Wakeup Call: Is there a bearded closer in the Red Sox' future?

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Wakeup Call: Is there a bearded closer in the Red Sox' future?

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Tuesday, December 4.

BASEBALL
Is there a bearded closer in our future? CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly says newly minted free agent Brian Wilson, a New Hampshire native, "would love to join his boyhood-favorite Boston Red Sox."

Many in Red Sox Nation -- still spooked by the name -- will be relieved to know the A's are going hard after Stephen Drew. (CSN Bay Area)

From the How Are Our Old Friends Doing? department: The Giants are trying to retain Marco Scutaro. (CSN Bay Area)

Ditto the White Sox with Kevin Youkilis, though Youk's agent has them -- and all his other suitors -- cooling their heels. (CSN Chicago)

Ruben Amaro Jr. is wondering where all the outfielders have gone. (CSN Philly)

Well, this one -- Angel Pagan -- is heading back to San Francisco. (AP)

Hey, Ruben: Your old pal Shane Victorino is still out there. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

As someone -- Gordon Edes, perhaps? -- pointed out on Twitter yesterday, the string of formerfuture Red Sox managers in the ESPN Sunday Night booth comes to an end as John Kruk takes the chair last held by Bobby Valentine and Terry Francona. (AP)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Jim Calhoun reveals for the first time that he had surgery in May to remove a cancerous growth from his lungs, but says he's fine now. (AP)

On their other side of campus, the UConn women continue to roll. (AP)

For the first time in 61 polls, Kentucky is unranked in the AP Top 25. (AP)

The University of Utah will honor the late Rick Majerus by hanging a replica of one of his sweaters from the rafters. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Ladies and gentlemen, your Heisman finalists: Johnny Manziel, Manti Te'o and Colin Klein. (AP)

I bet the Orange Bowl folks are just thrilled that Northern Illinois is giving free tickets to all its students in the hopes of luring them to Miami for the Jan. 1 matchup against Florida State. (AP)

Whatever you do, don't ask ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit about that . . . although he's actually more irritated that the Northern Illinoises of the world are in the BCS. (CSN Chicago)

The Old Ball Coach will be at South Carolina through 2017. (AP)

GOLF
It's the last time players can earn Tour cards at Q-school, and nostalgia is reigning. (AP)

Count Tom Watson among those who think golf isn't an Olympic sport. (AP)

HOCKEY
All Steve Burton-sparked optimism to the contrary, the fate of the NHL season may hinge on the proposal the players are expected to hand to the owners on Wednesday. (CSN Washington)

Alex Ovechkin -- the latest to learn the age-old "grass is always greener" lesson -- now says he doesn't want to stay in Moscow after all, and that his "soul" is with the Capitals. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

PRO BASKETBALL
And here LeBron James thought taking his talents to South Beach would preclude him from ever winning something like the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award. (AP)

Nuggets coach George Karl says he's been hit hard by the death of his friend, Rick Majerus. (AP)

PRO FOOTBALL
RGIII and the Redskins show the Giants there's going to be a race in the NFC East, after all. (CSN Washington)

And that certainly has London Fletcher excited. (CSN Washington)

Dan Snyder speaks for many. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

The Texans will enter the big time when they hit Foxboro Monday night, but they might be a little short-handed when they get here. (CSN Houston)

Act in haste, repent in leisure: Andy Reid now thinks he fired the wrong guy. (CSN Philly)

Let's hope he -- or his 2013 successor -- doesn't have the same feeling about his quarterback decision. (CSN Philly)

Speaking of quarterback decisions, Tim Tebow -- whose broken ribs caused him to miss his shot to get on the field Sunday when the Jets mercifully pulled the plug, at least for a day, on the Mark Sanchez fiasco -- says he's feeling better. Hint hint, Rex: He'd like to play this week in his hometown of Jacksonville. (Pro Football Talk)

And continuing to speak of quarterback decisions, Colin Kaepernick is still the starter in San Francisco. (AP)

Apparently, Terrell Suggs doesn't intend to let a little thing like a torn triceps muscle keep him off the field. (CSN Baltimore)

Lose one game to Charlie Batch and the sky falls. (CSN Baltimore)

