2/28/11

Alabama's Julio Jones Will Require Foot Surgery

I've heard of playing through the pain before.

But training through pain?

Julio Jones' spectacular performance at the Scouting Combine, it turns out, happened while he had an injured foot. He will now need surgery on that foot, which will make him unable to practice for the next eight weeks.

Minicamps probably won't occur before then, so it shouldn't hurt his draft stock too badly.

In my opinion, it might have actually improved it because the fact that he was able to outperform A.J. Green in the Combine despite a foot injury shines a bright light on his character.

2011 NFL Draft: Should Chicago Bears Pick Middle Linebacker to Replace Brian Urlacher?

No, I have not subconsciously tricked myself into thinking that Brian Urlacher retired.

I know he had a great season last year, picking up 125 combined tackles and four sacks.

When he's on the field, he makes the Chicago Bears' defense significantly better. When he's on the field, he is one of the best middle linebackers, if not the best, in the NFL.

When he's on the field.

Here's where I may be asking for a butt-whooping from Urlacher: Can we really count on him to be on the field for very long?

He has had a long history of injuries. For instance, he was out for the season in 2009 after Week 1.

When he wasn't on the field, the Bears' defense was, at best, below average. I'll just say remember the Bengals game and leave it at that.

Plus, Urlacher is entering his 12th season in the NFL. In middle linebacker years, I would say he has no more than three years left in him.

Maybe, instead of being at the mercy of Urlacher's health, Chicago should draft a middle linebacker as an emergency backup. And then, perhaps, the heir to the Monsters of the Midway throne once held by Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary.

Now, I wouldn't have even thought about writing this post if I didn't believe there might be a middle linebacker in this draft who met the following requirements: worthiness of the Monsters of the Midway throne and availability in the later stages of the first round.

In this draft, there is a player who could meet both requirements. Like Butkus, he is a University of Illinois alum: Martez Wilson.

Wilson, who recorded 111 tackles and four sacks for the Fighting Illini last year, was dubbed the No. 1 inside linebacker draft prospect by NFL Network's Mike Mayock. Like Urlacher, Wilson has the ability, at least in terms of speed, to play in Lovie Smith's "Tampa 2" defense.

Wilson posted the fastest official time among all linebackers at the NFL Scouting Combine in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.49. This proves that, like Urlacher, he has the safety-like speed to cover a huge portion of the football field.

He also proved that he has the strength to get off a block, as evidenced by his No. 9 ranking among linebackers in the bench press with 23 reps.

Now you may have two questions. First of all, if Wilson is this good, how could he possibly drop down to the No. 30 pick in the draft; secondly, why am I writing about replacing Brian Urlacher when the subject of his retirement hasn't even been brought up yet and the Bears have more pressing draft needs?

To answer both questions, I will refer to the 2005 NFL Draft, when the Green Bay Packers had Brett Favre and a late first-round pick.

California quarterback Aaron Rodgers was expected to be picked before the Packers went on the clock, but wasn't. So, even though Green Bay had more pressing needs on defense, they chose Rodgers as Favre's future replacement.

While Wilson may be a highly-touted linebacker, Von Miller of Texas A&M is the most sought-after linebacker in the draft. Plus, with the likes of Marcell Dareus (Alabama) and Nick Fairley (Auburn) available in a very-deep defensive lineman class, teams picking before the Bears may pass up Wilson to fill their defensive needs with higher-regarded prospects.

To answer the second question, no rumors swirled regarding Favre when the Packers selected Rodgers. And unlike Urlacher, Favre didn't have any injury history (at least, obviously, nothing serious enough to make him miss a start).

Like Favre, Urlacher has been the face of his franchise. But sometimes, in the NFL, you need to make cold-blooded decisions now to do what's best in the long run.

And as Green Bay showed this season, such cold-blooded decisions can be rewarded in the long run.

NFL Scouting Combine: Von Miller Shows Why He's No. 1 Linebacker in Draft Class

If you play college football well in the state of Texas, you'll be compared to a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

Von Miller, rated as the No. 1 linebacking prospect by NFL Network's Mike Mayock, has been dubbed as the next DeMarcus Ware. And why not, after Miller recorded 27.5 sacks in the past two seasons for Texas A&M.

In the Scouting Combine, he showed his abilities in both tangible and intangible ways. He ran an official time of 4.53 on the 40-yard dash and posted a 10'6" broad jump and 37" vertical leap.

On an agility drill, he did slip on an Agile 1 pad. However, he continued through the drill unscathed. This is a good sign because, at times, things won't go your way in the NFL.

He showed that he can make adjustments when put in such situations.

Good News, Bad News on the Bench Press

The good news: Oregon State defensive tackle now holds a new Combine record with 49 reps.

The bad news: Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews could not work out today because he injured his shoulder on the bench press Saturday.

For the Fighting Illini Fans...

Linebacker Martez Wilson, dubbed the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect by Mayock, posted the fastest time on the 40-yard dash out of all the linebackers at the Combine -- 4.49.

In Other NFL News...

The Washington Redskins have announced the release of former Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis.

Chicago Bears Release Tommie Harris

Former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris was released by the Bears, according to NFL Network.

In 15 games during the 2010 season (he was benched for one game due to ineffective performance), Harris recorded 13 combined tackles and 1.5 sacks, a far cry from his eight-sack 2007 season.

NFL Scouting Combine: Nevada's DE Dontay Moch Breaks Record with 40 Time

We all knew Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch has a lot of speed for a defensive lineman.

He'll probably switch his position to a LB/DE hybrid at the NFL position, like Derrick Thomas did for the Kansas City Chiefs. But you need to see what his 40-yard dash time was at the Scouting Combine: 4.44 with a 10-yard split time of 1.61.

Let me repeat that: 4.44 on the 40-yard dash! That's a fast time for a cornerback, let alone a defensive end.

Needless to say, it's a new Scouting Combine record for defensive ends.

Quarterbacks, take notice: If you're playing against a team that has Moch rushing, you have way less than four seconds to throw the football.

Oh yeah, and he posted a vertical jump of 42". So your throws will need to be high in the air if you don't want Moch knocking them down.

2011 NFL Draft: Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin Among Strong North Carolina Defensive Draft Class

When I look at Mike Mayock's top five lists of each position, I notice that there are a lot of defensive players from the University of North Carolina.

Robert Quinn is ranked No.1 among defensive ends. He recently did a broad jump of 9'8", two inches above the average for DEs.

Mayock predicts that he will be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Inside linebacker Quan Sturdivant was named the No. 3 prospect at his position. Safety Deunta Williams was named No. 5.

Then there's defensive tackle Marvin Austin. He wasn't named as a top-five prospect by Mayock, but his 10-yard split time of 1.63 at the NFL Scouting Combine shows that he has the potential to be a productive player at the next level.

When I look at this list of defensive players the Tar Heels have produced, I can't help but think about the suspension handed down to 13 players in 2010, including Quinn, Austin and Williams.

What if these players didn't mess around with those agents? The Tar Heels could have assembled a football team that leaps out of the basketball one's shadow, maybe even won a national championship.

Who knows? It's definitely a shame.

Not that these players will be dwelling on the past. I'm sure their minds are on what could be very lucrative careers in the NFL.

Texas DE Gets Best 10-Yard Split Time

When defensive linemen run the 40-yard dash, scouts don't pay too much attention to the overall time.

No linemen run 40 yards very often. Instead, they look at the 10-yard split, which is a key measure of their ability to rush the backfield.

If the 10-yard split is the most reliable measure of this ability, then Longhorns defensive end Sam Acho is the best linemen in this draft class. He led all defensive linemen with a 10-yard split time of 1.60.

For the Fighting Illini Fans...

Corey Liuget is the No. 3 defensive tackle prospect in the 2011 draft class, according to Mayock.

He ran a 10-yard split time of 1.75. But his most important quality, as NFL Network annoyingly pointed out, is that he doesn't quit.

Because he's "too Liuget to quit."

2/27/11

Corey Crawford Pulling Off Niemi-ish Heroics for Chicago Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews said after being selected the first star of tonight's game against the Phoenix Coyotes that, since the All-Star break, it feels like the Blackhawks are in the playoffs.

This is due to its need to gain points just to get into the playoffs. He certainly helped Chicago gain two points in its shootout win over the Coyotes, scoring two goals and tallying the only score in the shootout.

But if the Blackhawks find their way back to the playoffs this year, more credit will be given to the play of goaltender Corey Crawford.

As the Hawks went deeper into the playoffs last year, they needed rookie goalie Antti Niemi to turn into a Vezina Trophy winner on occasion. And to his credit, he answered the demand.

With Niemi departing for San Jose, Chicago has needed Crawford to step up and come up big in key situations. And like his predecessor, he has gone above and beyond the line of duty.

Last week against the Pittsburgh Penguins, he stopped all of the Penguins' shots in a shootout win, as Patrick Kane scored the only shootout goal for the Blackhawks.

Tonight against Phoenix, he did the same thing to help Chicago gain two critical points. That was after making two spectacular saves to send the game to overtime in the first place.

With tonight's win, the Blackhawks moved to the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference, only four points behind the fourth-place Coyotes.

NFL Scouting Combine: Running Backs Recap

In the NFL, there are two kinds of superstar running backs: one is the kind who will get you 80 yards in one play and the other will get you 40 yards in two plays.

Da'Rel Scott of Maryland has the potential to be the former. He posted the best 40-yard dash times among running backs at the Scouting Combine -- unofficial times of 4.35 and 4.4.

