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    Times wires
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    ASHBURN, Va. — All the medical terms associated with Robert Griffin III's knee injury can be boiled down to one simple message: It's not too bad.

    Beyond that, there are still some unknowns.

    The NFL's top-rated quarterback might or might not play Sunday when the Redskins visit Cleveland. Coach Mike Shanahan will wait to publicly commit to Griffin or fellow rookie Kirk Cousins. "Both of them will have a game plan," Shanahan said Monday.

    Griffin has a mild (Grade 1) sprain of the lateral collateral ligament, on the outside of the knee. He was hurt on a hit by Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata at the end of a 13-yard scramble late in regulation of Washington's 31-28 overtime win on Sunday.

    Rulings due today

    Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue will rule today on the latest round of player appeals in the NFL's bounty probe, and any potential punishment will be delayed by a week, AP reported. The delay is designed to give a federal judge in New Orleans the opportunity to rule on pending motions to throw out the suspensions and remove Tagliabue as the appointed arbitrator for the player appeals to the league, according to the report. The delay on potential sanctions for four current or former Saints also means linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith can play Sunday when the Bucs visit New Orleans.

    RAVENS AX COORDINATOR: Cam Cameron was fired as Baltimore's offensive coordinator. The former Dolphins head coach ran the Ravens' offense since 2008; this year the unit ranks 18th at 344.4 yards a game. "Personally, this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do as a coach," John Harbaugh said. Former Colts coach Jim Caldwell, who had been Baltimore's quarterbacks coach, will take over. Also, the Baltimore Sun reported that Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda might be out with a significant injury to his right ankle.

    SCHEDULE SWITCH: The first change this season under flex scheduling was made, with the 49ers-Seahawks game on Dec. 23 moving to prime time. The Chargers-Jets game, originally in that slot, was moved to 1 p.m. and the Giants-Ravens game shifted to 4:25.

    BEARS: Quarterback Jay Cutler said he expects to play this week against Green Bay after leaving Sunday's loss at Minnesota with a sore neck.

    BILLS: Running back Fred Jackson (sprained ligament, right knee) is out for the season, coach Chan Gailey said.

    CHIEFS: Dwayne Bowe (ribs) will miss next week's game at Oakland and coach Romeo Crennel said their leading receiver might be out for the season.

    COWBOYS: Wide receiver Dez Bryant injured his left index finger — ESPN reported that it was broken — and coach Jason Garrett said he was being evaluated.

    DOLPHINS: They were awarded receiver Armon Binns off waivers from Cincinnati.

    EAGLES: Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy passed concussion tests and could return to practice today. Tight end Brent Celek, who sustained a concussion Sunday against the Bucs, will miss Thursday's game against Cincinnati.

    49ERS: They suspended running back Brandon Jacobs for the final three games after his series of social media posts addressing his lack of playing time.

    JAGUARS: Coach Mike Mularkey was released after a brief visit to a hospital. The team, which offered few details, said he had tests after feeling ill Monday.

    RAIDERS: Linebacker Rolando McClain was reinstated from the suspended list and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa was promoted from the practice squad. The team cut starting cornerback Ron Bartell and fullback Owen Schmitt.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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  • 12/10/12--20:40: Patriots 42, Texans 14
  • Times wires
    Monday, December 10, 2012

    Patriots 14 7 7 14 42
    Texans 0 0 7 7 14

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Look out. That familiar sight is the Patriots romping through December, looking like a Super Bowl team.

    New England rolled over Houston 42-14 on Monday night, looking once again like the team to fear in the AFC — and making the Texans look like pretenders.

    Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and 296 yards as New England manhandled the team with the league's best record. The AFC East champion Patriots won their seventh straight and moved one game behind the Texans for the conference's top seed.

    A matchup of the league's top scoring teams was a mismatch from the outset. It took only one drive to start the scoring barrage as the Patriots surpassed their average of 35.8 points per game.

    Wes Welker's 31-yard punt return and 25-yard reception — the 107th straight game he has had a catch — led to Aaron Hernandez's 7-yard score. That gave Brady 45 consecutive games with a TD pass, third longest in NFL history.

    New England was headed for its 20th successive home win in December, and its 21st straight victory in the second half of the schedule.

    Even a splash play by the Texans defense came out in New England's favor.

    In the fourth quarter, Patriots running back Danny Woodhead took a short pass from Brady and turned it upfield, only to have defensive end J.J. Watt force a fumble around the Houston 10-yard line. But the ball bounced into the end zone, right to Patriots receiver Brandon Lloyd, who fell on it for an easy touchdown and a 35-7 lead.

    Though the Texans have clinched at least a wild-card berth, they haven't had a truly convincing win since October. They got on the scoreboard in the third quarter with an 88-yard drive capped by Arian Foster's 1-yard run.

    By then the Patriots had their fourth TD, a gorgeous 63-yard throw to Donte' Stallworth, who was re-signed last week to replace injured Julian Edelman. It gave Brady his 18th game with at least four TD passes, moving ahead of Hall of Famer John Unitas for fourth all time. According to Elias it was Brady's 14th four-TD game without an interception, a league record.

    Houston allowed 42 points in both losses, the other coming Oct. 14 against Green Bay.

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    By Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    When Big East men's basketball started to crumble with the exit of West Virginia, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale says he was a little upset.

    As football-first programs replaced basketball powerhouses, Vitale came to accept the once-unthinkable for a league built on hardwood that has six national championships and Final Four appearances by every program but USF.

    "This will be the last hurrah in basketball," Vitale said.

    The Pitt-West Virginia rivalry is gone. Syracuse-Georgetown is likely in its last year. Of the five Big East teams in this week's Associated Press Top 25, three — Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame — are on their way out of the league.

    ESPN reported that administrators from the seven non-football schools in the 16-team league met with commissioner Mike Aresco on Sunday to talk about the league's future and rumors of a possible split between football and non-football programs. The Atlantic 10 has discussed adding the non-football members, ESPN also reported.

    "The Big East obviously is in a state of chaos," Vitale said. "Total chaos."

    To see just how far the Big East has fallen, consider where it was in 2011. A record 11 schools made the NCAA Tournament. UConn won a wild conference tournament and battered Butler to win its third national championship since 1999.

    Of the seven Big East teams that finished in the top 21 nationally in the NCAA's RPI that year, only UConn and Georgetown haven't left or announced their intention to do so, though Huskies officials have lobbied for an invitation to the ACC.

    Last year the league was mulling a nine-year ESPN deal worth a reported $155 million annually. That deal now could bring as little as $60 million a year, cbs­sports.com reported last week.

    "It's definitely hurt it," said Jeff Nelson, an analyst at Navigate Research, a sports-sponsorship research firm. "You can't really view it any other way."

    As the firm's director of analytics, Nelson has worked with schools and conferences to see what configurations could yield the best TV deals. For the Big East, a league that didn't begin football until 12 years after its formation, that has meant focusing on football markets at the expense of its basketball tradition.

    "At some point, it has to be enough," said Chris Mullin, a three-time Big East player of the year at St. John's from 1983-85 and a current NBA analyst for ESPN. "You always want to get better and get bigger. But … searching for more, sometimes you get led astray."

    From 2005-12, the six teams that recently left or will leave the conference — Syracuse, Rutgers, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Pitt and Louisville — combined for 31 of its 64 trips to the NCAA Tournament. Their replacements — Houston, SMU, UCF, Memphis, Tulane and Temple — made 13 trips to the tournament in that span. The latter schools' combined 2010 men's basketball revenue of $20.2 million was less than half of what Louisville brought in ($40.9 million), according to figures provided to the Department of Education.

    With the watering down of Big East basketball, Mullin, longtime basketball writer John Feinstein and others have advocated that the Catholic schools consider poaching programs such as Butler and Xavier to form a basketball-centric league.

    "If I were Georgetown … you can bet I'm trying to have my own private conversations with TV executives and putting out feelers," Nelson said.

    How profitable such a league would be is unclear because of how much more money football brings. There's a reason Kansas and its five college basketball titles was nearly left without a league when the Big 12 almost collapsed in 2010.

    The Big Ten makes more each year from its football contract with ABC, $100 million, than it will over six years with its CBS basketball contract, $72 million total.

