Monthly Archives: August 2016

former gators teammates rooting for tim tebow

They watched and rooted him on as he made history on the college gridiron. They watched and rooted him on as he made his mark in the NFL. They watch and root him on as he works in the community to better the lives of those around him.

And now they get to see what happens as he tries to make it in their sport, baseball.
On Tuesday in Los Angeles, former Heisman Trophy winner, two-time national-champion Florida Gators and former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will hold a showcase for Major League teams as he attempts to land a contract to begin a new career in professional baseball.

As usual with Tebow, who has been working as a broadcaster on ESPN, there are many supporters and probably just as many doubters. Ever since his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports, announced Tebow’s intent to try to play pro baseball, the social media universe and skeptics have swarmed on this story. Many called it a publicity stunt.

But a handful of current and former Major Leaguers who have observed Tebow closely and from afar over the years seem to agree on three main points: that Tebow’s sincerity shouldn’t be questioned, that he faces a long, tough road to the Major Leagues, and that even despite the odds, an athlete of his caliber with a work ethic as solid as his deserves to at least be taken seriously.

“He works his tail off, and you know the intangibles are there,” Aardsma said. “For me, it’s about baseball IQ. Where does he stand with the baseball part of it? The athleticism, the work ethic, the clubhouse demeanor, that all plays. And you see the passion. Honestly, he’s losing money by doing this, so you know it’s not a publicity stunt. If he wanted that, I mean, he’s already on TV. What more do you need?”

Aardsma added that Tebow is in incredible shape and that his power is “no joke” and neither is this latest pursuit.

“I don’t think it’s a crazy notion, because I know the athleticism that it takes to play baseball and I know he’s got that athleticism,” Aardsma said. “Plus I love the idea that somebody’s still passionate about this game, no matter who you are. We need to be passionate about this game.”

Former Florida Gators and current Cubs catcher David Ross has seen a lot in his 14 years in the Majors. He also admires Tebow’s passion and said he would never criticize someone for giving a heartfelt effort.

Last season, Cole went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA in 208 innings over 32 starts, finishing fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting. He avoided the disabled list entirely and credited his routine for his consistent success on the mound.

Derrick Rose: No. 25 jersey signifies ‘a new step in the right direction’

Derrick Rose wore jersey No. 1 with the Chicago Bulls. This season, his first with the New York Knicks, Rose will wear No. 25, a number he says signifies a “new step” in his career.

The Knicks have only won a total of 49 games over the last two seasons, so many may disagree with Rose’s assessment of the club.

But Rose believes — and the Knicks hope — that he can duplicate his performance over the last two months of the 2015-16 season, when he averaged 16.4 points and 4.6 assists while shooting 45 percent from the floor (37.5 percent from beyond the arc).

“I just love the group,” Rose said of the Knicks’ roster. “I think everybody is on the same page. I love the culture that Phil [Jackson] is creating. Just the organization and franchise, I love everybody that’s working on it, and they seem like they’re very excited for everything. That just rubs off on people.”

Ricky Rubio heard his name floated in the constant trade rumor mill, never more than after the Wolves selected Providence’s Kris Dunn, another point guard, with the fifth overall pick in the June draft.

Rubio remained quiet throughout the summer, putting all of his focus into grieving the loss of his mother and then joining his national team to prepare for the Olympics. Now that the Rio Games have concluded and Rubio has earned a bronze medal with Spain, he said he is looking forward to returning to Minnesota to work with Dunn and reiterated his desire to remain with the Timberwolves and help turn them into a winner.

“Really it’s a challenge. When a young guy like him who has a lot of potential comes, I think we can really play together,” Rubio told The Associated Press. “But if we don’t [share the floor often], I can really help him [Dunn].”

Rubio said he was pleased by Thibodeau’s hiring and believes the new coaching staff will make a big difference on a young, impressionable roster.

“I think we’ve got all the pieces together to make something happen,” he said. “I’m really excited about the new coach and the new staff. They have a lot of years in their backpack and really can teach us how to reach the next level. I think we have the tools. We just have to put all them together.”

Thibodeau has said he can see Dunn and Rubio playing together in certain lineups, and indications within the organization are that there are no current efforts to trade the veteran starter. One of the team’s biggest weaknesses last season was the lack of a solid backup to Rubio at point guard, a setup that caused the Wolves to try to move Zach LaVine from his more natural shooting guard spot.