Mark Ingram of Alabama, on the other hand, posted unofficial times of 4.58 and 4.61. However, he is more of the latter type of running back, as he has the ability to burst through a hole immediately.

If his frame doesn't prove that to you, perhaps the 10-yard split in his second dash will -- 1.53 seconds. That's a memo to all defensive linemen and linebackers: be prepared to have your gaps filled.

For the Fighting Illini Fans...

Mikel Leshoure, who was ranked No. 3 among running back prospects by NFL Network's Mike Mayock, ran his first 40-yard dash in an unofficial time of 4.56 seconds and posted a vertical leap of 38".

Cam Newton Struggles at Scouting Combine Throwing Drills

Beyond off-the-field issues, the main criticism of Cam Newton is that he will struggle with the adjustment from Auburn's run-first offense to a pro-style offense.

If his throws at the Scouting Combine are any indication, he still needs to work on that adjustment.

In my previous post, I stated that Newton messed up a wide receiver drill by throwing to the wideout's inside shoulder on a fade route. On the actual QB drills, Newton did the same thing while throwing to receivers on deeper fade routes.

In actual NFL games, those passes will be intercepted.

Next came the QB drill where receivers run comeback routes. On this instance, Newton threw a couple passes way over the receiver's head and out of bounds.

Newton has a ton of talent, as his broad jump and 40-yard dash times show. But until he learns how to throw the football like a real pro-style quarterback, he will struggle in the NFL.

NFL Scouting Combine: Julio Jones vs. A.J. Green

A.J. Green didn't perform badly at the Combine.

He posted a time of 4.48 in the 40-yard dash. And he will likely still be the first wide receiver chosen in the draft.

But Julio Jones outperformed Green, running times of 4.43 and 4.39 and getting a broad jump of above 11 feet.

This performance may not have put him above Green in the draft, but it should at least solidify him as a definite first-round pick.

Cam Newton Messes Up Wide Receiver Drill

Cam Newton was one of the quarterbacks throwing fade routes to wide receivers trying to prove themselves.

Newton's first throw shows that he sometimes has a difficult time following instructions.

On a fade route, a quarterback needs to throw to a wideout's outside shoulder. On his first throw, Newton threw to the wideout's inside shoulder.

Whether it was just a bad throw, a miscommunication or just due to uncalled-for arrogance, it was a moment that didn't make him look good to scouts (at least it wouldn't if I were a scout).

Green Bay Packers' Linebacking Corps May Get Less Hairy

Clay Matthews may soon be without his long-haired partner in crime.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recently reported that A.J. Hawk will be cut by the Green Bay Packers if they can't restructure his contract. He is due to make $10 million in 2011 (if, of course, there is a 2011 season).

Hawk was 22nd in the NFL with 111 combined tackles in his contribution to the Packers' fifth-ranked NFL defense.

Cam Newton at the Scouting Combine

NFL Network's Mike Mayock uttered the average quarterback's broad-jump at least three times -- 9'5".

Cam Newton's broad jump -- 10'6". That is tied for third among quarterbacks at the Combine since 2000.

His two unofficial 40-yard dash times were 4.58 and 4.59. Not bad for a 248-pound quarterback.

In Other NFL News...

NFL players, due to the recent labor dispute, cannot be traded or signed as free agents.

If they could, Jeremy Shockey would probably be signed by the Miami Dolphins. The former University of Miami tight end recently said it would be a dream to play for the Dolphins.

For now, though, all we can do is speculate. 

NFL Scouting Combine: Abilene Christian's Edmund Gates Could Turn Basketball Skills into Football Career

When watching the NFL Scouting Combine, you may have a tendency to devote your attention to big names like Cam Newton and A.J. Green.

But some like to watch to see if they can spot an under-the radar player who will surprise the NFL once he signs onto a team.

Some of these players go unnoticed because they started out as basketball players from small schools. One example of that is Antonio Gates, who was undrafted out of Kent State because he was a basketball player.

Now he's a Pro Bowl tight end for the San Diego Chargers.

There is, perhaps, another converted basketball player who will catch a few eyes in the NFL. That player is Abilene Christian wide receiver Edmund (what do you know; his last name is) Gates.

In the 2010 college football season, Gates caught 66 passes for Abilene Christian for 1,182 yards and 13 touchdowns. According to Sterling Sharpe, he is a Greg Jennings type of wideout.

At the Scouting Combine, he posted unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.35 and 4.36. If that is any indication, he can also be a Dante Hall or Devin Hester type.

Gates already has NFL connections via his friendship with Chicago Bears wideout Johnny Knox. Abilene Christian has been kind to the Bears, by the way, giving us Knox and Danieal Manning.

Chicago could use a wideout. Hmm...

2/26/11

NFL Owners Will Meet in Washington Wednesday; NFLPA Plans to Decertify by Thursday

Following the Tuesday meeting, the owners will have their own meeting on Wednesday, according to ESPN's Chris Mortenson.

In this meeting, the NFL owners will discuss options regarding the current collective bargaining agreement's expiration on March 3. The options will include locking out the players or extending the CBA deadline if they feel that progress has been made with the players.

Barring a breakthrough in negotiations with the owners, the NFLPA will decertify by Thursday in an effort to prevent a lockout.

Chicago Bulls Avoid Letdown against Milwaukee Bucks

Human nature sometimes gives a team that just got a huge win a disadvantage in the next game.

In other words, if this team gets a huge win, like the Chicago Bulls did Thursday over the Miami Heat, it will come out flat against a clearly-inferior team. After the first quarter of its game against the Milwaukee Bucks, it looked possible that they were experiencing a hangover effect.

They let the Bucks, who are only in the Eastern Conference playoff race because there are no good teams in that conference beyond the top five (possibly six if Carmelo Anthony pans out for the New York Knicks), gain a 25-21 lead at the end of the first quarter. Then the Bulls went into halftime in a tie with Milwaukee.

It invoked memories of their first game back from the All-Star break, when they let the lowly Toronto Raptors beat them 118-113.

But Chicago passed its next test toward being a championship-caliber team -- playing well consistently -- beating the Bucks 83-75.

Joakim Noah, playing in his third game since coming back from his thumb injury, was the star of the game. He picked up 17 rebounds and scored eight points.

Luol Deng was the Bulls' leading scorer, scoring 19 points. Derrick Rose contributed 17 points while Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver scored 13 and 11, respectively.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute led the Bucks with 16 points in a losing effort.

Metrodome Could Be Ready for Minnesota Vikings' Preseason Opener

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the replacement of the Metrodome roof should be complete by the first scheduled Sunday of NFL games, which is August 14.

Assuming, of course, the season isn't locked out.

Fifth Site Proposed for Vikings' New Stadium

According to a recent NFL.com article, downtown Minneapolis has been selected as a fifth potential site for the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium.

The downtown site is owned by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and is across the street from the Metrodome.

NFL Scouting Combine: Syracuse Center Ryan Bartholomew Improves Draft Stock

This could be a classic case of on-field performance vs. performance in scout-invented drills.

Which is more important when evaluating a potential draft pick? If you believe the latter is more important, Syracuse center Ryan Bartholomew will be drafted in the first round.

Bartholomew had the fastest time out of all of the Group 1 offensive linemen in the NFL Scouting Combine in the 40-yard dash. But more importantly, he led the linemen in 10-yard split time with 1.63.

Why is this more important? Well, at the center position, it is crucial to have initial quickness because you need to snap the football in a fast-enough time to be able to engage in a block with a defensive tackle or middle linebacker.

Not only did Bartholomew prove that he had that quickness, he also proved that he possessed the strength to push back defenders in run blocking. He had 34 reps in the bench press session.

However, NFL Network's Mike Mayock was quick to point out that he struggled in the East-West Shrine Game. Therefore, the round in which he will be drafted will depend on whether teams believe Scouting Combine performance is relevant or not.

Cam Newton: My Impressions on NFL Scouting Combine Press Conference

Among some of the most cringe-worthy statements uttered by Cam Newton in Indy was the fact that, on numerous occasions, he referred to himself in the third person on a few occasions.

Some may hear that and assume that he is a me-first kind of guy. However, there is an old saying that goes like this: There is no "I" in team.

Guess what: There's no "I" in Cam Newton, either. The theme of his answers at the press conference was the idea that he is going to do all he can do to make himself the best player and person he can be.

So maybe, by referring to himself in the third person rather than "I," he is trying to establish himself as a team player.

2/25/11

Missouri Quarterback Blaine Gabbert Won't Throw at NFL Scouting Combine

Blaine Gabbert is listed as the No. 1 QB prospect by NFL Network's Mike Mayock.

However, scouts who wish to evaluate the Missouri quarterback will have to wait until his pro day at Mizzou in mid-March.

He has decided not to throw at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

NFL Scouting Combine: Importance of Interview Process for Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett

You're probably wondering why ESPN is paying close attention to the Scouting Combine's interview process.

Who cares what Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett says to scouts? How is a player's ability to talk relevant to on-the-field ability?

Well, I remember watching a program ranking NFL draft busts. At the beginning of a profile regarding Ryan Leaf, NFL Network talked about what he and Peyton Manning said at the combine prior to the 1998 NFL Draft.

When asked what he would do if he was drafted No. 1, Manning gave an answer typical to the press conferences he conducts now. He said something along the lines of trying his best and working hard...words that portrayed him as a guy ready to take his career to the professional level.

Leaf, on the other hand, said he would take a trip to Las Vegas.

