Crawford looks to put last season behind him


Crawford looks to put last season behind him

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right from the start, Carl Crawford's initial season with the Red Sox took a wrong turn.

Crawford found himself dropped in the batting order after just two games and never seemed to recover, posting career lows in batting average, stolen bases and other offensive categories.

Now beginning his second year, Crawford can't wait to put 2011 behind him.

"Last year was probably one of the toughest things I ever had to go through,'' said Crawford. "For whatever reason it was, I struggled. It was really hard to deal with. I've had a lot of time to think about it and make corrections and I think things will be better.

"The main thing is to put last season behind and start fresh. That was bad. Everyone saw what happened. It was well documented. The main thing is to let that go and try to start over and do what I normally did the past nine years.''

Compounding matters for Crawford is that he reports to camp at less than 100 percent, having undergone surgery to repair a tendon in his left wrist last month.

It was something that he dealt with periodically in 2011, but he refused to cite that as the main reason for his disappointing season.

"I think I was out of whack in so many ways last year that the wrist was minor,'' he said. "I don't think (the wrist) had too much to do with (the subpar season).''

Crawford used the off-season to analyze why things went wrong and fix his approach at the plate and swing and believes he's found some answers.

"I went back and had a bunch of things to correct, actually,'' he said. "I was able to think about it. Hopefully, I'll do better this year. My mecahnics were just not what they should have been. For whatever reason, it wasn't normal.''

After viewing lots of video in the off-season, Craford determined that his stance, always open, was too wide.

"It seemed like I was late all the time,'' he said. "I'm going to try to do a better job getting ready (to swing) -- little stuff like that is going to help me get over that hump.''

More than any physical issues, Crawford now believes that the problems were mental.

"I think I put a lot of pressure on myself last year,'' he said. "I never played that way before, so I'm just going to stay relaxed and be myself.''

For now, it's unclear where Crawford will bat in the Red Sox lineup. For much of last year, he hit sixth or seventh and never really found a comfort factor.

"That's the big question,'' he said. "I'm not sure where Bobby (Valentine) wants to hit me. Ideally, I've always hit at the top of the order. I don't know where he's going to put me. We'll just have to wait and see.''

Before Crawford can go about the business of preparing for 2012, however, he first must make sure that his wrist is 100 percent.

"It's getting better,'' reported Crawford. "I don't really know when it will be all the way healthy, but right now, it definitely feels better than what it was and we'll continue to build the strength up.

"I don't think (the injury) is a real big deal like everybody might be thinking. It's just going to take a little bit of time to get it right. If I thought it was something dramatic, something really, really bad, I'd be worried. But I don't think this is a problem that's going to set me back.''

For now, Crawford isn't cleared to swing a bat, but hopes that comes soon.

"I think it should be pretty soon,'' he said. "I definitely feel good about it. Once me and the trainers talk about it and both feel good about it, it should be pretty soon.

"I definitely want to be back on the field as soon as possible, so I want to channel my feelings and make sure I do the right thing.''

Last week, Valentine said he expected that Crawford might miss "a few weeks'' at the start of the season, but the outfielder's objective is to be in the lineup April 5 in Detroit.

"In my mind, I think the odds are good,'' he said. "That's my goal right now, to make it for Opening Day.''

Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'


Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'

Malcolm Butler didn't mean any disrespect. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 


When the Patriots corner picked off a Landry Jones pass in the first quarter -- one that was intended for receiver Antonio Brown -- Butler stood up in the end zone, faced the Heinz Field crowd, stuck one arm in the air a and gyrated like someone had attached jumper cables to his facemask. 

He was doing his best to mimick one of Brown's well-known touchdown dances.

"Me and Brown had conversation before," Butler said, "and it was a joke to him once I showed him how I do it. Much love for that guy. Nothing personal."

For Butler, it was the highlight of what was a productive afternoon. The third-year corner was asked to shadow Brown for much of the day, and he allowed Brown to catch five of nine targets for 94 yards. He also broke up a pair of passes intended for Brown's teammates.

“Stopping Antonio Brown, that’s impossible," Butler said. "You can’t stop him. You can only slow him down. I just went out there and tried to compete today . . . Great players are going to make plays but you have to match their intensity.”
Even on the longest throw from backup quarterback Landry Jones to Brown, a 51-yarder, it appeared as though Butler played the coverage called correctly. 

Butler lined up across from Brown and trailed him underneath as Brown worked his jway from the left side of the field to the right. Butler was looking for some help over the top in that scenario, seemingly, but because Brown ran across the formation, it was hard for the back end of the defense to figure out who would be helping Butler. 

Belichick admitted as much after the game. 

"He was on [Brown] a lot the way we set it up," Belichick said. "Look, they've got great players. They're tough to cover. They hit us on a couple over routes, in cut where they kind of ran away from the coverage that we had. 

"The plays were well designed. Good scheme, good thorws and obviously good routes by Brown. They got us on a couple, but I thought we competed hard. We battled all the way. We battled on third down. We battled in the red area. They made some. We made some, but they're good. They have a lot of good players."

And Brown, in particular, is about as close as it gets to unstoppable in the NFL. Butler found that out in Week 1 of last year when he matched up with Brown in his first game as a starter, giving up nine catches for 133 yards to the All-Pro wideout. 

Though Sunday might not have been perfect for Butler, it was better than that day about 14 months ago. And at times, it was worth dancing about. 

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6


SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's Stephen Hauschka and Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro missed short field goals that would have won the game in overtime and the Seahawks and Cardinals settled for a 6-6 tie Sunday night.

Hauschka's 27-yard field goal was wide left with seven seconds left after Catanzaro's 24-yarder bounced off the left upright.

The tie was the Cardinals' first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976.

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