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Shooting from the lip


By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
Sunday, August 12, 2012

Biggest dilemma

So the Olympics are over, and there was an interesting dichotomy when it came to NBC's coverage. NBC's television numbers were through the roof, yet the network was roundly criticized for its choices of what it showed and when it showed it.

Viewers complaining about television coverage has become almost as much of an Olympic tradition as lighting the torch. Here are the two major problems with most Olympics when it comes to television in the United States:

1. There are dozens of events going on simultaneously.

2. The Olympics are often held on the other side of the world, meaning they take place several hours before prime time in the United States.

So, a U.S. network has a choice: show as much as it can live during the day and risk losing millions upon millions of prime-time viewers, or show the big events on tape delay in prime time.

The problem with the former is that networks spend so much money on acquiring the rights for the Olympics (NBC, for example, paid $1.81 billion for the London Games) that they want to recoup their money by charging extraordinary advertising rates. The only way to do that is to draw in as many viewers as it can.

The problem with the latter is that it's nearly impossible these days to go hours without learning the results of a big athletic competition. Because of the Internet, smart phones, tickers across the bottom of TV screens, as well as social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, you cannot avoid learning the outcome of a major race or game that happened five, six, seven hours earlier.

NBC thought it had gone a long way toward solving the problem by streaming every event live on its website. That's fine if you really want to see something, but most people would rather watch a sporting event on their high-definition TV, not on a computer monitor or hand-held device that can have streaming issues.

Even with a slew of networks at its disposal, including NBC Sports Network and MSNBC and so forth, NBC still could not show every event live on television. But the error NBC tended to make was purposely not showing marquee events live and saving them for prime time, such as the 100-meter final and the women's beach volleyball gold-medal match.

No matter how NBC covered these Games, there was going to be criticism. Going forward, the network's best philosophy should be this: When in doubt, show it live. And if it's a big enough event, show it again in prime time.

Worst timing

The biggest moment of this Rays season so far was Evan Longoria's return Tuesday after a three-month absence. After 85 games, fans finally had a chance to hear that violin blast of Longoria's walkup song by Tantric. Just the first few notes gives fans goose bumps. Those in person and on TV couldn't wait to hear it for the first time in a while.

Too bad Sun Sports dropped the ball and was in commercial when that moment happened. Here's what happened: Longoria was batting cleanup and the Rays went down in order in the bottom of the first, so he led off the bottom of the second. Sun Sports went to a commercial break after the top of the second and didn't rejoin the broadcast from commercial break until Longoria was already in the batter's box. We missed the walkup song and the ovation. Someone at Sun Sports had to realize that Longoria leading off the second was a real possibility and the decision had to be made earlier in the day to make sure that moment wasn't missed, even if it meant not going to commercial after the top of the second.

Sometimes networks lose touch and forget what is important to the viewers. This was one of those moments.

Biggest distraction

Did you hear that a couple of co-eds running the steps at Missouri's Faurot Field were asked to leave during a football practice because the players were too distracted?

As Graham Watson wrote on Yahoo's college football blog: "If the Missouri coaching staff thinks those two girls are going to be a distraction, they have no idea what their team is in for when they visit an SEC stadium."

Saddest news

Legendary Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan is retiring from his everyday job after 44 years. Ryan announced earlier this year that he was stepping down after the Olympics. Ryan will still write occasionally for the Glob , and he is still expected to appear on ESPN.

In his final regular column on Sunday, Ryan wrote, "So why now? It's time; that's all. … I am fulfilled. But there is something else. I occasionally come across some things I wrote years ago, and I say to myself, 'I did that?' And I know in my heart I really couldn't match that effort today. That's all a writer needs to know."

Three things that popped into my head

1. Another year without Tiger Woods winning a golf major. He will win another someday, maybe two. But he's not going to win the five it's going to take to pass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18.

2. Biggest reason why the Rays have won six in a row? Their lousy competition. But you know what? Pounding weaklings is how most teams make the playoffs.

3. Final thought on the Olympics. They were a blast, but I'm glad they're over.

Worst luck

Tough weekend for CBS as a triple whammy sabotaged its weekend coverage of the PGA Championship. • For starters, bad weather cut short a good portion of Saturday's third round, but not before Tiger Woods, who bogeyed three of the first seven holes in the round to fall off the pace, a trend that continued into Sunday's fourth round. • Finally, on Sunday, Rory McIlroy ran away from the pack and cruised to an easy victory. I'm not a fan of CBS's overly sappy and cheerleading golf coverage, but the network was dealt a rotten hand at the PGA Championship.

Most prophetic comment

I'm a big fan of HBO's reality sport shows and the pioneer is Hard Knocks, which kicked off its eighth season last week by following the Dolphins. The first episode was the usual stuff: players getting ready for camp, a contract negotiation, someone getting cut and a few R-rated words.

This season's debut episode was nothing special. Maybe it's because the Dolphins aren't very dynamic. Joe Philbin seems like a nice enough guy, and he could turn out to be a superb coach, but he isn't quite as charismatic as past Hard Knocks coaches, such as Rex Ryan and Herm Edwards.

Having said that, the show still is highly watchable. The most interesting, and what turned out to be the most prophetic, comment came when Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson, who was clearly going out of his way to be the show's star, joked as he headed out the door on an off day, "I promise I'm getting arrested while we're off."

Johnson was arrested Saturday after being accused of head-butting his wife. The team released him Sunday.

Biggest mistaken identity

During the men's gold medal basketball game Sunday, NBC cameras showed actor Jesse Eisenberg, who is best known for playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in the movie The Social Network. Apparently NBC didn't know the difference. The NBC broadcast team said it was going to put "pictures on Facebook'' and talked about all the major corporate leaders who were in attendance.

tom jones' two cents

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Tom Jones offers up his best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Johnson jobless after arrest


Times wires
Sunday, August 12, 2012

DAVIE — The Dolphins released receiver Chad Johnson hours after he walked out of jail Sunday.

The six-time Pro Bowl receiver was released on $2,500 bail a day after his wife accused him of head-butting her during an argument in front of their home. Johnson was charged with simple domestic battery, a misdemeanor. The confrontation came barely a month after Johnson married Evelyn Lozada, who is on the reality TV show Basketball Wives.

Earlier Sunday, coach Joe Philbin said he had yet to meet with Johnson but would soon. Johnson, 34, had been battling for a spot after a disappointing season with the Patriots.

