FOUR BITS: Olympics, Brissett, Tebow, Harvin

1 » The Florida Gators official announced on Thursday something that has been long rumored – the team will honor current and former University of Florida student-athletes that participated in the 2012 London Olympics at halftime of the team’s home game against the LSU Tigers on Saturday. Featured at the event will be swimming medalists Ryan Lochte and junior Elizabeth Beisel as well as track & field medalists Christian Taylor and Will Claye, who make up just four of the more than 20 athletes and coaches being honored at halftime.

2 » Could sophomore quarterback Jacoby Brissett be on his way out the door? It’s possible, says Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels, who recently spoke with the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter. In a series of tweets sent out Thursday, Porter notes that “Brissett is all-in this season [and has] no plans to transfer” yet also notes that West Virginia and South Florida are potential destinations. “He’s making the most of a situation he’s not happy with, but he knows that’s his team right now,” Daniels told Porter. “If he doesn’t get his chance, I’m pretty sure he’s leaving.” Brissett getting “his chance” would probably only occur if starter and classmate Jeff Driskel went down with some sort of injury or pulled a 180 and began regressing dramatically.

3 » Despite quarterback Mark Sanchez playing horribly through the first four games of the season, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is not planning to insert Tim Tebow as his starter any time soon and said as much during media availabilities this week. But while Ryan may not be ready to make a chance, team owner Woody Johnson could insist on it, especially if the Jets continue playing this poorly. NFL.com reporter Jeff Darlington wrote this week that New York must embrace the inevitability of Tebow starting, a move that could very well turn the team’s season around. Also interesting about Darlington’s piece is the opening two paragraphs, which detail the lack of support Tebow had with the Denver Broncos from the get-go.

They marched one by one through the second floor of the Denver Broncos’ training facility, each quarterback stopping first in offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s office to hear the same message that would then be echoed like a corporate line from coach John Fox.

“Stay ready,” McCoy told Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn, a story relayed by one team source and corroborated by another. “We’re not sure how long this is going to last.”

4 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has already done some amazing things in his young NFL career but still managed to add another honor this week when he was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September. Harvin, whose franchise-record 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week undoubtedly fueled his receiving of the award, did not receive any honors last year after racking up the awards during his rookie campaign in 2009. He is currently averaging 74.75 yards on 7.5 receptions per game this season but has yet to find the end zone as a receiver or rusher.

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Cut day a mixed bag for six former Gators

NFL franchises were forced to reduce their rosters to 53 players on Friday as the 2012 regular season draws closer. Six former Florida Gators were impacted by decisions their respective teams made with the results different for each player.

Receiving the good news were New York Giants safety Will Hill and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Deonte Thompson, a pair of undrafted free agents who performed so well in training camp and during a preseason that they earned roster spots on their respective teams.

Hill, who went undrafted in 2011 and did not play in the NFL last season, was signed early in the offseason by the Giants and impressed the coaching staff so much (both on and off the field) that he will not only make the team but also see extensive playing time. He registered 15 tackles (12 solo) and a sack in four preseason games.

Thompson joined the Ravens along with former Gators quarterback John Brantley, who was cut early in the offseason. He led Baltimore in receptions, receiving yards in the first and fourth preseason games (scoring a touchdown in each) and had kickoff returns of 42 yards and 63 yards in the two games in-between.

Dealt the first bit of negative news was New England Patriots running back Jeff Demps, whose season is over after the team placed him on injured reserve. Demps signed with the Patriots two weeks ago and played in the team’s final two preseason games. He took nine carries for 55 yards, caught three balls for 31 yards, returned three kicks for 63 yards and brought back five punts for 65 yards.

He supposedly injured his knee during practice, but it was not at all believed to be serious. New England placing him on injured reserves keeps him under the team’s control (he signed a three-year contract) and gives him the entire season and offseason to get into football shape and learn the playbook. The move is basically a way of stashing a player by circumventing the waiver wire process.

Though New York decided to keep Hill, the Giants chose to part ways with veteran defensive tackle Marcus Thomas on Friday. Thomas signed a one-year deal on Aug. 16 but has now been cut just two weeks later and will look to catch on with another team.

