TWO BITS: Nelson injured, Haden suspended

1 » Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson was officially ruled out for the remainder of the 2011 on Monday when the injury he sustained to his knee on Sunday was deemed to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The team’s No. 3 wide receiver, Nelson compiled 658 yards and five touchdowns on 61 receptions in 2011, his second as an undrafted free agent after a long career with the Florida Gators. Nelson, who had two receptions for 31 yards on Sunday before injuring himself, is in the final season of his three-year rookie agreement and is set to be a restricted free agent in 2013.

2 » Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden has been suspended for four games after breaking the NFL’s banned substance policy, the league officially announced on Monday. Haden, who had already technically received the suspension but immediately filed an appeal to delay the proceedings after getting word that he tested positive for Adderall, was able to play in his team’s season opener on Sunday because a ruling had not been made on his appeal. He finished the game with six tackles (five solo) and an interception with a 50-yard return (one of three Gators to pick off a quarterback on kickoff weekend). Haden will return after his team’s game on Sunday, Oct. 7. He is arguably Cleveland’s best player but is now no longer eligible for Pro Bowl recognition.

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FOUR BITS: Texas A&M, Haden, Schutte, Paco

1 » With the Florida Gators’ game against the Texas A&M Aggies under 48 hours away, now is as good of a time as ever to check on ESPN College GameDay’s promotional video for the contest set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

2 » Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren announced on Tuesday that cornerback Joe Haden has indeed been suspended by the NFL for failing the league’s banned substance policy (testing positive for Adderall); however, he is set to play in the team’s season opener on Sunday and every game from that point forward until his already-filed appeal is ruled on by the league. Haden’s suspension, should it be enacted after the NFL reviews his appeal, will be for four games. He would at that time become the second former Gators player in the last three years to receive a suspension for violating that policy as New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes missed the last four games of his rookie season in 2010 after testing positive for an ingredient that was contained in his ADHD medication.

3 » Florida catcher Brittany Schutte, who missed most of the 2012 season after suffering a broken jaw early in the campaign, has decided to skip her final season with the team in order to move on and coach softball at the Oak Hall School in Gainesville, FL. According to Oak Hill, Schutte recently informed Gators head coach Tim Walton that she will not return to the team and “is shifting interest in her academic career with hopes of becoming an educator.” Her departure is a major loss for a Florida team that saw a huge star graduate and suffered three other major defections last season. The Gators lost senior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie and saw sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle as well as sisters Kasey Fagan and Sami Fagan leave the program after Walton suspended all three during the opening portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. In her first two years with the team, Schutte hit .335 with 41 home runs, 128 RBIs, 118 runs, 83 walks and 82 stolen bases. She also slugged .751 and fielded her position at a .989 clip. Schutte’s departure, coupled with Moultrie’s graduation and the three transfers, leaves the Gators without five of their best players heading into the 2013 season.

4 » Former Florida left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez, selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the No. 82 overall pick in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft, became the first player from that draft to be called up to the majors when Los Angeles brought him into the fold on Wednesday. Rodriguez, who was always thought to be a player who might be in this situation, was dominant in the minors, posting a 0.92 ERA with 32 strikeouts and six walks in 19 2/3 innings over 21 games. “Everybody here’s been great to me,” he told MLB.com this week. “Now I’ve got to perform. I’ve got to get over it. But on the mound, looking up at all the decks, the biggest place I’ve ever played before was Omaha and they only have two decks.”

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FOUR BITS: Demps, Haden, Beal, Smith

1 » Now a member of the New England Patriots after signing with the team last week, former Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps told reporters Wednesday that “getting back into football shape” is going to be the toughest part of his return to the game. “I’m a football player first,” he said. “I’m used to jumping right into it, coming off of track season. It was basically like the same transition [as it was at Florida], but guys were a lot bigger.” Demps said that working with former Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was a plus because some of the Patriots’ playbook is familiar to him though he still has a ways to go. He noted Wednesday that he has not picked up a football since the 2012 Gator Bowl on Jan. 1 and that the presence of tight end Aaron Hernandez, linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham on the team helped make his decision easier. “It played a good role,” he said. “I knew some of the faces. They took me in like they did when I was at Florida. It was a good thing.”

