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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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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Reports: Four teams at front of the line for Tebow

With Peyton Manning now in a No. 18 Denver Broncos jersey, Tim Tebow’s time in that orange and blue is quickly coming to an end. Now the key is determining where Tebow will wind up and how he will be utilized by his new team.

Numerous media outlets citing a number of anonymous sources reported Tuesday evening that the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and at least three other teams have contacted Denver and “have serious interest” (to quote NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi) in trading for Tebow.

Initial reports noted that the Broncos may not receive much more than a fourth- or fifth-round pick for Tebow but having a number of teams interested will certainly drive the price up for the organization that eventually lands the former Florida Gators standout.

Jacksonville, according to The Florida Times-Union’s Tania Ganguli, has already had internal discussions about adding Tebow but had not reached out to Denver in any formal sense as of 6 p.m. New York, according to ESPNNewYork.com’s Rich Cimini, may be more of a player for Tebow than initially thought.

The Jets were believed to be a “long shot at best” to trade for Tebow, but Cimini reported around midnight that interest among team officials has “intensified.” The New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta added that the team’s interest is “legitimate,” even quoting a source as saying, “We are players in the Tebow race.”

Continue Reading » Reports: Four teams at front of the line for Tebow

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Former Gators punter Chandler dead at 76

An accomplished football player in both the college and professional ranks, former Florida Gators punter Don Chandler died Thursday in Tulsa, OK at the age of 76 after a long battle with cancer.

A 12-year NFL veteran who played in the first two Super Bowls after being the No. 57 overall pick in the fifth round of the 1956 NFL Draft, Chandler was a member of both the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers during his time in the league. He was named to the NFL’s 1960s All-Decade Team and has been honored in Hall of Fames by the Packers, University of Florida and state of Oklahoma. He is also on the Giants’ Wall of Fame.

Chandler not only punted 660 balls for 28,678 yards as a pro, he also went 94-for-161 as a field goal kicker and spent some time at halfback, too.

He played in the NFL’s first two overtime games, was Green Bay’s leading scorer every year he played for the team, holds the league’s record for most field goals in a Super Bowl (four, 1968), and at one time led the league in punting average (44.6 yards, 1957) and field goal percentage (67.9 percent, 1962).

With the Gators, Chandler was the nation’s leading punter in 1955 (44.5 yards) and is second in Florida record books for longest punt (76 yards).

OGGOA sends our condolences to the Chandler family.

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FOUR BITS: Haden shining, Leak wins Grey Cup

1 » Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden has really turned it on in recent weeks, nabbing an interception in each of his last three games. Haden, who is technically a back-up but started his first game on Sunday in place of the injured Eric Wright (knee), is set to start once again this week. “Joe has done really well,” head coach Eric Mangini said of Haden. “He’s getting better as we go. He’s making a strong, strong case for continued playing time.”

2 » The Montreal Alouettes of the CFL won the 2010 Grey Cup on Sunday and two members of the team have ties to Florida. Former Gators National Championship-winning quarterback Chris Leak, the team’s back-up, and head coach Marc Trestman, who worked with former Florida QB Tim Tebow on his throwing motion and mechanics prior to and after NFL combine workouts, both picked up their second Grey Cup rings. The duo also participated in the 2008 Grey Cup but failed to be victorious.

Extra BIT » Former Florida running back DeShawn Wynn, a member of the San Francisco 49ers practice squad this season, was promoted to the active roster on Tuesday as a replacement for Pro Bowler Frank Gore, who fractured his hip during the team’s Monday Night Football game yesterday. Wynn is a four-year NFL veteran who saw his most action with the Green Bay Packers (203 yards and four touchdowns) in his rookie season (2007).

Photo Credit: Todd Korol/Reuters

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FOUR BITS: Driskel, O’Day, Tebow, Final Four

1 » Florida Gators five-star quarterback commitment Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) was named Sports Illustrated’s High School Player of the Week on Tuesday. Driskel, who compares his style of play to Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, said the opportunity to play for Florida was too much to turn down. “It’s a great academic school,” he said. “They have a great football program. They’re always gonna have the best athletes and they’re always gonna be competitors.” Driskel accounted for 346 total yards and four touchdowns on Friday to earn SI’s honor; on the season he’s posted 1,205 passing yards and 10 touchdowns along with 881 rushing yards and 13 scores.

