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    Times wires
    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens LB Terrell Suggs has been quiet lately.

    He has no sacks and just seven tackles over the past six games, including Sunday's 24-9 wild-card victory over the Colts.

    But the five-time Pro Bowl pick and last season's NFL defensive player of the year has a few valid excuses. He missed the first six games of the season with a partially torn right Achilles tendon sustained in April. Then he tore his right biceps against the Steelers on Dec. 2 and missed two games, including the meaningless season finale against the Bengals.

    "The fact that this guy came back from an Achilles … I am marveled the guy has played at all this year," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.

    Suggs said this week the Achilles tendon flared up against Indianapolis but he was determined to finish the game. And he has not missed practice time this week for Saturday's game against the Broncos.

    "I look at it as this has been a bonus that we ever had the guy," Pees said. "I never dreamed that we'd ever have the guy at all this year. So anything we've gotten out of him, to me, is a positive and a bonus."

    More Ravens: RB Bernard Pierce, who sustained a knee injury Sunday, returned to practice and was expected to play. WR Torrey Smith was limited by a sore back.

    Broncos: Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has interviewed for the coaching vacancies in Arizona, Chicago and Philadelphia. But he said he has had no problem maintaining his focus on his current team: "I told (his interviewers), 'Listen, there are certain things I may not know about your organization or certain things I haven't researched as much as I would have liked. But all my time and effort in preparation last week was in breaking down our opponents.' The last (interview) we had, I said we need to be done by a certain time because we needed to move on."

    Patriots: To prepare for the season, S Devin McCourty spends some of his offseason doing hot yoga workouts. He will spend up to two hours at a time in a saunalike room. "It's so hot in there," said McCourty, whose team faces the Texans on Sunday. "It gets to the point where it's hard to just sit in there and stay. I think it definitely helps for mental toughness. … And at different times during the game, I could be tired, but I really won't think about it. I'll really just think about playing."

    Texans: CB Johnathan Joseph said he is back to full speed after hamstring and groin issues. He missed two games, then was slowed during the regular-season finale against the Colts. "(It's like) night and day," Joseph said. "I was able to play, but I wasn't at my best. I can say I'm 100 percent right now."


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    Times wires
    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Junior Seau, among the greatest linebackers in NFL history, suffered from degenerative brain disease when he fatally shot himself in May, the National Institutes of Health said in a study released Thursday, another blow to a league whose former players say they were never warned about the dangers of head injuries.

    The findings were consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease widely connected to athletes who have absorbed frequent blows to the head, the NIH said in a statement. Seau is the most prominent player to be associated with the disease, which has bedeviled the sport in recent years as a proliferation of studies have exposed the possible long-term cognitive impact of head injuries sustained on the field.

    "The type of findings seen in Mr. Seau's brain have been recently reported in autopsies of individuals with exposure to repetitive head injury," the NIH said, "including professional and amateur athletes who played contact sports, individuals with multiple concussions, and veterans exposed to blast injury and other trauma."

    Since CTE was diagnosed in the brain of former Eagles defensive back and USF assistant coach Andre Waters, 44, after his 2006 suicide at his North Tampa home, the disease has been found in nearly every former player whose brain was examined posthumously. (CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously.)

    Researchers at Boston University, who pioneered the study of CTE, have found it in 33 of 34 brains of former NFL players they have examined.

    "I think it's important for everyone to know that Junior did indeed suffer from CTE," said Seau's former wife, Gina. "It's important that we take steps to help these players. We certainly don't want to see anything like this happen again to any of our athletes."

    Shortly after the death of Seau, 43, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest at his Oceanside, Calif., home, members of his family announced his brain would be donated to the NIH to be studied. The release of the results Thursday was at the family's request, the NIH said.

    Seau's suicide was one of several high-profile suicides of former NFL players, raising concern about head injuries in the sport. In February 2011, Dave Duerson, a former Bears player, shot himself in the chest, saying in a note that he wanted his brain donated for research. Doctors determined that Duerson, 50, had CTE. Duerson's son Tregg is suing the NFL, claiming the league did not meaningfully warn players about the potential risks of concussions.

    Ray Easterling, 62, a Falcons safety in the 1970s and a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NFL over its handling of concussion-related injuries, died two weeks before Seau of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. More than 2,000 former players are suing the NFL, contending the league never properly addressed head-injury issues and often withheld information about the long-term effects associated with them.

    "The finding underscores the recognized need for additional research to accelerate a fuller understanding of CTE," the NFL said in a statement Thursday. Pointing to a $30 million research grant it has committed to the NIH and $100 million it plans to invest in medical research, it added, "We have work to do, and we're doing it."

    It's conceivable that damages as part of concussion lawsuits could soar into the billions. Even if the NFL was able to withstand that, lower levels of football, from Pop Warner through college, would be hard-pressed to cover insurance premiums to keep programs going.

    The last team Seau played for, the Patriots, is preparing for a playoff game Sunday. Players who were asked about Seau on Thursday expressed sympathy but did not dwell on the news.

    "It's the playoffs, so that's the least of our concerns right now," offensive lineman Logan Mankins said. "You could probably say we're meatheaded and ignorant not to think about it, but maybe in February, after the season, we can think about that."

    After retiring following the 2009 season, ending a 20-year career, 13 with the Chargers, Seau was known for his work with his foundation and his restaurant, often a cheery presence in and around San Diego. But friends struggled to understand his darker moments. In his final years, Seau had wild behavioral swings, according to Gina and son Tyler, along with irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression.

    "He emotionally detached himself and would kind of 'go away' for a little bit," Tyler Seau, 23, said. "And then the depression and things like that."

    Tyler played football through high school and for two years in college. He says he has no symptoms of brain trauma.

    Gina's son Jake, a high school junior, played football for two seasons but switched to lacrosse.

    "Watching what his dad went through, he says, 'Why would I risk lacrosse for football?' " Gina says. "I didn't have to have a discussion with him after we saw what Junior went through."

    Her son Hunter, 12, has shown no interest in playing football.

    "That's fine with me," she said.


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    Times wires
    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    PITTSBURGH — Former Florida and Lakeland High running back Chris Rainey, charged with hitting his girlfriend in Gainesville on Thursday, will be waived by the Steelers, the team said.

    Gainesville Police charged Rainey, 24, with misdemeanor simple battery after an altercation with his girlfriend. Police said the two were arguing over Rainey's cell phone. When his girlfriend got into a vehicle, Rainey tried to pull her out. Witnesses told detectives Rainey slapped her across the face, then chased her when she ran away with his phone in her purse.

    The Steelers, who selected Rainey in the fifth round of the draft, announced their intention shortly after being made aware of his arrest. Per league rules, they must wait until after the Super Bowl to do so.

