FOUR BITS: Haslem wins bet, Tebow’s choice?

1 » Teammates with the Miami Heat, power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Dwyane Wade made a friendly wager on Thursday night’s Sweet 16 match-up between the No. 7-seed Florida Gators and No. 3-seed Marquette Golden Eagles. Florida defeated Marquette 68-58 in Phoenix, AZ to advance to the Elite Eight; therefore, Wade will have to put a Gators license plate on his car for a year. You can watch Haslem and Wade discuss their bet in the clip below courtesy of WSVN 7.

The trash talking continued Friday, according to the Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman. Wade has already ordered the Gators license plate and will put it on the back of one of his cars; Haslem is trying to get him to put it on a new McClaren MP4-12C (price tag $230,000) that he received for his birthday. “Oh, he’s got to drive that,” Haslem told Winderman. “There’s no way, there’s no way he can’t drive a McClaren. It’s like a million-dollar car, too. I mean who’s putting that in a garage?” Haslem piled it on when the team met for practice on Friday. “U.D. made sure he made his mark,” forward LeBron James told the paper. “He came in with the Gator fight song this morning, played it on the bus, and he’s probably going to mess [with it] through the whole week.”

2 » Despite the fact that he was traded for to be a back-up quarterback and change-of-pace player, New York Jets signal caller Tim Tebow “sees a clear path to resuming his career as a starter” and supplanting Mark Sanchez, sources told the New York Daily News. That is perhaps the main reason why Tebow said going to New York over returning to Jacksonville (where most of his family and friends reside) was his preference. “They want me to come in and compete and get better as a quarterback and help the team any way possible,” Tebow said in a teleconference following his trade. “Whatever that role is, I will do my best. Every time I step on the field, I give my heart and soul.” The Daily News also notes that Tebow did not have the ability to pull the trigger on his destination, which is how both his and Denver Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway’s stories blend together.

The Broncos didn’t come to Tebow in the end and say: Okay Tim, where do you want to go? They had already solicited his opinion. [...] Tebow was impressed the Jets hung in there when it looked like the deal was falling apart: It convinced him how much the Jets wanted him. [...] Ultimately, Tebow felt the love coming from the Jets.

3 » Florida basketball was also well-represented Thursday night by Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, who registered team-highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds to register the first double-double of his young career. Houston defeated Golden State 109-83 as Parsons saw 39 minutes of court time (eight more than the next Rockets player) and went 8-for-16 from the field (2-for-4 from downtown). He added four assists to his total and finished with a plus-minus of +21 in the game. Following the contest, Parsons spoke to NBA TV in an interview you can watch by clicking here.

4 » Former Gators defensive tackle Brad Culpepper recently told Orlando, FL radio that, while he was playing in the NFL, he was coached up on how to injure quarterbacks. “We practiced techniques to injure players,” he admitted. “We would dive on a mat and aim for the knee portion of a pad like it was the quarterback, and we would practice going at that and trying to bust the quarterback’s knee. You knock the quarterback out, you win the game. [...] We practiced on interceptions – we didn’t care where the ball was – we were making a bee-line to wherever the quarterback was.” Read more or listen to the interview by clicking here.

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Denver Broncos release official statements from John Elway and John Fox on Tim Tebow

Minutes after the Denver Broncos completed a trade with the New York Jets for quarterback Tim Tebow, the organization released a pair of lengthy statements from two of the team’s top decision makers regarding the former Florida Gators signal caller.

The following statements come courtesy of The Denver Post.

Executive vice president of football operations John Elway:

“Tim Tebow deserves an enormous amount of credit for what he accomplished and how he carried himself during his time with the Broncos. From taking over a 1-4 team and leading it to the playoffs to energizing our fans and this community, Tim left an extraordinary mark on this organization. His time in Denver will always hold a special place in Broncos history.

“As a former player, I know the last two weeks were not easy for Tim. He was put in a difficult situation, and I commend him for how he handled it with the same first-class manner he displayed throughout his career in Denver.

“Our goal was to do the best thing for Tim and the Broncos, and I believe the opportunity that presented itself with the New York Jets accomplishes that objective. Tim made a lot of strides last year and has a very promising career ahead of him. If anyone is willing to put the work in to be great, it’s Tim Tebow.

“I have a great deal of respect for Tim and the positive impact he makes both on the field and in the community. He has a bright future in this league, and I’m hopeful he will enjoy continued success with the Jets.”

Head coach John Fox:

“Tim Tebow brought an incredible spirit and spark to our team that helped us turn the season around. Along the way, he earned the trust of his teammates and coaches while inspiring our fans. His competitiveness, clutch performances and will to win played an instrumental role in our team earning a division title and advancing in the playoffs.

“Tim works as hard as any player I’ve ever coached, and that work ethic will continue to serve him well with the Jets. He goes out to practice early, stays late and comes in on his day off. Tim does everything in his power to get better. He’s not afraid to work, and we saw the results of his commitment last season.

“For good reason, Tim has always had a great following. He handled that aspect exceptionally during the amazing run we had. The poise and focus Tim displayed were remarkable and speak volumes for the strength of his character.

“A player and person like Tim don’t come around very often. He is real and he walks the walk. I’m looking forward to watching him continue his career with the Jets, and I wish him the very best.”

