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    By Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    Rue Morgan will be happy just to make it to the starting line of Sunday's Walt Disney World Marathon. The 70-year-old St. Petersburg resident and a founder of the Mad Dog Triathlon Club hasn't missed the race in 19 years.

    "This will be an even 20," said Morgan, who along with his wife, Kathy, are pioneers of the Tampa Bay area's endurance sports scene. "I've had my ups and downs. But the important part is just showing up."

    The sold-out race, which goes through all four resort theme parks, has developed into one of the largest marathons in the country. This weekend's events, which include races from a 1-mile fun run to the 26.2-miler, are expected to draw more than 65,000 participants.

    Morgan remembers the race's humble beginnings.

    "We had just wrapped up the triathlon season," he recalled. "Why not run a marathon?"

    Morgan and his wife had just started their triathlon club, now the largest in the country with more than 3,000 members.

    "There was no shortage of training partners," he said. "And the race was only 1 ½ hours away. So we just had to go."

    Morgan headed to Orlando with a handful of Mad Dogs and booked a hotel room.

    "I remember I was having some knee pain, so I had to decide whether or not to have it 'scoped before or after the race," he said. "I felt like I was in such good shape that I just went ahead, had the surgery, and one month later, I just went out and ran the race."

    Morgan's time: 3 hours, 58 minutes, 22 seconds.

    In the decades that have followed, Morgan has slowed a bit (his time was 5:51:13 last year). But he said he's ready to join the 94 others, including more than a half-dozen from the Tampa Bay area, who have run each race and whom organizers have dubbed the "Perfect 20."

    "I never really considered making this a streak until probably the seventh or eighth year," Morgan said.

    The 13th race was particularly memorable, he said.

    "I forgot to train. My wife was wondering why I was I going to the starting line," he said.

    "That was a hard one. Training is highly recommended."

    But after 15 years, he knew the consecutive runs meant something because the race organizers gave him a large plaque.

    "It has my original number on it, which was assigned to me from then on."

    One year, at mile 20, a young woman approached him and asked if they could run together. "She never looked up," he said. "She just looked at my running shoes."

    Morgan wanted to slow, but he felt obligated to keep the pace up. He thought the young woman was visually impaired.

    "Finally I asked her if she could see," he said. "She said yes. But when she looks up, it makes it a hard race, but if she looks down, it is an easy race."

    January 2010 was the coldest marathon. The temperature registered 26 degrees at the start. "At the first water stop, the volunteers told us to take our water from the tables on the left," he said. "The water cups on the right were frozen because they had poured them too early."

    As he gets prepared to run his 20th Disney Marathon, Morgan said consistency is the key. A runner must follow a solid training plan but allow for injuries and time to heal.

    "Looking back, I'm always amazed at the power of the mind," he said. "Mental toughness is a major part of sports."

    CHERIE DIEZ   |   TimesCHERIE DIEZ | Times

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    HOUSTON — When the Texans lost 42-14 at New England on Dec. 10, CB Johnathan Joseph was slowed by hamstring and groin issues, and LB Brooks Reed sat out with a groin injury.

    With both ready to go Sunday in a playoff rematch, Houston believes its defense will be much stronger.

    "I can probably say this is the best I've felt all year," said Joseph, who often shadows the opponent's best receiver. "(Dec. 10) I was good enough to play, but I wasn't at my best. Right now I can say I'm 100 percent."

    Reed, a second-year player, started 12 games during the regular season. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips called him a "physical force."

    "He's obviously a good player," Phillips said. "But I think just his physicality really helps us as far as our mental toughness overall as a defensive unit."

    Reed had a sack last week against the Bengals and has at least one in each of the three postseason games in Texans history. His best playoff performance came last season in a division round loss to the Ravens, when he had 2½ sacks.

    "Now it's a little bit different," Reed said of the second matchup against the Patriots. "So I'll be out there and try to make plays of my own."

    Patriots: The Patriots have spent all week maintaining their rout of the Texans means nothing Sunday. Coach Bill Belichick went so far as to call any connection "meaningless" and "a bunch of garbage."

    New England learned its lesson two years ago. It beat the Jets 45-3 in Week 13. Six weeks later, in a division game in Foxborough, the Jets won 28-21.

    The Patriots remember that well, even if they refuse to acknowledge it.

    "No one has really brought it up," QB Tom Brady said. Said WR Deion Branch: "I promise you we don't think about that."

    Broncos: After beating the Colts last weekend, Ravens WR Anquan Boldin said he was glad to get another shot at the Broncos, who won the teams' regular-season meeting 34-17. The Broncos shrugged it off.

    "We beat them," CB Chris Harris said. "So of course they want to play us again."

    Said RB Knowshon Moreno: "It's going to be a tough game. It's not going to be easy."

    But some Broncos fans are ready to talk trash before what could be the final game of Ravens LB Ray Lewis' career. (Lewis missed the regular-season matchup with a torn triceps.) Read a marquee at a hotel near the Broncos' stadium: "Join us for Ray Lewis' retirement party."

    Ravens: LG Jah Reid went on injured reserve with a toe injury. He started seven games this season but sat out last week. Rookie cornerback and special teams player Asa Jackson was activated to take his spot on the roster. Jackson returned this week after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

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  • 01/11/13--18:36: Sports in brief
  • Times staff, wires
    Friday, January 11, 2013


    Junior starts Big wreck that ends Car tests

    DAYTONA BEACH — Dale Earnhardt Jr. started a 12-car accident Friday at Daytona International Speedway that essentially shut down a three-day test session to hone NASCAR's redesigned cars.