Right, Ed Reed? (CSN Baltimore)

Things are pretty bad in Arizona, where Darnell Dockett took the role of Roberto Alomar Jr. to Kerry Rhodes' John Hirschbeck during the free-falling Cardinals' eighth straight loss. (Pro Football Talk)

Jake Long may have played his final game for the Dolphins. (AP)

The family of Kasandra Perkins, the woman murdered by Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher before he killed himself, is asking for prayers for the Belcher family as well as their own. (Pro Football Talk)

49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

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49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

Colin Kaepernick was already a noteable NFL player as the one-time, and now apparently former, face of the San Francisco 49ers.

The quarterback likely will gain even more notoriety for his stance on refusing to stand for the national anthem at a preseason game on Friday:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

More here from Mike Florio of NBCSports.com's Pro Football Talk,

 

Curran: Impact of Brady's suspension already being felt on field

Curran: Impact of Brady's suspension already being felt on field

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It’s an inconvenient and uncomfortable truth that can’t just be blissfully ignored.

The pound of flesh Roger Goodell extracted from the Patriots in the form of Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension is starting to hurt.

Friday night, we watched the less-than-ideal quarterback rotation between Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo unfold. 

Garoppolo completed a 17-yard dart to Aaron Dobson on his first throw of the night. He completed eight of his next 14 for 40 yards – an ugly yards per attempt average of 3 – took a sack, threw a would-be pick and had a fumble. He looked skittish, indecisive and a thousand miles away from being in total command.

The Brady suspension was designed to punish the Patriots and it is.

Garoppolo played three ineffective series at the start of the game. He got the hook after that and the predictable power surge that came when Brady was on the field instead of the guy who – on this night – couldn’t get anything done was almost tangible.

Garoppolo’s first pass went to Dobson went for 17? Brady dialed up the same player and the play went for 37. Three of Brady’s six incompletions were drops (one was a near pick) and his 33-yard touchdown throw would have given every quarterback in the league except maybe Aaron Rodgers inadequacy issues.

I asked Garoppolo earlier in the week about trying to take command of the team while still remaining deferential to Brady’s status as TFB, future Hall of Famer. Garoppolo admitted it was tough.

How can it not be when the reminders are everywhere, including the pregame exit from the locker room and the trot onto the field. 

Brady is the leader. Jimmy is the long-term substitute. Substitutes don’t have it easy.

There is no solution for what’s going on. It is the ultimate, “Is what it is…” scenario. Can’t do anything about it, so everyone’s got to deal with it.

For Brady on Friday night, that meant staying apart from pretty much everyone for most of the first quarter.

When the Patriots offense was on the bench, he stood with arms folded and jaw set staring onto the field with the occasional glance up at the replay board or over at the area where Garoppolo, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and rookie Jacoby Brissett were going over plans.

When the Patriots offense took the field, Brady retreated to the bench and sat alone. There were two interactions during the first three series came when strength coach Moses Cabrera went to Brady and clapped him on the shoulder pads then rubbed his head as Brady sat on the bench. The other came when Brady sidled up to Brissett and asked him to play catch.

This is not open hostility. This is not Brady trying to undermine Garoppolo. But anyone expecting to see Brady putting an arm around Garoppolo every time he came off the field and publicly lend an ear to Jimmy isn’t getting that. Who knows, maybe Garoppolo doesn’t want that, maybe Brady thinks it’d be counter-productive, maybe McDaniels wants there to be one voice in Garoppolo’s ear during games. The fact is, it’s not cozy.

And you shouldn’t expect it to be. Brady is a quarterback who – while still at the height of his powers – is being forever reminded that the party for him is almost over.

Belichick himself did it the day he drafted Garoppolo. Consider again what was said: 

“The situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future, so we’ll see how all that works out,” Belichick said during the 2014 draft when Garoppolo was taken in the second round. “I think we’re better off being early than being late at that position. We know what Ryan [Mallett’s] contract situation is. We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is. I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization."

Age? Contract? Rather be early at that position than late?

Brady’s best method for combating speculation about when he’d be put out to pasture has been to own his position with peerless play and turn in – in my opinion – the best Super Bowl performance a quarterback’s ever had.

