Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sports Blog Today

Tank is signed through 2008 …no signing bonus at all…

Under league rules, the Cowboys had to put Johnson on the active roster for a day before he would move to the reserve/suspended list, so they waived cornerback Nate Jones. Should Jones clear waivers, he could be brought back.

The difficult question is when Johnson will be able to make his debut.

According to the NFL, Johnson, who has already served two games of an eight-game suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy, cannot play until Nov. 11 at the New York Giants, because that is the Cowboys' eighth game. However, the Cowboys' bye week is Oct. 28 (Week 8), and if he had remained unsigned until then, he would have been eligible to play Nov. 4 at Philadelphia.

It could all be moot if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reduces Johnson's suspension to six games, which remains an option. When Goodell announced he was suspending Johnson on June 4, he left open the possibility of reducing the penalty, but Johnson will have to apply for reinstatement early next month.

A June arrest for driving while impaired in Gilbert, Ariz., could adversely affect the chances of the suspension being shortened, but those charges were eventually dropped. If Goodell lessens the suspension to six games, then Johnson could be available Oct. 21 against Minnesota.

The Cowboys will pay Johnson a prorated base salary of $510,000 this year, depending on how many games he plays, and he will earn a $605,000 base salary in 2008 with the chance to earn more money through incentives. He is not paid during the suspension, nor do league rules allow him to be at the team's Valley Ranch facility to work out.
The Cowboys' need for Johnson became greater when starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson was lost for the season with a torn right triceps. With Jay Ratliff the starter and inexperienced Remi Ayodele as the backup, Johnson was the best alternative available. In 46 games with Chicago, Johnson had 63 tackles and nine sacks, but he has never played in a 3-4 scheme the Cowboys' use.

Before signing, Johnson, 25, met with Jerry and Stephen Jones and also had a physical. His past, which included a February stay in jail for violating probation stemming from a gun charge, is certainly an issue. Before the 2004 draft, the Cowboys removed him from their draft board because of character issues, although Chicago drafted him in the second round.

If you don’t know his rap sheet, Here is what Tank has done so far

At Halas Hall, Johnson's locker is the picture of a family man. On a wooden shelf above his white No. 99 Chicago Bears practice jersey sits a framed photo of his two daughters, ages 3 and 21 months, the two people he unquestionably tells you are the center of his world.

"What's happened to me, you know, could have happened to any man. So, as a man you put it on your shoulders and you handle it and you deal with it like a man."
-- Chicago's Tank Johnson

But the rap sheet tells a different story. It tells the story of a man, who, as he was being arrested last February on charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest -- charges that were later dropped -- told an officer, according to several published reports, "You ain't the only one with a Glock. If it wasn't for your gun and your badge, I'd kick your ass."

It tells the story of a man who was charged with six counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and four counts of unlawful possession of ammunition after last month's raid, in which authorities found several guns and ammunition within sight of Johnson's two daughters. And the rap sheet tells a story of a man who, despite promising to clean up his act following the police raid on his home, was at a downtown club two days later with Posey when his friend was shot and killed.

At the time of his death, Posey, 26, was out on bail after being charged with possessing the marijuana that was found in the raid. Cook County authorities have since charged Michael Selvie, 34, an alleged gang member, with first-degree murder in Posey's death.

But even the way Johnson is perceived by the authorities is somewhat muddled. While police documents obtained by reveal a man whose home Gurnee Police visited 30 times in the past two years, only seven of those visits resulted in police reports being filed. Of those, five involved Johnson's pit bulls. Another was for a shot-fired call and the last involved a domestic dispute between a female business associate of Johnson's and her fiancée.

"It's not like he's a menace to the neighborhood," Gurnee Police commander Jay Patrick said.

But the two sides to Tank Johnson are nothing new. Since the days of growing up in Gary, where gang members once poured gas on Johnson and threw a match at him, his has been a life caught in the middle of the tug-of-war between good and bad.

His parents, Johnson has said previously, were drug users. He attended a different school every year between kindergarten and sixth grade. His mother left the family when he was 8. His father spent time in prison. Not until his father moved the family to Arizona and they met a local Sunday school teacher, who eventually became Johnson's guardian, did he find any consistent structure in his life.

