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)

Report: Belichick may be called to testify in Hernandez trial

Report: Belichick may be called to testify in Hernandez trial

Bill Belichick, identified as "William Belichick," has been added to the list of potential defense witnesses who could testify during the upcoming double-homicide trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, according to the Boston Herald.

Per the Herald, the new list of potential witnesses for the defense also includes Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who was Hernandez's teammate at the University of Florida. 

Belichick, McDaniels and Pouncey aren't guaranteed to testify, but their presence on the civilian witness list makes their presence in court a possibility. 

Hernandez's trial is scheduled to start next Wednesday. He's accused of killing Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Furtado back in July of 2012. Hernandez is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of the murder Odin Lloyd in 2013.

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Personally, I would buy a crapload of stock in Cyrus Jones. In part because – after his nightmarish rookie season – stock can be bought on the cheap. But also because he’s too talented, too committed and too smart to suck like he did in 2016 when he handled punts like they were coated in uranium and never made a big contribution in the secondary.

(Listen above to hear Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss Cyrus Jones on the Quick Slants podcast.)

Because of his disappointing year, Jones is an overlooked player on the Patriots roster, but he’s in a pivotal spot. With Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon approaching free agency, Malcolm Butler’s contract expiring after 2017, Pat Chung on the edge of 30 and a free agent after 2018 and the other corners being Justin Coleman, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones is going to get his shot.

The reason I included safeties Harmon and Chung in the discussion is that when the Patriots go to six DBs, roles are less stringently defined. And because of Jones’ size (5-10, 200), powerful build and short-area quickness, he can be the kind of versatile player who covers inside against quicker slot receivers as well as being on the outside if necessary. Kind of like Chung can cover on the back end or drop down to cover tight ends.

The Patriots are confident that Jones will get it right. His teammates in the secondary are unanimous in saying he’s got all the talent he needs.  

PATRIOTS TO-DO LIST:

But as 2016 wore on, it was apparent that Jones was miserable and let his failures consume him. Jones muffed or fumbled five kicks in the 2016 season.
 
By the time the Patriots played the Ravens on a Monday night in December, he was so inside his own head that he stalked a bouncing punt he had no business being near (for the second time that game) and had it bounce off his foot setting up a Ravens touchdown. That night, Jones exited the Patriots locker room and made his way to the players parking lot before the field was even clear of equipment.

Jones either expected things to come as easily in the NFL as they did at Alabama and wasn’t prepared to deal with adversity. Or the mistakes he made caused him to wonder if he really was good enough to play in the league.

Either way, Cyrus Jones was all about Cyrus Jones in 2016. And his comments to the Baltimore Sun over the weekend were evidence that the world he’s concerned with ends at the end of his nose. 

"I honestly felt cursed," he said. "I reached a point where I didn't even want to play. I just didn't have it...What I did this year was not me," he said. "I don't care how anybody tries to sugarcoat it. Yes, I was a rookie. But I feel I should always be one of the best players on the field, no matter where I am.
 
"But honestly, it was hell for me," he said. "That's the only way I can describe it. I didn't feel I deserved to be part of anything that was happening with the team. I felt embarrassed that these people probably thought they wasted a pick on me."

The first thing Jones needs to do this offseason is get over himself. He can look one locker down and talk to Devin McCourty about getting crushed for shaky play in 2012, battling through it and then turning into a Pro Bowl-level safety. He can talk to fellow Alabama product Dont'a Hightower about Hightower’s being benched in the 2013 season against the Broncos and labeled a bust before flipping his season around and being the team’s best defender by the end of that year.

But he’s going to have to figure it out. Draft status means nothing to New England and, as it now stands, undrafted corner Jonathan Jones out of Auburn has more demonstrated value to the team that Cyrus Jones does. In two months, the Patriots are damn sure going to add more secondary players.

This offseason, Jones needs to check his ego, simplify his game and simply ban outside perceptions from fans, media or coaches from infect his on-field decision-making.

His conversation with the Sun didn’t really indicate he’s ready to do that. Asked about criticism, Jones said, “It pisses me off. You can say shut it out or don't listen, but I know people are talking, and it's negative. I'm not a dumb guy. It definitely affects me. What it should do is piss me off in a way that I want to shut them all up."

From the limited number of times I spoke with him and from his teammates regard for him, I can confirm Jones isn’t a dumb guy. That doesn’t necessarily make life easier though. In 2016, Cyrus Jones’ brain got in the way. The Patriots need him to shut that thing off in 2017.