US skip Shuster benched for France match

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — U.S. skip John Shuster was benched for the winless American men in Friday's curling match with France.

USA Curling chief operating officer Rick Patzke told The Associated Press the decision was made by coach Phill Drobnick in a team meeting Thursday night, and Patzke supports the decision. He said the team agreed last fall to several lineup scenarios in case a change was necessary during the Olympics based on performance or other circumstances.

Shuster bumped fists and cheered teammates as they warmed up.

"I guess it's a coach's decision," said his father, Tom Shuster. "That's all I can say. It's tough."

The typically dependable Shuster, a bronze medalist in Turin four years ago, has struggled with his shot-making all tournament. Alternate Chris Plys will skip the team, with vice skip Jason Smith throwing the last stone.

The lineup will be evaluated after the match to determine who plays Saturday against Sweden. Shuster also was available to pay against France if needed.

"For this game he is sitting out," Patzke said. "We support their decision. It's not unprecedented. Our mission and their mission is to put the best possible team on the ice for every game. After their meeting last night, they decided this was the best team."

Shuster's bronze medal in 2006 was the Americans' first in an Olympics and first in a major competition since 1978.

He said Thursday after a third straight extra-end loss, this time to Denmark, "I've let my teammates and USA Curling down."

Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers arrived and will be the team's honorary captain for two games. He is not making light of Shuster's situation but jokes that he's prepared to take the ice if called.

"Oh, yeah, I'll go in," Davis said. "I'll be ready, man."