    Basketball programs from non-football leagues have had success without big-time football. Creighton, Butler and Gonzaga are the prime examples. But the profits might not be as high.

    Their leagues — the Missouri Valley, A-10 and West Coast — netted a combined $27 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to their conferences' tax returns. That's less than the $28.8 million the Big East doled out to its non-football schools that year.

    "The whole landscape of college athletics has become, to me, an absolute farce," Vitale said. "It makes no sense geographically, many of these alignments. It's all about money, money, greed, greed, dollars, dollars."

    And even in one of the sport's top leagues, rarely about basketball.

    Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com.

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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012


    As an NFL quarterback, Dan Orlovsky goes to work each day to confront the complexities of hot routes and zone blitzes, handling each task with aplomb. • But at home, where the tables are turned, defense doesn't come as naturally. • On this particular morning, as Orlovsky, 29, chases his 2-foot-tall adversary around the living room — that would be Noah — he doesn't stand a chance. As he closes in on his first target, another adversary, Hunter, takes off crawling at a blinding pace. Somewhere in the mix is little Madden, eventually found hiding behind a sofa.

    Good thing Orlovsky, quarterback Josh Freeman's backup, plays offense, because as a defender he has committed the cardinal sin of losing containment.

    Think pro football is tough? Try raising 11-month-old triplets. It's the daily charge of the Bucs' Orlovsky and his wife, Tiffany.

    "Every once in a while, I'm home by myself with them," Dan said of the troublesome trio. "All I do is run around the house looking for them. I always lose them."

    A few hours at the Orlovsky residence is enough to gain an appreciation for the gargantuan task that is now their lives. The job is expensive, tiring and thankless but also exhilarating, fulfilling and blissful.

    Their situation is unusual. Spontaneous triplets (without fertility treatments) account for about only one in every 8,000 births. Madden and Hunter are identical, Noah is fraternal.

    Tiffany still recalls the day their doctor told her and her husband they should expect three bundles of joy.

    Dan's first response was, "This is awesome!" Tiffany said, mimicking Dan's elation. Her reaction: "Awesome?"

    Ultimately, both agree Dan was right. But life is not without challenges.

    It's a Tuesday, which means the Bucs have their only day off — until Dan heads to One Buc Place for a couple of hours in the late afternoon to get a jump on the week's game plan. It's 11:45 a.m., which means it's feeding time.

    "This is an experience," Dan warns.

    Three high chairs are arranged in a row, and the process begins. After that comes an assembly line of diaper changes. Meanwhile, a trio of bottle warmers is humming, preparing the warm milk that — they hope — will induce afternoon naps.

    It's only noon, and even if the boys aren't sleepy, their parents could use a nap. But rest will have to wait. They have plans later to hit Target for some shopping. That can get interesting.

    "We have this triple stroller, and you get some strange looks," Tiffany said.

    "We feel like getting a sign that says, 'Yes, we're very blessed, and no, we don't sleep,' " Dan joked.

    At the cash register, where the couple unloads countless containers of baby food and assorted child-related items, it's hard to know who is more surprised, the Orlovskys — from the sticker shock — or the cashier. No, there is nothing cheap about raising triplets.

    "I think we've spent more this year on (baby) formula and diapers than on our mortgage," Dan said. "In fact, I know so."

    They purchase formula via the Internet in bulk. Three active boys who burn as many calories as these guys have considerable appetites. Before they started eating other food, the three could consume 30 baby bottles a day.

    A priority is solidifying the kids' futures, so shortly after their births, Dan went to see his financial adviser.

    "We crunched the numbers," Dan said. "We figured that in 18 years, four years at an out-of-state college would cost $700,000. So we're taking care of that."

    But Dan and Tiffany can't put a price on their experiences. The hardships are offset by cherished moments.

    Personalities are starting to develop. Noah, his parents say, is the biggest ball of energy. Hunter, Tiffany says, is a "mama's boy." Madden, Dan says, is the sharpest: "Like a little Einstein."

    The boys have come very far. Born prematurely, their birth weights ranged from 2 pounds, 15 ounces, to 4 pounds, 13 ounces. Tiffany remembers at one point during their six weeks of hospitalization, with tubes coming out of every orifice, that drinking 2 milliliters of milk "was a really big deal." Now they're practically horseplaying with their dad.

    Dan would love to spend all day taking it all in. But NFL quarterbacks, with all they must absorb, keep long hours. He's out the door by 5 a.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

    "My first responsibility is here at home, but I have a responsibility to my team, too," he said. "I get in early. Me and (running backs coach) Earnest Byner have a little competition going on."

    Dan, in his eighth season, has started 12 games in his career. In Tampa he happily plays a support role to Freeman, with whom he has developed a great rapport. Orlovsky believes Freeman will be a star, marveling at his ability.

    Off the field, Orlovsky and Freeman, who is 24 and single, don't exactly spend a lot of time together.

    "I don't think Josh wants to be sitting in the house on Friday night with my wife and three little kids," Dan said, "I'm sure he has better things to do. He tells me, 'Give the kids kisses for me.' "

    When Dan is invited by teammates to play golf or have a beer, he'll usually pass. He'd rather go home and give Tiffany a break. He insists she get her "me" time.

    Through it all, husband and wife have seen different sides of each other.

    "I've gained a whole new respect for her," Dan says of Tiffany. "I'm so glad I married her."

    Tiffany says of Dan, "He's such a great dad."

    And he is, even if he stinks at defense.


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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    TAMPA — Besides joking that he finally had a way to get Chick-fil-A restaurants open on Sunday, David Price wasn't sure exactly what he was entitled to with the key to the city of Tampa he received Tuesday from Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

    "I don't know what else I'm going to do with this yet," Price said. "I'll just try it on different locks."

    One thing he won't be able to do — even with whatever powers were vested in him on officially proclaimed David Price Day — is bring back teammates James Shields and Wade Davis, who were traded to the Royals on Sunday.

    In Shields, Price lost a close friend and a mentor, "a role model for every baseball player to watch whenever they're coming up," and in Davis, a pitcher he came up with through the minors admiring what he believed was better stuff.

    "It's tough," Price said. "They definitely will be missed."

    And even though Price won 20 games, posted an American League-best 2.56 ERA and won the Cy Young Award, he said that in Shields' and Davis' absence, he and his returning teammates will have to do more.

    "Everybody, including myself, needs to step up and pitch better this year," Price said. "That's our plan right now. That's what we're working out (in the offseason) for. … Everybody's going to step up."

    Though Jeff Niemann is two years older at 29, Price will be the most experienced member of the rotation next year and likely will be viewed as Shields' successor as the leader of the rotation.

    Price said the close relationship the starters have should make that easier.

    "We've all been together quite a while," he said. "We've got a good feel for each other. We enjoy it. If they want to look to me for advice, I'm an open book, and they know it. They can come up and talk to me whenever they want, they can call or text, it doesn't matter."

    Price was the center of attention — though he had to share it with his French bulldog, Astro, who also got a key and then "spoke" — during Tuesday's afternoon ceremony at City Hall Plaza before a couple hundred fans.

    Price had never been honored like that before — he joked that the only other key he had was to his condo — and seemed truly humbled by an honor he thought was reserved for war heroes. "You guys didn't have to do this," he told the crowd.

    Buckhorn said it was his privilege. (It was only the second time he had given a key to an athlete, following 2012 Olympic track gold medalist Tianna Madison.)

    "I know David. I know what a standup guy he is. I know what he represents. I know what he embodies. It's indicative of the entire organization," Buckhorn said. "To know that a Tampa resident and a member of our team was named basically the most valuable player really is an honor. So for me to be able to do this is the least that I could do for him."

    And as for any awkwardness — given the stalemate over the Rays' stadium situation — of Tampa honoring Price for winning the Cy Young and not St. Petersburg, where the team plays, Buckhorn said he was just doing what seemed right. "I don't know what they do and what their protocol is and what their timing is," he said. "As soon as (the award) was announced, I said, 'Let's go see if we can make this happen.' It's a Tampa Bay team; he's a Tampa Bay guy. He lives here on Harbour Island. So it seemed to me that it would make sense. He brought national attention to the Tampa Bay area, and that's a good thing."

    Staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

    MARC TOPKIN   |   TimesMARC TOPKIN | Times

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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    If you did not know better, you might wonder if someone took out a bounty on Roger Goodell.