    Earnhardt was trying to bump draft with Marcos Ambrose on a straightaway when he lifted Ambrose "like a forklift" and put him into a wall. Ambrose's Ford bounced back and triggered a pileup.

    "It was a big mess and tore up a lot of cars down here trying to work on their stuff," Earnhardt said. "Definitely the drafting is not like it used to be. You can't really tandem certain cars; certain cars don't match up well."

    There were no injuries, but the wreck caused at least 10 teams to leave for North Carolina.

    "It is unfortunate, but sometimes you have to wreck them to learn," defending Sprint Cup champ Brad Keselowski said. "The sport is rewinding."

    Busch joins Gibbs: Kyle Busch, NASCAR's biggest free agent, signed a multiyear deal with Joe Gibbs Racing in December, ESPN and other outlets reported. Busch would not confirm the reports.


    Ex-player Bradley charged with abuse

    Former Dodgers and Mariners outfielder Milton Bradley was charged with abusing his estranged wife and faces up to 13 years in jail if convicted, Los Angeles prosecutors said.

    Bradley, 34, was charged with 13 misdemeanor counts of assault with a deadly weapon, vandalism and dissuading a witness from making a report.

    Bradley also could face up to $13,000 in fines and restitution if convicted. He is free pending a Jan. 24 arraignment.

    Prosecutors say Bradley threatened and attacked his wife, Monique, five times in 2011 and 2012. He was twice arrested in 2011.

    "My client denies it," said his attorney, Harland Braun.

    around the majors: The Blue Jays and catcher Henry Blanco, 41, agreed to terms on a one-year, $750,000 nonguaranteed contract. … Former Cubs, Indians and White Sox outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, 35, is returning to Japan, where he signed a three-year deal with the Hanshin Tigers.


    Radwanska on roll heading into Aussie

    Agnieszka Radwanska claimed back-to-back WTA titles by beating Dominika Cibulkova 6-0, 6-0 in the Sydney International final in Australia.

    A week after winning in Auckland, New Zealand, Radwanska, the top seed, claimed her ninth straight match to start the 2013 season.

    Kevin Anderson beat Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8) to reach the men's final against Bernard Tomic, who beat third-seeded Andreas Seppi 7-6 (10-8), 6-4.

    Heineken Open: Top seed David Ferrer beat second-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 in Auckland to win the title for the third straight year and fourth time overall.


    Arena Football: The Storm signed offensive lineman Nevin McCaskill, who has been on either the active roster or practice squad for eight NFL teams. McCaskill's twin brothers, Kevin and Keith, both played for USF.

    Skiing: Four-time overall World Cup Alpine champion Lindsey Vonn's divorce from her husband of four years, Tom, is official. They separated more than a year ago. Lindsay Vonn returns to racing today after missing three weeks with an intestinal illness.

    Soccer: Pat Noonan, who reached the MLS Cup final five times and made 14 appearances for the U.S. national team, has retired as a player to join the Los Angeles coaching staff.

    Track: Ashley Gill-Web, the man who threw a plastic beer bottle on the track and shouted at Usain Bolt before the men's 100-meter final at the London Olympics, was convicted of public disorder. Gill-Web, who suffers from bipolar affective disorder, was found guilty by a London court of using threatening, abusive or disorderly behavior. Sentencing is Feb. 4.

    Times staff, wires

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


    USF women at DePaul

    When/where: 8; McGrath-Phillips Arena, Chicago

    Radio: 1010-AM

    Records: USF 11-3, 0-1 Big East; DePaul 12-4, 1-1.

    Notable: DePaul knocked off No. 11 Louisville but lost by 20 at Villanova. … The Big East's top rebounder, DePaul's 6-foot-3 Katherine Harry (10.9 rpg), faces the league's top rebounding team, USF, averaging 46.9. … USF's senior twins, Andrea and Andrell Smith, rank third and fifth in the Big East in scoring, respectively, averaging 17.6 and 16.7 points. Andrea matched a career high with 33 points in Tuesday's OT loss to No. 2 Notre Dame. … USF's up­tempo game faces a defense allowing a Big East-high 69.3 ppg.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer

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


    USF at No. 3 Louisville

    When/where: 4; KFC Yum Center, Louisville, Ky.

    TV/radio: BHSN; 98.7-FM.

    Records: USF 9-5, 0-2 Big East; Louisville 14-1, 2-0.

    Notable: USF's last Big East road game was a 58-51 win at Louisville, which went a long way toward the Bulls getting an NCAA Tournament berth. … Louisville 6-foot guard Russ Smith is averaging 19.4 points a game, third in the Big East, and another 6-footer, Peyton Siva, faces USF's Anthony Collins in a battle of two of the league's best point guards. … Louisville averages a Big East-best 11.5 steals. … Louisville's only loss is to Duke. … Expect Bulls forward Kore White, out recently with turf toe, to get a chance to test himself.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    . today

    No. 11 Florida at LSU

    When/where: 4; Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, La.

    TV/radio: ESPNU; 620-AM

    Records: Florida 11-2, 1-0 SEC; LSU 9-3, 0-1.

    Notable: After opening the conference season with a 33-point win over Georgia, the Gators go on the road for the first time in SEC play on a three-game winning streak. … How Florida handles this game could be critical because it begins a stretch in which four of its next five games are on the road. … LSU began 6-0 under first-year coach Johnny Jones but is 3-3 in its past six, including a 68-63 loss at Auburn on Wednesday.

    Antonya English, Times staff writer

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    RENTON, Wash. — Seahawks star RB Marshawn Lynch has a sprained foot but is expected to play Sunday against the Falcons, coach Pete Carroll said Friday.