Don't get me wrong: Being drafted No. 1 would call for a big celebration. But in contrast to Manning, Leaf portrayed himself as an immature kid who, perhaps, should have stayed in college.

The Indianapolis Colts chose Manning with the No. 1 pick, and the rest is history.

Mallett and Newton are both college quarterbacks who already have question marks on their record in regards to their character. And, like Leaf, they both decided to skip their senior season.

Both quarterbacks need to prove in their interview sessions that they won't be the next Ryan Leaf.

Lovie Smith Signs Extension with Chicago Bears

As a reward for an unexpected NFC North title, Smith was given a two-year contract extension by the Bears.

The deal will run through the 2013 season.

2/24/11

Chicago Bulls Show Miami Heat's Inability to Beat Good NBA Teams

If the playoffs started today, the Miami Heat would be the No. 2 seed and the Chicago Bulls would be No. 3 in the Eastern Conference.

If tonight's 93-89 Bulls victory is any indication, LeBron James' first season with the Heat will end the same way his last one with the Cleveland Cavaliers did: in the second round.

James and Wade (29 and 34 points, respectively) outscored the rest of the Miami Heat by 37 points. Let me repeat that: outscored the rest of the Miami Heat by 37 points.

On top of that, they were the only Miami players who scored at all in the third quarter, when Chicago took over the momentum of the game.

In the Heat's previous game, a victory over the Western Conference cellar-dweller Sacramento Kings, James, Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 76 points.

Depending on the "Big Three" to score the majority of Miami's points may work when playing against mediocre teams such as the Kings. But as the Heat's two losses to the Bulls and three losses to the Boston Celtics proved, it just isn't a winning formula against the big dogs of the NBA.

Of course, Bosh was 1-of-18 shooting tonight en route to scoring seven points. That definitely doesn't help Miami when it has to play a quality NBA team.

However, the fact is that the "Big Three," even if Bosh has a good scoring game, cannot carry a team to a championship on their own.


Why not the Chicago Bulls?

On the flip side, if the Bulls weren't already considered to be a championship contender before tonight's win, they are definitely one now.

Not only have they proven capable of beating the top dogs of the NBA such as the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, but who knows what to make of the Boston Celtics right now.

Just today, the top-ranked team in the Eastern Conference traded away Kendrick Perkins, potentially leaving them vulnerable in the low post. With Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, Chicago could easily expose that weakness.

NFL, NFLPA Conclude Week of Negotiation, Will Resume Talks Tuesday

According to ESPN's SportsCenter, some members of the Indiana state government sent a letter to Roger Goodell urging the NFL to get a new collective bargaining agreement.

The letter states that, if Super Bowl XLVI (which is scheduled to be played in Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium) is cancelled, the state will lose up to $400 million.

After seven days of meetings between the NFL and NFLPA, federal mediator George Cohen says more work needs to be done before the current CBA's March 3 expiration.

Cohen said some progress has been made, but the players and owners still hold some "very strong differences" regarding some important core issues.

NBA Trade Deadline: Thunder-Celtics, Cavs-Clippers Make Key Trades

The NBA trade deadline ended recently, and there are two trades that caught my eye.

They weren't blockbusters like the ones that sent Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams to the Knicks and Nets, respectively. However, they did provide each team something they needed going forward.

In the case of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics, their trade improved the teams as they try to make a run at the NBA title.

The Thunder received Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson, adding some veteran presence (and, with Perkins, some help in the low post for Kevin Durant) to a young, upstart team. In exchange, Boston got younger but remains a legitimate championship contender, receiving Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

The Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers, on the flip side, are two teams who won't be contending for a playoff spot, let alone a championship, this season. Therefore, they made a trade that may give them some building blocks for the future.

The Clippers received Mo Williams and Jamario Moon, two players that, along with Blake Griffin, can make this team a future playoff contender, at least.

The Cavs, obviously, don't have a player around whom they can build a team. So they received the Clips' first-round pick; this gives them two lottery picks with which they can find that superstar.

They also obtained Baron Davis, who could provide some much-needed veteran leadership to Cleveland, and whoever is drafted by the Cavs.

Adam Wainwright: His Absence Makes Chicago Cubs NL Central Favorite?

That's what Tim Kurkjian said on ESPNEWS today.

Adam Wainwright will undergo Tommy John surgery to rehabilitate his pitching elbow. That means he will not pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.

According to Kurkjian, that makes the Cubs the division favorites because Wainwright is that good a pitcher.

2/23/11

New Jersey Nets Move to Plan B, Acquire Deron Williams from Utah Jazz

No Carmelo Anthony, no problem.

The Nets went on to get a superstar of their own, obtaining Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz in exchange for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first-round picks and cash.

Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors Make a Deal

The Toronto Raptors acquired James Johnson from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for a first-round pick in the upcoming draft.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun: What His Punishment Says about NCAA's Priorities

On Tuesday, UConn head basketball coach Jim Calhoun was suspended for the first three games of next year's Big East schedule for, basically, failing to provide an atmosphere in which the basketball program's recent recruiting violations did not occur.

Before the Sugar Bowl, Terrelle Pryor and other key members of the Ohio State football team were suspended for the first five games of next season for receiving improper gifts.

But they were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl.

With the fact that March Madness is less than a month away in mind, one question has to be asked: Why is the NCAA allowing Calhoun to carry on with his highly-ranked Huskies this season?

What kind of message is it sending?

This is my interpretation of the message: Recruiting violations are a serious offense, but not serious enough to punish offenders right now.

I mean, we have to think about the financial issues that may occur if, for example, Pryor isn't playing in the Sugar Bowl. Will anyone watch it, even though it might not be a competitive game?

After all, making money is more important than enforcing rules fairly and ethically.

So it's OK to slap the current USC football team (most, if not all, of whom had nothing to do with recruiting scandals) with a two-year bowl ban while Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll walk away unpunished.

As long as a punishment is handed out eventually, procrastination is OK.

2/21/11

Carmelo Anthony Traded to New York Knicks, Denver Post Reports

At the All-Star Game, Carmelo Anthony said he would suit up for the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.

Well, that would be difficult if he were playing for another team.

According to the Denver Post, the Nuggets traded Anthony to the New York Knicks. The Knicks will also receive Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman in the trade.

In exchange, Denver will receive Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, the Knicks' 2014 first-round pick, two second-round picks and $3 million.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are involved in the deal as well, giving Corey Brewer to New York in exchange for Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph

Chicago Blackhawks Move Up in Western Conference Standings with 5-3 Win over St. Louis Blues

The Blues outshot the Blackhawks 33-26 for the game and outscored them 3-1 in the first and third periods.

But it wasn't enough, as Chicago outscored St. Louis 4-0 in the second period.

Alex Pietrangelo cut the Blackhawks' 4-2 lead in half with a quick slap shot past Corey Crawford with 11:11 left in regulation.

Pietrangelo also managed to put the puck in the net six minutes into the third period. However, the goal was waved off due to incidental goaltender interference.

After some close calls in St. Louis' attempt to tie the score, Chicago clinched the win with an empty-net goal by Marian Hossa.

With the win, the Blackhawks now have 68 points, putting them into a tie in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild for the No. 7 seed.

Meanwhile, the Blues remain in 13th place with 63 points.


Joakim Noah To Return to Bulls' Lineup

After 30 games of sitting on the bench with a broken thumb, Noah will play for the Bulls in Wednesday night's game in Toronto against the Raptors.

Chicago Blackhawks Have 4-2 Lead over St. Louis Blues in Second Period

Apparently, a lot of people in St. Louis have the day off on President's Day.

Therefore, the Blues organization has decided to schedule a home game against the Blackhawks for 1 p.m. CST. The day game got off to a good start for the home team, as Andy McDonald scored a power-play goal and Brad Boyes got a goal to give the Blues a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

However, Chicago scored four goals to head into the second intermission with the lead. Viktor Stalberg started the scoring for the Blackhawks 2:18 into the second period.

Dave Bolland tied the game with a goal exactly one minute later. Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell were credited with the assist.

Patrick Kane, thanks to an assist from Jonathan Toews, gave the Hawks the 3-2 lead. Then Toews scored a power-play goal to put them up 4-2, and that's where we stand now.

But keep in mind that this is the same St. Louis Blues that scored nine goals in its previous game.

Stay tuned.

2/20/11

Charles Barkley's NBA Eastern Conference Team to Beat; NFL Labor Latest

On TNT's Inside the NBA following the All-Star Game, Charles Barkley said the Chicago Bulls are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

In his opinion, he believes the Boston Celtics won't be able to hold up because of their age. He said the Miami Heat, in his opinion, don't have enough big men and the Orlando Magic rely too much on jump shots.

Sir Charles says the Bulls are the Eastern Conference's most intriguing team. And if they can get a perimeter shooter before the trade deadline, they will be the favorites to win the conference.

For the Bulls' sake, I hope Chuck is right.

NFL, NFLPA Meet Again

The Sunday meeting lasted eight hours, two more hours than the previous two meetings.

Until the players and owners break their code of silence, it is hard to say if any real progress toward a collective bargaining agreement has been made. For all I know, they may be playing 20 Questions 24 times (one question per minute).

All kidding aside, as I have been stating, it is a good sign that the players and owners are talking for an extended period of time.

NHL Heritage Classic: Calgary Flames Get Crucial Victory over Montreal Canadiens

Calgary Flames 4, Montreal Canadiens 0

Alex Tanguay provided the icing on the cake (in 10-degree weather, icing is an understatement) with a power-play goal 10:53 into the third period.

Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrison were each credited with an assist on the goal. Roman Hamrlik was sent to the penalty box for the Canadiens for hooking.

With the win, the Flames moved into sixth place in the NHL's Western Conference standings, tied with the No. 4 San Jose Sharks and No. 5 Nashville Predators with 70 points.

NHL Heritage Classic: Second Period Recap

Calgary Flames 3, Montreal Canadiens 0

Considering the above score, it would be hard to believe that Montreal outshot Calgary in the second period.

But it's true: the Canadiens held a 21-8 advantage in shots on goal in the second period. However, the Flames held the advantage that mattered: two goals to none.

The first goal was a shorthanded one scored by Anton Babchuk with 7:16 left in the second period. With 7:16 left in the period, Babchuk slapped a one-timer past Carey Price to give Calgary a 2-0 lead.

Curtis Glencross and Brendan Morrison were credited with the assist.

Little more than two minutes later, Rene Bourque scored his second goal of the game to put the Flames up three goals.

NHL Heritage Classic: First Period Recap

Calgary Flames 1, Montreal Canadiens 0

Rene Bourque scored the opening goal for the Flames with 11:51 left in the first period. Alex Tanguay was credited with the assist.

He scored it while Calgary was on a 5-on-3 power play. P.K. Subban and Hal Gill were in the penalty box for the Canadiens for tripping.

Updated NHL Western Conference Standings: Nos. 6-13

6. Los Angeles Kings -- Games played: 59; Points: 68

7. Dallas Stars -- Games played: 59; Points: 68

8. Minnesota Wild -- Games played: 59; Points: 68

9. Anaheim Ducks -- Games played: 60; Points: 68

10. Calgary Flames -- Games played: 60; Points: 68*

11. Chicago Blackhawks -- Games played: 59; Points: 66

12. Columbus Blue Jackets -- Games played: 58; Points: 64

13. St. Louis Blues -- Games played: 57; Points: 63

*- Games played and points do not include results from the Heritage Classic.

Chicago Blackhawks Win Shootout over Pittsburgh Penguins

Chicago: Jonathan Toews (stopped by Fleury)

Pittsburgh: Pascal Dupuis (hit left post)

Chicago: Patrick Sharp (stopped by Fleury)

Pittsburgh: Kris Letang (stopped by Crawford)

Chicago: Patrick Kane (goal)

Pittsburgh: Tyler Kennedy (stopped by Crawford)

Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks Go to Shootout

Kudos to Chicago for killing the Marian Hossa penalty.

If the Blackhawks pick up the second point in the shootout and end up in the playoffs, that would be crucial point to the season, as they learned how to make a defensive stand when needed.

Shots on goal    1    2    3    OT    Total
Pittsburgh            7    11   8    0    26   
Chicago              13    8    7    3    31

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Third Period Recap

Blackhawks 2, Penguins 2

To paraphrase a quote from Eddie Olczyk, good things happen when you send the puck to the net -- even when you just crossed the blue line.

That's what Bryan Bickell did 1:09 into the third period, scoring the go-ahead goal past Marc-Andre Fleury to put Chicago up 2-1.

But what has been the Achilles heel for the Blackhawks recently (their inability to protect a lead) turned out to be just that with 3:18 left in regulation.

Brett Sterling rebounded a shot into a wide-open goal to tie the game at 2-2.

Now the Blackhawks need overtime to get a crucial second point for the Western Conference standings. It will be 4-on-4 in the overtime period's first 36 seconds.

Kris Letang is in the penalty box for the Penguins for hooking for 36 seconds. Marian Hossa for 1:30 for holding.

Shots on goal    1    2    3    OT    Total

Pittsburgh            7    11   8   
Chicago              13    8    7

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Second Period Recap

Penguins 1, Blackhawks 1

Another defensive breakdown by the Blackhawks led to another blown lead.

With Craig Adams in the penalty box for hooking, Matt Cooke took a pass delivered by Max Talbot and shot a wrister past goaltender Corey Crawford for a shorthanded goal. Talbot and Brooks Orpik were credited with the assist on the goal.

Shots on goal   1   2   3   Total

Pittsburgh           7  11        18     
Chicago             13  8         21

Other NHL scores regarding Western Conference playoff race:

Detroit 2, Minnesota 1 (Shootout)

Heritage Classic: Montreal at Calgary (in McMahon Stadium), 5 p.m. CST (Versus)


Don't have Versus, but want to know what's going on in the Heritage Classic? No problem (pas de probleme): You can get period-by-period analysis of the game here on the Sports Thread.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks: First Period Recap

Blackhawks 1, Penguins 0

Stuck in fourth place in the race for the Western Conference's final playoff spot, the Chicago Blackhawks will need all the points they can obtain from here on out.

They're off to a good start against a Penguins team skating without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, scoring the first goal of the game to enter the first intermission up by a goal.

Patrick Sharp scored the go-ahead goal 10:07 into the game for the Blackhawks. Jonathan Toews centered the puck from the left side of the net to Sharp for the assist.

Niklas Hjalmarsson was credited with an assist as well on the goal.

But as recent losses to the Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets have proven, no lead is safe.

Sharp got called for a double-minor penalty for high-sticking with 2:51 left in the period. The Penguins enter the second period with 1:09 left on the power play.

Here's hoping Chicago can protect its lead this time around.

Carmelo Anthony Latest: 'Melo Meets with Prokhorov, Jay-Z

Even though Carmelo Anthony denied earlier in the weekend that a meeting between him and New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, you knew they would have something to talk about.

After all, the Nets and the Denver Nuggets did have a tentative agreement on a trade for Anthony. Well, Prokhorov and New Jersey part owner Jay-Z conducted a 40-minute meeting with 'Melo last night.

According to Yahoo! Sports, however, the Nets owners left the meeting not feeling very confident that he would agree to an extension on his contract. As stated in a previous post, Anthony needs to approve of a three-year contract extension in order for the trade to be finalized. 

The Nets, after all, are giving up some pretty big building blocks to get him. They don't want to give up Devin Harris and Derrick Favors to have 'Melo for a fraction of an NBA season.

2/19/11

NFL Labor Latest: Another Long Meeting for Day 2

According to ESPN, the second day of mediated meetings lasted six hours, the same number of hours as day one.

Because the players and owners have declined to speak on the details of the meetings, we do not know what they are talking about behind closed doors.

But as I said in a previous post, it is a sign of progress that they are talking.

Upset Alert: Nebraska Beats No. 2 Texas -- in Basketball?!

Big Ten, beware.

Many fans of Big Ten teams such as Wisconsin and Michigan State are looking forward to Nebraska's upcoming inclusion because they believe the Cornhuskers are an easy basketball win.

Well, I'm sure that's what Texas fans were thinking, too. However, Nebraska recently upset the No. 2 team, beating them in Lincoln 70-67.

NFL Labor Latest: NFL, NFLPA Meet for 2nd Straight Day

With a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service present, the players and owners in the NFL have met for a second consecutive day of negotiation.

It was reported by ESPN that yesterday's meeting lasted six hours.

To explain what this is a good sign, I will reference an episode of Boy Meets World. In this particular episode, Cory and Topanga are in their first big argument as a married couple.

I don't remember what they were fighting about. Frankly, I think the fight may have been over-dramatized, whatever it was about.

But what stuck with me was the advice that Cory's best friend, Shawn, gave him. Drawing from his experience from his parents' divorce, Shawn advises Cory to stay in the room with Topanga until the fight has been finished rather than leaving the room mid-argument.

Cory does just that, and the couple is still married.

Regarding the NFL labor situation, the recent meetings -- well, the fact that they're having meetings and not walking away -- are a sign of progress.

It's a sign that the players and owners are willing to at least try to make this marriage -- if you will -- work. They will not leave the room until a new collective bargaining agreement is agreed upon.

College Basketball Upset Alert

St. Johns 60, Pittsburgh 59: Final



This post has been dedicated to former Chicago Bears safety (and member of the 1985 team) Dave Duerson, who recently passed away at age 50. I wish him the best in his afterlife.

New York Knicks Upgrade Offer to Denver Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony

So far, the New Jersey Nets lead the New York Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes.

The Knicks, however, are making a push to get ahead.

New York has raised its bargaining chips to the Denver Nuggets, offering them the choice of either Danilo Gallinari or Landry Fields along with Raymond Felton, Eddy Curry and at least one first-round draft pick.

Why is this important? As I stated in my last post, ESPN's Ric Bucher reports that Anthony will consider signing an extension with New Jersey if the Knicks don't get a deal done with the Nuggets.

Well, here are the Knicks' chips. Nuggets, take 'em or leave 'em.

2/18/11

Carmelo Anthony Latest: Ball's in Knicks' Court

According to ESPN's Ric Bucher, Carmelo Anthony said he would agree to sign an extension with the New Jersey Nets if the New York Knicks don't make a deal for him.

Marc Stein, also from ESPN, reported that if the deal with the Nets is finalized, the Denver Nuggets would deal Troy Murphy and a first-round pick to a third team to be named later.

Carmelo Anthony denies scheduling meeting with Nets

It was reported earlier that Anthony had meetings scheduled with the Knicks and Nets this All-Star weekend.

This just in to ESPN: Anthony says it's news to him that a meeting with the latter was scheduled.

New Jersey reached a tentative agreement with the Denver Nuggets on a trade. So I am guessing he and the Nets' owner have something to discuss this weekend.