    Man, did he get blindsided by Paul Tagliabue.

    As the announcers say during the replays, that one is going to leave a mark.

    In the name of justice, and in the name of about time, the NFL's old boss overruled the new boss Tuesday on the Bountygate suspensions of Saints players. Somebody had to do it. Goodell, the infallible czar of the NFL, was outharrumphed by Tagliabue, who used to be the infallible czar of the NFL.

    If you are scoring at home, in other words, Goodell is no longer undefeated. This one he lost.

    I know, I know. In certain parts this is going to be painted as a victory for the players but a loss for the Saints' coaches, who will now inherit all the blame for this play-to-injure conspiracy. It was those guys who ordered the hit; the poor Saints players were merely carrying out orders when they went after various knees in various games. You know, like the Tonya Harding Gang.

    Make no mistake, however. Goodell looks much less powerful today than he did yesterday.

    For the NFL, maybe that will turn out to be a good thing.

    The point here is not to celebrate the Saints, who weren't exactly innocent in this play-outside-of-the-rules conspiracy. Tagliabue wiped away the bounty punishments, but he was careful to make sure Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith were not cleared of wrongdoing. In fact, he pointed out that more players could have been named.

    In his ruling, however, Tagliabue chose to blame the coaches, not their employees.

    Which raises this question: Why didn't Goodell?

    Tagliabue also allowed that the bounty message by the Saints might have been merely motivational rhetoric.

    "I cannot uphold a multigame suspension where there is no evidence that a player's speech prior to a game was actually a factor causing misconduct on the playing field and that such misconduct was severe enough in itself to warrant a player suspension or a very substantial fine,'' Taglilabue's ruling said. "Nor can I find justified a suspension where (former defensive coordinator Gregg) Williams and other Saints personnel so carefully crafted an environment that would encourage and allow a player to make such an ill-advised and imprudent offer. I therefore vacate the suspension of Jonathan Vilma."

    If Tagliabue can consider those kind of nuances, why couldn't Goodell?

    Then there is the case of linebacker Scott Fujita. Tagliabue said it was "undisputed'' that Fujita did not participate in the bounty program and that he was not guilty of conduct detrimental to the league.

    If Tagliabue could see that, why couldn't Goodell?

    That's the important part of what happened Tuesday. By differing with Goodell, Tagliabue proved that, yes, the NFL does need an appeals process. Sometimes, it does need a clearer head, a different voice, another viewpoint. No one is right all the time.

    For years, the NFL has operated that way. The commissioner was judge, and jury, and executioner, and if you didn't like it, tough. You could just go read the collective bargaining agreement. And when you were done, you could fold it into a funny hat.

    In hindsight, Goodell looks as if he was quick to judge and slow to reconsider. He seems petty. He seems stubborn. He seems wrong.

    From the first, Goodell seemed to treat the phrase "trust me'' as real evidence. Fujita protested vigorously, and still we didn't see the evidence. Vilma howled, and no evidence. Hargrove snarled, and no evidence. What if at least one of those players — Fujita, according to Tagliabue — was guilty of nothing?

    Now ask yourself this: What if this was your team?

    Around the league, not many fans of one team share the pain of another. But what if it was your team? What if a commissioner rushed to judgment to punish players without the ability to make the punishment stick? In the meantime, what if you saw your team's season swirl down the toilet?

    Yeah, you would probably want an appeal process, too.

    For goodness' sake, the American legal system is built around the right to appeal. And a football commissioner is above that? Really? The smartest people on the planet discuss their conclusions with other smart people every day.

    I have said this before: If I ran the NFL, I would set up a three-person appeals board. Let the owners pick one representative. Let the players association pick another. Let the sides agree on a smart, impartial third party (Tony Dungy comes to mind). And if a player believes his punishment is wrong, let him appeal.

    What's the downside? Why would a commissioner want to be the sole solution to wrongdoing? Power? Ego? The belief he is Batman?

    Through Goodell's tenure, I have believed he has had the best of intentions. His discipline has come swiftly and strongly.

    But when you are the ultimate boss, there are guidelines. You better be right, and you better be sure.

    This time Goodell was wrong.

    Odd that it took his old boss to point it out.

    Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.

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    By Ed Walker, Times Correspondent
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    What's hot: Unseasonably warm weather has turned back the clock of some migratory fish species. Normally by this time coastal fish such as cobia, kings, and mackerel have departed to the south. In the past week, however, we have found clean water and fall-like activity patterns inshore and offshore.

    Follow the bait: The surprise return of threadfin herring and Spanish sardines is a clear signal this is not a typical December. Vast schools have moved in along the coast, with gamefish right behind them. Spanish mackerel and kings are being caught within a few miles of shore. Some kings have been more than 30 pounds. Cobia reports have picked up, too.

    Shark action: Some migratory sharks have returned. We put out a few baits Saturday near Anclote Key and caught two 6-foot sand bar sharks, a 5-foot blacktip and a 5-foot tiger shark.

    Tips: When loading up the boat, bring gear you would need in October: light kingfish rods, wire leader, sabiki rigs, stinger rigs and a few boxes of chum. Find surface bait or diving birds, jig up a baitfish and put it right back out. There is no telling what may show up during this respite from winter.

    Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. Reach him at info@lighttacklecharters.com or at (727) 944-3474.

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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    The Big East unveiled its conference football opponents for 2013 on Tuesday, and there's good and bad news for USF. The Bulls don't have to play West Division powers Boise State and San Diego State but will reopen its rivalry with Central Florida in Orlando.

    USF could have anticipated four of its eight conference games from existing rivalries — home against Cincinnati and Louisville, at Rutgers and Connecticut — because the opposite was played this season. The other four games have USF hosting new arrivals Memphis and SMU, and traveling to face UCF and Houston.

    The last game in the USF-UCF rivalry was in Orlando, but that in 2008, and the league can't recognize the alternating sites in every existing rivalry in the league. Instead of Boise and San Diego State — easily the toughest teams this season from those in the 2013 West — the Bulls get SMU, Houston and Memphis, which combined for a 15-21 record.

    SMART MOVE: When new football coach Willie Taggart says his quarterbacks have to be smart to succeed in his system, don't worry about Bulls commitment Mike White, who accepted a scholarship offer 15 minutes after getting on the bus after a state championship win in Orlando on Saturday.

    White, a 6-foot-5, 195-pounder from University School in Fort Lauderdale, was just a one-year starter but wowed Bulls coaches last spring and earned the scholarship offer with strong play in a state semifinal win against Clearwater Central Catholic.

    White drew interest from Ivy League programs Princeton, Columbia and Yale, and carries a 4.3 weighted grade-point average, 3.9 unweighted.

    "My decision-making ability is a strength on the field," said White, also a top-tier pitcher. "Being a pitcher helps with the mental part of the game."

    University had another lanky standout sign with the Bulls last year, DE Daniel Perry. White, who is considering graduating early to enroll at USF in January, was recently named the state's Class 3A player of the year.

    DEGREES OF SUCCESS: USF football will have 11 seniors graduating at Saturday's fall commencement: LB Sam Barrington, FB Chris Breit, OG Danous Estenor, DT Cory Grissom, LB Kalin Hall, RB Lindsey Lamar, S Jon Lejiste, WR Victor Marc, RB Demetris Murray, TE Andreas Shields and CB Kayvon Webster.

    THIS AND THAT: It's probably not a coincidence that outgoing Big East members Louisville and Rutgers are playing at Boise State in football as parting gifts from the league next year. … Watch for USF men's basketball to take a long look at sophomore Musa Abdul-Aleem, who missed the first seven games with a foot injury and made a cameo debut in USF's loss at Oklahoma State last week. Abdul-Aleem is a physical guard whose size and strength could be an upgrade for the Bulls, but he'll need to get into rhythm quickly with Big East play just weeks away. … One name to keep an eye out for as Taggart builds his coaching staff is Jay Harbaugh, son of 49ers coach Jim and a quality control assistant with uncle John's Ravens. Taggart is like a brother to Jim and considers father Jack Harbaugh his mentor. Jay worked as a student assistant while studying at Oregon State.

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    Times wires
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State may be losing another football assistant.

    Less than a week after defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot said he would leave to lead Kentucky's defense for departing FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, running backs coach Eddie Gran appears on his way to accepting one of two positions elsewhere.