    Rainey played primarily on special teams as a rookie. He averaged 26.5 yards on 39 kickoff returns, had 102 yards rushing and two scores, and caught 14 passes for 60 yards.

    Rainey's agent didn't return a phone call for comment.

    Rainey was arrested in 2010 while at Florida. He was charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony, for allegedly sending an ex-girlfriend a threatening text message that read, in part, "Time to die." He agreed to a plea deal two weeks later.


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  • 01/10/13--19:03: Sports on TV/radio
  • Times staff


    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    TODAY

    Boxing

    Middleweights: Molina vs. Williams, 9 p.m., ESPN2

    College basketball

    Fairfield at Loyola (Md.), 7 p.m., ESPNU

    Wright State at Loyola (Ill.), 9 p.m., ESPNU

    College hockey

    Union (N.Y.) at Princeton, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

    Nebraska-Omaha at Denver, 10 p.m., NBCSN

    Golf

    PGA Europe: Volvo Championship (taped), 11 a.m., Golf

    PGA: Sony Open, 7 p.m., Golf

    High school hockey

    Mitchell vs. East Lake, 7:30 p.m., BHSN

    Newsome vs. Palm Harbor U, 9 p.m., BHSN

    Hockey

    WHL: Red Deer at Saskatoon, 8 p.m., NHL

    NBA

    Bulls at Knicks, 8 p.m., ESPN

    Thunder at Lakers, 10:30 p.m., ESPN

    Soccer

    Mexican: Club America at Jaguares, 8:30 p.m., ESPND

    Saturday HIGHLIGHTS

    College basketball

    Georgetown at St. John's , 11 a.m., ESPN2

    Duke at N.C. State, noon, ESPN

    Marquette at Pittsburgh, noon, ESPNU

    Virginia at Clemson, noon, Ch. 44

    Villanova at Syracuse, noon, Ch. 28

    Minnesota at Indiana, noon, Big Ten

    Tennessee at Alabama, 1 p.m., ESPN2

    Mississippi State at Georgia, 1:30 p.m., Ch. 38

    North Carolina at Florida State, 2 p.m., ESPN; 1040-AM

    Texas at Iowa State, 2 p.m., ESPNU

    Butler at Dayton, 2 p.m., NBCSN

    Holy Cross at Lehigh, 2 p.m., CBSSN

    Illinois at Wisconsin, 2:15 p.m., Big Ten

    Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 2:30 p.m., Ch. 44

    Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, 3 p.m., ESPN2

    Florida at LSU, 4 p.m., ESPNU; 620-AM

    USF at Louisville, 4 p.m., BHSN; 98.7-FM

    Texas A&M at Kentucky, 4 p.m., Ch. 38

    Boston College at Wake Forest, 4 p.m., Sun Sports

    George Washington at Xavier, 4 p.m., CBSSN

    Drexel at James Madison, 4 p.m., NBCSN

    Saint Louis at Temple, 6 p.m., ESPNU

    Vanderbilt at Arkansas, 6 p.m., Sun Sports

    Arizona at Oregon State, 8 p.m., ESPNU

    Colorado State at San Diego State, 8 p.m., NBCSN

    Missouri at Mississippi, 8 p.m., FSN

    Women: USF at DePaul, 8 p.m., 1010-AM

    Washington at Stanford, 11 p.m., FSN

    Golf

    PGA: Sony Open, 7 p.m., Golf

    NFL division playoffs

    AFC: Ravens at Broncos, 4:30 p.m., Ch. 10; 1010-AM

    AFC: Ravens at Broncos, 6 p.m. (in progress), 98.7-FM

    NFC: Packers at 49ers, 8 p.m., Ch.13; 98.7-FM

    Sunday HIGHLIGHTS

    College basketball

    Women: Tennessee at Florida, 11:30 a.m., ESPNU

    Penn State at Purdue, noon, Big Ten

    Women: Lafayette at Navy, noon, CBSSN

    Women: Oklahoma State at Texas, 12:30 p.m., Sun Sports

    Women: Boston College at Clemson, 1 p.m., FSN

    Women: South Carolina at Georgia, 1 p.m., BHSN

    Michigan at Ohio State, 1:30 p.m., Ch. 10

    Women: Kentucky at Missouri, 1:30 p.m., ESPNU

    Women: Nebraska at Penn State, 2 p.m., ESPN2

    Women: Fordham at Charlotte, 2 p.m., CBSSN

    Women: Wisconsin at Michigan, 2 p.m., Big Ten

    Women: Alabama at Mississippi, 2:30 p.m., Sun Sports

    Women: Miami at Florida State, 3 p.m., FSN

    Women: Rutgers at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU

    Women: Cal at Stanford, 4 p.m., ESPN2

    Women: San Diego State at Colorado State, 4 p.m., CBSSN

    Women: Michigan State at Illinois, 4 p.m., Big Ten

    Women: Southern Miss at Memphis, 4:30 p.m., Sun Sports

    Iowa at Northwestern, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU

    Maryland at Miami, 8 p.m., ESPNU

    Golf

    PGA: Sony Open, 8 p.m., Golf

    NBA

    Magic at Clippers, 3:30 p.m., FSN

    NFL division playoffs

    NFC: Seahawks at Falcons, 1 p.m., Ch. 13; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

    AFC: Texans at Patriots, 4:30 p.m., Ch. 10; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

    TV: BHSN: Bright House Sports Network; CBSSN: CBS Sports Network; ESPND: ESPN Deportes; FSN: Fox Sports Net; NBCSN: NBC Sports Network


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  • 01/10/13--19:04: Sports in brief
  • Times staff, wires
    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Autos

    Keselowski chipper, Bowyer chippy

    DAYTONA BEACH — The first day of testing NASCAR's new "Gen 6" car at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday took a backseat to the drivers. Brad Keselowski is eager to defend his Sprint Cup title, Danica Patrick is not planning to run the Indianapolis 500, and Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon aren't saying whether they have made up. Keselowski was a bit slow in testing but said: "Being first on the track … is our little way of needling the competition to say that even if we aren't fastest, we are going to be the first ones on it." Bowyer brushed aside questions about whether he and Gordon have made up since they fought because Gordon intentionally wrecked him in a November race. They were on the same yacht for a party thrown by entertainer Sean "P. Diddy" Combs in St. Barts. "That was the one person that I definitely wanted to take vacation with. Yes, I could not wait to get there for that very reason. Is that what you wanted me to say?" Bowyer snapped.

    notes: Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip will drive Swan Racing's No. 30 Toyota in this year's race. The team will use David Stremme the rest of the year. … AJ Foyt Racing signed Takuma Sato to drive the No. 14 Honda in IndyCar.

