four years. The rate of inmates who are granted parole in discretionary hearings held as they approach their minimum sentence, like Simpson's, averages about 82 percent.
The same four board members also have experience with Simpson, having granted him parole in July 2013 on some charges - kidnapping, robbery and burglary - stemming from the 2007 armed confrontation. The board's decision left Simpson with four years to serve before reaching his minimum time behind bars.
Board members Connie Bisbee, Tony Corda, Adam Endel and Susan Jackson noted at the time that Simpson had a ''positive institutional record,'' with no disciplinary actions behind bars.
Simpson's lawyer, friends and prison officials say that hasn't changed.
''He's really been a positive force in there. He's done a lot of good for a lot of people,'' said Tom Scotto, a friend from Florida whose wedding Simpson was in Las Vegas to attend the weekend of the robbery.
Scotto said he visits or talks with Simpson every few months.
Simpson leads a Baptist prayer group, mentors inmates, works in the gym, coaches sports teams and serves as commissioner of the prison yard softball league, Scotto said.
Scotto will be among the 15 people with Simpson in a small conference room at the prison, along with Simpson's lawyer, Malcolm LaVergne, daughter Arnelle Simpson and sister Shirley Baker.
A parole case worker, two prison guards and a small pool of media also were expected, along with Bruce Fromong, one of the memorabilia dealers who was robbed.
Fromong said he will attend as a victim of the crime but will be ''trying to be good for O.J.'' He said he suffered four heart attacks and severe financial losses as a result of the robbery but later forgave Simpson.
The other collectibles broker, Alfred Beardsley, died in 2015.
Andy Caldwell, a retired Las Vegas police detective who investigated the Simpson case, will be at the prison but won't be in the room.
''I don't want to offer an opinion,'' said Caldwell, now a Christian minister in Mill City, Oregon. ''I'm just curious to see how everything unfolds.''
In a nod to Simpson's celebrity, officials will let the proceedings be streamed live, and the board plans a same-day ruling. A decision usually takes several days.
Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and longtime Simpson case analyst, predicted a ''tsunami'' of public attention if Simpson wins release.
''If this is the ordinary case, he will be paroled,'' Levenson said. ''But O.J. is never the ordinary case.''
Al Lasso, a Las Vegas defense attorney who has followed the case but does not represent Simpson, said any other defendant in a similar case probably would have gotten probation, not prison.
''I think he spent more than enough time in prison for a robbery in which he didn't even have a gun himself,'' Lasso said.
But Michael Shapiro, a New York defense lawyer who provided commentary during Simpson's conviction in Las Vegas in 2008 and his acquittal in Los Angeles in 1995, said freedom was no certainty.
''The judge believed he got away with murder,'' Shapiro said. ''That's the elephant in the room. If the parole authorities feel the same way, he could be in trouble.''
This story has been clarified to show that former police Detective Andy Caldwell will be at the prison but not in hearing room and corrects that his church is in Mill City, Oregon, not Lyons, Oregon.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates underwent a knee scope last week and will miss the start of training camp, according to a source. He is also a candidate to go on the Physically Unable to Perform list depending on how he heals. He suffered the injury while training in the offseason. Coates also had offseason surgery on his groin. He got off to a promising start in 2016 but then tailed off down the stretch, mainly because of groin and finger injuries. Coates is an intriguing deep threat but may now be fighting an uphill battle for significant playing time now that Martavis Bryant is back in the fold. Rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster will also push Coates for repetitions in the slot position. Leave Coates to the waiver wire in standard leagues and keep progress on his recovery this summer.
Baltimore Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon will miss all of the 2017 season after the medial meniscus in his knee was repaired Tuesday. He will be out four to five months. It's a tough blow for Baltimore's backfield, as they expected Dixon to be the primary ball carrier on early downs. This news will significantly boost the fantasy values of both Terrance West on early downs and Danny Woodhead in the passing game.
Baltimore Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon (knee) will be sidelined for the regular season after undergoing surgery on his medial collateral ligament Tuesday, July 25. The recovery time is expected to be four to five months.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport is reporting Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon will be out for the season because his meniscus surgery required a full repair.
Free-agent WR Lucky Whitehead (Cowboys) will not be re-signed by the Dallas Cowboys despite having his shoplifting charge dropped due to mistaken identity, according to executive vice presdient Stephen Jones.