    Gran is deciding whether to take a job as head coach at Arkansas State or join longtime friend Tommy Tuberville on the staff the newly hired head coach is assembling at Cincinnati, Noles247.com, a recruiting-based website covering FSU for the 247Sports.com network, reported Tuesday and the Orlando Sentinel confirmed.

    There was no word on whether Gran would leave immediately or if he planned to do like Stoops, hired last week, and Eliot and "help out" with preparations for the Jan. 1 Orange Bowl against Northern Illinois.

    Gran didn't have a formal offer from Arkansas State, but after interviewing Monday, he was expected to be extended one.

    Before coming to FSU in 2010, Gran spent 10 seasons coaching running backs and special teams at Auburn alongside Tuberville. He then coordinated running backs at Tennessee for a year before joining Jimbo Fisher's staff in Tallahassee.

    Gran, 47, has been an assistant for his entire 26-year career.

    1 All-American for UF, FSU

    Florida junior safety Matt Elam and Florida State junior defensive end Bjoern Werner were named to the Associated Press All-America first team, voted by media members.

    Elam is the first Gator to earn first-team honors since punter Chas Henry in 2010. Gators junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, senior kicker Caleb Sturgis and sophomore punter Kyle Christy were named to the third team.

    Seminoles senior kicker Dustin Hopkins was named to the second team.

    Elam has 10 tackles for loss for minus-35 yards, a team-high four interceptions (tied for 25th nationally and third in the SEC), one forced fumble and five pass breakups.

    Werner has 13 sacks this season, one-half sack off the NCAA lead.

    Alabama had four players on the team, including center Barrett Jones, who became a two-time first-team selection. Notre Dame and Texas A&M had four players on the three teams. Linebacker Manti Te'o was the only Fighting Irish player to make the first team. Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was the first-team quarterback.

    WINLESS CLUB PICKS COACH: Southern Mississippi hired Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken as head coach. Monken replaces Ellis Johnson, who was fired after one season in which the Golden Eagles finished 0-12. The Cowboys averaged nearly 45 points per game in their two years under Monken's guidance, fourth in the nation.

    'CANE ARRESTED: Miami sophomore cornerback Thomas Finnie was arrested on charges of grand theft and burglary, and was suspended indefinitely from the team. Finnie surrendered to authorities one week after he entered a dorm room and stole a laptop and confessed, police said.

    ALVAREZ'S PAYDAY: Wisconsin athletic director and former coach Barry Alvarez will earn $118,500 for returning to the sideline to coach the Badgers in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl, and a win against Stanford will mean a $50,000 bonus. He is substituting for Bret Bielema, who left after taking the Arkansas job last week.

    ARKANSAS: Wisconsin defensive coordinator Chris Ash will rejoin new head coach and former Badger coach Bret Bielema.

    CAL: Coach Sonny Dykes is bringing two of his former Louisiana Tech assistants to his new job. Tony Franklin will be offensive coordinator, and Rob Likens will coach receivers.

    IDAHO: New coach Paul Petrino hired three assistants. Ronnie Lee, Indiana State's running backs coach and special teams coordinator, was named defensive coordinator. Washington assistant Mike Anderson was named linebackers coach. And Bryce Erickson, son of former college and NFL coach Dennis Erickson, will coach the receivers or quarterbacks.

    SAN JOSE STATE: Defensive coordinator Kent Baer will be the interim coach for the Dec. 27 Military Bowl. Mike MacIntyre left Monday to take the head coaching job at Colorado.

    Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report, which used information from Times wires.

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  • 12/11/12--20:21: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012



    CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR spent almost a year developing its 2013 car in hopes the "Gen 6" model will dramatically improve the racing.

    After his first test drive Tuesday, NASCAR's most popular driver approved.

    "This sport is going to be revolutionized again with this car," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.

    That's a ringing endorsement for NASCAR, which stumbled out of the gate with the launch of its 2007 Sprint Cup car and never recovered. Drivers were mixed on the "Car of Tomorrow" during its development and the messaging reflected the varying opinions.

    When Kyle Busch won the CoT's debut race at Bristol, he panned the car in his victory celebration on live television. He didn't let up in postrace interviews, likening the car to driving a milk crate.

    NASCAR worked on orders from chairman Brian France to develop a racier 2013 model, which will officially debut at the season-opening Daytona 500 in February.


    Armstrong sought sealing of records

    Lance Armstrong resisted turning over records sought by U.S. Postal Service investigators, then tried to keep the inquiry under seal and out of the public eye, according to released court documents. In 2011, Postal Service officials investigating Armstrong and his teams for doping wanted records from his team management groups, financial statements, training journals and correspondence with former training consultant Michele Ferrari. He eventually complied with the subpoena but as recently as October asked the courts to keep the inquiry private.


    Youkilis headed to ex-team's enemy

    Kevin Youkilis and the Yankees reached a deal, AP reported, returning the hard-nosed three-time All-Star to the AL East. The one-year contract for $12 million is pending a physical. Youkilis was a star for the rival Red Sox for nearly a decade before being traded to the White Sox last season.

    THREE-TEAM TRADE: The Indians traded outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds and acquired prized pitching prospect Trevor Bauer from the Diamondbacks. Centerfielder Drew Stubbs went from Cincinnati to Cleveland as part of the nine-player swap. The Indians also got right-handers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from Arizona, sent infielder Jason Donald and about $3.5 million to the Reds and shipped lefty reliever Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson to Arizona. The Diamondbacks got shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius from Cincinnati.


    Ryder Cup captain revealed Thursday

    The PGA of America is bringing a mystery guest to the Today show: Its next Ryder Cup captain. Golf Digest reported on its website that it would be Tom Watson. The PGA of America said it would reveal the U.S. captain for the 2014 team during a segment Thursday of NBC's morning show, followed by a news conference. NBC is the longtime broadcast partner of the Ryder Cup.


    TENNIS: Rafael Nadal said he'll play in an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi this month after a six-month break to recover from a knee injury. Nadal has not played since a stunning second-round loss to 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June.

    Times wires

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    Times wires
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving scored 28 points in his return after missing 11 games with a broken finger, leading the Cavaliers to a 100-94 win over the Lakers, who dropped to a new low Tuesday night in a tumultuous season.

    Irving added 11 assists in 39 minutes and showed off his dizzying array of moves as the Cavs ended a five-game losing streak.

    Kobe Bryant scored 42 points and Dwight Howard had 19 points and 20 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to stop the Lakers from losing for the eighth time in 11 games and to a Cleveland team that entered with four wins.

    C.J. Miles scored 28 in his first start this season for the Cavs.

    Los Angeles was without starting forward Pau Gasol, who missed his fifth straight game with knee tendinitis, and point guard Steve Nash, still sidelined with a broken leg. Nash told USA Today on Monday he would be out "at least another two weeks."

    The Lakers fell behind by 16 in the third quarter, and despite Bryant's attempt to rescue them, they opened a four-game road trip with a loss that could sting for a while.

    As the final seconds ticked off, Bryant stood at halfcourt, his right hand on his hip, looking disgusted. When the horn sounded, he handed the ball to an official and gave a brief hug to Irving and a long one to Cavs coach Byron Scott, who whispered something in his ear.

    Before the game, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni bemoaned his team's defense and said the Lakers seemed to be missing a "spirit" to win.

    GAME HIGHLIGHTS: Carmelo Anthony scored a season-high 45 points, Jason Kidd made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 24 seconds left and the visiting Knicks rallied from an early 17-point hole to beat the Nets 100-97. … Jordan Crawford scored 26 points and the Wizards spoiled the return of 2012 overall No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, beating the host Hornets 77-70. Davis, who missed 11 games with a stress reaction in his left ankle, had 13 points and seven rebounds.

    Magic questions D'antoni: Magic Johnson says new Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's uptempo system "doesn't fit the talent the Lakers have." Kobe Bryant is the only player who can run, so the team should focus on its inside game, led by Pau Gasol, the Lakers great said at a Dodger Stadium appearance. D'Antoni's first question in taking over the team for fired Mike Brown last month should have been to ask Gasol where he wanted the ball and then given it to him, Johnson said.

