2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: The Sports Thread's Final Four Predictions

Well, I received some perspective regarding my bracket.

Apparently, I didn't do as badly as many others did.

According to a recent ESPN.com report, 70.3 percent of 5.9 million bracket entries for the ESPN tournament challenge did not get a single team into the Final Four. I have predicted one team (UConn) correctly.

Only two of those brackets picked the Final Four with 100-percent accuracy. So I guess I'm in pretty good company by comparison.

With that in mind, these are my predictions for the Final Four:

Butler over VCU

It has been a good run for the Rams from Richmond, Va.

However, they showed two weaknesses in their impressive victory over Kansas: They can't rebound or play good basketball for 48 minutes.

Butler will take advantage of those weaknesses and make this a close game. And as we have learned in this tournament, they do pretty well in close games.

Kentucky over UConn

When you go on a run like the Huskies have over the past few months, you just get the feeling that it will all end sometime.

Butler over Kentucky

It just seems like the Bulldogs' tournament.

They got their first taste of the Final Four a year ago, getting very close to the promised land. Now that Shelvin Mack and Matt Morris have a second chance at the crown, they know how to, and will, get it.

But like I have stated throughout the tournament, you shouldn't take my word for it. I may have been right a few times, but I originally predicted Ohio State to win it all (just something to keep in mind).

Opening Day of Major League Baseball Chills Tradition

Ahh, Opening Day.

The gray skies give way to chilly weather, reminding us that spring is in the air. Go ahead, try to say that sentence with a straight face.

Did anybody else confuse themselves into thinking that Opening Day was set for Monday, rather than today?

Over the past few years, the first MLB game was ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball game, which occurred in between Final Four games. Then everybody else opened up their seasons on Monday, finishing just in time for the NCAA basketball national championship game.

But this year, MLB decided to push Opening Day a few days early. I got confused, and judging from the weather at Yankee Stadium (among other places), Mother Nature got confused as well.


NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Kentucky Hopes John Calipari's 3rd Final Four Appearance is the Charm

With a 76-69 victory over North Carolina, Kentucky has given John Calipari his third first appearance in the Final Four.

Kentucky basketball fans will hope that Calipari's third time in the Final Four will be the charm for two reasons. Obviously, they want him to win a national championship this time around.

Secondly, as much as I hate to play the role of Debbie Downer (oh, who am I kidding? I love it.), it's a fact: Calipari's first two appearances have been vacated from the NCAA record books due to shady recruiting practices.

He led UMass to the Final Four in 1996, only to have the appearance removed from the record books because Marcus Camby took some money. Of course, Calipari took an NBA coaching job with the New Jersey Nets before the NCAA sanctions were handed down.

Calipari jumped ship to Kentucky before Memphis was stripped of its 2008 national championship appearance.

So if Calipari jumps ship from Kentucky, its basketball program may need to prepare for having its Final Four banner stripped from the Rupp Arena rafters.

2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament: VCU's Glass Slipper Still Fits

When I picked Butler and VCU to meet each other in the Final Four in my Sweet Sixteen bracket, I really didn't know what to expect.

While I did believe these two had a shot at earning a trip to Houston, I really picked them just for fun. With my first two brackets almost completely busted, I had the mentality of a head coach whose team had a losing record.

When you're the head coach of a losing team in the late stages of a season, sometimes you'll make decisions that you wouldn't make if a playoff spot was on the line. For instance, a football coach will try a fake punt from his own 20-yard line or give a fifth-string running back some long-overdue playing time.

If those decisions worked out successfully, great. If not, well, what does the coach have to lose?

That's the mentality I had when I picked Butler and VCU for the Final Four. I figured these would be two teams that I'd like to see: one mid-major making its second consecutive appearance in the Final Four and another team going from the First Four all the way to the Final Four.

If they didn't, well, what did I have to lose?

Go figure.


Derrick Rose Puts On Another MVP Performance against the Milwaukee Bucks

David Stern, you need to end the MVP race right now.

Just give it to Derrick Rose.

Rose showed us why he should be the favorite to win the NBA's Most Valuable Player trophy. He not only scored 30 points, but also recorded 17 assists in a 95-87 Chicago Bulls victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

It was not just the statistics that made this an MVP performance. It was also the meaning behind them.

Rose was not going to let the Bulls lose, even if they were trailing by double digits, as they did in the Bradley Center. To be the MVP, sometimes you need to carry a team to a win, even if it doesn't look its that team's night.

This was not Chicago's night, until D-Rose made it his night. As a result of his night, the Bulls are now 2.5 games ahead of the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Bad News in Chicago...

The Blackhawks lost 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks, falling to eighth place in the Western Conference.

The Ducks have a one-point lead and have the tiebreaker over Chicago. With eight games left in their regular season, the Hawks lead by two points over the Dallas Stars for the eighth spot.

2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament: Honda Center Serves as Invaluble Home Court

The Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., is home to the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.

And it, potentially, will be the future home of the NBA's Sacramento Kings, as the Maloof brothers are planning to move the team to Anaheim. If this past weekend is any indication, they're not doing it for the home-court advantage.

The Honda Center hosted the West Regional of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Although it was technically a neutral site, the fans attending the games in that region seemed to be rooting for two teams: Arizona and San Diego State.

The Aztecs lost to UConn in the Sweet Sixteen. Arizona beat Duke in that round, then lost to the Huskies in the Elite Eight.

Take note, Maloof brothers: Home-court advantage is only as good as the home team on the court. And with the team you have right now, your Kings will not win an NBA title -- in Northern California or in SoCal.

2011 NCAA Tournament: Florida Whacked by Butler's Shelvin Mack Attack in Overtime

Despite an injured ankle and a cut on one of his eyes, Butler's Shelvin Mack scored 27 points and recorded four assists.

