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  • 01/13/13--20:12: Report: Eagles eye Billick
  • Times wires
    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles interviewed Brian Billick, the former Ravens coach now a Fox analyst, for their coaching vacancy, csnphilly.com and the Associated Press reported Sunday.

    Billick, who led Baltimore to a Super Bowl title in the 2000 season, met with Philadelphia on Jan. 7, according to the AP. Billick, 58, hasn't coached since 2007. He was 80-64 with two division titles and four playoff berths in nine seasons. He was unavailable for comment.

    The Eagles have talked to three college coaches — Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, Oregon's Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien — and Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. They are set to talk to Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden today and Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians later this week.

    Jets reportedly struggle to hire GM

    The Jets are having trouble finding a new general manager to the point, Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reported, they "can't give the position away."

    Team owner Woody Johnson previously said Rex Ryan will remain coach. In addition, starting quarterback Mark Sanchez struggled throughout this season, and the team has salary cap problems.

    Fox said the Jets are calling candidates who rejected them, asking them to reconsider. Ex-Bears GM Jerry Angelo and Jets assistant GM Scott Cohen also are expected to be interviewed, espn.com reported.

    Gruden talk: Jon Gruden, the former Bucs coach now an ESPN analyst, was contacted by four teams about being coach, cbssports.com reported. The teams were not identified.

    Chargers: Ken Whisenhunt, recently fired as Cardinals coach, interviewed for the coaching vacancy.

    Panthers: Running back Jonathan Stewart had surgery for a sprained left ankle that caused him to miss five games. He's expected to be ready for offseason workouts.

    Titans: Police in Jersey City, N.J., said they want to talk to receiver Kenny Britt. Police said he dropped off his brother, who had a non life-threatening stab wound, at a hospital but was uncooperative with officers when asked what happened.


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    Times wires
    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    ATLANTA — Matt Bryant pumped his fist and celebrated atop the Falcons logo in the middle of the field. Tony Gonzalez broke down in tears. Matt Ryan relished the thought of not having to answer a familiar question.

    The Falcons finally showed they could win a playoff game.

    After a meltdown in the fourth quarter, the Falcons had a comeback that will long be remembered in championship-starved Atlanta. Ryan completed two long passes and Bryant kicked a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds left, lifting the NFC's top seed to a stunning 30-28 victory over Russell Wilson and the gutty Seahawks in a division game Sunday.

    "Wow!" said Falcons coach Mike Smith, summing up this classic as well as anyone could.

    Atlanta (14-3) squandered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, falling behind for the first time when Marshawn Lynch scored on a 2-yard run with 31 seconds left and Ryan Longwell knocked through the extra point for a 28-27 Seattle lead.

    No team has lost a playoff game when holding such a big lead in the final quarter.

    The Falcons, thanks to a pair of "Matty Ices" — Ryan and Bryant — avoided being the first.

    Ryan, shaking off his struggles in three previous playoff losses and two interceptions against Seattle, hit Harry Douglas on a 29-yard pass in front of the Falcons bench, and Smith quickly called timeout. Then Ryan threw down the middle to Gonzalez, a Hall of Famer-to-be playing what could have been his final game.

    Gonzalez hauled in the 19-yard throw, and Smith called his final timeout. Instead of risking another play with 13 seconds left, he sent in Bryant.

    "Our quarterback is a special player," Smith said. "They call him 'Matty Ice,' but I feel like we've got two Matty Ices. There's Matty Ice Ryan and Matty Ice Bryant."

    The Falcons overcame their reputation for choking in the playoffs, winning their first postseason game since the 2004 season. They host San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

    "Nobody flinched," Ryan said. "We just kept battling, kept doing what we do. That's been the makeup of our team all season."

    Bryant knocked through his third winning kick of the season. But he'd never made one like this, with so much on the line. "When they scored their touchdown, I walked down (the sideline)," he said. "I told the offensive line, I told (Ryan), I told all the receivers, 'We've done this before.' "

    Wilson threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score for the Seahawks (12-6). But their defense, which allowed a league-low 245 points in the regular season, went to a softer coverage and got burned. "We had high, high hopes for the rest of the season," Wilson said. "When the game was over, I was very disappointed. But walking back into the tunnel, I got so excited about next year. The resilience we showed was unbelievable."

    Wilson had 385 yards passing as Seattle wiped out a 27-7 deficit in the final 15 minutes. If the 28-27 lead had held, it would have executed the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NFL playoff history, STATS LLC said.

    Instead, the game was the second playoff game with two lead changes in the final 31 seconds of regulation, the Elias Sports Bureau said. (The other was Tennessee's "Music City Miracle" victory over Buffalo on Jan. 8, 2000).

    And Ryan, will no longer be asked why he can't win in the playoffs; he and Smith were 0-3.

    "That's going to be nice," Ryan said. "But our goal is not to win one playoff game. Our goals are still in front of us. We still have two more games to go. That's the mind-set I have. That's the mind-set this team has."


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady idolized Joe Montana as a kid growing up near San Francisco. Sunday, he surpassed his hero.

    Brady got his 17th postseason win, the most by a starting quarterback in NFL history, as the Patriots got past the Texans 41-28 in an AFC division playoff game.

    "I grew up a 49ers fan," said Brady, who threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns. "Joe Montana and Steve Young … those guys are in another class."

    Next up is Baltimore, which stunned top-seeded Denver in double overtime 38-35 Saturday. The Ravens beat the Patriots 23-20 on a field goal with no time left on Sept. 23.

    "It's sweet just playing in the AFC championship," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "It's a team that beat us earlier this year at their house and a team that's riled up for us."

    Brady played most of the game without two targets after tight end Rob Gronkowski (arm) and running back Danny Woodhead (thumb) left with injuries.