At the University of Washington, he was labeled a selfish player. But after doing an extensive background search, the Bears selected Johnson with the 47th pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

But it all came to a boil over the last month and the team was criticized for not cutting Johnson after everything that happened. But while that might have seemed like a simple solution and an easy decision, it was anything but for Bears general manager Jerry Angelo. Angelo went against his first instinct and kept Johnson after being convinced he would change his lifestyle. Johnson said he would seek counseling and submitted a list of other changes he would make. Still, Angelo suspended Johnson for a game as well. Despite all this, Johnson's Bears teammates have no trouble lining up to support their 25-year-old teammate. And with the loss of Tommie Harris due to a season-ending hamstring injury, Johnson's teammates need the defensive tackle now more than ever. Johnson, who has 26 tackles and 3½ sacks this season, will be a key part of a Bears defense asked to slow Reggie Bush, stuff Deuce McAllister and put pressure on New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.

"Tank's a good guy," defensive end Alex Brown said. "He was doing a lot of good things before this all kind of hit the fan. Everything sort of came down on him at once. A lot of people would have folded. But he's a strong guy, he's working his way through it and once he gets through he'll be stronger in the end."

"He's my friend. He's a good guy," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "He may have made some bad decisions, but he is a good guy. To me he's been a good guy, to our team he has been a good guy … it hasn't been hard for our team to stand behind him."

The NFL Pension controversy continues

Since last year, a growing number of former NFL players, some of whom testified Tuesday, have grown increasingly agitated over the plight of men who made the game what it is today, but who struggle with financial and medical problems that some blame on an inadequate retirement plan.

Upshaw and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, both of whom skipped a pair of House subcommittee hearings on the same divisive issues, on Tuesday defended professional football's retirement programs yet acknowledged the system isn't perfect.

Goodell testified that recent rule changes and other improvements being contemplated will reduce paperwork and make the disability application process less onerous for aging NFL retirees. The commissioner also said that "we have more work to do. . . . The men who played professional football decades ago deserve our respect and recognition, and their contributions to our game must never be overlooked."

Upshaw, who said he grows "distressed when I hear about any former player who is hurting and in need," testified that "the system can be improved, and Commissioner Goodell and I are determined to simplify and expedite the processing of claims."

Upshaw then petitioned Congress to change federal law and regulations that require the league's pension and disability fund to be jointly administered by the union and league, each of which have equal representation on the boards that review disability applications.

"Since the NFLPA has been criticized when applications are denied . . . it makes sense for the players to be the ones making the disability decisions," Upshaw said, suggesting that the structure bogs down the process.

However, since the start of the year, the league and the union have been under fire. And it was unclear Tuesday whether such a change would get very far in Congress because it would mean amending a law that governs a number of similar union- and company-administered retirement systems.

Goodell, however, undercut the need for such a change, testifying that league and union board members "seldom" split their votes down the middle. Most decisions on disability claims, he said, are unanimous.

Several legislators -- including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), whose husband played in the NFL -- made it clear they are sympathetic to the plight of NFL retirees whose bodies and minds have begun to show the effects of constant battering during their playing days.

"The NFL, we believe, has failed," said Waters, who told of her lengthy but unsuccessful battle to help former NFL defensive back Jim Shorter qualify for disability benefits.

"Jim Shorter died a horrible death," Waters told the committee. "The system is designed, in my belief, to refuse benefits for the very players who needed them most."

Meanwhile, when it rains, it pours. And it is pouring in Austin with Longhorns breaking the law, breaking the law

Texas redshirt freshman running back James Henry was charged Tuesday with felony counts of retaliation and tampering with physical evidence in connection with an alleged armed robbery in July involving former Texas football player Robert Joseph.
According to the Austin Police Department, Henry admitted in taped, jailhouse phone calls from Joseph that he assaulted a victim from the alleged robbery and also disposed of a backpack containing items stolen in the alleged incident.