He also hit a key three-pointer with little more than a minute remaining in the overtime period to put the Bulldogs up 72-70. Those would turn out to be the game-winning points, as Butler reaches the Final Four for the second consecutive year with a 74-71 victory over Florida.

THE Ohio State University: Friday a Bad Day for the Buckeyes, Sports Thread's Bracket

Last night, Jared Sullinger made an anti-LeBron move (Columbus, Ohio, is not too far away from Cleveland), choosing to stay at Ohio State for his sophomore year.

The move came shortly after the Buckeyes lost a heartbreaker to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. And it gave Ohio State fans a nice silver lining to what was, as a certain children's book stated, a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day."

Not only did the No. 1-ranked Buckeye basketball team miss out on one of its best chances to win a national championship, but Jim Tressel found himself in the news again today.

Already facing a five-game suspension, Tressel forwarded the e-mails he received regarding Terrelle Pryor's wrongdoings to a mentor of Pryor, according to recent reports. The NCAA's investigation of the scandal is ongoing.

The Sports Thread's Elite Eight Bracket

So now that the team that I picked to win the national championship is eliminated, I think I'm going to save some paper and forgo filling out any more brackets.

My new national champion is Connecticut, just because they seem like the hottest, and most reliable, team of the tournament. But as I have been stating, don't trust me because I'm wrong.


2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: The Sports Thread's Sweet 16 Bracket

After going 22-14 in the first two rounds, I was 8-8 in my bracket in the third round.

To make matters worse, two of my Final Four teams (Pittsburgh and Purdue) have already been eliminated. I also had the Pitt Panthers in the championship game.

So at this point, I have pretty much checked out. Maybe if the Chicago Bulls win the NBA Finals (or if the Blackhawks miraculously repeat as Stanley Cup champs), my brackets would make good confetti for a ticker-tape parade.

As you can see, I have turned my bracket into Cinderella City, predicting VCU to pull off a Butler-type run by getting past (you guessed it) Butler in the semifinals.

But like I stated, I have completely checked out.


2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: The Sports Thread's Modified Bracket for the Third Round

Including the first-round matchups, my bracket is 22-14 in the NCAA Tournament.

For some teams in this bracket, that is a terrible season. Since some of you may wonder who I will be picking in third-round action featuring teams that I did not pick to win in the second round, I have filled out this updated bracket.

The changes made to my bracket are indicated by the asterisk symbols.

If there is a silver lining to my "official" bracket, it is that only one team that I predicted to go to the Elite Eight has already been eliminated. I guess those referees at the Big East Tournament weren't in Denver on Thursday to help St. John's.

Another silver lining comes from the Texas/Oakland game. Although I picked Oakland to upset the Longhorns, I picked Texas to win or lose by single digits against Oakland in ESPN.com's Streak for the Cash, so I won some bragging rights among the Herald & Review's sports department.

But I have learned my lesson: Don't mess with Texas. Therefore, I'm picking the Longhorns to beat an Arizona team that looked weak at crucial times against Memphis.

The Wisconsin/Kansas State matchup was a tough one to pick. This could be a good game, with guards Jordan Taylor and Jacob Pullen dueling for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

But the Wildcats from the Little Apple look like a team that is peaking at the right time.

So this is my modified bracket. But like I said about my "official" one, don't trust it


2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament: Tennessee Distracted by Bruce Pearl's Uncertain Future?

Michigan has a very good basketball team.

In fact, I actually picked the Wolverines to upset Duke in the round of 32 in my bracket.

But 30 points? That was their margin of victory over Tennessee?

Clearly, the Volunteers were facing more than the Wolverines today. They were also facing the prospect of their coach, Bruce Pearl, being fired at the end of the season.

Tennessee's athletic director has shown us the meaning of bad timing, saying on a radio station that Pearl's job may be in jeopardy shortly before the Volunteers played Michigan. If Tennessee's 75-45 loss is any indication, there is a lesson to be learned.

There's an old saying that goes like this: Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery and today's a gift.

Yesterday, Pearl was suspended for eight games due to improper recruiting practices. Today, the Volunteers had a game to play against Michigan.

Will Pearl be fired tomorrow? Who knows?

But Tennessee's AD should have let his basketball team focus on the game and let tomorrow remain a mystery.


NCAA Basketball Tournament: Harper, Faried Lead Morehead State to Upset over Louisville

You gotta love March Madness, if only for the upsets that occur due to late, game-winning baskets.

This year's first big upset was picked by yours truly in his bracket. Just look at my previous post.

With Morehead State down by two, Demonte Harper drained the game-winning 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left to give the No. 13-seeded Eagles a 62-61 victory over No. 4-seed Louisville.

Kenneth Faried achieved his 85th career double-double, recording 12 points and 16 rebounds. He also came up with a blocked shot at the buzzer to preserve Morehead State's win.


2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: The Sports Thread's Official Bracket

Hopefully, you can read this.

For the Final Four, I have two teams (Purdue and Ohio State) from the Big Ten and two teams (Pittsburgh and Connecticut) from the Big East.

I have the Buckeyes edging Pitt in the championship game.

But to be honest with you, I haven't been paying much attention to college basketball this year. I have been busy covering the labor standoff in a league that shall remain nameless and the Chicago Bulls/Blackhawks.

So you really shouldn't base your bracket on mine.


Illinois Basketball: NCAA Tournament Appearance Could End Embarrassingly

The good news for the Fighting Illini is that, despite choking in the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan, they still got what they wanted: a trip to the NCAA big dance.

But when I looked at the bracket, I thought to myself, "it's just that kind of season."