"We're going to deal with this at the appropriate time," Philbin said. "We're not going to waste time. … We're all in this thing together. Everybody that sets foot in this building, we're all held to a high standard."

Only five days earlier, Philbin said Johnson's roster spot could be in jeopardy if he didn't temper his freewheeling behavior. Johnson annoyed the coach by frequently using profanity during a session with reporters.

Johnson's defense attorney, Adam Swickle, said a no-contact order has been issued that prevents Johnson from contacting Lozada.

Luck sterling in debut

INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck knows life in the NFL can't be this easy for a rookie.

The No. 1 overall draft pick threw his first NFL pass for a long touchdown, just like Peyton Manning in 1998, then led Indianapolis to two more touchdowns. Luck one-upped his predecessor by winning Sunday's preseason opener 38-3 over the Rams, the Colts' first preseason-opening win since 1994.

"To get a win, get in the game and put some drives together is great," Luck said. "But I realize, and the guys in the locker room realize, it's a preseason game and things will be different as the season goes along."

Luck seemed to have Manning's playbook down pat, from the perfect baseball slide to rushing his team to the line of scrimmage so the Rams couldn't challenge a catch on the sideline.

The rookie wound up 10-of-16 for 188 yards with two TD passes and a quarterback rating of 142.6. Three incompletions were drops, two were throwaways and only one pass, the deep out that rookie T.Y. Hilton barely caught on the sideline, came close to being picked off.

PETERSON RETURNS: The Vikings activated running back Adrian Peterson from the physically unable to perform list. Peterson had major knee surgery on Dec. 31.

URLACHER CONFIDENT: Injured Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher expects to be ready for the regular-season opener against the Colts. Urlacher has left knee pain and has not practiced since July 31.

COWBOYS: Rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne, the team's first-round draft pick, will not play tonight at Oakland because of a sprained left knee. Also out will be two-time Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff (foot), defensive end Jason Hatcher (groin), linebacker Anthony Spencer (hamstring) and center Phil Costa (back).

JAGUARS: Wide receiver Lee Evans was released. Evans has 381 receptions for 6,008 yards and 43 touchdowns in an eight-year career.

PACKERS: Running back Cedric Benson officially signed, ESPN reported. With James Starks out with a turf toe injury, Benson has a good chance of starting the season opener.

PATRIOTS: Receiver Plaxico Burress is in New England for a workout. Burress spent last season with the Jets after finishing a 20-month prison sentence on a gun charge.

Ryu adds to resume with Farr rout


Times wires
Sunday, August 12, 2012

SYLVANIA, Ohio — Though it had only been a little more than a year since her victory in the U.S. Women's Open, So Yeon Ryu was already feeling the pressure to win again.

She lapped the field to end the drought Sunday.

Ryu rode a string of six straight birdies to 9-under 62 and a seven-stroke victory in the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic.

"This is just my turning point," she said. "I want to win again."

Ryu began the day in a four-player logjam — all South Koreans — for first. She took the lead alone for the first time with an 8-foot birdie at No. 3 and pulled away with birdies on Nos. 9-14.

"On hole No. 9, I made a really long putt and my confidence level went up," she said.

Still, a good friend had provided a cautionary tale. Yeon Jae Son, competing for South Korea in rhythmic gymnastics at the London Olympics, told Ryu by phone that she got ahead of herself and ended up missing out on a possible medal.

"It made me nervous because I really wanted to win. … She helped a lot," Ryu said.

Ryu (20-under 264) had the lowest final round by a Farr winner by three strokes.

Angela Stanford (66) finished second. Tampa's Kristy McPherson (68) finished at 4-under 280; Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse (69) and Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (70) were at 281.

U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR: Lydia Ko, 15, defeated Boca Raton's Jaye Marie Green 3 and 1 in the 36-hole final in Cleveland.

Tampa Bay Rays' Ben Zobrist insists 10th-inning sac bunt was right decision


By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Sunday, August 12, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — It isn't quite worth billing as the curious case of Benjamin Zobrist, but it was an odd decision when the Rays' No. 3 hitter opted to bunt with two on and no outs and the score tied in the 10th inning.

Though Zobrist did move Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton up to third and second base, and both eventually scored, he also took DH Evan Longoria out of the mix, and actually the game, as the Twins put Longoria on and he was pinch-run for.

Manager Joe Maddon made sure to praise Zobrist for his team-first thinking but said it was the wrong decision: "I prefer him swinging away right there."

Zobrist, however, insisted it was the right play.

"The thing is, it's a one-run game at that point," Zobrist said. "Having the confidence that I have in our lineup up and down, I knew the most important thing was getting the guy from second to third. … I felt good about it. I felt I would do the same thing again, especially with that particular pitcher (Alex Burnett) on the mound. And it ended up working out for us."

BIG GAME: James Shields ended up with another solid outing, impacted and extended a bit by the sloppy defense behind him but toughening when necessary, stranding runners at third in the sixth and seventh innings.

"Today was a grind," he said. "We showed a lot of character as a team. I think those couple of innings when they had man on third with one out and we got out of both those innings, that was a key part of the game."

FERNANDO-MANIA: Uncomfortable after LHP J.P. Howell put two on in the 10th, Maddon called for RHP Fernando Rodney. Four pitches later, Rodney had his major-league-leading 36th save, and team-record-extending 21st straight.

LONGO UPDATE: Longoria went 1-for-4 with an intentional walk as the DH, playing in his sixth consecutive game since returning from the DL.

But it sounds like he may get a rest tonight. Maddon said the three-hour-plus flight from Minneapolis to Seattle will be a factor in what has been a daily decision as they try to make sure Longoria doesn't reinjure the left hamstring that kept him out more than three months.

"The long flight, that would be my biggest concern so we will have to evaluate (today)," Maddon said. "We want him as often as we can but, again, I don't want to get greedy."

OPPOSING VIEW: The Rays left a good impression on Twins manager Ron Gardenhire: "They're hot. That team has been playing a lot better. They get Longoria back and you can see his presence makes a difference there. … It's a very tough baseball team to defend, and also trying to score runs off that pitching staff is tough, too. It's a good baseball team."

REHAB REPORT: DH Luke Scott continued his rehab assignment by going 2-for-6 while playing in both games of a doubleheader for Class A Charlotte. Scott, out since July 21 with a mild oblique strain, will be re-evaluated today and is looking to rejoin the Rays this week.

