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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    ESTERO — Final rosters must be submitted to the league by 3 p.m. Friday, but those attending the training camp-ending practice at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum will get a sneak peek.

    "When we hit the ice on Friday, we'll have our team," coach Guy Boucher said.

    Two or three forward positions are believed open. And though Boucher said "nobody is set," LW Cory Conacher has consistently been used in high-profile situations during four days of camps.

    He was part of the second power play unit Wednesday while continuing his non-special teams work with C Vinny Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell.

    Conacher, with 12 goals and 28 points in 36 games this season for AHL Syracuse, said he hasn't been told anything about his chances to make the team.

    "I still have a lot of work to do and a lot of things to work for," he said. "There's guys battling for position, and I'm one of those guys. So it's important for me to keep my head small and just keep going."

    Tyler Johnson finally got going. The center, who leads Syracuse with 20 goals and 35 points, has been under the radar during camp but on Wednesday got a long look on a third line with Tom Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot. He also took turns with the second power play.

    "We're just trying to see if those guys have what it takes right now to start the year and contribute at the NHL level," Boucher said. "We've got to start strong, and we'll see if they can do that."

    GROUNDWORK: With a defense settled even before camp, Radko Gudas knew he and fellow Syracuse defensemen Matt Taormina and Mark Barberio could only imprint their skills on the minds of the coaches.

    After all, you never know when injuries will necessitate help from the minors.

    "That's what they told us before we got here; that the team is pretty much all set up for the season," Gudas said. "We just want to make a good impression in case anything happens so they know we can play on this level."

    DRAMA: For a few seconds Wednesday, the Lightning held its collective breath. G Anders Lindback, run over during a scrimmage by net-crashing RW B.J. Crombeen and pursuing D Keith Aulie, was on the ice and not moving.

    Then he popped up and kept playing.

    "Just putting on a little scene there," Lindback said later.

    Lindback had, perhaps, his best day at camp, allowing no goals during a 20-minute scrimmage and putting on a good show during power play practice with in-close saves on Johnson and Teddy Purcell and on Steven Stamkos' wraparound.

    "I feel more and more comfortable, and things are starting to fall into place," Lindback said. "I'm pretty close."

    Though Lindback said he has "no clue" if he or Mathieu Garon will start Saturday's opener against the Capitals, he added, "I'll be ready to go."

    FIGHT CLUB: For several minutes after practice, Crombeen and LW Ryan Malone took turns working on fighting moves with 6-foot-2, 220-pound prospect Pierre-Cedric Labrie. No punches landed in the mock battles, but Crombeen and Malone honed their jersey holds, footwork and punching positions.

    "For us, it's part of the game we play," Malone said. "We just want to make sure we're ready for the season as best we can be."

    TICKETS: Just 700 remain for the opener, the Lightning said, adding about 700 season tickets have been sold since Jan. 6, including 200 special offers for $200.

    ODDS AND ENDS: Stamkos scored twice and Pyatt got his third goal in two days in the White's 3-0 scrimmage win over the Blue. … Taormina did not skate for a second straight day. Boucher said only he is "stiff." … Players who must clear waivers to be sent to Syracuse will be on the wire at noon today. … Beach volleyball was the bonding exercise of the day. … Practice today is at 10:30 a.m.

    Around the league: Devils lock up Zajac

    NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey signed center Travis Zajac to an eight-year, $46 million contract. Zajac, 27, played only 15 regular-season games in 2011-12, his sixth season, because of an Achilles injury. But he scored seven goals during the playoffs to help New Jersey reach the Cup final.

    More Devils: Wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who missed the first three practices to play in the KHL All-Star Game, played in a scrimmage against New Jersey's AHL affiliate. Kovalchuk, who scored 37 goals last season, said there was never a doubt about returning to the NHL but wanted to play in Sunday's All-Star game as a way to thank his Russian fans.

    Blues: General manager Doug Armstrong signed a five-year extension.

    Coyotes: Matthew Lombardi was acquired from the Leafs for a 2014 fourth-round pick. The center had eight goals and 10 assists in 62 games last season.

    Flames: Wing Jarome Iginla practiced for the first time after missing three days with a groin injury. He said he believes he will be ready for the season opener.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report.


    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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  • 01/16/13--19:32: Probation for Rams, Bucs

  • Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The boys basketball programs at Gulf and Ridgewood have been put on probation after a brawl Friday that sparked a criminal investigation.

    The rival programs were given reprimands and placed on administrative and restrictive probation through the end of the 2013-14 school year under sanctions announced by the Florida High School Athletic Association on Wednesday evening.

    Restrictive probation often includes a postseason ban, but it is not expected to in this case. The FHSAA defines the penalty as more severe than administrative probation "with the additional consequence of restriction from participation in championship competition in one or more sports, or other restrictions deemed appropriate by the Executive Director." In this instance, the FHSAA has required every player on the varsity and JV programs at both schools to complete a sportsmanship program by Feb. 23.

    Five Ridgewood players and two Gulf players were suspended by the FHSAA, spokesman Corey Sobers said, but the lengths of their punishments were not available Wednesday evening. The schools indefinitely suspended 13 players — nine from Ridgewood and four from Gulf — Tuesday while they awaited the FHSAA's ruling.

    Ridgewood was also fined $1,150 — $250 each from three level-two unsportsmanlike conduct suspensions and $100 each from four other instances of unsportsmanlike conduct. Gulf received no fines.

    The penalties stem from a brawl that broke out in the stands late in Ridgewood's 56-55 victory at Gulf. According to a report by the game officials, a scuffle began among fans shortly after the buzzer, as players were headed to their benches.

    "Immediately, fans began running out of the stands to get out of the way," the official wrote.

    Officers from the New Port Richey Police Department were called. The Pasco Sheriff's Office is working with Gulf on a criminal investigation.

    According to a letter from the FHSAA to Gulf, charges have been filed against the fans who started the incident, and all other individuals involved have met with school administrators.

    Gulf coach Travis Priddy declined to comment, and Ridgewood coach Derek Delgardo could not be reached Wednesday evening. The schools can appeal the rulings.

    Ridgewood (11-8) has become one of the top playoff contenders in Class 5A, District 8, while Gulf (6-10) has had a solid season in Priddy's first year.


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    Times wires
    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles hired Chip Kelly as coach Wednesday, 10 days after he decided to stay at Oregon. Kelly, 49, who replaces the fired Andy Reid, will be introduced at a news conference today.

    "He has a brilliant football mind," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement released by the team. "He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He … will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team."

    Kelly, 46-7 in four seasons at Oregon, interviewed with the Eagles, Browns and Bills in a two-day span after winning the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3. A day later, several media outlets reported he was close to a deal with the Browns. But soon after, Kelly announced he was staying at Oregon.

    "It's a very difficult decision for me," Kelly told KEZI-TV of Eugene, Ore. "It took me so long to make it just because the people here are special."

    Ducks athletic director Rob Mullens said Kelly called him Wednesday morning to tell him.

    "He wasn't sure if that opportunity would present itself again," Mullens said. "So he felt this was the right one at the right time."

    Bears hire CFL coach

    CHICAGO — The Bears hired Canadian Football League coach Marc Trestman as coach. It's the first NFL coaching job for Trestman, who will be introduced at a news conference today.

    Trestman has been the offensive coordinator for the Browns, 49ers, Cardinals and Raiders and spent the past five seasons with Montreal. He led the Alouettes to two Grey Cup titles.