    But he got more than anyone could have predicted from Shane Vereen. The third-string running back scored three touchdowns, one fewer than during the entire regular season. He also had 124 total yards (83 receiving and 41 rushing) after recording 400 (251 rushing and 149 receiving) during the regular season.

    "Shane had a great game," Brady said, "just a huge growing-up moment for him; very special."

    While Stevan Ridley, a 1,000-yard rusher, maintained the lead role — 82 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries — Vereen got into the end zone more often.

    Vereen ran for a 1-yard score in the first quarter and caught an 8-yarder in the second quarter. He capped the biggest day of his career early in the fourth with an over-the-shoulder 33-yard catch behind former Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud, making it 38-13.

    "I don't come into the game knowing how much anyone is going to play," said Vereen, a second-round pick by the Patriots in 2011 out of California. "I come into the game ready to go. And if my number is called, I do my best for the team.

    "We hate to lose Woody. … But at the same time, all of the running backs hold ourselves accountable to be able to step up when somebody does go down."

    The second touchdown to Vereen was Brady's 41st during the playoffs, behind only Brett Favre (44) and Montana (45).

    "I hope I am around for a few more years," Brady, 35, said. "I love playing. I love competing. I think I've just been fortunate to play on some great teams over the years. I never take it for granted."

    Although the Texans got two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Matt Schaub, their season ended with four defeats in their last six games. The slump cost the AFC South champs the top seed in the playoffs, forcing a trip to New England after they beat the Bengals last week.

    "Whenever the season ends, no matter when, it's really hard," tight end Owen Daniels said. "The farther along you get, the harder it is to take. It's one we wanted to win really bad. It's tough to swallow."


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski needs surgery on his broken left arm and will miss the rest of the playoffs, profootballtalk.com and the Associated Press reported Sunday.

    Gronkowski broke his left forearm while blocking on an extra point Nov. 18. He missed five games before returning for the regular-season finale.

    He was reinjured 6:44 into Sunday's 41-28 division playoff win against the Texans on a deep pass, falling out of bounds as it dropped incomplete. Gronkowski sat on the bench in apparent pain while talking to the team doctor before heading to the locker room.

    "It's hard to replace a player like him," Patriots TE and former Gator Aaron Hernandez said. "He's a freak of nature."

    Patriots coach Bill Belichick said little.

    "I'm not sure," he said when asked if Gronkowski broke his arm. Asked if the tight end went to a hospital, Belichick said, "Look, I just walked off the field. He wouldn't have played if he wasn't ready. … The doctors handle the medical decisions."

    Another injury: New England also lost RB Danny Woodhead to a thumb injury when he carried the ball on its first offensive play. His status was not disclosed by the team.

    Texans injury: Houston WR DeVier Posey tore an Achilles tendon late in Sunday's loss. It's not known if he will be ready for training camp.

    Better, but … : Houston vowed this game would be different from its 42-14 loss at New England on Dec. 10. Only the margin of victory changed.

    "I think every team in the NFL knows how good that opponent is," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said.

    "If you're going to achieve something, you're going to have to go through them at some point. This organization will keep battling to do that."

    Running game: The Texans' Arian Foster ran for 90 yards, the first time in four playoff games he did not reach 100. But his 515 yards tied the NFL record for yards in the first four playoff games, set by Denver's Terrell Davis.

    A Turning point: The Texans trailed 28-13 midway through the third quarter when they drove from their 5-yard line to the Patriots 37. Then Patriots DE Rob Ninkovich made a leaping interception. Six plays later, Brandon Lloyd caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brady. "I guess I'm just blessed," Nin­kovich said. "Right place, right time."

    In praise: The Patriots honored the police department in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed Dec. 14 at an elementary school. Officers wearing Patriots jerseys with the No. 1 and "Newtown PD" on their backs lined up with the cheerleaders as the team ran onto the field. Two children wearing Newtown Police caps went to midfield for the coin toss.


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    Times wires
    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    HONOLULU — Russell Henley made a lasting impression in his debut on the PGA Tour with a record performance Sunday in the Sony Open.

    Tied for the lead with fellow rookie Scott Langley to start the final round, Henley seized control with a birdie on the opening hole then poured it on at the end.

    He closed with five straight birdies for 7-under 63, finally showing emotion with a sweeping uppercut when his 8-foot putt disappeared into the cup.

    He won by three shots over Tim Clark, who birdied seven of his last 11 holes yet made up only one shot on the rookie from Georgia.

    Henley finished at 24-under 256, breaking by four shots the Sony Open scoring record last set by Brad Faxon in 2001.

    It was the second-lowest score for a 72-hole tournament in PGA Tour history, two shots behind Tommy Armour III in 2003 at the Texas Open.

    Henley also set a tournament record for the low 36-hole score after his 63-63 start, he shared the 54-hole record with Langley and he set another tournament record with the lowest final round by a champion.

    Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

    He became the first PGA Tour rookie to win his debut since Garrett Willis in the 2001 Tucson Open, which was held the same week as the winners-only event in Kapalua. And the way Henley putts, there's no telling where this will lead.

    For starters, the 23-year-old from Macon, Ga., can add a local event to his schedule: He's going to the Masters in April.

    "I don't really know what happened, honestly," Henley said. "This is the most nervous I've ever been. That's the hardest thing I've ever done. It's been my goal to make it to the Masters my whole life. I'm kind of speechless right now."

    He then acknowledged his parents and his girlfriend, watching from home. Henley spent his first week as a tour member on his own.

    Clark, finally feeling healthy after a mysterious elbow injury after his runnerup finish at the Sony Open in 2011, shot 63. Langley (70) finished tied for third, seven shots behind, along with Charles Howell III (66).

