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  • 12/09/12--19:37: Colts 27, Titans 23
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Colts rookie, vet combining well

    INDIANAPOLIS — Adam Vinatieri is still winning games with his foot. Andrew Luck is still winning games he's not supposed to.

    The clutch kicker and hotshot rookie teamed up again, leading the Colts back from a 13-point halftime deficit for another comeback victory, this time over Tennessee.

    "Everybody on the team — offensively, defensively, special teams — just plays football. They're not worried about the scoreboard too much, not worried about what's going on," Luck said.

    The No. 1 overall draft pick has six fourth-quarter comebacks, one more than Ben Roethlisberger (2004) and Vince Young (2006), which had been the most for a rookie since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Luck also passed Peyton Manning for the most yards passing by a rookie in Colts history with 3,792.

    Vinatieri's two field goals in the fourth quarter provided the winning margin.


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  • 12/09/12--19:50: Late putback rescues UNLV
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    BERKELEY, Calif. — Anthony Bennett, Bryce Dejean-Jones and Anthony Marshall accounted for nearly 80 percent of UNLV's points.

    Quintrell Thomas scored the ones that mattered most.

    Thomas, a senior reserve forward on coach Dave Rice's mostly young squad, grabbed Marshall's airball under the basket and scored on a short hook shot with 1.2 seconds left to lift No. 21 UNLV to a 76-75 win over California on Sunday.

    "I saw it was going to be an airball, so I just tried to go get it as fast as I could," Thomas said. "I saw the guy in (Marshall's) face, so I assumed if it was going to go anywhere, it was going short. I was surprised I beat the shot clock."

    He did, barely, helping the Running Rebels (7-1) stay unbeaten on the road while winning their sixth straight game.

    It almost didn't get to that point.

    UNLV led for most of the second half but trailed 75-74 after two free throws by Cal's Justin Cobbs with 11.9 seconds left. After Rice called timeout, Marshall got the ball near the top of the key and rushed a long jumper that Thomas alertly grabbed and flipped in.

    Thomas was fouled on the play but missed the free throw. Justin Hawkins then blocked a 3-point attempt by Cobbs from midcourt as the buzzer sounded.

    "Found a way," Rice said. "Sometimes basketball just comes down to one play."

    NO. 16 CREIGHTON 77, AKRON 61: Doug McDermott scored 20 of his 30 in the first half and had a career-high six 3-pointers for the host Bluejays (9-1).

    NO. 1 INDIANA: Sophomore forward Austin Etherington is out for the rest of the season because of a fractured left kneecap. Etherington's playing time had steadily increased as the Hoosiers (9-0) moved through the nonconference schedule.

    LATE SATURDAY: Brandon Paul figured his Illini needed a pep talk after rallying to tie Gonzaga at halftime.

    "I kept telling everybody, 'This is it. We've got to take this right now,' " Paul said. " 'We're not playing well, but we're still in this game.' "

    His teammates listened.

    Paul finished with 35 points to lead No. 13 Illinois (10-0) over No. 10 Gonzaga (9-1) 85-74.

    "A lot of people doubted us," Paul said. "We came into the game as underdogs. We love that stuff."

    Paul, a senior guard, made 10 of 16 field-goal attempts, including 5 of 9 3-pointers. He added three assists, two blocks and three steals.

    Women

    NO. 4 DUKE 60, ST. JOHN'S 42: Elizabeth Williams, recovering from a stress fracture in her left leg that has bothered her for eight months, had 16 points, seven rebounds and five blocks to lead the Blue Devils (8-0) in the seventh annual Maggie Dixon Classic in New York.

    NO. 7 KENTUCKY 68, MIDDLE TENN. 56: DeNesha Stallworth had 16 points for the host Wildcats (8-1), who held the Blue Raiders to no field goals and two points over 11 minutes late in the first half.

    NO. 10 PENN ST. 97, G'TOWN 74: Maggie Lucas had a career-high 39 points and ignited a potent transition game for the host Lions (7-2).

    NO. 15 PURDUE 68, TENN.-MARTIN 60: Sam Ostarello scored 14 of her 16 in the second half for the visiting Boilermakers (9-1), who opened the half with a 15-0 run.

    NO. 17 KANSAS 97, NEWMAN 64: Carolyn Davis scored 24 for the host Jayhawks (8-1), who shot 55 percent and never trailed.

    NO. 20 OHIO ST. 81, LAFAYETTE 41: Tayler Hill scored 19 for the Buckeyes (6-2), who won their 28th straight game at home.

    NO. 22 IOWA ST. 60, FAIRFIELD 43: Chelsea Poppens, back after missing three games with a concussion, had 12 points and nine rebounds for the host Cyclones (6-1).


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays talk constantly about the need to balance the present and the future.

    They hoped they did just that in a blockbuster deal with the Royals announced late Sunday.

    Pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis, who played key roles in recent seasons, were traded for four players the Rays are banking on in coming years: blue-chip outfield prospect Wil Myers and three other prospects, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard.

    "We're always trying to thread the needle," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "As an organization, we rely more on contributions of our young players than basically anyone else in baseball. And with this trade, we're hoping to replenish our system and add a lot of players we feel like can help us sustain this run of success that we've had for the last five years."

    None of the three advanced prospects are guaranteed to be on the opening day roster, but Friedman said he would expect all to contribute during the season.

    The prize in the deal is Myers, who was the consensus minor-league player of the year after hitting a combined .314 with 37 homers, 109 RBIs and a .987 on-base plus slugging percentage between the Royals' Double- and Triple-A teams. Myers, who turns 22 today, is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-handed masher with the athleticism to play centerfield.

    "Wil Myers is a guy that has a chance to hit in the middle of a lineup," Friedman said, with a chance to "develop into a good outfielder."

    Odorizzi, 22, made it to the majors in September was ranked the Royals' fifth-best prospect by Baseball America. Montgomery, 23, was ranked their No. 1 prospect, ahead of Myers, going into 2012, but had a second straight rough season. Leonard, 20, was a 2011 draft pick who played at rookie-level Burlington last season with signs of big power.

    Friedman said he wasn't planning to trade two pitchers but the deal moved in that direction as talks, which started in October, gained traction Thursday and Friday.

    "Personally I think this is the most difficult trade we've made to date," he said. "Both guys were drafted and developed here, they've been key players in this organization's turnaround and they're both really high-quality people. It's a painful loss for our club, but I'm confident in our resilience and the talent that will be returning to the field next season."

    Shields, who turns 31 this month, has been a Ray his entire pro career, joining the rotation in 2006 and emerging as the leader of the staff. He is the team's all-time leader with 87 wins, 217 starts, 1,250 strikeouts and 1,454 2/3 innings.

    Shields had spoken openly about wanting to spend his entire career with the Rays, but with steady trade rumors over the past several seasons, he knew his time could be running out.

    "I thought I might be able to squeeze in one more year, but that was kind of being selfish," Shields said Sunday. "I'm excited to go over there, but this is definitely a sad day for me and my family. I've been here 12 years. We made this our second home, and we're definitely going to miss it. I have a lot of good memories here and the fans treated me as good as possible."

    Davis, 27, was moved to the bullpen last season and responded well, primarily in a middle-relief role, going 3-0, 2.43 in 54 appearances with 87 strikeouts in 70 innings.

    "He was extremely selfless last year in moving to the bullpen, but his true calling is as a starter," Friedman said.

    The trade nets the Rays at least $20 million in savings, including the $13.05 million Shields ($10.25 million) and Davis ($2.8 million) were to make this season. At the least, they also would have owed Shields a $1 million buyout on his 2014 option, and Davis a $4.8 million salary in 2014 and a $2.5 million buyout on the first of his three options (which total $25 million).

    Team president Matt Silverman said they are "constantly monitoring" their financial situation — which he compared to being "balanced on the head of a pin," with no margin for error — and while acknowledging "there's certainly some savings" said the deal was not financially motivated.

    With Shields and Davis traded, the Rays have a starting core of Cy Young Award winner David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann (who is coming off injury), Alex Cobb and Chris Archer, plus Odorizzi.

    Myers was considered a first-round talent in 2009 but dropped to the third round due to a $2 million asking price (with an offer to attend South Carolina), and he switched from catching to the outfield after the 2010 season.