Illinois, the No. 9 seed in the Southwest region, will play against UNLV. If the Illini win, they'll face an opponent that should seem familiar -- and set off some angry feelings.

Assuming they get past Boston University (does anybody believe in the Terriers? Anyone?), the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks will play against the winner of UNLV/Illinois.

Pop quiz: who is the Jayhawks' head coach? You guessed it: Bruce Weber's predecessor, Bill Self.

In a way, it's sort of fitting. Of all the coaches that could put an end to this frustrating, gut-wrenching season, it had to be a Self-ish one.


NFL Locked Out of Sports Thread

As promised in previous posts, I will now lock out NFL posts from my blog.

The next post containing the acronym NFL will be the announcement that the players and owners have agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement.

In the HBO film Recount, there is a scene where Al Gore (well, someone portraying the voice of Gore) called Ron Klain (Kevin Spacey), telling him that he will concede the presidential election to George W. Bush.

He told Klain that cannot win the Florida votes. Even if he wins, he cannot win.

In this case, Gore is saying that, even if he wins the Florida recount and the presidency, he cannot win over the American people. In the NFL’s labor dispute, neither the players nor the owners can win the fans’ support, even if one side gets more of what it wants at the negotiating table.

I am aware of the mentality of an NFL player and an NFL owner. I realize that, in order to be successful at either job, you need to be conditioned to win at all costs.

The bottom line, however, is that neither side can win. Even if they win, they cannot win.

Until both sides realize this and are willing to compromise for the benefit of the fans, I cannot support the NFL. I urge anyone reading this blog right now to be strong on the fans’ behalf.

NFLPA Decertification Official

ESPN's Chris Mortensen said on SportsCenter that the players union has decided to decertify.

The union will now operate as a trade association.

The current collective bargaining agreement is now void. Once the upcoming antitrust suit is settled, the NFLPA will re-form.

NFL, NFLPA Labor Update: DeMaurice Smith Addresses the Media

Smith said the players union informed the NFL that "significant differences remained."

He also said that any talk of a CBA extension must come with 10 years of audited financial records.

Seven minutes before the decertification deadline, the NFLPA is now in their office. There's still no word about whether or not the players union will push the button.

NFL, NFLPA Meeting Now, According to Schefter

For the past few day, the NFL and players union have held separate meetings with mediator George Cohen.

With the NFLPA's hand on the decertification button, ESPN's Adam Schefter is now reporting that the NFL is meeting directly with the players union in an attempt to get another extension.

The NFLPA has less than half an hour to file for decertification.

Stay tuned...

Michigan 60, Illinois 55 -- Final

NFLPA Almost Officially Decertified

NFL Network's Kara Henderson broke the news that the players union has made the decision to file for decertification.

Then she broke the news that the NFLPA decided to pull back at least for the next 52 minutes.

Illinois 51, Michigan 47 -- 4:49, Second Half

NFL Labor Update: NFLPA Director DeMaurice Smith Plans to Decertify, Schefter Says

According to a breaking news report on ESPN's SportsCenter by Adam Schefter, DeMaurice Smith is telling the players via teleconference that the plan right now is to decertify.

The players union has until 4 p.m. CST to file the decertification paperwork to the National Labor Relations Board. The NFL could still make a final proposal to the NFLPA by then.

Big Ten Tournament Update

Illinois 43, Michigan 34 -- 13:45, Second Half

NFL, NFLPA Labor Latest: DeMaurice Smith Updating Players Via Teleconference

Last night, Smith said on Twitter that he would have an update for his players by now.

According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, he is giving them an update through a teleconference as we speak.

He says that, if there is an extension on the collective bargaining agreement by the end of the day, the new deadline will be early next week.

However, with the way things are looking less than three hours left for the NFLPA to decide whether or not to decertify, an extension would be a longshot.

Dan Kaplan of Sports Business Journal tweeted that the NFL has made its final proposal on the core issues in negotiations. As far as I know, the details of this proposal have not been leaked, but the players are reportedly looking over this final proposal right now.

ACC Tournament Update

North Carolina 61, Miami 59 -- Final

Big Ten Tournament Update

Ohio State 67, Northwestern 61 -- Final (OT)


There is a correction that needs to be made: the collective bargaining agreement technically is set to expire at 10:59 p.m. CST.

However, there are two times that will be critical on CBA D-Day III: 4 p.m. and 1 p.m.

The NFLPA has until 4 p.m. CST to file for decertification. If the players union decertifies, the current CBA will be void and the NFL is no longer immune to antitrust laws.

Therefore, the players, acting as a trade association rather than a union, will be able to sue the NFL to potentially block the lockout. But don't fool yourself: this will be a long and painful litigation process.

It will be a longer process if the NFLPA chooses to decertify after the CBA expires, as they will need to wait six months to sue the NFL for violations of antitrust laws.

According to DeMaurice Smith's Twitter account, he will have an update on the negotiations at 1 p.m. CST. So, as always, stay tuned.

College Basketball Upset Alert -- ACC Tournament

Miami 31, North Carolina 22 -- Halftime

This game can be seen on ESPN2.

Big Ten Tournament Update -- ESPN

Ohio State 28, Northwestern 23 -- Halftime


NFL, NFLPA Labor Update: NFL Makes Revenue Proposal

DeMaurice Smith told the players on Twitter that they will get an update on the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement by 1 p.m. CST on Friday.

Until then, it looks like the NFLPA has a lot to discuss with the NFL.

Andrew Brandt, who is an NFL business analyst for ESPN, said on SportsCenter that the only issue the NFL and players union are close to agreeing upon is the rookie wage.

Both sides agree that rookies are being overpaid nowadays. So it looks like Rams quarterback Sam Bradford will be the last player to get a big signing bonus in his rookie year.