It was reported on Tuesday by NFL.com’s Bryan McIntyre that Demps received an $11,000 signing bonus from New England as well as a first-year salary of $390,000 of which $200,000 is guaranteed. “The total of $211,000 in guaranteed money is the second-largest sum given to a 2012 undrafted free agent,” he explained. His salary in years two and three of his deal has not been reported.

2 » Already mired in controversy regarding a potential four-game suspension for his alleged use of Adderall in the offseason, Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden was “removed from practice” on Wednesday after getting in a heated exchange with head coach Pat Shurmur. According to ESPNCleveland.com, the website for the city’s local ESPN Radio affiliates, Haden was “too rough with rookie [wide] receiver Travis Benjamin” during practice. “Haden had been warned about pulling jerseys” and got into an argument with Shurmur after “[dragging] down Benjamin in the end zone during a red zone drill.” The coach refused to talk about the situation afterward, simply saying that he has “a great deal of respect for Joe” who he called “a great competitor” who he appreciates for his work ethic and character on and off the field.

3 » Washington Wizards first-round draft choice and No. 3 overall pick Bradley Beal is set to begin practicing with his team in five weeks but told the Washington Post on Wednesday that he is not heading into training camp expecting anything in particular as it pertains to his role on the team. “I want to just come in and try to earn everything,” he said. “I don’t want anything given to me. I want to earn everything and show these guys that I’m a hard worker and I’m a winner. You know we have a young team, but we have a few vets as well and I just want to come in and try to set the tone and try to get this team back on a winning pace.”

4 » Former Florida running back Emmitt Smith, despite feeling healthy as of press time, told SportingNews this week that he is worried about winding up where so many former players are health-wise, potentially suffering dementia or other serious brain problems due to being concussed so often while playing in the NFL. “Knowing what has started to come out in terms of the evidence of guys having mental issues right now, it concerns me, especially when you’ve carried the football more than anybody in the National Football League and have more yardage than anybody in the National Football League,” he said. “That means I probably got hit more than anyone in the National Football League, so why shouldn’t I be concerned?”

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SIX BITS: football, Iverson, Haden, soccer

1 » Florida Gators football held its first fall scrimmage on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and head coach Will Muscahmp told the school’s website that he came away impressed citing how “crisp” it was from a procedural standpoint. Following the scrimmage the team was uprooted from its dorms and apartments and moved into a local hotel, according to GatorZone.com, where they will live for a full week. “It’s training camp,” Muschamp said. “That’s what you do. You bond with your teammates, you find out a lot about guys on the team you’ve never known and their backgrounds. You spend a lot of time together. I think it’s a very important part of the growing experience that you have as a player here.” A number of football players also tweeted early Saturday evening that the team was together on a field trip to go see The Dark Knight Rises.

2 » Could head coach Billy Donovan be ready to add a fourth and likely final member to his stellar 2013 recruiting class? According to SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria, four-star small forward Kuran Iverson (Waynesboro, VA), ranked No. 25 overall nationally by Rivals, may be close to pulling the trigger for the Gators. “Florida’s showing me a lot of love. I think that might be the best choice,” he told SNY on Saturday night. Iverson’s final four also includes Connecticut, Memphis and Syracuse though it will likely be a UF-UConn battle for his services. “I talk to Billy Donovan and the rest of the assistant coaches all the time,” Iverson told Zagoria. “They call me like every day. They say I play my position. The three, I play two sometimes, and the one.”