Also looking for new homes now are tight end Cornelius Ingram, who spent the entire offseason with the Denver Broncos but was cut loose on Friday, and linebacker Brandon Hicks, who was hoping to catch on with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Other prominent Florida players who are also currently free agents include Brantley, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, DT Gerard Warren, tackle Phil Trautwein, defensive end Bobby McCray, DE Derrick Harvey, DE Jarvis Moss, DE Justin Trattou and cornerback Lito Sheppard. LB Andra Davis and RB Earnest Graham are close to retirement.

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FOUR BITS: Brown, Dunlap, Hernandez, Caldwell

1 » Out of the NFL last season, former Florida Gators defensive end Alex Brown decided to call it quits and will make it official on Thursday when he signs a one-day contract with the Chicago Bears and retires from the league. Brown, who will sign his final contract on the day of Chicago’s first preseason game, was the No. 104 overall pick in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Bears and became a start defender for the team. He registered 411 tackles, 45.5 sacks, five interceptions, 43 pass defenses and 17 forced fumbles over his nine-year career, the first eight of which he spent in Chicago. “This is pretty special,” Brown told the Chicago Tribune of the Bears offering him a one-day contract to retire. “It shows a level of respect. I appreciate the club and I think they appreciate what I was able to do while I was here, representing the team and their brand as far as the Chicago Bears. I did it and I did it proudly. I tried to play football the right way. I hope people always felt I played my butt off and played the game the right way and kept my nose clean off the field.”

2 » Another former Gators defensive end, Carlos Dunlap, has been coming on strong in his third training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals. Dunlap is looking to have a breakout year in his third NFL season and is putting all he can into camp this time around. “As a pass rusher you want to be at the top. I haven’t done that yet,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Whoever is at the top is not always the same, but I want to be up there with the best of them and crack that 10 [sacks] number. I was coming off the bench before and now I’m going to be a starter. That should help me get in a rhythm during the game.” Dunlap is being tasked with remaining healthy and being an every-down player; he has been showing the coaching staff that he can be exactly what they need going forward. “So far he’s been very good and done everything right,” defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. “Last year it took him about four days before he got started going down. Right now he’s still going in the right direction, so that’s a good sign.”

3 » The New England Patriots may have just re-signed tight end Rob Gronkowski to a huge contract but it is TE Aaron Hernandez whose role the team is desperately trying to expand. According to ESPNBoston.com, Hernandez has been “on fire” and “explosive” to start training camp. Not only is he hauling in plenty of passes, Hernandez has been used as a punt returner by the Patriots and is also staying late after practice to take hand-offs from quarterback Tom Brady. Hernandez is even receiving love from often frosty head coach Bill Belichick, who kissed him on the elbow (picture) last Friday. “I had a little bruise on my elbow and I was whining about it, and he was just showing me the love of a father figure and gave me a kiss on the elbow,” he told the Boston Globe. The love Hernandez truly wants to see is in the form of millions of dollars handed to him as a contract extension, though that may not be coming for quite some time.

4 » One former Florida offensive star may no longer be with the Denver Broncos but that is not stopping one of the team’s newest acquisitions, wide receiver Andre Caldwell, from shining. According to the Denver Post, Caldwell is getting along famously with new QB Peyton Manning thanks to his speed and sure hands; he may even be in line for a starting job. “There’s a place for me in this offense to make big plays to help this team win,” he said. “When Denver made that move at quarterback, this spot became a No. 1 priority.” Caldwell had some great moments but was never a consistent producer with Cincinnati, something that he hopes he can become in Denver now that a lingering injury is no longer a problem. “I mean, two years went by. I kept getting treatment. It kept not getting better and finally the pain got so bad I couldn’t even really sleep through the night,” he explained. “So I finally went to see a specialist, and he checks me out and said, ‘You’ve got a sports hernia, and it needs to be taken care of.’ Right then, I just felt that relief, like a huge weight was off. I know I can be one of those impact guys and now my body’s right. I’m with this team, with this quarterback. This is big.”