    Trestman quickly hired Aaron Kromer as offensive coordinator, the Associated Press reported. He was the Saints offensive line coach and interim coach for six games this season. And the Chicago Sun-Times reported Rod Marinelli will remain as defensive coordinator.

    Raheem to interview: Former Bucs coach Raheem Morris will interview with the Browns to become defensive coordinator. He spent this past season as the Redskins secondary coach.

    More coaching: The Cardinals interviewed Seahawks offen­sive coordinator Darrell Bevell and plan to talk to Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. … Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley interviewed with the Jaguars, espn.com reported.

    Titans: Receiver Kenny Britt met with police in Jersey City, N.J., four days after he dropped off his brother, who had a non-life threatening stab wound, at a hospital but didn't cooperate with authorities. Police said only they are still investigating.

    Pro Bowl: Giants quarterback Eli Manning was added. He replaces the Packers' Aaron Rodgers, who has knee and ankle injuries. Also, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall said he won't play after Tuesday's minor surgery on his hip. A replacement wasn't named.

    Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.


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    Times wires
    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — When Falcons K Matt Bryant is on the sideline, aware the game might be decided by his right leg, he drapes a towel over his head to shut out the world.

    "That towel acts like a force field," Bryant said. "For whatever reason, that seems to block out a lot of things."

    No kicker has been more clutch than Bryant over the past three seasons, especially this season. He has won three games in the final minute of regulation, including a 49-yard field goal with eight seconds left in last week's victory over Seattle.

    "For whatever reason, I feel like I'm hitting the ball a lot better now than I have in a long time," Bryant, 37, said. "Even that 49-yarder, it would've been good from 60 yards plus. I smoked that one. I think that's the best ball I've ever hit."

    Bryant was cut by the Bucs in favor of Mike Nugent just before the 2009 season. The Falcons signed him in December of that season. And since the start of the 2010 season, he has won five games with last-minute field goals. That's more than any other kicker, according to STATS LLC. The Steelers' Shaun Suisham has three. No one else has more than two.

    "You don't need to panic when you're in a (last-minute) situation," Atlanta G Justin Blalock said. "You know you've got a guy that everyone has faith in. Once you cross midfield, you know he's going to put it through."

    Injury report: Falcons coach Mike Smith said he expects DE John Abraham to start against the 49ers. He sprained his left ankle during the season finale against the Bucs and aggravated it Sunday. But Smith said he will give reserves Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi and Lawrence Sidbury more snaps at practice this week.

    Time machine: As a motivational ploy, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh taped high school photos of each of his players to their lockers. With each photo was the player's ranking by scouting services at the time.

    "Coach really wants us to tap into what we wanted to be at that time," S Donte Whitner said. "When you look at this picture, it's like, 'At this moment, what did I want to be?' We all look at this, and we understand what we wanted to be and where we are now."

    While WR Randy Moss, 35, was No. 1 in every category, only his photo and that of G Leonard Davis, 34, were in black and white. Joked CB Chris Culliver, 24: "I don't think they had color pictures back then."


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  • 01/16/13--19:48: Terps shock Wolfpack
  • Times wires
    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    COLLEGE PARK, Md. — There might come a time in the near future when Maryland fans won't feel compelled to storm the court after a home win over the 14th-ranked team in the country.

    There was no holding them back Wednesday night, however, because this celebration was long overdue.

    Alex Len dropped in a missed shot by teammate Pe'Shon Howard with .9 seconds left, giving the Terrapins a stunning 51-50 victory over No. 14 North Carolina State.

    Howard drove the left side and came up short on a 5-foot airball, but the 7-foot-1 Len grabbed the ball in front of the rim and eased it through. After the Wolfpack failed on a desperation heave at the other end, thousands of students in the sellout crowd poured onto the court after the final buzzer to mark Maryland's first win over a ranked team since March 3, 2010, against No. 4 Duke.

    Now in his second season at Maryland, coach Mark Turgeon is still trying to take the program to the level it enjoyed under predecessor Gary Williams. This win, despite being rather ugly, was a significant step in the rebuilding process.

    "I didn't come here to be mediocre," Turgeon said. "I came here to do great things. We haven't done many great things since I've been here. This is a great thing."

    It was lucky, too.

    As Howard threw up his shot from the left side, it quickly became apparent it was going to be short.

    "When he shot it, I said, 'Oh no!' Then I saw the big guy go up," Turgeon said. "Alex was in the right place at the right time."

    Len, with 10 points, was the only Terrapin in double figures. Maryland led for much of the game but needed Len's basket to end N.C. State's 10-game winning streak.

    Maryland has won 10 of 11 against the Wolfpack (14-3, 3-1 ACC), including five straight at home. The Terrapins had previously lost 17 straight against ranked teams.

    "We hadn't won a big game since Greivis (Vasquez) was here," Turgeon said of the former ACC player of the year who graduated in 2010.

    Lorenzo Brown scored 17 for N.C. State and C.J. Leslie had 13. The Wolfpack went in leading the NCAA with a 52.8 shooting percentage but shot 31.1 percent in this one.

    NO. 13 BUTLER 62, RICHMOND 47: Andrew Smith scored 15 for the Bulldogs (15-2, 3-0), who used a stifling defense to pull away in their first Atlantic 10 home game. Butler played without leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, out with a severely sprained neck.

    NO. 16 KANSAS ST. 67, TCU 54: Rodney McGruder scored 21 for the visiting Wildcats (14-2, 3-0 Big 12), who took control with a 19-4 run midway through the first half and won their seventh straight game.

    NO. 17 MISSOURI 79, GEORGIA 62: Earnest Ross scored 15 while surviving two spills, helping the host Tigers (13-3, 2-1 SEC) rebound from a 15-point loss at Mississippi on Saturday.

    NO. 18 MICH. ST. 81, PENN ST. 72: Adreian Payne scored 20 after spending the first half on the bench following a morning scuffle with teammate Brandon Dawson, and the visiting Spartans (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) held on. Coach Tom Izzo said Dawson and Payne wouldn't be charged.

    NO. 19 NEW MEXICO 79, BOISE ST. 74, OT: Tony Snell scored 22 and teamed with Hugh Greenwood for nine of the Lobos' 16 points in overtime as New Mexico (16-2, 3-0 MWC) won its third straight game.

    NO. 25 MARQUETTE 69, SETON HALL 62: Reserve forward Davante Gardner scored 17 to lead the host Golden Eagles (13-3, 4-0 Big East) to their sixth straight victory.

    MIAMI 60, BC 59: Durand Scott hit four free throws in the closing 30 seconds and drew an offensive foul to help the visiting Hurricanes (13-3, 4-0 ACC) extend their best conference start ever.

    TAMPA 69, SAINT LEO 65, OT: Da'Markco Foster had 16 points for the host Spartans (13-3, 1-3 Sunshine State), who made all five shots in overtime to stop an eight-game winning streak by the Lions (11-3, 4-1).

    FLA. SOUTHERN 93, ECKERD 82: Seth Evans had 17 points to lead the host Moccasins, who pulled away from the Tritons (8-4, 2-3 SSC) in the second half after trailing for nearly the entire first.

    DRAKE: Former Boston College point guard Jordan Daniels is transferring to the Bulldogs and will be eligible at the end of the fall semester next season.

    GEORGETOWN: Sophomore forward Greg Whittington, who ranks second on the team in points (12.1) and rebounds (7.0) per game, was declared academically ineligible.

    Women

    NO. 1 BAYLOR 90, KANSAS ST. 69: Brittney Griner scored 29 as the visiting Bears (15-1, 5-0) romped to their 27th straight regular-season Big 12 victory.

