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.

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FOUR BITS: Leak, Demps, lacrosse, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak supposedly signed with the Orlando Predators of the AFL on Monday and the team wants to name him their starter for Saturday’s game, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “We would like to bring him in as the face of the franchise, and I hope he ends up as our starting quarterback,” team general partner Brett Bouchy told the paper. Unfortunately for both sides, Leak was not able to join the team Monday or Tuesday thanks to his former squad the Jacksonville Sharks. According to the Florida Times-Union, even though Leak refuses to play for Jacksonville and the team does not want him back the Sharks have not released him from his contract and still retain his rights. “If the Predators want Leak, they have coach [Les] Moss’ number and we will be more than happy to trade him,” Jacksonville managing partner Jeff Bouchy (Brett Bouchy’s brother) said. “We cannot see any scenario in which Leak will wear a Sharks uniform again.” Leak’s future is now in limbo as he waits to find out if one Bouchy will trade the other something for his services. He has bounced around the CFL and AFL since being passed over by the NFL and actually played for the Jacksonville franchise this season before being replaced as starting quarterback after a five-touchdown performance. “It was an unfortunate situation in Jacksonville, but I’ve moved on,” Leak said. “I’m just very excited about the opportunity to play at home.”

2 » With the 2012 NFL Draft approaching, one name that continues to be notably absent is former Gators running back and current Florida sprinter Jeff Demps, who chose after the season to bypass the NFL in order to concentrate on running track and the 2012 London Olympics. Demps likely would have been a third- or fourth-round pick in the draft but chose an uncertain path that he enjoys over a certain future that did not hold the top spot in his heart. “Just, during the football season, I enjoyed football, but I just felt I had to be on the track,” he told FOX Sports in in yet another article about his decision and future in sports. “I had to follow my heart, and my heart said to be with track. It’s a career decision.”

3 » Gators lacrosse swept the ALC weekly awards on Monday. Junior atacker Gabi Wiegand won Offensive Player of the Week, junior defender Sam Farrell picked up Defensive Player of the Week and midfielder Nora Barry was named Rookie of the Week. It is the first time since the ALC expanded to three weekly awards that one team has swept all three in a single week.

4 » Could QB Tim Tebow already be winning over New York Jets players through a few days of offseason camp? According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Jets No. 2 wide receiver Jeremy Kerley was pleasantly surprised how well Tebow has been performing already and offered up some praise for his new teammate. “Different than Mark, different than Mark,” he said of Tebow as a quarterback. “His ball comes out a little bit stronger, but he’s accurate, he’s more accurate than what I thought he was going to be. But he’s a good dude, he has a great personality, he’ll bring a lot of personality to the team.” The Ledger asked him how much more velocity Tebow throws with as compared to Mark Sanchez. Kerley’s answer: “A LOT, a lot more velocity. No dis to Mark, he brings it man.”

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Hill, Pounceys, tennis

1 » New York Jets signal caller Tim Tebow made headlines – again – this week when mentioning on 1050 ESPN Radio that he’s “not sure” if he will ever be a starting quarterback again in the NFL. Honest as always, Tebow was sure to mention that it was not something that concerned him because, in his mind, it was not something he could determine. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future,” he said. “That’s something that has always given me peace and comfort. That’s why I don’t have to worry about the future. I can just worry about today and worry about becoming better as a football player and a person.” Tebow spoke about a number of other topics on The Michael Kay Show (listen here) including how the way he will be utilized this season compares to what he did for the Florida Gators with QB Chris Leak.

2 » Speaking of Tebow, he received plenty of support and praise recently from a former teammate as safety Will Hill was interviewed by the Newark Star-Ledger for a story published on Saturday. Hill, who recently participated in a Pro Day in Martinsville, NJ hoping to catch on with a NFL or CFL team, spoke in depth on what drives Tebow, how hard he tries to motivate his teammates and why Hill believes he is a special player. “I had arguments with people, tons of arguments, about how well Timmy was supposed to do in the league,” he told the paper. “They criticized his throwing. Alright, what do you want? A winner, or do you want just a pretty quarterback? You’ve got pretty quarterbacks that can throw the ball and never win – like the guy that was there before Tim [in Denver]. But Tim know[s] how to win and that’s what the league needs: A person that knows how to win, and he knows how to win.”