    Odorizzi made his way to the majors last season after going 15-5, 3.03 between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha and was 0-1, 4.91 in two September starts. A 2008 supplemental first-round pick by Milwaukee, he was considered the Brewers' top pitching prospect when traded to the Royals in the December 2010 Zack Greinke deal.

    "We feel like he has the chance to be one of five in a really good major-league rotation," Friedman said, citing his makeup and variety of pitches.

    Montgomery, 23, was ranked the Royals' top overall prospect, even ahead of Myers, going into the 2012 season. But the 6-foot-4 left-hander with a blazing fastball had a disappointing season, going 5-12, 6.07 in 27 starts between Double and Triple A, allowing 179 hits and 64 walks in 1492/3 innings. That after a rough 2011 season at Omaha, going 5-11, 5.32.

    "There are some things we feel we can help him with, that he will fit in very well with our development system," Friedman said. "He's a guy that has a lot of upside … with a lot of good ingredients to get major-league hitters out."

    Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.


    JAMES BORCHUCK   |   TimesJAMES BORCHUCK | Times

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  • 12/09/12--20:01: Seahawks 58, Cardinals 0
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Seahawks set team records in romp

    SEATTLE — Russell Wilson got the hook. He wasn't complaining.

    The rookie became an observer for the final 25 minutes of Seattle's rout of the inept Cardinals.

    "It was great to be able to come out of the game because we blew them out so bad," Wilson said.

    Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner each had two interceptions — among eight Arizona turnovers — and Marshawn Lynch ran for three scores as Seattle set a franchise record for points by two.

    According to ESPN it was the fourth-biggest margin of victory in a shutout in league history.

    "I apologize to our fans and everyone associated with our organization. That was embarrassing," coach Ken Whisenhunt said as Arizona's losing streak hit nine, the franchise's longest since 1944. It was also the worst margin of defeat in Cardinals history, which dates to 1920.


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    Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    PHOENIX — Rookie power forward Andrew Nicholson scored nine of his career-high 19 in the fourth quarter and the Magic pulled away to hand the Suns their seventh loss in a row, 98-90 on Sunday.

    Nicholson made 9 of 11 shots and grabbed nine rebounds, also the best of his career.

    J.J. Redick scored 17 of his 20 in the first half for the Magic in the final stop of its five-game road trip.

    Shannon Brown scored 17 and Jared Dudley 15 for the Suns, who were without starting point guard Goran Dragic due to illness. Phoenix's losing streak is its longest since 2004.

    Redick's only points of the second half came on a 3-pointer that put the Magic ahead for good 78-75 with 10:13 left.

    Orlando used an 11-3 run to take its biggest lead, 93-82, when Arron Afflalo made two free throws with 4:38 left.

    Anthony scores 34 in return from injury

    NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony returned from a two-game absence with 34 points against his former team, and the Knicks beat the Nuggets 112-106 to remain the NBA's lone unbeaten team at home.

    Back in the starting lineup after missing two games with a cut on the middle finger of his left hand that required stitches, Anthony twice made baskets in the final 2:08 after Denver had pulled within four points.

    The Knicks bounced back from their worst offensive performance of the season a night earlier in Chicago and improved to 8-0 at Madison Square Garden.

    Game highlights: Kevin Durant scored 27 and Kevin Martin added 24 as the host Thunder, using the league's highest-scoring offense, beat the Pacers, who have the stingiest defense, 104-93. It was the eighth straight win for the Thunder, which eclipsed 100 points for the 12th consecutive game. … Brandon Jennings scored 26, Monta Ellis had 24 and the Bucks withstood a fourth-quarter rally in a 97-88 victory over the host Nets. … Jamal Crawford led a rally by the reserves with 16 points and the Clippers won their sixth in a row, 102-83, and handed the Raptors their 10th consecutive road loss.

    Around the league: Cavaliers coach Byron Scott was fined $25,000 by the NBA for criticizing the officiating after a 91-73 loss Friday. The Cavs attempted nine free throws to Minnesota's 35, and Scott said the officiating was "that bad." He said: "I mean I understand we're playing in Minnesota, but 35-9, we went to the basket just as much as they did." … Celtics forward Chris Wilcox was fined $25,000 by the NBA for making an obscene gesture to the 76ers' Kiss Cam on Friday. … When Lakers forward Pau Gasol returns from his knee tendinitis coach Mike D'Antoni said he will be starting, not coming off the bench in a sixth man role. "We need to find him and Steve (Nash) in there together and look at it and make a good assessment," D'Antoni said. "… I'm not going to mess with Pau. He's too important to the team and he's earned it and he's too good of a player to even go there." Like Gasol, Nash (broken leg) could make his return during the upcoming four-game road trip.

    Magic 98, Suns 90

    ORLANDO (98): Harkless 2-2 0-0 4, Davis 7-11 1-4 15, Vucevic 6-9 0-0 12, Nelson 1-7 2-2 4, Afflalo 5-11 4-4 14, Redick 6-14 4-4 20, Ayon 0-3 0-0 0, Nicholson 9-11 1-2 19, Moore 4-8 1-2 10, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, McRoberts 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 40-77 13-18 98.

    PHOENIX (90): Dudley 6-13 2-4 15, Morris 5-12 0-0 10, Gortat 6-8 0-1 12, Telfair 1-7 3-4 6, Brown 6-16 3-3 17, Scola 5-9 1-1 11, Beasley 0-2 3-4 3, Johnson 2-2 0-0 5, Garrett 1-1 0-0 2, O'Neal 4-8 1-1 9. Totals 36-78 13-18 90.

    Orlando 20 33 18 27— 98

    Phoenix 23 25 22 20— 90

    3-Point GoalsOrlando 5-15 (Redick 4-8, Moore 1-2, Afflalo 0-1, McRoberts 0-1, Nelson 0-3), Phoenix 5-20 (Brown 2-8, Johnson 1-1, Dudley 1-4, Telfair 1-4, Scola 0-1, Morris 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsOrlando 53 (Vucevic, Nicholson 9), Phoenix 36 (Gortat 6). AssistsOrlando 31 (Redick 9), Phoenix 22 (Telfair 8). Total FoulsOrlando 15, Phoenix 19. A13,565.

    Knicks 112, Nuggets 106

    DENVER (106): Faried 5-7 0-2 10, Gallinari 7-11 6-9 21, Koufos 4-5 0-0 8, Lawson 7-15 7-8 23, Iguodala 5-12 3-4 15, C.Brewer 7-13 1-2 15, McGee 2-3 0-0 4, A.Miller 3-6 4-4 10. Totals 40-72 21-29 106.

    NEW YORK (112): Anthony 10-24 11-16 34, R.Brewer 3-6 2-2 9, T.Chandler 7-8 1-4 15, Kidd 4-7 6-6 17, Felton 4-15 2-2 10, Smith 5-19 3-6 15, Novak 2-5 1-1 7, Prigioni 1-1 0-0 3, Thomas 1-1 0-0 2, White 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-86 26-37 112.

    Denver 25 33 26 22— 106

    New York 23 38 19 32— 112

    3-Point GoalsDenver 5-17 (Lawson 2-3, Iguodala 2-5, Gallinari 1-5, C.Brewer 0-4), New York 12-30 (Kidd 3-4, Anthony 3-8, Novak 2-4, Smith 2-7, Prigioni 1-1, R.Brewer 1-4, Felton 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsDenver 47 (Gallinari 9), New York 53 (T.Chandler 12). AssistsDenver 18 (Lawson 6), New York 20 (Kidd 7). Total FoulsDenver 22, New York 22. TechnicalsGallinari, Denver Coach Karl, Anthony. A19,033.

    Thunder 104, Pacers 93

    INDIANA (93): George 5-15 4-4 17, West 10-16 1-3 21, Hibbert 4-9 2-2 10, Stephenson 4-8 1-1 10, Hill 5-14 3-3 15, Mahinmi 2-7 0-0 4, Green 4-7 0-0 8, Augustin 2-3 0-0 4, Young 1-2 0-0 2, T.Hansbrough 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 38-82 11-13 93.

    OKLAHOMA CITY (104): Durant 9-24 8-10 27, Ibaka 6-9 0-0 12, Perkins 1-2 2-2 4, Westbrook 7-17 6-7 21, Sefolosha 1-4 0-0 2, Martin 7-12 7-8 24, Collison 2-3 1-1 5, Thabeet 1-1 1-2 3, Maynor 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 37-76 25-30 104.