    NO. 4 DUKE 58, VA. TECH 26: Elizabeth Williams scored 20 as the host Blue Devils (16-0, 5-0 ACC), the only undefeated team in Division I, won their 18th straight in the series.

    NO. 18 DAYTON 95, LA SALLE 47: Amber Deane scored 20 for the host Flyers (14-1, 2-0 Atlantic 10), who shot a season-best 57.6 percent (38-of-66).

    SAINT LEO 64, TAMPA 44: Teresa Manigrasso had 23 points for the Lions (8-7, 3-2 Sunshine State), who opened with a 16-0 run and never trailed the Spartans (11-2, 2-2) in their first win at Tampa since 2003.

    ECKERD 54, FLA. SOUTHERN 39: Liga Vente and Rana Thomas scored 12 each for the visiting Tritons (6-6, 3-2 SSC), who made 20 of 22 free throws in the second half to pull away.


    MCTMCT

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  • 01/16/13--19:56: Sports on TV/radio
  • Times sports staff
    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    TODAY

    College basketball

    Women: Iowa at Michigan State, 6 p.m., Big Ten

    Women: Virginia at North Carolina, 6:30 p.m., FSN

    Michigan at Minnesota, 7 p.m., ESPN

    Florida at Texas A&M, 7 p.m., ESPN2; 620-AM

    Valparaiso at Detroit, 7 p.m., ESPNU

    Duquesne at UMass, 7 p.m., CBSSN

    Northwestern at Illinois, 8:15 p.m., Big Ten

    Women: N.C. State at Maryland, 8:30 p.m., FSN

    Georgia Tech at Duke, 9 p.m., ESPN

    USF at Rutgers, 9 p.m., ESPN2; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

    Oregon State at UCLA, 9 p.m., ESPNU

    St. Joseph's at Virginia Commonwealth , 9 p.m., CBSSN

    Women: Tennessee at Auburn (in progress), 9 p.m., BHSN

    Oregon at Southern Cal, 11 p.m., ESPNU

    College hockey

    Princeton at UMass-Lowell, 7 p.m., NBCSN

    Golf

    PGA: Humana Challenge, 3 p.m., Golf

    PGA Europe: Abu Dhabi Championship, 11 p.m., Golf

    High school basketball

    Palmetto at Southeast, 7:30 p.m., BHSN

    NBA

    Pistons at Knicks, 3 p.m., NBA

    Clippers at Timberwolves, 8 p.m., TNT

    Heat at Lakers, 10:30 p.m., TNT; 620-AM

    Tennis

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

    Australian Open, 7 p.m., Tennis

    Australian Open, 11 p.m., ESPN2

    Australian Open, 3 a.m., ESPN2

    TV: NBCSN: NBC Sports Network; FSN: Fox Sports Network; BHSN: Bright House Sports Network; CBSSN: CBS Sports Network


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  • 01/16/13--20:17: Serena looks okay, for now
  • Times wires
    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams cautiously walked onto the court and tried to keep the points short to avoid irritating her injured right ankle as she advanced to the third round at the Australian Open.

    Summoning all her experience from 15 major titles, including the final two of the last season, Williams lifted her tempo on the biggest points, winning an 18-minute game to open the second set and finally cashing in on her fourth break chance. Nineteen minutes later, she finished a 6-2, 6-0 win over No. 112-ranked Garbine Muguruza of Spain this morning.

    Apart from a swollen lip from hitting herself in the face with her racket in the sixth game, she emerged unscathed.

    "It feels better," Williams said of her ankle. Before the match, "I was just doing everything you can do — icing to massage. I woke up this morning and thought … 'Oh my God, it feels good.'

    "I'll keep my fingers crossed."

    U.S. Open champion Andy Murray had another easy win, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 over Joao Sousa of Portugal.

    Murray, who ended a 76-year drought by British men in Grand Slam tournaments with his win at Flushing Meadows last year, dropped only seven games in his opening match against Robin Haase of the Netherlands. This morning, the third-seeded Murray didn't allow Sousa a single break point chance.

    Defending champion Victoria Azarenka practically danced into Rod Laver Arena for the match before Willliams' victory and said she's starting to find some rhythm after beating Eleni Daniilidou 6-1, 6-0 in 55 minutes.

    With temperatures expected to top 102 degrees, Azarenka didn't want to be out in the heat.

    "I felt like I'm back into the competitive mode," she said. "I was really focused; that was for sure the best part of the game for me."

    The No. 94-ranked Daniilidou won only 10 points in the first set and was shut out in the second despite having triple break point in the fourth game.

    The lopsided wins for Azarenka and Serena Williams came a day after No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova recorded her second 6-0, 6-0 win of the tournament.

    Sharapova overwhelmed Japan's Misaki Doi in 47 minutes, even less time than she needed to beat fellow Russian Olga Puchkova two days earlier in her first competitive match of 2013.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires
    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    Manti Te'o, Notre Dame's star linebacker, was one of the feel-good stories of the 2012 college football season, excelling on the field despite the deaths of his grandmother and his girlfriend, he said, within hours of each other.

    On Wednesday, that story fell apart when the website Deadspin published a report saying Te'o's girlfriend never existed.

    Notre Dame said in a statement that Te'o was the victim of "what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had died of leukemia."

    Te'o released his own statement, saying he was the target "of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies," calling the situation "painful and humiliating."

    At a news conference Wednesday night, Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame's athletic director, said Te'o received a phone call in early December from a number that he thought to be Kekua's. The voice on the phone was one he had believed to be hers, Swarbrick said, and the person was telling Te'o that she was not dead. Te'o and his family told the university about the situation on Dec. 26, Swarbrick said, at which point Notre Dame asked an independent investigative company to look into the matter.

    Much remains unclear about whether Te'o was duped or if he somehow perpetrated the fictitious story of having a girlfriend who died during the season. It is clear, however, that both Te'o and the university were well aware of the situation during the onslaught of news media coverage during the lead-up to the Bowl Championship Series title game on Jan. 7. Neither corrected the record until the Deadspin article was published Wednesday.

    Swarbrick said it was his understanding that, until the Deadspin article was published, Te'o and his family planned to make a public statement about the situation next week. He said there was no attempt to conceal the story: "This story was coming out. There was too much online chatter about it."

    Swarbrick said the university investigation found that the motive for creating a fake persona to trick Te'o had simply been the sport of it.

    "Nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota," he said.

    Te'o said that over an extended period of time he had developed an emotional relationship with a woman he met online. He did not say whether they had met in person, but he did say that they had maintained a relationship online — and on the phone, "and I grew to care deeply about her." He said he hoped "people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been." Swarbrick said Te'o told him that he had never met Kekua in person.

    In October, a month after Kekua was said to have died, an article in the South Bend Tribune described the initial meeting between her and Te'o in California in 2009, without attributing the details.

    "Lennay Kekua was a Stanford student and Cardinal football fan when the two exchanged glances, handshakes and phone numbers that fateful weekend three seasons ago," the story said.

    Te'o's father, Brian, was quoted in the article saying that, every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, when his son happened to be home, "so he would meet with her there." He said they started as friends but had become a couple within the past year.

    "And we came to the realization that she could be our daughter-in-law," Brian Te'o was quoted as saying. "Sadly, it won't happen now."

    It was around the time the two supposedly became a couple that Kekua was injured in a serious car crash. And during the long recovery from the crash, it was discovered that she had leukemia, which ultimately killed her, the article said.

