Richard’s Sports Round-Up
Football is in the news every day. College and NFL are impossible to ignore. Even the Arena Football League received some attention last week. Though it wasn’t necessarily good attention for the AFL.
The Jaguars first preseason game is exactly one week from today. And, the team has four more days of camp open to the public. Head out to the practice facilities. Enjoy some football with the family and study up for football season. It never hurts to impress the boss.
10. Florida Gator wide receiver Riley Cooper determined that he will play football his senior season. After being drafted by the Texas Rangers in June, Cooper played summer baseball in the Texas Collegiate League. With the departures of wide receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, Cooper is the Gators most experienced pass catcher. In 2008, Cooper caught 18 receptions for 261 receiving yards and three touchdowns. My Take: Cooper returns for another national title. I wouldn’t doubt it if Cooper’s roommate, Tim Tebow, guided him through his decision to stay at Florida. As an excellent blocker, Cooper helps open up Florida’s spread offense. Turning down a shot at being known as a three-time national champion in any sport can be painful. In my opinion, Cooper made the right move. He can also help mentor the next crop of Florida’s receivers.
9. The Arena Football League (AFL) announced its demise on Tuesday afternoon in a one-paragraph statement. The AFL’s Board of Directors agreed to suspend operations indefinitely. In December, the league announced it was suspending play for the 2009 season. Plans are for the league to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The AFL has been around since 1987. Florida was home to two AFL teams: the Orlando Predators and the Tampa Bay Storm. My Take: The AFL’s folding comes as a shock to no one. I was never a fan of the league. I found it difficult to watch because of its lack of superstars and electrifying athletes. However, I probably watched a grand total of three games including highlights. My only noteworthy piece of knowledge involving the AFL is that singer Jon Bon Jovi was a majority owner of the AFL’s Philadelphia Soul. And, there you have it.
8. Tiger Woods won his second consecutive PGA Tour event yesterday at the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational. Woods shot a final round score of 5-under 65 to edge Padraig Harrington and Robert Allenby by four strokes. With the win at Firestone, Woods is the first golfer to win seven tournaments on the same golf course. The final pairing of Woods and Harrington was put on the clock at the 16th tee. A chief referee said the two were 17 minutes behind schedule. Harrington blamed his collapse to probably rushing after that tee shot. Beginning Thursday at The PGA Championship, Woods and Harrington will be paired together again along with American Rich Beem. My Take: At 33, Tiger Woods has won 70 PGA Tour events. That feat is nothing short of amazing. Like I said last week, the Buick Open should be renamed the Tiger Open. Well, maybe Bridgestone should be known as the Tiger Invitational. I was glued to the television all day Sunday. I anticipate Woods and Harrington going head-to-head for years to come. Harrington said it perfectly when he told Woods, “We’ll do battle many times again.”
7. According to the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, the Florida Gators top the list as the preseason No. 1. The Gators took 53 first-place votes. The Colt McCoy-led Texas Longhorns are the early No. 2 receiving four votes. Behind the Longhorns are Oklahoma, USC and Alabama. Oklahoma and USC each were given one first-place vote. Five SEC teams are represented in the Poll. And, Florida State comes in at No. 19. My Take: Preseason polls do not mean anything. They’re meant to fuel sports talk radio discussions. Now, if the Gators somehow slipped out of the top five, then that would’ve been entertaining. Gator Nation would be in an uproar. I guess controversy is only allowed for the Bowl Championship Series.
6. Ex-NFL star Plaxico Burress was indicted on two weapon charges by a grand jury in New York. The former New York Giants wide receiver was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment. Burress, 31, faces a minimum of 3½ years in prison if convicted. On Nov. 29, 2008, the shooting resulted in a gunshot wound to Burress’ thigh. No one else was injured. His arraignment is scheduled for September 23 in Manhattan Supreme Court. The Giants released Burress back in April. My Take: At the very least, it looks like Burress will spend two years in jail. On top of that, he can be expected to serve a suspension when he returns to the NFL. I hope NFL players think before wearing sweatpants while using the waistband as a makeshift holster. With regards to the Giants, the team needs a wide receiver to step up in Burress’ absence. The opportunity is waiting for Domenik Hixon, Hakeem Nicks or Steve Smith.
5. ESPN.com held a college football mock draft last week involving three of their college football writers. Pat Forde, Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach selected from 120 teams. The list contains the top 40 teams. Forde chose the University of Southern California with the No. 1 overall pick. Following Southern Cal were Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and LSU. One of the reasons Schlabach selected Florida was because “Tim Tebow is the sport’s greatest leader during the past half-century, and (Urban) Meyer will keep recruiting top talent in Florida.” Florida State and Miami were chosen at No. 14 and No. 24, respectively. My Take: I love mock drafts. This one was more than entertaining since it created a multitude of debatable issues. Once college football season begins, it will be all debate all the time. But, more likely than not, that healthy debate will not linger, but will become more heated arguments among the sports fans.