Henry, a 6-2, 200-pound running back who earned all-state honors at Schertz Clemens, was booked into the Travis County Jail with bond set at $30,000. It wasn't immediately clear if Henry had yet hired an attorney.

Mack Brown said in a statement that Henry had been suspended indefinitely from the football team and lamented that the allegations didn't surface earlier.

"It's unfortunate that we have just been informed of the situation or we would have been able to address it when it allegedly occurred in July," Brown said.

Henry is the seventh Longhorn to have a brush with the law in the last four months. Brown continues to stand up for his program, and university president William Powers weighed in Tuesday in support of Brown.

"These incidents are something we take very seriously," Powers said. "They involve conduct that is unacceptable by citizens at our university and certainly members of our athletic program and football team. I applaud Coach Brown. He took swift action in disciplining these members in each case. I think we do need to hold the players accountable for their conduct off the field."

Powers said he, athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Brown "are on the same page." Powers said the school is taking measures to prevent such behavior and needs to do more.

Tomorrow, in the OB, Our Friend, Aggie, tries to earn some respect …They are 2.5 point underdogs…

National respect has been fleeting for Texas A&M's football program the past several seasons.

For every breakthrough victory at Texas, there has been a blowout bowl loss or wacky game management that caused the Aggies some embarrassment somewhere else. The Aggies never have been able to recapture momentum of what was once one of college football's most consistent programs in the 1990s.

UT and Oklahoma have emerged as the powers of the Big 12 South. At the same time, A&M has taken a comfortable but sometimes exasperating position for its supporters in the middle of the South Division pack.

The Aggies can make a statement Thursday night at Miami that they merit inclusion into the conversation about the conference's major challengers if they can beat the Hurricanes and start 4-0.

A&M is ranked 16th in the coaches' poll. It matches the Aggies' highest ranking under coach Dennis Franchione, which came Oct. 24, 2004, after beating Colorado.
The last time A&M was ranked higher was before the 1999 Alamo Bowl. That came on the heels of the emotional victory over UT in the game immediately after the Bonfire tragedy.

But a 24-0 loss to Penn State in A&M's next game signaled the unraveling of former coach R.C. Slocum's program. OU emerged the next season as the national champion and UT's major rival for South supremacy. The Aggies have won one bowl game and beaten UT only once since then.

That's what makes Thursday night's game in the national spotlight at the Orange Bowl so important for Franchione and his program.

As he so succinctly put it earlier in the week, there is a fine line between "exposure" and "being exposed." The game offers the opportunity for both for an untested team that has beaten only Division I-AA Montana State, Fresno State and Louisiana-Monroe.

The Aggies have shown glimpses of potential the first three weeks of the season.
Their three-man ground attack, running behind a veteran offensive line, has been just as potent as expected.

The offense's potential was best shown in a 54-14 victory over Louisiana-Monroe. A&M rolled up 547 total yards and scored on nine of its 10 offensive possessions.

But A&M still has been unable to consistently throw the ball deep or defend against the long pass. Those deficiencies will be tested against the Hurricanes' athleticism.

Miami obviously has fallen on hard times, despite its 2-1 record. The Hurricanes are nowhere near the team of the Kellen Winslow Jr./Ken Dorsey/Willis McGahee era.
Going back to the 2005 Peach Bowl, the Hurricanes have lost seven of their past eight games against ranked teams. And only two of those teams — OU earlier this season and No. 10 LSU in the 2005 Peach Bowl — were in the top 10.

The Hurricanes struggled last week in a 23-9 victory over Florida International, the team with the nation's longest losing streak at 15 games.

"People wonder, 'Can we win a big game?'" Miami defensive end Calais Campbell told Florida Today. "We're going out there as an underdog and we want to show the world we're better than people think."

Las Vegas oddsmakers actually have the Aggies as the underdogs, a position that several A&M players say they prefer.

Franchione started preparing for Thursday's game in the summer, when his staff took a week preparing the Miami game plan because of this short work week. He said everything must "speed up" in practice this week.