'Melo Out, New Jersey: Nets Reach Tentative Deal to Acquire Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony may soon be in a New Jersey state of mind.

The Bergen Record reports that the New Jersey Nets have reached a tentative agreement with the Denver Nuggets to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets. The deal will be done if Anthony agrees to a three-year, $65 million contract extension.

The Nuggets would acquire Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Troy Murphy, Ben Uzoh and four first-round draft picks in exchange for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Marvin Ely and Renaldo Balkman.

2/17/11

San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls: Bulls Gain Statement(?) Win Heading into All-Star Break

Bulls 109, Spurs 99 

Before tonight's game against the Western Conference leading San Antonio Spurs, Derrick Rose and Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau were, according to TNT's halftime report, asked if the game could be seen as a statement one.

Rose said yes, Thibodeau said no.

If the Bulls' winning their final game before the All-Star Break sent a message to the NBA's title contenders, it would probably look something like this:

If you want the title, you'll have to go through us. And it won't be easy.

Even though Chicago held the lead for a great majority of the game's first three quarters, it didn't seem like the Bulls had the game in hand. Then the Bulls grew its lead to as much as 14 and outscored the Spurs 20-17 in the first 9:39 of the fourth quarter to clinch the victory.

Rose continued to make his case as an MVP candidate, as he led the Bulls in scoring with a career-high 42 points. He also recorded eight assists and five rebounds.

Luol Deng contributed with 19 points, seven rebounds and five rebounds. Carlos Boozer had 15 points and six rebounds.

The Bulls outrebounded the Spurs 41-29, including a 9-6 offensive rebound ratio, and had the upper hand in field-goal percentage, shooting 54 percent from the floor compared to 49 percent by the Spurs.

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 26 points and four assists. Manu Ginobili had 16 points while Tim Duncan scored 14 points and recorded nine rebounds.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls: Third Quarter Recap

Bulls 83, Spurs 75 

Don't let the fact that the Bulls have led throughout the third quarter fool you.

They have not dominated. Chicago has just played slightly better than San Antonio, and has not clinched the game yet.

The Spurs once were trailing only by four, but the Bulls got a couple of baskets within the final two minutes of the quarter.

Rose still leads the team in scoring with 29 points. But Luol Deng has succeeded Boozer as the second-leading scorer, with 16 points to Boozer's 15.

Tim Duncan surpassed Ginobili as the Spurs' second-leading scorer, recording 14 points so far. Parker still leads his team with 20 points.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls: Halftime Recap

Bulls 58, Spurs 51

Chicago has led for a majority of the first half.

However, San Antonio will not go out quietly in this one.

So far, the Bulls have an advantage in field-goal shooting, hitting 58 percent of their shots to the Spurs' 47 percent. They've also outrebounded San Antonio 21-11.

But as I stated in an earlier post, the Spurs have the upper hand from beyond the arc, shooting 71 percent from three-point range. They also forced seven Chicago turnovers and committed only four.

Derrick Rose leads Chicago in scoring with 21 points and has recorded 4 assists.

Carlos Boozer has 10 points and Luol Deng contributed nine, along with three assists. Kurt Thomas leads the Bulls in rebounding with seven, while coming up with two points of his own.

Tony Parker leads the Spurs with 15 points. Manu Ginobili has 12 points.

Bulls 48, Spurs 44: 3:26 2nd Quarter

Team leaders -- points

Derrick Rose (CHI) 14

Tony Parker (SA) 13

Bulls 34, Spurs 33: 8:33 2nd Quarter

While the Bulls are shooting better overall (58% from the floor compared to 55% from the Spurs), San Antonio has had more success from long range.

At this point, the Spurs were 4-of-5 from three-point range. They were on an 8-0 run at this point, starting with Matt Bonner being rewarded with, and making, three free throws.

Gary Neal hit a three-pointer and Tim Duncan hit a shot from the perimeter to cut the Bulls' lead from nine to one.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls: First Quarter Recap

Bulls 30, Spurs 25  

This game has been hyped as one between two of the NBA's best point guards: Tony Parker vs. Derrick Rose.

So far, Rose has won that battle, as Chicago ended the first quarter with the lead. He leads his team with 11 points and has three assists so far.

Carlos Boozer contributed eight points of his own for the Bulls.

Parker scored nine points in the quarter. Manu Ginobili has eight points and two assists.

NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL: Who Does All-Star Weekend Better?

In tonight's NBA on TNT pregame show (set in Los Angeles, site of NBA All-Star Weekend), Charles Barkley said the NBA hosts the best All-Star Weekends.

A guy like Sir Charles is a man of many opinions. And when you have something to say about every single topic on Earth, some of your opinions will inevitably be disagreed upon.

I happen to disagree with Chuck on this certain topic. In my opinion, it is the MLB that hosts the best All-Star Weekend.

Unlike the NHL and NFL, two leagues that are successful in part because of physical play, the MLB All-Star Game is a competitive game that doesn't hold back when it comes to intensity -- and it was that way even before they decided to award World Series home-field advantage to the winning league.

Unlike the NBA All-Star Game, the baseball version is played well both offensively and defensively.

Since Barkley was at the site of NBA All-Star Weekend, I can see him pandering to his crowd. But when speaking objectively, the best All-Star Weekend is hosted by the MLB.

NFL Labor Latest: NFL, NFLPA Agree on Referee to Negotiations

In this battle between the NFL and NFLPA to get the most out of the next collective bargaining agreement, they finally agreed to something: to have a referee officiating the negotiations.

According to ESPN's John Clayton, both sides have agreed to let the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service mediate the CBA negotiations. In other words, the FMCS (not an official acronym, but let's go with it) will be wearing the zebra-stripe uniforms in this battle.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose, Bulls Look to Prove Themselves as Title Contenders

San Antonio Spurs at Chicago Bulls -- 7 p.m. CST (TNT)

Whenever the so-called experts predict who will go to the NBA Finals this year, they usually choose the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat as the Eastern Conference representative.

The Chicago Bulls, however, can be seen as a dangerous darkhorse candidate.

The Western Conference leading Spurs enter the United Center tonight. By beating them, Chicago can solidify themselves as a serious title contender.

Derrick Rose has put on an MVP-type season for the Bulls, averaging 24.5 points and 8.2 assists per game. He has led his team to the Eastern Conference's third-best record (37-16) and best home record (24-4).

And this has all been done without Joakim Noah, who won't return to the lineup until at least late February due to a broken thumb.

When he returns, and if the Bulls can pull off the upset tonight, look out.

2/16/11

Hooah! Minneapolis-St. Paul Suburb Agrees to Let Minnesota Vikings Think About Building New Stadium on Army Site

With the Vikings' lease on the Metrodome set to expire in 2011, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is desperately seeking ideas on how to get a new stadium to avoid losing their NFL team to Los Angeles.

Many ideas have been proposed, including a way-out-of-the-box one by myself in an earlier post. On Tuesday, the Ramsey County board voted 6-1 to approve negotiations with the Vikings to build a stadium on a site that will make the team shout "Hooah!"

A former Army ammunition plant in Arden Hills.

Meanwhile, officials from the city of Minneapolis say the Metrodome site would be the best place to build the stadium. Other sites reported to be considered are ones near Target Field and one near the Target Corp. campus in Brooklyn Park.

Regarding what the fans think about where to build the new stadium, the following are the results of a recent Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll:

Metrodome site -- 37.3%

Arden Hills -- 40.3%

Brooklyn Park -- 6.3%

Expand TCF Bank Stadium -- 5.3%

Don't Build a New Stadium -- 10.5%

Total Votes -- 4,080

Chicago Blachhawks Get Key Win in Coach Quenneville's Absence

Head coach Joel Quenneville was hospitalized earlier today with an undisclosed health problem, so assistant Mike Haviland stepped in for an important game against the Minnesota Wild.

It was important because both teams are in the playoff hunt. As a result of the Blackhawks' 3-1 victory tonight, they're now four points behind the Calgary Flames for the final playoff spot.

The Wild, meanwhile, are now only one point ahead of Chicago.

The Blackhawks ended the first period up 1-0 despite being outshot 17-10. Brian Campbell got the opening goal on a power play with 7:01 left in the period.

The Wild tied it up in the third period with a power-play goal of their own by Matt Cullen. Less than two minutes later, Troy Brouwer scored what would be the game-winning goal.

Jake Dowell clinched the win with an empty netter.

The Blackhawks outshot the Wild for the game 37-34. Goaltender Corey Crawford saved 33 shots for Chicago to earn first-star honors.

Albert Pujols, NFL Don't Have New Deals

The deadline set by Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals to reach a deal on a new contract expired nearly hours ago.

This means Pujols, whose current contract expires after this upcoming season, will be a free agent. This will create a free-agency media circus not seen since, well, last summer.

Like a certain NBA player who took his talents to South Beach, Pujols is arguably the best player in his respective sport. But don't expect him to appear in The Decison 2 on ESPN.

However, if the Tampa Bay Rays decide to empty their wallets to fill the hole at first base left by the departure of Carlos Pena, don't be surprised if Pujols decides to take his talents to the Sunshine State.


NFL, NFLPA Don't Have Any Meetings Scheduled This Week?

At this moment, no.

Obviously, the players union and owners never wrote a 10+ page term paper in college or high school.

Anyone who has will tell you that one of two things will happen before the March 3 deadline if the NFL and/or the NFLPA don't pick up the pace:

A new collective bargaining agreement will not be reached. Or a deal will be done, but it will be less than satisfactory because it was agreed upon out of haste.