Regarding other issues, the NFL and NFLPA still remain miles apart. The NFL, who had its largest group of owners present on their behalf today, has made a proposal on the revenue-split debate where the players would get 43 percent of the revenue.

The players union, however, has made it clear that they want half of the revenue. They've also made it clear that, for safety reasons, they don't want to play 18 regular season games.

However, the owners could argue that the two extra games would add revenue to the NFL. And they could share that revenue with the players.

So, with less than 24 hours left before the current CBA expires, things still look very bleak. It looks like the best-case scenario in regards to getting a new CBA would be if another extension is agreed upon.

So, as always, stay tuned...

NFL, NFLPA Labor Latest: Extension Best We Can Hope For, Says Schefter; Players Clearly Don't Want 18 Games

Less than 27 hours before the collective bargaining agreement expires, it feels like deja vu all over again.

Today, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Panthers owner Jerry Richardson are present at the negotiating table. There is a lot to discuss.

Adam Schefter said on ESPN's SportsCenter that, once again, an agreement on a new CBA looks unrealistic. Once again, the best we can hope for is an extension on the current one before it expires.

And if DeMaurice Smith's comments to SI.com are any indication, I wouldn't count on the 2011 regular season to have any more than 16 games.

Smith said to SI.com that 18 games is not in the best interest of the players' safety. Therefore, the NFLPA simply will not budge on the issue at the negotiating table.


NFL, NFLPA Labor Latest: Revealings of NFL Financial Information Still a Hot Topic

As the negotiation wind down for Wednesday, the NFL and players union still have a disagreement regarding the financial data given to the NFLPA.

The NFLPA, according to DeMaurice Smith, was told by the international investment bank they hired that the data given to them is "utterly meaningless" when determining whether or not the players union should "write them an $800 million check" per year.

NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash, as I stated in a previous post, said the information given to them is more detailed than the data given to the 32 NFL franchises.

So to summarize the argument in easily-understood language, the NFLPA is arguing that the information given to them is insufficient. However, the NFL is arguing that they gave the players union enough information.

Bottom line: there is less than 48 hours left in the current collective bargaining agreement. And the clock is ticking.

NFL Lockout Preparation: A Fan's Handbook

The NFLPA has issued a 64-page handbook to players that helps them prepare for a potential lockout.

Today, the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement appear to have taken a bad turn. The lead negotiator on behalf of the NFL, Jeff Pash, said the owners have offered more financial data to the players union than they've offered to the 32 NFL franchises.

The NFLPA, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, declined to look at the data. Therefore, it once again looks like they will file for decertification before the current CBA's expiration.

As I stated in a previous post, I will perform a lockout of my own, boycotting the NFL by not writing any posts regarding the league until a new CBA is agreed upon. While millions of Americans may, as DeMaurice Smith said, dig their game, we certainly don't dig the thought of the 2011 season being cancelled.

So in preparation of a lockout/decertification, I have prepared a handbook that gives NFL fans a few tips for how to deal with the chaos created by players and owners.

Tip No. 1 -- Boycott the NFL

NBC's Sunday Night Football had an average television audience of 21.8 million viewers.

Super Bowl XLV was the most-watched TV event in American history, with 111 million viewers.

So if the NFL is so popular, why would its players and owners risk alienating its fans to get a few more millions and billions of dollars at the negotiating table? Some say it's because the NFL is so popular.

Some say the NFL believes its popularity is immune to backlash caused by a season-long lockout. As my wall-to-wall coverage of this past Scouting Combine may indicate, they may have a point.

That is why I am planning this lockout. The NFL needs to know that its fans will not stand for the concept of a season being cancelled due to a labor dispute between millionaires and billionaires.

Therefore, if Friday passes without a new CBA or another extension, I am encouraging a boycott. No watching the NFL Draft, no logging onto NFL.com, no watching NFL Network.

I know this is a lot to ask for. But a message needs to be sent.

If you need NFL news, ESPN is a good source, both on television and online.

Tip No. 2 -- Sunday is Yours

Believe it or not, there's a lot of alternative options for Sundays during the fall in terms of things to do.

In sports alone, NFL Sundays interfere with Major League Baseball and NASCAR during the early stages of fall. Then later, there's the NHL and NBA (assuming there's no lockout in that league as well).

Or you could just spend time with friends and family. If you're into that sort of thing.

Tip No. 3 -- The DVR is The Only Sports Bar You'll Need

If you really need an NFL football fix, look into the archives.

Whether you recorded football games on your DVR, your VCR, or have a collection of DVDs featuring classic games, they can serve as emergency food for the football soul.


Ohio State Suspends Jim Tressel 2 Games, Fines Him $250,000

The NCAA probably won't, but can (and should) step in and give Tressel a harsher punishment.

As ESPN's Joe Schad said, Ohio State handing out Tressel's punishment is like a parent asking a kid how he/she should be punished. They'll likely pick a lighter punishment than deserved.

In this case, Tressel knew about the five players' wrongdoings. He knew throughout the 2010 season.

And he let them play anyway.

In my personal opinion, two games and $250,000 is not harsh enough of a punishment.

NFL, NFLPA Labor Latest: Players Union Gets Preparation Handbook, Hires International Bank

According to a USA Today report, NFL players were issued a 64-page handbook on how to prepare financially for a lockout.

They will need that handbook if progress isn't made at the negotiation table toward a new collective bargaining agreement before Friday at 4 p.m. CST.

One of the big issues concerning negotiations for a new CBA is the players union wanting to look at the NFL's financial books to see why the owners want a $2 billion credit out of the $9 billion of revenue currently in dispute.

According to Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, however, the financial information turned in by the NFL so far is insufficient.