    Cavaliers 100, Lakers 94

    L.A. LAKERS (94): World Peace 5-12 1-4 13, Hill 1-6 0-0 2, Howard 3-9 13-22 19, Duhon 1-2 0-0 2, Bryant 16-28 7-10 42, Meeks 2-6 2-2 7, Morris 0-1 0-0 0, Jamison 3-10 2-2 9, Ebanks 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-75 25-40 94.

    CLEVELAND (100): Gee 6-14 3-4 17, Thompson 0-3 1-4 1, Varejao 8-13 4-7 20, Irving 11-21 2-3 28, Miles 10-18 3-4 28, Zeller 2-6 2-2 6, Gibson 0-3 0-0 0, Pargo 0-3 0-0 0, Casspi 0-3 0-2 0, Samuels 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-84 15-26 100.

    L.A. Lakers 23 16 23 32— 94

    Cleveland 29 25 14 32— 100

    3-Point GoalsL.A. Lakers 7-27 (Bryant 3-9, World Peace 2-6, Meeks 1-4, Jamison 1-6, Ebanks 0-1, Duhon 0-1), Cleveland 11-27 (Miles 5-10, Irving 4-6, Gee 2-5, Casspi 0-1, Varejao 0-1, Gibson 0-2, Pargo 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsL.A. Lakers 63 (Howard 20), Cleveland 54 (Thompson 10). AssistsL.A. Lakers 11 (Howard 3), Cleveland 24 (Irving 11). Total FoulsL.A. Lakers 22, Cleveland 26.

    Knicks 100, Nets 97

    NEW YORK (100): Brewer 0-4 0-0 0, Anthony 15-24 10-11 45, Chandler 2-5 1-2 5, Felton 3-12 1-2 8, Kidd 6-9 0-1 18, Smith 7-15 2-2 16, White 0-0 0-0 0, R.Wallace 3-7 0-0 8, Prigioni 0-1 0-0 0, Novak 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 36-78 14-18 100.

    BROOKLYN (97): G.Wallace 5-8 7-8 17, Evans 2-4 1-3 5, Blatche 9-13 5-6 23, Williams 6-16 5-6 18, Johnson 7-14 0-0 16, Stackhouse 0-1 0-0 0, Humphries 0-0 2-4 2, Brooks 4-7 1-1 9, Watson 3-5 0-0 7. Totals 36-68 21-28 97.

    New York 16 33 25 26— 100

    Brooklyn 30 23 26 18— 97

    3-Point GoalsNew York 14-28 (Kidd 6-8, Anthony 5-7, R.Wallace 2-2, Felton 1-3, Novak 0-1, Prigioni 0-1, Brewer 0-2, Smith 0-4), Brooklyn 4-18 (Johnson 2-6, Watson 1-1, Williams 1-6, Blatche 0-1, G.Wallace 0-2, Brooks 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsNew York 40 (Chandler 7), Brooklyn 45 (Evans 18). AssistsNew York 20 (Felton 7), Brooklyn 21 (Williams 10). Total FoulsNew York 21, Brooklyn 21.

    Nuggets 101, Pistons 94

    DENVER (101): Gallinari 3-13 2-2 9, Faried 0-1 3-8 3, Koufos 4-7 1-2 9, Lawson 9-17 7-8 26, Iguodala 3-12 5-7 12, Randolph 0-2 0-0 0, McGee 6-9 0-2 12, Brewer 6-11 0-0 15, A.Miller 4-4 3-3 11, Mozgov 2-4 0-2 4. Totals 37-80 21-34 101.

    DETROIT (94): Prince 4-9 0-0 8, Maxiell 6-11 6-10 18, Monroe 1-9 4-6 6, Knight 8-16 2-2 20, Singler 4-12 1-2 9, Stuckey 5-12 5-5 17, Drummond 3-4 1-2 7, Villanueva 1-4 0-0 3, Maggette 2-4 2-4 6, Bynum 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-81 21-31 94.

    Denver 17 31 24 29— 101

    Detroit 25 17 24 28— 94

    3-Point GoalsDenver 6-17 (Brewer 3-5, Lawson 1-2, Gallinari 1-4, Iguodala 1-6), Detroit 5-13 (Stuckey 2-3, Knight 2-5, Villanueva 1-2, Prince 0-1, Singler 0-2). Fouled OutKoufos, Stuckey. ReboundsDenver 50 (Iguodala 8), Detroit 63 (Monroe 12). AssistsDenver 22 (A.Miller, Lawson 7), Detroit 18 (Knight 5). Total FoulsDenver 19, Detroit 28. Flagrant Fouls—Maxiell.

    Wizards 77, Hornets 70

    WASHINGTON (77): Webster 0-4 2-3 2, Singleton 1-7 0-0 2, Okafor 3-4 0-0 6, Crawford 9-24 6-8 26, Beal 6-12 2-2 15, Martin 2-10 0-0 6, Nene 3-8 4-4 10, Livingston 0-5 2-2 2, Seraphin 3-7 2-2 8, Vesely 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 27-82 18-23 77.

    NEW ORLEANS (70): Aminu 2-8 2-2 6, Anderson 7-21 0-0 17, Lopez 1-3 0-0 2, Vasquez 2-14 1-2 5, Rivers 5-8 1-4 11, Miller 0-2 0-0 0, Davis 5-10 3-3 13, Smith 1-4 3-4 5, Roberts 2-6 2-4 6, Mason 1-4 2-3 5, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-80 14-22 70.

    Washington 11 25 20 21— 77

    New Orleans 22 20 18 10— 70

    3-Point GoalsWashington 5-19 (Martin 2-5, Crawford 2-8, Beal 1-4, Singleton 0-1, Webster 0-1), New Orleans 4-16 (Anderson 3-12, Mason 1-2, Rivers 0-1, Vasquez 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsWashington 61 (Nene 10), New Orleans 61 (Anderson 11). AssistsWashington 14 (Crawford, Beal 4), New Orleans 14 (Vasquez 5). Total FoulsWashington 22, New Orleans 28. TechnicalsNene, Vasquez, New Orleans defensive three second.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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  • 12/11/12--20:24: Sides to try mediation again
  • Times wires
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    TORONTO — NHL labor negotiations will resume today, with mediators rejoining the talks at an undisclosed location in an effort to save the hockey season.

    The Canadian Press on Tuesday reported the restart of bargaining between the league and union.

    U.S. federal mediators Scot Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney are to return. They took part in sessions Nov. 27 and 28 before deciding they couldn't help.

    The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, based in Washington, also was involved during the lockout that canceled the 2004-05 NHL season, with Beckenbaugh attending sessions.

    As recently as last week, commissioner Gary Bettman indicated he didn't think mediators could help bridge the gap.

    "We're not interested in mediation," he said Thursday. "We went through it a week and a half ago. It was of no value because of the position of the parties."

    Tuesday marked the 87th day of the lockout. This session will be the first since the sides blamed each other after talks broke off last week.

    Until then, there appeared to be progress during three days in New York in which they exchanged proposals. Union executive director Donald Fehr maintains there are agreements on almost all important issues.

    The league says three main issues remain: the length of the collective bargaining agreement, rules governing term limits on contracts and the transition rules to help teams get under the salary cap.

    In all, more than 40 percent of the regular season that was scheduled to begin Oct. 11 has been scratched.

    The NHL eliminated 16 more days from the regular-season schedule Monday, canceling games through Dec. 30. The Jan. 1 Winter Classic and All-Star Game were already wiped out.

    Bettman has said the league would want nothing less than a 48-game season, which is what it had after 1994-95 lockout ended.

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    Times wires
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois used a wave of 3-pointers and strong shooting in its previous two wins to move into the Top 10. But on a night when the Illini were struggling, a late layup from banged-up D.J. Richardson and hard-nosed defense kept their unbeaten start going.

    Three days after an impressive road win over Gonzaga, Brandon Paul scored 14 and Richardson overcame a shoulder injury to add 11 and help No. 10 Illinois hold off Norfolk State 64-54 on Tuesday night.

    "I don't think over the course of the 40 minutes our energy, our focus, our effort level was where it's been," Illinois coach John Groce said.

    The Illini (11-0) were shooting 46 percent from the field and averaging 11 3-pointers a game going in but shot just 35 percent overall (21-of-60) and made 6 of 23 3's (26 percent).

