Wakeup Call: Culliver's anti-gay remarks a Super distraction

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Wakeup Call: Culliver's anti-gay remarks a Super distraction

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Friday, February 1:

AUTO RACING
Ex-NFL (and Boston College) linebacker Bill Romanowski's a NASCAR owner now. (AP)

That'll teach the No. 60 Ford Riley of Michael Shank Racing to make mechanical adjustments to the engine that result in "performance levels outside the documented maximums." (AP)

BASEBALL
Want to know why everyone expects the Orioles to fall back to the pack -- and perhaps behind it -- this year? Things like pondering the additions of Arthur Rhodes and Fernando Tatis are part of it. (Hardball Talk)

The Diamondbacks welcome Martin Prado to Arizona with a four-year, 40 million contract. (AP)

Looks like Scott Rolen might come back, after all. But with who? (NBC's Hardball Talk)

Not Omar Vizquel; he's giving up the chase for 3,000 hits -- stopping 123 hits short -- and, at age 45, becoming a roving infield instructor for the Angels. (AP)

LaTroy Hawkins is still around? (AP)

Mark Grace is going to jail. (AP)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
No. 9 Butler says Saint Louis "just out-toughed us" in the Billikens' 75-58 upset, their largest victory margin ever against a ranked opponent. (AP)

The difference between playing at home and playing on the road: The seventh-ranked Penn State women beat Wisconsin by 44 at Happy Valley two weeks ago, but lost to the Badgers in Madison, 63-61, last night. (AP)

The sixth annual Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research raised a record 1.6 million this time around. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Amen. (CSN Chicago)

Seniors of the world, rejoice: 73-year-old Bill Snyder gets a five-year contract at Kansas State. (AP)

GOLF
With the controversy over his admission that he used deer-antler spray still swirling, Vijah Singh withdraws from the Phoenix Open, Because of a bad back, he says. (AP)

What controversy, you ask? Well, Mark O'Meara thinks Singh should be suspended "for a couple of months". (AP)

How about Bob Charles, then, who not only used the stuff for more than 20 years but was a spokesman for it? (AP)

And while all this was going on, Phil Mickelson -- no doubt happy that his own tax-talk brouhaha is now all but forgotten -- shoots a 60 and takes the first-round lead in Phoenix. (AP)

HOCKEY
The Penguins continue their domination of the Rangers in New York with a 3-0 win. (AP)

John Tortorella's excitable in the best of times, and these aren't the best of times for the Rangers. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

There's only one way to celebrate being 7-0-0, and that's by Kaepernicking. (CSN Bay Area)

The Predators beat the Kings in an eight-round shootout. (AP)

Old friend Zack Hamill is on the move again. (CSN Washington)

In hockey, even the coaches are tough. (Pro Hockey Talk)

PRO BASKETBALL
The Rudy Gay-less Grizzles were no match for the Thunder . . . (AP)

. . . who won despite a little intramural squabbling, courtesy of Russell Westbrook. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Ricky Rubio's not happy about the way he's being treated in Minnesota, and he's also not happy about the way Pau Gasol's being treated in Los Angeles. (AP)

Doug Collins wants everyone to curb their enthusiasm about Andrew Bynum's alleged return. (CSN Philly)

And do the same for Derrick Rose's, while you're at it. (CSN Chicago)

Just make that 25,000 check out to the NBA, Dwane Casey. (AP)

Your All-Star captains: Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul. (AP)

Brandon Roy has another setback in his recovery. (AP)

Nick Van Exel's 22-year-old son is convicted of murder. (AP)

PRO FOOTBALL
Chris Culliver's backpedaling from those anti-gay-teammate comments faster than he backpedals when covering the quickest of receivers. (AP)

Bill Belichick's mantra to the Patriots is "Ignore the noise." But what happens when one of your players made the noise? (CSN Bay Area)

Adding to the noise: Seahawks punter Jon Ryan demanding that Culliver be suspended. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

The Ravens? They'd welcome a gay teammate, says Terrell Suggs. (Pro Football Talk)

Thankfully for the 49ers, the Ravens' Ed Reed is making some noise of his own. (CSN Baltimore)

Looks like the Harbaughs learned to share at an early age. (CSN Bay Area)

Joe Flacco's contract is up after the Super Bowl, but Ozzie Newsome says "as long as I'm general manager in Baltimore, hopefully he's the quarterback in Baltimore." (Pro Football Talk)

Flacco, meanwhile, says his impending free agency is not an issue. (AP)

The 18-game-season talk is circulating again, and Bernard Pollard wishes it would stop. (CSN Baltimore)

