Wakeup Call: Serena loses to the daughter of an ex-Patriot


Wakeup Call: Serena loses to the daughter of an ex-Patriot

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Wednesday, January 23:

Plans are unveiled to renovate historic Daytona International Speedway. (AP)

None of it, of course, will happen before this year's Daytona 500, which means NASCAR's new Gen-6 race car will debut on the old track. (AP)

The Phillies -- who've obviously never seen him play there -- sign Delmon Young in the hopes that he'll become their starting right fielder. (CSN Philly)

They say most accidents happen in the home, so it makes sense that Francisco Liriano broke his right arm when he fell in his bathroom. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

The money just keeps flowing in L.A.: According to a source, Time Warner has agreed to pay 7 billion in a 20-year deal for the Dodgers' TV rights, starting in 2014. (AP)

Age is just a state of mind, right? Sandy Koufax -- starting a new job at 77 -- apparently thinks so. (AP)

The troubled Elijah Dukes is arrested again. (AP)

Villanova hands No. 5 Louisville its second straight loss, which had the fans storming the court. Really, can somebody pass the word that beating a ranked team in January is hardly call for an over-the-top celebration? (CSN Philly)

An artistic gem it wasn't, but No. 3 Kansas isn't complaining about its 59-55 road win over No. 11 Kansas State. (AP)

Thad Motta's staying put for a while. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

Her name is Diane O'Meara, and her face was used as the face of the fictitious Lennay Kekua in the Manti Te'o hoax, and she's not happy about it. In. The. Least. (AP)

More legal troubles for Jerry Sandusky, Penn State and Sandusky's charity: A young man identified as Victim 6 in the sex scandal files suit against all of them. (AP)

The rejuvenated Mountain West, robust again after prodigal sons Boise State and San Diego State abandoned the Big East and returned, will start playing a championship game next season. (AP)

Phil Mickelson asks for a mulligan on his tax comments. (AP)

After their shutout loss in New Jersey, the Flyers are 0-3 for the first time since 1994-95. (CSN Philly)

But the Blackhawks? They're 3-0 for the first time since 1972-73 after beating the Blues. (CSN Chicago)

When it comes to antipathy towards the referees, the Caps' Mike Ribeiro is in midseason form. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

The Canucks say a potential trade for Roberto Luongo is in place, though they haven't pulled the trigger. (AP)

Best of the West? The Thunder stakes its claim with a 109-97 win over the Clippers in L.A. (AP)

And it was, as expected, Kevin Durant who led the way. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Apparently, some people in Sacramento -- "mega whales" by name -- aren't giving up the Kings without a fight. (Pro Basketball Talk)

Which led Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to warn the good folks in Seattle: "Don't celebrate too early." (AP)

Even though no one in a position of power is saying anything, it appears that assistants Dan Majerle and Elston Turner lost their jobs, too, when the Suns and head coach Alvin Gentry agreed to a divorce last Friday. (AP)

The Grizzlies clear some cap space in a multiplayer trade with the Cavs. (AP)

The Lakers' top backup big man, Jordan Hill, is undergoing hip surgery. (AP)

Looks like the fate of the Pro Bowl hinges on how much effort the players put into Sunday's game. (AP)

The concussion crisis may be headed to another level, as researchers for the first time have detected changes in the brains of retired players who are still alive. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

The Har-Bowl angle's just not that interesting . . . and that's straight from one of the horses' mouths. (CSN Baltimore)

Even though he appreciates what Colin Kaepernick has done, Kurt Warner believes the 49ers could have gotten to the Super Bowl if Alex Smith were still the quarterback. (CSN Bay Area)

Bill Callahan "sabotoging" the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII? Impossible, says ex-Oakland fullback Zack Crockett. (CSN Bay Area)

As for Callahan, he's "shocked, saddened and outraged" by the charges -- originally made by Tim Brown and later supported by Jerry Rice -- and he "categorically and unequivocally denies the sum and substance of their allegations." (AP)