    Carroll, who did not disclose how the injury happened, said Lynch did not participate in practice Wednesday and Thursday but did so Friday and looked fine.

    Asked what it would take for Lynch not to play, Carroll said, "Miss the flight? Doesn't show up in Atlanta?"

    Falcons: Since the start of last season, WR Julio Jones has 27 catches of 25 yards or longer. Only the Bucs' Vincent Jackson and the Lions' Calvin Johnson have more. Jones credits receivers coach Terry Robiskie for his development over the first two seasons of his career.

    "Terry isn't going to sugarcoat anything," Jones said. "If you mess up, you mess up. But he's going to show you how to correct it and what you need to look for."

    49ers: Randy Moss has said little to the media about tonight's game against the Packers. And his three touchdown catches this season matched his fewest in a regular season. But the 14-year receiver has been a vocal force in the locker room, teammates said.

    "He's been (in the playoffs) before," RB Frank Gore said. "And he's happy to be back to get to our goal."

    Still seeking his first Super Bowl ring as he heads into his eighth postseason, Moss, 35, has shared his playoff experiences with his teammates.

    "First- and second-year players … they wonder what it's like," coach Jim Harbaugh said.

    Moss, in his first season with the 49ers after coming out of retirement, has not missed a day of practice. And he has been praised by coaches for his communication skills, with them and quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith. WR Michael Crabtree calls Moss his "big bro."

    "Randy talks to us all the time," Crabtree said. "I'm in the room with Randy all day, every day."

    Packers: Donald Driver, once Green Bay's biggest receiving threat, has been inactive for four of the past six weeks and hasn't caught a pass in nearly two months. But he wants to contribute.

    "I said, 'I'd like to play special teams if you guys need me,' " Driver, 37, said. "The thing is, when you've played this long in your career, they don't think that a veteran guy wants to play because sometimes it's like a kick in the (butt). I didn't think that. I looked at it as an opportunity to play and have fun. I asked them, and they said, 'Sure.' We'll see."

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  • 01/11/13--19:25: Rookies stay in control
  • Times wires
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    HONOLULU — Two days into his PGA Tour career, Russell Henley was in the record book.

    Henley putted for birdie on every hole Friday on his way to a second straight round of 7-under 63, giving him a two-shot lead over fellow rookie Scott Langley and Scott Piercy in the Sony Open.

    Henley was at 14-under 126, breaking the 36-hole tournament scoring record by two shots.

    "It's pretty surreal," Henley said.

    In the first full-field event of the season, the rookies were leading the way. All they did on another windy, warm day along the shores of Oahu was trade places atop the leaderboard. Langley opened with 62 and followed that with 66. That typically would be enough to stay in the lead.

    Piercy looked as though he had a chance to catch Henley in the afternoon, but he spent most of his time grinding over pars. A birdie on the par-5 ninth, his last hole, gave him another 64.

    That means Henley and Langley will be paired together for the third straight day, this time in the last group going into the weekend.

    Matt Kuchar made eagle on 18 to finish off a 63. He was three shots behind.

    Missing the cut were St. Petersburg native and Gulf High graduate Darron Stiles (74) at 142 and Tampa resident Ryuji Imada (69) at 141.

    Dustin Johnson withdrew after nine holes with the flu.

    EUROPEAN: Louis Oosthuizen made a long birdie at the final green for 8-under 64 to take a one-shot lead at 12-under 132 after the second round of the Volvo Champions in Durban, South Africa. Scott Jamieson (64) and first-rounder leader Thongchai Jaidee (68) were second. Ernie Els (72) was at 4 under.

    MASTERS: Ryo Ishikawa of Japan and Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand have accepted invitations reserved for international players for April's tournament. This is the fifth straight year Ishikawa, 21, plays the Masters. This is his third special exemption. Thaworn, 46, is No. 68 in the world and won the Asian Tour money title last year. He also holds the Asian Tour record for most career victories, 15.

    RYDER CUP: Darren Clarke said he might pull out of the race to become Europe's 2014 captain because of the impact it would have on his career in the next two years. Clarke, of Northern Ireland, and Ireland's Paul McGinley are the main candidates to replace Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal. The European Tour's tournament committee is expected to vote Tuesday. Clarke said that after seeing improvement in his game toward the end of last year, he's not sure he wants to take on such a time-consuming commitment.

    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires

    Friday, January 11, 2013

    IRVING, Texas — The Cowboys hired ex-Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin for the same position Friday. He replaces fired Rob Ryan.

    "I came away from the interview process with (coach Jason Garrett) with a feeling that Dallas is the right place to be," Kiffin said. "He has this team headed in the right direction."

    The hiring of Kiffin, who turns 73 next month, means Dallas will switch to the 4-3. As a result, Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware will become a defensive end.

    "I have spent the better part of the past two days in conversation with Monte," Garrett said. "And we feel very good about our personnel being able to fit the philosophy."

    Kiffin hasn't coached in the NFL since leaving the Bucs in 2008 after 13 seasons. Since then he has been the defensive coordinator for son Lane at Tennessee and USC. He stepped down from USC after this season.

    Ryan, meanwhile, was hired as Rams defensive coordinator, the New York Post reported. Coach Jeff Fisher was unavailable for comment.

    Lawyer: Rainey girlfriend wants charge dropped

    GAINESVILLE — The girlfriend of ex-Florida running back Chris Rainey said she was not assaulted and wants the charge against him dropped, his lawyer said.

    Rainey was charged with simple battery Thursday after an altercation over Rainey's cell phone that included him slapping the girlfriend in the face, Gainesville police said. Soon after, the Steelers announced they would release him.