    EUROPEAN: Louis Oosthuizen shot a final-round 6-under 66 to beat Scott Jamieson of Scotland by a stroke and win the Volvo Champions in Durban, South Africa. Oosthuizen finished at 16-under 272 at Durban Country Club.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    GAINESVILLE — If all goes well for the Florida basketball team this week, coach Billy Donovan will hit an impressive milestone. Now in his 17th season with the Gators, Donovan is two wins shy of 400 for his UF coaching career. (He's 433-180 overall.)

    To earn No. 400 this week, the Gators, who moved up to No. 10 in the AP poll, will have to win at Texas A&M on Thursday then defeat Missouri at home Saturday — the Gators' first sellout this season. Understandably, that's not foremost on Donovan's mind, but he's aware of where he stands and said it's a reflection of the players.

    "I think for me, what I will reflect back on is that I have been really fortunate to coach a lot of really good players," Donovan said. "Going all the way back to Jason Williams and to Mike Miller and to (Udonis) Haslem and to (Matt) Bonner and David Lee and to (Matt) Walsh and to (Anthony) Roberson and to (Joakim) Noah and to (Corey) Brewer, Patric Young, Brad Beal. I've been very, very fortunate that I have been coaching really, really good quality kids that have been brought into Florida and bought into winning. To be able to stay at one place this long, in today's day and age, is very, very difficult to do. Those things, from a coaching perspective, any accomplishment or win number — I always thought was a total reflection of the guys you're coaching."

    Young said he hopes Donovan sticks around at Florida to earn 400 more victories.

    STILL HURTING: It's one of those tough Thursday-Saturday stretches in the SEC this week for the Gators, who are still battling multiple injuries. Junior F Casey Prather is the latest, suffering a high ankle sprain against LSU.

    "I don't think it's a real severe high ankle sprain," Donovan said. "I think our best guess right now is probably 10 to 14 days."

    Senior G Mike Rosario also has a sprained ankle. He was cleared by medical staff to play Saturday but couldn't go. Senior F Erik Murphy will continue to play with a broken rib and junior G Scottie Wilbekin with a broken thumb, and junior F Will Yeguete is expected to have further evaluation for right knee tendinitis.

    "I think they want to take an X-ray because he's got some swelling in his knee," Donovan said. "Whether or not it's anything more than that, we'll have to wait and see."

    The injuries are giving young players, such as Tampa freshman Michael Frazier, more opportunity to see playing time.

    "Coach told us at the beginning of the season we have to stay ready even though we might not be getting a lot of playing time at the beginning of the year, because if we do have injuries we have to step in and be ready," Frazier said. "We can't be like a deer in the headlights. We have to be ready."

    CONFIDENCE GAINED: Amanda Butler isn't into moral victories, but she believes Florida's 78-75 OT loss to then-No. 9 Tennessee on Sunday may turn out to be beneficial for the Gators (13-5, 2-2 SEC) down the road.

    "It was very similar to the way we felt after the Kentucky game (a 76-69 loss on Jan. 3)," Butler said. "We felt like we should have won. We put ourselves in a position to do that, but we also put ourselves in a position to lose and ultimately that's what we've got to learn from. There is a tremendous amount of confidence to be gained by the way we played in Jennifer's absence."

    Jennifer George, the Gators' lone senior, did not play in the final 29 minutes because of an injury.

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


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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Peyton Manning is human. Colin Kaepernick may not be. The Patriots keep on rolling. The Falcons finally got off the ground. And Ray Lewis' career just will not end.

    Here's what the division round of the NFL playoffs taught us and what it all means heading into this weekend's conference championship games.

    The NFL's best young QB

    The 2012 NFL playoffs featured six quarterbacks who were in either their first or second season in the league.

    Who was the best of the lot? Most would have picked Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson, and all three, especially Wilson, performed admirably in the playoffs. But San Francisco's Kaepernick not only played the best of the youngsters, he had one of the best playoff games ever.

    He used his arm to throw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, and his legs to smash the playoff record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Kaepernick raced for 181 yards and two more scores. (Yes, the Packers defense is wobbly, but still.)

    None of that should be a surprise. While at Nevada, Kaepernick was the only quarterback in Division I history to throw for more than 10,000 yards while rushing for more than 4,000.

    The Falcons have troubles

    Despite winning their first playoff game with coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons have some issues going into Sunday's NFC title game against the 49ers. Defensive end John Abraham aggravated his sprained ankle early in Sunday's game against the Seattle and did not return.

    Even if he plays, it's hard to imagine he can be effective — a real problem when you consider he plays on the side where Kaepernick tends to roll out and run.

    Scary news for a team that allowed nearly 500 yards of offense to the Seahawks.

    The Ravens can win in New England

    Going to New England this time of year can be a nasty trip. The weather is lousy, the fans are riled up and you have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick waiting for you. Most teams are beat before they even get off the plane. Since the Patriots started this decade of dominance, they are 11-2 at home in the playoffs.

    But the Ravens are one of the two teams that have won in New England in the postseason during the Belichick-Brady era, knocking off the Pats two years ago. Quarterback Joe Flacco believes he can go into the New England in January and win because he has done it before.

    Last season, the Ravens would have gone to overtime in the AFC Championship in New England had it not been for a missed chip-shot field goal in the waning seconds. The Ravens beat the Pats this season — 31-30 at Baltimore in Week 3 — and Flacco has been better statistically than Brady in the past three meetings.

    The point is the Ravens are not going to be intimidated by the Patriots, especially after going into Denver and beating the top-seeded Broncos.

    Pats offense won't miss Gronkowski

    Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski might be the best in football, but he will miss the rest of the postseason after re-breaking his left arm Sunday. Certainly, the Pats would rather be with him than without, but his absence might not be a big deal.

    "Gronk'' missed five games and the Patriots averaged 34 points and 417 yards in offense in those games. That's only one fewer point and 16 fewer yards than the 11 games they played with him.