3 » A stunning report this week that Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden tested positive for Adderall (a drug prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder) and could face a four-game NFL suspension became a bit more clear on Saturday when Pro Football Talk reported via a league source that Haden apparently took the medication “as a ‘pick-me-up’ during an offseason visit to Las Vegas” and was simply unlucky with the timing of the random drug test. PFT does note, however, that Haden has not yet had the opportunity to file an appeal and could avoid missing time this season because “the NFL’s in-house appeals often require months to be processed.”

4 » Haden, who refused to get into detail about the subject, told The Chronicle-Telegram on Thursday that he is someone of high-character and that he hopes his fans do not alter their opinion of him based on this incident. “Everybody knows who I am,” he said. “Honestly, my friends and my family, they know exactly who I am. All the Haden Nation supporters, they know who I am, and you can’t put up a front. So I’m just going to just keep balling, keep looking forward to the next game and keep doing my thing.”

5 » Former Gators point guard Taurean Green and defensive lineman Terron Sanders were two of seven student-athletes to receive degrees this summer, the school announced on Friday. Green (who has been playing professionally overseas since 2008) and Sanders (who is no longer attempting to play professional football) both came back to school to take classes and earn their diplomas.

6 » Taking part in a 105-minute friendly against the No. 12 Central Florida Knights in Orlando, FL on Saturday evening, No. 21 Florida Gators soccer came away with a 2-0 victory and some momentum heading into the 2012 season. Sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Burke made just one save in her shutout performance while sophomore midfielder Havana Solaun (36’) and senior MF/forward Erika Tymrak (56’) scored a goal each in the match.

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TWO BITS: Demps will run, Haden fails test

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps, who gave up football after his senior season and is now a professional sprinter, did not qualify run for the United States at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June. However, he did wind up being added to the team as an injury replacement just days before the 2012 London Olympics got underway and learned this week that he will be running the first leg of the Men’s 4×100 Meter Relay on Friday. “I was very excited,” Demps said in a statement issued by agent Nohemy Baltodano to the Orlando Sentinel. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.” As a member of the relay pool, Demps was not assured a spot in the event but has still been practicing with the team in London, England. By competing in the preliminaries, he will be eligible for a medal should Team USA win one in the finals of the event even if he is not a member of the four-man team to run that race.

2 » According to ESPN Cleveland, a website that is the online home for radio stations WKNR 850 AM and KNRZ 1540 AM, Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden is facing a possible four-game suspension after failing a NFL drug test that is currently being reviewed by the league. “One source said that Haden tested positive for the prescription drug Adderall during a routine, off-season test,” Will Burge and Tony Grossi wrote. “Adderall, which is commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy, is also used for excessive tiredness. It is on the NFL’s list of banned substances and is classified by the league as a stimulant.” Haden will have the opportunity to appeal his suspension, if one is handed down, though it would be unlikely for the NFL to change its mind barring something unforeseen.

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SIX BITS: Haden, Cunningham, Rosario, Horford, Finney-Smith, Larson, Pigott, Bullard

1 » The NFL’s Around the Legaue blog highlighted cornerback Joe Haden as the most likely player from the Cleveland Browns “set for a breakout campaign in 2012.” Despite mentioning that he is “already one of the ten best cornerbacks in football,” a proclamation that would not be doubted by anyone who actually watched Haden play throughout the 2011 season, Gregg Rosenthal notes that Haden is not getting his due because after picking off six passes as a rookie he did not have a single interception in his sophomore campaign. However, he has been fantastic at limiting the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver and is “just hitting his stride” two years removed from playing as a junior for the Florida Gators and going No. 7 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Though Haden can lock down receivers, his reading comprehension (when it comes to the instructions on bottles of bubble bath) probably needs some improvement.

2 » Even though head coach Bill Belichick said New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham had a “great offseason” and looked like a chance man at the start of mandatory minicamp, ESPN Boston only gives him a 35 percent chance of making the 53-man roster. “Last season, the Patriots kept Cunningham on the roster but he rarely saw the field, not having a special teams role in what turned out to be an injury-shortened season for the former second-round pick,” writes Mike Rodak. “Cunningham missed time in minicamp with another injury, an issue to monitor heading into training camp. If he cannot secure a role on defense during the preseason, he will face an uphill battle to make the roster.”