    Rainey's lawyer read what he said was an email from the unidentified woman during a bond hearing. It said witnesses were mistaken, and officers found no marks on the woman, Johnson said. Rainey was released on his own recognizance after the hearing but ordered not to have contact with the woman.

    "This is a nonevent," Johnson told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I don't think this happened."

    Browns make hiring of Chudzinski official

    CLEVELAND — Rob Chudzinski, who grew up in Akron, Ohio, a Browns fan, was introduced as the team's coach. "It's a dream come true," said Chudzinski, 44, previously the Panthers offensive coordinator, "almost unbelievable in a lot of ways."

    Cleveland came close to a deal to hire Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

    "Rob was always on our radar screen," owner Jimmy Haslam said. "Rob has been identified as a top, bright, young guy for a long time."

    Chudzinski didn't comment on reports he will hire Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. He once was the Chargers tight ends coach for Turner, whom San Diego recently fired.

    Jay Gruden busy: Jay Gruden, Bengals' offensive coordinator, brother of Jon and ex-Storm quarterback, said he will interview with the Eagles on Monday. He also will schedule an interview with the Chargers, the NFL Network said. He interviewed with the Cardinals on Thursday.

    More coaching-go-round: Canadian Football League coach Marc Trestman denied he is set to be hired as Bears coach. Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson said on Twitter it looked like Trestman would be hired. … Seahawks defensive coor­dinator Gus Bradley interviewed with the Chargers. … Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will interview for the coaching job, espn.com reported.

    Titans: The contract of Alan Lowry, the special teams coach for the past 14 seasons who drew up the "Music City Miracle," will not be renewed, the Tennessean in Nashville reported.

    Tebow 'mess:' Mike Westhoff, the Jets' recently retired special teams coordinator, said the way they handled quarterback Tim Tebow was "an absolute mess. … If you throw him right in the middle of a drop-back passing offense, he will look very, very average at best. But if you incorporate him in different facets of your offense, I think he can be a factor. That's what I felt we were going to do, but we never did it."

    No RG3 investigation: The players union said it won't investigate how the Redskins' medical staff handled QB Robert Griffin III. It said it was assured Griffin did not play after being diagnosed with a severe injury. He had surgery on his right knee this week to repair two torn ligaments.

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  • 01/11/13--19:44: Lewis' own rocky mountain
  • Times wires
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    DENVER — Sometime after the season is over, Peyton Manning will sit down with Ray Lewis and congratulate him on a job well done.

    In Lewis' 17-year career, he has redefined his position and cemented himself as one of the most fearsome players in the game.

    What Manning hopes to avoid is congratulating Lewis on winning a second Super Bowl.

    In what could be the last game for Baltimore's seven-time first-team All-Pro linebacker, who is retiring after this season, the Broncos and Ravens meet today in the AFC division playoffs. The game has two NFL icons, each three wins from a second championship.

    "He's an excellent player," said Manning, a five-time first-team All-Pro who'd rather share his biggest praise for Lewis with the man than the media. "He's special. That's all you can say."

    Special as Lewis may be, Manning has won his past nine games against the Ravens.

    Befitting a player who thinks about Super Bowls above all else, only one of the defeats really sticks with Lewis: a 15-6 loss to the Colts in the 2006 division playoffs. Indianapolis then won the Super Bowl.

    "We gave up five field goals to him, and they went on to win the Super Bowl," said the inside linebacker, who returned from injury last weekend and had 13 tackles in a 24-9 win against the Colts. "That hurts to lose to somebody you thought you had beat and then they go on to win the Super Bowl."

    But while Lewis may carry the baggage from the game six years ago, the meeting between these teams four weeks ago in Baltimore holds more weight in the locker rooms this week.

    Denver won 34-17, though it really wasn't that close. Manning threw for only 204 yards, but Knowshon Moreno rushed for 115 as the Broncos built a 31-3 lead. The Ravens were without Lewis that day.

    It was an important part of Denver's 11-game winning streak, compiled mostly against teams with losing records. For Baltimore, it was a humbling comedown but one for which the Ravens have a variety of explanations: Lewis and several others were out of the lineup, Broncos receivers pushed off too much, etc.

    The Broncos have not been big on bravado, and they're not changing now.

    "That was then, and we're getting ready for now," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "Each week we start fresh and talk to our guys about the things that they're good at, the things we need to be able to limit."

    Manning, bouncing back after four neck surgeries, threw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns in the regular season. If he does his job today, he will bring Lewis' career to an end with only one Super Bowl title.

    Lewis insists his team is ready.

    "Arguably, they are the best team in football," he said. "If that's what it is, then let's line up and let's be who we are, and let's get ready to play the best team in football."

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

    TAMPA — USF coach Willie Taggart made a second key addition to his defensive staff in 36 hours, announcing Friday morning that Bucs defensive backs coach Ron Cooper was hired as the secondary coach and assistant head coach.

    "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," Taggart said.

    Cooper's secondary was a weak spot for the Bucs, who were left with a makeshift lineup after Aqib Talib was traded to the Patriots and Eric Wright was limited by injuries and a suspension.

    Cooper is the third assistant to Bucs coach Greg Schiano leave for a college job. P.J. Fleck and Ron Turner departed to become the coaches at Western Michigan and Florida International, respectively.

    Cooper, 50, has a resume that includes a stint as Louisville's coach and 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, Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne, as well as All-American Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu.

    Cooper's son, Tristan, played football at Plant High and is being recruited by Division I-A programs, with visits planned to Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee State.

    FSU hires LB coach

    TALLAHASSEE — Charles Kelly, the interim defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech during the last half of the 2012 season, joins Jimbo Fisher's Florida State staff as linebackers coach and special teams coordinator, the school announced.