    Manning's postseason reputation took a hit

    If it's a playoff game, I'm not sure if I want Peyton Manning as my quarterback.

    His return from neck surgeries to lead the Broncos to the top seed in the AFC was impressive, but that's what makes this year's postseason failure all the more troubling if you're evaluating Manning's postseason career.

    He has won a Super Bowl, but he's now 9-11 in the postseason. Toss out his 2006 Super Bowl run and Manning is 5-11 in the playoffs. Manning's teams have made the playoffs 12 times and have been bounced in their first game eight times. He has averaged more than an interception per game in the postseason, far worse than his regular-season interception rate.

    More? He's a mediocre 6-5 in home playoff games. Unlike many of the all-time great postseason QBs (Brady and Terry Bradshaw, for instance), Manning isn't good in poor conditions — 0-4 when temperatures are below 40 degrees.

    Manning's across-the-field, against-his-body, weak-armed interception that led to the Ravens' winning score in overtime was one of the most ill-advised postseason throws you will ever see. I haven't seen a postseason pass that bad since Manning's horrendous interception that helped the Saints beat his Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

    Some will point out that Manning has been on teams with poor defenses, and the Broncos' lack of defense yielded 38 points Saturday. But don't truly elite QBs find ways to win games like that?

    It's what Brady does. It's what Flacco is starting to do. Maybe that's why they are still playing.

    tom jones' two cents


    MCTMCT

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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    The way Lightning teammates describe 37-year-old Marty St. Louis, he sounds a lot like the reverse-aging character from the movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

    "Everyone kind of feels a little bit older every year," wing Teddy Purcell said. "But I think he's going the opposite way. He just gets younger."

    "He's a machine — he's that little ball of fire," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "You'd think he's 22."

    Purcell said St. Louis' seemingly eternal youth is evident both on the ice and the dance floor, where St. Louis has some "sneaky dance moves," no matter the music.

    "He can adapt to his surroundings," Purcell said. "Like Charles Darwin."

    While St. Louis' legendary work ethic and drive helped the undersized (5 feet 9, 177 pounds) and undrafted wing evolve into a league MVP and Stanley Cup champion, he knows the clock is winding down on his impressive career. That's why it was so important to St. Louis that the lockout was lifted Saturday and he won't have to miss another full season (as he did with the work stoppage in 2004-05).

    But St. Louis, entering his 14th year, hasn't shown any signs of slowing down in preseason workouts and has made no concessions to Father Time.

    "I expect a lot out of myself every year," he said. "And if you start giving yourself excuses, you're just speeding up the process of fading away."

    St. Louis has been the definition of consistency, setting a Lightning record with six consecutive 70-point seasons. He has been one of the league's most durable players, with his streak of 499 consecutive games played snapped in December 2011 because of a broken orbital bone.

    "You don't realize how hard you have to work until you watch a guy like Marty," teammate Steven Stamkos said. "That's why he's been so successful, there's a correlation there."

    Stamkos, who has emerged as one of the game's brightest young stars since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2006, lauded St. Louis' impact on his career, noting the four-time All-Star has been his mentor since the beginning.

    And though St. Louis' 74 points last season were his fewest since 2005, his playmaking ability on a line with a 60-goal scorer in Stamkos has them both primed for a playoff run.

    "I'm trying to keep him young, and he's trying to keep (me) wise," Stamkos said. "It's been a great ride so far, hopefully it's only the beginning and we have a lot of great years ahead of us."

    St. Louis boasts 323 goals, and is just 148 points shy of 1,000 in his 931-game career. But it's hard not to wonder what his numbers might have been had the league not canceled the 2005 season. St. Louis had plenty of momentum coming off an MVP year (94 points) and championship.

    "That was tough," he said. "We were coming off a Cup year, things had gone pretty well for me that year, so I was excited to get back."

    But St. Louis hasn't dwelled on the opportunities missed in the 116 games lost to lockouts.

    "Maybe I'll just play an extra year," he said with a smile.

    And St. Louis hasn't thought of his place in history or potential Hall of Fame candidacy.

    "I don't worry about that now — I'm in the trenches playing," he said. "Everybody can assess my career when I'm done playing. I've played long enough in this league, (you) hope that you can get considered. That's the ultimate honor, to be in the Hall of Fame."

    St. Louis has three years left on his contract and said he's "not ready for retirement." How long he plays remains to be seen, but coach Guy Boucher said St. Louis' legacy is already in place.

    "This guy has been unbelievable for the organization and the people around him," Boucher said. "I don't know when or how it's going to be recognized, but in my book right now, he's already won."

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


    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    TAMPA — Though it has been apparent since the end of the regular season that the Bucs likely will wait before extending the contract of quarterback Josh Freeman, general manager Mark Dominik left no doubt Monday during a series of radio interviews.

    Emphasizing that "no one's in a hurry" despite Freeman's contract expiring after the 2013 season, Dominik said the quarterback will enter the season without a new deal.

    "I would say the way coach (Greg Schiano) and I talk about it is that there's no sense of urgency," Dominik said during interviews with 98.7-FM and 620-AM. "There's no hurry from Josh Freeman and his representation (either). So there's good communication going on. We do have time on our hands.

    "Josh is going to try to play the best he can, and we'll watch the situation unfold and how the offseason goes. But Josh has done a good job."

    Dominik later added that Freeman "wants to maximize his ability" before discussing a new deal as he heads into his fifth season.

    Freeman, who turned 25 Sunday, had a career year this season, setting career highs in yards (4,065) and touchdown passes (27), but he had a series of games with monumental struggles, throwing eight interceptions in a two-game span down the stretch. That gave the team reason to pause when considering his future.

    Still, Dominik stressed the positives seen in 2012 from the team's 2009 first-round pick.

