Reports: Broncos pick Orton to start over Tebow

Updated 11:45 p.m.

When the Denver Broncos failed to complete a successful trade for veteran quarterback Kyle Orton last week, questions arose about what exactly the team would do now that it might be stuck paying him nearly $9 million in 2011.

The organization answered those queries Wednesday and officially named Orton the team’s starting signal caller, according to ESPN‘s Adam Schefter and the NFL Network, relegating second-year QB Tim Tebow to a back-up role.

Though Schefter and the NFL Network stand by their reports, head coach John Fox dismissed the notion that the team has made their minds up one way or another when he spoke with the Associated Press late Wednesday.

“My story’s been the same regardless of what you hear,” Fox said. “And I’m in those meetings every day and know what’s said to everybody. Nothing’s changed. We’ve been singing the same song as seven months ago.”

Reports coming out near the conclusion of the NFL lockout had Denver looking to get rid of Orton after deciding to roll with Tebow in 2011. Though the former was the team’s 2010 starter and completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,653 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 games, the latter earned the final three starts of the season and scored at least a passing and rushing touchdown in each game.

Tebow finished 2010 with 654 yards through the air, five passing touchdowns, three interceptions, 227 rushing yards and six rushing scores. He completed passes at a 50 percent rate but also rushed for 78 and 94 yards in week 14 and 16, respectively.

Many wondered whether Fox and team executive vice president John Elway believed in Tebow going forward, but the former standout QB answered those questions in a May interview with ESPN‘s Ed Werder.

”He’s one of those guys who – if he comes out and is the player we hope he can be – then we’re in pretty darn good shape,” Elway said. “I think where we are as an organization, we’re going to go with Tim.”

Responding in kind, Tebow felt uplifted by how much support he received from Elway and the Broncos’ front office.

“I believe in them, and they believe in me,” Tebow said. “To have John Elway say positive things about you is just amazing. He’s played the game at the highest level possible, and I’m excited because he’s going to be a great asset for me.”

Yet while offseason signs pointed to the former Heisman Trophy winner starting under center during week one, something obviously changed when the players were free from the restrictions of the lockout.

Orton stepped on the field at the onset of training camp and was handed the majority of and eventually all first-team snaps. Reports coming out of Denver had him shining during practice while Tebow struggled with his accuracy but still completed some impressive passes to the team’s second-team receivers.

For now, Tebow’s Broncos career remains in limbo. Denver must decide whether or not they will sign Orton to an extension, keeping him at Mile High for the foreseeable future, or allow him to walk as a free agent and roll with Tebow in 2012.

One option that is likely not in the cards for the Broncos is trading Tebow; his contract makes that a near impossibility. Set to earn a fully guaranteed $1.618.75 million base salary in 2011, Tebow is also set to earn a $6.275 million bonus 29 days after the league year begins. The nearly $7.9 million combined figure is too much for any team to take on for an unproven second-year quarterback.

Of course, there are four preseason games to play between now and the start of the 2011 regular season and anything can happen during the year, too.

Photo Credit: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

Florida Gators basketball releases complete 2011-12 non-conference schedule

Florida Gators basketball announced the team’s 2011-12 non-conference schedule on Wednesday. Florida will face six opponents who took part in the 2011 NCAA Tournament while also participating in four events scattered throughout the country – the Global Sports Shootout, Florida Citrus Sports Shootout, BIG EAST/SEC Challenge and Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

“We’ve made it a practice to play a difficult non-conference schedule, and this is perhaps the toughest one yet,” head coach Billy Donovan said in an official school release. “That’s something that really helps prepare us for the NCAA Tournament. We’re also looking forward to playing games in front of our great fans from several different areas of Florida, and we host some exciting matchups on our home court, as well.”

Below is the official 2011-12 non-conference schedule:

Date/TimeGator BaitResult
1113 at 9:30 pm (CBSSN)vs. Navy (Md.)Veterans'
11/16 at TBA (TBA)vs. N.C. A&TTip-Off
11/21 at TBA (TBA)at St. Joseph'sTip-Off
11/22 at TBA (TBA)vs. TBA (Ct.)Tip-Off
11/25 at TBA (TBA)vs. Vermont (Ct.)Tip-Off
11/27 at TBA (TBA)vs. FGCU
12/1 at TBA (TBA)vs. Richmond
12/8 at 7:00 pm (ESPN2)at Miami
12/12 at 6:00 pm (ESPN2)at Michigan State
12/19 at 4:00 pm (FSN)vs. Okla. StateOBBC
12/22 at TBA (TBA)vs. Jacksonville
12/29 at 7:00 pm (ESPN2)vs. Florida State
1/30 at TBA (TBA)vs. West VirginiaSEC-Big 12