The NFLPA has hired an international investment bank to help them interpret any information they do receive about the NFL's economics.

Cam Newton Shows Improvement at Auburn's Pro Day

Cam Newton was 11-of-21 passing at the NFL Scouting Combine.

By the time he got to his 60th pass at the Pro Day, he had just as many incompletions. And a few of them were drops by the wide receiver; heck, he tossed more than 30 passes before he threw a pass that didn't hit a wideout's hand.

When you look at these numbers, you would assume that Newton has improved since the Combine. And you would be right.

For instance, he sailed passes way above receivers running out routes at the Combine. At the Pro Day, he hit the receivers' hands.

And he threw nice touch passes when wideouts ran the seven route. That is important because, in the NFL, he will need to have some touch on his passes so they don't get intercepted.

He still has a problem with overthrowing receivers on go routes. And, at times, he threw to receivers too late; he threw to wideouts running the comeback route after they made their cut, whereas he is supposed to throw to them while they make their cut.

But the fact that he is improving shows that he can be coached into doing the right things. As I stated in a previous post, that is important when you leave college early.

Auburn's Pro Day: My Assessment on Nick Fairley's Performance

Before the defensive linemen's drills, the big news regarding Nick Fairley, who is the No.2 pick in the NFL Draft on Mel Kiper Jr.'s big board, gained six pounds since the Scouting Combine.

Judging from his performance in the drills, he hasn't lost any quickness in the process.

Auburn Pro Day: Darvin Adams to Catch Passes with Cam Newton Despite Tweaked Hamstring

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Auburn wide receiver Darvin Adams was unable to do most of the drills because he tweaked his hamstring on his first 40-yard dash run.

He ran a 4.56 in spite of stumbling in the end.

Although he couldn't do a second 40-yard dash at today's Pro Day, he will catch passes from Cam Newton.

This could be a chance for Adams to redeem himself and prove some positive things to scouts.

Cam Newton, Nick Fairley to Participate in Auburn's Pro Day

Neither Cam Newton nor Nick Fairley participated in the 40-yard dash, cone drills or jumping drills.

They already proved at the NFL Scouting Combine that they can run and jump. Soon, they will be participating in position-specific drills.

Breaking news: Fairley weighs 297 pounds, six more than he did at the Combine. According to ESPN's Todd McShay, that's good because he'll need to weigh a lot if he'll be a defensive tackle.

Regarding Cam Newton, McShay says he can improve his draft stock by fixing his throwing problems. It'll prove that he is coachable, which is a good quality if you are leaving college early.

It shows that you can mature into a professional quarterback

Jim Tressel Knew About Ohio State Players' Violations, According to Reports

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, according to a recent Yahoo! Sports report, had prior knowledge of five players, including Terrelle Pryor, committing an NCAA violation by selling merchandise.

The report said he knew of the violations before the university did, which could be grounds for discipline.

NFL, NFLPA Labor Latest: Huge Progress Needs to be Made

Among the names present at today's meeting are New York Giants co-owner John Mara, Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the players and owners are still more than $750 million per year apart in the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The NFLPA has asked the NFL to show them their financial statements, but the NFL has refused.

They are also far apart on the following issues: 16 or 18 games in the regular season, rookie wage scale and retirement benefits.

Schefter said more progress will need to be made at this week's meetings in order to get another extension to the CBA deadline. The analogy he used was a comparison to a couple that had been dating for a long time.

At a certain point, Schefter says, the couple will need to either get married or break up.

Plaxico Burress to be Released June 6

According to Schefter, if there's an NFL season in 2011, Burress will likely play for the St. Louis Rams, giving Sam Bradford the big possession the Rams need to get to make a push for the postseason.

Tiki Barber Returning to the NFL

Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber has never won a Super Bowl.

His twin brother, Ronde, won one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Giants won the big game in his first year since retirement.

Now, Tiki will be getting another opportunity. ESPN just reported that he has filled out papers with the NFL to get out of retirement.


NFL, NFLPA Labor Latest: Monday's Meetings Done without Agreement

John Clayton said on ESPN's SportsCenter the NFL and players union are too far apart on core issues, including how to split $9 billion is revenue, to be able to get a new collective bargaining agreement by Friday's deadline.

He said they may need to get another extension on the CBA deadline by week's end.

NFL, NFLPA Labor Latest: Roger Goodell, John Mara Among Others to Meet Tonight

Today, the NFL and NFLPA met for negotiations for the first time since agreeing to extend the collective bargaining agreement deadline to Friday at 4 p.m. CST.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, New York Giants co-owner John Mara, some NFL players and union lawyers will meet with a federal mediator later tonight.

Schefter and Mark Schwarz said the players and owners are still far apart on key issues, including whether to play 16 or 18 regular season games. They also say they are split on revenue by about $5 billion over the course of the new CBA.

So obviously, some work needs to be done by Friday at 4 p.m. CST. With that in mind, I would like to make an announcement to all readers of this blog.

If the CBA expires without a new one or a deadline extension, I will lock out NFL posts from this blog until a new CBA is agreed upon.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to my readers, as this lockout may last through the NFL Draft. But some people have said that the NFL is so popular that it could survive a season-long lockout.

By refusing to write any posts regarding NFL news, hopefully I can prove a point to the league that we can survive without it.

Cam Newton, Nick Fairley to Participate in Auburn's Pro Day Tomorrow

It can be seen live at 12:30 p.m. CST on ESPN3.com. It may also be available on NFL Network, but I don't know for sure.


Chicago Bulls Beat Heat in Miami, Move to No. 2 in Eastern Conference

With an 87-86 win over the Heat, the Bulls move to the second seed in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of Miami and 2.5 games behind the Boston Celtics.