MISCELLANY: After going a team-record-tying 10 games without an error, the Rays made three on Sunday; their first three-error game since July 20. … Jennings had his third leadoff homer of the season and the fourth of his career.

LeBron: We didn't want an easy win


Times wires
Sunday, August 12, 2012

LONDON — This was no Dream. This was reality. The gold medal was in doubt for the U.S. men's basketball team.

The Americans led Spain by one point after three quarters in a back-and-forth game that almost anyone would hope for in an Olympic final.

Especially, it turns out, the U.S. players. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We didn't want it easy," LeBron James said. "A lot of teams have won gold easy. We didn't want it that way. We're a competitive team, and we love when it gets tight. That's when our will and determination kind of shows. It was the same way in '08."

Same result, too.

The Americans defended their title Sunday by fighting off another huge challenge from Spain, pulling away in the final minutes for a 107-100 victory and their second straight Olympic championship.

James capped one of basketball's most brilliant individual years with a monster dunk and a huge 3-pointer in the final 2:50 that finally ended a Spanish threat few expected after the Americans had been so dominant for so long in London.

Yet four years after beating Spain 118-107 in a classic, the United States found itself in another tight one, unable to ever really slow the Spanish until the closing minutes.

Kevin Durant scored 30 and James had 19 on a day he joined Jordan as the only players to win the NBA title, regular-season MVP, NBA Finals MVP and Olympic gold in the same year.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has said he is retiring as national team coach after restoring the Americans to their place atop the world basketball, emptied his bench in the final minute.

When the final horn sounded, Krzyzewski locked James in a tight embrace as Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA played over the loudspeakers.

For Kobe Bryant, 34 next week, it was his last Olympic moment. "This is it for me," said Bryant, who scored 17 and has a second gold medal to go with his five NBA titles. "The other guys are good to go."

James, Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams also join a list of 13 Americans who have won multiple basketball golds.

The Lakers' Pau Gasol scored 24 for Spain.

"I am disappointed, but on the other side, I'm very proud how of the we competed, how we played," Gasol said. "It's disappointing. … We were right there pretty much the entire game. We let them get away in the fourth, and we couldn't get back."

Sports in brief


Times wires
Sunday, August 12, 2012


Man City Rolls in English Opener

BIRMINGHAM, England — Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri scored second-half goals, and Manchester City beat Chelsea 3-2 Sunday in the Community Shield, the traditional start to the English soccer season.

Fernando Torres put Chelsea ahead in the 40th minute, but the game turned after teammate Branislav Ivanovic was ejected two minutes later for a studs-up tackle into Aleksandar Kolarov.

City, the Premier League champion, won the annual curtain raiser for the first time since 1972. Chelsea won the FA Cup.

"It was a good performance," City coach Roberto Mancini said, acknowledging the advantage of having an extra man. "It had an impact on the game. It is impossible to say 'no' because 11 versus 11 is different. But we played better than Chelsea, played better football."

Also, Man City said it has signed midfielder Jack Rodwell, 21, from Everton to a five-year contract for an undisclosed fee.

More soccer: Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the German Supercup in Munich, ending a run of five consecutive defeats to the league and cup champion.


Djokovic coasts to another Rogers Cup

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic won his second straight Rogers Cup title and third overall, beating Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-2 in Toronto.

Djokovic, also the tournament winner in 2007, won for the first time since the ATP Masters stop in Miami four months ago.

At the women's Rogers Cup in Montreal, 10th-seeded Li Na rallied to beat 16th-seeded Lucie Safarova 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 to reach today's rain-delayed final against fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova.

W&S Open: Tampa resident James Blake, ranked No. 106 at age 32, overcame five unforced errors in the first two games and beat No. 32 Kevin Anderson 7-5, 6-4 in the first round of the Western & Southern Open near Cincinnati. "Everyone in the locker room is making fun of me for being the old guy, saying I should be in the coaching box," he said. "Tonight I had a little bit left."

Et Cetera

Cycling: Switzerland's Johann Tschopp won the Tour of Utah in Park City by 43 seconds over American Matthew Busche.

NHL: The league can cancel the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium as late as Jan. 1, the day of the game, because of a work stoppage due to the "lack of a collective bargaining agreement," the contract with the University of Michigan shows, the New York Times reported. The league would forfeit only $100,000 of its $3 million stadium rental fee.

Times wires

Runnerup stuns in American debut


Times wires
Sunday, August 12, 2012

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — David Lynn hadn't ever had a reason to play a pro tournament in the United States. Now, the Englishman has at least two more big ones after finishing second to Rory McIlroy in the PGA Championship.

Lynn shot his second straight 68 Sunday to finish at 5-under 283, eight shots behind McIlroy. The runnerup finish earned invitations to two of next year's majors, the Masters and the PGA Championship.

Lynn hadn't played in nearly a month, choosing to protect his spot in the top 100 to see if he might qualify for the year's final major. The call came last week and Lynn, 38, was on his way to The Ocean Course.

"It's a little bit surreal right now," Lynn said.

It must be for someone who had never competed in America.

"I've never been exempt to play in anything in America, so that's the reason why I've never been over here," he said. "This is a good start."

Lynn earned $865,000, more than double his season total of $407,636 in 14 events on the European Tour.

So how does a player whose biography includes the line, "Finished inside The European Tour's top 90 for a 12th consecutive season in 2011," make the PGA? He had just missed squeezing in as part of the world's top 100 several times and, ranked No. 98 this year, didn't want to slip out. So he shut down his game after the Scottish Open a month ago.

Lynn has one career victory on the European Tour at the Dutch Open in 2004.

WOODS WANES: It was another wobbly weekend for Tiger Woods at a major.

Woods shot par 72 — after finishing a third-round 74 earlier in the day — and was 11 strokes behind McIlroy. It was a disappointing slide for Woods, who was tied for the lead after two rounds but is still trying for his 15th major title and first since 2008.

"The thing is, to keep putting myself there," he said.

At Kiawah Island, his chance slipped away Saturday, when he bogeyed three of seven holes to start the third round before play was halted by rain.

"I came out with probably the wrong attitude (Saturday), and I was too relaxed, and tried to enjoy it, and that's not how I play," Woods said. "I play full systems go, all out, intense, and that's how I won 14 of these things."

IMPEDIMENT: First-round leader Carl Pettersson suffered a setback on the first hole without even realizing it.