    Tennis

    Serena, Venus may be hurdles to top seeds

    Defending champion Victoria Azarenka and title favorite Serena Williams are in the same half of the women's draw at the Australian Open, meaning they could meet in the semifinals.

    Top-ranked Azarenka has lost 11 of her 12 matches against Williams. No. 2 Maria Sharapova is on the other half of the draw and could meet Venus Williams in the third round.

    Novak Djokovic's bid for a third consecutive Australian Open title got a boost when No. 2-ranked Roger Federer and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray landed in the other half of the draw.

    Sydney International: Top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska advanced to the final in Australia, beating Li Na 6-3, 6-4. Radwanska plays Dominika Cibulkova today. On the men's side, unseeded Kevin Anderson joined Julien Benneteau, Bernard Tomic and Andreas Seppi in today's semifinals.

    player has cancer: The friend to whom Andy Murray dedicated his Brisbane International win Sunday is British player Ross Hutchins, 27, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Hutchins said he hopes to return this year after six months of chemotherapy. "It brought a tear to my eye," he said of Murray's dedication. "He has been very involved talking to me every day, with lots of encouragement."

    alpine Skiing

    Vonn upbeat after run

    American Lindsey Vonn, calling herself "happy and strong," was excited to be back on the World Cup circuit in St. Anton, Austria, after a three-week layoff caused by an intestinal illness. Vonn's training run started fast, but she held back on the bumpy course to finish 3.98 seconds off the leading time. The four-time overall Cup champ plans to have another training run today before competing in the downhill and super-G this weekend.

    ET CETERA

    Baseball: The Rays announced the signings of three players to minor-league deals: catcher Craig Albernaz, outfielder Jason Bourgeois and pitcher J.D. Martin. All were invited to major-league spring training. Also invited were four minor-leaguers: pitchers Marquis Fleming, Kirby Yates and Adam Liberatore, and catcher Mark Thomas. … Arizona outfielder Justin Upton, brother of ex-Ray B.J. Upton, used his no-trade clause to nix a deal to the Mariners, media reports said. … Left-hander Francisco Liriano injured his right arm over the holidays, so his two-year, $14 million deal with the Pirates is on hold.

    Soccer: Defending champion Barcelona beat Cordoba 5-0 to advance to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals.

    Joe Smith, Times staff writer; Times wires


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  • 01/10/13--19:44: Jacksonville fires Mularkey
  • Times wires
    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    JACKSONVILLE — The Jaguars fired coach Mike Mularkey after one season, the worst in franchise history, on Thursday.

    Jacksonville has permission to talk to Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, reports said.

    Mularkey, a former Gators tight end and Bucs assistant, went 2-14. His top player, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, skipped training camp in a contract dispute, then missed most of the season with an ankle injury. And second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert continued to struggle.

    "A year ago, when I came here, the organizational judgment was we were … just a few players and a draft away from really competing for a playoff spot," owner Shad Khan said. "As the year progressed, it was pretty obvious that was not the case and we would need a fresh start."

    More coaches: Browns hire Carolina assistant

    Cleveland hired Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chud­zinski as coach. A news conference was scheduled for today.

    Chudzinski, 44, grew up a Browns fan in Toledo, Ohio. He played in college at Miami and has been an NFL assistant since 2004, including Browns offensive coordinator from 2007-08.

    He replaces fired Pat Shurmur.

    Bills: Mike Pettine was hired as defensive coordinator and Nathaniel Hackett as offensive coordinator. Pettine was the Jets' defensive coordinator for four seasons. Hackett was new coach Doug Marrone's offensive coordinator at Syracuse.

    Bears: Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements interviewed, with Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison set for today and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell set for Saturday, espnchicago.com reported.

    Cardinals: The team interviewed Jay Gruden, the Bengals' offensive coordinator, younger brother of Jon and an ex-Storm quarterback. He said he might talk to the Eagles next week.

    Chargers: Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said his interest in the job increased with the hiring of Colts vice president Tom Telesco as GM.

    Eagles: Lovie Smith, recently fired by the Bears, interviewed.

    Report: Monte Kiffin on Cowboys' radar

    Dallas is interested in former Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to replace fired Rob Ryan, nfl.com and espn.com reported. Kiffin recently stepped down as USC's defensive coordinator. The Chiefs talked to Kiffin but were rebuffed, both websites reported.

    Vikings: GM Rick Spielman said he has "no issues" with receiver Percy Harvin's character or attitude. The ex-Gator requested a trade last summer. And after sustaining a season-ending sprained left ankle, he returned to Florida for rehabilitation. Spielman declined to say if he would offer a contract extension to Harvin.

    Pro Bowl: Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham were added as injury replacements for the Redskins' Robert Griffin III, Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware and Steelers' Heath Miller, respectively.


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  • 01/10/13--19:46: Rookies' PGA debut memorable
  • Times wires
    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    HONOLULU — Rookie Scott Langley made a debut on the PGA Tour he won't soon forget.

    Rookie Russell Henley wasn't too shabby, either.

    Langley thrived on a penetrating ball flight and a pure putting stroke Thursday for 8-under 62, which gave him a one-shot lead over Henley in the Sony Open.

    Henley played in the same group with Langley, and they put on a remarkable show along the back nine at Waialae Country Club. Henley, who said he was just trying to keep pace with Langley, made five birdies on the back nine, but he couldn't keep up at the end, when he misplayed a chip on the par-5 18th.

    Langley, the 2010 NCAA champion at Illinois, played bogey-free and made a couple of long putts, including a 55-footer for eagle on No. 9.

    Scott Piercy and Tim Clark were at 6 under in the first full-field tournament of the season.

    St. Petersburg native and Gulf High graduate Darron Stiles was at 2 under, and Tampa resident Ryuji Imada was 2 over.

    Langley, an alumnus of the First Tee program for young golfers, is not new to big-time golf. He has qualified for two U.S. Opens and has two top-30 finishes, tying for low amateur — with Henley, no less — at Pebble Beach in 2010.

    But considering the nerves he felt on the first tee, and going around this tight course without a bogey, he didn't hesitate to call this round his best as a pro.

    Adding to his dream day was being alongside Henley, one of his closest friends.

    Henley won on the Nationwide Tour as an amateur and twice more last year to earn his card.

    As they walked up the 16th fairway late in the afternoon, they couldn't help but think back to one year ago.

    They were playing in a Hooters Tour event in Florida, Henley missing the cut and Langley barely making it, both on the practice range trying to figure out how to get better.

    European: Thongchai Jaidee shot 7-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead over Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen on the opening day of the Volvo Champions at Durban, South Africa.