    Indiana 22 34 18 19— 93

    Oklahoma City 25 32 27 20— 104

    3-Point GoalsIndiana 6-17 (George 3-6, Hill 2-7, Stephenson 1-1, Augustin 0-1, Green 0-1, Young 0-1), Oklahoma City 5-19 (Martin 3-6, Westbrook 1-3, Durant 1-5, Collison 0-1, Maynor 0-1, Ibaka 0-1, Sefolosha 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsIndiana 38 (West 9), Oklahoma City 52 (Perkins, Ibaka 9). AssistsIndiana 13 (George, Hill 3), Oklahoma City 16 (Westbrook 6). Total FoulsIndiana 20, Oklahoma City 16. TechnicalsIndiana three second, Westbrook. A18,203.

    Bucks 97, Nets 88

    MILWAUKEE (97): Daniels 5-10 2-2 13, Sanders 3-12 0-0 6, Udoh 1-2 1-1 3, Jennings 8-19 6-6 26, Ellis 8-13 8-9 24, Mbah a Moute 2-5 5-10 9, Ilyasova 4-8 1-1 10, Lamb 2-2 1-1 6, Przybilla 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-71 24-30 97.

    BROOKLYN (88): Wallace 6-12 4-6 16, Evans 2-3 1-2 5, Blatche 3-7 5-6 11, Williams 8-19 1-2 18, Johnson 2-8 1-2 6, Humphries 2-8 0-0 4, Stackhouse 3-10 0-0 9, Childress 0-2 0-0 0, Teletovic 0-0 0-0 0, Watson 2-5 0-0 5, Brooks 4-5 5-5 14. Totals 32-79 17-23 88.

    Milwaukee 25 23 27 22— 97

    Brooklyn 18 13 24 33— 88

    3-Point GoalsMilwaukee 7-16 (Jennings 4-7, Lamb 1-1, Daniels 1-2, Ilyasova 1-4, Mbah a Moute 0-1, Ellis 0-1), Brooklyn 7-25 (Stackhouse 3-7, Brooks 1-1, Johnson 1-3, Watson 1-4, Williams 1-7, Wallace 0-3). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsMilwaukee 40 (Daniels 7), Brooklyn 57 (Wallace 16). AssistsMilwaukee 21 (Jennings 7), Brooklyn 22 (Williams 8). Total FoulsMilwaukee 19, Brooklyn 20. TechnicalsEvans, Brooklyn defensive three second. A16,390.

    Clippers 102, Raptors 83

    TORONTO (83): Kleiza 5-11 2-3 17, Bargnani 5-15 0-0 12, Valanciunas 0-3 1-2 1, Lowry 2-6 0-0 4, DeRozan 10-17 3-4 24, Johnson 4-7 3-4 11, Calderon 1-5 2-2 5, Ross 1-7 0-0 3, Davis 2-6 2-2 6, Lucas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-77 13-17 83.

    L.A. CLIPPERS (102): Butler 4-9 0-0 9, Griffin 7-11 5-6 19, Jordan 1-7 5-11 7, Paul 5-10 5-5 16, Green 2-4 0-0 4, Odom 2-6 0-0 4, Crawford 4-14 6-8 16, Barnes 2-5 2-2 7, Bledsoe 6-9 1-2 14, Turiaf 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 36-79 24-34 102.

    Toronto 21 26 26 10— 83

    L.A. Clippers 25 19 33 25— 102

    3-Point GoalsToronto 10-26 (Kleiza 5-6, Bargnani 2-5, DeRozan 1-2, Calderon 1-3, Ross 1-6, Valanciunas 0-1, Lowry 0-3), L.A. Clippers 6-19 (Crawford 2-5, Butler 1-2, Paul 1-2, Bledsoe 1-2, Barnes 1-3, Green 0-1, Odom 0-4). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsToronto 48 (Johnson 12), L.A. Clippers 56 (Jordan 10). AssistsToronto 22 (Lowry 9), L.A. Clippers 21 (Bledsoe 6). Total FoulsToronto 22, L.A. Clippers 17. TechnicalsKleiza, Lucas, Toronto defensive three second, Barnes, Jordan. Ejected—Lucas, Barnes. A19,060.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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  • 12/09/12--20:12: NFL news and notes
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Around the league

    COWBOYS' BRENT OUT OF JAIL AFTER FRIEND'S DEATH

    IRVING, Texas — Cowboys DT Josh Brent was released from custody Sunday after posting a $500,000 bond, a day after being charged with intoxication manslaughter after what police called a drunken-driving accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown.

    "Jerry Brown was my very best friend, and I'm just trying to deal with his death right now," Brent, 24, said, stopping briefly when asked if he had anything to say to Brown's family. He didn't answer any other questions on his way out of jail.

    Irving police said Brent was speeding in the Dallas suburb when the vehicle he was driving hit a curb and flipped about 2:20 a.m. Saturday. Brown, 25, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

    Brent's manslaughter charge is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

    Brown's grandmother Theresa Clark of St. Louis told the Associated Press that Brown and Brent grew close while they were college teammates at Illinois from 2007-09. Brown's mother, Stacey Jackson of Champaign, Ill., said Brown was an expectant father. "I'm very excited and anxious to meet my granddaughter," she said. "She will be here in two more months."

    BEARS: Brandon Marshall joined Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison and Wes Welker as players with at least four seasons of 100 or more receptions. He also set the team record with his 101st catch this season.

    BILLS: The status of RB Fred Jackson (right leg) for the season is uncertain.

    CHIEFS: RB Jamaal Charles played a day after attending the funeral of Kasandra Perkins, the cousin of his wife. Perkins was fatally shot Dec. 1 by Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher, who then took his life.

    COLTS: Reggie Wayne caught six passes to give him 956 total; he passed Andre Reed (951) for No. 10 on the league's career list.

    49ERS: RB Brandon Jacobs has taken to social media to express his frustration at his lack of a role. The former Giant said Saturday via Instagram that he is "on this team rotting away." He was inactive Sunday.

    PANTHERS: They won a coin flip for the first time this year, as captain Jordan Gross celebrated at midfield. Including overtime, they were 0-13 on flips. "I've never seen people cheering so loud for a coin toss," Gross said with a laugh.

    Times wires


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  • 12/09/12--20:45: Packers 27, Lions 20
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Packers on a charge in game, season

    GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Packers added more spice to this coming weekend's game in Chicago, moving within one win of the NFC North title with their victory over the Lions.

    Former Brooksville Central High star DuJuan Harris rushed for a score in his first game action with the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers added the longest touchdown run of his career as Green Bay opened a one-game lead over Chicago. A win Sunday at Soldier Field gives Green Bay the division.

    Calvin Johnson had 118 yards receiving to put him over 1,500 for the year, but it wasn't enough to keep the Lions from dropping their fifth straight. This was the third straight game they've blown a lead of 10-plus points, tying a record shared by six other teams.

    The Packers have won 22 straight at home against the Lions, the longest streak in the NFL.

    Green Bay took the lead on Rodgers' 27-yard scoring run in the third quarter.


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    By Stephen F. Holder and Joe Smith, Times staff writers
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    Secondary struggles

    The Bucs' secondary is young and, other than FS Ronde Barber, unproven. With the trade of Aqib Talib and the suspension of Eric Wright this season, Tampa Bay has had to rely on three undrafted cornerbacks: Leonard Johnson, 22; Danny Gorrer, 26, and now-injured LeQuan Lewis, 23.

    The secondary's seasonlong struggles continued Sunday. It allowed 381 passing yards to Eagles rookie QB Nick Foles, including 135 over two fourth-quarter TD drives.

    The Bucs are the only team allowing more than 300 passing yards per game (314.9 average), and they likely will continue to get picked on.

    "You've got to have guys go and make plays when it matters, guys to step up and do their job better than the guys across from you," Barber said. "We haven't done that. There's plenty of reasons for that. I don't care to get into them. We're not good enough right now, especially on the back end, to win games like this."

    Sunday was the seventh time this season a QB passed for 300 or more yards against the Bucs and the fifth time one did for 350-plus. It won't get easier with the Saints' Drew Brees (377 against the Bucs on Oct. 21) up next.