Read four more BITS in this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Haden, Cunningham, Rosario, Horford, Finney-Smith, Larson, Pigott, Bullard

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SIX BITS: McCullers, Starks, Davis, Hurt, Pouncey

1 » The Florida Gators’ top 2013 baseball commitment, right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers, is unlikely to ever step on the field at McKethan Stadium as he is projected to be a top selection in the 2012 MLB Draft on Monday. Though he is not yet officially a member of the orange and blue, the slim chance that McCullers spurns pro baseball and decides to spend three years playing in the college ranks should give Florida fans something extra to watch for Monday evening. McCullers was named the 2012 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year on Thursday after posting a perfect 13-0 record with a 0.18 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 77.1 innings during his senior season (he also batted .280 with two homers, 21 RBIs and 10 stolen bases as a shortstop). He is widely considered to be the best high school baseball player in the country and has received tons of positive press but could very well not wind up going in the first round due to new collective bargaining rules that limit the amount of bonus money teams can pay out to their top picks. Teams may feel that McCullers, represented by agent Scott Boras, would require a certain high-dollar figure in order to sign on the dotted line and not be a wasted pick (he could always choose to go to college instead). This could have him fall out of the first round and perhaps steer him more toward the Gators. “It’s frustrating, the whole draft thing is frustrating,” McCullers told the Tampa Bay Times. “I’ve done nothing than get better since I’ve been ranked No. 1 forever, and no one in the country had a better year than me on the hill. If Major League Baseball wants to undervalue me, then I’ll show them what I’m really about three years from now.”

Other Florida commitments that could be picked high in the draft and spurn the Gators for minor league contracts include outfielder Lewis Brinson, infielder Avery Romero, OF Max White and OF Jesse Winker.

2 » Former Florida offensive tackle Max Starks is a free agent hoping to sign with an NFL team while coming off a major injury for the second-straight season. Starks hurt his neck two years ago while playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was unsigned at the start of 2011. As Pittsburgh’s depth along the offensive line took severe blows early in the season, Starks got a call, immediately returned as a starter and played out the rest of the year until tearing his ACL in the team’s season finale against Denver in the playoffs. Now trying to make another go of it while recovering from an injury, Starks will likely find a destination at some point though FOX Sports’ Len Pasquarelli reports that it will not be with the Steelers. “A few teams have stayed in contact with veteran offensive tackle Max Starks – who basically rescued the Pittsburgh line last season… – to keep tabs on his rehabilitation. Starks could be a July signing, or a safety net for a club that either suffers an injury or lacks depth at tackle. But he isn’t likely to return to the Steelers again.” Instead Pittsburgh will move second-year tackle Marcus Gilbert to the left side and hope that 2012 second-round pick Mike Adams will be ready to start for the team. Then again, the Steelers also thought that they would not need Starks in 2011 until they desperately needed his services. He has not played for any other team but Pittsburgh, knows the offense and has a great relationship with the rest of the line as well as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Read four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: McCullers, Starks, Davis, Hurt, Pouncey

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SIX BITS: baseball, tennis, Haden, Davis, Calathes

1 » No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (37-14, 15-11 SEC) stalled in a big way on Saturday, getting shut out for the second time this season in a 2-0 loss to the No. 25 Mississippi State Bulldogs (31-19, 13-13 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. A late scratch with a hamstring injury, junior left-hander Brian Johnson was replaced by sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford, who did an admirable job as a spot starter. Crawford (4-2, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, HBP, 3 K) gave up single runs in the first and fifth but received no help whatsoever from Florida’s bats in terms of production or run support. The Gators combined to register just three hits on the evening with the first five batters combining to go 0/19 with one walk and three strikeouts.