2 » Former Florida pitcher Darren O’Day, who is currently working in relief for the Texas Rangers, will play a significant role with the team during its first World Series appearance in franchise history. “You’re always confident in your ability, but it’s hard to see the major leagues and World Series from a walk-on tryout in college,” O’Day told The Florida Times-Union. “You never know what you can do. You just got to keep trying.”

3 » With the Denver Broncos set to fly to London, England, later this week to participate in the NFL’s annual game overseas, rookie QB Tim Tebow (though not a starter) was the object of the British press’ affection during a teleconference on Tuesday. Tebow touched on a number of topics during the press call including what he would normally be doing for Halloween, how he feels about sitting behind starting QB Kyle Orton and how important it is for an athlete to send positive messages to the public.

4 » Answering a number of Southeastern Conference basketball questions on Tuesday, ESPN Insider’s LaRue Cook contends that the Gators are indeed a legitimate Final Four contender this season. Citing the fact that every returning starter scores in double digits and that sophomore forward Erik Murphy will emerge as “the surprise player of the season,” Cook thinks the biggest question surrounding Florida is its defense (which allowed 94.9 points per 100 possessions, 67th in the nation last year). Freshman power forward Patric Young should help the team defensively, while freshman F Casey Prather will be able to add some much-needed depth to the bench. Cook also notes that UF has a solid chance to reach No. 1 in the country early in the season if it can go at least 3-1 in its four tough nonconference games against Ohio State, Florida State, Kansas State and Xavier.

Photo Credit: ESPN

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SIX BITS: Meyer, Fricke, Murphy, James, Patriots

1 » On the heels of FOX Sports’ piece about Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer on Tuesday comes another from the New York Times’ Pete Thamel, who notes that Meyer has a new perspective on his coaching career these days. In fact, it even led him to discard his Blackberry for a time being in place of an “older model with no Internet connection. He programmed seven numbers in it – for his four immediate family members, his two sisters and his father. No one else knew the number.” His wife, Shelley Meyer, is happy with his progress and health now. “As scary and hard as it was on the family and the team, so much good has come out of it,” she said. “The way he is now, he could go 10 more years.” Even strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti noticed something wrong with Meyer’s weight – by looking at his butt. “When he’d walk, his pants would sag halfway down,” Marotti said. “He looked like one of our players. He completely lost his entire rear end.”

2 » A university spokesperson announced Thursday that senior Florida basketball guard Hudson Fricke has decided to transfer to Milligan College. A walk-on who only played 22 minutes in three years, Fricke’s only points came on four free throws during the 2007-08 season. OGGOA wishes him the best of luck with his new team.

3 » Recapping what coaches learned during Oakland Raiders training camp this offseason, Jerry McDonald of the Contra Costa Times notes that former Gators wide receiver Louis Murphy “is far and away the Raiders’ best and most dangerous receiver” even though he “still drops too many passes for a real level of comfort. Murphy, who caught 34 balls for 521 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, was the team’s best WR and second-leading pass catcher in 2009-10.

4 » Tough night for former Florida kick returner Brandon James on Thursday. While returning a punt for the Indianapolis Colts, James muffed the catch, allowing the Green Bay to recover the ball in the endzone for a touchdown. Additionally, rookie cornerback Ray Fisher returned a kickoff 58 yards for a TD. With Devin Moore likely to be the team’s primary returner, there is a chance James loses his opportunity with the Colts.

5 » No. 9 Gators soccer (2-0) looks to stay undefeated Friday night as they take on the Florida Atlantic Owls (0-1) at 6 p.m. at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

6 » Conspicuous by their absences Thursday night were New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, neither of whom participated in the team’s third preseason game. Hernandez missed practice this week with an undisclosed injury, and Cunningham has yet to participate in a single NFL down this season. Both, however, are expected to see major playing time this year. Florida rookie LB Brandon Spikes, who did play, recorded seven tackles (five solo) and a quarterback hit.

Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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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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