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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TWO BITS: Peterson re-signed, Cunningham

1 » Former Florida Gators linebacker Mike Peterson re-signed with the Atlanta Falcons, continuing his now-14-year NFL career with the team he has played for since 2009. Close with Atlanta head coach Mike Smith, Peterson was brought over to the Falcons when Smith was hired away from the Jacksonville Jaguars (where Peterson played from 2003-08). After amassing 109 tackles (82 solo) with three turnovers and a sack as a starter in 2009, Peterson’s production has trailed off over the last two seasons as he has moved into a reserve role. He had just 24 tackles (18 solo) in 2011. He was re-signed for depth and flexibility purposes as he can play either inside or outside and is also a strong veteran presence in the locker room.

2 » New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham had a disappointing season in 2011, spending most weekends on the inactive list and officially being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury on Dec. 10. When he did see the field, he mostly played on special teams after registering 35 tackles and a sack in 15 games as a rookie. Head coach Bill Belichick said he was pleased with how hard Cunningham had worked and noted that he had been having a “great offseason” on June 12, but a projection by ESPN Boston just 12 days later said the player only had a 35 percent chance of making the 53-man roster. That has apparently not stopped Cunningham from working his butt off in the gym and taking some fans along for the ride, as noted by Reddit user “dafrizz888,” who recently posted his account of Cunningham selflessly taking him through a tough ab workout a few days ago.

I called over to him and told him thanks again and that I wasn’t expecting to get to work out with an NFL player when I walked into the gym. He responded “hey, we’re all just doing our thing in there man.”

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FOUR BITS: Machen, Taylor, Tebow, Beal

1 » University of Florida President Bernie Machen announced Friday that he will conclude his tenure sometime in 2013 after nearly a decade at the helm of the most prestigious institution of higher learning in the state. Machen, 68, made his announcement at the UF Board of Trustees meeting, and the school sent an e-mail to students, alumni and faculty almost simultaneously. “This decision reflects our joint feeling that there’s a time for everything in life and it’s now our time to pursue the next chapter,” said Machen while also referring to his wife Chris, according to The Gainesville Sun. “Of course, it will be pursued here in Gainesville and it will be pursued at the University of Florida.” The Sun notes that his most recent contract extension, signed last year, “establishes a post-presidency role for Machen at the university.” The school expects that it will have a decision on Machen’s replacement in the next six months; a smooth transition will take place with Machen handing over the reins and responsibilities at a time both parties deem to be the most convenient and effective. Read the school’s official announcement on Machen’s decision.

2 » The Jacksonville Jaguars announced Thursday that recently retired running back Fred Taylor would be inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars this season. Taylor, who will join offensive tackle Tony Boselli as the second member of the Pride, is arguably the most talented and popular player in team history. He finished his career in Jacksonville (spanning 11 years) with 11,271 yards (4.6 yards per carry average) and 62 rushing touchdowns along with 2,361 receiving yards and eight reception scores. Taylor is not a member of the Florida GatorsRing of Honor as he is not yet eligible but could become eligible should he be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is, however, a member of the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame and UF Athletic Hall of Fame.

3 » It has been obvious from day one of the trade that New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan believes in quarterback Tim Tebow. Though he may have his reservations about him as a signal caller, Ryan continues to be impressed with Tebow’s character and football-playing abilities. He also seems to be infatuated with his strength. “Let me give you a little story about Tim,” Ryan said on Thursday, according to Pro Football Talk. “I saw this in the weight room. A player had challenged him, holding these big huge sledgehammers. They held them doing this big iron cross kind of deal. The big lineman went first. [Tebow] said you want to go first or second. The big lineman said he’d go first. He went for about a 1:04, shaking. Tim went for 1:18. This guy is crazy with how strong he is and the kind of focus [he has]. I see that from him. He’s super competitive.” Ryan also said that he understands Tebow likes to use his athleticism in the pocket and is perfectly with that in the correct situations. “He’s done some things in some previous practices, where it’s like, wow, that’s a football player,” he said. “The defense will start chirping about him, ‘Come on. Throw the ball, stand back and throw the ball.’ Why? If he sees two-man [deep defense], he’s running with it. Someone better go out there and make a tackle. I think everyone sees Tim for what he is. He’s a super competitive guy and a good teammate. I’ve noticed he’s always building guys up. By the way, he’s a talented kid, or young man.”

