12 Gator Bites for Wednesday, January 22

From time to time, OnlyGators.com 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. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Returns from the first two days of practice ahead of the 2014 Senior Bowl have been positive for the three Florida Gators in attendance with cornerback and OnlyGators.com Path to the Draft blogger Jaylen Watkins drawing the most rave reviews on Tuesday. “Watkins balled out today,” said Scout.com’s Jamie Newberg. “Had [a] pick, caused fumble & at least five [pass breakups].” Concurred CBSSports.com’s Dane Brugler: “Watkins is one of the better players here that isn’t much talked about. I’m a big fan.” An AFC scout in attendance at the practices told OnlyGators.com that his team already has Watkins pegged as a potential second day draft selection.

» The first day of the inaugural all-star draft for the 2014 Pro Bowl was held on Tuesday with Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey going off the board as the first player chosen at his position. He will play for Team (Deion) Sanders. The second half of the draft will be held on Wednesday with Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden waiting to be picked.

» San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald tore his biceps tendon in Week 6 but played through the injury all the way up until his team fell in the NFC Championship on Sunday. Now done for the season, McDonald is scheduled to have the tendon reattached with a surgery upcoming, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Check out NINE more Gators news bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12 Gator Bites for Wednesday, January 22

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Joe Haden, Mike Pouncey picked for Pro Bowl

A pair of former Florida Gators were elected Friday to the NFL Pro Bowl for the first time in their respective careers as fourth-year Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden and third-year Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey were both chosen to participate in this season’s all-star game.

Haden, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, is in the midst of the best campaign of his young career. Already considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league, he has shut down talented opposing receivers while registering 43 solo tackles and four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) through 15 games.

Pouncey, the No. 15 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, is finally being recognized for his on-field talent despite getting overlooked and snubbed in 2012 when he actually outperformed his brother, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (who was elected to his third-straight Pro Bowl last season).

Though he missed two games this season due to an illness, Mike Pouncey has once again proven to be one of the most versatile centers in the NFL.

Continue Reading » Joe Haden, Mike Pouncey picked for Pro Bowl

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FOUR BITS: NFL, Donovan, Mooney, Parsons

1 » The names of a few former Florida Gators popped up on the NFL transaction wire this week. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and wide receiver David Nelson were signed by the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets, respectively, on Tuesday. Cunningham was released by the New England Patriots after never even suiting up for the team during the offseason, and Nelson was cut by the Cleveland Browns after his knee flared up during the preseason.

On the other side of the coin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived safety Ahmad Black (who started for them this season), and the St. Louis Rams cut offensive tackle Max Starks, who was signed just two weeks ago.

2 » ESPN’s Andy Kats noted on Wednesday that Gators head coach Billy Donovan has decided not to take advantage of the NCAA pushing up the start of basketball practice and will instead begin Florida workouts on Friday, Oct. 11. He opines that the move is being made to give senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin extra time to get back in the team’s good graces. Though that may have an ounce of truth to it, the actuality is Donovan would prefer to have his team practice more in a shorter period of time rather than three total hours per week over an additional month. “[He] likes to hold double sessions over weekends and you only have 30 practices over 42 days before [the] season opener,” correctly noted The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway.

3 » Grabbing a recruit three years before he graduates high school is a risky proposition, but it sounds like the Gators’ latest basketball pledge is in for the long haul. 2016 power forward John Mooney (Altamonte Springs, FL) committed to Florida on Saturday, the school he has always wanted to attend. “I don’t see this being an Austin Rivers situation at all,” Mooney’s head coach at Lake Brantley High School, Mike Cuff, told Brockway. Cuff also said Mooney averaged a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman on varsity despite only taking 6-7 shots per game. Brockway also spoke with Mooney’s Nike Team Florida coach Tom Topping, who noted that the player “projects as one of the better basketball players in his class,” something that is “not just my opinion.”

4 » Grantland.com’s Juliet Litman takes a closer look at Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons and his incredibly busy summer, which she concludes is an “aggressive attempt to become a famous athlete/fashion icon,” something she personally finds “strangely endearing.” OnlyGators.com will be speaking with Parsons prior to the start of the 2013-14 NBA season.

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Patriots release Gators QB Tim Tebow; others cut

For the third time in an NFL career that has spanned as many full seasons, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has been dismissed by the franchise to which he was under contract as the New England Patriots decided to release the former Heisman Trophy winner on Saturday as they were forced to cut 22 players in order to whittle their roster down to 53 players ahead of the 2013 season.

ESPN‘s Adam Schefter first reported Tebow’s release via Twitter.