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has a combined 121.4 passer rating when he's targeted tight end Jordan Reed on 201 attempts. The duo has combined for 153 catches and 17 touchdowns. Reed is an elite fantasy tight end, but the fact that he has yet to play a full 16-game season is a bit worrisome as your top tight end in the early rounds. However, when on the field and healthy, it's hard to argue that Reed is right up there with Rob Gronkowski as the best overall tight end in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints LB Dannell Ellerbe (foot) is being placed on Reserve/Injured Tuesday, July 25, according to a source. He is expected to be waived when he is healthy.
Miami Dolphins LB Koa Misi (neck) was placed on Reserve/Injured Tuesday, July 25.
Free-agent CB Alterraun Verner (Buccaneers) was signed by the Miami Dolphins Tuesday, July 25.
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is "where he needs to be" with his weight. Rivera called Benjamin out this offseason for being out of shape and overweight in his disappointing 2016 season, but the wideout seems to have gotten the message and is primed for a bounce-back campaign as the club's No. 1 receiver in what should be an upgraded offense. Look to nab Benjamin at a value as low-end WR2/high-end WR3.
Free-agent CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Chiefs) was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars Tuesday, July 25.
Detroit Lions P Sam Martin (undisclosed), Teez Tabor (hamstring) and Cyrus Kouandjio (undisclosed) were placed on the Non-Football Injury list Tuesday, July 25.
New England Patriots wide receiver Andrew Hawkins has informed the team that he is retiring. Hawkins played six years in the NFL and had 33 catches for 324 yards and three touchdowns for Cleveland in 2016. He'll call it quits with 209 career receptions, 2,419 yards and nine scores.
Fantasy Spin: This isn't a surprise because Hawkins was going to have a hard time making the roster.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey has been active in the early days of training camp in padless practices and has been one of Carson Wentz's favorite targets. Pumphrey has been really sharp and has yet to drop a pass and has beaten linebackers out of the backfield. The youngster has been promising in offseason workouts and has decent upside, but the uncertainty of touches behind LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood this year makes him a late-round flier in deeper leagues, at best. Pumphrey is more attractive in dynasty/keeper drafts this fall.
Washington Redskins WR Ryan Grant has yet to lose the confidence of his coaching staff despite making only 39 catches in three seasons in large part because he is the best route-runner on the team this year or last year, including Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. 'I'm easily Ryan Grant's biggest fan. He's always been our best pure route-runner out of everyone. ? He's been a consummate pro. He says nothing and he works all the time. He's gotten a bad rap for situations that weren't completely his fault. The world will never know that,' receivers coach Mike Hilliard said.
Free-agent WR Lucky Whitehead (Cowboys) had the shoplifting charge that led the Dallas Cowboys releasing him Monday, July 24, dropped by Virginia authorities Tuesday, July 25.
Fantasy Spin: This is a positive for Whitehead. He could find work with another team.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Maxx Williams, who had offseason knee surgery, will avoid the Physically Unable to Perform list to begin training camp. That's great news for Williams, but he's still likely behind both Benjamin Watson and Crockett Gillmore in the tight end pecking order. It would take an injury to one of Watson or Gillmore for Williams to be fantasy relevant in 2017.
Baltimore Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon suffered a torn meniscus in his knee, according to a source informed of the situation. He'll undergo surgery Tuesday, but the team is hoping it's just a trim of the meniscus and not anything more invasive. It's another big blow to the running back, who was already slated to be suspended for the first four games of the year. Meniscus tears typically come with a six- to eight-week recovery period. He'll now be one to avoid in fantasy drafts, while Danny Woodhead and Terrance West become much more attractive in this backfield.
Fantasy Spin: He is already suspended the first four games of the season, so this injury might come at a good time for him. He likely won't miss any regular season games but his missed practice and camp time could hurt his chances to play a big role once he gets healthy.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen showed up to the team facilities Tuesday and indicated that he isn't planning to hold out of training camp and "will play out" his contract. Olsen finished as a top-five fantasy tight end in 2016 and went over 1,000 yards for the third straight year, but his owners will complain about the three touchdowns. Even on the wrong side of 30, Olsen is an elite fantasy tight end that should remain a heavy factor in Carolina's passing game.
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list Tuesday, July 25.