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FOUR BITS: Wambach, Harvey, Jackson, Rainey

1 » U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach is indeed a “G,” not due to the fact that she is one of the faces of Gatorade but rather because she used her “guile and gamesmanship” to help the United States achieve a 4-3 extra-time victory over Canada in the semifinals of the 2012 London Olympics on Monday. Wambach told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday that it was her subtle urging that led the referees to call a rare delay of game penalty on the Canadian goalkeeper, who was holding the ball in the penalty box for up to 15 seconds at times when rules state the ball should be out after six seconds. “I wasn’t yelling. I was just counting,” Wambach told Dan Wetzel of her decision to run next to the referee while heading back down the field. “Probably did it five or seven times.” And of the play in question in which the referee finally blew her whistle? “I got to 10 seconds right next to the referee and at 10 seconds she blew the whistle.”

Canada, of course, believes they were robbed in the match. (The call resulted in an indirect free kick inside the box; a handball was called on the kick and Wambach tied the match 3-3 on a penalty goal.) Though Wambach admits that the call is rare, she notes that it is well within the rules. Her subtle pestering of the referee almost assuredly helped the call be made when it ordinarily might not have been. “Yes it’s uncharacteristic,” she said. “But the rules are the rules. You can say it’s gamesmanship, you can say it’s smart, but I’m a competitor. We needed to get a goal. They’re trying to waste time; I’m trying to speed it up. [...] I think making the referee aware of a situation, there’s nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day, the ref made the decision on her own.”

2 » A former No. 8 overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, former Florida Gators defensive end Derrick Harvey was cut from his third team over the course of a year when the Cincinnati Bengals let him go on Sunday. Harvey, who signed with the team just four months ago, was released before participating in a single preseason game. After being released by the Jaguars last July, Harvey was picked up by the Denver Broncos but barely played last season and spent most of it as a healthy scratch on game day. His NFL career may very well be over.

3 » The commitment of three-star offensive lineman Octavius Jackson (Moultrie, GA), who is unranked by Rivals, to the Florida Gators last week came as a surprise to many considering the team has few open slots remaining and a number of highly-rated prospects on its board. The Gators, however, knew exactly what they were doing by brining Jackson on board and it appears as if they were early to what may become a very crowded party. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jackson received “last-minute pleas by Alabama and Florida State” before committing to Florida. He already had a firm scholarship offer from Vanderbilt in his possession. “People have missed on him,” said Rush Propst, Jackson’s high school coach. “His only true offer until a few days ago was Vanderbilt, and they couldn’t believe nobody elsewas on him. Neither could I.”

4 » Running back Chris Rainey is turning heads in Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, a fact that should come as no surprise to Florida fans whose necks were often sore from watching him run in Gainesville, FL. USA Today’s Jim Corbett wrote a few days ago that “Rainey has been the Steelers’ buzz guy since he began flashing during organized team activities, and he’s carried it over to training camp.” Almost everyone from the team’s president on down believes Rainey can make an instant impact with Pittsburgh this season though head coach Mike Tomlin is being a bit more cautious considering how early it is in the process.

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Tim Tebow wins ESPY award for Best Moment

Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow may no longer be a member of the Denver Broncos but one of his last plays with the team earned him and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas an ESPY award on Wednesday in Los Angeles, CA.

Playing in the Wildcard Round of the 2012 NFL Playoffs, Denver and the Pittsburgh Steelers were tied at 23 heading into overtime with the Broncos receiving the ball. On the very first play from scrimmage, Tebow hit Thomas across the middle with a dart that the receiver would take the rest of the way for a game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass.

The ESPY for Best Moment is the third in Tebow’s young career but his first as a professional football player. He previously won Best Male College Athlete as a member of the Gators football team in both 2008 and 2009.

Florida was well-represented at the award show on Wednesday with three other nominees – U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach for Best Female Athlete, junior catcher Mike Zunino for Best Male College Athlete and jumper Christian Taylor for Best Track & Field Athlete – though none of the three brought home the award in their respective category. Gators senior right fielder Preston Tucker was also in attendance to officially accept the 2012 Capital One Cup and guard Mike Miller found his way onstage to accept the award for Best Team.