    Kelly, who spent seven years with the Yellow Jackets, gets a three-year deal with a starting salary of $275,000.

    Fisher, who has lost five assistants, still needs two after hiring Jeremy Pruitt from Alabama as defensive coordinator and Sal Sunseri as a defensive assistant.

    'Bama exodus to draft: Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, cornerback Dee Milliner and right tackle D.J. Fluker announced they are entering the NFL draft. "I appreciate what they've done for the University of Alabama, but … these guys are making good decisions about their future and what they can do," coach Nick Saban said. Milliner was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, and a unanimous All-American. He likely is a first-round pick. Lacy ran for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns but was not completely healthy until the BCS title game against Notre Dame on Monday. "We don't have a lot of years to play this position, so you have to go while you can," he said.

    Texas: Defensive tackle Brandon Moore said he is leaving early to enter the draft.

    Iowa State: Quarterback Jared Barnett will transfer, the school said. Barnett beat then-No. 2 Oklahoma State in 2011 but lost his starting job in 2012.

    Nevada: The state Board of Regents approved a five-year contract for new coach Brian Polian worth more than $2.8 million.

    Ohio State: Despite a 12-0 record and a No. 3 final ranking in the Associated Press poll, coach Urban Meyer made it clear he does not believe his Buckeyes are remotely close to competing with the nation's elite teams. "The SEC, right now, the quantity (of great players) is far greater than the quantity at the upper-level Midwestern schools," Meyer said. "It's up to the Big Ten to change that. There's one way to do that: Go out and recruit and get some more depth."

    Syracuse: New coach Scott Shafer, the defensive coordinator under Doug Marrone, who left to coach the NFL's Bills, said at his introductory news conference he would build a foundation based on attitude, effort and enthusiasm as the Orange prepare to leave the Big East and join the ACC. "It's those three pillars that we will always point back to," he said.

    UCLA: Coach Jim Mora agreed to a one-year contract extension through 2017.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    SAN FRANCISCO — The anxiety-filled green room and draft day seem so long ago now to Aaron Rodgers.

    Tonight any lingering frustration about how far he dropped in the 2005 draft will be directed right at the team that passed him up with the No. 1 pick.

    Rodgers brings the high-scoring Packers to Candlestick Park to face No. 2 seed San Francisco for a place in the NFC Championship Game. He'll play in the venue where he once rooted for Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Steve Young.

    Rodgers, who appeared in a preseason game at Candlestick in 2008, plays his first meaningful game at the stadium as an eighth-year pro. He also faces the team that beat Green Bay 30-22 on opening weekend.

    "It will be fun. I went to a few baseball games there growing up and saw a game there when I was in college," Rodgers said. "Stadium's got a lot of tradition. … But it will be a night game, it will be loud, it will be a great environment, and it should be a good show for the fans."

    Rodgers is a native of Chico, Calif., about 170 miles northeast of San Francisco. He became a college star for Cal, across San Francisco Bay in Berkeley, with a healthy cast of receivers and the swagger of a champion.

    When Rodgers fell to 24th in the 2005 draft after Alex Smith went No. 1, he was asked about his disappointment. He matter-of-factly said, "not as disappointed as the 49ers will be that they didn't draft me."

    Rodgers already has upset some friends he couldn't accommodate with tickets for this game. Family first, with everybody else making the trek from Chico fending for themselves.

    Most important for him is getting Green Bay one step closer to another Super Bowl. Last season's chance at a repeat came to a halt against the Giants at Lambeau Field. The Giants went to San Francisco the next week and won the NFC title game 20-17 in overtime.

    Just as the Niners moved on from that heartbreak and used it as motivation this season, the same goes for Rodgers after being slighted by his beloved San Francisco on draft day.

    "It's been a long time since the green room," Rodgers said. "I have a lot of good memories growing up watching Steve Young and Joe Montana on TV and the Super Bowl wins and being a 49ers fan. … I'm eight years removed here, and obviously I'm really happy with the situation I'm in."

    The QB the 49ers picked in '05, Smith, spent the second half of this season on the bench as coach Jim Harbaugh promoted second-year pro Colin Kaepernick, who makes his playoff debut.

    Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee and adopted before moving to California at age 4. Yes, he began as a toddler Cheesehead, then changed allegiances "when I got drafted," Kaepernick said.

    Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception in five straight games, and his top four wide receivers — Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones — are together and healthy at last.

    The 49ers need big days from Aldon Smith and Justin Smith, the pass-rushing menace expected back after he missed the final two regular-season games with a partly torn left triceps.

    But this 49ers team has defeated Drew Brees in New Orleans and Tom Brady in New England as well as Rodgers in Green Bay.

    "We've played some of the best quarterbacks this year and have done well," 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. "(Today) is going to call for our best. We can't afford to not play our best football, play our best defense. There's no tomorrow, there's no next week."

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    BRANDON — If there was a moment Friday at the Ice Sports Forum in which new Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback proved his recently injured right knee is sound, it was when he contorted his body to stop Marty St. Louis.

    It was a messy-looking save, with Lindback flailing his arms and legs while St. Louis did about 12 moves in front of him before getting off a shot.

    The sequence over, the players laughed.

    "It looks good," Lindback said of the cut on top of his knee, a horizontal wound about an inch long that looks as if it was sliced by a knife. "It healed good. It's not an issue."

    Lindback played 77 minutes on Friday, 45 during team skating and shooting drills and a 32-minute scrimmage. His performance was much different from the few minutes he was on the ice Thursday — enough to take only a few shots, after which he retreated to the gym.

    That episode sparked questions about if the knee, which needed six stitches when cut by a shot Dec. 18 while Lindback played in Finland, was ready for Sunday's opening of training camp.