And he will bring an experienced group of players that has confidence gleaned from last season's road success. The Aggies were 5-0 on the road, including victories at Oklahoma State, Kansas and UT.

I saw the Stars opener last night. It was big fun to see hockey again, and there was some good hockey venom in the barn last night as the Blues and Stars don’t appear to be best of friends again this year.

Nik Grossman asked to step up this year and help on the blueline …and he looks ready to me…

All Grossman has to do is look at the career of teammate Mattias Norstrom, and he'll see a shining example of how to balance respect with competition.

"They're similar players, and I think Norstrom is a perfect role model," Stars coach Dave Tippett said before Tuesday night's preseason opener, a 6-5 win over St. Louis at American Airlines Center."He's a guy who understands his role, who takes control on the ice and then displays his leadership off the ice. When you look at him and you look at Grossman, you see they have similar demeanors and similar playing styles."

Grossman, 22, said he couldn't be happier with the presence of Norstrom, who was acquired by the Stars last season at the trade deadline. Both players hail from Sweden, and coaches have told Grossman for years that the 35-year-old Norstrom is someone he should emulate.

"It's funny we're here because I've heard so much about him," said Grossman, who logged 17:56 in ice time Tuesday and finished even without a point. "My coaches have been talking about him for as long as I can remember."

Count the timing as serendipity, a happy coincidence the Stars hope will help develop one of the top defensive prospects they have brought along in a number of years.

"There's just so many good things about his game," said assistant general manager Les Jackson, who felt that Grossman was ready for the NHL last season. "He is a big, physical player, but he also has good skill, he can skate well, and he really understands the game."

The 56th overall pick in the 2004 draft, Grossman was far from a sure thing. He had to prove to the Stars that he needed to move ahead of defensemen Mark Fistric and Johan Fransson, who were selected ahead of him. He said he wants to maintain an underdog attitude in camp.

Padilla is still a knucklehead …but didn’t we know this before the big money extension?

Vicente Padilla's final start of a disappointing 2007 season could come tonight against Minnesota.

Padilla was suspended for seven games Tuesday for hitting Oakland's Nick Swisher with a pitch Sunday.

Padilla appealed the decision and is scheduled to start tonight. Texas has only 10 games remaining after that.

"I'm surprised with the length," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the suspension. "I knew there would probably be a suspension. Maybe they'll drop some days off it, and maybe they won't. That's all I know about it."

Padilla, who didn't comment on the suspension, was also fined an undisclosed amount. Swisher was also suspended for three games after charging the mound in the first inning. Both benches cleared, but only Padilla and Swisher were disciplined. Swisher had homered in each of the first three games of the four-game series against Texas. He was also hit by a Bill White pitch Saturday.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels didn't have a problem with the penalty.

"I'm more disappointed that Vicente put the club in this position than I am with the length of the suspension," Daniels said. "Fortunately, the expanded rosters will help us a bit here."

Heyman examines the big free agents in baseball this winter

The center-field market is going to get crazy this winter. The way things look now, four players who fit into the "very good" or "great" categories -- including probable Hall of Famer Andruw Jones -- will be on the move.

There's been a breakdown in talks between the Twins and 32-year-old Torii Hunter, and negotiations never got off the ground for Jones, 30, in Atlanta. Even though both players have long suggested that their first choice is to remain with their original teams, the likelihood that either will stay put appears to be diminishing by the day.

If Alex Rodriguez is the main player of interest this winter, center field is the clear position of interest. In an otherwise spotty free-agent market, center field is easily the deepest spot. Aaron Rowand, 30, and Mike Cameron, 34, make it an impressive foursome of free agents at the position, as all four are superb defensively. It starts with Jones, an all-time great in center who's poised to have a stunning sixth season with 400 putouts (he's currently fifth in the majors with 377) despite rumors of having lost a step on defense.

His glossy resume notwithstanding, an off-year by Jones at the plate (25 HRs, 91 RBIs, .222 average) caused three front-office people out of four to suggest to that Hunter could eclipse Jones in a market that will still pay off huge for both players. It's the age-old debate: career vs. year. Jones is having the better career, Hunter the better year.