And speaking of Callahan, he may have some new job responsibilities next year in Dallas. (AP)

Eight new coaches and seven new general managers were hired since the end of the season, and not one of them was a minority. So the Fritz Pollard Alliance wants to expand the Rooney Rule. (AP)

Jamarcus Russell wants back in. (Pro Football Talk)

Sean Payton's already back in. (AP)

Rex Ryan was in a car accident last week, but he was unhurt and -- even though he apparently caused it -- received a warning and no citation. (AP)

More DUI troubles for the Cowboys, as nose tackle Jay Ratliff is arrested. (AP)

Serena Williams hurt her back and was upset by teenager Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open . . . which led Stephens to tell interviewers that a) she had gotten psyched for the match by telling herself, "Look, dude, like, you can do this", b) that she would now replace a poster of Williams hanging in her bedroom with a poster of herself, and c) she was "sure my grandparents are like freaking out". Ah, to think how much more boring it would have been if Serena hadn't hurt her back . . . (AP)

Stephens' father, incidentally, was the late John Stephens, a former running back for the Patriots. (wikipedia.org)

Much less entertainment on the men's side, as Andy Murray's back in the semis. (AP)

Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'


Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower is coming off of one of the best games of his career, and he did it while running the Patriots defensive huddle without the help of his on-the-field partner at the linebacker level.

"It’s a lot more fluent having Jamie [Collins] out there," Hightower said on Wednesday. "A lot of the times we coordinate things a lot together. I usually take care of the front, he takes care of the secondary. We have our own way of doing things. Sometimes Jamie is just like, ‘No, you go ahead and you just make the calls and I’ll play off of you.’

"It helps having him out there. I mean, he does everything so he makes it a lot easier for me. Anytime I can have him out there with me, I’m 100 percent having him out there."

Hightower has plenty of experience playing without Collins, however, and Collins is accustomed to having to go without Hightower. Both had issues staying on the field in 2015, and although it's early, that trend has continued this season.

Hightower missed Weeks 2 and 3 due to a knee injury, and Collins missed Week 6 with a hip issue, meaning the duo has been available to coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia only three times this year. 

Last season the pair was active for 10 of 18 games, including both playoff games, and during a Week 5 win over the Cowboys, Hightower played just nine snaps. Collins dealt with an illness that kept him out for four games last season, and Hightower, as has been the case for much of his career, was limited by (and often played through) myriad ailments.

Both are vital to the long-term success of the Patriots defense in 2016, but it's been hit-or-miss as to when they'll be out there to play off of one another as Hightower described.

"Our linebackers, Jamie, Dont'a, they're two of the best in the league," said safety Duron Harmon following Hightower's dominating performance against the Bengals in Week 6. "Any time we can have those guys out there, they just continue to create havoc.

"They make plays, they make it easier for us, especially me. The quarterback can't look off as long when Dont'a's all in his face -- him and Jamie. Having him on the field is a plus. And when you get both of them on the field it's a double-plus."

And therein lies the issue: Having both Hightower and Collins out there together has felt like a luxury rather than the norm. 

At some point, the Patriots will have to make decisions as to what they'll do at the linebacker level for the foreseeable future. Both Hightower and Collins are slated to hit free-agency, and their durability will certainly factor into the equation when the Patriots make them offers to stick in New England.

Until then, though, both will work to be available as often as possible -- both for their team's sake and their own as they eye new deals -- where they can stress opposing offenses at a degree to which most linebacker combinations around the league can only aspire. 

"With us out there we’re able to do a lot of different things, [we have] a lot of versatility," Hightower said. "So hopefully we can both stay out there."

Hightower was removed from the Patriots injury report last week, meaning he's able to take on a full workload in practice. Collins, meanwhile, continues to be limited in practice, and his availability for Sunday's game with the Steelers is not yet known. In place of Collins, sixth-round rookie Elandon Roberts earned the bulk of the playing time against the Bengals last week. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo saw a season-high eight defensive snaps in the win.