2/14/11

No. 1 Goes Down Again: Jacob Pullen, Kansas State Upsets Kansas Jayhawks

The Kansas Jayhawks, named the No. 1 team in college basketball less than 24 hours ago, started the second half with a 4-0 run to decrease their deficit to five points.

But they wouldn't get any closer than that, as the Kansas State Wildcats pulled away to a lead as big as 20 points in the Little Apple en route to an 84-68 win and boosted their resume for the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

Jacob Pullen had the game of his life, scoring a career-high 38 points. He continued his hot hand from beyond the arc, finishing the game 5-for-6 from three-point range.

He was helped by contributions from Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts, who scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Women's Basketball Scores

#2 Connecticut 86, #14 Oklahoma 45

#1 Baylor 67, #5 Texas A&M 58

Upset Alert: Kansas State Leads No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks at Halftime

Could Kansas be the second No. 1-ranked team in three days to lose?

The Kansas State Wildcats are doing everything they can to make it happen, as they lead the Jayhawks at halftime 42-33.

Kansas has trailed by as much as 14 points in the first half. It is only the third game in which it trailed by more than 10; one of those games was in a loss to Texas.

Jacob Pullen has led the way for Kansas State, scoring 23 points and recording three assists. He is 3-for-3 from three-point range.

Syracuse 63, West Virginia 52

DRST Films Presents: NFL Labor Issues -- Revenue Split Debate

Ok, so I lied.

I could not get the film uploaded, so you won't hear my John Madden impression. Instead, I uploaded pictures of my pie charts and will explain them to you in written form.

(This just in -- the NFL has filed a complaint about the players' union to the National Labor Relations Board).
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, the owners get a $1 billion credit out of the $9 billion in revenue. Of the remaining $8 billion, the players get 60 percent, or $4.8 billion.

This means, including the credit, the owners get $4.2 billion. Hence, they are the ones who are threatening to lock out the 2011 NFL season.

 The players' proposal for the new CBA calls for no credit given to the owners.

Instead, the players and the owners will each get half of the $9 billion in revenue. This would actually increase the owners' cut to $4.5 billion.

But that's not enough. Here's their proposal...
Under this proposal, the owners would get a $2 billion credit, double what they got from the current CBA.

Of the remaining $7 billion, the players and owners would split it 50-50. Therefore, the players would get $3.5 billion and the owners, including the credit, would receive $5.5 billion.

Hopefully in their meeting(s) later this week, the NFL and NFLPA can meet somewhere in between these proposals. Otherwise, we could see a lockout that cancels at least part of this season.

If that happens, then we'll see...
Now if you'll excuse me, all this looking at pies has made me hungry. Maybe for some Turducken pot pie.

NFL, NFLPA to Meet Later This Week

The NFL and the NFLPA will meet later this week to discuss the making of a new collective bargaining agreement.

To my knowledge, the day on which this meeting will take place has yet to be determined. I will keep you posted.

Among the most heated debates (including the rookie wage scale and whether a season should have 16 or 18 regular season games) is how $9 billion worth of revenue should be split between the players and the owners.

With a terrible John Madden impression and a notepad containing pie charts, I explain the revenue split debate in full detail on my next post.

St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols Agree on Contract Talk Deadline

The Cardinals and Albert Pujols, according to ESPN, have agreed on a deadline of Wednesday at 11 a.m. CST for discussion of a new contract.

Pujols' current deal expires after this season. If a new deal is not reached by the set deadline, it is expected that he will explore the free-agent market next offseason.

2/13/11

Sports on Valentine's Day: What's On

Don't have a date for Valentine's Day?

Don't want to spend it watching romantic comedies?

Fear not, as I have some suggestions for sporting events that you can watch to weather the storm of Valentine's Day.

Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards -- 7:30 p.m. CST (Comcast SportsNet Chicago)

Ozzie Guillen will be given a lifetime achievement award, and the event's proceeds will go to the March of Dimes.

West Virginia at Syracuse -- 6 p.m. CST (ESPN)

Kansas at Kansas State -- 8 p.m. CST (ESPN)

The Wildcats are on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. Can they boost their resume by upsetting the No. 1-ranked Jayhawks in the Little Apple (Manhattan, Kan.)?


Of course, if you are a football fan feeling withdrawal symptoms from the end of football season, you could watch some of the games you recorded over the course of the season. You may want to keep those recordings just in case of a potential lockout.

2/12/11

2011 NFL Draft: Should The Indianapolis Colts Pick a Quarterback in the First Round?

Whenever a team wins a championship, other teams try to duplicate its formula for winning.

Super Bowl XLV MVP Aaron Rodgers was picked late in the first round by the Green Bay Packers in the 2005 NFL Draft. For the next three years, Rodgers backed up legendary quarterback Brett Favre, waiting patiently for his chance to shine.

Now that he's won the Super Bowl, it has me wondering what other teams will try to do the same thing in this year's NFL draft.

As I mentioned before in a previous post, the Indianapolis Colts recently placed the franchise tag on Peyton Manning, who will be entering his 14th NFL season (whether it's in 2011 or 2012).

Manning is at a point in his career where he should be thinking about how many years he can still play football. And the Colts need to think about how they want to prepare for his impending retirement (or waffling with the decision to retire).

Indianapolis has the 22nd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. If a high-caliber quarterback such as Cam Newton, Christian Ponder or Jake Locker is available, would you be surprised if the Colts try to find their own Aaron Rodgers?

Wisconsin Gives Ohio State Basketball First Loss

For the second time in the 2010-11 school year, the Wisconsin Badgers defeated a previously undefeated, No.1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes team at home.

This time, it was a basketball game at the Kohl Center, as Wisconsin knocked off Jared Sullinger and the Buckeyes 71-67.

The Badgers rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit for their first victory over a No. 1-ranked team since 1962, when they beat, coincidentally, Ohio State. Jordan Taylor scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half to lead Wisconsin's rally.

Wisconsin went on a 15-0 run to tie the game at 47-47. From there, the Badgers took over.

2/11/11

Could Peyton Manning Become The Next Brett Favre?

Recently, it has been reported that the Indianapolis Colts will put the franchise tag on their future Hall of Fame quarterback.

The tag will pay Peyton Manning $23 million next season, assuming the NFL doesn't cancel the 2011 season with a lockout. He is entering his 14th season as the Colts' quarterback, so it may be too late in his career to think about a long-term deal.

In his 13 years in Indianapolis, Manning has never missed a start. He has broken many passing records and may break more before his career is done.

He has won a Super Bowl and lost one in which his team was favored to win.

Remind you of anybody you know?

Remember a time when Brett Favre was the most beloved athlete in America? Back then, he was a guy who quarterbacked his own way.

Anyone who has seen Manning call audibles like it was a game of charades knows what way he likes to play quarterback. Heck, I remember one time during the Colts' 2005 AFC Divisional Round game against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he waved off the punt team because he wanted to go for the first down.

I also recall seeing footage of him yelling at Jeff Saturday on the sidelines during a game when he suggested that Indianapolis should call some more running plays.

All of this makes you wonder what will happen in the coming years. Will Manning, like Favre, waffle through offseasons with the dilemma of whether or not to retire?

Will a Colts archrival like, say, the Tennessee Titans or Jacksonville Jaguars try to steal him like the Minnesota Vikings did with Favre?

Stay tuned.

2/10/11

Utah Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan Resigns; NBA Title for Chicago Bulls?

Before winning Super Bowl XLV, the Green Bay Packers got two NFL head coaches fired.

After the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football and the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome, head coaches Wade Phillips and Brad Childress were canned by the Cowboys and Vikings, respectively.

The Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz 91-86 last night. Today, according to local reports in Salt Lake City, Jerry Sloan resigned as the Jazz's head coach after more than 20 years on the sidelines.

Does this mean the Bulls will win the NBA Finals this year? If the playoffs started today, Chicago would have the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed, so it's not out of the question.

What is certain is that Sloan has been with the Jazz for a long time, so his resignation signals an end to a long and prosperous era. Although he never won an NBA title, he is third all-time among head coaches in career wins with 1,221.

To put that in perspective, Phil Jackson, who has 11 NBA titles, is only fifth all-time in wins.

Tyrone Corbin is expected to take over as Utah's interim coach.

NFL Labor Negotiations Take Ugly Turn as Owners Walk Out

If a task is too difficult, the right thing to do is to just walk away and quit.

According to ESPN, that seems to be the mentality that NFL owners practiced Wednesday, when they walked out of a negotiations meeting in Washington. The labor meeting scheduled for today was called off, and an owner's meeting next Tuesday was cancelled as well.

As of right now, no future negotiation meetings have been scheduled.

Apparently, players and owners are too split over how to split $9 billion worth of revenue. Therefore, owners have, for now, decided to take their collective pigskins and go home.

Yeah, that's a good idea. If you have too much work that you need to do, you shouldn't just start doing it right away.

You shouldn't try to build the first steps of a stairway that leads to a new collective bargaining agreement before the current one's March 3 expiration. And you shouldn't worry about the potential lost revenue that comes with an NFL lockout.

And you definitely shouldn't worry about giving the fans a 2011 season. It's not like they're paying hundreds of dollars for tickets to games and, in some cases, millions of dollars to build stadiums that will go to waste if the 2011 season is cancelled.

In case you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic.


Speaking of NFL/Money Issues

My lifelong dream is to one day go to the Super Bowl.