    "It's tough, but as a secondary we're growing," Gorrer said. "We're young right now, but it's what we signed up for. We know big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. We're looking forward to it."

    Martin bounces back

    Doug Martin looked as if he was headed for a lovely day Sunday. He had rebounded from two subpar rushing games, surpassing 100 yards for the fourth time this season. He had scored a touchdown. And the Bucs seemed on their way to a victory.

    That changed with Philadelphia's 64-yard winning drive.

    "In a loss, I don't really feel anything," said Martin, whose 4-yard run put the Bucs up 21-10 with 7:21 left in the game. "Individual stats aren't really important unless you get the (win)."

    But the numbers aren't meaningless. Martin rushed for 128 yards on 28 carries (4.6-yard average). With 1,234 yards, Martin has eclipsed Cadillac Williams' franchise rookie record of 1,178 set in 2005.

    In his previous two games, Martin had experienced struggles that seemed foreign to him. He rushed for 50 yards against the Falcons on Nov. 25 followed by 56 on Dec. 2 against the Broncos, both losses.

    Martin reached his total Sunday the hard way, without a breakaway run. His longest run was 14 yards.

    Martin is still within reach of James Wilder's franchise record of 1,544 yards in a season, set in 1984. He also is three TDs shy of tying Wilder's season franchise record of 13 (all rushing) set in 1984.

    Freeman has poor first half

    Josh Freeman's halftime stat line did not look like the handiwork of a franchise quarterback: five completions among 16 passing attempts for 61 yards, with two sacks.

    Most important was what those numbers don't indicate: The Bucs' scoreless opening two quarters were largely a result of Freeman's struggles. There was no masking things for Tampa Bay's fourth-year passer.

    "Early on I missed a couple (of throws) down the field just by small margins," Freeman said. "We wanted to get something going early on, and we were unable to do that. It was frustrating, because I felt we had a great plan. It was just we didn't have the execution."

    For as much as the Eagles' final scoring drive will be debated and regretted by the Bucs and their fans, the Bucs' offense's inability to do much of anything in the first half loomed just as large. "We were taking shots and trying to throw it downfield," Freeman said. "One to Vincent (Jackson) was out in front of him. One to Mike (Williams), the (defender) jumped up and made a play on it. If you hit a couple of those, you really have something going.

    "I thought our defense did a great job holding (the Eagles) to 10 points (in the half). But you definitely have to come out and play better in the first half and score more points."

    Answers were elusive. Freeman looked at times the way he did in arguably his worst game of the season, the Sept. 23 loss to the Cowboys (15-of-28, 243 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions).

    "It just seemed like he wasn't himself, wasn't in synch," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "Then he made some throws that make you say, 'Oh, there he is.' We as an offensive football team didn't play the way we are capable of playing."

    Freeman made enough plays during the second half to give the Bucs a chance. He finished 14-of-34 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson had a big day along the way with six catches for 131 yards.

    Said Freeman: "We didn't do enough."

    Foles feels the pressure

    You wouldn't conclude, based on the success of the Eagles' Nick Foles on Sunday (381 passing yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions), that the Bucs had their most consistent pass rush of the season.

    The Bucs recorded a season-high six sacks, exploiting an offensive line that let Michael Vick get battered throughout the season until he sustained a concussion in Week 10 against the Cowboys.

    The pressure began early, and it came from the Bucs' highest-profile lineman. Gerald McCoy, the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2010, busted through a blocker and buried Foles for a 10-yard loss on the game's third play from scrimmage. McCoy and DE Michael Bennett ended up with two sacks apiece. LB Lavonte David (the first of his career) and DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (the fourth of his career) had one each.

    Foles stood tall in the pocket despite the pressure. .

    "It's not easy to keep your poise when you're getting hit all day as a rookie," McCoy said. "But he did. All the credit goes to him. (Bennett) got to him early on the last drive. (Foles) could have gotten nervous, but he didn't."

    The Bucs haven't applied consistent pressure on quarterbacks lately. McCoy, for example, hadn't registered a sack since getting two against the Cowboys' Tony Romo on Sept. 23. Rushing the quarterback had become a major point of emphasis of the coaching staff.

    "A lot of it is defensive game-planning," DE Da'Quan Bowers said. "And then (coach Greg Schiano) challenged us last week. A lot of guys took it upon themselves to get in the film room or wherever and work on their craft. And we had a better showing."

    Just not good enough to get the win.

    Rookie earns first win

    With their playoff hopes gone and the Michael Vick era potentially over, the Eagles have put the rest of their season — and maybe more — in the hands of rookie QB Nick Foles.

    The third-round draft pick out of Arizona gave them a flash of his potential Sunday, throwing for 381 yards and pulling off a fourth-quarter rally in his fourth start.

    He is the third rookie with at least 350 passing yards, two TDs and no interceptions in a game (Billy Joe Tolliver and the Colts' Andrew Luck are the others).

    "You guys are seeing Nick Foles grow into a phenomenal quarterback right in front of your eyes," receiver Jeremy Maclin said. "The sky's the limit for him."

    Foles' teammates chanted his name as he entered the locker room.

    "It's very special, very humbling," Foles said of his first win.

    Foles faced heavy pressure all game, getting sacked six times. But he took care of the ball while throwing 51 passes.

    Foles, the starter since Vick sustained a concussion in Week 10, ran for a touchdown during the second quarter, then threw two TD passes over the final 3:55, scrambling for a first down and calling a few audibles along the way.

    "It looked like he rallied the team," coach Andy Reid said. "Or they rallied around him. It looked like Nick … made good decisions and made big plays."

    One tired leg

    The Bucs' Michael Koenen had a busy day with 10 punts, including seven during the first half, for 424 yards, a 42.4-yard average. He averaged 43.7 yards before a 31-yarder on the Bucs' final possession that gave Philadelphia the ball on its 32 with 2:44 left.

    It's a screen pass! Uh-oh … it's a TD

    If you noticed Bucs LB Lavonte David and LB Mason Foster streaking toward Eagles QB Nick Foles before his 10-yard touchdown scramble in the second quarter and wondered why they detoured, there's a simple explanation.

    Both believed a screen pass was coming. So they stopped giving chase, changed direction and then chased RB Dion Lewis, the would-be receiver.

    In the process, the Bucs lost containment on Foles, who took off on a light jog to his right and scored just inside the front pylon.

    "I knew it was a screen based on the formation," Foster said. "You run free on a screen. Usually somebody would be blocking you. I ran to (defend) the screen. And I guess we both chased it, and nobody went after (Foles). In a perfect world, somebody would have run down the screen and somebody would have gotten the quarterback.

    "It's a tough one. It's a screen. So we're all chasing. When you see that, you have to trust your instincts and make a play."

    Said David: "You have to learn from it. That just can't happen. You have to learn from it and move on."

    Foles makes his pitch, then makes his throw

    With the Eagles 1 yard from a winning touchdown and two seconds left on the clock, rookie QB Nick Foles knew what play he wanted to run.

    So when the Bucs called timeout, Foles went to the sideline to sell his coaches on the idea. He wanted to roll out, figuring a movement play would make it tough for a defensive back to undercut a sideline pass. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg gave him a high-five and his seal of approval.

    "He called it. He wanted it," Eagles coach Andy Reid said of Foles. "And he executed it."

    WR Jeremy Maclin, who lined up in the right slot, believed the play would work once he saw how deep CB Leonard Johnson was positioned in the end zone.

    Maclin ran forward, then cut to the right corner, making a sliding catch just inside the sideline for the touchdown.

    "They just made a good play," Johnson said.

    Said Maclin: "Nick put the ball down and away like he was supposed to. I went down, and I got the ball, made sure I was inbounds, and the rest is history."

    Quick hits

    • The Bucs' Vincent Jackson had his fourth 100-yard receiving day of 2012 (131), including key catches in both fourth-quarter scoring drives.

    • The Bucs recorded 10 tackles for loss, including one during each of the Eagles' first three possessions.

    • Mike Williams' touchdown catch, a 1-yarder, was his seventh of the season for the Bucs, 21st of his career.


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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays talk constantly about the need to balance the present and the future.