    "What we tried to do was run them off of the 3-point line and try to make them beat us with 2's rather than 3's," Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans said.

    Rashid Gaston scored 12 for Norfolk State, which led for much of the first half. Gaston had a chance to tie the score at 49 with just less than 8 minutes left. The forward launched a turnaround jumper in the lane that found nothing but Sam McLaurin's outstretched hand.

    A minute later Richardson fired in a 3 from the top of the key that put Illinois up 52-47. He secured the win with a layup that put the Illini up 56-51 with just less than 2 minutes to play.

    Richardson left the game late in the first half after a collision sent him to the floor. He skipped second-half warmups with what the Illinois sports information director said was a bruised shoulder but came back early in the half.

    NO. 3 MICHIGAN 67, BINGHAMTON 39: Trey Burke scored 19 to lead the host Wolverines (10-0), who blew it open with an early 19-2 run and are off to their best start since their national title season of 1988-89.

    NO. 13 MINNESOTA 70, N. DAKOTA ST. 57: Rodney Williams scored a season-high 19, including a 360-degree dunk off a fast break, and Trevor Mbakwe grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds for the host Gophers (11-1).

    SAINT LEO 72, NOVA SE 55: Marcus Ruh had a career-high 27 points for the host Lions (5-2), who never trailed in their Sunshine State Conference opener.


    NO. 10 MARYLAND 88, TOWSON 43: Alyssa Thomas had 23 points and 13 rebounds for the visiting Terrapins (7-2), who have won three straight by an average of nearly 40 points.

    NO. 18 TEXAS 77, LA.-MONROE 49: Brady Sanders scored 15 for the host Longhorns (6-1), who bounced back from Saturday's 62-42 loss to UCLA.

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    By Capt. Mike Gore, Times Correspondent
    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    Bait. December usually is the month that I start to transition from using greenbacks to shrimp and artificial baits. While greenbacks are still available, the fish's metabolism slows down as the water gets cooler. They don't want to chase down fast-moving bait. You can still have luck with greenbacks in deep water canals with muddy bottoms. Try using a cork or trimming the tail of the greenbacks to slow them down.

    Weather. We continue to luck out by not having any cold fronts bare down on us. This is why we live in Florida. If you are a shallow water angler, now is the time to be on the water. A combination of low tides and clear water presents us with the perfect opportunity to sight cast fish.

    Go red. Redfish have been scattered all over the flats foraging on shrimp and crabs. Jigs work well in this situation. Try using a lightweight jig head so it makes as little noise as possible entering the water. Make sure it is heavy enough to cast past the fish. You always want to work in the path the fish are heading. New penny or a camo color soft plastic has always produced.

    Take your time. A slow retrieval is the name of the game this time of year. Try just barely bouncing or dragging the bottom with the jig. The best part about this technique is it works for all the species you may encounter on the flats. It is hard for trout or flounder to pass up on a perfectly placed soft plastic this time of year.

    Mike Gore charters out of Tampa Bay. Call him at (813) 390-6600 or visit tampacharters.com.

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    By Eve Edelheit, Times Photojournalist
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012


    It was a beautiful Friday night, and the Robinson High School stands were packed. The energy could be felt as the Knights took on Tallahassee Godby in the Class 5A state semifinal, seeking to add another chapter to their fairy tale season that appeared destined for a state title. Throughout the first half, that belief, that excitement permeated Jack Peters Field.

    But as the teams came out for the second half, there was a shift in the air. Something had changed and the victorious vision began to fade as Godby erased a 10-point deficit and eventually took a 4-point lead.

    "It was exhilarating," said Robinson coach Mike DePue. "Then the rug was pulled out from under us."

    Early in the fourth quarter, a few players could be seen comforting a teammate who had already succumbed to tears. Coaches responded by reminding the players it wasn't over and not to give up.

    And then, the Knights began to fight back — moving closer and closer to a potential game-winning touchdown in the final minute.

    Ultimately, the drive came up short, and in the final seconds, Godby players rushed onto the field in celebration.

    "In those final seconds, I watched my four years of high school flash before my eyes," Robinson senior quarterback Zain Gilmore said. "I felt everything on my shoulders, and it felt like I was failing the task at hand."

    Screams of sorrow began to drown out the distant Godby celebration. Some players clung to coaches for support, while others sat on the field, tears streaming down their faces, looking up into the night sky for an answer. After a brief period of mourning, DePue told his players to man up and come together for the senior sendoff. A Robinson tradition is to send the seniors off in a tunnel of supporting family members and fans. But there was one extra person this year who wouldn't be coming back: DePue, who will retire after 30 years at the school.

    After shedding some tears himself as he said goodbye to his players, DePue took his turn going through the tunnel. He took this final walk in stride. Then, as his players lifted him onto their shoulders, he was met with overwhelming applause.

    "I hope this year is something that my players will cherish and reflect upon when they are 20, 30, 40 and 50," DePue said. "I want them to look back and say, 'What a special period in my life.' "

    Eve Edelheit, Times staff writer

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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are working to complete a deal to sign right-hander Roberto Hernandez (not that one), a move that would add depth to their rotation and/or bullpen and another player with an interesting past to their clubhouse.

    Hernandez, 32, previously pitched for the Indians and formerly was known as Fausto Carmona before being caught in January in his native Dominican Republic falsifying his identity .

    He is looking to re-establish his career after missing most of last season with visa issues after the scandal. He didn't make his debut for the Indians until Aug. 12, going 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA, then was shut down with an ankle injury. The Indians declined a $6 million option.

    Hernandez — who was 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in 2007 (and fourth in the Cy Young voting), and an All-Star in 2010 (13-14, 3.77) — could emerge as a back-of-the-rotation option for the Rays in the absence of traded James Shields and Wade Davis. Or he could end up in the bullpen, where his ability to get ground balls could make him an effective weapon.

    The deal may not be completed and announced for several days.

    NOTE: Manager Joe Maddon completed three days of serving meals at Salvation Army shelters Wednesday and headed to Pennsylvania for a weekend of fundraising events for his Hazleton Integration Project.

    Shields introduced

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Manager Ned Yost and the Royals hope their recent acquisitions from the Rays can bring a winning franchise to a city in dire need of one.

    Former All-Star James Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis arrived in Kansas City for physicals after a trade that sent the Royals' top prospect, Wil Myers, and three other minor-leaguers to Tampa Bay. They're ready to join a new-look rotation the club believes can revive a franchise that hasn't had a winning season since 2003 and hasn't made the postseason since 1985.

    "I'm up for any challenge, there's no doubt," Shields said. "But my goal here, as well as Wade's, is we're going to try to feed off each other."

    Shields, 30, is expected to be the Royals' opening day starter after seven years as a stalwart in the Rays rotation. He has topped 200 innings each of the past six seasons.

    "These two guys have winning flowing in their veins," Yost said. "They're going to be a huge addition not only to our pitching staff but our whole team."

    Davis, who started 64 games for Tampa Bay from 2009-11, was sent to the bullpen last season and flourished. He is slated to return to the rotation next season.

    "It's awesome to get the opportunity. Last year was a good learning experience for me," Davis said. "It's just a little overwhelming the past couple days, but sitting back and thinking about it, it's a really exciting thing for me to be part of."

    METS: Third baseman David Wright will have to wait until 2025 to receive all the money from his $138 million, eight-year contract with the Mets. The deal includes $15.5 million in salary that is being deferred without interest.

    YANKEES: Closer Mariano Rivera, coming back from right knee surgery, expects to be ready by opening day. "I don't see why not," said Rivera, 43. "We have at least three months, four months to that point. I'll be ready."

    Information from Times wires was used in this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

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    By Brandon Wright, Times Correspondent
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    RIVERVIEW — The Riverview Sharks figured to be one of the top girls basketball teams around heading into the 2012 season. They just didn't expect it to happen the way it has.

    Three stars and college prospects from its 2011 team — Faith Woodard, Monet Williams and Tesha Hanson — all transferred before the start of this season and veteran coach Lelani Gordon, the only girls basketball coach in school history, resigned.

    "We lost a lot and no one gave us a chance," guard Asia Royster said. "We had to find ourselves as a team."

    Enter Jonathan Frueh, a burly basketball junkie with an armful of tattoos and no prior head coaching experience at the high school level.