And Chicago has the tiebreaker over the Heat because they handily won the head-to-head matchup 3-0.

Derrick Rose played like the league's MVP, leading the Bulls with 27 points. But it was Luol Deng who scored the winning points for Chicago.

Deng scored 18 points as well, but it was his last three points that counted the most. With the Bulls trailing by two in the final moments, he was sent to the free-throw line.

Deng made the first free throw, but missed the second. He rebounded his miss and was fouled again.

Deng made both of his upcoming free throws. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each missed potential game winners for the Heat, who now have lost four games in a row.


NFL Labor: George Cohen and David Doty Owed Thank-You Notes if New CBA Gets Done

Just two weeks ago, the NFL and NFLPA wouldn't even talk to each other without storming out of the room.

Both sides wanted everything, but only one side could have everything. They knew compromises had to me made, but the NFL and the players union were too stubborn to give up anything.

Enter George Cohen. A federal mediator representing the third-party Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, he got the player and owner representatives to at least remain at the negotiation table until something got done.

And much like a cool teacher and/or professor giving a student a much-needed extension on a due date for a term paper, Cohen got the NFL and NFLPA to agree on an extension of the March 3 collective bargaining agreement expiration to March 11 at 4 p.m. CST.

If a new CBA is in place by that time, Cohen should be given credit for serving as the voice of reason on behalf of NFL fans everywhere.

Playing a supporting role was U.S. District Judge David Doty, who ruled against the NFL trying to stockpile $4 billion in television revenue.

The NFL will deny to the bone that they were stockpiling the money to protect themselves against losses as a result of a potential lockout and that Doty's ruling is relevant to the CBA negotiations. But if Doty ruled in favor of the owners, they would have had some serious leverage at the negotiating table.

And this would have been a differently-written post.

NFL, NFLPA Agree to 7-Day Extension

What did the NFL and players union do with their 24-hour extension?

Agree to extend the collective bargaining agreement another week.

The deadline for a new CBA is now set for Friday at 4 p.m. CST. The NFL and NFLPA will be back at the negotiating table on Monday.

Sacramento Kings Likely to Move to Anaheim

The Los Angeles area may not have an NFL franchise yet, but it may soon obtain a third NBA team.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson met with Kings owners Gavin and Joe Maloof yesterday. Following the meeting, he says it is likely that the team will move to Anaheim.

NFL, NFLPA Labor Update: Owner and Player Representatives in Separate Meetings with Mediator

With the collective bargaining agreement now set to expire at 10:59 p.m. CST today, the NFL and players union are in separate meetings with the Federal Medation and Conciliation Service.

The NFLPA has already agreed to a 7-10 day extension to the CBA expiration. They are now waiting for the NFL's response.

The players union has until 4:30 p.m. CST to file for decertification with the National Labor Relations Board or to have an agreement with the NFL on another extension. If they wait until after the CBA's expiration to decertify, they will have to wait six months to sue the NFL for violations of antitrust laws.

In other words, the pigskin is on the NFL's gridiron.


NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement Receives 24-Hour Extension

The NFL and NFLPA will extend the collective bargaining agreement to March 4 at 10:59 p.m. CST.

NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith said at the podium before leaving the building that he would like to thank all the fans who "dig our game" for their patience and that "we're going to keep working."

So what can the players and owners accomplish in an extra 24 hours of negotiations that they couldn't accomplish over the past few years?

By agreeing to the extension before 4:30 p.m. CST, the players union now has an additional 24 hours to file for decertification. They can still decertify after the CBA expires, but will have to wait six months to sue the NFL for violations of antitrust laws.

NFL Network's Jason La Canfora says he thinks the current extension of the CBA deadline could lead to a longer extension, likely an entire week.

Rich Eisen played the role of Debbie Downer, mentioning the thought that the NFL and NFLPA are just meeting for long amounts of time to say that they tried to avoid the lockout.

NFL Labor Update: Extension Will Be Agreed Upon, According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen

The negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA needed to throw a Hail Mary pass at their own five-yard line to get a new collective bargaining agreement before the current one expires.

Well, the pass fell incomplete. But the defense has been called for pass interference at midfield, and the NFL and NFLPA will get another chance.

The NFL and players union, according to a recent report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, are leaning toward agreeing to extend the deadline for getting a new CBA.

The official word on this has not been issued. But Mortensen's word is as good as any's (at least I hope it is).

NFL Labor Latest: Super Bowl-Winning Quarterbacks Will Serve as Plaintiffs in Potential Antitust Suit

If the NFLPA decides to file for decertification in time to file an antitrust suit against the NFL, it will have some proven winners helping them out.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, according to a recent report on SportsCenter, agreed to testify in court as lead plaintiffs on behalf of the players union.

Jeremy Shockey Announces Free-Agent Destination Via Twitter

Previously, Jeremy Shockey said it would be a dream to play in his hometown of Miami for the Dolphins.

According to his Twitter account, he will be taking his talents away from South Beach. Like James Taylor, he's going to Carolina in his mind.

So if the Panthers take a QB with the No. 1 pick, he'll have a reliable target to throw to.

NFL Labor Update: Extension a Possibility; What President Obama Has to Say

President Barack Obama said the NFL, a $9 billion industry, should be able to work out the labor dispute without his intervention.

"Turns out I got a lot of other stuff to do," Obama said, according to ESPN's SportsCenter.

Well, the NFL and NFLPA are trying. Today's meeting is still going, even though it was originally scheduled to end at noon CST.

According to Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, the NFL is feeling a little more optimistic about being able to extend the deadline to get the new collective bargaining agreement beyond tonight at 10:59 p.m. CST.

The owners made a proposal today that could persuade the players union to extend the deadline. The NFLPA is still waiting for some answers on some core issues before deciding.