The Swede drove just inside a red hazard line. He checked to make sure his club could touch the grass without grounding the club. That was fine. However, PGA rules officials determined after scrutinizing a video replay that a small leaf moved as Pettersson took back the club. That violates Rule 13-4c — moving a loose impediment while in a hazard — and three holes later he was told it was a two-shot penalty, turning his par to double bogey.

He responded with back-to-back birdies and shot 72, finishing tied for third.

DIVOTS: McIlroy's win ended a streak of 16 different players winning the previous 16 majors. … Vijay Singh, who began Sunday tied for the lead with 27 holes to go, finished at 74 in the morning then shot 77 in the final round, falling to a tie for 36th at 291.

U.S. ends with gold in wrestling


Times wires
Sunday, August 12, 2012

LONDON — Cael Sanderson spent the past seven years teaching Jake Varner how to be a world champion, and he was there Sunday when Varner joined him as a gold medalist.

With Sanderson watching, Varner defeated Valerie Andriitsev of Ukraine to win gold in men's 96-kilogram freestyle wrestling. Coupled with Jordan Burroughs' win Friday, it gave the Americans multiple gold medalists for the first time since 1996.

"Still not sure I'm in his league, but it's awesome to be coached by a guy like that," Varner said of Sanderson, a gold medalist in 2004. "I owe him a lot. It means a lot to have him with me."

Varner and Sanderson's relationship began in 2005 at Iowa State, where Sanderson coached before jumping to Penn State. The day after Varner graduated in 2010, he piled up his car and drove 15 hours to Pennsylvania to train full time with Sanderson.

"That's one of the reasons he's so good," Sanderson said. "He has great composure. That, in addition to just living the lifestyle for a long time. He's the man."

men's marathon: The East Africans were heavily favored to win, but they were Kenyans and Ethiopians, not a Ugandan named Stephen Kiprotich.

On a hot, humid day, Kiprotich cleverly surged into the lead on a turn at 23 miles and pulled away to win in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 1 second. His victory provided Uganda's first gold medal in London and second in Olympic history. Abel Kirui, a two-time world champion from Kenya, took the silver and Wilson Kipsang from Kenya the bronze.

American Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 silver medalist, was fourth. Ryan Hall dropped out after 11 miles when his right hamstring tightened. Abdi Abdirahman left the course after feeling a pop in his knee.

London Olympic news and notes


Times staff, wires
Sunday, August 12, 2012

The mettle of the medals

It isn't all about the medals, in the end. And it is. The glory is supposed to be in the participating in the Olympics, but "Did you medal?" is the place where the conversation always seems to end up. So, for the greater glory, greater national pride, greater inspiration and greater sponsorship dollars of all involved, here's a London breakdown. — Sharon Fink, Times staff writer

Readers ask us

Have Olympic athletes always been allowed to be professionals or did that change at some point? Can Olympic athletes in any event be professionals at that sport?

The Olympics have a long, complicated history with professionalism. Some argue the modern Games have never had a field of true amateurs, as defined by Olympic rules. In 1912, Jim Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon, but a year later his medals were revoked when it was discovered he had played semipro baseball before the Games to support his family. Running great Paavo Nurmi wasn't allowed in the 1932 Games because he had received money for competing. There's also the argument that the Games arbitrarily enforced their amateur rules. In 1952, the Soviet Union and its Communist allies entered the Games with athletes fully supported by their governments. The athletes weren't exactly amateurs, but under Olympic rules they were hard to define as professionals, though being athletes essentially was their job. In 1986 the International Olympic Committee decided to end the debate by changing its rules to allow "all the world's great male and female athletes to participate." Now professionals can compete in any sport under IOC rules.

You said it

The U.S. flag code prohibits draping of the flag on things such as speaker's platforms. Although no mention of draping on sweaty human bodies is made, our victorious Olympic athletes have shown extreme disrespect in doing so. Our country's ensign is not the same as a shawl, towel or any item of wearing apparel. Shame on them.

Bill Unterberg, Spring Hill

104 Medals won by the United States, the most of the 204 countries participating and marking the fifth straight Games in which the U.S. finished at the top of the medals table.

46 Gold medals won by the United States, also the most at the Games and the most for the Americans in a Games outside the United States.

29 U.S. golds won by women, including three by Allyson Felix, below.

255 American athletes who won medals, getting them in 18 of the 28 sports in which the United States participated; 27 won more than one medal, 13 won more than one gold.

4 Americans among the top five on the Games' individual medalists table, all swimmers: Michael Phelps (right, 6), Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt and Ryan Lochte (5 apiece).

29 U.S. medals in track and field, its most in 20 years.

85 Countries won at least one medal. Six countries won their first Olympic medal. One of them is Guatemala, whose lawmakers voted to make Erick Barrondo a knight after he got silver in the 20-kilometer walk.

9 Gold medals of China's 38 won in what Americans like to call the "picnic sports," badminton and table tennis.

0 U.S. gold medals in badminton and table tennis; 0 medals at all for the United States in "picnic sports."

It isn't — and it is — all about the medals in the end. The glory is supposed to be in the participating in the Olympics, but "Did you medal?" is the place where the conversation always ends up. So, for the greater glory, greater national pride, greater inspiration and greater sponsorship dollars, here's a London breakdown.

104 Medals won by the United States, the most of the 204 countries participating and its most in a Games held outside the country, breaking a mark set in Paris in 1924 and matched in Mexico City in 1968

46 Gold medals won by the United States, also the most at the Games; it's the most for the Americans in a nonboycotted Games since 1904.

29 U.S. golds won by women

255 American athletes who won medals, getting them in 18 of the 28 sports in which the United States participated; 27 won more than one medal, 13 won more than one gold.

4 Americans among the top five on the Games' individual medalists table, all swimmers: Michael Phelps (six), Missy Franklin, Allison Schmit and Ryan Lochte (five apiece).

29 U.S. medals in track and field, its most in 20 years

85 Countries won at least one medal

6 Countries won their first Olympic medal. One of them is Guatemala, whose lawmakers voted to made Erick Barrondo a knight after he got silver in the 20-kilomenter walk

9 Gold medals of China's 38 won in what Americans like to call the "lawn sports," badminton and table tennis

0 U.S. gold medals in badminton and table tennis; 0 medals at all for the United States in those sports

readers ask us

Have Olympic athletes always been allowed to be professionals or did that change at some point? Can Olympic athletes in any event be professionals at that sport?