    A Sports Illustrated article in October told more of the story, reporting that in the months leading up to her death, Te'o "developed a nightly ritual in which he would go to sleep while on the phone."

    "When he woke up in the morning, his phone would show an eight-hour call, and he would hear Lennay breathing on the other end of the line. Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice," the article said.

    Deadspin reported that there was no Social Security Administration record of Lennay Marie Kekua dying, that a record search produced no obituary or funeral announcement. She supposedly attended Stanford, but there is no mention of her death in the Stanford student newspaper. The website reported that the Stanford registrar's office has no record that a Lennay Kekua ever enrolled.

    There are a few Twitter and Instagram accounts registered to Lennay Kekua, but the website reported photographs identified as Kekua online and in TV news reports are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua.

    The week before Notre Dame played Michigan State on Sept. 15, coach Brian Kelly told reporters that Te'o's grandmother and a friend had died. Te'o didn't miss the game. He said Kekua had told him not to miss a game if she died. Te'o turned in one of his best performances of the season in the 20-3 victory in East Lansing, and his playing through heartache became a prominent theme during the Irish's undefeated regular season. Te'o went on to become a Heisman Trophy finalist, finishing second in the voting, and leading Notre Dame to its first appearance in the BCS championship.

    Te'o and the Irish lost the title game to Alabama, 42-14 on Jan. 7. He has graduated and was set to begin preparing for the NFL combine and draft at the IMG Academy in Bradenton this week.

    "Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life," he said in his statement, "and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft."

    Information from the New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    Wednesday's huge revelation from Deadspin.com — that the sad story of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's girlfriend dying of leukemia in September was a huge hoax and that she never existed — was co-written by St. Petersburg resident Timothy Burke, who has been an editor at Deadspin since October 2011 and had spent much of the previous five days reporting the story with Deadspin writer Jack Dickey, who is a student at Columbia.

    Burke, 34, is working on a doctorate in communications from USF, he's on Twitter at @bubbaprog and he also runs a blog, 30fps.mocksession.com, that has a cult following for its archive of screengrabs and video captures from TV. After a Skype appearance on CNN to speak with Anderson Cooper about the story on Wednesday night, he talked to the Times about his story.

    It must be a strange and still proud acknowledgement, to see your story rolling along the ticker on ESPN as great publicity for Deadspin.

    It's just bizarre to me. We had ESPN on downstairs all night, and every time I go down there, in the corner, "BREAKING NEWS: Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend did not exist." What a bizarre statement. Think about how crazy that is. That's so weird to me.

    Take me back as much as you can to how this started, and all the reporting that led to this story.

    We got an anonymous e-mail Friday that said, "Hey, there's something sketchy about Manti Te'o's girlfriend. You should check it out." I was actually out with (wife) Lynn somewhere in western Hillsborough County at an orange grove at the time. Both Jack Dickey and our editor-in-chief, Tommy Craggs, were messaging me frantically. "Can you check in on this?'

    What do you do when you're looking for information?

    To start, you go to Google. We googled "Lennay" and you find Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend. Nothing about her from before she was dead. That's a little strange. We went into, "Does she exist?" Did she go to Stanford? We called Stanford, got copies of their yearbooks, knew she wasn't a graduate, finally got word she had never attended. Does this person exist in any Social Security records? No. The Associated Press said she was buried in Carson, Calif., so we called every mortuary and funeral home in Carson. Any word? No. It just continued to go from there. Every point we looked for evidence that she existed, there was none.

    Notre Dame came out Wednesday night very much in defense of Te'o, saying he was the victim of a hoax and not complicit at all, though there certainly seem to be lies from him and family members in terms of him saying he had met a girlfriend when he had a relationship exclusively online and by phone. What do you make of that?

    I think they did Manti Te'o a huge disservice, as I think him releasing a statement did himself a disservice. This is a situation where nothing you can say is going to improve your situation. Every time you give a reaction, it keeps the news cycle focused on the embarrassing story. I think it would be better for Te'o if he'd come out and said, "Yeah, I set it up to win the Heisman." Whether he did or not, for his professional career, it would have been better for him to show he was cunning and clever and smart. He's a middle linebacker who has to show he can be cold and calculating. Instead, he told everyone he was a patsy. If I'm an NFL GM, that doesn't sound good to me. I would not have published any response, let it go away.

    For more of the interview, visit Greg Auman's blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls.


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    By Matt Thompson, Special to the Times
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    While Jahleel Addae was growing up he raced off the youth football field every day after practice to get in his dad's car, drink up some Gatorade and whip on his soccer gear for travel practice.

    "That was when I knew he was something special," said Freddie Addae, his dad. "He would do football, go to soccer and dominate, then come home eat dinner and get the books done."

    The last time Jahleel played football in the Tampa Bay area was playing for Riverview High School in 2007. After five years at Central Michigan University he returns home to play in the East-West Shrine game at 4 p.m. Friday at Tropicana Field.

    "It's great that this game is here," Jahleel Addae said. "A college All-Star game could be anywhere in the country and it's right here in my backyard. I can put on for my city and for the people that love and support me; former teachers, family and friends that have shown me love through the years."

    When Addae left Riverview he was a highly-recruited running back who rushed for over 1,000 yards each of his last three seasons of high school. Originally committed to West Virginia, Addae ended up at CMU and was switched to wide receiver before finding his calling at strong safety.

    "I've been coaching for 24 years and I've never seen a running back like him," said Dan O'Regan, Addae's coach at Riverview. "Jahleel had unbelievable vision, he had eyes in the back of his head. He would do flips, cut left and right — everyone stopped and watched when he had the ball to see what he would do."

    When he switched positions, Addae had a secret weapon. His older brother Jahmile, also a Riverview graduate, was a standout free safety at West Virginia, where he earned first-team All-Big East honors as a junior and senior.

    "I was used to having the ball in my hand all the time," Jahleel Addae said. "When it first happened, I called Jahmile right away. He told me to relax. He gave me a lot of tips. That summer I came home and did a lot of ball drills with him, a lot of defensive back drills. As the years went on, he just continued to let me grow into my own player."

    During his five years at CMU Addae was named the team's defensive player of the year as a junior and shared the honor as a senior. He made an All-Mid-American Conference team the past three years as a safety and was named to the Jim Thorpe Award Preseason Watch List, which goes to the nation's top defensive back, before his senior year. He also received a business degree at CMU and is working toward a masters degree.

    "I'm proud of him not so much of the football player, but the person he is," Freddie Addae said. "He loves the Lord. It's humbling what he is doing with his gifts from God — that's what drives him."

    Addae sends his father a bible verse every morning, much to his father's pleasure.

    Sunday Addae and the rest of the Shrine Bowl participants went to the Shriners Hospital to visit children.

    "The All-Star game, playing on national television and having an opportunity to display my talent is amazing and I'm looking forward to it so much," Addae said. "But the biggest thing for me this week was playing with these kids dancing, putt-putting and seeing a smile on the kids' faces with all they are going through. It's very humbling and makes you very grateful for what you have."

    After the Shrine game, Addae gets a day off before going to work at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the fields for footwork drills with Athletes Edge training trying to get his NFL dream. Addae said after one week of workouts there he gained 6 pounds while losing body fat and feels more agile.

    "It's so hard to tell if a guy will make it in the NFL or not," O'Regan said. "Jahleel has his intelligence on his side and he has stayed injury free. He's going to get a chance with a team through the draft or free agency and I can't imagine the team not keeping him."