    "Of course," Lindback said when asked if he understood why the abrupt exit created some concern. "But as I said, it was more of a precaution. I just wanted to take it a little slowly and get into everything. I hadn't been on the ice for a couple of weeks. I didn't want to rush anything."

    The knee episode is just the start of the scrutiny Lindback will endure.

    Acquired last summer from the Predators and signed to a two-year, $3.6 million deal, Lindback, 24, is expected to be Tampa Bay's long-term solution in net.

    He is expected to be the No. 1 goaltender.

    "I'm excited to get the chance to prove myself," he said. "I don't really care that much what people say or think because the most pressure I get is from myself. I want to prove myself so bad."

    Lindback looked smooth and comfortable Friday as he crouched and set himself in the crease. He used his right leg to lift himself after dropping to the ice to make saves. He stopped forward Kyle Wilson's snap shot with a quick right leg.

    And, most impressively, one on one against Steven Stamkos, Lindback got his left foot out to stop the 60-goal scorer, prompting applause from the approximate 100 fans watching.

    "He's an excellent goaltender," said Wilson, who came to the Lightning with Lindback. "I'm glad somebody recognized his talent and is giving him a chance. He deserves it."

    Lindback played just 38 games the past two seasons backing up Nashville star Pekka Rinne, who, as Lindback said, "wanted to play every game."

    "I learned you have to see practice as your games and do what you have to do and develop, watch and learn everything I can," Lindback said.

    It doesn't hurt he is 6 feet 6.

    "He's quick, big, and he covers angles pretty well," wing Benoit Pouliot said. "It's tough to get anything through."

    "You've got to get him moving side to side," Wilson said. "But he's pretty quick, too. It's tough to score goals on him."

    At least it was on Friday.

    Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    BRANDON — For players in the last year of contracts, the new collective bargaining agreement — expected to be ratified today by the players union — might be the start of a new reality.

    With the salary cap decreasing from $70.2 million this season to $64.3 million in 2013-14, players, especially nonstars, might find contracts tougher to come by and not as rich as hoped.

    "It's going to be hard for guys like me probably," said Lightning G Mathieu Garon, whose two-year, $2.6 million deal will end after this season. "But if you play good, you're going to get a contract somewhere; but maybe not for as much as you deserve."

    Other Tampa Bay players whose contracts will be up: forwards Benoit Pouliot, B.J. Crombeen, Nate Thompson, Adam Hall and J.T. Wyman, and defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron and Brendan Mikkelson.

    "I'm sure everybody thinks about that, but I'm trying not to," Pouliot said of the financial squeeze that might be coming. "For now, we still have a year left. Just play, and things will fall into place if we play well."

    FOUND: Where the heck was Kyle Wilson?

    The forward, acquired from Nashville in the Anders Lindback deal last summer, did not skate with his new teammates during the lockout and didn't show up at the Ice Sports Forum until Friday. "I really didn't have any roots here," Wilson said.

    So he stayed in London, Ontario, where his trainer is based and he, Ducks RW Corey Perry and Kings D Drew Doughty skated with the Knights of the junior Ontario Hockey League.

    "Most important was to stay in shape," said Wilson, 28, who has four goals and 13 points in 39 NHL games. "I try to make the best of every opportunity I get and do the same things I've always been doing; work my (behind) off and the chips fall where they fall."

    HOUSE GUEST: Until he gets his own place, Lindback is staying in an apartment above the garage at the home of defenseman and fellow Swede Victor Hedman.

    "I'm his pool boy," Lindback said.

    ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning schedule announced today will not include television information. Sun Sports cannot formulate its schedule until the NHL releases its national schedule, and that might not happen until Monday. … Lightning minor-league players coming to training camp will be announced tonight.

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    VANCOUVER — Roberto Luongo is still open to a trade no matter how long it takes the Canucks to deal him.

    The star goalie returned to the ice for an informal workout with his teammates Friday while facing an uncertain future.

    Luongo was displaced as the No. 1 goalie by Cory Schneider during last season's playoffs. After the season, Luongo said he would waive his no-trade clause if asked. But general manager Mike Gillis couldn't swing a deal before the lockout began in September. And trades are prohibited until the players ratify the new labor deal, which could happen today.

    "I told (Gillis) I was ready to go as long as it took," Luongo said. "Whether it's a couple days, next week, two weeks, at the end of the season, it's totally fine with me."

    Training camps are expected to open Sunday. Luongo will be there, although he expected to be gone from Vancouver by now.

    "If you asked in May last year, I would have said no," he said.

    Luongo, 33, acquired from the Panthers after the previous lockout canceled the 2004-05 season, isn't worried about his future. He admitted his current plight would have stressed him out if he was still in his 20s.

    "I've matured in the sense where I can handle adversity (better) than I did back then," Luongo said. "That's why I've been really calm about the whole situation. I've been able to enjoy it even though it's not an easy situation. The fact that I'm so comfortable here will make it much easier."

    Capitals: Doctors determined center Nicklas Backstrom did not sustain a concussion when he fell into the boards Dec. 26 while playing in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. "It was more the neck," said Backstrom, who missed 40 games last season because of a concussion. "Stiffness and all those kinds of things. Nothing serious."

    Ducks: Scott Niedermayer, the playoff MVP when Anaheim won the Stanley Cup in 2006-07, was hired as an assistant. The former defenseman spent the past two seasons working in the team's player development system. His duties have not been determined, but he won't go on all road trips.