With Dunn in the mix, the Wolves have more depth now. And Rubio’s presence assures the team doesn’t have to force a rookie into a starting spot at one of the game’s most important positions.

The 25-year-old Rubio is entering his sixth season and has yet to see the playoffs. He said that concerns him far more than his team investing a high lottery pick on a player at his position. Rubio believes he can serve as a mentor to Dunn and hopes the two can push each other to new heights.

“It’s something that I’ve said since day one.” said Rubio, who averaged 10.1 points and 8.7 assists per game last season. “I don’t want to be in the newspaper. I just want to win. That’s my goal. If I have to sacrifice something — I will to make this team a winning team.”

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott likely to play preseason game vs. Seattle

FRISCO, Texas — Running back Ezekiel Elliott has participated in three full practices the last three days and coach Jason Garrett said he anticipates the Dallas Cowboys’ first-round pick will play Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks.

“Typically with running backs, you want to make sure they get a couple of touches, throw them a couple passes, let them do different things, the things they’re going to do in games. We’ll have those specific discussions in the next couple of days and we’ll come up with a good plan for him.”

Despite missing the practice time and two preseason games, Elliott does not feel behind. “I think I’ve done a good job getting my mental reps when I was out and I’m finally getting back into the groove,” he said. “I think I’m ready.”

More than 20 MLB teams are confirmed to attend the workout, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

For almost the past year, Tebow has been training in Arizona and Los Angeles to hone his hitting and fielding skills in a sport he has not played on a full-time basis since 2005.

Tebow was an all-state baseball player in Florida that year and hit .494 as a junior, helping Nease High School reach the final four of the Florida state playoffs.

Tebow had a tryout with the Los Angeles Dodgers before this season, sources have told ESPN’s Darren Rovell. A scout was present for the workout, and the team showed interest in Tebow afterward, the sources said.

Tebow, 29, won the Heisman Trophy and two national championships with the University of Florida and was drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos in 2010. He has not played in the NFL since 2012 with the New York Jets. He went to training camp with the New England Patriots in 2013 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 but was cut before the season each time.

Tebow’s desire to play professional baseball has been met with mixed reaction. After the news of his intentions was announced, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones poked fun at him on Twitter. Former Broncos teammate and current Jets receiver Eric Decker, meanwhile, said he was confident that Tebow would at least land a minor league contract.

wide receiver Julio Jones, defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux

Ryan continues to emphasize how much more comfortable he feels in Year 2 of Shanahan’s scheme. The Falcons aided his cause by adding a three-time Pro Bowl center in Alex Mack, complementary receivers to Jones in Mohamed Sanu and rookie tight end Austin Hooper, and a new voice to bounce ideas off of in veteran quarterback Matt Schaub. None of those enhancements will matter if Ryan and Shanahan don’t remain on the same page.

Much has been made about the rollouts and bootlegs expected of Ryan in Shanahan’s offense. The general consensus is such plays neglect Ryan’s primary strength as an accurate pocket passer.

“When you look at our outside-the-pocket stuff last year, we were really, really efficient,” Ryan said. “I know that was a question I had to answer a lot about, ‘Do you like this? Do you not like this?’ It helped us. And at the end of the day, if it helps us, I love it. And it’s actually something I do pretty well. I throw it really well on the run.

“I’ve also learned a lot about myself too, as I’ve gotten older in my career, morphing some of the things that I like into his scheme. I thought Kyle did a great job of adjusting to that and taking some of what I did, taking some of what he did, and making it ‘our’ offense moving forward.”

Ryan took it upon himself this offseason to fine-tune aspects totally under his control, such as footwork and improving deep-ball accuracy. Both have been noticeable throughout training camp.

“Just the way he’s improved, his arm has gotten a lot stronger,” Jones said of Ryan. “He’s more aggressive now. Last year, I think he wasn’t as aggressive. But this year, he’s just so much more aggressive. Sometimes you’ve got to do that while making sure everybody’s on the same page with the communication.”

Now, Ryan has to elevate his play once the action goes live. The coaches want him to show the same composure through four quarters that he’s displayed in 27 career game-winning drives.

Reflecting on last season takes Ryan back to his 21 total turnovers, including four red-zone interceptions. He strongly denied suffering any type of injury that affected his accuracy. He freely admitted he simply made some poor decisions, ones he vows to correct. And he refused to call out his receivers although they contributed to the downfall by combining for 30 drops, second-most in the league.

