FOUR BITS: Wright, Crowder, Haden, Eagles

1 » Since returning to Chicago Bears training camp after sitting out for almost a week with a tweaked groin, rookie safety Major Wright has been turning some heads and is pushing his way into a starting role with the team. Though he is currently listed as the team’s No. 2 free safety on its first depth chart, Wright has been working with the first team and was around the ball all day on Monday (even though he dropped two sure interceptions, the team was pleased that he was in the position to make them).

2 » If we have told you once, we have told you a hundred times: Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder is the best interview in the NFL. On Monday, Crowder spoke about talking trash to his rivals. “[I say] how I feel about them, their mothers, their girlfriends, their wives, their kids, their dogs, their greasy grandma, whatever pops into my mind,” Crowder said. “The league calls me on Mondays and talks to me about the interesting conversations I was having on the field.”

He even had choice words for ex-teammate now New York Jets LB Jason Taylor. “I just want to see JT [on HBO’s Hard Knocks] and laugh at him,” he said. “I talked to him the other night and I was making fun of him, so I just want to see him out there embarrass himself. […] He’s a real pretty boy. He had makeup with Dancing with the Stars and all that, so he might put on makeup. He’s gonna perform. Trust me. You can mark that. JT is not going to be himself. He’s gonna perform for the cameras, ‘cause he’s a showman. That’s what I give him a hard time about – he’s going to be as clean as he can, he’s gonna have a freshly-shaved head, ‘cause the camera is around. He’s very womanly.”

3 » Cleveland Browns cornerback Eric Wright appeared to injure his hamstring during morning practice on Tuesday. While the team waits to find out exactly what is wrong with him, possibly an injury that may keep him out for the short-term, rookie first-round pick Joe Haden will be playing with the first team.

4 » The Philadelphia Daily News caught up with former Florida Gators wide receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Cornelius Ingram and asked both players about the hazing haircut given to Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. “I love it. I think he should keep it. No, I’m kidding, the haircut was awful,” Cooper said. “You know what, Riley actually showed me about three days ago on the phone,” Ingram added. “I thought it was a [fake]. I really didn’t think it was a real photo. Now that it’s out now, they at least could have gave him a better cut than that, though. It looked bad. It looked bad.” Cooper, who is competing with veteran WR Hank Baskett for the Eagles’ fourth receiver spot, is currently listed as a back-up on the team’s first depth chart.

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TWO BITS: Wright injured, Villegas sponsored

1 » After straining his groin muscle Monday, Chicago Bears safety Major Wright became the fourth former Florida Gators player (and third rookie) to get injured in the opening days of 2010-11 training camp. According to ESPNChicago.com, Wright hurt himself while “attempting to change direction and locate a deflected Jay Cutler pass during a full team drill.” He “appeared to lose his footing and almost ended up doing the splits. He then gingerly jogged off the field to receive treatment from the teams’ training staff and remained out the rest of the workout.” Bears head coach Lovie Smith was optimistic after practice, indicating that the trainers believe he will be fine. “I like the way he’s played football,” Smith said. “he’s been around the ball quite a bit. He has good hands and is eager and excited about being here. He’s a good football player. But we need to get him out on the football field because there’s good competition at the safety position.”

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin was carted off the field after tweaking his ankle over the weekend; both Oakland Raiders WR Louis Murphy and Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap suffered concussions.

2 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is not the only one making major sponsorship news. CNBC’s Darren Rovell reports that former Gators golfer Camilo Villegas has signed a brand new sponsorship deal with TaylorMade. Formerly with Cobra (Puma), Villegas will now sport a TaylorMade-adidas bag, equipment and attire during matches. “Camilo is a winner, a gentleman, and a fan favorite,” company president and CEO Mark King told Rovell. “Cameras tend to find him because he has presence and magnetism that’s impressive and rare. Camilo also shares the same values with our brand and our people, including a burning desire to improve and reach his potential. We very much want to help him do that, which is why believe this is a great fit.” In March, Villegas won the 2010 Honda Classic.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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New Orleans Saints DE Alex Brown: “The Florida Gators will never change for me.”

With eight years of professional football under his belt, former Florida Gators defensive end Alex Brown is moving on from the Chicago Bears to the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. In a brand new city with an upbeat and positive mindset, Brown landed in Louisiana on Wednesday to start preparing for training camp. The first thing he did after touching down? Provide OGGOA with an exclusive half-hour interview covering everything from his recruitment and time with the Gators to the Bears’ Super Bowl run and why grits are his favorite thing about the city of New Orleans, LA (so far).