    "I thought he had never played basketball in his life," Royster said. "He was all big and strong looking. He was kind of scary."

    But Frueh, a born again Christian, began pushing the mantra of faith, family and basketball. And he wasn't concerned with who wasn't there — only who was.

    "To be honest, I wasn't interested," Frueh said of the trio of transfers. "I've met them and they are great girls and I wish them nothing but success. But I didn't think about it because it wasn't my concern."

    To further Frueh's message of family, he brought on brother Dave to help out.

    "He's only 22 but in terms of basketball, he's years beyond that," Frueh said. "Dave and I make a great tandem because when I'm focusing on one thing, he's analyzing another. We have a great bond in Christ and it's like having four eyes out there."

    The two are quite a sight on the bench. Dave, usually toting a clipboard, could pass for a mild-mannered accountant. Jonathan, on the other hand, is a whirlwind of stomps and screams who looks like a nightclub bouncer.

    "I have tattoos and he doesn't have a single one," Jonathan said about Dave. "I have piercings and he doesn't. I'm into bodybuilding and lifting weights isn't his thing. But even though we're different, we're also very much the same. I'm his biggest fan."

    Frueh also made it a point make personal connections with the girls off the court before drawing up X's and O's.

    "My approach was to get to know them as kids and as students," he said. "I wanted to know their families. Teens go through a lot of things and I wanted to make sure they knew my classroom was a safe haven. If all I could accomplish was with a round pigskin and iron rim, that would be pretty useless."

    Although many in local basketball circles assumed a drop off following the major preseason shakeups, Riverview hasn't missed a beat. As of press time, the Sharks are a perfect 7-0, including wins against Tampa Bay Tech and Armwood.

    "I'm really not surprised by our start because I think losing all those players really motivated us," Royster said. "We wanted to stay on the map."

    Royster is the Sharks' catalyst. The sophomore keyed a 23-point third quarter last week against TBT with an assortment of dazzling drives. And when the Titans began pinching the basket, Royster drew in the defense and found open teammates for easy layups.

    "I challenged her before the season and told her she needed to play above her years," Frueh said. "She's getting smarter every game and thinking more and more. She's beginning to feel when to attack and when to kick it out."

    Royster has teamed with forward Shatisha Dukes to form a potent 1-2 combo. Dukes led all scorers with 17 points, including the Sharks' final eight, against TBT.

    "Dukes, for me, is the most versatile player in the district," Frueh said. "She can play every position. She can bring the ball up or play center. She does it all."

    Although the Sharks are still undefeated, Frueh is aware, just like in any other family, there will be some bumps in the road this season. Riverview is thin off the bench and has trouble shooting over zones but right now, the family dynamic couldn't be better.

    "I have my brother on the bench with me and my father, wife and daughter at each game," Frueh said. "We have created a family environment here and will win and lose as family and remain humble doing it, because once a win is in the books the new one starts 0-0."

    Brandon Wright can be reached at hillsnews@tampbay.com.


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    TAMPA — Ask Andrew Phillips about the innovative charm of the Stanford offense and the former Cardinal offensive guard thinks back to 2009 and the Monday before Stanford played at Southern California, and an impromptu package called "NASCAR."

    Stanford's offensive brain trust — coach Jim Harbaugh, now with the 49ers; offensive coordinator David Shaw, now Stanford's head coach; and running backs coach Willie Taggart, named this week as USF's new head coach — surprised their players with a no-huddle package, thinking it could catch the Trojans off-guard.

    Sure enough, on Stanford's second drive, the call came in, and NASCAR drove down the field for a momentum-stealing opening touchdown.

    "We're in the middle of a goal-line play and SC had like 15 guys on the field, trying to sub, and we scored anyway," said Phillips, a three-year starter who now works for Google. "It was a total mental blow to SC, you could tell."

    Stanford went on to a 55-21 win, handing the Trojans their worst home loss since 1966. It has been three years since Taggart left Palo Alto for Western Kentucky, but as USF fans wonder what their offense will look like in 2013, it will start with the Stanford offense: a power running game and a little imagination.

    "We were able to run the ball and step away from the traditional Stanford mind-set of throw first, the West Coast offense," Phillips said of Harbaugh's open-mindedness. "They turned us into a ground-and-pound type of team."

    Taggart's final season as running backs coach at Stanford saw senior Toby Gerhart rush for 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns, winning the Doak Walker award as the nation's top runner and finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting. Now with the Vikings, Gerhart has followed Taggart and his teams, seeing tweaks to the scheme with each new season.

    "He has a great offensive mind, and he's put his own twist on it," Gerhart said. "They can air it out if they want, but they take pride in running the ball. A lot of defenses nowadays are built for that spread offense. Stanford will line up with seven offensive linemen and dare you to stop the ball. They commit so many people to the box to stop the run that it opens up the play-action pass. It's tough to stop that, and that's the mind-set Coach Taggart wants in his players."

    Taggart is as confident as he is creative. Western Kentucky's overtime win at Kentucky this season came when the Hilltoppers not only went for two in the first overtime but scored on a lateral to a running back who threw back to the quarterback for the winning conversion.

    The offensive toughness extends to its receivers, who are expected to be physical.

    Bucs rookie Chris Owusu, who overlapped two years with Taggart at Stanford, said even with a potent passer such as Andrew Luck, being a successful receiver in the Stanford offense started with being a downfield blocker.

    "You have to be the whole package. You have to have the mind-set to block for your running back," Owusu said. "Sometimes, it's something receivers don't want to do. They just want to catch passes. You have to be able to block. You have to want to block. It'll show on the film if you're not willing to sacrifice your body for another teammate."

    As offenses go, throw out any preconceived notions. Five offensive linemen? That's only a start, with six or even seven on the field at times, as well as guards lining up as 300-pound fullbacks. And tight ends? The Stanford offense loves them, as does Taggart, whose leading receiver in his past two seasons at Western Kentucky was 6-foot-6, 253-pound Jack Doyle, with a combined 99 catches.

    "We throw the ball to tight ends more than anybody I've ever heard of," said Phillips, noting that the philosophy's strength might be its flexibility to mold to personnel strengths. "The ingenuity and honesty within the program is being able to say, 'This is what we've got. How can we best take advantage of that and get creative with it?' "

    Taggart played quarterback at WKU, but even then, he liked to run the ball. When the Hilltoppers drubbed USF 31-3 in 1997, playing for Harbaugh's father, Jack, Taggart attempted seven passes, completing only two.

    His offense is more balanced, and the best asset for a quarterback running an offense developed at Stanford is intelligence and instinct, being able to read defenses and find the vulnerabilities.

    "In any offense, you've got to find that right guy at the QB position," Taggart said Saturday as he was announced as USF's coach. "That's going to be important to get a QB. Not just any QB. He's got to be smart. It's going to be hardly ever that he goes to the line with one play. He's going to have to get us in the right play."

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    By Derek J. LaRiviere, Times Correspondent
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    The Hernando County Women's 500 Club had its second tournament of the season on Dec. 2 at Mariner Lanes in Spring Hill.

    The 9-pin no-tap tournament included two divisions, Class A (151 average and above) and Class B (150 average and below). The A division paid out to the top four places, and the B division paid to the top seven.

    Denise Chamberland won the Class A title over 19 other bowlers with an 831-pin total. Eileen Jaeger (828) finished second for the second consecutive tournament. Chamberland bowled well in the last two games with a 226 and 220, but her 256 in the first string pushed her to a lead she never lost. She earned $51.20 for her effort, while Jaeger took home $43.20.

    Virginia Strittmatter (789) in third place and Theresa Matos (775) in fourth also won prize money — Strittmatter $35.20 and Matos $30.40.

    The Class B crown was won by Pauline Valenzano (833) after she tossed an opening game 226. Her 207 handicap, along with some consistent shooting, led to a dominant, 22-pin win in the 32-entry field. The effort won Valenzano, who came in second in the first 500 Club event, $56.32.

    Geraldine Webb (811) was runner-up, winning $46.08. Rounding out the top seven were Sheila Wehrenberg (804), Terrie Champenoy (786), Claudine Goodseal (745), Marla Johnson (742) and Marilyn Frontiero (738).