    They hoped they did just that in a blockbuster deal with the Royals announced late Sunday.

    Pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis, who played key roles in recent seasons, were traded for four players the Rays are banking on in coming years: blue-chip outfield prospect Wil Myers and three other prospects, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard.

    "We're always trying to thread the needle," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "As an organization, we rely more on contributions of our young players than basically anyone else in baseball. And with this trade, we're hoping to replenish our system and add a lot of players we feel like can help us sustain this run of success that we've had for the last five years."

    None of the three advanced prospects are guaranteed to be on the opening day roster, but Friedman said he would expect all to contribute during the season.

    The prize in the deal is Myers, who was the consensus minor-league player of the year after hitting a combined .314 with 37 homers, 109 RBIs and a .987 on-base plus slugging percentage between the Royals' Double- and Triple-A teams. Myers, who turns 22 today, is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-handed masher with the athleticism to play centerfield.

    "Wil Myers is a guy that has a chance to hit in the middle of a lineup," Friedman said, with a chance to "develop into a good outfielder."

    Odorizzi, 22, made it to the majors in September was ranked the Royals' fifth-best prospect by Baseball America. Montgomery, 23, was ranked their No. 1 prospect, ahead of Myers, going into 2012, but had a second straight rough season. Leonard, 20, was a 2011 draft pick who played at rookie-level Burlington last season with signs of big power.

    Friedman said he wasn't planning to trade two pitchers but the deal moved in that direction as talks, which started in October, gained traction Thursday and Friday.

    "Personally I think this is the most difficult trade we've made to date," he said. "Both guys were drafted and developed here, they've been key players in this organization's turnaround and they're both really high-quality people. It's a painful loss for our club, but I'm confident in our resilience and the talent that will be returning to the field next season."

    Shields, who turns 31 this month, has been a Ray his entire pro career, joining the rotation in 2006 and emerging as the leader of the staff. He is the team's all-time leader with 87 wins, 217 starts, 1,250 strikeouts and 1,454 2/3 innings.

    Shields had spoken openly about wanting to spend his entire career with the Rays, but with steady trade rumors over the past several seasons, he knew his time could be running out.

    "I thought I might be able to squeeze in one more year, but that was kind of being selfish," Shields said Sunday. "I'm excited to go over there, but this is definitely a sad day for me and my family. I've been here 12 years. We made this our second home, and we're definitely going to miss it. I have a lot of good memories here and the fans treated me as good as possible."

    Davis, 27, was moved to the bullpen last season and responded well, primarily in a middle-relief role, going 3-0, 2.43 in 54 appearances with 87 strikeouts in 70 innings.

    "He was extremely selfless last year in moving to the bullpen, but his true calling is as a starter," Friedman said.

    The trade nets the Rays at least $20 million in savings, including the $13.05 million Shields ($10.25 million) and Davis ($2.8 million) were to make this season. At the least, they also would have owed Shields a $1 million buyout on his 2014 option, and Davis a $4.8 million salary in 2014 and a $2.5 million buyout on the first of his three options (which total $25 million).

    Team president Matt Silverman said they are "constantly monitoring" their financial situation — which he compared to being "balanced on the head of a pin," with no margin for error — and while acknowledging "there's certainly some savings" said the deal was not financially motivated.

    With Shields and Davis traded, the Rays have a starting core of Cy Young Award winner David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann (who is coming off injury), Alex Cobb and Chris Archer, plus Odorizzi.

    Myers was considered a first-round talent in 2009 but dropped to the third round due to a $2 million asking price (with an offer to attend South Carolina), and he switched from catching to the outfield after the 2010 season.

    Odorizzi made his way to the majors last season after going 15-5, 3.03 between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha and was 0-1, 4.91 in two September starts. A 2008 supplemental first-round pick by Milwaukee, he was considered the Brewers' top pitching prospect when traded to the Royals in the December 2010 Zack Greinke deal.

    "We feel like he has the chance to be one of five in a really good major-league rotation," Friedman said, citing his makeup and variety of pitches.

    Montgomery, 23, was ranked the Royals' top overall prospect, even ahead of Myers, going into the 2012 season. But the 6-foot-4 left-hander with a blazing fastball had a disappointing season, going 5-12, 6.07 in 27 starts between Double and Triple A, allowing 179 hits and 64 walks in 1492/3 innings. That after a rough 2011 season at Omaha, going 5-11, 5.32.

    "There are some things we feel we can help him with, that he will fit in very well with our development system," Friedman said. "He's a guy that has a lot of upside … with a lot of good ingredients to get major-league hitters out."

    Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.


    JAMES BORCHUCK   |   TimesJAMES BORCHUCK | Times

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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG

    By now, you've probably heard that newly acquired Rays outfielder Wil Myers is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. That he projects to be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. Has the power to hit 25, or 30 — or is it 40? — home runs. Reminds people of Dale Murphy. Has five-tool ability and All-Star potential.

    "Probably everything you've heard is pretty close to true," said former and future teammate Jake Odorizzi, a pitcher who was also part of the deal. "He's incredible to watch. He's an exciting player. … I think he's going to be a special one."

    The Rays are certainly banking on it after Sunday's blockbuster trade in which they sent two key members of their pitching staff, James Shields and Wade Davis, to Kansas City for a package, headlined by Myers, of four prospects.

    "Wil Myers, from what I understand, is a potential high-impact middle-of-the-order bat just like Shields is a high-impact top-of-the-order pitcher," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "So that's why I'm saying it sounds like a good trade for both sides.

    "He has the potential to hit for average, to hit for power, he runs well, he's a solid outfielder. He sounds very calm and sure of himself, and he's got a good feel for the day. I expect someone who has a high level of charisma and a way to walk through the day very confident. It sounds like he's got all the ingredients to be very good."

    The proper attitude is among them, said Jeff Berry, the co-head of CAA Baseball, which represents Myers.

    "He's a great kid, an outstanding person, and he loves to play and compete," Berry said. "He enjoys playing. That's his main motivation. … He really enjoys playing the game."

    Myers said he was excited, relieved and a bit humbled by the trade and all the attention it has garnered — including a "Wil He, or Won't He" ticket promotion by the Triple-A Durham Bulls, and more questions about why he spells his name with one L. (It has always been that way, he said.)

    And as if the deal weren't enough of an event, Myers already had something to celebrate Monday, as he turned 22.

    "It's been quite a birthday," he said on a conference call.

    The Rays say they won't make any decisions on whether he is ready for the majors until they get to spring training, as much to see how he hits and runs and throws as to get a sense of how he carries himself and the look in his eyes.

    Myers figures to be a little nervous and feel a bit awkward as the new kid in town but is determined to show he is ready. His stats seemed to show that last season, as he moved from Double-A Northwest Arkansas to Triple-A Omaha with some staggering totals, especially for a 21-year-old: a .314 average, 37 home runs, 109 RBIs and a .387 on-base percentage.

    "As a player you want to be confident in your ability and know that you think you're ready for the big leagues," Myers said. "But it's not my decision to make; you leave it in the hands of the front office."

    Some areas of his game need to be improved, such as cutting down on strikeouts (140 last season in 591 plate appearances), improving his average and getting more comfortable in the outfield, where he moved from catching after 2010 (and projects most likely as a rightfielder).

    As such, there are also business reasons that could factor into the Rays' decision. For example, they can extend the period of time until he reaches free agency to seven years by keeping him in the minors until late April, and keep him from becoming eligible for arbitration a year early by waiting until late May/early June.

    Myers knows enough to understand there are a lot of things he can't control. But the one thing he can, he has a pretty good read on.

    "I just want to go out," he said, "and try to be an exciting player."

    And when he does, odds are that everyone will hear about it.

    Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com


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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    GAINESVILLE — If you're not playing in the national championship football game, the next best bonus to playing in a January bowl game — besides pride and adding to your win column — is the chance to get that extra practice time in during bowl preparations.

    It's like having an extra spring football season in December.

    The No. 4 (No. 3 in BCS standings) Florida Gators got back on the practice field for light workouts this past weekend and will conclude their final workouts next week before breaking for the holidays.

    "Our first four or five bowl practices will be absolutely no work on the opponent, it will be all working on ourselves, getting our guys back in the swing of playing football again and working on developing our young players," coach Will Muschamp said.