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Growing up in a small town, was it difficult to get noticed by the University of Florida and make an impression on head coach Steve Spurrier?
ALEX BROWN: “Yeah, it was. I just wanted to go and play football – that’s all I did. I was nervous because I didn’t know if people would see me. My dad was really good just staying on me about it. ‘If you go play, if you’re good enough, they’ll find you.’ That was his big thing. All I did was go play – and they found me.”

AS: What made you decide to attend Florida rather than going to Georgia or another school? Were you always a Gators fan?
AB: “I actually was not a Florida fan at all. I really wasn’t even going to take a visit to Florida. University of Miami – that year – my last visit I was going to take was going to be to the University of Miami. And I was going to choose between Miami, Florida State, North Carolina and Auburn. There was a kid that got killed at Miami – I want to say it was like on a Monday or Tuesday – and I was supposed to go on a visit that coming weekend. And my mom was like, ‘No way, you can’t go. You can’t do it.’ I was like, ‘Alright, I guess I will not take another visit.’ I talked to [Buffalo Bills linebacker] Andra Davis, who I’ve known since like fifth grade, and he had just taken his visit to Florida and that was the celebration of the National Championship – that was that week. He had a great time. So I talked to him and he said he was going to Florida. He’s like, ‘Just take your visit there, you’re not going to go to Miami, so take your visit to Florida.’ Early in the week, I called coach [Jimmy Ray] Stephens, he was the offensive line coach at the time and the guy that recruited me. He said, ‘OK.’ I was in Gainesville for a day. [Atlanta Falcons LB] Mike Peterson was my host and, by the time I left, they could have left me there. I was going for sure. As soon as I got back, I started calling all the other coaches and letting them know that this is what I want. It wasn’t too far from home but far enough away, I guess. And they were good. I played linebacker, and they had [former DE] Jevon Kearse, Mike Peterson and [former LB] Johnny Rutledge – and I thought I fit right in. It was a great match for me and took me all of a day-and-a-half to figure that out.

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Alex Brown…after the break!
Continue Reading » New Orleans Saints DE Alex Brown: “The Florida Gators will never change for me.”

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Eagles sign WR Riley Cooper to four-year deal

The Philadelphia Eagles and former Florida Gators wide receiver Riley Cooper agreed to terms Tuesday on a four-year rookie contract. Selected in the 159th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Cooper is the third of nine University of Florida players selected in April to officially sign his NFL deal. His contract is worth $1.962 million, and Cooper will receive a $171,500 signing bonus.

“The guy’s a ball player. I’m not surprised he came up and had a great mini camp,” former Gators tight end and Eagles teammate Cornelius Ingram told OGGOA about watching Cooper workout last month. “I’m pretty excited for what he has going on, too.”

Cooper will try to earn a spot as one of the team’s reserve receivers during training camp; he will likely fill Philadelphia’s No. 4 receiver slot or end up playing special teams if he is beat out by another player. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant have all locked down starting jobs this season.

Safety Major Wright, drafted by the Chicago Bears in the third round, and tight end Aaron Hernandez, picked up by the New England Patriots in the fourth round, have each already agreed to terms with their respective clubs.

OGGOA will update this story as more information is made available.

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

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San Diego cuts former Florida DT Ian Scott

The San Diego Chargers released former Florida Gators defensive tackle Ian Scott on Monday. Scott, who started seven games in 12 appearances for the Chargers last season, was expected to remain the team’s starter going into 2010.

San Diego selected Cam Thomas of North Carolina in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft and appear to believe he will be able to take Scott’s place on the defensive line right away.

Scott, 28, will likely be picked up by another team soon. He was originally drafted by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 2003 draft and has also played for Philadelphia and Carolina.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

OGGOA RELATED: Saints unexpectedly release DE Bobby McCray

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FOUR BITS: Young, Wright, K. Moore, Dorsey

1 » USA Basketball has released a profile piece on Florida Gators four-star power forward commitment Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) completed as he joined the Men’s U-18 National Team for the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men from June 26-40. Among the topics covered, Young says that Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel is working him and the rest of the team hard, the experience will do him well for his freshman year at Florida, he has plans to study sports medicine, his family is huge Gators fans and he wants to do what he can to help end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. “My parents put [giving back] into my head, I grew up with my own morals that I learned from them,” Young said. “I just applied it to my life and that’s just me.”