    Sabres: Wing Jochen Hecht agreed to re-sign for one year. Financial terms were not disclosed. He missed 60 games last season because of concussions.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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

    . today

    FSU vs. North Carolina

    When/where: 2; Tucker Center, Tallahassee

    TV/radio: ESPN; 1040-AM

    Records: FSU 10-5, 2-0 ACC; North Carolina 10-5, 0-2

    Notable: The Seminoles are coming off their first win at Maryland under coach Leonard Hamilton and are 2-0 in the ACC for the second time. They've won 17 of their past 20 games against league opponents. … Behind a strong transition offense, UNC ranks 13th in the country in scoring (79.9 points a game). James Michael McAdoo (14.5 ppg), Reggie Bullock (13.6) and P.J. Hairston (11.6) are averaging in double figures. … FSU's defense keyed a comeback win over the Terps. The 'Noles had 13 blocks — third-most in a conference game in FSU history — and 10 steals. … FSU has won its past two against UNC. It has never beaten the Tar Heels three consecutive times.

    Matt Baker, Times staff writer

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 11, 2013

    RALEIGH, N.C. — When looking at this season's Duke team, most scouts and writers have raved about power forward Mason Plumlee, a national player of the year candidate.

    Plumlee leads the top-ranked Blue Devils in scoring, but they have relied just as much on an old friend, the 3-pointer.

    Duke (15-0) leads the ACC with 117, and it's making a staggering 42.7 percent.

    N.C. State senior Richard Howell said the challenge starts with limiting Quinn Cook's drive-and-kick assists.

    "We have to keep their guards out of the paint," Howell said. "Quinn Cook is one of the best when he gets in the paint at finding guys. Every time I look up, he has 12 or 15 assists, and that's something we can't let happen."

    N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried knows all too well what can happen when his team doesn't defend the perimeter against Duke. Last season the Pack led Duke by 20 with 11:30 left before Seth Curry scored 21 of his season-high 26 in the second half to stun the Pack.

    "Obviously, when you play Duke, we learned it last year in those last eight to 10 minutes that their perimeter guys can take over," Gottfried said. "We get it. They're really good. So we've got to be ready."

    Friday's games

    NO. 13 CREIGHTON 74, MISSOURI ST. 52: Doug McDermott had a season-high 39 points, including all 18 for visiting Creighton in the first 7:12 of the second half. McDermott, the reigning MVC player of the year, hit his first 10 shots in the second half for the Bluejays (16-1, 5-0).

    WOMEN: NO. 14 UCLA 78, WASH. ST. 52: Atonye Nyingifa scored 17 for the Bruins (12-2, 3-0 Pac-12) who have won all 27 meetings over the Cougars in Los Angeles.

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    By Dave Zalewski, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, January 12, 2013

    What's hot: Catch-and-release trolling for large gag grouper is good in almost any area in 30- to 40-foot depths that contains ledges and limestone outcroppings. Troll large-lipped plugs or plugs behind a No. 3 planer to bring the fish away from the structure. This makes it possible for a child to experience catching a large grouper.

    Although there are a few mackerel and kingfish around, water temperatures have dropped to the point where it does not pay to spend a lot of time fishing for them. We have concentrated bottom fishing for white grunts, grouper, triggerfish, sea bass and mangrove snapper. On our family trips we equip youngsters with lighter tackle and two-hook snapper rigs with the sinker below the hooks baited with squid strips. The activity often is nonstop because of the smaller hooks.

    Tip: Use 2/0 or 3/0 hooks because the activity will bring larger fish into the area, and they can easily straighten a small wire hook.

    Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.

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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, January 12, 2013

    Roberto Hernandez, the original Rays closer, expected he might not even get a vote in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot.

    But the 48-year-old was surprised and disappointed that nobody in this year's star-studded class was elected, failing to receive the required 75 percent of the vote.

    Former Astros star Craig Biggio, with 3,060 career hits, came the closest (68.2 percent).

    "It was a sad day," Hernandez said. "Even though there were some players with a cloud of speculation, I would have figured that Biggio would be a slam dunk with his career longevity and the numbers he put up; 3,000 hits no longer means (anything) if he's not on the first ballot."

    Hernandez knew the suspicion of performance-enhancing drug use would hurt the likes of Barry Bonds (36.2 percent), Roger Clemens (37.6 percent), the highest-profile newcomers on the ballot. "They were Hall of Famers even before the PED era started," Hernandez said.

    But Hernandez felt the PED talk took attention away from other worthy candidates such as Jack Morris (67.8 percent), Mike Piazza (57.8 percent), Tim Raines (52.2 percent), Lee Smith (47.8 percent) and ex-Ray Fred McGriff (20.7 percent). And with a strong class (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas) next year, it'll be "even tougher" for them to gain ground.

    "I don't know if they're going to keep punishing or dwelling more on that PED stuff," said Hernandez, who had 326 saves over 17 seasons. "I'm pretty sure that the ones that have been caught and admitted it probably won't get in there. But I think you're innocent until proven guilty. I think you might have to start doing what they did with the Heisman, if you have anything linked to you, they take (the award) away from you, like they did with Reggie Bush.

    "You can't deny history. Sooner or later you've got to tell the history of the game, good or bad."

    MINOR MATTERS: Mitch Lukevics, Rays director of minor-league operations, doesn't believe there's a widespread issue with PED use in their system.

    But he acknowledged it was concerning that Tampa Bay had six minor-leaguers suspended 50 games each for violating the league's drug prevention and treatment program last year.

    That included former first-rounders SS Tim Beckham (marijuana) and OF Josh Sale, who was one of four to test positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine. Sale said, through his agent, he did nothing wrong.