It took one month after being waived by the New York Jets for Tebow to be signed by New England, the team that always seemed like the best fit for his unique talents.

The Patriots acquired Tebow as a quarterback and waived Mike Kafka in order to bring him into the fold. In joining New England, he reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who selected him with the No. 25 overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft while serving as head coach of the Denver Broncos.

But McDaniels’s desire to give him an opportunity and owner Robert Kraft’s affection for him as a person were simply not enough to keep Tebow on the 53-man roster.

In 2011, during his second year with the Broncos, Tebow was a mid-season replacement at starting quarterback and set the league on fire by leading his team to numerous come-from-behind victories and seven wins in eight games from Weeks 7-14. He also threw a game-winning overtime touchdown against Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round of the 2012 NFL Playoffs, going went 10-of-21 for 316 yards with two passing touchdowns while carrying the ball 10 times for 50 yards and a rushing score.

Continue Reading » Patriots release Gators QB Tim Tebow; others cut

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Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: 7/28 – 8/4

The 2013 NFL regular season is exactly one month away from kicking off on Thursday, Sept. 5.

More than three dozen former Florida Gators are currently working out with their respective teams and trying to either keep or earn roster spots for the upcoming year.

Below are select updates on some of these Gators for the second full week of training camp from July 28 to Aug. 4.

The Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys squared off during the 2013 Hall of Fame Game, the first preseason game, in Canton, OH, on Sunday night.

RB MIKE GILLISLEE*, Miami Dolphins: Seven carries for 21 yards (long: 9)
LB JELANI JENKINS*, Miami Dolphins: Two tackles
C MIKE POUNCEY, Miami Dolphins: Started Hall of Fame Game
K CALEB STURGIS*, Miami Dolphins: Did not play – groin

QB TIM TEBOW, New England Patriots: Though cameras caught Tebow hauling in passes and protecting the ball in a drill last week, he will be nothing but a quarterback for the Patriots, according to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “He’s just practicing his open-field running,” McDaniels said. “We know Tim has a skill set that some of these other guys don’t possess in terms of ability to run with it, scramble with it when he has it in his hands. … He’s put in a lot of time and effort to improve his individual skill set to play the position of quarterback in our offense, and I think every day is a learning tool for him.” Tebow has also received a nod from starter Tom Brady. “We have good conversations,” Brady said, according to the Associated Press. “He loves playing football and that’s usually the type of guys who do well here.”

Read updates on seven other former Gators…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: 7/28 – 8/4

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Haden, Halapio, Hines

1 » Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin announced via Twitter on Tuesday that he will have surgery on his torn hip labrum and be out of action for the foreseeable future. Harvin, who got injured in the offseason and will go under the knife on Thursday, inked a six-year, $67 million contract with the Seahawks, which traded multiple picks including a first rounder to the Minnesota Vikings for his rights. “When everything is goin good sometimes life throw u a curve ball…sorry to [have] to report that my injury will require surgery…” he tweeted. “Nobody was more anxious and excited about [the] season [than I]…but I will be back strong as ever..i appreciate all the love and prayers.”

Team doctors initially believed that Harvin would be able to rehabilitate the injury without surgery, but a second opinion on Tuesday led him to decide that surgery was the best option. He is expected to miss 3-4 months of action and has an outside chance at returning for the final four weeks of the regular season. Seattle’s options include putting Harvin on the physical unable to perform list or placing him on the injured list and marking him as “designated to return.”

If Harvin goes on the PUP list to start the regular season, he would automatically miss the first six games. The recently revised rule would require him to be activated by the start of Week 15, or Harvin would automatically be ineligible for the remainder of the season. Placing him on the IR with the aforementioned designation would allow Harvin to return to practice in Week 7 or start playing in Week 9 but not penalize the team if he remained out of action longer. It may give the Seahawks greater roster flexibility, but the designation can only be used for one player per year, so Seattle may choose to hold onto the option for someone else at a later date.

2 » Entering his fourth NFL season, the time is now for Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden to truly break out and become a superstar in the league. According to 850 WKNR ESPN Radio in Cleveland, OH, he may be on the cusp of doing just that.

So far in camp, he has consistently dominated one-on-one drills against wide receivers, which is almost impossible to do, deflected about a dozen passes, has an interception, and has made five or six “superstar” type plays.

Haden is blossoming right in front of our eyes and it is exciting to see.