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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    GAINESVILLE — Alex Anzalone, a four-star-rated linebacker recruit from Pennsylvania who had orally committed to Notre Dame, has decided to play at Florida instead and is scheduled to enroll this week.

    Anzalone must be enrolled at UF by the end of the day today as the spring admission period ends. He orally committed to Notre Dame in July but has had multiple visits to UF. He was part of the Gators' invitation-only Friday Night Lights camp in July and participated in last week's Under Armour All-America Game.

    Oral commitments are not binding, and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's interest in the NFL could have played a role.

    Anzalone of Wyomissing, Pa., is a 6-foot-3, 232-pound player who is rated the No. 11 outside linebacker by espn.com, No. 5 by 247Sports.

    Back to the U: Mario Cristobal, fired by Florida International last month after six seasons as head coach with two bowl appearances, was hired as the Hurricanes' associate head coach and tight ends coach. It's Cristobal's fourth stint at Miami: He played for two national championship teams there between 1988 and 1992, was a graduate assistant from 1998 to 2000, then returned as an assistant from 2004 through 2006. Cristobal coached at Rutgers, briefly played with the Broncos and had a stint in NFL Europe.

    More Irish: Likely capturing the emotion felt by many of those who follow Notre Dame football, upon hearing that Kelly was interviewing with the NFL's Eagles, Irish nose tackle Louis Nix III tweeted "Didnt see that coming!" … Mirko Jurkovic, who was part of the 1988 national championship team and later a consensus All-American offensive guard, died of cancer Wednesday in Indiana. He was 42.

    Ohio State: Running back Jordan Hall was granted a medical redshirt after missing most of the this past season due to foot and knee injuries. Hall missed the start of the season after cutting his foot in the summer and the end after partially tearing a knee ligament.

    Oklahoma State: Coach Mike Gundy replaced defensive coordinator Bill Young with linebackers coach Glenn Spencer, but Gundy has not found a replacement for offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who left to become coach at Southern Miss.

    Heading for draft: Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who set a school record with 1,405 receiving yards this past season and an ACC-record 18 touchdowns, announced he is entering the NFL draft. Others announcing they will forgo their senior year: Oklahoma State's All-Big 12 running back Joseph Randle and Georgia nose tackle Kwame Geathers.

    Staying in school: After earlier in the day saying that he was leaving school for the NFL draft, Texas receiver Mike Davis reversed course after talking to two assistants and family members, and said he will stay. … Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews, a first-team All-American and projected by some to be a first-round draft pick, said he will return for his senior season.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report.


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  • 01/10/13--20:00: Miami win stresses out UNC
  • Times wires
    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Kenny Kadji scored 18 and Miami pulled away to beat North Carolina 68-59 Thursday night.

    Julian Gamble had 14 points for the Hurricanes (11-3, 2-0 ACC), who had the Smith Center crowd booing when they took a 65-55 lead with 3:04 left.

    North Carolina (10-5, 0-2) lost its first two league games for the first time since 2008-09 and fell to 18-3 in the series. The Tar Heels visit FSU on Saturday.

    Miami led most of the second half, shot 47 percent (25-for-53) and allowed one field goal during a late seven-minute span.

    "Hopefully, now people take us seriously," Kadji said.

    When North Carolina threatened to get back in it, Kadji blocked Reggie Bullock's layup try and then a dunk by J.P. Tokoto, both in 10 seconds.

    Miami won its third straight, claiming its first 2-0 ACC start since joining in 2003-04 and beating North Carolina for the first time since 2006.

    "I'm stressed," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. "I'm going to come in and coach the (expletive) out of them. This is one of those no-sleep nights, but my God, I never sleep much anyway."

    Arizona loses first: E.J. Singler scored 14 and Oregon overcame a slow start to beat No. 4 Arizona 70-66, dropping the Wildcats to 14-1, 2-1 Pac-12. The Ducks (13-2, 2-0) have won 17 straight home games, all 11 this season. Arizona took an 11-0 lead, then was outscored 41-19 the rest of the half. Mark Lyons scored 21 for the Wildcats.

    No. 22 Mich. St. 62, Iowa 59: Branden Dawson scored a career-high 17, including a late steal and tiebreaking dunk for the visiting Spartans (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten), who have won eight of nine. Dawson ripped the ball away from freshman Mike Gesell and gave Michigan State a 58-56 lead with 49 seconds left. Anthony Clemmons missed a free throw that would have tied it with 12 seconds to go and airballed a 3-pointer at the buzzer as Iowa lost its third straight.

    Kentucky 60, Vandy 58: Kyle Wiltjer's jumper with 1:57 left put the visiting Wildcats (10-4, 1-0 SEC) ahead to stay and Kentucky held on after blowing a 16-point lead. UK's Nerlens Noel hit a jumper with 17.3 seconds left that went in after the shot clock buzzer went off; officials didn't review the play. Kedren Johnson made a 3 with 7.6 seconds left to pull the Commodores (6-7, 0-1) within 60-58, and Kyle Fuller stole the inbound pass, but Johnson missed a 3 just before the buzzer.

    Stetson 72, East Tenn. St. 70: Former Clearwater High standout Adam Pegg and Chris Perez scored 17 apiece for the visiting Hatters (6-10, 3-2 Atlantic Sun).

    RECORD-SETTER INJURED: Grinnell College sophomore guard Jack Taylor, who set the NCAA scoring record with 138 points in a game in November, is out for the season after breaking his right wrist Wednesday.

    Women: FSU falls

    TALLAHASSEE — Lakevia Boykin scored a career-high 34 as Wake Forest used a second-half surge to upset No. 18 Florida State 80-72. Chelsea Davis scored 25 for the Seminoles (12-3, 2-2 ACC), who closed an 11-point deficit to two with 2:56 left, but the Demon Deacons (9-6, 2-1) put it away with a layup and 9 of 14 free throws. FSU hosts Miami on Sunday.

    UF 61, Miss. State 55: Jaterra Bonds scored 17 and the visiting Gators (13-4, 2-1 SEC) hit 25 of 39 free throws to win a tight game against the Bulldogs (8-8, 0-3).

    No. 4 Duke 82, Clemson 45: Elizabeth Williams scored 21 and the host Blue Devils (14-0, 4-0 ACC) never trailed.

    NO. 6 UK 65, NO. 20 TEXAS A&M 62: A'dia Mathies scored 23 and the Wildcats (15-1, 3-0 SEC) rallied past the Aggies (12-5, 2-1). Kentucky extended school-record winning streaks of 14 overall and 31 at home.

    No. 9 Tenn. 84, Missouri 39: Meighan Simmons scored 18 and the host Vols (12-3, 3-0 SEC) relied on suffocating defense to win their fifth straight.