2 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (23-1) registered yet another shutout in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, defeating the No. 31 Washington State Cougars (19-7) and advancing to the round of 16 for the eighth consecutive season. The Gators topped the Cougars 6-0 (shutouts are normally end at 4-0 but three matches finished simultaneously) and combined to go 76-23 in individual games in the seven matches that were completed. The No. 1 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen registered an 8-1 victory, while the No. 22 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather won 8-2 to clinch the doubles point. No. 1 Will (6-3, 6-1), No. 9 Embree (6-2, 6-3), No. 21 Mather (6-3, 6-2), No. 61 Oyen (6-4, 6-0) and No. 79 sophomore Alex Cercone (6-0, 6-2) all won their singles matches as well. UF will take on Michigan on Thursday at 7 p.m. for the opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals.

3 » No. 12 Florida men’s tennis (15-9) began competing in their version of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday and started as hot as their female counterparts did with a 4-0 sweep of the Navy Midshipmen (18-9). The Gators won the doubles point (8-4; 8-3) and were led by their ranked players in singles action. No. 42 junior Bob van Overbeek (6-1, 6-0), No. 53 senior Nassim Slilam (6-0, 6-0) and sophomore Florent Diep (6-0, 6-0) were victorious in their individual matches as No. 48 junior Tripper Carleton and No. 66 sophomore Spencer Newman also lead at the time the contest was stopped. Florida will face Harvard in second-round action on Sunday for the chance to move on to the round of 16.

4 » A high school student in Independence, OH needed a prom date after the one she was scheduled to go with bailed at the last minute. Her response? Tweet Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden to see if he will accompany her to one of the biggest events in her young life. To Joyce Grendel’s surprise, Haden accepted her invitation and picked her up Friday afternoon in a white Lamborghini to give her a night that she will undobutedly never forget. Haden told FOX 8 in Cleveland, OH that he never attended his senior prom (because he enrolled early at UF) and was just as nervous as his date. “I [was] nervous, too,” he said. “We were taking pictures with me and her family. I feel this is very legit, like I was getting ready, ‘Does this look cool?’ when I’m getting ready. I feel like I’m very legit. This is my prom, too.” This is not the first time Haden has gone above and beyond to put a smile on the face of one of his fans, which begs just one question: How totally awesome is Joe Haden?

5 » Former Gators linebacker Andra Davis never finished his degree at UF but 10 years later can now call himself a college graduate. Davis completed his bachelor’s degree in social sciences this semester and officially graduated from UNLV on Saturday, achieving a lifelong dream and providing a great lesson to his children. “Stay in school, because academics are one of the most important things in life,” he said, according to the Las Vegas Sun. “It’s easy for me to tell [my children] you need to do this or do that, but if I didn’t finish, they could have been like, ‘Daddy, you didn’t finish school and you’re successful.’” Davis is currently a free agent after spending the last two years playing for the Buffalo Bills and is unlikely to be re-signed by the team. His NFL career may very well be done which is another reason why getting his college degree was so important at this time in his life. “It was like, ‘OK, well, I need to have something to fall back on in case football doesn’t work out,” Davis said. “When I was younger, my first few years, I used to think I was invincible. As you get older, you start to see your skills diminishing, and along with kids and a wife, you start to have a different focus.”

6 » Dallas Mavericks head of international scouting Alvydas Pazdrazdias told EuroHoops.net on Friday that point guard Nick Calathes, selected by Dallas with the No. 45 overall pick in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft, will have an opportunity to make the team this season. Calathes, whose contract with Panathinaikos concluded this season, will be able to compete with the Mavericks’ summer league team. Dallas, which will probably have a hole at point guard heading into the 2012-13 season, could very well use a player like Calathes if he can prove he has upped his game. “I believe he can adapt to our system,” Pazdrazdias said. “He is a good player, from who you don’t expect to score a lot of points, but you can be sure he will take care of all the other things, always for the best interest of your team. He plays for the team and does everything for his team to win.”

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