3 » Life-long professional wrestling fans, former Gators offensive linemen Maurkice and Mike Pouncey will have a chance to live out their childhood dreams on Sunday night as they form a tag team to compete in WrestleMania XXVIII in Miami, FL. Mike Pouncey, the Miami Dolphins‘ starting center, even spoke at a recent WWE press conference promoting the event. Since he was already set to attend the show as a fan, Pouncey suggested bringing his brother in as the duo forms a tag team that will don orange and blue tights while fighting WWE Tag Team Champions Primo and Epico. April Fools!

In actuality, WWE Champion C.M. Punk did recently joke that the Pouceys could make a good tag team due to their size, strength and the fact that they’re twins. “Well, we have the Bella twins, and the Bellas look a lot better than the Pounceys,” he told ESPN.com. “But, you know what, I’m always for celebrity involvement. If they want to get in the ring, clearly they’re good athletes. I’d love to see a twin tag team. That would be something. That would be cool.” The brothers may be in attendance at the event due to it being held where the Dolphins play at Sun Life Stadium. One former UF football player that will certainly be there is Thaddeus Bullard, who will work a dark match as Titus O’Neil.

4 » Florida women’s and men’s tennis each swept the Auburn Tigers 7-0 on Friday. The No. 2 women (14-1, 7-0 SEC) took down Auburn (8-8, 3-4 SEC) on the road behind plenty of solid play. The Gators won 14 of 15 combined sets (singles and doubles) as well as a tiebreaker with every ranked player and pairing winning except the No. 1 duo of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen; they did not participate in the match as a doubles team. The No. 11 men (11-7, 4-3 SEC) were equally impressive, toppling the Tigers (14-6, 3-4 SEC) at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL by winning 15 of 16 combined sets. Both teams will face Alabama on Sunday as the women remain on the road and the men once again host another opponent.

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FOUR BITS: Leak, Harvin, Starks, Gilbert

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak has yet to find a permanent team to play with as a professional. After playing only one preseason game in the NFL, he has spent the last four years in the CFL with three different teams. His running around in the great white north has finally coming to an end if a report from the Florida Times-Union is to be believed. According to the paper, the Jacksonville Sharks of the AFL are planning to sign Leak to be the team’s new starting quarterback. The ArenaBowl XXIV Champions, Jacksonville will be losing its 41-year-old veteran quarterback Aaron Garcia to another team and is looking for someone to come in and take his place. Should Leak sign with the Sharks, he will be the third former Gators player on the team in as many years, following cornerback Dee Webb and wide receiver Dallas Baker.

2 » After missing one day of practice last week due to a stomach illness supposedly caused by the flu, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin ended up playing in his team’s game on Sunday but did not last the entire contest. After getting hit in the gut during the fourth quarter, Harvin sat out the final five minutes of regulation as well as the overtime period as he watched his team fall to Detroit. Before leaving, Harvin caught three passes for 47 yards, returned two kickoffs for 47 yards and ran the ball twice for 41 yards. He is expected to return to practice this week and should not suffer any further setbacks.

3 » Out of work all season after being cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers just after the NFL lockout ended, former Florida offensive tackle Max Starks continues to look for a new team. According to 1500 ESPN Radio out of Minnesota, the Vikings met with Starks on Monday as they need to fill a reserve tackle position on their team. Starks, who recovered all offseason from a neck injury that he suffered in November, apparently had weight and conditioning issues when he reported to Steelers camp.

4 » Pittsburgh’s offensive line looked like a MASH unit Sunday evening after a bunch of starters and reserves were injured throughout the course of their game at Indianapolis. Rookie right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who moved into a starting role with the team due to an injury to another player, hurt his shoulder during the game and was sent to the sideline. When the reserve left tackle was forced to leave the game, an injured Gilbert wound up reentering for the remainder of the contest. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Gilbert “looks like he’ll be OK” to play next week barring any setbacks. Even though the team is in need of another reserve tackle, NBC Sports reports that Starks has been ruled out as a possibility.