    No. 10 MD. 84, No. 24 Miami 62: Freshman Chloe Pavlech scored a season-high 20 for the host Terrapins (12-3, 3-1 ACC). Morgan Stroman scored 14 for the Hurricanes (12-3, 3-1).

    No. 11 UNC 70, N.C. State 66: Brittany Rountree scored 17, including two free throws with 12.5 seconds left, for the visiting Tar Heels (16-1, 4-0 ACC).

    No. 18 S.C. 64, Vandy 48: The host Gamecocks (14-2, 2-1 SEC), third nationally in scoring defense at 47.4 per game, allowed fewer than 50 for the 12th time in 16 games.


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    Times wires
    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    NEW YORK — The players began voting on the collective bargaining agreement Thursday night and have 36 hours, until 8 a.m. Saturday, to cast their ballot on the deal that would end the four-month lockout.

    The union said it would announce the result of the electronic vote Saturday morning. If a majority of the 700-plus players choose to accept the deal owners unanimously ratified Wednesday, training camps will open Sunday and a 48-game regular season will begin Jan. 19.

    A tentative agreement was reached early Sunday, the 113th day of the lockout.

    Throughout the lockout, union executive director Donald Fehr kept the players updated via emails, a phone app and face-to-face meetings, making sure everyone was informed on every step of the negotiations.

    "Hiring him was the best move that we've made as a (union) for a long time," Capitals wing Troy Brouwer said. "(Fehr) did everything the players asked of him. When the players wanted to move on things, he was willing to move on things. When the players wanted to really hold on to something, he made sure we did."

    Fehr, the ex-head of the baseball players union, was hired Dec. 18, 2010. He has impressed players with his experience, knowledge and communication.

    "Players are emotional people," Sharks wing Adam Burish said. "And we'd get in there and yell and scream and say, 'This is what we have to do!' And he'd listen … and take our criticisms and advice, and mold his opinion and give it to us. And then he'd let us make the decisions always. I think all the membership is pretty thrilled that we were able to get him … because he was amazing."

    Players believe if not for Fehr, the deal would not have been as favorable for them after they made major concessions to end the lockout that got the 2004-05 season cancelled.

    "(Fehr) did a tremendous job of keeping everyone together and … informed," Blackhawks wing Viktor Stalberg said. "Last time around, they weren't as good at doing that. And that put guys in different corners at times. It's hard to get a good negotiation if you're not sticking together."


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    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    INDIANAPOLIS — First the Heat, now the Knicks. The Pacers are proving they can beat up on everyone in the Eastern Conference these days.

    Paul George scored seven of his 25 during a 13-0 fourth-quarter run, leading the Pacers past New York 81-76 on a night the Knicks were without their top scorer, Carmelo Anthony. Indiana has won 12 of 15 and swept the two other Eastern Conference division leaders this week.

    "We want to compete for the 1 and 2 (seeds), and for sure want to compete for the No. 1 spot," George said. "We probably could be pushing 1 or 2 if we would have started off playing the way we're playing right now."

    The Knicks weren't the same without their All-Star forward, who was suspended after Monday's postgame confrontation with Boston's Kevin Garnett. They finished with a season-low point total, shot just 34.8 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range.

    The Pacers pulled off a rare double — beating defending champion Miami and Atlantic Division-leading New York — in back-to-back games.

    Coach defends Garnett: Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Garnett's trash talk that lead to Anthony's one-game suspension did not include the wife of the Knicks player. "Well, No. 1, I know what's been reported did not happen," Rivers said on a Boston radio station. "I know that as a fact." Garnett and Anthony jawed on the court, an argument that extended to the tunnel after the game. Anthony was suspended for confronting Garnett and approaching him at the team bus. "A guy does something crazy like Carmelo did, and the way to get out of trouble is to say, 'Well, he said this,' " Rivers said.

    Snag to Kings sale? The Maloof family, led by brothers Joe and Gavin, that owns the Kings wants to maintain a say in how things are run if they sell to Chris Hansen, but that could create a problem in sale negotiations, the Seattle Times reported. The Maloof family has owned the Sacramento team since 1998 and wants to keep a percentage that allows it some say.

    Sticking by his Lakers: Executive vice president Jim Buss told a Los Angeles radio station his team needs to play enough games together to figure out why it has underachieved. "In my mind, we would not consider a temporary fix or blow it up. Why blow up something we have a future with?" Buss said. "I feel that if we put it together, we can string seven or eight games in a row and dig ourselves out of this hole."

    Around the league: Former Blazers No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden, who had his latest knee surgery almost a year ago, said he wants to resume his playing career but not before the 2013-14 season, ESPN reported. Several teams, including the Heat, have expressed interest. … Cavs center Anderson Varejao had surgery to repair a split leg muscle near his right knee and is expected to be out for two months.

    Pacers 81, Knicks 76

    NEW YORK (76): Copeland 3-9 2-2 8, Camby 3-9 1-1 7, Chandler 5-10 2-3 12, Kidd 3-10 0-0 8, Brewer 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 10-29 4-5 25, Stoudemire 4-11 1-2 9, Prigioni 0-2 0-0 0, Novak 1-4 0-0 3, Thomas 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 31-89 10-13 76.

    INDIANA (81): George 10-24 2-2 24, West 3-11 0-0 6, Hibbert 1-4 2-4 4, Hill 2-6 1-1 6, Stephenson 3-6 2-2 9, Green 3-8 0-0 7, T.Hansbrough 1-8 4-4 6, Augustin 0-0 0-0 0, Mahinmi 6-7 1-1 13, Pendergraph 2-5 2-2 6. Totals 31-79 14-16 81.

    New York 14 20 26 16— 76

    Indiana 16 23 19 23— 81

    3-Point GoalsNew York 4-20 (Kidd 2-9, Novak 1-3, Smith 1-4, Prigioni 0-1, Copeland 0-3), Indiana 5-21 (George 2-8, Stephenson 1-2, Hill 1-5, Green 1-5, West 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsN.Y. 59 (Chandler 15), Indiana 52 (George 11). AssistsN.Y. 14 (Smith 6), Indiana 16 (George 5). Total FoulsN.Y. 18, Indiana 19. TechnicalsChandler, Smith, Stephenson. A16,568.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    TAMPA — By the end of a three-day reunion for the Bucs' Super Bowl XXXVII champions last month, defensive tackle Warren Sapp was hoarse from shouting down teammates and being the biggest barker at the banquet.

    But when it comes to an argument about whether Sapp should reach the pinnacle of his profession, his performance during 13 NFL seasons still speaks the loudest.

    Sapp took another step closer to Canton, Ohio, on Friday when he was among 15 modern-era finalists announced for selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year.