Jerry Rice says he doesn't "need to talk about being the best receiver" -- something Randy Moss has been yapping about this week -- but he will talk about the fact that, uh, unlike Moss, he "never took any plays off," he "always gave 100 percent" and that there's "a big difference" between "my body of work compared to" Moss'. To steal from Robert DeNiro in 'Goodfellas': You gonna take that, Randy? (AP)

Three black ex-head coaches -- Tony Dungy, Herm Edwards and Jim Caldwell -- say the Rooney Rule isn't working when no minority candidates were hired for the eight vacancies that popped up this year. (AP)

The NFL and NFLPA are squabbling again, this time over the issue of player safety. (AP)

And in a step in that direction, the union wants the Chargers' team physician -- who lost a malpractice lawsuit last summer -- replaced. (AP)

Mike Holmgren? Coach again? Nah. (Pro Football Talk)

Donald Driver? Play again? Nah. (AP)

Arian Foster may have surgery to correct the irregular heartbeat that forced him out of a game this year. (Pro Football Talk)

With the New York Post nipping at the story, Dan Marino comes clean: He admits he has a 7-year-old child with a production assistant he worked with at CBS, but that he's taken full financial responsibility for the child, and that his wife of 30 years and the six children he has with her are aware of it all. (Pro Football Talk)

Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill is being held on 150,000 bail after his arrest on domestic assault charges. (AP)

The judge rejected his "post-concussion syndrome which left me mentally impaired" defense, so ex-NFL cornerback Will James -- who also went by the name Will Peterson during his years in the league -- is headed to jail for failing to file a federal income tax return in 2005, when he earned 5.5 million. (AP via CSN Philly)

TENNIS
John Isner is recovered from a knee injury and ready to lead the U.S. against Brazil in the first round of the Davis Cup. (AP)

X GAMES
Snowmobiler Caleb Moore dies of injuries suffered in a crash at the Winter X Games. (AP via nbcsports.com)

Quick Slants the podcast Ep 54: Brady, OTAs, and contract situations

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Quick Slants the podcast Ep 54: Brady, OTAs, and contract situations

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry attended Thursday’s OTA session and offer their analysis on some of the new additions in Quick Slants the podcast.

Also on the docket, a look at some upcoming contract situations for the team, Tom Brady’s 17th season and Robert Kraft taking legal action in support of Brady.

Listen to the entire podcast via the player below, or by searching CSNNE on iTunes.

New Patriots DE Chris Long willing to be led

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New Patriots DE Chris Long willing to be led

Chris Long’s been in the NFL since 2008. As the offspring of Hall of Famer Howie Long, he knows the ways and means of life in the league.
 
So, it’s instructive that a player who’s been around this long decided that success here hinged on allowing himself to be led. Check the ego, check the pride, behave as if you know nothing.
 
In doing so, Long’s affixed himself to the side of fellow defensive end Rob Ninkovich like a 275-pound remora.
 
“Rob and I really clicked,” Long said Thursday after a Patriots OTA session open to the media. “We’ve got a lot of similarities, and he’s a great guy to learn from and shadow. He’s been here obviously a long time. Rob knows how to do things the right way around here. When you see a guy like that, if you’re halfway smart, you follow him around and do what he does. If Rob goes to lunch, I go to lunch. That type of thing. Rob’s a good buddy already.”
 
Long was also observed Thursday spending a lot of downtime with Jabaal Sheard, the two defensive ends on a knee near the Gatorade conversing for a couple of minutes.
 
With Chandler Jones now a Cardinal, the Patriots defensive end depth chart this offseason has have Sheard and Ninkovich at the top, with Long in the mix situationally, one supposes. Reps need to be split for freshness. Meanwhile, Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers are coming into their second seasons and will push for time as well.
 
For his part, Long isn’t projecting anything.
 
“Well, I’m still learning, so I can’t make the determination yet,” Long said. “Ask me again during training camp. Every day in the NFL is an opportunity. A coach I’ve had before said every day is an interview, and that’s how I like to look at things. Every day, you have a chance to get better and learn and worry about your own — farm your own land and do all that good stuff. That’s the way I approach everything. It would be a disservice to the other guys if I was worried about anything other than myself, that opportunity just to get out here on the practice field and compete and get better.”
 
And let yourself be led. 

Surprise! Rex and Rob Ryan talk themselves up

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Surprise! Rex and Rob Ryan talk themselves up

Can’t you just imagine the Ryan brothers as teenagers, riding along in a pickup, windows down, hair whipping, hollering their skewed affirmations over the Lynyrd Skynyrd.

“Biggest badasses in town?! US!!”

“Handsomest fat guys to be!? US!!”

“Defensive-geniuses-in-waiting destined to be criminally underappreciated and overlooked so that we’ll forever be obligated to remind everyone at every turn how tough, accomplished and slighted we’ve been? HELL, THAT’S US TOO!!”