The Olympics have a long, complicated history with professionalism. Some argue the modern Games have never had a field of true amateurs, as defined by Olympic rules. In 1912, Jim Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon, but a year later his medals were revoked when it was discovered he had played semipro baseball before the Games to support his family. Running great Paavo Nurmi wasn't allowed in the 1932 Games because he had received money for competing. There's also the argument that the Games arbitrarily enforced their amateur rules. In 1952, the Soviet Union and its Communist allies entered the Games with athletes fully supported by their governments. The athletes weren't exactly amateurs, but under Olympic rules they were hard to define as professionals, though being athletes essentially was their job. In 1986 the International Olympic Committee decided to end the debate by changing its rules to allow "all the world's great male and female athletes to participate." Now professionals can compete in any sport under IOC rules.

You said it

The U.S. flag code prohibits draping of the flag on things such as speaker's platforms. Although no mention of draping on sweaty human bodies is made, our victorious Olympic athletes have shown extreme disrespect in doing so. Our country's ensign is not the same as a shawl, towel or any item of wearing apparel. Shame on them.

Bill Unterberg, Spring Hill

Rory McIlroy runs away with PGA Championship


Times wires
Sunday, August 12, 2012

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Rory McIlroy dressed the part as golf's next star and played like it, too.

Saving his bright red shirt for Sunday in the PGA Championship, McIlroy never gave anyone much of a chance. Two exquisite shots with the wedge set up back-to-back birdies to seize control of the final round. He never made a bogey over the final 23 holes of his marathon day.

McIlroy validated his eight-shot win at the U.S. Open last year by blowing away the field Sunday at Kiawah Island. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland is the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros to win two majors. Tiger Woods, who always wears "victory red" on tournament Sundays, was about four months older than McIlroy when he won his second.

"I think I heard Tiger say, 'You can have a good season, but to make a good season a great season, you need a major championship,' " said McIlroy, who returned to the No. 1 world ranking. "Now I've had two great seasons in a row no matter what happens from here in now."

Standing on the 18th tee with a seven-shot lead, McIlroy turned to caddie J.P. Fitzgerald and said, "I'm going to win this one by eight, as well."

After a roar on his way to the green from a gallery that chanted his name, McIlroy hit a 25-foot birdie, saving enough strength to lift the heavy Wanamaker Trophy after another Grand Slam command performance.

He shattered the scoring record at the 2011 U.S. Open. This time he broke Jack Nicklaus' record in the PGA Championship for margin of victory.

"It was a great round of golf. I'm speechless," McIlroy said. "It's just been incredible. I had a good feeling about it at the start. I never imagined to do this."

McIlroy took the lead for good Sunday morning with back-to-back birdies on the back nine to finish a rain-delayed third round at 67 for a three-shot lead. Only Ian Poulter got within two shots in the final round, and that only briefly. McIlroy finished with a bogey-free 6-under 66 for 13-under 275 total.

David Lynn, a 38-year-old from England playing in America for the first time, won the B-flight. He closed with 68 and was the runnerup at 283.

Woods was never a serious factor in closing with par 72. He failed to break par on the weekend in any of the four majors for the first time in his career.

After winning the Honda Classic in March to reach No. 1 for the first time, McIlroy missed four cuts in five tournaments as questions swirled about whether his romance with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki was hurting his game.

Instead, McIlroy put a big hurt on the best field of the year.

"I was a little frustrated with how I was playing earlier on in the year, but a few people in this room were probably pushing panic buttons for no reason," McIlroy said.

Poulter challenged early. He started the final round six shots behind and made six birdies through seven holes to get within two. But three straight bogeys on the back nine ended his bid as he settled for 69 and 4-under 284, tied for third with Justin Rose (66) and defending champion Keegan Bradley (68).

After the U.S. Open last year, Padraig Harrington suggested that perhaps McIlroy — not Woods — might be the one to challenge the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus.

Harrington marvels at what McIlroy has already done.

"He lapped the field and that's twice he's done that," Harrington said. "Quite impressive, isn't it?"

Mets 6, Braves 5


Times wires
Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mets 6, Braves 5

NEW YORK — Jonathon Niese pitched eight six-hit innings, David Wright sparked the offense with two doubles against Ben Sheets and New York just hung on to salvage the finale of a three-game series. Down 6-1, Atlanta scored four runs with two outs in the ninth before Jon Rauch struck out Jason Heyward to end the game.

Partial-season plan is Tampa Bay Buccaneers' latest effort to move tickets


By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
Monday, August 13, 2012

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have acknowledged ticket sales remain sluggish, due in part to the area's economy.

Today, they announced another move toward addressing the issue, unveiling two so-called "half-season" ticket plans that will allow fans more flexibility.

There are two available plans. The Red Plan includes games against the Titans (preseason), Panthers, Redskins, Saints and Chargers. The Pewter Plan offers games against the Patriots (preseason), Chiefs, Falcons, Eagles and Rams.

"We're leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to maximize home-field advantage," Brian Ford, Bucs vice president of business administration said. "The half-season plan is designed to give a greater number of Bucs fans more chances to come out and support their team on Sundays."

Pricing varies but plans will be discounted compared to individual-game tickets, the team said. Also, seats are available in general-admission and club-seat sections.

While these plans offer fans more options, the mere fact the Bucs are offering them is more evidence the team is still struggling to sell tickets amid a down economy that is compounded by the team's 4-12 finish in 2011. The Bucs are one of three teams to take advantage of the NFL's optional softened television blackout restrictions, allowing blackouts to be lifted if 85 percent of non-premium seats are sold at least 72 hours before kickoff.

According to co-chairman Bryan Glazer, the Bucs still can't say whether blackouts can be avoided because the pace of sales isn't where it needs to be.

"We want to give our fans every opportunity to watch as many games as they can this year," he said. "But I cannot stand here today and predict how many there will be (on television). But we're hopeful there will be more games on television than last year."

The Bucs have had 13 of their past 15 regular-season games blacked out dating to 2010.

Special teams could help Michael Smith make Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster


By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
Monday, August 13, 2012

TAMPA — Bucs rookie RB/KR Michael Smith says he has seen the replay of his 74-yard punt return Friday night in Miami and was excited to make a splash in his NFL debut.

"I thought I was gone," he said.

The seventh-round pick took the ball 2 yards in the end zone, raced up the middle and broke three tackles before getting caught from behind near the Dolphins' 30-yard line. He displayed the speed and strength that helped him set rushing records at Utah State.

Though Smith, 5 feet 9, 205 pounds, is in the mix as a reserve running back, special teams — specifically returns — can help him make the roster.