So you would think that I would sympathize with the 400 Super Bowl XLV ticket holders who had to watch the game from standing-room locations around the stadium because their temporary seats weren't ready.

I still do; to come so close to that lifelong dream only to have it taken away would have depressed me beyond belief. But I think these 400 people, plus some of the other 850 fans who had to take different seats because of the faulty temporary seats, are being a little greedy.

Despite being offered triple the face value of their tickets or a ticket to a future Super Bowl, they have filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones for alleged breach of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices.

If I were one of those fans, I would have taken the option of getting a ticket to a future Super Bowl -- and hoped that it wouldn't get taken away, as well.

2/7/11

Tennessee Titans Choose Replacement for Jeff Fisher

The following sentence is one that has never been uttered, but here it goes:

The Tennessee Titans hired a new head coach.

Jeff Fisher was the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL before he was let go just a few weeks ago. Naturally, one would expect the Titans to stay in the family in their search for a replacement.

Sure enough, Tennessee hired a guy who has been with the organization long before Fisher arrived: Mike Munchak.

Munchak was promoted to head coach from his previous position as offensive line coach. He has been with the Titans/Houston Oilers since 1982, starting out as a Hall of Fame guard.

2/6/11

Super Bowl XLV Celebration, Cheesehead Style

video

The Rosten household, consisting mostly of Packers fans, reacts to the Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings fourth-quarter touchdown pass, which would turn out to be the game-winning points of Super Bowl XLV.

Super Bowl XLV Final: Packers 31, Steelers 25

Remember when I said the Steelers had the ball in Packers territory to start the fourth quarter?

Well, just as they had done all year, the Packers have found a way to overcome their obstacles. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Matthews (with help from Ryan Pickett) forced a Mendenhall fumble that was recovered by Desmond Bishop. 

On the Packers' ensuing drive, Rodgers completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jennings, his third of the game, to put the Packers up 28-17.

The Steelers answered back with a drive that ended with a 25-yard TD pass to Mike Wallace. With an option play to Antwaan Randle El, Pittsburgh was successful on a two-point conversion to cut the Packers' lead to 28-25. 

On third down on its next drive, Green Bay responded with a 31-yard pass to Jennings. The big play led to a field goal by Mason Crosby that put Green Bay up 31-25 with 2:07 left in the game. 

The Packers were 2:07, and one defensive stop, away from being the Super Bowl champions.

When Roethlisberger's fourth-down pass fell incomplete, the Vince Lombardi Trophy returned to Titletown.

Aaron Rodgers finished the game completing 24-of-39 passes for 304 yards, earning the Super Bowl MVP award.

Super Bowl XLV Third Quarter: Packers 21, Steelers 17

Early in the third quarter, we saw an indication of the obstacles Green Bay had to overcome to get to Super Bowl XLV: injuries, penalties and dropped passes.

Charles Woodson was unable to return to the game with a collarbone injury. Nick Collins is back in, but Sam Shields is still questionable and Donald Driver has a boot on his foot, so it appears unlikely that he will return.

On the Packers' first possession of the second half, they picked up 15 yards worth of penalties. Then on third down, James Jones dropped what would have been a sure first down.

On the Steelers' opening possession of the third quarter, they turned to their run game to drive down the field, capped by an eight-yard touchdown run by Rashard Mendenhall.

On Green Bay's ensuing drive, Nelson dropped another pass, forcing the Packers to punt again.

Can the Packers overcome their roadblocks as they did to get to the Super Bowl?

The answer still appeared to be yes at the end of the Steelers' next drive. Frank Zombo sacked Roethlisberger to stall the drive, setting up a 50+ yard field goal attempt by Suisham.

To say the attempt sailed wide left would be a gross understatement.

But the Steelers now have the ball in Packers territory.

Stay tuned.

Super Bowl XLV Second Quarter: Packers 21, Steelers 10

Shaun Suisham kicked a field goal to put the Steelers on the board on a drive that started in the first quarter.

Hobbling on a bad knee, Roethlisberger came up with the key first down on that drive with a scramble to the left.

However, the Packers got their second touchdown off a Big Ben interception, as Jarrett Bush got the second pick. Four plays later, Rodgers threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings.

But the Steelers answered back with an eight-yard TD pass to Hines Ward with less than a minute left in the first half. The critical play of that drive was a 30+ yard pass to Mike Wallace.

Roethlisberger finished the half completing 13-of-21 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown, as well as two interceptions. Rodgers has 137 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-16 passing.

Injury Report

For the Packers, Donald Driver, Sam Shields, Charles Woodson and Nick Collins left for the locker room with injuries. To my knowledge, it was undetermined whether or not any of them will return.

Super Bowl National Anthem: Botched

Did anyone else hear Christina Aguilera sing the wrong words on the National Anthem?

It's not "What so proudly we watched," Ms. Aguilera.

Super Bowl XLV First Quarter: Packers 14, Steelers 0

Green Bay started the scoring with a nine-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a 29-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson.

Rodgers completed 5-of-6 passes on the drive, including the TD pass on a third-and-1. But some credit is also due to running back James Starks.

On a third-and-inches, Starks bounced to the right side for a key first down. When the Packers had another third-and-short, the Steelers had no choice but to play the run, leaving Nelson free to run an easy fade to the end zone.

Offensively, Pittsburgh tried a screen pass to its wide receivers on each of its first two possessions. Give linebackers Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk credit; they stopped Hines Ward and Mike Wallace, respectively, for minimum gains.

On the first play of their third possession, the Steelers turned the ball over as Ben Roethlisberger, pressured by Howard Green, threw an interception to Nick Collins. Collins returned the pick for six to give the Packers the early 14-0 lead.

Super Bowl XLV: A Second Christmas

video

In honor of NFL Films founder Ed Sabol's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I have decided to launch a new product into the Sports Thread: DRST Films.

DRST Films is a new aspect of the Sports Thread that tries to add life to our world of sports.

I apologize if my John Facenda impression sounds mediocre. And I apologize if the noise isn't loud enough (you may want to turn your volume up).

The following is a list of the other six members of the Hall of Fame Class of 2011:

DE Richard Dent (Super Bowl XX MVP)

RB Marshall Faulk

CB/PR/KR/WR Deion Sanders

TE Shannon Sharpe

LB Chris Hanburger

LB Les Richter

2/4/11

Pittsburgh Steelers Center Maurkice Pouncey Out for Super Bowl, According to Reports

Two days after Groundhog Day, the Steelers had a groundhog of their own to monitor.

Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who told NFL Network's Deion Sanders that he had a 75-percent chance of playing in Super Bowl XLV despite a high ankle sprain, did not practice today.

Throughout the week, Pouncey and head coach Mike Tomlin said his status for Super Bowl Sunday depended on whether he could practice Friday.

Well, unlike the groundhog, who obviously saw his shadow considering the weather we've recently had, Pouncey did not see his shadow.

Therefore, Tomlin told ESPN's Suzy Kolber that he will not be playing against the Green Bay Packers' blitz-happy defense.

Instead, Doug Legursky will be taking his place.

2/3/11

Six-burgh: Roethlisberger, Holmes and Steelers Offense Soar over Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII

On a 68-degree day (weather I, as a Midwesterner trapped in snow and six-degree temperatures, would kill for right now) at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, two teams entered Super Bowl XLIII via contrasting journeys.

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the game as the AFC's No. 2 seed. Until that time, they were known as a team that played smash-mouth football with a strong defense and bruising running game.

Although their defense was still a force to be reckoned with (not so much this day), the offense was put on the shoulders of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Like Terry Bradshaw before him, Big Ben matured over the years since his first Super Bowl performance, and it showed this evening.

He ended the game throwing for 256 yards and a touchdown on 21-of-30 passing attempts. His 93.2 QB rating was a far cry from his 22.6 rating in Super Bowl XL.

The Arizona Cardinals were merely a team trying to establish a winning identity in 2008, having won only one playoff game in their last 51 years and entered the postseason with a 9-7 record.

With victories over the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs, the Cardinals entered Super Bowl XLIII hoping to include a historic final chapter to their first taste of success in the desert.

It would not get off to a good start for Arizona, as Pittsburgh took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter via an 18-yard field goal by Jeff Reed in the first quarter and a one-yard touchdown run in the second by Gary Russell.

The Cardinals answered back, however, with a one-yard TD pass from Kurt Warner to tight end Ben Patrick. Then, after Roethlisberger had a pass batted by Bryan Robinson and intercepted by Karlos Dansby, Arizona had the ball at the Steelers' 34-yard line with two minutes left in the first half.

In the half's closing seconds, the Cardinals had a first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh one-yard line. Warner planned on throwing a pass to Anquan Boldin to put his team up 14-10 at the half.

Instead, the pass fell into the hands of James Harrison, who was actually instructed by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to rush the quarterback. Harrison returned the interception 100 yards for the longest pick-six in Super Bowl history (in terms of yardage and, perhaps, time taken by Harrison to run to the end zone).

Harrison may now be known as a guy who complains about the NFL fining him for hitting defenders too hard. But in that situation, I'm sure he was grateful that the Cardinals mistakenly thought they were playing touch football.

Thanks to the TD return, the Steelers went into halftime leading 17-7. After a 21-yard field goal by Reed, they had a 20-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Then, once again, Arizona proved its worthiness to play in the Super Bowl. Warner threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald to cut the deficit to 20-14.

Facing a third down at their own one-yard line, the Steelers gave two more points to the Cardinals when center Justin Hartwig, who was playing with a sprained MCL, was called for a holding penalty in the end zone. The play resulted in a safety, and gave Arizona the ball back.