    The selection committee meets Feb. 2 in New Orleans to vote on inductees for the Class of 2013.

    "It's an honor to be in the conversation, let alone making it to the final round," Sapp said. "So many great players have played in this league. It would be a dream come true."

    Sapp was not joined on the ballot by former Bucs teammate John Lynch, who was cut from a list of 27 semifinalists.

    "I'm disappointed in one light and happy for our buddy Warren," Lynch said. "I think he belongs. I think he deserves to go on the first ballot. Any class, any year, he is a Hall of Fame football player. For four or five years I thought he was the best defensive player in football."

    Sapp's resume makes him worthy of election on his first ballot.

    A first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 1995 out of Miami, Sapp was the gold standard at undertackle and had 961/2 career sacks, including 161/2 in 2000. He was named to the Pro Bowl seven times and All-Pro on four occasions. Sapp was the NFL defensive player of the year in 1999 and the focal point of the league's top defense that produced five interceptions in a 48-21 win over the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. (He later played four seasons in Oakland after nine with Tampa Bay.)

    He also was named to the NFL All-Decade team for the '90s and 2000s.

    To enter the Hall, a player must get votes from 80 percent of the committee, made up mostly of writers.

    Sapp is part of a stellar group of first-time eligible players that includes former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden, and Cowboys and 49ers offensive lineman Larry Allen.

    "It's a great class, and that's the only thing I worry about (Sapp) not going in the first ballot," said Charean Williams, former president of the Pro Football Writers Association and a member of the selection committee.

    "I do think it helps him with (Seahawks defensive tackle) Cortez Kennedy getting in last year. The same selectors that vote for the Hall of Fame select the All-Decade teams, and he was on two All-Decade teams, which means he was the greatest player at his position during that span.

    "It's a very, very strong class, and you have to make some decisions somewhere. But I like his chances."

    Tampa resident Eddie DeBartolo, a former 49ers owner who helped the franchise win five Super Bowls under his direction, made the final 15 for the second consecutive year. He hired legendary coach Bill Walsh and enjoyed a run of unprecedented success in the 1980s and '90s.

    Other finalists are receivers Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed; guard Will Shields; defensive end Charles Haley; linebacker Kevin Greene; running back Jerome Bettis, and defensive back Aeneas Williams. The senior candidates are nose tackle Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson.

    A maximum of five modern and two senior candidates are eligible.

    Staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    USF coach Willie Taggart has made a second key addition to his defensive staff in the last three days, announcing Friday morning that Ron Cooper, a veteran college coach who worked with the Bucs defensive backs this past season, has been hired as the Bulls' secondary coach and assistant head coach.

    "Ron Cooper is a valuable addition to our staff," Taggart said in a statement. "His experience will be a huge asset in his role as assistant head coach. In addition, he has recently worked with some of the top secondaries and defensive backs in college football, which will serve us greatly both on the field and in recruiting."

    Cooper, 50, has a resume that includes a stint as Louisville's head coach, and most recently, working as defensive backs coach at LSU from 2009-11. Cooper was the position coach for two winners of the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, in Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne, as well as All-American standout Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu.

    In addition to nine years and a 45-55 record as a college head coach, Cooper has worked at major programs such as South Carolina, Mississippi State and Wisconsin. Cooper is a friend and former colleague of former Bulls coach Skip Holtz — the two coached together at Notre Dame in 1991-92. Cooper's son, Tristan, played football at Plant High and is being recruited by I-A programs, with visits planned to Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee State.

    Cooper's hire gives Taggart six full-time assistants, joining defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, who was hired Wednesday night. Cooper comes on board as the Bulls host a key recruiting weekend as Taggart works toward completing his first recruiting class.


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    Times staff
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    The Rays announced Friday that spring training tickets will go on sale next week, based on availability, as follows:

    • Thursday: Online presale for Rays Insider subscribers. Deadline for registration via raysbaseball.com is noon Wednesday. Current subscribers need not reapply.

    • Friday: Available to the public exclusively through raysbaseball.com beginning at 10 a.m.

    • Jan. 19: On sale at 10 a.m. via phone toll-free at 1-888-326-7297, at raysbaseball.com, at the Charlotte Sports Park box office, via Ticketmaster (outlets, ticketmaster.com, toll-free 1-800-745-3000), the Rays' Tampa Store at 400 N. Tampa St. and the Tropicana Field box office.

    For a surcharge, single-game tickets are available now through the Early Access Presale Opportunity available at raysbaseball.com.

    Single-game tickets range in price from $10 to $27. Spring season ticket prices start at $289 for the 17-game home schedule at Charlotte Sports Park.

    Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 12, and the first workout day for them is the next day. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 17. The first spring training games are Feb. 23, a split-squad day, home at Port Charlotte against the Pirates and at Fort Myers against the Red Sox.


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    Brandon Wright, Times Correspondent
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    The road to Melbourne kicks off this week as area girls soccer teams compete in district tournaments. The winners and runners up will advance to the state tournament starting Jan. 23. Here's a rundown of the district schedules and some things to keep an eye on.

    Class 5A-7 at Plant

    Tuesday: No. 4 Bloomingdale vs. No. 5 Durant, 3; No. 3 Newsome vs. No. 6 Riverview, 5; No. 2 Wharton vs. No. 7 Alonso, 7

    Wednesday: Newsome-Riverview winner vs. Wharton-Alonso winner, 5; No. 1 Plant vs. Bloomingdale-Durant winner, 7

    The skinny: This figures to be the area's most competitive district tourney. The top three seeds all have legitimate title hopes and No. 4 Bloomingdale shouldn't be counted out either. Four-time defending district champ Newsome will have a tough road out of the No. 3 slot, but a Wolves-Panthers championship match is most likely.

    Player to watch: Taylor Decaire, who led Newsome with 17 goals last year, has missed most of the season due to injury but the University of Tampa commit should be a go for districts.

    Class 4A-9 at Strawberry Crest

    Tuesday: No. 2 East Bay vs. No. 7 Armwood, 4; No. 3 Strawberry Crest vs. No. 6 Tampa Bay Tech, 6; No. 4 Hillsborough vs. No. 5 Brandon, 8

    Wednesday: Strawberry Crest-TBT winner vs. East Bay-Armwood winner, 5; No. 1 Plant City vs. Hillsborough-Brandon winner, 7

    Friday: Final, 7

    The skinny: Plant City and East Bay played to a scoreless draw earlier this season and expect these two evenly-matched clubs to meet in the finals — neither lost a district match all season.

    Player to watch: Plant City striker Ericka Lott has been a scoring machine, racking up 24 goals to go along with seven assists.