    "The last four practices before we break for Christmas will be dedicated to the opponent, no different than game week. And when we get to the bowl site, we'll go back to the normal game preparation week. So you get two weeks to really prepare for those guys. Sometimes our guys will forget over Christmas the game plan. So we've got to review that."

    Muschamp said the delicate balance lies in working out enough to get young players some valuable extra practice, but not overworking your players at the end of a long season.

    "I think you go back, and you can practice too much," Muschamp said. "You can prepare too much, and you become stale as a team. I've always looked at it as practicing seven or eight times here in Gainesville, and you go to the bowl site, and you will get another five or six practices. You're looking at another spring ball. You've got to keep it interesting for your guys."

    FRESHMAN HONORS: Florida freshman G/F Sydney Moss on Monday was named SEC women's basketball freshman of the week. Moss was the Gators' leading scorer in their two victories this past week, averaging 16.5 points and a team-best 66.7 percent shooting from the field. She also had a team-high eight assists to just three turnovers. Moss scored a career- and game-high 18 in a win against Troy that snapped the Gators' two-game losing streak and began a two-game win streak, which included an 89-82 win against a Pacific squad that had entered the game as one of 17 undefeated teams in the country.

    The Florida women return to competition Dec. 16 with a game against LaSalle in Philadelphia.

    ON THE RISE: The Florida men's basketball team remains undefeated and on Monday moved up one spot in the AP poll to No. 5. The Gators remained at No. 5 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. Coach Billy Donovan said he's trying to keep his team from becoming overconfident after defeating every opponent this season by double digits, including last week's 72-47 victory over Florida State.

    "There's a fine line in understanding who we are," Donovan said. "You win a game by a large margin and you come back to practice the next day and it ends up being a mind-set of, 'We've got this figured out and we know what we're doing.' And that's where I think slippage starts to occur. So we've talked about that a lot. Everything that's happened up to this point and time is really all in the past."

    The Gators (7-0) will play at No. 8 Arizona (7-0) Saturday at 10 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.

    Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.


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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    TAMPA — Much has been made over the struggles of Bucs QB Josh Freeman and the offense in the first half of Sunday's loss to the Eagles.

    Freeman admitted they were "a little off," as he was 5-for-16 for 61 yards. Tampa Bay had zero points at halftime and was 1-for-8 on third downs.

    Coach Greg Schiano said Monday the Bucs have themselves to blame for several "self-inflicted wounds." Three of their eight penalties came on offense in the first half, including two holding calls on RT Demar Dotson, who blamed lax technique.

    "It's being sloppy," Dotson said. "I have to clean it up. One of them I question, but (the officials) probably miss one somewhere in the game that they should've called, so you can't worry about that. I have to clean up my technique."

    His holding call in the first quarter contributed to a wasted opportunity. After the Bucs took possession at their 48-yard line, Dotson's penalty gave them first and 20; they wound up punting.

    Dotson wasn't alone. In the first quarter, Tampa Bay had the ball at midfield, but LT Donald Penn's false start led to first and 15. They eventually punted again.

    "We committed too many penalties, some in crucial situations," Schiano said.

    The first offensive play set the tone, with RB Doug Martin and Freeman fumbling an exchange, putting Tampa Bay in second and 14.

    "We got off schedule," Schiano said. "When you run your offense efficiently, you're on schedule, you're in manageable situations. It gives you run-pass chances, choices and checks if you want to do it at the line of scrimmage. You get behind in the series and it changes your playcalling mentality a little bit."

    WR Vincent Jackson also credited the Eagles for making defensive adjustments they had not shown on film.

    "They played us a little different than we expected," he said. "They were doing a lot more roll coverage, safeties over top, and they hadn't shown a lot of that in that format. There are just keys and things that they haven't shown before. Sometimes, it takes a drive or two to get it going, to break it down and we did that."

    JUST FOR KICKS: One reason Schiano called a run up the middle on third and 8 with 2:55 left was his confidence in P Michael Koenen. With the Bucs at their 33, Schiano hoped to pin the Eagles deep and make rookie QB Nick Foles drive down the field with no timeouts.

    But Koenen's punt went just 31 yards, 14 less than his season average, sailing out of bounds at the Eagles 36.

    "I hit it a little square, and the wind was blowing that direction," Koenen said. "So it took it further than I wanted to take it."

    Koenen has been one of the league's best on kickoffs, including a 69.7 touchback percentage (second to Denver's 70.5 percent). But Koenen is 27th in net punting average at 38.9.

    "So far it's been a pretty good year," Koenen said. "There's been things, of course, you'd change and do better. But I feel like we've done pretty well."

    INJURY REPORT: DT Roy Miller, who sat out with a concussion, said Monday he expects to be "good" to go for Sunday's game against the Saints.

    HELPING HAND: LB Lavonte David, RB Doug Martin and the rookies will visit All Children's Hospital today. … S Mark Barron and some teammates will deliver sports equipment to the Family Enrichment Center of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office this afternoon.

    TRANSACTION: CB Myron Lewis was placed on injured reserve, and the team was awarded G Hayword Hicks off waivers from Kansas City.

    Times staff writer Stephen Holder contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.


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    By Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    So the Rays traded pitcher James Shields for some guy none of us have ever seen play, but many say is baseball's next superstar.

    We knew this was coming. We'd heard the rumors for weeks. Finally, the deal came down Sunday night when Shields and pitcher Wade Davis were shipped off to the Royals for minor-league player of the year Wil Myers and three other prospects.

    No one can sit here today and guarantee that this was a good deal, not even Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman, the man who orchestrated the trade.

    But you can't rail against it, either. Sure, you hate to see Shields go, considering all he has meant to the Rays. And, absolutely, it's a considerable risk to trade a top-of-the-rotation starter, as well as another proven pitcher, for a group of kids who haven't done a thing at the major-league level.

    However, here are five reasons to get on board with the trade.

    The Rays need bats, and this is their best way to get them

    Last season, the Rays had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. They had a Cy Young winner, the majors' best starting rotation, a solid bullpen and a closer who had, arguably, the greatest relief season in MLB history. You could make a case it was among the best pitching staffs ever.

    And it still wasn't good enough to make the playoffs in a season when more teams made the playoffs than ever before.

    Let's face it: The always offensively challenged Rays need some big bats, especially after losing B.J. Upton. I'm not talking about signing free agents on the cheap, such as Luke Scott and Carlos Peña and Johnny Damon, and hoping they have another okay season squeezed out of them. I'm talking about stars.

    They don't have the money to go out and sign an Albert Pujols or a Prince Fielder. The draft over the past five years hasn't produced anything for the Rays.

    To get a potential star who is just about major-league ready — and apparently Myers has all the makings of a 30-homer, 100-RBI producer — the Rays have to make trades, and that means giving up something good to get something good.

    The Rays had an excess of pitching

    With Shields, Davis, Cy Young winner David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer, the Rays already had more starting pitchers than they had spots in the rotation.

    Shields eats up innings, but soon, Hellickson and Moore will evolve to the point where they are better than Shields. On this team, you can't have the No. 3 or No. 4 starter making the kind of money Shields makes.

    This is not unlike when the Rays dealt Matt Garza in 2011. Ultimately, they really didn't miss Garza, who, in 2010, went 15-10 — the exact record that Shields had last season.

    Price, Hellickson, Moore and some combination of Niemann, Cobb, Archer and Jake Odorizzi, also acquired in the trade with the Royals, will make up a rotation that remains among the best in the majors.

    Now is the time to deal Shields

    Shields is getting more expensive by the year and, eventually, you were going to have to think about dealing him anyway. You are never going to get more for him than you are right now.

    Look, Shields is an absolute bulldog who has a tremendous work ethic and could be an effective starter for years to come. Then again, he's about to turn 31 and has thrown nearly 1,500 major-league innings, including 477 over the past two seasons. That's a lot. So are the 14 complete games he has thrown over that span, and he has thrown enough pitches to strike out 448.

    This is in no way to suggest that Shields' arm is about to fall off, but his heavy workload is something to watch.

    Myers is worth the risk

    Myers was Baseball America's minor-league player of the year in 2012. The past four winners of that award were the Angels' Mike Trout, Hellickson, the Braves' Jason Heyward and the Orioles' Matt Wieters, all outstanding players. Past winners also include Joe Mauer, Derek Jeter, Andruw Jones, Paul Konerko, Jose Canseco and Doc Gooden.