    Freddie Addae is expecting 50 or 60 friends and family at the game Saturday to support Jahleel.

    Both Addaes said those days of doing both practices up until his sophomore year of high school were vital to his success now. Addae played sweeper in soccer, the last line of defense in charge of running down defenders — similar to a safety in football.

    "Soccer helped my stamina for running, my footwork and how to keep my balance," Addae said. "Make sure I clean up the defense from side to side."

    Times correspondent Bryan Burns contributed to this story.


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    Associated Press
    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    NEW YORK — From nearly unstoppable to nearly invisible.

    Tim Tebow was two wins from the Super Bowl a year ago. Now, he's pretty much a player without a team — likely to be released by the New York Jets after one frustrating season and his hometown team in Jacksonville already pulling in the welcome mat.

    Even Tebow doesn't know how this will unfold. A backup role on another NFL team? A position change? The Canadian Football League?

    "I don't know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future," the devout Christian said in a recent interview with Fox Business Network, his only public comments since his strange Jets season ended.

    "And, in that," he added, "there is a lot of peace and a lot of comfort."

    Tebow barely played for the Jets last season. "An absolute mess," is the way recently retired special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff described it. Tebow has two years left on his contract, but New York is expected to trade or release him in the next few weeks. So far, destination unknown.

    "I can't imagine a scenario in which he'll be a Jacksonville Jaguar," new general manager David Caldwell declared last week. "Even if he's released."

    While there's an outside chance Tebow could remain a New Yorker, depending on the whims of the still -to-be-hired GM, it appears highly unlikely.

    So, that's two NFL teams down — the only ones, at that, who showed any interest last offseason when Denver shopped him — and the 25-year-old Tebow's options appear to be dwindling.

    "Tim Tebow is an extremely popular individual — or, he was," said former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt, now an analyst for NFL.com. "I think his popularity has waned significantly the last three or four months."

    The buzz these days belongs to young quarterbacks such as Washington's Robert Griffin III, Seattle's Russell Wilson, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick. It seems so long ago now that Tebowing — his signature dropping to a knee for a prayerful pose — was all the rage.

    But even Tebow never Tebowed during the regular season for the Jets. Not once. Quite a fall for a Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion with the University of Florida, and whose No. 15 Broncos jersey ranked second in national sales to Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers in 2011.

    "I think it's fair to say," Tebow acknowledged last month, "that I'm a little disappointed."

    Tebow went from being considered a key part of Rex Ryan's offense to almost non-existent. The numbers said it all: a mere 102 yards rushing and 6-of-8 passing for 39 yards. And, the most damning stat of all: zero touchdowns.

    "I would've liked to see him get a chance," defensive end Mike DeVito said.

    It didn't even come when Mark Sanchez struggled so badly that he was benched for the first time in his career. Instead of going with Tebow, the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, Ryan went with third-stringer Greg McElroy.

    Acquiring Tebow ultimately led to GM Mike Tannenbaum and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano losing their jobs. And, it clouded Tebow's prospects in the NFL. No matter what, though, he insists he's a quarterback.

    "I just don't think he will ever be a quarterback in the NFL," Brandt said. "I think he's really smart, but I don't think he has the mental quickness at the position. The second thing is, he just is not accurate."

    Tebow, reportedly working out in Arizona with a personal trainer, could still land somewhere in the league as a project for an offensive coordinator willing to learn from the Jets' mistakes.

    "He's still worth a try and I think somebody will sign him, but it'll be under the condition that it will be as something other than as a quarterback," said Brandt, who thinks Tebow will stay on offense. "If Al Davis were still here, he'd take him in a second and try to turn him into a tight end for the Raiders."

    Or, Tebow could simply swallow his pride, head to Canada and become a huge star there with the CFL's wide-open fields. And then, who knows? Maybe he would come back to the United States — the same route Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia took to NFL stardom.

    "There's no shame at all in going to the CFL," said Eric Crouch, the former Nebraska Heisman Trophy quarterback who played in both the NFL and CFL. "They'd take him right now and he'd get a lot of tape, and if he's there two years, he'd have 50 games under his belt reading defenses and coverages. Let the NFL scouts make their decisions then.

    "And, hey, he might have so much fun there actually playing, he might not want to ever come back."


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    By Matt Thompson, Special to the Times
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    While Jahleel Addae was growing up, he raced off the youth football field every day after practice to get in his dad's car, drink some Gatorade and whip on his soccer gear for travel squad practice.

    "That was when I knew he was something special," said Freddie Addae, his father. "He would do football, go to soccer and dominate, then come home eat dinner and get the books done."

    The last time Jahleel played football in the Tampa Bay area was for Riverview High in 2007. After five years at Central Michigan, he returns home to play in the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday at Tropicana Field.

    "It's great that this game is here," Jahleel Addae said. "A college all-star game could be anywhere in the country, and it's right here in my back yard. I can put on for my city and for the people that love and support me; former teachers, family and friends that have shown me love through the years."

    When Addae left Riverview he was a highly recruited running back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of his last three seasons. Originally committed to West Virginia, Addae ended up at CMU after a coaching change and was switched to wide receiver before finding his calling at strong safety.

    "I've been coaching for 24 years, and I've never seen a running back like him," said Dan O'Regan, Addae's coach at Riverview. "Jahleel had unbelievable vision. He had eyes in the back of his head. He would do flips, cut left and right — everyone stopped and watched when he had the ball to see what he would do."

    When he switched positions, Addae had a secret weapon. His older brother Jahmile, also a Riverview graduate, was a standout free safety at West Virginia, where he earned first-team All-Big East honors as a junior and senior.

    "I was used to having the ball in my hand all the time," Addae said. "When (the switch) first happened, I called Jahmile right away. He told me to relax. He gave me a lot of tips. That summer I came home and did a lot of ball drills with him, a lot of defensive back drills. As the years went on, he just continued to let me grow into my own player."

    During his five years at CMU, Addae was named the team's defensive player of the year as a junior and shared the honor as a senior. He made an All-Mid-American Conference team the past three years as a safety and was named to the Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list, which goes to the nation's top defensive back, before his senior year. He also received a business degree at CMU and is working toward a masters.

    "I'm proud of him, not so much of the football player, but the person he is," Freddie Addae said. "He loves the Lord. It's humbling what he is doing with his gifts from God; that's what drives him."

    Addae sends his father a bible verse every morning, much to his father's pleasure. On Sunday, Addae and the rest of the game participants went to the Shriners Hospital to visit children.

    "The all-star game, playing on national television and having an opportunity to display my talent is amazing, and I'm looking forward to it so much," Addae said. "But the biggest thing for me this week was playing with these kids dancing, putt-putting and seeing a smile on the kids' faces with all they are going through. It's very humbling and makes you very grateful for what you have."

    After the Shrine Game, Addae gets a day off before going to work at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the fields for footwork drills with Athletes Edge training, trying to get his NFL dream. Addae said after one week of workouts there he gained 6 pounds while losing body fat and feeling more agile.

    "It's so hard to tell if a guy will make it in the NFL or not," O'Regan said. "Jahleel has his intelligence on his side, and he has stayed injury-free. He's going to get a chance with a team through the draft or free agency, and I can't imagine the team not keeping him."

    Freddie Addae is expecting 50 or 60 friends and family at the game Saturday to support his son.

    Both Addaes said those days of doing both practices up until his sophomore year of high school were vital to his success now. Addae played sweeper in soccer, the last line of defense in charge of running down defenders, similar to a safety in football.