Last night, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service's George Cohen discussed the possibility of an extension with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

If no extension is agreed upon and a lockout takes place, the NFLPA will likely choose to decertify. They have until 4 p.m. CST to decide to do so; if they wait until the CBA's expiration, they'll have to wait six months to be able to sue the NFL for violations of antitrust laws.

Minnesota Vikings May Release Tarvaris Jackson

With Brett Favre retiring (well, maybe), the search is on for the next starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.

Before Brad Childress dragged Favre out of retirement, some thought Tarvaris Jackson would be the quarterback of the future for the Vikings. Now, they refuse to even sign him to a free-agent tender.

So, Minnesota and Jackson are expected to part ways. Unless they choose to draft a quarterback or (once a new collective bargaining agreement is in place) they obtain one through trade or free agency, the Vikings appear to be stuck with Joe Webb under center.

Speaking of the Collective Bargaining Agreement...

ESPN's Adam Schefter said on SportsCenter that we shouldn't expect a new CBA to be in place before tonight's 10:59 p.m. CST deadline.

The best case scenario is for the NFL and NFLPA to decide that enough progress has been made in negotiations to allow for an extension to the deadline.

Showing up to mediation on behalf of the players' union is Drew Brees, who is a member of the executive committee. He did lead the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl victory; maybe he can lead the NFL to labor peace.

But like I stated, don't expect a Hail Mary pass to result in a touchdown tonight. The best we can hope for is a defensive penalty to give the offense another chance.

In Other NFL News...

The Green Bay Packers' A.J. Hawk and the Houston Texans' Owen Daniels have been re-signed by their respective teams to new deals.

Green Bay Packers Cut A.J. Hawk, Might Re-Sign Him Soon

The Packers, instead of paying A.J. Hawk $10 million for the 2011 season, decided to release him from his contract.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Green Bay is hoping to work out a deal to re-sign Hawk to a new contract before the current collective bargaining agreement's expiration.

The Packers also cut tight end Donald Lee and safety Derrick Martin.

NFL, NFLPA Labor Latest: Get Set for D-Day

At 8 a.m. CST, the NFL and NFLPA will meet for the final time before the collective bargaining agreement's 10:59 p.m. CST expiration.

Representatives of the 32 NFL ownership groups met in Virginia to discuss options in case a new CBA is not in place. One of the options mentioned, and it is a long shot that it will happen, is extending the deadline.

The owners did not take a vote during the meeting about whether or not to lock out the players if the NFL and NFLPA cannot agree on a new CBA.

So it all comes down to this...

Will the NFLPA decertify and file an antitrust suit? Will the players and owners make enough progress in negotiations to extend the deadline?

Will a new CBA be in place? Or will a lockout cancel the 2011?

Join the Sports Thread tomorrow for another episode of When the Pigskin Turns.


NFL, NFLPA Labor Latest: Union Meets for 4 Hours; Owners Meeting in Virginia

Previously on When the Pigskin Turns:

A federal judge in Minnesota gave the players some leverage by ruling that the NFL cannot set aside $4 billion in revenue for itself.

Right now, representatives of the owners of the 32 NFL teams are meeting in Virginia to discuss options regarding the current collective bargaining agreement, which expires on March 3 at 10:59 CST.

Among the options mentioned is the proposal to extend the deadline for a new CBA if the owners feel enough progress has been made in negotiations. NFL chief negotiator Jeff Pash said that is still an option.

However, in the words of ESPN's Adam Schefter, players and owners are still at their own five-yard line when it comes to the negotiation process after the NFLPA and 10 members of the NFL owners' labor committee met for four hours today. In order for a CBA deadline extension to be reached, they need to get all the way to midfield by March 3.

Tomorrow is the last day that the NFLPA can make the decision to decertify, which may help them avoid a lockout as they can file an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. However, if they decertify, the NFL could file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and lock the players out regardless.

I have to perform a clerical shift tonight, so I will not be posting until at least midnight CST. But if there are any updates after the owners' meeting, I will keep you posted.

NCAA Gives BYU Basketball "Death Penalty" in Wake of Brandon Davies Suspension

Disclaimer: This post is not a real news story. It is a fake news story that is designed for entertainment and satirical purposes only.

NCAA has given the Brigham Young University basketball program a two-year ban from competition.

The ban is punishment for suspending Brandon Davies for the rest of this season for violating the school's honor code.

"It is the policy of the NCAA that a player (or coach) who commits violations cannot be suspended while his team is competing for a national championship," said one member of the NCAA committee who refused to be identified. "Why do you think we chose not to suspend [UConn basketball coach] Jim Calhoun until next season, or allowed [Ohio State quarterback] Terrelle Pryor to play in the Sugar Bowl?"

"The NCAA needs those guys to compete in crucial contests now because it needs the revenue they generate. Let future players and coaches who had nothing to do with these scandals suffer the consequences, like we did with USC and SMU's football programs."

Just like in the "death penalty" handed to the Southern Methodist University football team in the mid-1980s, BYU basketball will not be allowed to compete with other NCAA programs. The ban will take effect in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 season to give Davies time to graduate from BYU.


NFL, NFLPA Latest: Judge Sides with Players in TV Revenue Dispute

In this battle between the NFL's players and owners, a federal judge in Minneapolis gave a big victory to the players.

U.S District Judge David Doty ruled that the NFL violated an agreement with the NFLPA by setting aside a large piece of money in television revenue.

Basically, according to the players union, the owners tried to set aside $4 billion worth of revenue for themselves to make up for lost revenue in the event of a lockout.

There was no immediate decision made by the NFL on whether or not they will appeal the judge's ruling.