    Is it a guarantee of success? Of course not. But based on the names, it's a pretty good gauge. Besides, nearly everyone who follows these things says Myers will be a star.

    The Rays had no other choice but to make a deal

    Are the Rays better today than they were before the trade? Maybe not. Myers might not even start the season with the Rays. But the plan is for this move to pay off in six months, and in a year, and over the next five years.

    This is how the small-market Rays must operate. They continue to walk the fine line of trying to win now and keeping an eye on the future.

    When you're the Rays, there are no guarantees. You count your pennies. You do your homework. Eventually, you hold your breath and take a risk.

    And, make no mistake, this is a risk. But it's a risk the Rays must take if they hope to stay a contender for years to come.


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    By Tim Whitfield, Times Correspondent
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    What's hot: Silver trout are abundant on the reefs, creating a mainstay to get some fresh for the table. Shrimp on a jig head gets the fish going, then a switch to a soft plastic shad tail keeps things interesting. These fish need to be eaten fairly soon since they do not freeze well. Pompano have appeared in strange places. Usually found around bridges, these fish have been seen mixed in with redfish and trout on an oyster bar.

    Tips: On the negative lows, poling into position to find redfish, or wading out to them, has been exciting. They spook easily, so move slowly and quietly. Scented baits or cut ladyfish are top producers. This is the perfect time of year to take the kids. Area canals and creeks are loaded with small redfish, keeper sheepshead and small trout. While not everyone's idea of a good time, kids enjoy catching them one after another. Use live or dead shrimp on a jig head.

    Tim Whitfield can be reached at (813) 714-0889 or tim@swiftfishcharters.com.


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    Times wires
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Now that Bobby Petrino is back in the coaching ranks, he wants to make the most of his second chance.

    Petrino, 51, was introduced Monday as Western Kentucky's head coach. He was fired by Arkansas in April for a "pattern of misleading" behavior after an accident in which he was injured while riding a motorcycle with his mistress as a passenger.

    "At this point in my career, it's about getting back and coaching players," Petrino said. "It just happened to open up at a place we love.

    "I hope it can be as long as possible."

    Petrino was 34-17 at Arkansas before he was dismissed. He had an affair with former Razorbacks volleyball player Jessica Dorrell, whom he later hired as a football assistant and gave $20,000 in gifts. Petrino said initially he was the only person on the motorcycle but later admitted to Dorrell's presence.

    "I'm going to be able to sit down with mom and dad and the student-athlete and make them understand how this experience has made me a better coach, a better person and will make me understand their son better," Petrino said during a packed news conference at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

    "I'm looking forward to the opportunity I'll be able to give student athletes when they make a mistake."

    Petrino is replacing Willie Taggart, who left last week to become USF's coach.

    Western Kentucky gave Petrino a four-year deal with a base annual salary of $850,000. If he terminates the deal at any time, he must re-pay the university $1.2 million in six monthly payments starting the month after he leaves.

    Athletic director Todd Stewart said he and Petrino had a long discussion over the weekend about the coach's past. Stewart said Petrino was candid and honest about his conduct and took responsibility for his actions.

    COLORADO TABS MACINTYRE: Mike MacIntyre turned around San Jose State in short order and will be asked to do the same at Colorado.

    MacIntyre, 47, signed a five-year deal to coach the Buffaloes, ending a two-week search that included a rejection by their first choice, Butch Jones.

    MacIntyre inherits a program that has had seven straight losing seasons, including a 1-11 record this year under Jon Embree that was the worst in the program's 123-year history.

    INJURED RB TO TRY NFL: South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, whose season ended with a horrific right knee injury, will enter the NFL draft, the Associated Press reported. The junior was hurt Oct. 27 against Tennessee and had surgery to repair several ligaments on Nov. 2. It is unclear when he'll be able to return to the field.

    OUTBACK BOWL: Darius Rucker will sing the national anthem at the Jan. 1 game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

    OHIO STate: All-Big Ten defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins announced he will give up his senior season to make himself available for the 2013 NFL draft. Hankins is expected to be a high first-round pick.

    UTEP: Former Miners player Sean Kugler was hired as coach, replacing the retired Mike Price. Kugler, 46, spent almost three years as the Steelers' offensive line coach, following stints with the Bills and Lions.

    TEXAS TECH: Offensive line coach Chris Thomsen will serve as interim coach for the Meineke Car Care Bowl against Minnesota on Dec. 28.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    TAMPA — After reviewing the game tape from Sunday's 23-21 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles, Bucs coach Greg Schiano said some of his defensive players were guilty of trying to do too much.

    But in trying to close out games in the fourth quarter this season, the record will reflect that they haven't done nearly enough.

    Sunday was the fourth time the Bucs have taken a lead deep into the fourth quarter and their defense failed to protect it. Tampa Bay let Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles overcome an 11-point deficit with 3:55 remaining, including a winning 1-yard touchdown to receiver Jeremy Maclin as time expired.

    Foles had 381 yards passing and two touchdowns in a victory that dealt a huge blow to the Bucs' playoff hopes.

    "I think when you focus on making plays is exactly when you don't make plays," Schiano said. "Focus on doing your job and plays come to you, the game comes to you. That's what we believe around here. So we've got to do a better job of that. Certainly, personnel is part of the issue and coaching is part of the issue."

    The stoppers on defense turned into sieves trying to protect an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter in Week 2 against the New York Giants in the Meadowlands. Two weeks later, trailing by a point with 1:42 remaining, Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III drove Washington 56 yards to set up Billy Cundiff's 41-yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining for a 24-22 win over the Bucs.

    Two weeks ago, the Atlanta Falcons trailed by six in the fourth quarter before pulling away from the Bucs.

    The biggest culprit has been Tampa Bay's porous pass defense, which ranks last in the NFL. Starting cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Eric Wright both were suspended four games for using Adderall, a performance-enhancing drug. Talib was eventually traded to the New England Patriots. Ronde Barber, a 16-year veteran who moved to safety, is the only experienced starting defensive back in a group that includes rookie Leonard Johnson, Mark Barron, Danny Gorrer, Anthony Gaitor and Ahmad Black.

    Wright was partly responsible for the Giants loss and Talib was also there for the Redskins comeback.

    "You've just got to stick together, that's it," injured cornerback LeQuan Lewis said. "And keep on believing in each other, get each other's backs, that's basically it. That's what it boils down to."

    Barron was guilty of a coverage bust on Jason Avant that led to a 39-yard completion in the second quarter Sunday. On the next play, linebacker Lavonte David lost contain when he tried to defend what he thought would be a screen pass to his right and allowed Foles to jog in for a 10-yard touchdown.

    Even after Foles' touchdown pass to tight end Clay Harbor cut the Bucs lead to 21-16, Schiano felt comfortable putting the game in the hands of his defense. Facing third and 8 with 2:55 remaining and the Eagles having one timeout, Schiano played it safe with a run by Doug Martin that failed to gain a yard.

    After a 31-yard punt by Michael Koenen, Foles led a 64-yard march capped by his touchdown to Maclin.

    Did Schiano's decision to rely on defense reflect a lack of confidence in quarterback Josh Freeman?

    "No it's none of that," Schiano said. "If it were the same situation in another game, I might have chosen to do it differently. But in that game, a rookie quarterback on the other side, where we were on the field, our punter — all things I believe to be true and are true — again that's why I say we went against the rules or the laws of football, didn't hold up there.

    "Would I change it? Well, if I knew the result beforehand I probably would today. But … that's what I thought was the right thing to do and (I chose to) not risk it."

    Rick Stroud can be heard 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. View his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bucs.


    DANIEL WALLACE   |   TimesDANIEL WALLACE | Times

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  • 12/10/12--18:34: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    BOXING

    GATTI TOP STAR IN HALL CLASS

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Arturo "Thunder" Gatti didn't live to see his finest day.

    Gatti, a world champion in two weight classes, heads the 2013 class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, announced Monday.

    A native Italian raised in Montreal, Gatti was 40-9 with 31 knockouts. He died in 2010 in Brazil at 37 under mysterious circumstances.

    "He gave it all in the ring," said "Irish" Micky Ward, who had three memorable bouts with Gatti. "…He gave the fans what they wanted."