    Class 4A-8 at Steinbrenner

    Tuesday: No. 4 Freedom vs. No. 5 Sickles, 6; No. 3 Gaither vs. No. 6 Chamberlain, 8

    Wednesday: No. 1 Wiregrass Ranch vs. Freedom-Sickles winner, 6; No. 2 Steinbrenner vs. Gaither-Chamberlain winner, 8

    Friday: Final, 7

    The skinny: 2011 state champs Steinbrenner and Wiregrass are the favorites to advance to the playoffs but Gaither, who gave the Bulls a run early in December losing 1-0 on the road, could be a factor.

    Player to watch: Wiregrass Ranch has lost just twice this season and have been pouring in goals. The Bulls have four players with double-digit scoring, led by Berlin Waters' 17 goals

    Class 3A-9 at King

    Tuesday: No. 1 Robinson vs. No. 8 Middleton, 6; No. 2 King vs. No. 7 Spoto, 8;

    Wednesday: No. 4 Jefferson vs. No. 5 Leto, 6; No. 3 Lennard vs. No. 6 Blake, 8

    Thursday: Robinson-Middleton winner vs. Jefferson-Leto winner, 6; Lennard-Blake winner vs. King-Spoto winner, 8

    Friday: Final, 8

    The skinny: It's hard to imagine anything but a Robinson-King matchup in the finals. The Knights cruised through the district and only King gave them a fight, losing narrow 2-0 and 3-1 matches during the regular season.

    Player to watch: How about the whole Robinson attack? The Knights' balanced approach has seven players with at least five goals and none in double digits.

    Class 2A-9 at Clearwater Central Catholic

    Tuesday: No. 4 Holy Names vs. No. 5 Tampa Catholic, 7

    Wednesday: No. 1 St. Petersburg Catholic vs. HN-TC winner, 5; No. 2 CCC vs. No. 3 Berkeley Prep, 7

    Friday: Final, 7

    The skinny: This is the Barons' title to lose. SPC defeated their four district opponents by a combined 20-3 and one win in the semis guarantees St. Pete Catholic at least a trip to the playoffs.

    Player to watch: SPC sophomore Brooke Coughlin leads the team with 15 goals and is second with seven assists.

    Class A-7 semifinals and final at Calvary Christian

    Tuesday: No. 5 Carrollwood Day at No. 4 Seffner Christian, TBD; No. 7 Bishop McLaughlin at No. 2 Calvary Christian, 4; No. 6 Cambridge at No. 3 Indian Rocks Christian, TBD

    Thursday: at Calvary Christian: Calvary-Bishop winner vs. IRC-Cambridge winner, 5; No. 1 Tampa Prep vs. Seffner-CDS winner, 7

    Friday: at Calvary Christian: Final, 7

    The skinny: Tampa Prep pitched shutouts in four of its six district matches this season. But the Terps struggled in a 2-0 win against IRC and a 2-1 victory over Cambridge Christian during the regular season. No. 2 Calvary Christian has been inconsistent but should be in the final mix.

    Player to watch: Darla Harrison has scored a team-high 16 goals for the Terps.


    Eve Edelheit   |   TimesEve Edelheit | Times

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    By Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    Though Selection Sunday is nine weeks away, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton knows how important today's early season ACC showdown with North Carolina can be to his team's NCAA Tournament chances.

    "If we're going to keep our postseason tournament opportunities alive, we're going to have to do something unusual and unexpected," he said — like what happened the last time the Tar Heels visited Tallahassee. FSU's 90-57 throttling of then-No. 3 UNC last January had students rushing the floor and coach Roy Williams pulling his players from the court in the closing seconds.

    The Seminoles hope for another impressive win after another unnerving start.

    An FSU team that began the preseason ranked in the Top 25 and returned four of its five leading scorers kicked off the season with a home loss to South Alabama. The Seminoles added two more resume-busting defeats, to Mercer and Auburn.

    The impact of an 8-5 nonconference schedule: an RPI that began the week at 72 — below programs such as Santa Clara and Western Michigan — and a spot outside cbssports.com analyst Jerry Palm's latest tournament projections.

    In Monday's ACC teleconference, Hamilton rejected the idea that FSU is among the nation's biggest disappointments.

    Though the Seminoles have had solid production from all-conference candidate Michael Snaer (15.6 points a game) and Clearwater product Okaro White (13.3), they have been inconsistent. Hamilton cites youth — four freshmen average at least 11 minutes a game — and injuries, including a bone bruise No. 2 returning scorer Ian Miller is recovering from.

    "Most teams that have five freshmen, seven first-year players, have been inconsistent," Hamilton said. "I don't think our team is much different than what others are going through."

    Including UNC.

    At times, the Tar Heels have played four freshmen, and they have no seniors among their top five scorers. Thursday's 68-59 home loss to Miami made UNC 0-2 in the ACC and pushed Williams' team out of cbssports.com's latest bracket.

    "It is a long year," Williams said this week. "It is a marathon that you're facing. You can't panic, and we don't intend to panic."

    Both teams have climbed from similar depths before.

    The last time UNC lost its first two league games, it won the next 10 and cut down the nets in Detroit as 2009 national champion.

    Last winter FSU overcame a 9-5 nonconference record to claim its first ACC championship — with a win over UNC in the tournament final — and advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

    "They lost a couple games they shouldn't have lost early in the year," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said of the Seminoles. "But they usually come on when it comes to the league schedule."

    FSU has done that since the start of conference play, earning a 71-66 win at Clemson and rallying from 12 down Wednesday to snap a 13-game winning streak for Turgeon's Terrapins.

    The Seminoles have never beaten UNC three times in a row, but Hamilton knows more early ACC wins must follow if his team hopes to make a school-record fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

    "I guess you might say our backs are against the wall a little bit," he said. "We're going to have to do something exceptional to keep the upward climb we've had the last couple years."

    Another victory over UNC would be a good place to start.

    Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com or on Twitter at @MattHomeTeam.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Ed Walker, Times Correspondent
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    What's hot: Moderate conditions have helped flats fishing in the North Suncoast. Recovery times for inshore action after cold fronts have been short. Water temperatures have rarely been below 60 degrees. This keeps trout and redfish from retreating too far away.

    Choosing days: Schedule trips several days after a front clears. Though the day after is often sunny with a clear sky, these can be the worst days. Cold water and bright sun on the flats make for tough fishing. Wait until the water temperature turns around, and trout and redfish will be in every pothole and trough. My favorite time during winter is one or two days before a cold front arrives. Winds from the south bring warm air into the area and push tides up higher than normal. Fish will bite aggressively until the system goes through.

    Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be con­tacted at info@lighttacklecharters.com or at (727) 944-3474.