It’s May, which means it’s Ryan propaganda season. Not that Jenny Vrentas of MMQB did the Ryan’s bidding with her fun Q&A that’s online today. 

All she needed to do was hit record and lay the recorder on the table. Rex and Rob take care of the tire pumping themselves.

Fortuitously, now that they’re together in Buffalo as head coach (Rex) and assistant head coach/defensive capo (Rob), they can pat each other’s backs rather than reach back and do their own themselves.

Rob – poopcanned from his last two jobs as defensive coordinator in Dallas and New Orleans – carried the show in this one firing passive-aggressive darts at Saints head coach Sean Payton and promising to “beat” Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

“At the end of the day, the last two years in New Orleans were a waste of time for me,” said Rob Ryan, who was fired last November by Payton. “I want to give everything I have to a team that I want to be a part of, with a head coach I want to be a part of. Not only is Rex a great head coach, but he is also a great defensive coach. He’s going to be the best coach that I can work for, anytime. And I have worked for Belichick, who is the best head coach in football, in the history of the game. But we’re going to beat him, and we’re going to beat him together. And it’s going to be an awesome challenge. I need to be in a multiple system. I was hired to be in a multiple system in New Orleans, and I did a damn good job and got fired for it. I am more hungry now than I have ever been. So I wanted to go with the right guy. And the right guy is someone I have 100 percent trust in and 100 percent faith in.

Payton has already termed Ryan’s contention that it wasn’t Ryan’s defense as “silly.” 

This in-depth look at the precipitous drop of the Saints defense has plenty of damning info about what a “hot mess” Ryan’s operation was. 

Payton is quoted in the piece saying after Ryan’s dismissal, "There were a few things that you looked at from a year ago and you said, 'We can't have X number of snaps with not the right number of guys on the field. We can't burn timeouts, you know, every other week because we can't get the right personnel on the field.' We just can't do that. We can't have guys looking left and right at the snap of the ball. There's a game last season where the first eight plays of the game, we're misaligned and we don't even cover down the right way. Those were just facts."

Facts, schmacts. You want facts? From the interview:

ROB: Well, the highest-rated defensive coach in the history of the league is you.

REX: Right.

ROB: We can pretend there is somebody else, but there’s not. Hey, my numbers are what they are. Now, I took over some pretty lousy jobs, but that’s OK. But no one’s numbers are better than his. I’m talking about Dick LeBeau’s; I’m talking about Belichick; I’m talking about all of them. Hell, even our dad. Who is the best that ever laced them up? Well, I’m just saying. To be the best defensive coach in football, I’ve got to learn from the best, so I came here. It’s been how many years since we’ve been together? He’s not learning anything, but I am. Look at some of his protégés. Bob Sutton is doing a fantastic job in Kansas City. Chuck Pagano was with Rex. He spun off a ton of great coaches, and it is going to be fun to be a part of that.

Here’s the thing, the Ryans are very bright defensive coaches with an in-the-trenches-with-you bedside manner that invites massive huge loyalty from their players.

But there’s also an outsized sense of pride and ego that both men seem to have that causes them to get caught up in style over substance.

Rex wanted to build a bully in Buffalo. His Bills talked tough before facing the Patriots last September and came unhinged in the first half, effectively taking themselves out of the game before it began. 

The Bills have an terrific array of defensive talent even with the loss of Mario Williams this offseason. They added Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland in the draft – both well-regarded players who could have early-career impacts. They have the pieces. But they had them in 2015 as well and underperformed. The fact is, Rex is in a “prove-it” season. Even though he points out in the interview that his family has coached in six Super Bowls, three of those were coached by Buddy Ryan, two by Rob and one by Rex. In 66 combined seasons of NFL coaching. Belichick’s coached in eight by himself in 42 NFL seasons. The results are lacking.

It is worth noting before I put a bow on this that respect for Belichick isn’t lacking. The interview is chock-full of references to Rob’s time with the Patriots from 2000 to 2003.

“All the respect in the world for Bill Belichick,” said Rob. “That was fantastic training working for him for four years, and I learned a ton. Look, he is the No. 1 nemesis of every coach in this league. So it’s not just Rex. Now, I think if you ask their offensive staff, the worst they ever play is against Rex. People say, “well, he hasn’t beat them [nine out of the last 10] tries.” Yeah, well, he has beat the hell out of that offense. I am sure the respect is mutual. But I know one thing, we are going to beat them. We are together, we’re going to beat the best. It’s two against one. Him one on one against any coach in the league, that guy is pretty damn good. And he’s also got his best buddy Tom Brady with him. He trained him, and he single-handedly made him great as well.”