Two executives willing to put a crystal ball on the market predicted that both Jones and Hunter (28 HRs, 102 RBIs, .290) would receive deals in the $15-million-per-year range, and one said that he could see either getting a six- or seven-year deal, meaning that either could reach the $100 million mark. All the execs guessed that Rowand would exceed $10 million a year, and two thought that Cameron should score a deal for about $6-to-7 million (although a third executive said he loves Cameron so much that he should get $10 million, as well).

But those may be low estimates. Here are my two time-tested rules concerning guessing at free-agent contracts for stars: 1) Executives, often hopeful that their competitors will show rare restraint, often start way too low, and 2) In typical years, anyone really good will get 25 to 50 percent more than you think (which is what I call the Kevin Brown Rule, named after the surly pitcher who turned free agency into a lottery).

Some response to ESPN Radio’s odd decision

We waited 2+ months for this?

After filling the old Patrick slot (1-4p ET) with every SportsCenter anchor and “insider” they have, ESPNRadio rolls out their blockbuster replacement on Thursday.

Amazingly, ESPN didn’t bring in one successful radio host/show for a tryout. Cleary the logic is that anyone can do a radio show.

The big show will be….Mike Tirico and Stephen A. Smith. But not together. Tirico will do the first two hours and Stephen A will do the last hour. Huh?

Tirico has little chance of doing a “must-listen” radio show. Realistically, it’s not the goal anyway. ESPNRadio is simply part of the family and is there to promote the TV side. Tirico doesn’t have daily talk-show experience. And he’s without sports-talk show host’s personality. It’s a loser from the beginning. He’ll be devoting at best 50% of his time to the show. Part-time talk show hosts fail to impress in almost every case.

I’m not even getting into Stephen A’s credentials as a lead host on radio. His show in New York stinks and he’s consistently been destroyed in the ratings. And if ESPNRadio is so high on him, why not give him the entire three hours?

Program Directors around the country must be livid. What programmer can sell the continuity of two hour to one hour to xx hour shows? It’s simply awful radio. What P.D. wants to face his sales staff with this news?

Don’t believe me? Go to Chicago’s ESPN1000, an ESPN owned and operated station. It’s already sent a response to the split show. Former ESPNRadio producer Justin Craig, now ESPN1000’s P.D., will be covering up Stephen A. He moved the highly successful Mac, Jurko and Harry Show back an hour to 2-6p CT. ESPN1000 will then run a best of MJH hour from 6-7p CT. No Stephen A. in Chicago!

How many more ESPN affiliates will make the same adjustments? From a sales standpoint, who can sell Mike Tirico? How can you even make a promo from Tirico’s “rants/takes?” There won’t be any.

Don’t Tase me, bro

Add this to the lexicon of American democracy: "Don't Tase me, bro. Don't Tase me."
Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student who tested the limits of free speech during an address by Sen. John Kerry, walked out of jail Tuesday and into cyberspace history, and instant, if likely fleeting, celebrity.

Video clips of his fracas with university police officers flashed around the world, viewed more than 400,000 times. Tens of thousands of people debated the issue on Web sites. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Amnesty International USA rose to his support.

The degree to which Meyer, 21, was a nuisance or an opportunistic prankster — and the magnitude of the police response — stood at the center of the worldwide web of discussion as he left jail, was hugged by his father and drove away in his lawyer's SUV.

Meyer, a senior telecommunications major, has a Web site featuring several homemade videos. In one, he stands in a street with a sign that says "Harry Dies" after the latest Harry Potter book was released. In another, he acts like a drunk in a bar while trying to pick up a man dressed in drag.

Florida Taser Fun

This kid seems good


Jay said...


Flaco said...

Admit it Bob, that was the best pre-season hockey game there ever was.

I am so pumped for hockey to be back.

Don't tase me, bro.

Stone Rants said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stone Rants said...

I've got video to show you of myself when I was 7. I was a great pee-wee running back - played 7 years scoring all over the field like that. Live it up kid...I'm now 5'7" 190 lbs and sit on my ass all day long working on the computer.