Not only is Brady miles away from being ripe for the picking, the only reason Garoppolo’s playing at all is because of a BS investigation and punishment that turned Brady’s life upside down and besmirched his name.

Garoppolo taking Brady’s reps, taking Brady’s team for a month is the punishment for Deflategate. Watching Jimmy G. play is the punishment Brady was handed. No wonder he’s standing with arms folded and jaw set.

If you simply look at the dynamics between players of Brady’s ilk and their would-be successors you realize that expecting Brady to go merrily along and show no signs of agitation is absurd. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, Joe Montana and Steve Young, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. In each, the incumbent wasn’t real keen on wet-nursing the new guy.

Garoppolo’s case is a little different, though. He has no illusions about being better than Brady (that little 25-for-25 day from Brady in the intrasquad scrimmage earlier this month probably helped put that to bed). 

Garoppolo just wants to come in, play well, do his job and not step on any toes. He’s not looking to create a quarterback controversy. But he can’t afford to be deferential anymore or concerned about how the legend in his shadow feels or how he feels about the legend in his shadow.

He just has to go play. Something that Brady – very soon – won’t be able to do.
 

Rookie Cyrus Jones sets up Patriots well with 60-yard punt return

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Rookie Cyrus Jones sets up Patriots well with 60-yard punt return

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – We can say “it’s only preseason” as much as we want, but the truth is that – at least for the Patriots – the preference is to win these games.

That was made clear by Bill Belichick when talking about rookie Cyrus Jones’ 60-yard punt return late in the third quarter.

“In the end, that was probably one of the key plays in the game,” said Belichick. “The field position gave us a chance to tack on that extra touchdown which, as it turned out, we needed.”

Jones first credited his teammates for getting him room to operate. “It was definitely great blocking and a deep punt so they were pretty separated and not really in cohesion with their coverage,” he explauned. I was able to make one cut and get upfield and play off my blocks.”

Jones eventually broke away from his cadre of blockers near midfield and looked to make a few Panthers miss late in the return. It didn’t work out. But the end result of the drive was a Jacoby Brissett touchdown pass to DeAndre Carter.  

“You always wanna score but anytime you can make a big play and get the offense down there and in good field position in a great spot it feels good.,” he said. “The touchdowns will come. I’m just gonna focus on fielding the ball and try to make a play and get upfield.”

Jones has worked hard to fine-tune his punt-fielding skills in camp. A flurry of muffs early in practices seems behind him and it’s clear the Patriots would like to see him seize return duties from Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, who probably don’t need the collisions at this stage of their careers.

Belichick is high on Jones’ ability.

“If you can just get them started, most guys can make some yards on their own with the run skills and Cyrus certainly shows the ability to do that,” Belichick explained. “He’s done it and he did it tonight. In the other games as well, he’s always made a couple guys miss and he just couldn’t get enough space to get started so I thought the vice guys [the outside blockers on the punting teams’ blockers] did a good job of keeping them off him all day and letting him get a chance to get started. It was a good run but really good blocking by the return team as well.”

Belichick also slipped in some praise for the punt coverage work Friday night. That facet of special teams was not good in the preseason opener against the Saints.

“I thought we covered kicks well,” he pointed out. 'This is probably the best coverage game we’ve had, again, against a good team, a physical hold-up team and [Ted] Ginn is obviously a good quality returner so that was a good test for us.”

Jones, meanwhile, continues to play quite a bit in the regular defense as the third corner.  

How has it gone so far?

“I’m still gaining comfort,” Jones said. “That will come more and more as I get acclimated to the speed of the game and the precision of these offenses and trusting my coaching and be as prepared as I can. It’s just like anything. The more experience, the more you see, the more you’re out there, the more comfortable you’ll become.”

Jones has seen some good quarterbacks in three preseason games – Drew Brees, Jay Cutler and now Cam Newton.

“They’re so smart and so precise and they make split-second decisions and know where they want to go with the ball, you gotta be technically sound at all times and play the responsibilities so you’re in position,” Jones said. “Just go out there and do your job because you never know when it will be time to step up and make a play.”