    "We felt he had a solid season," Dominik said of Freeman. "He had a couple games that a lot of people talked about. But he had a stretch run that was as good as it got in the National Football League."


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    . TONIGHT

    USF women vs. Cincinnati

    When/where: 7; Sun Dome, Tampa Radio: 1010-AM

    Records: USF 11-4, 0-2 Big East; Cincinnati 8-7, 0-2

    Notable: Bulls senior Andrea Smith is Big East player of the week after scoring 33 and 35 in back-to-back games, both double doubles no less, to raise her average to 18.8 points, third in the conference. … The Bearcats' Dayeesha Hollins is fourth at 17.5 ppg, but Cincinnati ranks last in the league in assists and steals. … USF is the top rebounding team in the Big East yet does not have any player in the top 15 in rebounding. … Led by Smith's 42 percent mark, USF is the league's second-best 3-point shooting team at 33.7 percent, behind only UConn. … The Bulls need a home win after opening with losses against conference foes Notre Dame and DePaul.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer


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  • 01/14/13--19:10: Patriots minus Gronkowski
  • Times wires
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots have done just fine without Rob Gronkowski.

    So far.

    They'll see Sunday whether that continues or if their valuable tight end's absence will keep them from a second straight Super Bowl appearance.

    Gronkowski had surgery Monday on his broken left arm, the Associated Press reported. Gronkowski suffered the season-ending injury Sunday when he caught a pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter and landed out of bounds on the arm for an incompletion in New England's 41-28 division round win over Houston.

    "Certainly, Rob is a unique player, and he has some skills that allow you to do special things with him," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Monday.

    "I don't think it's really fair to say you just plug somebody in and off you go."

    Michael Hoomanawanui filled in well enough after Gronkowski broke his left arm on the Patriots' seventh offensive play against the Texans. He'll probably do it again in the conference title game against the Ravens.

    "Michael did a great job with the things we asked him to do," McDaniels said. "He certainly did a good job in protection and in the running game."

    RAVENS RELISH ROLE: The Ravens have another opportunity to embrace the underdog role, this time in the conference championship game.

    Playing at home — where they're 7-2 — the Patriots are 9½-point favorites to top Baltimore.

    The Ravens already defeated New England this season and are coming off a stunning upset on the road against top-seeded Denver. Yet they opened as underdogs by the exact same spread that the Broncos were favored by on Saturday.

    "It's just what everyone else thinks," Ravens DT Haloti Ngata said. "In here, on our team, we believe in ourselves. … We'll just have to go back out there and prove people wrong again."

    Baltimore might have had an easier time against Houston in the conference final, but many Ravens longed for a rematch of last year's AFC title game, won by the Patriots 23-20.

    "I think we personally kind of wanted to play the Patriots again," Ngata said. "If we go to the Super Bowl, it would be great to go through Foxborough."

    NEW ASSISTANT: The Patriots' offensive staff will get a new member when Brian Daboll is added as an assistant. Coach Bill Belichick said Daboll, the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs under fired coach Romeo Crennel, would join the staff "going forward, similar to what Josh (McDaniels) did last year but without any specific responsibility." Daboll was a Patriots assistant from 2000-06.


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  • 01/14/13--19:17: Falcons not content yet
  • Times wires
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — A slip of the tongue gave away Atlanta coach Mike Smith's focus.

    Smith was just starting his review Monday of the Falcons' 30-28 division-round win over the Seahawks when it became clear his thoughts were on Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the 49ers.

    "We knew the San Francisco Forty … excuse me, the Seattle Seahawks, were a very good football team, and they showed a lot of resiliency," Smith said, then smiled at his verbal miscue.

    The win over Seattle was the first for Smith and QB Matt Ryan in four postseason games with Atlanta. There was much talk that the long-awaited first playoff win was the most important for the Falcons, allowing Ryan and other players to relax.

    Smith shot down both theories.

    "I don't think we'll be able to play looser," he said. "I think we've got to get back into our preparation mode. I know many people have talked about the outcome and what does it mean to the Atlanta Falcons."

    The Falcons are the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Atlanta lost at home to Green Bay as the top seed following the 2010 regular season.

    Smith said Sunday was "fun" for the team and Atlanta, but that the Falcons have hit their goals.

    "Our goals and our expectations are a lot higher than just winning one playoff game," he said.

    READY TO GORE: San Francisco RB Frank Gore arrived for work ready to push through another tough week of game preparation and do everything he can to keep his team playing right into February.

    The 49ers are one win from the place they've planned to be all along: the Super Bowl.

    "Mainly, we're going to plow ahead," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We're going to continue our work ethic and humility."

    Any topics that strayed from the job at hand, Harbaugh wanted no part of — whether talk of his big brother John's success coaching the Ravens or former 49ers coach Mike Nolan, now the Falcons' defensive coordinator.

    Not that anyone in the family — or on the 49ers, for that matter — is thinking too far ahead to a possible brotherly Super Bowl matchup.

    "Proud of them both and excited for them," said Jack Harbaugh, father of Jim and John. "Understand how hard they've worked and the preparation that's gone into it."

    RATINGS GAME: About 87 percent of the televisions turned on in the Seattle area at the time, and more than half of the households with TVs, watched the end of Sunday's Seahawks loss to the Falcons. Overall, the game on Fox earned a 79 percent Nielsen share (percentage of TVs on at the time) and 45.6 percent rating (percentage of all TVs) in the Seattle TV market, the Seattle Times reported.