    "Soccer helped my stamina for running, my footwork and how to keep my balance," Addae said. "Make sure I clean up the defense from side to side."

    Times correspondent Bryan Burns contributed to this story.


    Central Michigan UniversityCentral Michigan University

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    GAINESVILLE — In about a 20-minute span Thursday, Florida lost one defensive coordinator and gained a new one.

    The Gators' Dan Quinn was hired as defensive coordinator for the NFL's Seahawks, replacing Gus Bradley, who was hired as head coach of the Jaguars.

    Florida linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin replaces Quinn and will continue to coach linebackers.

    Durkin, 35, heads into his fourth season at UF, remaining on coach Will Muschamp's staff after Urban Meyer resigned at the end of 2010. Durkin becomes the Gators' fourth defensive coordinator in the past five years.

    "D.J. and I will run the defense, continuing the way that Dan and I did for the past two years," said Muschamp, who has helped coach the secondary in his two seasons at UF. "We will look to add another coach that is the best fit for our staff moving forward."

    The move by Quinn, 42, was not completely unexpected. He joined the Gators in 2011 after spending two seasons as the defensive line coach with the Seahawks. Under Quinn the Florida defense ranked eighth in Division I-A in total defense in 2011 and was No. 5 this past season.

    "I'm happy for Dan and this opportunity," Muschamp said. "I've said before that I always encourage my staff, when opportunities arise, to take the next step in their career. Dan's background is in the NFL, and this is a great chance to go back to a place he's familiar with."

    Ex-Gator off to N.C. State: Former Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett has enrolled at North Carolina State and joins new coach Dave Doeren. Brissett, who lost the quarterback derby to Jeff Driskel at UF and transferred after the season, will sit out 2013 and have two years of eligibility remaining.

    Gator RELEASED from Jail: Florida redshirt freshman Jessamen Dunker was released from the Alachua County Jail after his arrest Wednesday on charges of driving with a suspended license and grand theft of a motor vehicle, a third-degree felony. The offensive lineman was pulled over on campus for riding on a scooter without a motor vehicle tag. After police checked, it was determined the scooter had been reported stolen. Dunker's attorney, Huntley Johnson, said Dunker denies he stole the scooter, that it was purchased.

    Mississippi: Crete (Ill.) Monee High's Laquon Treadwell, rated by Rivals as the No. 1 receiver in the nation, orally committed. He chose Rebels over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

    N.C. State: Cornerback David Amerson is skipping his final season to enter the NFL draft, according to his mother, Tawanna Taylor.

    Southern Cal: Former Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was hired as the new defensive coordinator, ESPN reported. Pentergast was an assistant at USC in 1992.

    Wisconsin: A fourth person has been charged in an attack on running back Montee Ball during the summer. An arrest warrant has been issued for Karlis Griffin, 27, who is charged with substantial battery after a criminal complaint said he stomped on Ball's head.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report.


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    By Jim Huddleston, Times Correspondent
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    What's hot: During January, cold fronts play a major role in where inshore fish will stage to feed. Tide, wind and water temperature help determine which flat or island speckled trout and redfish will hold around. On cooler days, most of these game fish push into the south-facing shorelines that will produce heat as the day goes on.

    Trout: A cold front can move these big females from deeper water and allow great sightcasting opportunities among the shallows. These 4-plus pounders often lay up in 6 inches of water and let the tide flush in an easy meal. Weedless jerkbaits and free-lined shrimp are the best baits after passing fronts.

    Redfish: Check shallow, sandy flats and oyster bars with good current flow. Use light leaders and long casts. Larger fish hang in the drop-offs along the flats and cruise with mullet schools. Cast a weedless gold spoon and work it near the bottom, as this is where reds like to feed.

    Jim Huddleston charters out of Tampa, Palm Harbor and Clearwater and can be reached at (727) 439-9017 and at jimmy@captainhud.com.


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    By Bryan Burns, Times Correspondent
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    ST. PETERSBURG — Standing 6 feet 6, Boston College TE Chris Pantale has been a hard-to-miss target for East quarterbacks during practices leading up to Saturday's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.

    For much of his senior year, however, Pantale was near invisible.

    Before the 2012 season began, Pantale broke a bone in his right foot in practice, forcing him to sit out the first six games. A player who was expected to figure prominently in the offense, Pantale caught only 21 passes for 189 yards, both career lows, in Boston College's 2-10 season.

    "I went through some tough times mentally, physically and emotionally," Pantale said Thursday. "I'm just trying to take this as a learning experience and test my mental fortitude and work through it."

    Pantale has been a favorite target this week, especially in the red zone, where he uses his 255-pound frame to outmuscle smaller defenders. Pantale said this week has been about showing scouts he is fully recovered from his injury.

    "This is sort of a redemption week for me," he said.

    GREAT SCOTT: Arizona QB Matt Scott had a tough call to make as he entered his senior season in 2011.

    Stuck behind Nick Foles, now with the Eagles, Scott knew he wouldn't get much playing time. He chose to redshirt.

    But with the position all his in 2012 after Foles' graduation, Scott had a breakout season, completing 301 of 499 passes for 3,620 yards and 27 touchdowns. Arizona finished 8-5, capped by a victory over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.

    "It turned out to be a good decision," Scott said. "I learned a lot from (Foles) and kind of took that to the 2012 season. It was real tough, though, to sit on the bench and take a back seat. But I felt like it was going to work out in my favor, and it kind of did."

    The arrival of coach Rich Rodriguez and his spread offense also worked in Scott's favor. A dual-threat quarterback in the mold of the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, Scott was a match for Rodriguez's offense. He also rushed for 506 yards and six touchdowns.

    With more dual-threat quarterbacks having success in the NFL, Scott is suddenly a hot commodity.

    "I've still got a long way to go and a lot to learn," Scott said. "But watching guys like Cam Newton and then this year with (Robert Griffin III) and Russell Wilson and those guys, it gives me a lot of confidence and kind of puts me on the map, so to speak, in my preparation for the NFL."

    Scott will battle fellow West QBs Seth Doege of Texas Tech and Alex Carder of Western Michigan for playing time Saturday.

    MISCELLANY: Nevada TE Zach Sudfeld was unstoppable near the goal line for the West. Sudfeld (6-7, 255 pounds) caught all three passes thrown his way on fade routes in the back of the end zone despite double coverage each time. … West players had problems in Thursday's wet conditions, fumbling the ball on three consecutive snaps at one point.


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    ESTERO — On their face, the 17 pounds Steven Stamkos added since his rookie season don't seem like all that much.

    But as Stamkos said, "It's all muscle."

    It was a line thrown out for a laugh more than anything.

    It came, though, as part of a serious conversation about how important strength is to an athlete's success and how muscling up helped the Lightning's star center transform from a skinny but gifted 18-year-old rookie into a player who can impose his will on a game.

    "I'm definitely night and day from where I was when I was 18," said Stamkos, 22, now a well-built though still lean 6 feet 1, 192 pounds. "I've always had confidence in my skill set, but physically, I have confidence now, too."

    It showed last season, when Stamkos became just the 20th NHL player with 60 goals. Most came not from the faceoff circle — where his signature one-timer made him a shooting star — but from close to the net, where you must battle to claim your ice.

    The feat was so prodigious, the Twitterverse is wondering if Stamkos might score 50 goals in the lockout-shortened 48-game season that begins Saturday at home against the Capitals.

    "It's flattering people think that," Stamkos said at Germain Arena, where on Thursday the team ended four days of practice. "But I'm more a realist."