SCHEDULE NOTES

» Donovan’s son, Billy Donovan, Jr., is a guard for Catholic University.
» Ohio State won the Big Ten Championship in 2010-11.
» Florida will play four games in the state of Florida but not in Gainesville.
» As OGGOA first reported on April 28, the Gators’ participation in the GSS is part of a five-team “tournament” featuring a collection of games played at different arenas.
» Florida will play in the FCSS for the second-straight season; UF lost to Central Florida in the series’ inaugural game at the Amway Arena last season.
» Twelve teams each from the Big East and SEC will each compete in the BIG EAST/SEC Challenge from Dec. 1-3.
» Transfer guard Mike Rosario will square-off against the team he left, Rutgers.
» It is the fourth-straight year the Gators will play a non-conference opponent on Jan. 3 (3-0) and second-straight year they will play one on New Years Eve day.

TWO BITS: Pouncey’s progress, Taylor’s honor

1 » Just like his brother one year ago, Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey is quickly finding out that he will be able to compete quite well as a rookie in the NFL. Going up against massive defensive tackle Paul Soliai during the first few days of training camp, Pouncey stood his ground and pushed right back. “He was aggressive,” Soliai told the Sun-Sentinel. “He’s pretty tough. He wasn’t scared; he wasn’t afraid.” Head coach Tony Sparano, a former offensive line coach, also heaped praise on Pouncey’s performance during his first few professional practices. “There are so many natural things that he did … that made him stand out,” Sparano said. “Some things that he did in the run game. Some things that he did in the protection drills, one-on-one, those types of things. This guy – there was some awareness out there.”

2 » One of the top track & field athletes during the 2010-11 season, Florida Gators junior jumper Christian Taylor is now one of three male finalists for The Bowerman – the track & field equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Though a committee will be voting for the winner, The Bowerman also allows the fans to choose who they think deserves the award; the athlete with the largest margin receives one extra vote. To lend your support to Taylor and Florida, click here.

Extra BIT » Former Gators assistant golf coach Steve Bradley was named the head coach for the Mercer Bears on Tuesday. During his three years at Florida, Bradley helped the Gators reach the NCAA Tournament thrice and saw the team capture the 2010 SEC Championship, too.

TWO BITS: Andrews’s cameo, Muschamp’s gaffe

1 » ESPN reporter and former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews will be up on the silver screen in the near future after filming a cameo in the upcoming movie I Hate You, Dad staring comedian Adam Sandler. Andrews, who will have a very small part in the movie, is part of a cast that also features such big names as Leighton Meester, Susan Sarandon and James Caan. Other actors/celebrities also appearing in the film include Andy Samberg, Will Forte, Ciara, Vanilla Ice and Dan Patrick. “I had like four lines, and it was the coolest thing ever,” she told Complex.com. According to IMDB, the movie is about “A disagreeable father who moves in with his son before he’s about to get married.” It is currently filming and does not have a scheduled release date.

2 » Whether you want to call it a gaffe on his part or a case of someone else taking a comment a bit too seriously, a thought provided by Gators head coach Will Muschamp at the 2011 SEC Media Days a few weeks ago has the University of Florida’s faculty union president John Biro perturbed. Asked about what it takes to build a quality team, Muschamp responded, “You can’t have union guys. Those are the guys who make a great play and then take the next play off because they think they are in a union.” According to The Gainesville Sun, Biro (who confessed that he does not pay attention to football) was not amused by this comment. “Obviously he’s been watching too much TV and all the union-bashing going on,” Biro told the paper.

Florida Gators report to NFL training camps

Updated at 9 p.m.

With NFL training camp finally underway after an extended lockout cancelled organized team activities and mini camps, more than three dozen former Florida Gators are working out and trying to earn their keep this year. Below is a comprehensive look at each player in the league as well as those still looking for work.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators report to NFL training camps

Siler, Harvey with new teams on one-year deals

Two members of the Florida Gators defense that helped bring home the 2006 National Championship, linebacker Brandon Siler and defensive end Derrick Harvey found homes with new NFL teams on Monday.

Siler – a seventh-round draft of the San Diego Chargers who amassed 123 tackles, three sacks, a safety and two interceptions in four seasons with the team – was allowed to walk as a free agent and agreed to a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Though he played in 58 games over four years, Siler did not get his first chance to start for San Diego until 2009. He had started 12 of 28 games over the last two seasons for the Chargers, but the team decided to let him seek greener pastures in the offseason.

On the other side of the fence, Harvey was the No. 8 overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars and struggled in three years with the club. After amassing 3.5 sacks in nine starts over 16 games as a rookie, Harvey started every game in 2009 but only managed to total 57 tackles and two sacks. He has registered 88 tackles in three seasons along with eight sacks and one interception.