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    Times sports staff
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    TODAY

    College basketball

    Tennessee at Kentucky, 7 p.m., ESPN

    Notre Dame at St. John's, 7 p.m., ESPN2

    Wake Forest at Clemson, 7 p.m., ESPNU

    Women: Cincinnati at USF, 7 p.m., 1010-AM

    Women: Georgetown at Notre Dame, 7 p.m., CBSSN

    Wisconsin at Indiana, 9 p.m., ESPN; 620-AM

    Mississippi at Vanderbilt, 9 p.m., ESPNU

    Women: Louisville at Connecticut, 9 p.m., CBSSN

    High school basketball

    Lake Wales at Auburndale, 7:30 p.m., BHSN

    NBA

    Trail Blazers at Nuggets, 9 p.m., NBA

    Soccer

    Mexican: Lobos at Cruz Azul, 10 p.m., ESPND

    Tennis

    Australian Open (taped), 2 p.m., ESPN2

    Australian Open, 7 p.m., Tennis

    Australian Open, 9 p.m., ESPN2

    Australian Open, 3 a.m., ESPN2

    TV: CBSSN: CBS Sports Network; BHSN: Bright House Sports Network


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    Associated Press
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    AUSTIN, Texas — Cyclist Lance Armstrong's years of brash denials that he used performance-enhancing drugs came to a tearful end Monday.

    In a 90-minute interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong admitted that he cheated to win the Tour de France, according to the Associated Press, which cited a person familiar with the situation.

    The admission Monday came hours after an emotional apology by Armstrong to the Livestrong charity that he founded and turned into a global institution on the strength of his celebrity as a cancer survivor.

    After the interview, taped at a downtown Austin hotel, Winfrey tweeted: "Just wrapped with @lancearmstrong More than 21/2 hours. He came READY!"

    She was scheduled to appear on CBS This Morning today to discuss the interview.

    Armstrong's apology to the Livestrong staff suggested he would carry through on promises over the weekend to answer Winfrey's questions "directly, honestly and candidly."

    The cyclist was stripped of his Tour de France titles, lost most of his endorsements and was forced to leave the foundation last year after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a damning, 1,000-page report that accused him of masterminding a long-running doping scheme.

    About 100 staff members of the charity Armstrong founded in 1997 gathered in a conference room as Armstrong arrived with a simple message: "I'm sorry." He choked up during a 20-minute talk, expressing regret for the long-running controversy, but stopped short of admitting he used them.

    Before he was done, several members were in tears when he urged them to continue the charity's mission of helping cancer patients and their families.

    "Heartfelt and sincere," is how Livestrong spokesman Katherine McLane described his speech.

    No further details about the Winfrey interview were available immediately because of confidentiality agreements signed by both camps. But Winfrey promoted it as a "no-holds barred" session, and after the voluminous USADA report — which included testimony from 11 former teammates — she had plenty of material for questions.

    USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, a longtime critic of Armstrong, called the drug regimen practiced while Armstrong led the U.S. Postal Service team, "The most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."

    Armstrong also went after his critics ruthlessly during his reign as cycling champion, scolding some in public and waging legal battles against others in court.

    Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, was one of the first to publicly accuse Armstrong. She called news of Armstrong's confession "very emotional and very sad," and got choked up when asked to comment.

    "He used to be one of my husband's best friends and because he wouldn't go along with the doping, he got kicked to the side. Lance could have a positive impact if he tells the truth on everything. He's got to be completely honest," she said.

    At least one of his opponents, the London-based Sunday Times, has already filed a lawsuit to recover about $500,000 it paid him to settle a libel lawsuit. Dallas-based SCA Promotions, which tried to deny Armstrong a promised bonus for a Tour de France win, has threatened to bring yet another lawsuit seeking to recover more than $7.5 million an arbitration panel awarded the cyclist in that dispute.

    Armstrong is said to be worth around $100 million. But most sponsors dropped him in the wake of the USADA report at the cost of tens of millions of dollars. Soon after, he left the board of Livestrong.

    In addition, former teammate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping, has filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit that accused Armstrong of defrauding the U.S. Postal Service. The Justice Department has yet to decide whether it will join the suit.

    The lawsuit most likely to be influenced by a confession might be the Sunday Times case. Potential perjury charges stemming from Armstrong's sworn testimony in the 2005 arbitration fight would not apply because of the statute of limitations. Armstrong was not deposed during the federal investigation that was closed last year.


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    By Pat Damico, Times Correspondent
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    What's hot: Shallow-water fishing, often called fishing the flats, can be very productive this time of year. Water is clear and weed-free, making sight-fishing ideal. Sun, light wind and clear skies are needed to spot fish. Our quarry — trout, reds, snook and occasionally sheepshead — will be easier to see before dropping our presentation in front of them.

    Technique: Sunlight can cast shadows or reflect off a shiny reel or bright rod, scaring fish. The sun behind you is best for sight-fishing. Keep low to the surface and cast more horizontally instead of vertically. Minimize false casting and learn a saltwater quick cast. Leave brightly colored shirts and hats home. A smooth water surface makes fish more spooky. Use lighter equipment such as a 6-weight fly rod, floating weight forward line and a 12-foot tapered leader. Smaller flies (size 4-6) with small bead chain eyes will softly land on the water if properly cast. Use lightly dressed flies.

    Tips: Polarized glasses and a dark hat brim are needed to see well. Try yellow glasses to brighten things. If you are having difficulty seeing a fish, tilt your head from side to side to improve visibility.

    Pat Damico charters out of St. Pete Beach and can be reached at captpat.com or (727)504-8649.


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    Times wires
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    HARTFORD, Conn. — Louisville waited 20 minutes to prove it deserved the No. 1 ranking.

    It took the same amount of time for the Cardinals guards to show they could be the best backcourt in the country, even when they don't spend all that much time together on the court.

    Russ Smith had 23 points and Peyton Siva 11 in a foul-plagued 22 minutes as the Cardinals (16-1, 4-0 Big East), playing hours after they moved to No. 1, beat Connecticut 73-58 Monday night.