"I can do running back, do special teams — I play every special team except field goal," Smith said. "I'm just working hard to show my speed, my strength, my effort, that I want to be here."

HIGH PRAISE: WR Vincent Jackson was among a constellation of offensive stars with the Chargers in recent years. He believes the lesser-known Bucs are just as talented.

Jackson said QB Josh Freeman is among the top five at his position in the NFL.

"We were a little more flashy as far as the names go (in San Diego), but I think we're just as talented here all the way across the board." Jackson said. "We have tight ends, running backs and obviously, Josh Freeman, and he's a quarterback I think should be mentioned among the top five in the league."

ON THE LINE: After a full-team drill featuring a fumble by Doug Martin and assorted penalties, coach Greg Schiano implored his players to be sharper with a little, um, encouragement.

"Two fumbles and a holding penalty — start the period over," Schiano yelled. "There's one way here; we're not going to compromise."

When the miscues continued, Schiano stopped practice, took the team to midfield and delivered another tongue-lashing.

It was just the second time during training camp that Schiano has used such measures.

"Sometimes that happens," Schiano said. "If you're a little sloppy, you stop it and get it back on the right path."

TICKET TIME: The Bucs announced they'll have a half-season ticket; fans can buy one of two five-game plans. Each option includes one preseason game. The prices are between the cost of a single-game ticket and a full-season pass.

MEDICAL MATTERS: TE Luke Stocker left practice early. Schiano didn't know the nature of the injury, only saying he didn't feel well. … Schiano said OT Donald Penn (calf) is progressing, but won't play until he's ready. Schiano said if there were a regular-season game this week, Penn might play. … S Mark Barron, who missed Friday's game due to a toe injury, practiced, as did TE Dallas Clark and CB Aqib Talib.

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

Damien Edwards hopes to seize chance with USF Bulls


By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
Monday, August 13, 2012

VERO BEACH — For four years, Damien Edwards has waited for an opportunity to make an impact for USF football, so the starting left guard job is not something he's going to let go of easily this fall.

"This is my last go-round," the 6-foot-5, 325-pound lineman said last week during the Bulls' 11 days of camp at Vero Beach Sports Village. "It's that much more important to me, as far as holding that spot. I try to be a leader, and do what I need to do to not only keep my spot, but to help along the other guys, to be that kind of example."

Last year's starter, Jeremiah Warren, is in NFL preseason camp with the Patriots. USF's coaches had options this spring in promising newcomers such as junior college transfer Lawrence Martin or redshirt freshman Brynjar Gudmundsson. Edwards had been a backup at tackle, but coaches moved him inside, and he took well to the move, leaving spring drills as the projected starter.

"Damien Edwards is a great story of perseverance, of a guy who's just hung in there and kept battling," coach Skip Holtz said. "He's been a backup since he's been here. …

"When the hole opened when we lost a couple guys to graduation, we looked at it and said we could put a redshirt freshman in there, we could put a junior college player, but we had a fifth-year senior there as a backup tackle. He said, 'Coach, I'll do it. If that's what I have to do to get on the field and play and help this team, I'm more than happy to move.' I really feel like he's solidifying that position at the left guard spot. He's a senior, he's a leader and he's embraced the role."

Edwards has never played more than five games in a season, mostly on special teams and at the end of lopsided games. In 2010 he got in against Florida, but false-start penalties on back-to-back plays sent him back to the bench. Offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler said the key to Edwards' emergence has been finding the same confidence in himself that the coaches had in him.

"He's matured. He's taking football more seriously," Shankweiler said. "In the past, he worked hard, but I'm not sure he believed the same things I believe, as far as him being a really good player, that he had the confidence level you need to have to be a star at the BCS level. He has worked his tail off, reshaped his body. He's come into camp with a great deal of confidence, and I'm looking forward to seeing him develop the rest of camp."

Much of USF's roster is from Florida or the Southeast. He came to the Bulls from Chandler, Ariz., though he has strong roots in Tampa. His father, Earl, graduated from Blake High in 1964 and spent 11 years in the NFL as a defensive tackle; he's now a member of the Tampa Sports Hall of Fame. Edwards' brother, Gavin, played college basketball at Connecticut.

Edwards needs a different mentality as a guard, where there's less room and more direct physical battles with the heavier interior linemen working across from him.

"A guard's mentality is almost a bulldog's mentality: You don't back up," said Edwards, who earned a degree in communications this spring and is now working on a second degree in sociology. "You don't give anything. You have to stay there and be solid."

If Edwards can hold his starting position, the Bulls will have three fifth-year seniors on the line, with left tackle Mark Popek and right guard Danous Estenor, along with sophomores Austin Reiter at center and Quinterrius Eatmon at right tackle. Edwards likes the cohesiveness and chemistry of the unit, something he hopes will only improve before USF's season opener Sept. 1 against I-AA Chattanooga.

"We just jell so well together," he said. "This group is as together as I've seen, even down to the younger guys. We eat with them, this and that. I feel like we're a tight group. It's all about developing everybody, getting everybody better."

Captain's Corner: Chumming in deeper water attracts fish on hotter days


By Rob Gorta, Times Correspondent
Monday, August 13, 2012

What's hot: Deep grass flats around Pinellas Point are providing some of the best action. Water temperatures are much cooler than in the shallows where it can be in the 90s. Redfish become lazy and won't eat with temperatures that high, so I head to deeper water for nonstop action including Spanish mackerel, jacks, trout, snapper, ladyfish, bluefish and sharks.

Tactic: I use the bottom machine to locate the area I want to anchor and fish. Sand will be a flat line, and grass will be jagged and a different color. Once anchored throw out live chummers, which will trigger any species in the area. Continuous chumming is required to keep the action steady. A long shank hook with 40-pound leader will prevent cutoffs from sharks and mackerel.

Bait: The hatch has taken place so there are many tiny baits on the bridges and flats. I like to use a quarter-inch mesh glass minnow cast net this time of year. Throw chum over any grass flat to attract plenty of whitebait to fill the well.

Rob Gorta charters out of St. Petersburg. Call him at (727) 647-7606 or visit captainrobgorta.com.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: About 25 alumni return for day at camp


By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
Monday, August 13, 2012

Practice blast from the past

About 25 former players attended Monday's practice on Bucs alumni day.

Former S Mark Robinson said he appreciates the team opening up its facility, adding that the "welcome environment" was sparked while Jon Gruden was coach.