A number of former Florida student-athletes congratulated Tebow for his award on Twitter after it was announced.

Jack Youngblood (@theblood85): Congrats @TimTebow on your @ESPYS award! Here’s to more “moments” like that one-JY

Marcus Gilbert (@MarcusGilbert88): Congrats to my boy @TimTebow even thought he won it against my #Steelers smh! Payback week 2 lol

Andre Caldwell (@Acaldwell17): How can you not like @TimTebow and the way he carry is his self.. It was a pleasure to play with Timmy

Brandon Spikes (@BrandonSpikes55): Tim Tebow is such a great player !!! #GrinchSmile

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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.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Jenkins, Brewer, Thomas

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was named Wednesday to TIME Magazine’s 2012 list of The 100 Most Influential People in the World. Tebow can be found among names like President Barack Obama, Warren Buffett, Louis CK and New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, who penned a few paragraphs on Tebow.

Watching Tim Tebow play football, you can observe many things about his character. You see his fierce competitiveness, his strong work ethic and how he is a leader that his teammates trust and respect.

But it is the qualities that Tim, 24, embodies in his life off the field that truly set him apart. He is unashamed of his convictions and faith, and he lives a life that consistently reflects his values, day in and day out. Through his foundation, he constantly reaches out to people and communities in need of hope. He realizes what he has been blessed with and seeks to help those who are worse off. As athletes, we pour our hearts into winning games. Tim is a reminder that life is about much more than that.

2 » Denying reports that he continued smoking marijuana after being dismissed by Florida, cornerback Janoris Jenkins is emphatic that he has turned the corner in both his life and career. “I wasn’t smoking marijuana at North Alabama,” he told Scout.com’s Aaron Wilson. “If anybody wants to know, they can give my coaches a call. I wasn’t partying. They’ve been saying a lot of things about me that aren’t true without getting my side of the story. It’s been a humbling experience. You’ve got to be a man; you’ve got to be honest and straightforward. I’ve matured. My past is my past. People can judge me for how far I’ve come. I want to know why all of a sudden this is out there about me. Why didn’t it come out after the combine when I was straightforward with the scouts? The timing is very interesting to me.”

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Jenkins, Brewer, Thomas

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FOUR Tebow BITS: Jets, Miller, video, ratings

1 » If one thing is certain in regards to quarterback Tim Tebow’s role with the New York Jets this season it is that he will not often be standing on the sideline with his helmet off. According to ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, the Jets plan to use Tebow at a variety of positions during games including quarterback, running back, H-back, fullback and even as the “personal protector” on the punt team. Left guard Matt Slauson even told ESPNNewYork.com that it appears to him as if New York has created a clear set division in the offense. “It’s like we’re going to be two separate teams, but as far as I know, Mark [Sanchez] is still going to be our guy,” he said. The decision to play Tebow at so many positions could prove to be either a positive or major negative for the Jets. Though Tebow is willing and able to take hits, he has done so under certain circumstances knowing they were coming. Potentially putting him on special teams or having him run a route for a pass will open up New York’s backup quarterback to a bevy of additional opportunities for injury that most players at his position do not experience.

2 » Though some of his teammates may not have been 100 percent behind him, one Denver Broncos player who continues to have Tebow’s back is linebacker Von Miller. One of Tebow’s staunchest supporters, Miller told NFL Network that he expects his friend to win the starting job in New York. “I think it’s a mistake if you think he’s just going to come in and be a Wildcat quarterback,” he said. “I think that he’s going to compete for the starting position. The Tim Tebow that I know, he’s going to come in every day, he’s going to work hard, he’s going to be consistent. And who knows? He might end up the No. 1 quarterback for the Jets at the end of the season.” He also said that he is “unhappy” Denver got rid of Tebow just because they signed Peyton Manning as a free agent. “I think he’s a better quarterback than people give him credit for,” Miller added.

Continue Reading » FOUR Tebow BITS: Jets, Miller, video, ratings

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