    That said, "I want to score every game," he added. "It's something I know is probably not going to happen, but I want to be the guy they can count on every game and contribute. And we'll see what happens."

    Some of Stamkos' physical gains are simple maturing. But four summers training with former Lightning teammate Gary Roberts amplified the transformation.

    "It's just confidence in your physical ability that you expect to win battles when you go into the corner. You expect to come out with the puck," Stamkos said. "In front of the net, that's another confidence-builder; to be willing to go to those areas and be able to hang in there with some big defensemen in the league."

    Particularly after teams began limiting the shooting lane for his one-timer.

    "We forget he's such a young player," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "To do what he's done in so little time is impressive, but it's because of his attitude he has and his relentlessness to learn and get better. He looks really strong on the ice."

    Next for Stamkos is to win more faceoffs. Fifty percent is the minimum acceptable standard for a center, and he won just 45.5 percent last season.

    Added strength should help, though success in the circle also is about timing, positioning and knowing opponent tendencies.

    Not that Boucher is worried.

    "He's a great chaser," he said of Stamkos.

    And the main prey still is goals. But 50 in 48 games?

    "The sky's the limit," teammate Vinny Lecavalier said. "But the most important thing is his standards. He wants to be better every year. No matter how that transpires, it's going to make us a better team. He's not a guy who is satisfied with what he has."

    Or how strong he is.

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


    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    I want to believe. Even now, even in the middle of the most bizarre story in years, I want to believe.

    I want to believe in character. I want to believe in inspiration. I want to believe the player in question was the victim, not the villain, in this strange, sordid mess of the fabricated girlfriend.

    I want to believe in Manti Te'o.

    Frankly, I'm struggling.

    There has never been a fable such as this one, a touching mixture of linebackers and love, of lies and loss. Why, Te'o was the Notre Dame star who was driven by the deaths of his grandmother and his girlfriend, a wounded soul who endured his pain to lead his team to a turnaround season. It was one of those heart-tugging tales that makes us watch sports.

    As it turns out, however, much of the story was somebody's fiction. As reported by Deadspin, his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never existed. Someone made her up. Someone lied to someone else. Either someone duped Te'o, or Te'o duped everyone else.

    You decide.

    Perhaps, you too wish to believe in Te'o. It's easier to believe in talent. It's easier to believe in production. It's easier to believe the sad story of a player who entertained you on Saturdays.

    There are difficulties, of course.

    To believe in Te'o, you have to believe that he knew Kekua for three years, and that he eventually fell in love with her, even though they never met, not even in November 2011, when Notre Dame played at Stanford, where she was supposedly a student (that was a lie, too).

    To believe in Te'o, you have to believe that they talked nightly on the telephone but neither of them used Skype or FaceTime, the favorite apps of long-distance affairs these days. If they had, Te'o would have noticed that the woman on the other end of the phone didn't have a face to match the "borrowed'' Facebook picture that was lifted from another profile.

    To believe in Te'o, you have to believe that the love of his life was fighting leukemia and yet he never went to her bedside.

    To believe in Te'o, you have to believe he never sent her flowers at the hospital, which would have informed him that it had no such patient, or that he never tried to call her hospital room.

    To believe in Te'o, you have to believe that when he sent flowers to her funeral, the florist never called him to tell him that he could not find such a funeral. One never existed, remember?

    To believe in Te'o, you have to believe the Notre Dame explanation that he only met Kekua online, not Te'o's own explanation that they met when "she saw him'' at a game in 2009. Or the words of the father of Te'o, who said the two had met in Hawaii.

    To believe in Te'o, you have to believe someone concocted an elaborate, cruel farce that lasted for years. You have to believe the scam included a woman who was willing to give up every night to be on the phone with Te'o to advance the plot.

    To believe in Te'o, you have to believe that the perpetrators of the hoax continued although they never asked for money or sought any sort of financial gain.

    To believe in Te'o, you have to believe he was the most trusting, innocent soul on the planet. Think of it like this: If you met someone interesting on the Internet, how many times would someone fail to meet you before you felt you were being played?

    To believe in Te'o, you have to believe that none of this was about the Heisman Trophy.

    That's one theory out there, that Te'o was trying to heighten his profile. Certainly, he wasn't among the Heisman preseason favorites. Sports Illustrated had a list of 12 candidates before the season, and Te'o wasn't on it. But after he made a dozen tackles against Michigan State days after Kekua supposedly died, everyone knew his name.

    According to an article by Tyler Moorehead, a Notre Dame student, there was conversation among Notre Dame players who thought Te'o had embellished his relationship.

    "They recognized what was going on for what it was — a terrible publicity stunt used to fuel Te'o's Heisman campaign,'' wrote Moorehead.

    To believe in Te'o, you have to sort out why he waited three weeks to tell Notre Dame after he received a call from the cell phone of his supposedly dead girlfriend.

    To believe in Te'o, you have to figure out why he kept answering questions about Kekua during the week leading up to the national championship, well after Notre Dame had begun to investigate the hoax.

    To believe in Te'o, you have to disbelieve the Deadspin source who says it is "80 percent'' that Te'o was in on it all along.

    In other words, it takes a lot of faith to buy Te'o as a complete victim here. At the very least, he seems to have helped his story along. There are too many questions, not enough answers. If Te'o was a victim, wouldn't he have shown someone his phone records by now? Wouldn't he have printed out some emails?

    Soon, others will have to decide whether they can believe in Te'o, too. The NFL scouting combine is approaching, and you can bet that NFL teams will arrive with a whole sackful of pointed questions.

    Will this affect the draft status of Te'o? Well, it won't help. And remember this: His best qualities have never been his size or his speed. With Te'o, it has been about leadership and character. If teams question that, yeah, he'll slip, maybe from the middle of the first round to the end.

    Who knows? In the end, perhaps the NFL teams decide they want to believe in Te'o, too.

    You know, despite every instinct that screams otherwise.

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


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    TAMPA — When it comes to recreational vehicles, small is in big demand.

    "Everybody is downsizing," said Dave Kelly, spokesman for the 28th annual Florida RV SuperShow. "People want lighter, more maneuverable RVs."

    The time of the monster motor home has not gone the way of the dinosaur, but the recession has reversed the trend of bigger is better.

    "The market was once 60 percent motor home and 40 percent travel trailer," Kelly said. "But now that is reversed. They are selling 80 travel trailers for every 20 motor homes."

    The downturn in the economy hit the RV industry hard. But according to a 2011 survey by the Reston, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, the number of RV-owning households has grown to a new peak of 8.9 million, up from 7.9 million in 2005.

    The Florida RV SuperShow, at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa through Sunday, features hundreds of recreational vehicles of all varieties and price ranges. You will still find rows of million-dollar motor homes, but the hot buys this year are $20,000 or less.

    "You can't beat a Winnebago," said Melissa Farrior, an RV consultant from Camping World in Bartow. "It is a household name and the quality is just outstanding."

    The bright yellow "Minnie Winnie" weighs less than 3,500 pounds. When I first stepped inside the 20-footer, I thought it would have a sticker price of $40,000 or more, but it was less than half that, starting at $17,000. Equipped with maple cabinets, a kitchen and bathroom, I joked that I could put a satellite dish on top and never go in the office again. The travel trailer, also available in white and fluorescent green, could be towed easily by my 10-year-old sport-utility vehicle.

    "Part of the appeal of these new, lightweight travel trailers is that you don't have to go out and buy a new vehicle to get it to where you want to go," Kelly said. "They can be pulled by any truck or SUV."