4. Rashard Lewis, an Orlando Magic forward, was suspended ten games on Thursday for testing positive for an “elevated testosterone level.” Lewis admitted that he ingested an over-the-counter supplement. In a prepared statement, Lewis took full responsibility and apologized to fans, teammates and the Orlando Magic organization. He is suspended the first 10 regular-season games of the season without pay. My Take: At 6-10 and weighing 230, Lewis does not have the ripped body of a steroid user. I was actually caught off guard by Lewis’ positive test. If an NBA player tests positive, I expect it to be recreational drugs like cocaine or marijuana. I would have thought Magic center Dwight Howard or superstar LeBron James would test positive for steroids before Lewis. Howard and James look like they’re made out of concrete. A ten-game suspension for Lewis is fair.
3. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning agreed to a six-year, $97 million extension on Wednesday. With the deal, Manning will become the highest-paid NFL player based on yearly salary. The extension, which has yet to be finalized, will guarantee Manning $15.3 million per year. Eli’s brother, Peyton Manning, earns $14.7 million annually. Eli Manning will be with the Giants at least until 2015, when he is 34. My Take: With Eli’s contract, quarterback contracts will continue to rise. Top-tier quarterbacks and even mid-level ones will expect more money. In comparison, Jacksonville Jaguar quarterback David Garrard signed a seven-year, $60 million deal in April 2008. But, the main difference between Eli Manning and Garrard is that Eli has a Super Bowl ring. We shall see if Eli can earn that money without Plaxico Burress catching his passes.
2. Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz held a press conference Saturday afternoon addressing the report in which his name is on the 2003 drug list. Ortiz admitted to purchasing legal supplements and vitamins over the counter. He said, “I never buy steroids or use steroids.” The 33-year-old Ortiz is not in favor of releasing all 104 MLB players on the 2003 list. Also, on Saturday, the MLB announced at most 96 of the urine samples tested positive on the list tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). My Take: I have a difficult time believing Big Papi has never taken PEDs. But, I feel bad for him. He’ll be remembered as a walk-off home run beast. However, in 20 years, I can picture most fathers preaching baseball history to their sons, and saying, “Oh yes, Big Papi was great, but his name was reported to be on that 2003 list.” Ortiz has no opportunity to reverse these reports. There will forever be a “but” when his name is mentioned.
1. Urban Meyer, head football coach for the Florida Gators, was awarded a six-year, $24 million contract on Monday. Earning $4 million per year, Meyer joins USC’s Pete Carroll ($4.4 million) and Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis ($4.2 million) as known current head coaches who make $4 million or more. In four seasons at Florida, Meyer holds a 44-9 record and two national titles (2006 and 2008). Meyer is now the SEC’s highest-earning head coach. He is followed by Alabama’s Nick Saban at $3.9 million and Les Miles of LSU with $3.751 million. My Take: Meyer definitely deserved this new contract. Currently, he is the best head coach in the SEC, and now his pay reflects that. However, I believe the rumors of Meyer going to coach Notre Dame during his career will not end. Meyer’s buyout is $500,000. That is nothing. The Notre Dame door will always be open for Meyer. Until then, Meyer’s Florida team has a fantastic chance to repeat as national champions.
5. This Thursday, August 13, is the debut of the new network, ESPN UK (United Kingdom). The channel will air live international sports including Barclays Premier League football. ESPN UK programming will be available in standard and high definition. Planning to go international, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) signed a three-year deal with ESPN UK.
4. Former Los Angeles Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis will take over the Minnesota Timberwolves head coaching position. Rambis is expected to sign the contract today. The deal is rumored to be worth $8 million over four years. Rambis replaces Kevin McHale, who stepped down in June after only being offered a one-year extension.
3. LeBron James hinted on Friday that he probably won’t accept the Cleveland Cavaliers three-year contract extension. Cleveland offered it on July 18. Potentially declining the extension means James will test the free agent market next summer. The 24-year-old will earn $15.7 million this upcoming season.
2. The 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, begins this Thursday. Television coverage of the tournament will be on CBS and TNT. CBS will air the weekend rounds while TNT has the first two rounds. Defending champion Padraig Harrington, four-time PGA Championship winner Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are a few of the PGA Tour stars who will vie for the year’s final major.
1. The Jacksonville Jaguars continue its training camp this week. The team will practice Monday through Thursday, which is the last day practice is open to the public. Two-a-day practices will begin at 9 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. Monday and Wednesday afternoon practice is for special teams only.