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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    NFC: Packers (12-5) at 49ers (11-4-1)

    After dispatching the Vikings at Lambeau Field last week, the Packers go up in class against the hard-nosed Niners — on the road, no less. You can throw out the 49ers' Week 1 victory over the Packers. That came against a team that started 2-3, not the one that has won 10 of its past 12 games and benefitted from the return of key players from injury.

    Time: 8 tonight TV/radio: Ch. 13; 98.7-FM

    Coaches: Packers — Mike McCarthy (74-38, 6-3 playoffs); 49ers — Jim Harbaugh (24-7-1, 1-1 playoffs)

    Stat pack

    Breaking it down

    Packers game-breaker: Greg Jennings missed seven games with a groin injury and might be in his last season with Green Bay. But he has 12 catches for 181 yards over the past two weeks.

    49ers game-breaker: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, not because he's an efficient passer (though he is) but because he's a threat to run. He gained an average 6.6 yards per carry this season.

    Why the Packers will win: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers' decision-making and many receiving options stress the stout 49ers defense.

    Why the 49ers will win: End Justin Smith, arguably their best defender, returns after missing two games with a partially torn left triceps and helps linebacker Aldon Smith and Co. attack Rodgers.

    Look out for: Packers safety Charles Woodson returned last week after missing nine games with a broken collarbone and helped contain running back Adrian Peterson. Next is Frank Gore.

    Prediction

    49ers 27, Packers 23

    Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer

    Rushing yards

    passing yards

    total yards

    Rushing yards allowed

    passing yards allowed

    total yards allowed

    49ers

    packers

    155.7 (4th)

    106.4 (20th)

    206.1 (23rd)

    253.1 (9th)

    361.8 (11th)

    359.5 (13th)

    294.4 (3rd)

    336.8 (11th)

    200.2 (4th)

    218.3 (11th)

    94.2 (4th)

    118.5 (17th)


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    AFC: Ravens (11-6) at Broncos (13-3)

    Regular-season matchups don't always forecast the outcomes of playoff games. But the Broncos were so dominant in beating the Ravens 34-17 on Dec. 16 in Baltimore, it can't be ignored. The Broncos, behind a strong rushing game and impressive defense, led 31-3 entering the fourth quarter.

    Time: 4:30 p.m. today TV/radio: Ch. 10; 98.7-FM

    Coaches: Broncos — John Fox (21-11, 1-1 in playoffs at Denver; 94-82, 6-4 overall); Ravens — John Harbaugh (54-26, 6-4 playoffs)

    Stat pack

    Breaking it down

    Ravens game-breaker: In eight career playoff games, Anquan Boldin has 35 catches for 571 yards, including 145 in last weekend's win over the Colts.

    Broncos game-breaker: Sure, defensive end Von Miller has 181/2 sacks. But don't overlook his six forced fumbles; that's the kind of play that changes a game. Miller also had a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown off the Bucs' Josh Freeman.

    Why the Ravens will win: Their defense is strong in the middle of the field, where the Broncos' Peyton Manning prefers to throw. With safety Ed Reed lurking deep and aging but instinctive Ray Lewis at middle linebacker, the Ravens are formidable.

    Why the Broncos will win: We know Denver's offense will make plays, but its defense has been getting the job done as well. It could get the better of quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice.

    Look out for: The Broncos' Eric Decker had eight receptions for 133 yards in the Week 15 win at Baltimore.

    Prediction

    Broncos 30, Ravens 23

    Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer

    Rushing yards

    passing yards

    total yards

    Rushing yards allowed

    passing yards allowed

    total yards allowed

    ravens

    broncos

    118.8 (11th)

    114.5 (16th)

    233.7 (15th)

    283.4 (5th)

    352.5 (16th)

    397.9 (4th)

    350.9 (17th)

    290.7 (2nd)

    228.1 (17th)

    199.6 (3rd)

    122.8 (20th)

    91.1 (3rd)


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Don Jensen, Times Correspondent
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    OLDSMAR — The setting on the third Sunday of 2010 was surreal.

    Bob and Christine Vogt had invited the family to their 2-acre farm in Brandon for the first of perhaps many snapshots featuring Cotton Pickin.

    With all eyes on broodmare Kats Golden Ways, Bob pleaded for patience as she was close to producing the first newborn foal at Vogt Farms.

    "It was 9 o'clock at night, and the grandkids were over," he said. "Everybody was ready to give up. I said, 'No, (Kats Golden Ways) is going to have it.' As soon as I said that, she laid right down in front of us and had (Cotton Pickin). Everything was perfect."

    Cotton Pickin can give the Vogts their first stakes win today in the Gasparilla Stakes, one of two $100,000 stakes races for 3-year-olds on Skyway Festival Day at Tampa Bay Downs. The Gasparilla (Race 8, 3:55 p.m.) is for fillies and shares top billing with the Pasco Stakes (Race 10, 4:57), led by Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner Dynamic Sky and undefeated Purple Egg. Both races are 7 furlongs.

    Though Bob, 62, says Cotton Pickin is "my wife's baby," he has twice tried to sell the dark bay filly at the Ocala Breeders' Sale. As a 2-year-old in training, Cotton Pickin had her reserve set at $33,000; the bidding stopped at $32,000. As a yearling, her $15,000 reserve failed to be met by $500. "And the story only gets better," he said.

    Kats Golden Ways, a career earner of $130,000 for 2003 Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Barclay Tagg, was given to the Vogts by Ocala horseman Joe Hennessy. Bob had her bred to Ocala Stud Farm stallion High Cotton for $2,000 (his fee now is $7,500). High Cotton, a Grade III winner with $462,574 in lifetime earnings, wasn't a popular stud at the time.

    "He was a second-year sire without a horse on the track," Bob said. "But I liked his body matching Kats' body."

    Cotton Pickin, who was broken by Hennessy, will be making her first start on dirt for trainer Derek Ryan. She drew post 7 with Daniel Centeno in the irons.

    In four races on turf, Cotton Pickin has won twice — both by a nose — while earning $33,180. She won at 1 mile in her last start, Dec. 23 at the Downs against allowance optional claimers.

    Cotton Pickin broke her maiden Aug. 31 in her career debut, winning at 5 furlongs at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. She became the first stakes starter for the Vogts on Nov. 10, when she finished fifth in the $100,000 John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes at Calder in Miami Gardens. Her next start is expected to be the Grade III $150,000 Florida Oaks on Feb. 2 at the Downs.

    "Sooner or later, you're going to have to find out where she really is," Bob Vogt said. "She's training really well on dirt (a bullet 4-furlong workout of 48.40 seconds Sunday). Her strength is 1-1/16ths miles, maybe 1-1/1-8. She's just a total class filly."


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