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4 BITS: Taylor retires, volleyball, Baker, Brown

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor, a 13-year NFL veteran who spent the majority of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, will sign a one-day contract with the team on Friday and officially announce his retirement. Taylor – who has rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns while catching 290 passes for 2,384 yards and eight touchdowns – was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2007 who is only one of 30 players in league history to have rushed for more than 10,000 yards. He was a three-time Southeastern Conference champion (1994-96) and one-time national champion (1996) at Florida and was named as a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC member in 1997. A member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, Taylor spent his first 10 years in the NFL with Jacksonville before playing his final two seasons with the New England Patriots. The No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, he is Jacksonville’s all-time leader in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns.

OGGOA will have more on Taylor’s retirement on Friday. Stay tuned.

2 » Looking to avenge a come-from-behind victory by the Gators in the Sweet 16 of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, No. 25 Florida State Seminoles volleyball strode into the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on a mission Tuesday evening. Fortunately for No. 9 Florida (3-0), the Gators were able to push back their opponents and sweep the Seminoles 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-22) in front of a school-record 1,901 students (total attendance: 4,631). Florida has won all nine sets in which they’ve played this season and continues to claw their way to victory each match. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy notched a triple-double in the contest with 12 kills, 10 digs and 17 assists. The trio of senior middle-back Cassandra Anderson (eight), senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (seven) and senior OH Kristy Jaeckel (six) combined for 21 kills on the evening as the Gators improved to 28-2 against FSU under head coach Mary Wise.

3 » Former Gators wide receiver Dallas Baker is set to make his debut with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL on Sunday and is excited for his opportunity to get back on the field. Baker, who was signed by the Montreal Alouettes in April but traded to Saskatchewan in August, only played in three games with the former team and caught just three balls for 28 yards. He found himself on the bench with the Roughriders and now, after a teammate got injured, he will finally get back on the field. “I’ve always been a guy who’s been in a situation like this, so [waiting] really wasn’t tough at all,” Baker told The Regina Leader-Post. “It was all about being patient and that’s something that I was used to.” Baker also spoke to the paper about his uncle and fellow former Florida star Wes Chandler. “When I got drafted, he was like, ‘Hey, that’s the easy part,’” he recalled. “I thought it was the hard part. He told me the things to do to be a professional athlete. He told me to never get complacent. He also told me, ‘Watch and learn. If you see a vet do something, that doesn’t mean you can do it – especially if you know it’s wrong. [...] But if you see a vet do something like staying late watching film, pick up on that.’”

4 » Though he was released by the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, former Gators defensive end Alex Brown has already heard from at least three teams who are interested in his services this year. “I talked with my agent, and three teams have made contact,” Brown said on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. “We’re just trying to figure out what’s best for my family and what’s a really good situation for me to go in. I would love to go play in a 4-3, so there are a lot of teams out there that still run a 4-3 that could use a defensive end that still has a little bit left. So hopefully I can find a good place that my family and I can feel comfortable with.” One possible destination? The team that drafted him – the Chicago Bears. “It would be crazy to do another Gator Chomp in Soldier Field. That would be nuts,” he said.

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FOUR BITS: Crowder, Beal, Young, Baker, Leak

1 » Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, considered by many (including OGGOA) to be one of the most outspoken and honest players in the NFL, has been given his own radio show on 560 WQAM in South Florida until the lockout has concluded. During his first show on Sunday, Crowder touched on a number of topics including his pregnant wife (he’s having a boy), offseason workouts and the realization that he is not a fan favorite. “I know people hate me,” Crowder said. “When people hate on you, you’ve got to be doing something right.” However, the most interesting he said Sunday afternoon relates to quarterback Terrelle Pryor and how he got in trouble at Ohio State. Though he tried to get around admitting it outright, Crowder insinuated that he sold his Florida Gators jerseys at some point during or after his time in Gainesville, FL. “I’ll say hypothetically I don’t have any of my Florida jerseys,” he said. “There were some Jacksonville businessmen who liked my play.”

2 » With the 2011 NBA Draft now in the books, ESPN’s Chad Ford has already released his top 100 for 2012 and two familiar names are at the top of his list. Gators five-star freshman guard Brad Beal comes in at No. 6 on Ford’s list, while sophomore center Patric Young ranks No. 11 out of all NBA Draft prospects who could be available a year from now. Though Beal has made no indications one way or another about his college plans, Young has stated on numerous occasions that he would like to stay three-to-four years and graduate before playing in the NBA. Speaking of Young, he competed with the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship Team in an exhibition contest against Lithuania’s U20 team on Sunday, a game that his squad lost 101-72. Young played 25 minutes (third-most on the team) and went 2-for-7 with five points, six boards, an assist and a steal.