    Siva picked up his second foul 3:47 into the game and his third with 14:21 left. When he returned with 10 minutes left, Smith went to the bench for treatment. Siva hit a 3-pointer 50 seconds later in a game-changing 19-5 run.

    "We did a good job of weathering a Peyton Siva storm, with him out," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Once he came back and we weathered that storm, we were able to play much better defense and much better offense."

    NO. 6 KANSAS 61, BAYLOR 44: Ben McLemore scored 17 for the host Jayhawks (15-1, 3-0 Big 12) before leaving in the final minutes with a right ankle injury. The freshman had to be helped to the locker room, and there was no further word on his injury.

    N.C. CENTRAL 75, B-CU 66: Ray Willis had 26 points as the visiting Eagles handed Bethune-Cookman (6-12, 1-2 MEAC) their fourth loss in five games.

    N.C. A&T 68, FAMU 40: The visiting Aggies held the Rattlers (4-13, 1-2 MEAC) to their fewest points this season and handed them their seventh straight loss.

    TROJANS FIRE COACH: Kevin O'Neill, who led Southern Cal to an NCAA Tournament berth and had winning records twice in 3½ years, was fired. Assistant Bob Cantu will be interim coach.

    ECKERD: Senior forward Darrien Mack was named Sunshine State Conference player of the week for the second week in a row.

    IOWA STATE: Prosecutors dismissed a sexual-abuse charge against junior guard Bubu Palo, paving the way for him to rejoin the team.

    WYOMING: Coach Larry Shyatt suspended senior guard Luke Martinez, the team's No. 2 scorer, indefinitely after he was arrested during a bar fight.

    AP POLL: There were four newcomers: No. 21 Oregon, No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth, No. 24 UCLA and No. 25 Marquette. They replaced Georgetown, Cincinnati, Wichita State and UNLV.

    Women

    NO. 12 PURDUE 82, OHIO ST. 75, 3 OT: Sam Ostarello had 22 points and 19 rebounds for the host Boilermakers (14-2, 3-0), whose Big Ten wins have all come in overtime.

    AP POLL: Miami fell out and was replaced by Michigan at No. 25, its first ranking in a decade. Baylor remained No. 1.


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    Times wires
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams tumbled to the court and needed a medical timeout in the first set for treatment on her right ankle. Once she got up, it was all over for Edina Gallovits-Hall.

    Williams routed Gallovits-Hall 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of the Australian Open this morning despite the scary sequence in the first part of the match.

    The No. 3-ranked Williams rolled into Melbourne Park with 35 wins in her previous 36 matches. But the injury could be a significant setback as she seeks a third straight Grand Slam title.

    Williams said there was pain and swelling in her ankle and X-rays were an option, but she wanted to leave any decisions about treatment for a few hours.

    "I've been injured before," she said. "I've played this tournament with so many injuries and was able to come off pretty on top. So for me it's just another page and a great story to tell the grandkids one day."

    Defending champion Victoria Azarenka also advanced, overcoming a wobble in the second set to beat Monica Niculescu 6-1, 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena. No. 3 Andy Murray won his first match as a Grand Slam champion, beating Robin Haase in straight sets. No. 2 Roger Federer advanced, beating Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.

    With a packed program on the center court, Williams was playing on the second of the show courts.

    The 31-year-old American was leading 4-0 after 19 minutes when she fell awkwardly chasing a ball wide on her forehand side, putting both hands over her face.

    She rolled from her back to her hands and knees, where she stayed for several minutes before she was helped to her feet. The 15-time major winner started limping before easing into a walking stride as she made her way to her courtside chair to have her already heavily taped ankle treated then retaped.

    "I think I was really, really close to panicking because a very similar thing happened to me last year, almost on the same side, the same shot," Williams said. "So I almost panicked, and I thought, I can't do that. I just have to really remain calm and think things through."

    She dominated the second set despite the injury, allowing the Romanian player to win just six points.


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  • 01/14/13--20:10: Sports in brief
  • Times staff, wires
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Baseball

    minor-leaguer for rays gets suspension

    Rays minor-league catcher David Wendt has been suspended 50 games after testing positive for Methylhexaneamine, the commissioner's office said Monday.

    Wendt, 26, who split last season between Class A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery, is the seventh Rays minor-leaguer to be suspended in the past year for violating the minor-league drug prevention and treatment program.

    Free agent catcher Bryan Henry, another minor-leaguer though not affiliated with the Rays, was also suspended 50 games for testing positive for Methyl­hexaneamine, a banned dietary supplement originally developed as a nasal decongestant.

    Athletics: Manager Bob Melvin received a two-year contract extension that takes him through the 2016 season. Also, the team reached agreement on a $1 million, one-year deal with C George Kottaras.

    Blue Jays: OF Adam Loewen has agreed to a minor-league contract to return to the team, which also settled with OF Colby Rasmus on a one-year deal worth $4,675,000.

    Diamondbacks: Reliever J.J. Putz, 35, has agreed to a $13.5 million, two-year contract, a deal that adds a $7 million salary for 2014. The right-hander had 32 saves in 37 chances and a 2.82 ERA last year, converting 19 straight save chances from late May through August.

    Orioles: RHP Tommy Hunter agreed to a $1.82 million, one-year contract, more than tripling his salary of $493,500 last year. Hunter, 26, was 7-8 with a 5.45 ERA in 20 starts and 13 relief appearances last year.

    Soccer

    Ronaldo will fulfill Real Madrid deal

    Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo reiterated that he has no immediate plans to leave Real Madrid, but he didn't rule out changing clubs beginning in 2015.

    "I want to see out my contract at Real Madrid: I'm very clear about that. After that, well, I don't know what'll happen in the future," Ronaldo told fifa.com.

