Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Defensive lineman Brad Culpepper on Wednesday became the second former Florida Gators player in the last three weeks to join lawsuit against the NFL. Culpepper is the lead plaintiff one of two concussion lawsuits (Brad Culpepper et al v. NFL) filed by the Locks Law Firm against the NFL. “The lawsuits are identical to the other suits filed by Gene Locks, asserting counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, loss of consortium and seeking declaratory relief and medical monitoring,” according to Paul Anderson. Former Florida offensive tackle Lomas Brown is part of a separate suit against the NFL that cites the recent bounty scandal as evidence that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions.

» Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith admitted this week that, while he appears to be in perfect health now, he is worried that all of the hits he took over his football-playing career may come back to haunt him both physically and mentally in the future. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry? I pray about it,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also spoke about the tragic death of Junior Seau and reuniting with some of his former Dallas Cowboys teammates.

» Former Florida linebacker Dustin Doe has been re-signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL after appearing in just three games for the team last season. Doe registered two tackles each on defense and special teams in 2011 but spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. He is hoping to become a permanent member of the active roster this season as he attempts to continue his career.

» Speaking of players looking for new homes, it appears as if defensive tackle Marcus Thomas will be donning a different uniform in 2012. After spending the first six years of his career with the Denver Broncos, Thomas will be moving on to what he hopes are greener pastures, according to The Denver Post, which reports that it is unlikely Denver re-signs him this season. A selection in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas has been a productive member of the Broncos throughout his career. However, Denver only wants to bring him back on a one-year deal while Thomas is looking for a multi-year agreement. The Post notes that at least two other teams are interested in Thomas’s services but will likely wait until after June 1 to sign him to a contract.


» Detroit Pistons second-round draft pick Vernon Macklin spent most of the 2012 season on the bench except when he was in the NBA D-League absolutely dominating the competition. To that end, Macklin is expected to start at either power forward or center for the Pistons during summer league games this offseason and will have a legitimate opportunity to seriously improve his stock on the team with another “eyebrow-raising” performance, as NBA.com puts it.

» Breaking down the top five players both by class and by position, ESPN.com NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. has slotted four different Gators as potential top prospects for 2013. Kiper placed redshirt Caleb Sturgis the No. 2 senior kicker behind Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins, tagged redshirt Jordan Reed as the No. 4 junior tight end, slotted Sharrif Floyd as the No. 3 junior defensive tackle and included Matt Elam as the No. 3 junior safety. Despite their rankings on Kiper’s top-five lists, all of UF’s juniors have major strides that must be made until they can be considered in the top few rounds in 2013.

» Speaking of top prospects, ESPN.com’s Keith Law lists four Gators among the top 100 baseball players available in the 2012 MLB Draft. Junior catcher Mike Zunino tops the list at No. 4 overall (“the best college bat in the draft”) and is joined in the top 50 by junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (No. 28) and junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (No. 44). Junior LHP Steven Rodriguez is also listed at No. 71 overall. All four players are expected to leave the team following this season.

» Just as Sports Illustrated did last week, ESPNW.com has decided to count down the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years following the adoption of Title IX. Former Florida striker Abby Wambach, who became a national name over the summer by leading the United States during the 2011 World Cup, comes in at No. 33 on the list and is described as “a triumph of technique and concentration,” just like the play she is now famous for completing.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is listed as a game-time decision for Game 6 on Thursday against Philadelphia. Noah, who was knocked out of Game 4 with a serious sprained ankle and therefore missed all of Game 5, is optimistic that he will be able to return to help his team try to salvage what has become a difficult series and potentially advance in the 2012 NBA Playoffs with two more victories.

» Houston Rockets breakout forward Chandler Parsons sat down for a five-minute question-and-answer session with his team’s website this week to discuss his outstanding rookie campaign. Below are a few questions from the sit-down interview, which can be both read and watched in full by clicking here.

JCF: Are you watching the playoffs?
CP: Yeah, watching the playoffs is tough. Watching the Jazz, Mavericks and Nuggets, those are all teams we played the last stretch of the season. And it’s impossible not to think, ‘That should be us.’ But we let it slip, so watching them is frustrating and it hurts. Individually, looking back I did some good things this year but now I can see what I can improve upon. And hopefully for both myself and as a team we can use what we went through this year at the end of the season as a means to get better and grow. We missed out on the experience of actually playing in the playoffs but we understand now how hard it is and what it takes to get in.

JCF: So what’s the big focus for you this summer? When we see you back here for training camp in October, what will you be able to do then that you couldn’t do this past season?
CP: I want to work on three things in particular. I’m going to work on all aspects of my shot: 3-pointers, spot shooting, free throws — just being a more consistent shooter because I think once I get guys scared that I can shoot the ball, that will open up my whole game and make it easier for me to pass, penetrate and get to the hole. So I definitely want to be more of a consistent shooter. Secondly, I want to get stronger. When these bigger guys post me up on the block and I slide to the four, I need to be able to handle my own down there. It’s a physical game so obviously added strength will help me. And then third, just ball handling. I want to be in pick-and-rolls next year, I want to have the ball in my hands and I want to be comfortable making plays for others and getting guys the ball. So those three things are going to be what I’m focusing on and working extremely hard on.

» The National Football Foundation will announce the 2012 inductees for the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday and none other than former Gators quarterback Jesse Palmer will be emceeing the event. In fact, Palmer may have the opportunity to announce that another former Florida signal caller is being honored as QB Danny Wuerffel is one of 12 quarterbacks (and 76 total players) up for induction this year.

» Five former Gators golfers – Chris Couch, Chris DiMarco, Matt Every, Brian Gay and Camilo Villegas – are competing in the 2012 edition of THE PLAYERS Championship from May 10-13 at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. A former Florida golfer has never won the event.

» New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother Pam Tebow sat down with Robin Roberts of Good Morning America for an interview a few weeks ago. ABC saved some of the footage from the initial sit-down and aired it on Thursday to help celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend. You can check out the segment in the video below.

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» Former UF head football coach Charley Pell will be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday. An Albertville, AL native who played college football at Alabama, Pell ended his 20-year coaching career with Florida (1979-1984) where he amassed a 33-26-3 record before being fired three games into his final season after he and his staff was determined to have committed 59 total NCAA violations. Pell passed away on May 29, 2001 at the age of 60.

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