Harvey was cut by Jacksonville last week and decided to join a rebuilding Denver Broncos team. Quarterback Tim Tebow was already on the club as a holdover from last season, and linebacker A.J. Jones was picked up as an undrafted free agent one week ago. The team recently traded wide receiver Jabar Gaffney but decided to bring back defensive tackle Marcus Thomas, signing him to a contract on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Scott Boehm

FOUR BITS: Crowder, Pouncey, Starks, swimming

1 » The Miami Dolphins cut veteran linebacker Channing Crowder over the weekend, ending his six-year run with the team that selected him in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. With declining production, bad knees and a contract that would have counted for $5 million against the 2011 salary cap, Crowder leaving was nevertheless a tough decision for head coach Tony Sparano, who (as the rest of the team did) viewed him as a defensive leader. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Sparano said. “It’s still hard for me. But it’s football. It happens.”

2 » Miami may make another personnel move that could affect a former Florida Gators player on its roster. The Dolphins are looking at bringing in veteran center Shaun O’Hara; he is already in South Florida for an official meeting with the club. Should O’Hara be signed, first-round pick Mike Pouncey will likely be forced to move to right guard for the 2011 season. O’Hara’s signing, however, would not be an indictment on Pouncey’s ability but rather a necessity due to the team’s lack of top-notch guard play. Richie Incognito will be starting on the left side for Miami, but the Dolphins are not pleased with the performance of 2010 third-round pick John Jerry on the right side, hence necessitating plugging in Pouncey for the time being. Check out this recent one-on-one interview with Pouncey after his first day of practice.

3 » Though he was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers late last week, tackle Max Starks was proud to hear that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sported his oversized No. 78 jersey to practice the next day to honor his former teammate. “Max and I were the last two from my draft class,” Roethlisberger told reporters. “His locker has always been next to mine for the past seven years. So I saw his jersey there and I wore it in honor of Max.” Starks, who put on some weight in the offseason and is dealing with neck issues, is hoping to catch on with a club soon in order to have a full preseason and continue playing in the league. He had signed a four-year, $26.3 million deal with Pittsburgh in 2009 and was two years into his contract before being cut.

4 » Florida captured another pair of gold medals on Sunday at the conclusion of the World Swimming Championships. Former Gators standout Ryan Lochte and current Florida swimmer Elizabeth Beisel each won the 400-meter individual relay for their respective gender. Lochte’s gold was his fifth of the event and, coupled with a world record and two head-to-head defeats of Michael Phelps, rounded out an outstanding performance for possibly the United States’ best bet for medals at the 2012 London Olympics. Beisel, who will return to the Gators for her sophomore year with the team, captured her third international gold with her victory.

Florida’s 2011 NFL draftees all under contract

With Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey agreeing to a four-year, $9.3 million deal with the team late Saturday evening, all four former Florida Gators selected in the 2011 NFL Draft have officially been signed by their respective clubs.

Pouncey, who missed the first two days of practice while his agents and Miami’s brass were working out his deal, was pleased to announce to fans that he would finally be lacing up his cleats on Sunday.

“Thanks for all the support,” he wrote on Twitter around midnight, “the deal is done see you all at practice tomorrow.”

Due to the brand new collective bargaining agreement, Pouncey’s rookie contract is significantly less than his brother’s was one year ago even though the former was selected three slots higher. Center Maurkice Pouncey was chosen with the 18th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and signed a five-year, $17.96 million deal. Mike’s contract is fully guaranteed while Maurkice’s included $10.35 million of guaranteed money.

Also signing with his team this week was Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert, who agreed to a $3.227 million deal including an $847,000 signing bonus. A second-round pick, Gilbert hopes to join Maurkice on Pittsburgh’s starting offensive line this season and spent the lockout getting tips from him while learning about the offense.

“It’s been pretty straightforward,” Gilbert told the Beaverton County Times late in the week. “It’s just trying to switch over the language of the offense and little stuff here and there that I never ran in college. The older guys are taking me under their wing and showing me how to do it the right way.”

Florida’s two late round picks – safety Ahmad Black (fifth round) and guard Maurice Hurt (seventh round) – each signed four-year deals with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins, respectively.

Black told the New York Times that he knows he has his work cut out for him and is still getting acclimated to the professional game. He is willing to start from the bottom and work is way up to a starting role.

“It’s a little bit different than college,” Black said on Friday. “Coming from Florida with coach [Urban] Meyer, he always stressed special teams so it’s nothing new to me. A lot of guys think since they started in college, they will start here. That’s definitely not the case. I’m going to earn my role on special teams to work my way on the defense.”

OGGOA will keep you up-to-date with all four rookies (as well as all of the undrafted free agents who signed with teams) through training camp and the 2011 regular season.

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