    "It stunk, very disappointing," Lukevics said. "I'd be lying to say anything different. As much education as we do, and when we tell them all 100 times, we tell them 101 times. We spend as much time on the education of 'do's and don'ts' and derailers as much as we do hitting or pitching or throwing. It was very disappointing, there's no getting around it."

    The topic is likely to come up this week, as Beckham and Sale are two of the 31 minor-leaguers attending the team's annual development camp, held Monday-Thursday at Tropicana Field (not open to public).

    MORSE REPORT: Nationals OF/1B Mike Morse is a potential fit for the Rays and is likely available now that Washington re-signed 1B Adam LaRoche. Morse, 30, provides legitimate power (31 homers in 2011) and the type of positional flexibility (experience at 1B, RF, LF, SS and 3B) Tampa Bay covets, and has a reasonably affordable contract ($6.75 million next year before becoming a free agent). But with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reporting Morse is "strongly opposed" to being a DH, it could caution some AL clubs, including the Rays. There also will be the question of the price for one year of Morse. The Nationals are said to be seeking young starting-pitching prospects or a big-league reliever (left-handed, preferably), which the Rays have. But it remains to be seen if the sides match up.

    RAYS RUMBLINGS: OF Matt Joyce, a Tampa native, will hold his annual baseball camp Jan. 20 at North Brandon Little League, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., with proceeds going to the Little League he used to play for. It's $100 per child (ages 6 to 13), registration online at nbll.org. Joyce donated $10,000 last year. "For me, it means everything," he said. "Being from the area, and growing up, born and raised here, it's home for me." … OF Sam Fuld, in partnership with the Rays, USF and Florida Diabetes Camps, will host the second Sam Fuld Diabetes Sports Camp at USF on Feb. 2-3. For information on the camp, call (352) 334-1321.

    Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Saturday, January 12, 2013

    After the slowest negotiations in the history of sport, after a torturous, glacier-like back and forth that bored fans to tears, here is a bit of advice for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Go fast.

    Skate fast. Cook fast. Win fast.

    Welcome to 2013, the season in a hurry. Already, the NHL is in its playoff mode. Already, the teams are in a desperate breakaway that will continue from now until the postseason.

    Want to be good? Well, be quick about it.

    After all this wasted time, time is a-wasting.

    This is what happens when a league tries to cram 82 games of drama into a 48-game speed skate. Some teams may get left at the starting gate. Some teams may fade at the end. Some teams may wobble along the way.

    And Tampa Bay? Who knows what happens to the Lightning when the entire sport starts off in the lightning round?

    "My expectations are always the same,'' Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "One game at a time. It's about being better tomorrow. There is no difference, really. There is going to be urgency. To me, the playoffs always start in January.''

    Nevertheless, you cannot help but notice Boucher talks kind of fast these days. And yes, he said, Lightning employees seem to run through the hallways these days.

    You can make an argument that the 48-game schedule could be a bad thing for the Lightning. Boucher has always been a big believer in chemistry, and there won't be time for it to develop.

    "We haven't played,'' he said. "I have two focuses. First is the game shape. We're not going to be able to put in the systems we normally do. That takes three weeks to a month. We have to break things down and keep it simple and add things as we move along.

    "The chemistry part is huge. We have a lot of new faces. Some teams have the same coach, the same players, the same system. They don't need as much adaptation.''

    Still, there is a better argument that the shortened season won't affect the Lightning at all. Yes, Boucher worries about chemistry, but this isn't his first season anymore. There are enough veterans on this team to know what he expects and the pace at which he expects it.

    Remember two seasons ago? There were only 43 games to play when the Lightning turned to new goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Think of this season as a lot like that one.

    How will a 48-game season affect Steven Stamkos? Not much. You could argue that putting his legs through 34 fewer games will help Marty St. Louis.

    "I'm not worried about Marty,'' Boucher said. "He has quite a few seasons left. You could argue it will be less wear and tear for other 30-year-olds in the league, but on the other hand, you hear that it takes those guys a little longer to get going.''

    But you do need a fast start, right?

    "You know what?'' Boucher said. "You can have a fast start and later on have some long bad stretches. I don't want a fast start as much as I want steadiness. Don't lose five in a row. For me, this isn't a threat. It's an opportunity and a challenge.

    "I'm trying to downplay this. I'm trying to keep it on an even keel. We don't get too emotional or too scared or hyper or positive.''

    What a coach can do, however, is feel caged. As you might suspect, the lockout was hard on Boucher. He has a new team, a better team, and he wanted to see it up close. Of course he did. He wanted to look at the reinforced defense and the new goalie and the familiar faces.

    "By mid December, I was chomping at the bit,'' Boucher said. "I was ready to go.

    "Our new goalie (Anders Lindback) is promising and big. He has an unbelievable attitude and a work ethic. He has size, but he's very quick.

    "The two defensemen we brought in (Matt Carle and Sami Salo) were a miracle. There were about five top-four defensemen out there, and we got two of them.''

    One of the keys to the shortened season, Boucher suspects, will be depth. This year, a 12-game injury means a player will be out a quarter of the season. That means thin teams can be devastated in a hurry.

    On the other hand, who knows? Of the 16 teams that made last year's postseason, 15 of them would have made it if the season stopped at 48 games (only Phoenix charged back into the race afterward, displacing Minnesota.) After 48 games last year, the Lightning was 11th in its conference. It finished 10th.

    It could be worse. Go back to 1994-95, the last time the NHL played a 48-game season. That Lightning team won only 17 games.

    This season should be better. If the newcomers are as good as expected, and if the familiar faces are as good as remembered, this team should contend for the playoffs. Otherwise, why come back at all?

    Smaller season? Yes.

    Smaller expectations? Not on your life.

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

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