Haden only played 11 games last season, missing four (and losing $1.856 million) due to a suspension he received after testing positive for Adderall. Married in the offseason, Haden believes he is now more mature and sees 2013 as a fresh start. “[The suspension] was a humbling thing. It was one of the lowest points,” he said. “Last year was last year. What happened is in the past. […] I feel like I honestly owe the team, I owe myself, I owe the fans, I owe the Browns just everything I’ve got this year to keep going and just be elite and hold things down.”

3 » Florida Gators redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio is drawing rave reviews as a 2014 NFL Draft prospect, which is not surprising because sources close to the league that OnlyGators.com spoke to revealed that Halapio would have been a second-day pick had he come out last season. NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who was watching Florida-LSU film from 2012, tweeted early Tuesday morning that Halapio “has crazy upper strength.” He continued. “I counted 13 knockdowns against LSU and several were pure flat-backs. Nasty dude.” Later Tuesday, Jeremiah named Halapio among his top five most physical players in college football.

Halapio is a nasty football player, and I mean that as a sincere complement. He has outstanding upper and lower strength and he is a violent finisher. In the run game, he locks on with his powerful hands and uses his leg-drive to wash defenders down the line of scrimmage before depositing them on the ground. In the pass game, he loves to utilize the snatch move. He sets wide, grabs the defender’s chest and pulls them face first into the ground. He has the ideal temperament for an interior offensive lineman.

4 » Wide receiver Omarius Hines, an undrafted free agent signed by the Baltimore Ravens after the draft but cut from the team last Monday, has been signed by the Green Bay Packers, which have a penchant for getting great production out of undervalued pass catchers. The Packers are lacking depth at receiver, and he is expected to have a great opportunity to prove his worth throughout the preseason.

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Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: July 21-27

The 2013 NFL season is just one week away from beginning with preseason action kicking off on Sunday, Aug. 4.

More than three dozen former Florida Gators are currently working out with their respective teams and trying to either keep or earn roster spots for the upcoming year.

Below are select updates on some of these Gators for the first full week of training camp from July 21-27.

QB TIM TEBOW, New England Patriots: His first full practice with his new team generated its fair share of excitement with some fans in attendance occasionally chanting his name. Though he is listed as the third-string quarterback – and therefore worked behind center in 11-on-11 drills during practice – Tebow also participated in drills where he caught the ball and attempted to break a tackle. In other words, New England may have more planned for him than head coach Bill Belichick wanted to admit initially. “I just do what I’m told and work as hard as I possibly can to do the best job I can with whatever I’m asked to do,” he said.

Comcast SportsNet‘s Patriots beat writer Tom E. Curran described Tebow’s practice as, in one word, “horrendous.”

After practice, Tebow was swarmed by the media and questioned about former Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez. “It’s just heartbreaking and sad, and all my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that were involved,” he said. “I understand why you [the media] have to ask all the questions; that’s part of doing your job. Part of mine is listening to instruction, and we’ve been told not to talk about it.”

Tebow was happy to defend former Gators head coach Urban Meyer, however. “I feel like Coach Meyer is a great man, one of the best I’ve had the privilege of being around,” he said. “He is someone that not only tries to win football games, he’s someone that tries to invest in young men’s lives and help young men grow. He cares very deeply about that. That’s one of the reasons I’m so close to him and why I’m proud of him.”

Read updates on more than a dozen other former Gators…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: July 21-27

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Giants S Will Hill suspended for substance abuse

New York Giants safety Will Hill has been suspended for the second time in his short NFL career as the league announced on Saturday that he will sit out four games for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.

He was previously suspended four games on Oct. 8, 2012 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Hill was undrafted in 2011 due to a combination of immaturity and his use of illegal drugs, namely marijuana, after deciding to leave Florida Gators following his junior season. He reportedly came a long way to fix that negative reputation over the year he missed and was signed by the Giants in the 2012 offseason after impressing the team with his character off the field and ability on it.

He claimed his former suspension was for using Adderall, a drug prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“I accept full responsibility for this situation and it won’t happen again,” he said in an official statement at the time. “The Giants have given me a great opportunity when nobody else would, and I don’t take that for granted. I feel badly this has happened.”

Hill played 12 games during his first season in the league, registering 38 tackles (29 solo, two for lost yardage), with two forced fumbles and two pass defenses.

He will be eligible to participate in all of New York’s training camp activities and preseason games but will not be able to begin in-season practices until he is reinstated to the active roster on Monday, Sept. 30.

Should he still be with the team at that time, Hill will have been suspended for eight of his first 20 NFL games.

He is entering the second season of a three-year, $1.44 million contract.

Hill’s former teamamtes with the Gators – Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden and New England Patriots linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham – have each been suspended once since 2010 for using performance-enhancing drugs.

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