Warner then found Fitzgerald, who sprinted down the middle of the field 64 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Fitzgerald finished the game with seven catches for 127 yards and Warner with 377 yards and three touchdowns on 31-of-43 passing.

The good news for the Cardinals is that their air-attack duo gave them an unexpected 23-20 lead. The bad news is that 2:34 remained, enough time for another passing duo to, as Santonio Holmes said on the sidelines, "be great."

Holmes finished Super Bowl XLIII with nine receptions for 131 yards, but it was his four catches for 73 yards on the Steelers' final drive that earned him the Most Valuable Player award.

The third of those catches set up a first-and-goal for Pittsburgh at the six-yard line. He caught the pass from Roethlisberger on a curl route, then sprinted along the sideline past a slipping Aaron Francisco.

Two plays later, Roethlisberger threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Holmes, who tip-toed inbounds by the right sideline. After a booth review, the referees confirmed the touchdown.

As Holmes screamed, "That's how you be great!"

And that's how a proud franchise became the first in NFL history to win six Super Bowls.

2/2/11

Super Bowl XL: Pittsburgh Steelers (and Referees?) Send Jerome Bettis Home a Winner by Beating Seattle Seahawks

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks put on a show in Detroit's Ford Field that can be classified as a classic glass half-empty, half-full situation.

Those who view the 40th edition of the Super Bowl as half-full (including the great majority of the Ford Field crowd, who proudly waved their Terrible Towels in support of the Steelers) see it as one that gave two proud members of Steeler Nation the chance to finally be known as champions.

Bill Cowher was hired as Pittsburgh's head coach in 1992, replacing the only coach to win four Super Bowls: Chuck Noll. Unlike Noll, it took Cowher awhile to get his first, and only, victory in the big game.

He had come close, losing 27-17 in Super Bowl XXX to the clearly-superior Dallas Cowboys and losing four AFC Championship Games. With the 21-10 victory in Super Bowl XL, Cowher retired after the 2006 season with the monkey off his back.

For 33-year-old Jerome "the Bus" Bettis, the Super Bowl was a fairy-tale sendoff to his power-running career. Winning his first-ever Super Bowl ring in his hometown, Bettis led the Steelers out of the tunnel in the pregame and, on Pittsburgh's final drive, ran the ball twice for four yards to get a game-clinching first down.

For those who see Super Bowl XL as half-empty, it was seen as a game in which neither team played well enough to win the big game. And, especially if you're asking Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, the referees didn't put on a Super Bowl-worthy performance, either.

"We knew it was going to be tough going against the Pittsburgh Steelers," Holmgren said the day after the Super Bowl in front of about 15,000 fans at Qwest Field. "I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."

The first questionable call of the game cost the Seahawks a go-ahead touchdown in the first quarter. Seattle wide receiver Darrell Jackson caught a pass in the end zone, but the TD was called back.

The officials said Jackson interfered with Steelers free safety Chris Hope by putting his right hand into his chest before getting wide open for the catch. A call deemed ticky-tack by some people watching the game.

Josh Brown kicked a 47-yard field goal to put the Seahawks up 3-0.

Then, with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the Steelers faced a third-and-goal. Ben Roethlisberger dived for the goal line, but was arguably just short. However, the referees signaled touchdown, and the call was upheld after a booth review.

With the Steelers up 7-3 on their opening drive of the second half, running back Willie Parker scored on a 75-yard touchdown dash for what would turn out to be the game-winning score (and a Super Bowl record for longest run from scrimmage).

The ensuing Seahawks drive was stalled when tight end Jerramy Stevens dropped a pass at the Pittsburgh eight-yard line. It was the second of three passes that Stevens dropped that evening.

And it ended up costing Seattle points, as Brown missed a 50-yard field goal. Brown ended the game successful on only one of three field-goal attempts, as he missed a 54-yarder to end the first half.

The Steelers followed his second-half miss by driving to the Seahawks' seven-yard line. However, the drive was ruined when Seattle dime back Kelly Herndon intercepted an underthrown pass by Roethlisberger.

The Seahawks got a touchdown off the turnover, as Stevens caught a 16-yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck in the end zone to cut Pittsburgh's lead to 14-10.

The interception was one of two thrown by Big Ben in Super Bowl XL. He finished the game with 22.6 quarterback rating -- the worst by a winning QB in Super Bowl history -- completing only 9-of-21 passes for 123 yards.

The Steelers did produce a touchdown pass by game's end. In the fourth quarter, wide receiver -- and former Indiana University quarterback -- Antwaan Randle El faked running a reverse and threw a 43-yard pass to Hines Ward for the touchdown and a 21-10 Pittsburgh lead.

Ward finished the game with five catches for 123 yards, winning Most Valuable Player honors despite dropping two passes.

The touchdown drive started with an Ike Taylor interception that killed a Seahawks drive that started in the waning moments of the third quarter at their own two-yard line. Stevens caught an 18-yard pass that put Seattle one yard away from taking the lead early in the fourth quarter.

Only to have the catch called back by another arguable call. Right tackle Sean Locklear was penalized for (allegedly) holding linebacker Clark Haggans, sending the Seahawks back to the 29-yard line.

Two plays later, Taylor returned Hasselbeck's interception to that location, where the quarterback cut him down with what looked like a cross-body block to his knees. Thinking that Hasselbeck was attempting to hit Steeler cornerback Deshea Townsend, the referees called a 15-yard illegal block penalty on the Seattle QB.

Hasselbeck, as it turns out, never touched Townsend.

Overall, those who see Super Bowl XL as a glass half-empty view it as one in which the Steelers won despite a performance that was, at best, mediocre. And one in which it got a lot of help from the zebras.

For those who see it as half-full, well, winning ugly is still winning. And you would have a hard time thinking of anybody more deserving of championship status than Jerome Bettis and Bill Cowher.
 

2/1/11

Super Bowl Media Day: Pittsburgh Steelers Center Maurkice Pouncey Says He'll Try to Play

In at least some instances, the Super Bowl has been known in part for players who play through the pain.

As Dan Fouts said in The Waterboy, "Last game of the year, Brent. Can't hold anything back now."

In Super Bowl XIV, Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood faced the Steelers with a broken leg. Last year, Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney played with an ankle injury.

Over the course of this week, all eyes will be on the left ankle of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey.

Pouncey, who suffered a high ankle sprain and was seen using crutches to get off the plane in North Texas, took a different method to his rehabilitation than Freeney did in last year's Media Day.

In the Media Day before Super Bowl XLIV, Freeney stood at a podium wearing flip-flops, giving NFL Network's cameras a good look at his swollen ankle. He ended up playing, but Drew Brees and the Saints put up enough offense to upset the Colts.

In this Media Day, Pouncey was interviewed from the Cowboys Stadium seats. There, he showed Deion Sanders the cast on which he is trying to heal his injury in time for Super Bowl Sunday.

Will he play?

"Most definitely," Pouncey said. "My mind right now is stuck on preparing the right way for the Green Bay Packers."

He went on to say that, at best, there is a 75-percent chance that he will play. But it is nice to know, at least for the Steelers' sake, that Pouncey is taking his rehab very seriously.

With a Packers defense that likes to send Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews and company on blitzes, the Pittsburgh offense will need its linemen to play effectively and with a sound coherence.

Without its starting center making a positive impact, it could be a long Super Bowl Sunday for Big Ben Roethlisberger and the Steeler offense.



Extra Point

James Harrison, when asked by NFL Network's Kara Henderson if we should expect any hard hits in the Super Bowl, said, "We're not trying to hit nobody hard. We don't wanna get fined."

Super Bowl Media Day: Green Bay Packers Unfairly in Brett Favre's Shadow

As Aaron Rodgers answered questions, NFL Network showed a list of the top five quarterback ratings in playoff history.

Rodgers currently is the leader with a 113 QB rating. Bart Starr is third on the list with a rating of 104.8.

Brett Favre, amazingly, is not on the list. And yet, with the amount of questions the media asked about Rodgers' predecessor, you would have thought he was actually the starting quarterback in Super Bowl XLV.

I live with a lot of Packers fans. Anytime they watch a Green Bay game, they cringe anytime Rodgers gets compared to Favre.

You would think the Packers earned the right to avoid having to answer questions about him ever again. Enter Media Day, where journalists always ask the most analytical of questions (cue the sarcastic sigh).

The professional analyst that he is, Deion Sanders got things started by asking Rodgers if Favre contacted him about what to expect about playing in the Super Bowl. Rodgers responded with a simple no.

When Chad Clifton was asked about which question received at Media Day was one he considered the most unintelligent, he mentioned that he was asked about his former #4-wearing teammate.

Donald Driver was asked if he felt that the Packers made the right decision by parting ways with Favre.

"I think they made the right decision," Driver said. "I never thought it would happen, but look at where we are now. I've played with two great quarterbacks, and one of them led me to the Super Bowl."

NFL Network's Marshall Faulk and Rich Eisen theorized that the comparisons between Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers are inevitable. To paraphrase Eisen, you don't want to be the successor of the legend; you want to be the successor of the successor of the legend.

If this theory holds true, Favre ought to consider himself lucky that he did not follow Bart Starr. Otherwise, he would constantly be reminded of the fact that Starr led the Packers to two Super Bowls and five NFL titles, whereas Favre won only one Super Bowl.

Plus, Starr had a better quarterback rating in the playoffs than Favre.