    Frontiero also captured the Mystery Money raffle, earning $73.50. Added to her bowling winnings, she came away with $93.98 for the day. Teresa Burgan won the Christmas Money Tree raffle worth $25.

    The club's next tournament will be Feb. 24 at Spring Hill Lanes. That event will be a doubles tournament. For information, call Wehrenberg at (352) 688-1575.

    PHCC PLAYER HONORED: Pasco-Hernando Community College center Dylan King was awarded a National Junior College Athletic Association Men's Basketball Player of the Week honorable mention for the week of Nov. 20.

    The Florida College System Activities Association released its men's and women's basketball coaches polls, noting that King scored 19 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in his only game that week, a 68-60 loss to Florida College. The center earned NJCAA Region 8 and FCSAA Player of the Week honorable mention honors.

    "King worked hard and should be proud of the recognition," PHCC athletic director and basketball coach James Johnson said.

    King, a freshman, graduated from Dunnellon High School and is averaging 10.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game through seven contests.

    JUNIOR CIRCUIT TENNIS: With perfect weather, the Junior Circuit Tennis Series had its third tournament of the season Dec. 1 at Sugarmill Woods in Homosassa.

    The field drew players from Pasco, Hernando, Citrus and other counties and was split into two divisions: high school boys and high school girls.

    Chris Rosser of Spring Hill, who was eliminated in the semifinals in the previous tournament, was able to win both his semifinal match over Spring Hill's Coty Willey (6-2, 6-0) and his championship match over Mark Mulleavey of Weeki Wachee. Rosser captured the boys title when Mulleavey was unable to finish the tournament due to illness.

    The consolation final was won by Dhruv Patel of Lecanto over Elliott Rosser of Spring Hill in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.

    Mahima Tatam of Lecanto, who won the JCT overall title last season, continued to dominate the girls' tour. After winning last month's event, she won again this month with a finals victory over Amber Gamble of Lecanto (6-0, 6-3). Tatam arrived at the final by defeating Bryn Buckner of Brooksville 6-0, 6-4 in the semifinals, while Gamble knocked off Alison Wilfong of Weeki Wachee 6-0, 6-0 in her semifinal match.

    Junior Circuit Tennis features professionals Lou Giglio, Rick Scholl and Judy Jeanette, who help organize events and coach players. The next tournament is scheduled for Jan. 12 and 13 at Southern Hills Plantation in Brooksville and is open to all junior tennis players in grade school, middle school or high school. Registration fee is $20.

    For information, contact Jeanette at jjeanette3saj@aol.com or (352) 232-0322.

    FIREARMS SAFETY CLASSES: The Hernando Sportsman's Club will be offering firearms safety classes over the coming months.

    The next regular class dates will be Jan. 5 and 19, Feb. 6 and 16 and March 6. A special class for females is scheduled for March 16.

    All classes are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hernando Sportsman's Club, 16121 Commercial Way, north of Weeki Wachee.

    The safety course will cover lessons about the basics of firearms safety around the home as well as an introduction to pistol safety, parts and operation, an introduction to ammunition and the fundamentals of pistol shooting, an introduction to pistol shooting from the seated and standing position, and an introduction to pistol cleaning and storage.

    Classes include instruction, live-fire training on the range and a lunch break.

    The cost is $60. Completion of this class also provides required documentation to apply for a Florida concealed carry permit.

    Preregistration is required. Call (352) 597-9931.

    For information, visit hernandosportsmansclub.com.

    TENNIS CLINICS: Ace Performance Tennis is offering QuickStart drills every Monday at Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill.

    From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., players will take part in drills and games designed for beginners, using the U.S. Tennis Association-approved strategies for 60-foot court players. The fee is $10 per player.

    Ace Performance Tennis also offers Ladies Night Out from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Monday at Delta Woods Park.

    For $10 per class, women of beginning and intermediate skill levels can learn to play in a fun social setting. For information, call John or Louise Downey at (352) 666-0658 or visit louisedowney.usptapro.com.

    TOURETTE SYNDROME GOLF TOURNAMENT: The Plantation Golf Resort in Crystal River will host the inaugural Tee Off for Tourette Celebrity Golf Tournament on Feb. 1 and 2.

    Proceeds will benefit the Tourette Syndrome Association of Florida, a volunteer organization dedicated to helping individuals and families living with Tourette syndrome. The money will help send children to an annual camp, where they can be with other children with Tourette syndrome and can make new friends.

    The basic entry fee is $500 per four-player team, which includes a hole sign and recognition in the tournament program, as well as greens fees and a cart. Other sponsorship levels include gold, platinum and event.

    For $1,000, a sponsor receives the same features as with the basic fee, plus a plaque commemorating the event. For a platinum fee of $2,500, a corporate sponsor gets two four-player teams. The event sponsor fee of $5,000 includes three four-player teams and the privilege of playing the round with one of the celebrities signed up to be on hand.

    Individual hole sponsorships are $250. Individual players can play for a cost of $100 per golfer.

    Among the celebrities expected to appear are former Buffalo Bills linebacker Darryl Talley, American Idol Season 9 contestant Dave Pittman, Kansas City Royals minor leaguer Nick DelGuidice and sports artist John Prince.

    For more information, contact event chairman Gary D'Amico at (352) 527-2938 or gary78@tampabay.rr.com.

    Derek J. LaRiviere can be reached at derekjlariviere@gmail.com or (352) 584-6337.

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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    TAMPA — The Saints enter their showdown with the Bucs on Sunday in unfamiliar territory.

    For the first time in eight years, New Orleans (5-8) is playing out its final three games with almost no chance for the playoffs. It's coming off a 52-27 loss to the Giants that interim coach Joe Vitt labeled an "embarrassment." That's a far cry from the usual success of the perennial NFC power, which is 37-11 over the past three years.

    But it has been no ordinary year in New Orleans, with the Saints engulfed in a bounty scandal that resulted in several suspensions, including head coach Sean Payton for the season, as well as everyday distractions. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue's ruling Monday vacated the player suspensions and might have offered some closure, though Vitt said they're not making excuses.

    "I think that we've lived with this thing for a long (time), over our head," Vitt said. "But inside the walls of this building … when the players come here … there's not a lot of time to talk about the coulda, shoulda, woulda. It's about living in the moment and trying to get better. As far as closure goes, the only thing I can say is I'm happy for our players that they've been vindicated and the suspensions have been vacated. That's a good thing."

    While the Saints, powered by QB Drew Brees, boast the NFL's third-ranked offense, their defense is the worst overall (436.6 yards per game). Turnovers have been an Achilles heel, with 11 in their past three games and a minus-4 differential overall.

    "At the end of the day, we're not going to get a mulligan for this season," Vitt said. "We have a million excuses of why we're not where we should be right now. But the fact of the matter is, we're not playing good enough to win right now."

    NEXT STEP: DE Michael Bennett leads the Bucs with nine sacks, which should net him a sizable payday in the spring when he hits unrestricted free agency for the first time.

    Bennett, claimed off waivers in 2009, has blossomed as a starter the past two years. The Bucs handed Bennett the highest tender ($2.7 million) as a restricted free agent this past offseason.

    Bennett, 27, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, is open to returning but will let the situation play itself out.

    "I love the Buccaneers," he said. "But it's a business. You've got to do what's best for your family."

    WELCOME BACK: When CB Brandon McDonald was released on Nov. 6, the transaction barely made headlines.

    In retrospect, the Bucs could have used some veteran play in their secondary as they've been victimized by quarterbacks in their three-game skid. McDonald had played extensively early in the season, at one point holding the nickelback role while E.J. Biggers and Anthony Gaitor rehabbed; he had 20 tackles and an interception in eight games. The Bucs, statistically, have the league's worst secondary.

    McDonald was re-signed this week and is more than willing to help out.

    "I nicked up my ankle a little bit," he said, referring to his first go-round with the Bucs. "That's just how it is. One guy goes down, another guy has to step up. That guy played well, and that's how the cookie crumbles."

    MEDICAL MATTERS: RG Jamon Meredith did not practice due to a lingering ankle injury. … DE Da'Quan Bowers is dealing with a sore hamstring, but his absence Wednesday was not injury-related. … DT Roy Miller, who missed last week's game with a concussion, practiced and expects to play against the Saints. CB LeQuan Lewis (knee) also practiced.

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

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