    Also selected: Virgil "Quicksilver" Hill, a five-time world champion; two-time light flyweight champ Myung-Woo Yuh; Wesley Ramey and Jeff Smith in the old-timer (posthumous) category; 19th century boxer Joe Coburn as a pioneer; referee Mills Lane; ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr.; manager Arturo "Cuyo" Hernandez; cartoonist Ted Carroll and journalist Colin Hart.

    Inductees were selected by the Boxing Writers Association and a panel of international historians. The induction is June 9 at the hall, in Canastota, N.Y.

    SOCCER

    England has more violence concerns

    Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was dripping with blood Sunday, the latest incident tainting the game in England. Prosecutors charged nine men in connection with disorder at the match that Man U won 3-2 at Manchester City. They included a fan who ran onto the field to confront Ferdinand after the bloodied defender had been struck by a coin during the celebration of Robin van Persie's winning goal in stoppage time.

    ITALY: Napoli went on trial for match-fixing after former goalkeeper Matteo Gianello confessed to arranging the result of a game three seasons ago.

    ET CETERA

    AUTOS: Tony Eury Jr., the former crew chief for his cousin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., will return to NASCAR Sprint Cup as crew chief for David Stremme at upstart Swan Racing. … Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier will test an IndyCar this week for Sam Schmidt Motorsports at Sebring International Raceway.

    TRACK: Russia's anti-doping agency said discus thrower Darya Pishchalnikova was provisionally suspended by the IAAF after a positive test that could cost her the silver medal from the London Olympics.

    Times wires


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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    A sampling of reaction to Sunday's blockbuster Rays-Royals deal:

    • After first posting he hoped to wake up Monday with James Shields and Wade Davis still his teammates, Rays ace David Price, right, posted on his @DAVIDprice14 account:

    It's all still true … it was awesome being both wd's and big games teammates!! They will both be missed

    • ESPN.com's Keith Law: "For Tampa Bay, this is a heist, a potential franchise-making deal that should allow the Rays to continue their run of contention on a dime for several more years. …"

    • Rays INF Sean Rodriguez, right, posted on @SeanJRodriguez1:

    Def gonna take a few days to get past this WD and Juego G trade. Really gonna miss those guys. They'll always be teammates at heart.

    • Royals blogger Rany Jazayerli: "This sucks."

    • LHP Matt Moore posted on @MattyMoe55:

    Just woke up and saw the WD-40 and juego G are now kc Royals?!? Holy frijoles!!

    • ESPN's Buster Olney: "Myers could become the Rays' next Evan Longoria."

    Baseball America's J.J. Cooper: "When the news broke of the blockbuster trade, the reaction almost broke Twitter. Fans, particularly of the Royals, took to their phones and keyboards to register their displeasure, and many baseball analysts rushed to outdo each other in piling on to general manager Dayton Moore and to praise his Rays counterpart, Andrew Friedman. Inside the game, the response is much more measured. In checking with six pro scouts, none saw the trade as one-sided, and all were convinced that the chorus of criticism of the Royals for making the deal is misplaced."

    • ESPN's David Schoenfield: "In the AL Central, anything can happen. Maybe this becomes the deal that gets the Royals into the postseason for first time since 1985. Let's see what happens before we put Wil Myers in the Hall of Fame."

    • Foxsports.com's Ken Rosenthal: "People will crush the Royals. People always crush the Royals, and they mostly deserve it after nine straight losing seasons, the last 6 1/2 under general manager Dayton Moore. But not this time. … Last time I checked, outfielder Wil Myers was not yet Willie Mays. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi might prove nothing more than a No. 3 starter. Lefty Mike Montgomery regressed after Baseball America named him the Royals' top prospect in 2012, and third baseman Patrick Leonard spent last season in Rookie Ball."

    Marc Topkin, Times staff writer


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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG — In a way, being traded from the Royals to the Rays might not be the best career move for RHP Jake Odorizzi, since even after trading James Shields and Wade Davis Tampa Bay still has a young and promising rotation that already runs six deep.

    But in another way, and the way Odorizzi looks at it, it could be just the thing to get his big-league career moving.

    "Their track record speaks for itself," Odorizzi said on a conference call. "They've brought up a bunch of young guys through their system and all have had success at the big-league level. … I think it's very humbling they wanted me to be part of that deal and they think I can develop just like a Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, David Price."

    Odorizzi (o-DUH-rizzi), 22, has had "top prospect" status in two organizations, the Brewers, who drafted him, and the Royals, who acquired him in the December 2010 Zack Greinke deal.

    He got to the big leagues at the end of last season — after going a combined 15-5, 3.03 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha — and plans, from the start of spring training, to do whatever he has to to get back as soon as he can, "definitely" ready to be there.

    "I'm just going to go in and try to earn a spot and throw like I'm trying to get a spot somewhere in there," he said. "I haven't heard anything what their thought process is. I just go in with my own thought process and do the best I can and leave the rest up to them and their decision making."

    WADING IN: Shields had heard his name enough in trade rumors over the past few seasons that though disappointed to get the call Sunday night, he was hardly surprised to be dealt. "I've been kind of prepping myself a little bit for this day," he said Monday on a conference call.

    Davis said he really wasn't shocked, either. "I don't know if I was surprised," he said. "We all know this is how things go, that we're probably going to end up going eventually. We had a ton of pitching and they needed to add some pieces to the team."

    After spending last year in the Rays bullpen, Davis said he "definitely" prefers starting and is "pretty excited" by the chance to do so again.

    TRADE BITS: Shields gets a $750,000 "assignment" bonus that will be paid by the Royals. Also, his 2014 option is estimated at $13.5 million. …The additional player going to the Royals is expected to be named by spring training, which means it couldn't be a 2012 draft pick. Cash is another option. … Odorizzi and LHP Mike Montgomery were added to the Rays 40-man roster, which stands at 39. Myers is not yet required to be added unless he's going to play in the big leagues.

    MORE RAYS: As part of Tampa's David Price Day festivities, the LHP will be presented a key to the city. Fans are invited to the 2 p.m. ceremony at City Hall Plaza (courtyard behind the Tampa Municipal Office Building), 306 E Jackson St. … Manager Joe Maddon, who serves his Thanksmas meals today at Salvation Army Shelters in Clearwater and Tampa, received the Pediatric Cancer Foundation's Ted Williams Award, given for making a difference in the community.

    AROUND THE MAJORS: Major League Baseball Advanced Media and StubHub.com announced a five-year deal that continues the website's role as the sport's official secondary ticket market while eliminating the cheap listings that had become an eyesore for some clubs. … The Yankees are expected to re-sign OF Ichiro Suzuki this week. … LF Ryan Ludwick rejoined the Reds, signing a two-year, $15 million deal. … The Pirates re-signed RH reliever Jason Grilli to a two-year contract worth $6.75 million.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    WASHINGTON — Georgetown forward Greg Whittington stole the ball on the perimeter and dribbled up court, slowing slightly once he reached the paint to size up a defender, who was closing on him.

    Whittington dunked, anyway.

    There was little Longwood could do as No. 15 Georgetown cruised to an 89-53 victory Monday night.

    Otto Porter scored a career-high 22, added seven assists and four steals and returned after taking an apparent hit to the head during the second half.

    The Hoyas (8-1) managed far more points than they did in two of their past three wins. They beat Tennessee 37-36 and Towson 46-40 around a 64-41 win over Texas.

    "When you look at that last game, the ball didn't go in, and so you have to fix that," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "But most of the looks we got were wide open shots. It wasn't a question of movement within the offense. Our guys just put the ball in the basket a little bit."

    Porter went to the bench with 13:46 left, holding his hand to his face. He laughed off the injury after the game.

    "I just caught an elbow from my teammate going for the rebound," Porter said.

    AP POLL: There were no newcomers. Indiana was No. 1 for a sixth straight week.

    Women

    P.B. ATLANTIC 68, SAINT LEO 56: The visiting Lions (5-3) committed 20 turnovers and scored their fewest points this season.

    AP POLL: Florida State dropped out, along with Nebraska and Iowa State. Texas A&M, South Carolina and West Virginia entered in the final three spots. Stanford remained No. 1, narrowly ahead of Connecticut.


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