Wakeup Call: NFL gets ready in case a Super storm hits

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Wakeup Call: NFL gets ready in case a Super storm hits

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Tuesday, February 12:

BASEBALL
You may sit unsigned until the beginning of spring training, as Michael Bourn did, but Scott Boras usually always comes through for his clients . . . as long as you don't mind playing in Cleveland. (AP)

Bourn is certainly in the Braves' rear-view mirror, judging by how enthusiastic they are at the start of camp. (AP)

Chris Carpenter is hoping against hope that, somehow, he'll pitch again. (AP)

That elbow flareup that's prevented Ryan Madson from throwing since Feb. 1? Nothing to worry about, insists Mike Scioscia. (AP)

The A's players are letting bygones by bygones with Bartolo Colon, whose 50-game suspension for PED use last August left them in the lurch a bit during their hunt for a playoff spot. (CSN Bay Area)

Carlos Marmol defends himself -- passionately -- against sexual-assault allegations leveled against him in the Dominican Republic. (CSN Chicago)

Cavan Biggio? Kacy Clemens? Josh Pettitte? Yep, they're all the sons of who you think they're the sons of, and they're all playing high school baseball in the Houston area. (CSN Houston)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Whaddya know? Indiana remains No. 1 despite its loss to Illinois last week. (AP)

Colorado State cracks the national rankings for the first time since the days of President Eisenhower and I Love Lucy. (AP)

Things return to normal in what's been a mixed-up Jayhawks Nation, as Kansas routs arch-rival Kansas State. (AP)

It's not how you start, it's how you finish. Georgetown -- suddenly holding the inside track for the regular-season Big East championship after its 63-55 win over No. 18 Marquette -- is proving that. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

If Myck Kabongo knew then what he knows now, he'd have cooperated with the NCAA way back when. But he didn't, he got suspended, and now, finally, he's back on the court at Texas. (CSN Houston)

Off the court, and perhaps for a long time, is UConn's Enosch Wolf. (AP)

It should just be two games for Butler's Andrew Smith, though. (AP)

Albany? Eighth-best in women's basketball? So says the UPS Team Performance Index -- though not the voters in the AP poll, who don't even have the Great Danes in the top 25 -- but coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson says she isn't surprised her team ranks so high. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
And here we thought no one would believe the Paterno family's report. (AP)

It looks like Penn State's getting its checkbook out. (AP)

The NCAA's loosening of recruiting rules has the Big Ten coaches all nervous. (AP)

Tyler Gaffney's decided baseball's not for him, after all, and he's returning to the Stanford backfield. (CSN Bay Area)

Dennis Erickson's decided retirement's not for him. after all, and he's returning to college football as co-offensive coordinator at Utah. (AP)

Charlie Weis gives Dave Campo a promotion. (AP)

HOCKEY
Mikhail Grabovski's little nip at Max Pacioretty -- sorry, alleged nip -- apparently wasn't caught on camera, so he's going to get away with it. Oh, to be listening to the Montreal talk stations today . . . (AP)

Remember when the Sharks were sailing along as one of the NHL's elite? Yeah, me neither. (CSN Bay Area)

San Jose was "outworked, out-executed, out-detailed, out-goaltended, out- a lot of things" in last night's embarrassing 6-2 loss to the Blue Jackets, according to coach Todd McLellan. Um, Todd? Take a page from the Belichick book and throw "out-coached" in there, too. Just to keep it egalitarian. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

The "home stand from hell"? That's not good, is it, Blues? (Pro Hockey Talk)

If misery loves company, St. Louis will be hanging with the Islanders these days. (AP)

In the injury department, the Maple Leafs may be without starting goalie James Reimer for a while after he got hurt in Toronto's 5-2 win over the Flyers . . . (AP)

. . . and the Avalanche may have lost defenseman Erik Johnson for a spell in their overtime loss to the Coyotes. (Pro Hockey Talk)

And here you thought baseball had the market cornered on obscure records. (Pro Hockey Talk)

PRO BASKETBALL
Tim Duncan? Tony Parker? Manu Ginobili? Who needs 'em? Certainly not the Spurs. (AP)

And this is why Tom Thibodeau thinks San Antonio is the gold standard of the NBA. (CSN Chicago)

Once the Clippers got their stars back, they got back to having fun . . . like last night in Philadelphia. (AP)

No, Andrew Bynum's not playing. No, he's not practicing. But, honest, any day now. (CSN Philly)

James Harden is day-to-day with a sore knee. Uh oh, isn't that what they said about Bynum in, like, October? (CSN Houston)

In more mundane injury news, Danny Granger is about to return. Jealous, Sixers Nation? (AP)

I thought basketball uniforms with sleeves went out with the peach baskets, but the Warriors are bringing 'em back. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

PRO FOOTBALL
The Richard Seymour Era is over in Oakland. (CSN Bay Area)

Did you wonder over the weekend what would happen if a storm like Nemo hit the New York area during next year's Super Bowl? Well, so did the NFL . . . and it started drawing up contingency plans. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Bill Polian thinks he has the answer to make the game safer: Widen the field. (Pro Football Talk)

In one of the first surprises of the Chip Kelly regime, the Eagles bring back Michael Vick. (CSN Philly)

The NFLPA still wants the Chargers' team doctor to go, even though an independent panel "totally exonerated" him. (AP)

The Giants give the oft-injured Terrell Thomas another shot. (AP)

The Bills, however, are through with Nick Barnett and George Wilson. (AP)

He's baaaccck . . . or so he hopes. (CSN Bay Area)

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.”
 

Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

This felt like a step backward for Jimmy Garoppolo. 

The preseason had been shaping up so nicely for him, too. He'd be able to ride the wave of momentum following his strong performance last week against the Bears, and carry that into Carolina, where he would take on a very good defense on the road. What better way to simulate what he'll see in Week 1 of the regular season in Arizona?

Then something happened. Garoppolo, who looked cool last week at Gillette Stadium, seemed rattled by the Panthers defense. The quarterback who hadn't turned the ball over all preseason very nearly gave it away twice. Whereas he made calculated risks in the red zone last week, this week there were head-scratchers in the same area. 

"Ups and downs," said Garoppolo, who beat the Panthers, 19-17, and finished the game 9-for-15 for 57 yards. "Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it."

Garoppolo's first third-down throw foreshadowed what was to come for the Patriots on third down Friday night. He threw what should have been an easy interception for linebacker Luke Kuechly when there was a miscommunication between him and receiver Julian Edelman. 

Edelman stopped and turned for a pass a few yards off the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo targeted him as though he was still moving, hitting Kuechly between the numbers at the Carolina 12-yard line.

The team started the night 0-for-7 on third down.

"It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that," said Garoppolo, who insisted splitting reps in practice wasn't to his detriment. "It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns."

Later in the game, Garoppolo didn't recognize a Panthers pressure, he took a glancing blow from a defender and escaped the pocket. Rather than throw the football away, he tried to make a positive play and was stripped from behind by linebacker Thomas Davis. 

Patriots running back James White was there to pounce on the ball, and Garoppolo was fortunate to escape with his turnover column clean.  

Still, Garoppolo knows there are adjustments to make. In order to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Cardinals in Week 1, he'll probably have to play better than he did on Friday. 

“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight. 

"We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”

Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

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Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

CHARLOTTE – D.J. Foster began making his case to stick on the Patriots’ 53-man roster Friday night against the Panthers.

An undrafted pass-catching back from Arizona State who’d missed almost all of training camp with an unknown injury was pretty persuasive. He caught three passes for 33 yards, showing nice burst, carried twice for 9 and returned a punt for 16. He saw his action late in the third with fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett in at quarterback.

Foster punctuated his first reception – an 11-yard screen that Brissett (9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown) – by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow that Foster said he wanted to “get that adrenaline going.”

“It felt great,” said Foster. “It had been a long time. I was telling some guys, that was the first time I’d gotten hit since college. It felt good to get back out there. The coaches gave me a chance to get out there and show what I could do.”

James White will be the Patriots sub-back (or third down back or pass-catching back or whatever you want to call him) until Dion Lewis returns from his knee malady. But Foster showed the acceleration and quickness that made him such a productive player for the Sun Devils. With 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and another 2,355 on the ground, Foster would fit nicely in an offense like the Patriots that uses the short and intermediate passing game so well.  

He hasn’t had much chance to make a case to stick and the Patriots – with White, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden and Joey Iosefa all in the mix – may have to take their chances with releasing Foster and hoping he goes unclaimed so New England can bring him back for their practice squad. It’s a risk, but other teams are encountering the same issues at cutdown time. Do they pluck a player they passed on in the draft and put him on their roster ahead of players they’ve been working with since the spring?

Bill Belichick wasn’t effusive in his praise for Foster but did indicate it was a good opportunity to at least see him in game action.

“We played a couple of guys that haven’t gotten much playing time so we got a chance to look at them,” he explained. “D.J. is one of those so we wanted to give him a few opportunities to handle the ball because he hasn’t done it this year. I thought he did some good things. There are a couple of things that he could do a little better but we’ll look at the film and see how it goes. He did a couple of things with his chances out there.”

To make the most of those chances, Foster said he avoided getting too hyped before getting on the field.  
 
“Just keeping my calm and hearing the playcall and just doing the mechanics and all the fundamentals of being in the backfield (was the focus),” said Foster. "Coach Ivan (Fears, running backs coach) did a great job of keeping me mellow. I felt healthy, I felt really good. I got some punt returns, some kick returns, some special teams. I was seeking contact to get that adrenaline going.

“It’s a long process,” he acknowledged. “Talking to the veteran guys, they said it’s a long process. I knew battling my injury and come back healthy, I came back strong and I felt ready.”

We’ll see if it’s enough to carve out a niche on the roster. The cutdown to 75 players comes Tuesday.