    While partial to the Winnebago, the new Rockwood Hardside, a cross between a travel trailer and a tent camper, also caught my eye. The Rockwood reminded me of the popup trailer that my dad used to park on the side our house.

    But unlike that old camper, the Hardside expands into an A-frame with a solid roof and walls, which undoubtedly makes it more durable. The canvas on our old camper was always getting holes poked in it by tree branches, errant arrows and the occasional stray tomahawk. The Rockwood looks like it might even be able to handle my kids, both of whom are notorious tent rippers. The cost: $12,000.

    However, if I win the lottery before Sunday, I am going to spend a good chuck of my loot on something better suited to my nomadic lifestyle: an adventure vehicle. The Bengal TX, a camper mounted on the bed of a 2013 Chevrolet 3500 HD Silverado, can go anywhere, anytime, for no reason at all.

    "We really don't like to call it an RV," said Joe Joyner, a salesman with Tiger Adventure Vehicles in West Columbia, S.C. "That name implies that you are going to park it on the blacktop. This vehicle can go off-road."

    Tiger's line starts at $100,000 and runs up to $150,000. But remember, you get a pickup truck as part of the package. If you don't like Chevy, then mount your camper on a Ford or a Dodge Ram.

    "People are not sitting around waiting to see what happens with the economy," Kelly said. "They want to recreate. If that means making do with a smaller, more affordable camper, then that is exactly what they are going to do."


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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o being the victim or perpetrator of a hoax involving a fictitious girlfriend has spawned more questions than answers.

    Some might be resolved over the next few days, but one won't be until April: What will the scandal do to his draft status?

    Before the maelstrom, Te'o, the runnerup for the Heisman Trophy, was projected as an early first-round pick; as high as No. 8 in some mock drafts. The value of contracts in the first round ranges from more than $20 million for the top five picks to $6 million for the bottom five.

    The most important factors in evaluating players are ability and productivity on film. Te'o will get high marks for both with 113 tackles and seven interceptions in his senior season. But character is important, and NFL teams are used to dealing with drug use, burglary, violent crimes, even domestic abuse. But they have never navigated a situation quite like this.

    "There are so many moving parts to this thing," said Mike Mayock, an analyst for the NFL Network who will call the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Saturday. "I have no idea what the real story is. And I think from an NFL perspective, most teams are going to sit back and wait until the dust clears and do their homework on the kid."

    Te'o, who is training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, has no plans to make a public statement, his agent, Tom Condon, said Thursday. But he will have plenty of opportunities to tell his version of the story. Teams will interview Te'o at the scouting combine, Notre Dame's pro day and private workouts.

    "I try to tell people all the time: This is a process, and we're at the very beginning right now," Mayock said. "Everything plays out over time. All 32 teams will figure it out for themselves."

    Notre Dame officials said they were told about the hoax Dec. 26, and they began their investigation the next day. Te'o couldn't sign with an agent until after the BCS national title game Jan. 7, meaning Condon did not have time to get in front of the story before the website Deadspin broke it Wednesday.

    "Do I think it's a red flag? I do not. It's simply a situation that needs to be further investigated," Bill Polian, the former Bills and Panthers general manager and former Colts president, said during an appearance on ESPN. "It's unfortunate, but it's not uncommon. It's a bizarre story, but there are players in every draft who have situations such as this that need to be examined. And as a matter of course, they generally are."

    Former Falcons and Oilers coach Jerry Glanville, who is coaching the Shrine's East team, said the character threshold is set by the front office.

    "The importance of character goes by who your general manager is," he said. "And I've been with different people at different places. I had a job where we didn't care about character. I learned in my career you still win with character. Coaches put a higher emphasis on character than people running the draft."

    Regardless of a possible involvement in the hoax, teams also must decide if Te'o can cope with ridicule he will face from teammates and opponents.

    "Even if he's not complicit, the embarrassment scale. … Can a linebacker, a search-and-destroy kid who has to play in the NFL and deal with 300-plus pound guys and big running backs and all that other stuff?" Fox Sports college football analyst Charles Davis said during a radio appearance Thursday.

    "Can that person survive embarrassment and still be that guy?"


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    ESTERO — Truth be told, F Pierre-Cedric Labrie was worried about how to make an impression at Lightning training camp.

    "I mean, we weren't allowed to hit anybody," the 6-foot-2, 220-pound downhill-rolling boulder said. "It takes half my game away."

    Even so, after 14 NHL games last season, Tampa Bay coaches knew what Labrie can bring and wanted it on the roster for Saturday's opener at home against the Capitals.

    "I'm never going to take it for granted," Labrie said of the promotion from AHL Syracuse. "Just work and try to get better every day."

    LW Cory Conacher and D Keith Aulie, also promoted from Syracuse, filled out the Lightning's 23-player roster as the team finished four days of workouts at Germain Arena.

    Aulie, 23, was not a surprise. Coach Guy Boucher regularly plays seven defensemen, so keeping him as an eighth is good insurance against injury. There also likely was some concern the 6-6, 217-pounder would be claimed if exposed to waivers to reassign him to Syracuse.

    Conacher, too, was expected. He was the final cut last season, was the 2011-12 AHL rookie of the year and this week played exclusively on a line with C Vinny Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell.

    "I thought he was on fire during the entire camp," Boucher said. "And I didn't make it easy. People think you put those guys with top players it's easier. It's the opposite. You've got to keep up, or you're very easily exposed. What was exposed was his talent, his speed and quickness to react. I like his grit. I like his relentlessness. He deserves it."

    For Labrie, 25, attitude as much as hockey sense earned him a spot, though it helped he is physical, fights and added eight goals in 32 games for Syracuse.

    "He's such a character person and brings unbelievable intangibles," Boucher said. "And he's a good hockey player, too. He can handle the puck, and he's smart."

    "Energy," Labrie said when asked what he brings to the team. "I'm not going to be there for the power play or the (penalty kill). But right after that, if they need momentum back, I'm ready to jump on the ice and get the energy level on our side."

    DEMOTIONS: Forwards Mike Angelidis, Kyle Wilson and J.T. Wyman and D Matt Taormina are on waivers to be reassigned to Syracuse. … F Tyler Johnson, who leads Syracuse with 20 goals and 35 points, and defensemen Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas did not need to clear waivers and were reassigned to the Crunch. Later, Johnson, Barberio and Syracuse RW Richard Panik were named AHL All-Stars.

    BONDING: A Wednesday beach volleyball tournament followed by a yoga session as the sun set were the last activities used by players to promote team chemistry during their trip to southwest Florida. Players also had team dinners, and some played golf as old buddies renewed ties and newcomers were brought into the fold.

    "The whole week was fun. We should do it like this all the time," C Steven Stamkos said. "It was just a great way for the guys to get closer."

    For the record, the team of Stamkos, Lecavalier, Wyman, Tom Pyatt and Sami Salo won the volleyball title with a sweep of the best-of-three championship match from Purcell, Marty St. Louis, Brendan Mikkelson, Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon.

    R&R: Stamkos and LW Ryan Malone were excused from the 20-minute scrimmage that ended practice. Boucher said it was part of his program to manage player rest.

    END POINT: Training camp ends today at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with a short practice at 11:30 a.m. that is free and open to the public. The team will offer a free lunch at 11 a.m. on the arena's west plaza.

    NUMBER SWITCH: Conacher, who wore No. 36 in camp, will wear 89 during the season, the number he wore at Syracuse.




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