"We're all part of the process of building," said Robinson, who played for Tampa Bay from 1988-93 and is a USF football analyst. "Whether you were the first Buccaneer or the last one to get cut here, you're a Buc. And I like they (welcome us back)."

The former Bucs liked what they've seen from new coach Greg Schiano.

"Schiano brings some iron fist, which isn't bad," Robinson said. "I think it's good for players to come out and have some challenges, because I don't think you can put a premium on hard work. I think it'll sift some people out, and hopefully it'll put a better product on the field."

Said former WR Horace Copeland (1993-98): "He's going to push the guys to the max, get the most potential out of (them) and I think that's what it's all about. If they keep it up, it's good potential for the season."

Schiano said he was pleased to see so many former players back, but was disappointed he didn't get to talk to them; a lightning alarm cut short practice and the alumni left before he could come back out after a team meeting. "So much for that reunion," Schiano quipped.

Schiano said he'd like his players to follow a similar model of investing in the community. "It's neat that they're out," Schiano said of the alumni. "And I'd like them to stay part of this program as much as we can."

Quote of the day

"You'll see him do everything — deep, short, under. He's capable of every route on the tree, and he's capable of running them well."

Schiano, on WR Vincent Jackson's ability to go over the middle

Joe Smith, Times staff writer

Training camp

Where: One Buc Place, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, just east of Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Admission: Free. All practices are weather permitting and subject to change. For updates, go to buccaneers.com.


Public practice

Today: 8:45 to 11:30 a.m.

Preseason games

Friday: Titans, 7:30, Ch. 10 *

Aug. 24: Patriots, 7:30, Ch. 10 *

Aug. 29: at Redskins, 7:30, Ch. 10

Regular season

Sept. 9: Panthers, 4:25, Ch. 13 *

Sept. 16: at Giants, 1, Ch. 13

Sept. 23: at Cowboys, 1, Ch. 13

Sept. 30: Redskins, 4:25, Ch.13 *

Oct. 14: Chiefs, 1, Ch. 13 *

Oct. 21: Saints, 1, Ch. 13 *

Oct. 25: at Vikings, 8:20, NFLN

Nov. 4: at Raiders, 4, Ch. 13

Nov. 11: Chargers, 1, Ch. 10 *

Nov. 18: at Panthers, 1, Ch. 13

Nov. 25: Falcons, 1, Ch. 13 *

Dec. 2: at Broncos, 4, Ch. 13

Dec. 9: Eagles, 1, Ch. 13 *

Dec. 16: at Saints, 1, Ch. 13

Dec. 23: Rams, 1, Ch. 13 *

Dec. 30: at Falcons, 1, Ch. 13

* Subject to blackout

ESPN: Mathieu hoping to get another chance at LSU


Times wires
Monday, August 13, 2012

Former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is considering sitting out this season, enrolling in classes and trying to return to the program in 2013 if it can be worked out with the school, ESPN.com reported.

According to the website, Mathieu has not been declared permanently ineligible and could be reinstated. He has two years of eligibility remaining and three years in which to use it.

"If Tyrann chooses to return to LSU as a student he can do so. We are not speculating on anything beyond that," an LSU spokesman told the website.

Mathieu was dismissed from the team Friday after failed substance-abuse tests, but he was not dismissed by the university. The possibility of reinstatement would have to be approved at many levels, including university administration as well as coach Les Miles.

McNeese State remains an option, according to ESPN.com.

MYSTERY TRANSCRIPT: North Carolina is investigating how what appears to be a transcript for former football star Julius Peppers surfaced on the university's website. In a statement, the school said it has removed the link and couldn't discuss confidential student information covered by federal privacy laws. The school didn't confirm the authenticity of the partial grade summary, which lists Peppers' name at the top.

The link, which surfaced late Sunday, showed Peppers, at UNC from 1999-2001, received some of his highest grades in classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. A school investigation has found fraud and poor oversight in 54 AFAM classes between summer 2007 and summer 2011, with football players making up more than a third of the enrollments and student-athletes making up 58 percent of the overall enrollments in those classes.

NORTHWESTERN: Coach Pat Fitzgerald said running back Treyvon Green is doing well and should be ready for the season opener after a scare at practice last week. Green took a hit to the chest and stayed down as medical staff tended to him. He was taken to a hospital.

Braves to let six starters battle for five rotation spots


Times wires
Monday, August 13, 2012

ATLANTA — The Braves are moving to a six-man rotation for two weeks.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Monday he'll pick the best five starters at the end of August. The Braves are in a stretch of playing 20 consecutive days before a day off on Aug. 30.

"After that, we're going with five," Gonzalez said. "Somebody is going to have to go to the bullpen and that's just the way it is."

Gonzalez said he will not defer to seniority when picking his five-man rotation for September as the Braves chase first-place Washington in the NL East.

"No, we'll go with our best five and I can promise you on that," he said. "Our best five, or the five healthiest guys."

The Braves created a surplus in their rotation last month by trading for LHP Paul Maholm, signing RHP Ben Sheets and moving RHP Kris Medlen from the bullpen. RHP Tommy Hanson, who leads Atlanta with 12 wins, returns from the disabled list this week and is scheduled to start Friday against the Dodgers.

Hanson has been out with a strained lower back since July 31.

O'S ADD RELIEVER: The Orioles acquired LHP J.C. Romero from the Indians for minor-league INF Carlos Rojas. Romero, who was released from the Cardinals on May 14 after posting a 10.13 ERA in 11 games, is 34-28 with a 4.15 ERA over a 14-year career.

CARDINALS: An MRI exam revealed cartilage damage behind 1B Lance Berkman's left knee. The slugger, already on the disabled list, is unlikely to return this month.

DODGERS: 3B Jerry Hairston went on the 15-day disabled list with a left hip injury. INF Elian Herrera was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque.

PHILLIES: OF Nate Schierholtz went on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured right big toe and is expected to miss three to four weeks.

RED SOX: RH reliever Andrew Bailey, out all season with a right thumb injury that required surgery, is expected to be activated from the disabled list today.

TWINS: INF Tsuyoshi Nishioka was sent back to Triple-A Rochester after going 0-for-12 with three errors over the past week. 3B Trevor Plouffe was reinstated from the disabled list.

WHITE SOX: 1B Paul Konerko cleared a battery of post-concussion tests and will resume physical activity today.