4 » At the 2012 NBA Combine as a partial participant, Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal has been getting plenty of work done off the court. According to the Chicago Tribune (the combine is taking place in Chicago, IL), Beal “had interviews with Detroit, Denver and Sacramento on Wednesday,” several more planned for Thursday and individual workouts scheduled with Charlotte (No. 2 overall pick) and Washington (No. 3 overall pick) in the near future.

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FOUR BITS: Lochte, Leak, Tucker, Jaguars

1 » Former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte, set to be one of the primary faces/athletes representing the United States in the upcoming 2012 London Olympics was announced as the fourth male to ever grace the cover of American Vogue magazine when the June cover was released on Monday. Lochte appears on the cover alongside women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo and tennis phenom Serena Williams. The three men that were previously featured on the cover of Vogue – Richard Gere, George Clooney and LeBron James – each appeared alongside a female model “Cindy Crawford, Gisele, and Gisele again, respectively,” the magazine notes.

2 » Traded to the Orlando Predators recently after falling out of grace with the Jacksonville Sharks, former Florida quarterback Chris Leak will start his first game with his new team on Friday. Leak, who has already appeared in two games for Orlando as a backup and has amassed 78 yards and three touchdowns on 9-of-17 passing, hopes to turnaround the season for a team that has started a paltry 1-7. The Predators hope Leak can be the team’s starter for a long time and have plans for him to be a franchise player as long as he succeeds.

3 » Gators senior right fielder Preston Tucker will begin his final regular season series in the orange and blue looking, in part, to set the school record for career hits. Smacking a single on Tuesday, Tucker tied former Florida outfielder Mark Ellis for the career mark with 319 hits; one more and the record is all his. UF is set to face Auburn in a three-game road series Thursday-Saturday before beginning postseason competition.

4 » As part of an outreach program that will attempt to generate “excitement and energy” for the team heading into the 2012 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be visiting Gainesville, FL with a “Jaguars Caravan” including players, coaches, cheerleaders and other team representatives, according to The Gainesville Sun. As part of the event, which will take place on June 6 at Tioga Town Center from 6-8 p.m., Gators fans will be able to see some familiar faces in former Florida tight end Mike Mularkey (Jacksonville’s head coach), current Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey and former Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor.

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Poised as ever, Tebow says ‘hello’ to New York

Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was introduced Monday as the newest member of the New York Jets at a noon press conference attended by hundreds of media members and covered live on both local and national television.

Lasting more than a half hour, the press conference featured Tebow standing alone at a podium, taking questions about football, faith and his future. He answered most and deflected some but conveyed one general sentiment throughout: excitement about being a member of the Jets organization.

“I want to thank the Broncos for my time in Denver. It was an amazing time. I want to thank my teammates and my fans for being such great teammates and such great fans,” he said in his opening statement.

“I’m looking forward to my time here in New York and my time here as a Jet. I’m so honored and humbled to be a Jet. I’m so thankful that they wanted me, and I’m so excited about me and my teammates. I’ve had the pleasure to meet quite a few already, and I’m looking forward to my future as a Jet. And I’m very excited about it.”

The first order of business was clearing up his exit from the Denver Broncos and whether or not he actually had a choice between New York and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite reports that Denver put the decision in Tebow’s hands, he said it was ultimately the team’s decision and expanded on that greatly on Monday by recounting the events of one week ago.

“When I woke up Wednesday morning, I talked to Coach Fox and they were very gracious the whole time. Coach Fox – I specifically talked to him all throughout the process. He kind of told me some of the opportunities that were out there,” he said. “When I talked to him about it, next thing I know I got a call from Mr. [Mike Tannenbaum] and Coach [Rex] Ryan and they said I was a Jet. So I was really excited about that. ‘When’s the next flight out to new York?’ I was excited about it.

“Then obviously the media circus happened and I found out a few minutes later there was a snag in the contract and I wasn’t a Jet. And so then it was five hours of kind of waiting. Coach Fox was keeping me updated on what was happening. Later on in the day they said they had a few teams that were interested with similar deals. He was very gracious to ask me what I thought. I talked to him very honestly about it, and I told him I would love to be a Jet. I told him also that the Jaguars are my hometown and [to do] whatever was best for them. He said the same for me.