Carson Palmer Clearly Wants Out of Cincinnati

"I will never set foot in Paul Brown Stadium again," Carson Palmer said on WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, according to a breaking news report on ESPNEWS.

Well, it has been reported that Palmer no longer wanted to be the Cincinnati Bengals' starting quarterback. And he did sell his Cincinnati-area property.

If it wasn't clear before his appearance on the local TV station that he wanted out, it's clear now.

According to ESPN, Palmer said on WPCO-TV that he will retire if not traded from the Bengals. He'll play, he says, but it will have to be for another team.

Jets Release Key Players, Keep L.T.

The New York Jets will cut Vernon Gholston, Kris Jenkins and Jason Taylor.

But LaDainian Tomlinson will play out the second year of his contract with the Jets.

NFL, NFLPA Resume Talks with One Owner Present

New York Giants co-owner John Mara met with the players' union at today's negotiation meeting.

He is the first owner to participate in the negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement since the NFL and NFLPA agreed to have their meetings mediated by the FMCS.

2011 NFL Draft: Why Patrick Peterson Will (or Should) Be No. 1 Pick

A cornerback selected No. 1 overall in the draft?

Yes, LSU's Patrick Peterson is that good. And he showed us why at the Scouting Combine.

His two 40-yard dashes resulted in unofficial times of 4.32 and 4.37. His broad jump was 10'6" and his vertical leap was 38".

And that's nothing compared to what Peterson accomplished as an LSU Tiger. En route to winning the Thorpe and Bednarik awards, he recorded 135 tackles, 22 pass breakups and seven interceptions.

He also averaged 16.1 yards per return and scored two touchdowns as a punt returner. He scored a touchdown off an interception and a blocked field goal as well.

So he's talented enough to be selected No. 1 overall. But would a team with the first pick (this year, it's the Carolina Panthers) really use it on a cornerback?

Well, as the likes of Darrelle Revis and Deion Sanders proved, a shutdown corner who can hold an opponent's top receiver to minimal numbers can be very valuable to a team's defense.

The new head coach of the Panthers, Ron Rivera, is a defensive-minded guy. He will want to establish his team as one that is strong defensively.

Not only is Peterson a potential shutdown corner, but if his punt-return numbers at LSU are any indication, Carolina's offense would get some badly-needed field position.

So, if there is ever a time when a No. 1 pick can be used on a cornerback, this is it. 

NFL Scouting Combine: Tennessee-Chattanooga's Buster Skrine Flies Through 40 for Scout's Attention

No draft prospect will be boosted to first rounder solely by 40-yard dash speed.

But cornerback Buster Skrine, who made 155 tackles and interceptied five passes for UT-Chattanooga, may have increased his stock with his quick feet.

In his first 40-yard dash, Skrine ran for an unofficial time of 4.29. On his second run, he posted a time of 4.36 despite a stumble in the end.

With this speed alone, Skrine shows that he could potentially be at least a productive nickel back in the NFL.

NFL Scouting Combine: Patrick Peterson Update

Peterson's first 40-yard dash posted an unofficial time of 4.32.

His time on the second one was 4.37.

NFL Scouting Combine: Clemson's Marcus Gilchrist Answers Questions about Ball Skills

According to NFL Network's Mike Mayock, Marcus Gilchrist is the No. 3 safety prospect in this draft class.

But there were some questions about his ball skills. At the Scouting Combine, Gilchrist succeeded in football-catching drills, catching every pass thrown to him.

He also was successful in the 40-yard dash, running unofficial times of 4.49 and 4.46.

Patrick Peterson Update

The former LSU cornerback, whom Brian Billick predicted to be the No. 1 pick in the draft, ran an unofficial time of 4.32 in his first 40-yard dash.

NFL Network: Rich Eisen and Deion Sanders Racist?

I may be taking this way out of proportion, but I think Rich Eisen and Deion Sanders said something racist during the NFL Scouting Combine.

Sanders mentioned that, during a commercial break, he was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Eisen asked, "What do you call a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?"

Sanders responded, "A black man's steak."

I am not a black man, but I'm sure I would prefer a steak over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if I could afford it. Regardless of the color of my skin.

Again, I may be taking this out of context. But it sounds like Eisen and Deion are implying that an African-American cannot afford steak, so they eat PB&J as an alternative.

NFL Scouting Combine: Nebraska's Prince Amukamara Has Measurable Success, But...

Normally, I think anything Deion Sanders says makes everyone who listens to him a few IQ points dumber.

But during the defensive back workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine, he does have some credentials. After all, he will be going into the Hall of Fame as a defensive back.

Before the defensive backs did their backpedaling drills, Primetime showed us a technique that he finds to be important in the drill: the ability to grab some grass. In this drill, you need to be able to bend down and get low because that's what you would be doing in an NFL game.

Of course, this advice didn't help Neon Deion with his tackling skills. But it's important for future defensive backs because running backs will run outside on them and they'll need to know how to play bump-and-run coverage with a receiver.

Unfortunately for Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, who was ranked as the No. 2 cornerback by Mike Mayock, he looked too much like a track star in this drill. As he tries to compete with LSU's Patrick Peterson for a top pick, this may hurt him.

Now, Amukamara did run unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.37 and 4.47. That is important because defensive backs need recovery speed these days.

But he will need to get this drill down before pro day to show that his speed will fundamentally fit in the NFL.

Texas' Curtis Brown Shows Ball Skills

On the other hand, former Longhorn cornerback Curtis Brown may have improved his draft stock with his performance in the ball drills.

Brown backpedaled once toward each hashmark during this drill. Not only did he locate the football, which is what's the most important part of this drill, but he made a fantastic catch on each backpedal.

This shows that he has excellent ball skills. In the NFL, that is an important asset to have.