2 » Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo discussed how former Florida safety Major Wright has been progressing with his team thus far through mini camp; suffice to say, he is coming away impressed. “He’s billed as advertised. He’s a great kid who’s very competitive,” Angelo said. “He brings a lot of emotion and energy to the [secondary], which is great to see. He’s getting better with each practice. There’s going to be a learning curve at all positions for rookies, probably more so in the secondary because there’s much more going on at the safety position. But he’s doing a fine job. The coaches are very pleased with the way he’s progressing, particularly with his work habits. In terms of whether he’ll start this season, the players and coaches will determine that, but we’re very excited about seeing him in pads.”

3 » While some of the Gators’ more prominent stars over the years were unable to make a career for themselves in the NFL (see: quarterback Leak, Chris of the Montreal Alouettes), others have found slots on practice teams and in the back of rosters. Picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 9, 2009, as an insurance policy against a dwindling backfield, former Florida running back Kestahn Moore caught on and signed a deal with the team on Jan. 5. This offseason, Moore has been getting a lot of work in during practice – he has taken Wildcat formation snaps behind rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster, run the ball as what many believe is the team’s third or fourth back and impressed coaches with what Chiefs writer Bob Gretz calls “a nice wiggle and burst.” As camp wrapped up on June 14, Gertz had this to say about Moore: “The first-year back out of Florida got a lot of opportunities with Jamaal Charles on the sidelines because of his shoulder surgery/recovery. There is no live action in these practices, so running backs can be hard to judge. But in every practice, Moore ripped off at least one impressive run with a burst of speed or moves. Moore has become a shadow of Thomas Jones and he’s trying to learn how to stay in the NFL from the 11-year veteran.”

4 » Safety Demar Dorsey, a five-star recruit who was previously committed to Florida before being forced to find a fit elsewhere, was released from his letter of intent with the Michigan Wolverines in early June for undisclosed reasons most likely relating to his past legal issues and was hoping to catch on with another program. As previously rumored and projected by OGGOA, he has officially landed with the Louisville Cardinals and two former Florida coaches – head coach Charlie Strong, and defensive coordinator and secondary coach Vance Bedford.

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Tebow adds more supporters, lofty comparisons

Arguing whether or not Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow will succeed in the NFL has seemingly become a national pastime with fans, league executives, former players, current players and analysts all having an opinion on his future without even seeing the former Florida Gators star step into a professional huddle.

Supporters and doubters alike realize that Tebow has some work to do in order to be a polished NFL quarterback. Nevertheless, what some term as “flaws,” others believe are characteristics that make Tebow unique and will allow him to succeed at the next level – perhaps even beyond his most ardent fans’ expectations.

ESPN spoke with a few former NFL signal callers known for their mobility – most prominently Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton and Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh – and asked them to evaluate Tebow’s ability to succeed in the pros.

Tarkenton: “I know that Tim Tebow is not the prototypical quarterback. I wasn’t either. Neither was Roger Staubach, even Bob Griese wasn’t. I had my own style of play and did OK. The only thing that will hurt him is coaches. Most coaches don’t understand quarterbacks. Don’t try to coach him into what he’s going to be. That would be a disaster. […] Peyton Manning can’t do what Tim Tebow does, and vice versa. […] The quarterback position is about playmaking, it’s about leadership. It’s a complex position you can’t test for.”

Read what else was said about Tebow and his future…after the break!
Continue Reading » Tebow adds more supporters, lofty comparisons

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Wright first of Florida’s 2010 draftees to sign deal

Chicago Bears safety Major Wright became the first Florida Gators player selected in the 2010 NFL Draft to be signed by his team after agreeing to a four-year contract on Friday, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“With this being my dream, signing a contract is a blessing for me,” Wright told the team’s website. “It shows that hard work pays off. I’m very excited and my family is very excited.”

Though terms of the deal were not available at press time, Wright’s signing is significant for the Bears because the team is now the first in league history to have all of its draft picks under contract before the end of May – an achievement the front office takes prides in. It is the fifth-straight year the team has been the first in the NFL to sign all of its draftees.

UPDATE: Wright’s contract is believed to have a maximum value of $3.368 million, $845,000 in guaranteed payments and a fourth-year escalator clause, according to information obtained by Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post.

Chicago and Wright’s agent, Mitch Frankel, had to overcome a “one-timer” contract clause that was a necessity because of the team’s underfunded rookie salary pool.

Essentially, Wright will earn less of a signing bonus and instead be provided an additional non-guaranteed incentive in the final year of his rookie contract (2013) as long as he actually steps on the field as a safety (rather than just a special teams player) at some point during his first three seasons. One-timers are generally used for the contracts of second-round picks, but the Bears found a need to use it for Wright – the team’s top selection (No. 75 overall) in April.

He is expected to immediately compete for Chicago’s starting free safety job, and the coaching staff is hopefully he will win the job during training camp.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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