Wakeup Call: The Philadelphia Story ends for Andy Reid

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Wakeup Call: The Philadelphia Story ends for Andy Reid

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Monday, December 31.

BASEBALL
Odds are that Torii Hunter has had a gay teammate or two over his 16-year career. But he'd like them to stay in the closet, if you don't mind. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
It sure didn't take Kevin Ollie long to impress the powers-that-be at UConn. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
The game is still a week away, but Notre Dame is all business as it prepares for its BCS Championship showdown with Alabama. (AP)

After playing Oklahoma Friday in the Cotton Bowl, Texas A&M's Damontre Moore is headed to the NFL. (AP)

Back in August, no one thought USC's season would be ending with a New Year's Eve appearance in the Sun Bowl. But -- to quote a great coach -- it is what it is, and the Trojans will try to make the best of it today. (AP)

GOLF
A skiing accident will sideline Miguel Angel Jiminez for five months. (AP)

Was that a ring on Caroline Wozniacki's finger? Sorry, she and Rory McIlroy aren't saying. (AP)

HOCKEY
The league is offering 100 million reasons for the NHLPA to agree to a new CBA by Thursday. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

So are they close to a deal? Bill Daly says we'll find out today. (Pro Hockey Talk)

Looking for a team that might have the edge in a shortened season? How about the Oilers? (Pro Hockey Talk)

PRO BASKETBALL
December was a perfect month for the Clippers. (AP)

Phil Jackson? Stan Van Gundy? Jerry Sloan? Fuhgeddabout it. The Nets say P.J. Carlesimo's their guy. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Derrick Rose is getting closer to a return. (Pro Basketball Talk)

The troubled saga of Royce White and the Rockets continues, as he refuses an assignment to the D-League. (AP)

PRO FOOTBALL
For whatever reason, the Eagles won't say they're firing Andy Reid. But they are. (CSN Philly)

As coach, anyway. However, he might not be going anywhere. (CSN Philly)

There's no lack of potential replacements, that's for sure. (CSN Philly)

It's not drawing nearly the same amount of attention, but it looks like Pat Shurmur -- and GM Tom Heckert -- are out in Cleveland, too. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

And so's Tony Sparano in New York. (Pro Football Talk)

What a run for the Redskins: Seven straight wins, a victory over Dallas in a winner-take-all matchup for the NFC East title. And when it was over, RGIII was "at a loss for words" to explain how he felt. (CSN Washington)

The Tony Romo Experience reaches new heights. (CSN Washington)

Adrian Peterson finishes nine yards shy of Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, but his 199 yards were enough to help the Vikings beat the Packers and get into the playoffs. (AP)

The 49ers were happy -- delirious, actually -- because Minnesota's win helped them secure a first-round bye. (AP)

Playoffs, schmayoffs. No matter what time of year it is, the 'Niners sound like they're about to change kickers. (CSN Bay Area)

Now they cheer him. (CSN Bay Area)

Not exactly the way you want to be playing heading into the postseason, is it, Texans? (CSN Houston)

Many teams try to motivate themselves with an "everybody's-against-us" mindset. But when the Ravens play Chuck Armstrong's Colts next Sunday, they might be right. (CSN Baltimore)

Not this time, Giants. (AP)

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Branch's agent later confirmed the news on Twitter.

Word of Branch's punishment, which stemmed from what was reported as a positive marijuana test, became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, though. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. He also stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can now focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.