“I think quarterback play comes down to third-down conversions and you’ve got to score points,” Ryan said. “You don’t want to turn the football over, but you have to play aggressive. … I think where we need to improve the most is the red zone. We have to be more efficient in the red zone. We have to score more touchdowns.”

Obviously Ryan’s ultimate goal is the Super Bowl. He’s talked to a number of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks about their process in winning a title, although Ryan wouldn’t reveal which ones he spoke to or the specifics of those conversations.

Winning a Super Bowl might not happen immediately, with the roster still going through a transformation, the defense still trying to find its footing, and Carolina still the team to catch in the NFC South. But those factors won’t deter Ryan’s aspirations.

He wants someday to reflect on highlights from a Super Bowl victory, not a near miss.

“I think [the Super Bowl] is the reason that you prepare and do all the things that you need to do in order to get ready to play,” Ryan said. “You want to pull your weight within the team, and you want to give your team an opportunity to win one. I think that’s everybody’s motivation.

“We’re not going after one team. We’re not trying to be [Carolina] or be better than them or any of that. We’ve been in that position, too, where we’ve won the division. It’s not about that. It’s being the best we can be. It’s controlling how hard we compete at this time of the year and making sure that, ‘Who cares about everybody else? Let’s make sure that we’re the best team we can be at the end of this training camp so we’re ready to compete for 16 weeks.'”

RIO DE JANEIRO — Everyone in American basketball circles understands that there will never, ever be another Dream Team.

That’s easy to accept.

Far less pleasant for the latest assemblage of Team USA hoopsters to stomach is the growing realization that even their dream scenario here at the Summer Olympics, which was presumed to be pretty attainable, continues to dribble out of reach.

Winning in style is no longer the target.

Winning, period, is the sole aim now.

USA Basketball’s Rio roster is unquestionably stronger than the one stocked with fill-ins that dominated the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, but opposition continuity is proving to be a stubborn and dangerous equalizer a mere two years later down here in South America. Although a clutch of perennial powers have all creakily descended from their respective peaks — namely Spain, Argentina and the hosts Brazil — no longer is Team USA expected to roll like so many know-it-alls worldwide presumed when we got here.

Not after three successive struggles for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad.

Not after three very jittery fourth quarters in a row against teams from Australia, Serbia and France that really look like t-e-a-m-s.

John Elway still seems a bit miffed at Brock Osweiler

Osweiler owed the Broncos absolutely nothing. When called upon last season, he did his job. The Broncos would not have won Super Bowl 50 without his contribution over the seven starts he made for Manning. His contract was up and was allowed to explore his options. There’s not much more to it.

The Osweiler situation led to a quarterback scramble for the Broncos, and they finally landed Mark Sanchez (who hasn’t yet been able to beat out 2015 seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian in camp) and drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round. The Broncos had a significant talent drain this offseason, like many Super Bowl champs — talented players like Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan and Evan Mathis will play elsewhere this season — but Elway believes that the team got better.

Yes, better.

“That’s how I look at our team this offseason: Did we get better as a football team? I believe we did,” Elway told the Denver Post. “And the other thing is, when people are doubting you, it adds that incentive. We’re kind of in that situation right now. Hopefully we can continue to use that chip and keep ourselves mentally on the right track.”

I understand, Elway has to say that. I like Elway, I think Elway has done a fantastic job as a GM, but that statement is a little crazy. You can’t look at the talent that left, the talent that came in and come to the conclusion that the roster is better. The Broncos still might win another Super Bowl, because a lot of the great core players who helped them win Super Bowl 50 are still around. The defense should be the best in the NFL again. But the roster isn’t better, on the whole.

The Broncos are one of the most fascinating teams in the NFL this season. A lot went right last season, the roster took some hits in the offseason (sorry, John) but the team still has a lot of top-level talent. Elway could still get the last laugh in all this.

Brett Favre and Tony Dungy were the clear headliners for the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, each charming the crowd in far different ways, but there were other great highlights throughout Saturday night’s induction ceremony.

Two of the funnier other speeches came from pass rushing great Kevin Greene, who played for four teams, and former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

Greene traced his career from Auburn to the NFL and dropped several hilarious lines — including a great one on Bo Jackson — and also spoke from the heart.

DeBartolo, who said he “might be the only inductee in this Hall that didn’t make his high school football team,” is a great storyteller, and he managed to zing one of his former players, Jerry Rice, with an unflattering nickname from the old days. It was enough to make Rice get out of his seat (twice) in an exchange that make the crowd roar.