    Ronaldo was serving a suspension and did not play Saturday against Osasuna. Real Madrid was held to a 0-0 draw, leaving the team 18 points behind leader Barcelona at the halfway point of the La Liga season.

    Rowdies: The team signed veteran defender Andres Arango to a one-year deal with a club option for 2014. He played the past two seasons with the Rowdies, starting 16 regular-season games and four postseason games in 2012.

    Et cetera

    Figure skating: Two-time U.S. champion Alissa Czisny has withdrawn from next week's nationals in Omaha, Neb., after dislocating her left hip. She was injured Saturday while performing her free skate at the Fox Cities Invitational in Appleton, Wis. The 2009 and 2011 U.S. champion, who had surgery in June to repair a labral tear in her left hip, will have further evaluation.

    Gymnastics: Two years after discovering she had a rare form of ovarian cancer, Shannon Miller is expecting her second child. Miller the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history, is due this summer. She and husband John Falconetti also have a 3-year-old son, Rocco. Miller, 35, is a two-time world all-around champ. She won seven Olympic medals and nine at the world championships.

    Arena football: The Storm added defensive back Bryan Evans, a former University of Georgia player who was with Jacksonville last season.

    Joe Smith, Times staff writer; Times wires


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    Times wires
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Officials from the ACC are reportedly looking into the idea of creating a television network similar to the ones in the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences.

    The ACC has created a panel made up of athletic directors from member institutions to look into the viability of a television network, according to a report in the Sports Business Journal.

    Any idea of creating a network would have to involve ESPN, which owns the league's television rights under its current deal that lasts through 2027.

    The SEC is also looking into the idea of creating its own television network. The Big Ten was the first league to do so, launched the Big Ten Network in 2007. BTN is available in 73 million homes and has generated millions of dollars for its member institutions.

    Report: No 'Canes for Brissett

    MIAMI — Former Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a West Palm Beach product who announced after the season he was transferring, was told by Miami coaches that the Hurricanes "don't have room for him" with five QBs on the roster, the Miami Herald reported. His Dwyer High School coach, Jack Daniels, had said UM was Brissett's top choice.

    Also, Miami offensive linemen Seantrel Henderson and Brandon Linder and defensive tackle Curtis Porter will return for their senior seasons.

    JONES STAYING AT FSU: Florida State's leading tackler last season, linebacker Christian Jones, will stay for the 2013 season instead of declaring for the NFL draft, collegefootballtalk.com reported.

    OTHERS COMING, GOING: Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood is headed to the NFL draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility. … Houston running back Charles Sims and Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin said they're staying in college. … Former Georgia cornerback Nick Marshall, kicked off the team last year, said on Twitter that he's headed to Auburn to play quarterback.

    MARSHALL: Temple defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, a former UF assistant, was hired for the same position with the Thundering Herd.

    ILLINOIS: Former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit was named offensive coordinator.

    NEBRASKA: Linebacker Sean Fisher announced he plans to enroll in medical school rather than petition the NCAA for a sixth season with the Cornhuskers.

    TENNESSEE: Running back Quenshaun Watson is no longer part of the program, the school announced.

    TEXAS: Two players suspended before the Alamo Bowl amid a sexual assault allegation, quarterback Case McCoy and linebacker Jordan Hicks, have rejoined the team, coach Mack Brown said.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report.


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    Times wires
    Monday, January 14, 2013

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are on the same team now, at least when it comes to sponsorship.

    McIlroy officially made the switch to the swoosh on Monday as Nike confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in golf, announcing it had signed a multi­year deal with the top-ranked Northern Irishman.

    Terms were not disclosed, but industry observers have estimated the deal to be worth up to $20 million a year. Some reports said the agreement was for 10 years and worth as much as $200 million, including incentives, which would be one of the most lucrative in sports history. However, those numbers might be inflated. ESPN reported that McIlroy's deal is for five years, which might be more realistic considering Woods never got 10 years.

    McIlroy, 23, insisted he's not making the switch because of the money.

    "I don't play golf for the money," he said. "I am well past that. I'm a major champion and world No. 1, which I have always dreamed of being, and feel this is a company that can help me sustain that and win even more major titles. At the end of 2013, if I have not won another major, I will be disappointed."

    The deal means Nike now has golf's two biggest names representing its brand, as Woods has been with the company since turning pro in 1996.

    The partnership with McIlroy was announced in a lavish ceremony in the United Arab Emirates ahead of this week's Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, where he will use the company's equipment for the first time. The event opened with a hologram of McIlroy swinging a club and included a video showing Woods, Roger Federer and Wayne Rooney welcoming him to Nike.

    McIlroy said he was "really excited" to start the season and insisted he has made a "seamless" adjustment to his new equipment, especially his driver.

    "As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going in the bag straight away," he said. "I thought I hit it far before, but this is taking it to a new level."

    McIlroy's switch to Nike had been widely expected. In October, he cut ties with Acushnet Co., which had supplied him with Titleist and FootJoy gear since he turned pro five years ago. And this month, Jumeirah Group announced it was not renewing its five-year sponsorship deal.

    The Nike deal comes in the wake of a career year for McIlroy, in which he became No. 1 and won his second major.

    McIlroy and Woods have already developed a friendly rivalry lately, and they will likely be seen together even more often from now on.

    Nike already unveiled a new commercial entitled "No Cup is Safe" that begins running Wednesday featuring McIlroy and Woods on the driving range — with each trying to outdo the other in sort of a golf version of the basketball game H-O-R-S-E.

    McIlroy told ESPN after the festivities that Woods never tried to recruit him to Nike, nor did McIlroy seek his advice.

    "I didn't speak about it to Tiger," McIlroy said. "I didn't say anything, and I don't think he wanted to influence me, either. We didn't talk about it at all — not until after it was all done.

    "I was comfortable with what I was doing. I talked to the people who were closest to me about it."


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