YANKEES: The club officially signed RHP Derek Lowe to a major-league contract and said it planned to use him in the bullpen.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Mattias Ohlund better, but ice time is still distant


By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
Monday, August 13, 2012

BRANDON — In two months, Mattias Ohlund has increased from 10 to 20 the exercise repetitions he can perform with his left knee.

A 30-minute walk with his family is no longer a test of how much pain he can endure.

"And I'm not laying on the couch with my knees up and ice packs on them," Ohlund said. "My daily activities are perfectly fine."

It is his hockey career that is teetering.

The Lightning defense- man is six months removed from major surgery in which a thin layer of titanium was used to resurface his femur at the patellofemoral joint behind his kneecap. That created a cushion where cartilage had flaked away and bone-on-bone rubbing caused such severe pain, Ohlund missed all last season.

There is no guarantee, though, the surgery — basically a partial joint replacement — will allow him to play.

"Do I have a dream to still play hockey? Yeah, I do," Ohlund, 35, said Monday after a workout at the Ice Sports Forum. "I'm slowly getting better. But I don't know what the end result will be."

Ohlund could not say if this is the most difficult test of his career. There was the time, after all, when he was 20 and playing in his native Sweden that he lost for two months the vision in an eye hit by a puck. And even if he never again plays in the NHL, the surgery, he said, "definitely was a success as far as, my normal life is better."

Still, any athlete wants to go out on his own terms, which is why Ohlund, scheduled to make $5 million next season and with four years, $11.75 million left on his contract, will exhaust all efforts to get back.

It will be a long process.

As much progress as he has made, there still is no timetable to get Ohlund on skates. Ohlund isn't even jogging and admitted there is pain in his knee which might never fully disappear.

He certainly won't be ready for the start of the season, and general manager Steve Yzerman said he put together next season's squad "with the assumption (Ohlund) wouldn't be ready to go."

That is a continuing blow to a team that could use the hard-hitting 6-foot-4, 229-pounder, especially on the penalty kill.

"He was such an important part of our team (in 2010-11)," Yzerman said. "If we were able to get him back it would be a big help."

Lightning assistant athletic trainer Mike Poirier said Ohlund, who last week returned to Tampa after rehabbing for two months in Sweden, is at least headed in the right direction.

"Significantly improved," Poirier said. "When he left me he could only get to 10, 12 reps; it was painful. Now he can do 15 to 20 reps without pain. The next step is to build him up even more."

"Nobody has told me this is impossible," Ohlund said of a comeback in his 14th NHL season.

"Have I thought about not being able to play? Absolutely. But at this point my focus is to get better tomorrow and the next day. I can see improvements. I'm not sure where it will take me but I'm quite positive about how I feel compared to a couple of months ago."

For now, that is all he can ask.

Around the league

TORONTO — The NHL Players' Association is preparing to present its vision for a new collective bargaining agreement to the league when labor talks resume today.

Just don't call it a counterproposal.

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said Monday the union's proposal will offer a "different kind of an approach" and an "alternate view."

The presentation comes a month after the NHL made its first proposal, which included a 20 percent reduction of players' share of revenues and limitations to free agency.

AVALANCHE: Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere signed a one-year contract extension through 2013-14.

FLYERS: Defenseman Andreas Lilja had left hip surgery last month, and is expected back no sooner than late October.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

Gerald McCoy back on track to be everything Tampa Bay Buccaneers need him to be


By Rick Stroud, Times staff writer
Monday, August 13, 2012

TAMPA — Gerald McCoy is larger than life. For the third straight year, the Bucs defensive tackle's oversized image is plastered on an outside wall in a corner of Raymond James Stadium.

A torn biceps tendon in each arm has reduced his career to four sacks in only 19 games, meaning McCoy has not been seen nearly as much on the playing field as he has outside the stadium.

The billboard is another reminder of how the spotlight seems to always fall on McCoy, illuminating his flaws.

"I think sometimes he's had a bad stretch, a bad run," coach Greg Schiano said. "I'm hoping that's all behind him because he's a key to our defense."

That's why the Bucs 20-7 preseason win at Miami on Friday was so important to McCoy, the No. 3 overall pick in 2010.

Playing for essentially his fourth and fifth defensive line coaches in three years, McCoy was disruptive. He bull-rushed tackle Jake Long, knocking him off balance but failing to finish a tackle of running back Reggie Bush in the backfield. On another play, McCoy jumped inside tackle Artis Hicks and leveled Bush for a loss. In two series, McCoy totaled a tackle and two assists while helping to keep the Dolphins from scoring.

"Man, it's been a long time for me," McCoy said Monday. "Week 5 of last year. I came back, played like three or four snaps against the Saints. I haven't played a real game since Week 5. But it felt good. You always know you love something when it electrifies you, so I had a blast."

That's the impact the Bucs expected from McCoy when he signed a five-year, $63.42 million contract with $35 million guaranteed.

McCoy was taken one pick after the Lions took defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who had 10 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Several teams and draft analysts had McCoy rated higher than Suh coming out of the draft.

"They're the two best players in the draft, by far," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said at the time. "I love Suh, but this has become a pass-first league, and I think McCoy's the better NFL player."

Last season, Suh found life a little tougher. He had only four sacks and stomped Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith, drawing a two-game suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell.

Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, McCoy had a long and painful rehab of a biceps tear, this time in his right arm. McCoy said there were a lot of down days.

"So many," McCoy said. "It was a bunch. It was a whole bunch. But that's what comes with the territory of being a professional. You can't really call yourself a professional if you don't have tough days and learn how to work through them.

"Young guys have those tough days and they say I can't do it anymore and they just quit. But when you become a professional, there are going to be a lot of down days. Especially if I want to play as long as I can play — 10 or 12 years. I have to learn to push through it and make the best of it."

If anything, McCoy's sunny disposition has been confused for something else. You can't live soft and play hard. That has been the popular refrain regarding McCoy.

This season, he seems even more focused. He has 30,000 followers on Twitter but has posted only one tweet since June 25.

"I thought he's performed very well," Schiano said. "I think he's got some elite ability."

Teammates marvel at his resiliency.

"He's Gerald, man. There's no other way to say it," nose tackle Roy Miller said. "He's positive, he's upbeat. I think his faith has a lot to do with that. … You talk about somebody to look up to, that everybody has been on his back. But he's just been steady, focusing on what he has to do.

"He's an elite player. His get-off and his strike, there's not too many guys who do that."

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@tampabay.com.

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