“Ultimately they had my contract there and they had all the power, but he listened to me and what I had to say. It was very gracious of them because they didn’t have to do that. They could have just done whatever. He listened to me and talked to me and I told him I would love to be a Jet. I love the coaches. I had an opportunity to be with Coach [Tony] Sparano at the Senior Bowl. I had an opportunity to get to know Coach Ryan several times. That was exciting for me. I also told them I would love to be a Jaguar. That’s my hometown and that would be exciting for me. Whatever was the best for them. I’m excited to be a Jet and I’m excited to be here.”

Tebow was asked again about the process and not-so-specifically relayed what a lot had already assumed – that he felt the love in New York and not so much in Jacksonville. He also cited his relationship with the coaches as a reason playing for the Jets might be better for him in the long run.

Continue Reading » Poised as ever, Tebow says ‘hello’ to New York

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New York Jets get over stumbling block, acquire Tim Tebow for fourth- and sixth-round picks

Updated at 11:30 p.m.

One day after Peyton Manning officially signed a five-year, $96 million contract with the Denver Broncos, the team has traded third-year quarterback Tim Tebow (along with a seventh-round pick) to the New York Jets for a fourth- and sixth-round pick.

Tebow, who started the final 13 games of the 2011 season (including two playoff games), went 8-5 for Denver, winning four overtime games and two others in come-from-behind style. He only completed 46.5 percent of his passes in the regular season but threw for 12 touchdowns with six interceptions while also carrying the ball 122 times for 660 yards and six more scores. He added 316 yards (on 10-of-21 passing) with two touchdowns against Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs but went just 9-for-26 for 136 yards with no scores in the second round against New England.

One of those come-from-behind victories was a 17-13 win over New York in Denver where Tebow led his squad on a 12-play, 95-yard scoring drive capped by his own 20-yard rushing touchdown with the clock winding down late in the fourth quarter.

Reports broke Tuesday night that the Jets’ interest in Tebow had “intensified” and that New York was legitimately interested in adding him to their roster. Initially it was believed that the Jets wanted to bring him on board to help heal a badly divided locker room, but reports Wednesday morning noted that the team’s interest in him was solely from a football perspective.

New York and Denver agreed to a trade for Tebow early Wednesday afternoon but a snag in Tebow’s contract – an advance payment the Broncos made to him of approximately $5 million that the contract stipulated would be recalled to the team – caused the Jets to stall in finalizing the agreement.

Continue Reading » New York Jets get over stumbling block, acquire Tim Tebow for fourth- and sixth-round picks

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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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Reggie Nelson, Rex Grossman re-sign with teams

A pair of former Florida Gators football players followed in the footsteps of Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey and re-signed over the weekend with the teams they played for in 2011.

Safety Reggie Nelson turned down overtures from the New York Jets to return to the Cincinnati Bengals on a four-year contract worth $18 million including $6.5 million in the first season, and quarterback Rex Grossman agreed to rejoin the Washington Redskins for one year with the knowledge that he will not be the team’s starter.

Nelson had a career year for Cincinnati in 2011, registering 85 combined tackles, four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 12 pass defenses and a pair of sacks. It was the best he had played since his rookie year in Jacksonville, and the team obviously expected his resurgence to continue in 2012 and beyond.

Grossman started off hot for Washington but reverted to his mean as the season went on. He completed a career-high 57.9 percent of his passes for 3,151 yards with 16 touchdowns and 20 interceptions and went 5-8 as the Redskins’ starter. With Washington trading a boatload of draft picks for the opportunity to select Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL Draft, Grossman will be relegated to backup duty in 2012.

Though three Gators are now off the market, 11 other notable former Florida players are currently listed as free agents including: wide receiver Andre Caldwell (Cincinnati), linebacker Channing Crowder (DNP/retirement), LB Andra Davis (Buffalo), running back Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay), defensive end Derrick Harvey (Denver), DE Jarvis Moss (Oakland), LB Mike Peterson (Atlanta), cornerback Lito Sheppard (Oakland), offensive tackle Max Starks, defensive tackle Marcus Thomas (Denver) and DT Gerard Warren (New England).

Photo Credits: Rich Lipski/Associated Press, Cincinnati Enquirer

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