Dungy was the penultimate speaker of the night. He spoke about the importance of his faith and the significance of being the first African-American to win a Super Bowl as head coach with the Indianapolis Colts and the second in the Hall of Fame after Fritz Pollard. He closed his speech by mentioning the 10 African-American coaches who where in the NFL when he started his coaching career, saying that “those men were like my dad.”

But the night belonged to Favre.

Browns OC Pep Hamilton: ‘Positive things’ happening with Robert Griffin III

“He has more of a command of our offense,” Hamilton said. “He’s able to manage all the checks and all the things that we ask him to do at the line of scrimmage. There’s been just continued work on developing continuity with the receivers and tight ends and all the new guys that he is working with for the first time.

“He has been working a lot and there has been a lot positive things that are happening for us in practice.”

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Brandon Marshall took a swing at teammate Darrelle Revis during a chippy practice Friday in which the two New York Jets stars jawed at each other throughout an intense, head-to-head battle on the field.

It culminated in a confrontation between plays. An incensed Marshall left the offensive sideline and walked about 20 yards to confront Revis, who was stationed at his cornerback position. They exchanged words, and Marshall unleashed an open-handed slap at Revis, which didn’t land.

The skirmish ended quickly. Team staffer Dave Szott, a former NFL offensive lineman, separated the two players. Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa bear-hugged Marshall from behind and literally carried him away from the scene. There was no brawl, and practice proceeded.

The trash-talking got personal. At one point, Marshall yelled Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ name to Revis, perhaps bringing up the worst game of Revis’ career. Revis was burned badly by Hopkins in a game last season.

Afterward, Marshall told reporters that he swung at Revis because he was provoked. He said Revis took umbrage when he caught a pass on him in a one-on-one drill and taunted him with a first-down signal.

“He took that personal,” Marshall said. “He said, ‘You won’t disrespect me again.'”

A short time later, Revis struck him in the face, according to Marshall.

“I beat him twice times in a row, and on the third, he swung and hit me in the face,” Marshall said. “Ever since then, it got really competitive. That came back up in that moment. I told him, ‘Don’t ever put your hands in my face again like that.’ He kind of baited me to do it, and I did it. It kind of went too far, but there’s a thin line between football and being a man.”

Marshall admitted they “crossed that football line, but I can’t let nobody slap me in the face.” He also accused Revis of making personal comments that “went off the field.”

Michael Bennett booted from Seahawks practice by Pete Carroll

The Seahawks would have to get something notable back in a trade to consider it, so it’s not something that appears likely. He’s a unique defender who can play almost any technique inside and out and remains a productive cog on a defense that could get close to 2013 levels again. This is also a Super Bowl contender, so trading talented players isn’t likely high on GM John Schneider’s list.

History suggests inaction is the most likely course. Marshawn Lynch pushed the Seahawks’ buttons for years, and they mostly bit their tongues or even tried to lure him back with more money. Kam Chancellor held out to start last season and won that battle with management. A lot of players have gotten their way financially in recent years with lucrative extensions, with Bennett a clear exception.

But team chemistry also is important, and Carroll knows that. Bennett and Russell Wilson are not the best of friends, and the team has gone all in with Wilson as their beacon. Perhaps that plus Bennett’s contract demands might be impetus enough to at least pursue a trade and see what the market might be. Still, the team is a bit shallow up front, especially with Frank Clark a bit nicked up in early training camp practices.

Something to keep an eye on though. Bennett might be a fan and media favorite with his unfiltered view on the world, but that doesn’t always go over as well inside NFL circles.

Michael Bennett has had no problem speaking his mind as of late.

On Saturday, the brash Seahawks defensive tackle called upon his fellow football stars to be more involved with social issues, namedropping a few MVPs in the process. Then, Bennett was quoted alongside his brother, Martellus, in an ESPN feature, making fun of the league’s most divisive quarterbacks and calling Jay Cutler “the worst quarterback in the NFL.” All this while Bennett is unabashedly pursuing a contract negotiation from Seattle, confirming that the defensive end is transforming the 2016 preseason into the Michael Bennett Magical Attention Tour.

Apparently, Pete Carroll is having none of it, and the Seahawks coach showed Bennett who was boss on Thursday.

Carroll threw his star defensive end out of a practice session after Bennett and Cliff Avril got into it with left guard Mark Glowinski during a heated team drill. Bennett reportedly had to be restrained by fellow tackle Jordan Hill before being booted by Carroll, who thought Bennett’s aggression went over the line.