3 » Competing in what was basically a tryout during an exhibition game up in Canada, former Florida wide receiver Dallas Baker earned a roster spot with the Montreal Alouettes. Baker, who is ready to continue working hard now that he’s made the team, will play boundary receiver for one of the CFL’s best squads. “This means a lot, but I can’t stop working,” Baker told the Montreal Gazette. “I’ve been in this situation before, where I made the team and got cut.”

4 » On the other end of the spectrum, former Gators quarterback Chris Leak was cut by the Saskatchewan Roughriders when their final dismissals were decided over the weekend. Leak, who spent a few years with Montreal, is on the radar of the Calgary Stampeders, which have already reached out to him.

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TWO BITS: Rainey robbed, Baker in CFL?

1 » The residence shared by Florida Gators redshirt seniors running back Chris Rainey and cornerback Moses Jenkins was burglarized Sunday morning, and both players had expensive items missing upon returning. According to The Gainesville Sun, Rainey’s BCS National Championship Ring was the most prominent item stolen; however, also taken when the house was “ransacked” were a television, PlayStation gaming system, Gucci duffel bag and 10 pairs of Jenkins’s shoes.

2 » Former Florida wide receiver Dallas Baker has found his way to the Canadian Football League and is currently taking part in workouts with the Montreal Alouettes. Though he is not officially on the roster yet, Baker is hoping to make an impression during the team’s exhibition finale on Wednesday and play in the CFL next year. “I feel like my career’s on the line,” Baker told the Montreal Gazette. “I have to go out and do all the details – catch every pass, complete my blocking assignments and give 110 percent every play. Even without the injury you have something to prove every day. No one remembers what you did on your last play. To me, every day is like a job interview.”

The former Pittsburgh Steelers pass catcher just wants a chance to prove he can play, even if it is not in the United States on the big stage of the NFL. “We all have dreams of being a star in the NFL and are prepared to do what it takes,” Baker said. “But I could have played 10 more years on special teams in the NFL and never made a catch, and I would have been able to sleep at night.”

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FOUR BITS: Larson, Pryor, Leak, Demps, lax

1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson has officially entered a not guilty plea on reduced charges of misdemeanor criminal trespassing. The Gainesville Sun reports that junior F Erik Murphy, the other player cited in the incident, has yet to enter a plea. Both men, along with student manager Josh Adel were arrested on felony burglary charges in April after they were caught allegedly forcing their way into a vehicle. Charges against Adel (for accessory to burglary) were thrown out; those for Larson and Murphy were reduced to misdemeanors.

2 » With former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor leaving his school in the dust, his next career move becomes just as (if not more) interesting as that of former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Pryor has similar options to Jenkins but has seemingly decided to leave college altogether. Though he could enter the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft in July, it is looking more and more like he will play professionally in another league in 2011 with the CFL (Canadian Football League) and UFL (United Football League) leading the charge for his services. The Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL, according to the Associated Press, own Pryor’s negotiation rights within the league and could bring him aboard if he chooses to enter their league. Theoretically, that could spell doom for former Gators QB Chris Leak, who signed with the team as a free agent on May 5 and is fighting for the No. 2 job on the team. UPDATE: Pryor’s attorney said Thursday that he will not entertain offers from the CFL.

3 » Florida senior running back Jeff Demps, widely considered the fastest man in college football and one of the fastest overall in the entire country, failed to qualify for the finals of the 100-meter dash at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Wednesday. Demps turned in a 14th place performance of 10.40 seconds. He won the title last year with a time of 9.96 seconds.

4 » After another stellar season in which they were continuously ranked in the top five teams in the country, beat what ended up becoming the 2011 NCAA Champions and had a chance to qualify for the national championship game, Gators lacrosse was awarded the No. 5 ranking in the final standings released by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association. No. 5 is the highest a second-year program has ever been slotted to end the season, just another in a long list of accomplishments for the young Florida team and head coach Amanda O’Leary.

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