Wakeup Call: Redskins again refuse calls to change their nickname

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Wakeup Call: Redskins again refuse calls to change their nickname

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Friday, February 15:

AUTO RACING
When Michael Waltrip drives in the Daytona 500, he'll have a new car number -- 26 -- in honor of the 20 children and 6 adults killed in Newtown, Conn. (AP)

Nice to see that the Gronk of NASCAR, Brad Keselowski, hasn't mellowed any since the end of last season. (AP)

I'd be willing to wager almost anything that Danica Patrick yesterday became the first race driver ever to reference The Bard in a press conference. (AP)

Having seen 78-year-olds drive on the highway, I have to think James Hylton is making the right decision. (AP)

BASEBALL
Youk to the media: Enough with the Joba stuff, already. (AP)

Ah, the dreaded visa issue! Hey, at least Rafael Soriano didn't say it was his father's birthday. Or that his grandmother died. (CSN Washington)

Looks like the PED Police tracked down Gio Gonzalez as soon as his name surfaced in the Miami New Times report. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

Meanwhile, Danny Valencia's going the I-never-heard-of-that-clinicI-don't-take-PEDsI-have-no-idea-how-I-popped-up-on-that-list route. (CSN Baltimore)

It's spring, and all's bright -- even the Phillies' championship chances -- in Ryan Howard's world. (CSN Philly)

Looks like Mike Trout didn't skimp on those six-hamburger meals at Jim's Lunch this winter; he reported to Angels camp at 240 pounds. (Hardball Talk)

The A's are looking internally for a temporary closer upon learning that Grant Balfour will be sidelined 4-6 weeks because of a meniscus tear . . . though I don't quite understand why they need a closer for exhibition games. (CSN Bay Area)

If they decide to look outside, Jason Isringhausen says he's available. (Hardball Talk)

Not Chad Cordero, though. He signed with the Angels. (CSN Washington)

Not exactly hard time, is it, Mark Grace? (Hardball Time)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Nobody knew Jim Boeheim was feuding with ESPN's Andy Katz prior to Syracuse's loss at Connecticut on Wednesday. But they sure know it now. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

You can probably cancel those NCAA travel plans, Temple fans, after the Owls' stunning loss to Duquesne last night. (CSN Philly)

No. 13 Ohio State avoids a stunning loss of its own with a 12-0 run at the end of the game for a 69-59 victory over Northwestern, whom they've now beaten 32 straight times in Columbus. (AP)

Can't really call it all that stunning, but Minnesota knocks off No. 20 Wisconsin. (College Basketball Talk)

Colorado gets its revenge on Arizona. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
All that talk about Jadeveon Clowney sitting out the 2013 season to protect his status for the 2014 draft? Forget it, says Steve Spurrier. (AP)

The NCAA says no to Jamoris Slaugher's attempt to return for a sixth year at Notre Dame. (AP)

GOLF
Matt Kuchar holds the first-round lead in the Northern Trust Open. (AP)

And Mariajo Uribe holds the second-round lead in the Women's Australian Open. (AP)

HOCKEY
It's official: Erik Karlsson's season is over. (AP)

So's Manny Malholtra's. (AP)

Daniel Carcillo, meanwhile, is determined that a second knee injury in two years isn't going to end his. (CSN Chicago)

The Devils just keep on truckin', don't they? (AP)

One of the teams favored to dethrone New Jersey in the East, the Rangers, lose to the Islanders in a shootout. (AP)

And they do so without the slumping Brad Richards, whom coach John Tortorella benched in the third period. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

That's three in a row in the good column for the Capitals, and six in a row in the bad column for the Lightning. (AP)

Still no word on whether NHL players will be allowed to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics . . . (AP)

. . . but Capitals coach Adam Oates -- who says he "didn't even know" Team Canada existed when he was growing up -- hopes the answer is 'no'. (Pro Hockey Talk)

OLYMPICS
Oscar Pistorius is being charged with "premeditated murder" in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. (nbcsports.com)

As you would expect, companies that employed Pistorius as a sponsor are backing away from him as fast as they can. (NBC's Off The Bench)

PRO BASKETBALL
LeBron James' stathead streak -- consecutive games with 30 or more points on 60 percent or better shooting -- came to an end last night when he missed a 3-pointer with a minute to go and the Heat up by 10. He'll have to be satisfied with Miami's 110-100 takedown of the Thunder in a rematch of last year's finals. (AP)

For Michael Jordan, the rings are the thing in the LeBron-vs.-Kobe debate. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

The Clippers make it clear who owns L.A. (AP)

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lakers owner Jerry Buss has been hospitalized with cancer. (AP)

Playing in your first All-Star Game, in your team's home city, is a thrill for any player. But James Harden may have to miss it because of the ankle injury he suffered Tuesday. (CSN Bay Area)

PRO FOOTBALL
Pressure is building again for the Redskins to change their nickname, but GM Bruce Allen says a) that's not happening and b) it's "ludicrous" to think that the team is trying to offend Native Americans. (AP)

Even though it looks like Andy Reid wants to bring Nick Foles with him to the Kansas City . . . (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

. . . that's not happening, either. (CSN Philly)

If you're trying to figure out whether or not the Bears intend to keep Brian Urlacher, you'll get no clues from the team's new coaching staff. (CSN Chicago)

Terrence McGee calls it "definitely a difficult day" as the Bills cut him loose after 10 years. (AP)

SOCCER
The soccer aficionados give a tepid thumb's up to Gus Johnson's first call of a Champions League match. (NBC's Pro Soccer Talk)

TENNIS
Serena Williams thinks it's "awesome" that she's one win away from becoming the oldest women's player ever to be ranked No. 1. (AP)

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is using the "I didn't know a banned substance was in a supplement I was taking" argument to explain her six-month ban by the ITF for doping. (AP)

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.