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

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Leak, Parsons, Tebow

1 » Already in Phoenix, AZ preparing for their Sweet 16 game against the No. 3-seed Marquette Golden Eagles, the Florida Gators have been going through practices while also reflecting on the 2011-12 season. One hot topic of conversation has been the emergence of freshman guard Bradley Beal, who responded to a recent request from head coach Billy Donovan and has made the most out of his new opportunity. “The thing I tried to get through to him [was] stop worrying about your shot. Freshmen are going to have peaks and valleys shooting the basketball,” Donovan said, according to GatorZone.com. “I told him, ‘You do too many other things as a player that impact our team,’ and to start stepping up and trying to be more aggressive.” Beal has done just that after spending most of his season somewhat deffering to his more experienced teammates. He has begun been taking the ball to the hole more while simultaneously working on both his defense and rebounding; that in turn has helped increase his overall production. In fact, even his three-point shooting has improved. “I really took it upon myself to bear down and start guarding guys and crashing the boards,” he said. “My shot just ended up coming out of nowhere, really. Coach told me it was just a matter of me playing and getting my rhythm. Sure enough, it came.”

2 » Former Florida quarterback Chris Leak took a job with the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks this year and was almost universally expected to be the team’s starting quarterback for the duration of the season. However, just days after throwing for five touchdowns in the team’s season opener, Leak was informed that he would no longer be the team’s starter. He was supplanted by Omar Jacobs, a player that was on the team as a backup last season, on Tuesday and reacted by skipping practice on Wednesday. According to the Florida Times-Union, Leak was immediately suspended by the Sharks; FOX 30 WAWS TV reported Wednesday that Jacksonville has already signed another signal caller, which makes it appear as if Leak will no longer be with the club.

3 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was tasked with guarding Kobe Bryant down the stretch in a game with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Parsons did an exceptionally good job defending Bryant late in the fourth quarter and Houston wound up winning the contest by three. After the game, Bryant was asked about Parsons’s defense and – after first deflecting a bit – not only praised his effort in that situation but also this season in general.

4 » Quarterback Tim Tebow received some perhaps unexpected support from former Denver Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski, who told Yahoo! Sports Radio this week that he thinks executive vice president John Elway has made a mistake in deciding to trade the former Gators star. “To me, you had the answer. You just need more talent around a guy like Tim Tebow,” he said. “The kid’s a winner. I don’t care where he ends up. Cream rises to the top. That kid is beyond cream. He will rise. [...] He’ll do the same that he did last season – and probably better.”

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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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Tebow’s future a hot topic at Manning’s presser

At a 3 p.m. press conference staged by the Denver Broncos to introduce Peyton Manning as the team’s new starting quarterback, former Florida Gators signal caller Tim Tebow remained a subject of high interest and much discussion.

After being introduced by owner Pat Bowlen and executive vice president of football operations John Elway, Manning spoke about his decision and then answered a number of direct questions including two in particular about Tebow.

Manning first said that he did not have any conversations with the front office about the entirety of the quarterback position even though he knows “there are decisions to be made.” Then he added on his own:

Let me just say this: I know what kind of player Tim Tebow is and what kind of person he is. I’ve gotten to meet him personally one time. What an awesome year he had this year. If Tim Tebow is here next year, I’m going to be the best teammate I can be to him, and he and I are going to help this team win games. If other opportunities present themselves for him, I’m going to wish him the best. He’s going to be a great player wherever he is. Those are decisions that have to be made by other people. Those are not my decisions and those conversations never did come up with me. This is the place where I wanted to come and play football and to help this team win in whatever role or capacity that is.”

He also noted that he did not specifically have anything to say to Tebow’s fans that may prefer him instead and will obviously still support him going forward.

“I don’t know what to say to them. I think they’re fans of his for a great reason,” he said. “He’s a great player and a great guy. I think they can still be fans of his. I’m a fan of his, too. He’s a great player, great guy, great respect for what he accomplished last year. That was pretty impressive.”

Elway then took the podium and answered a number of specific questions regarding Tebow and his future (or lack thereof) with the franchise.

“We’re going through that process now,” Elway said in regards to Tebow’s future. “We’re going to look at that obviously. Coach [John] Fox and I called Tim [Monday] night and talked to him about it.

“This is a tough business. The toughest thing about this whole thing is Tim Tebow because of what I think about Tim Tebow. The things he did last year were tremendous. [He] helped turn this organization around from a 4-12 team to a playoff team and winning the division. And I’ve got a great deal of respect for him as a person and the things that he does.

“But that is no question the toughest thing about this business – the personal side. We just had to make a decision as an organization – myself, Coach Fox, the personnel department, the coaches. What would be the best opportunity for the Denver Broncos to be competitive for a world championship? And Peyton Manning was that so that’s why we chose to go that direction.”

Continue Reading » Tebow’s future a hot topic at Manning’s presser

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The Silver Lining: Broncos hoping to rid Denver of both Tim Tebow and Tebowmania

March 19 will forever be known as Victory Monday in the Denver Broncos’ front office as executive vice president of football operations John Elway and head coach John Fox got one step closer to reaching their offseason goal – ridding Mile High of quarterback Tim Tebow and perhaps more importantly “Tebowmania.”

Despite comments to the contrary in the offseason, it is a badly kept secret that Elway and Fox do not believe Tebow could become a viable long-term starting quarterback in the NFL. As if Elway’s stone-faced expressions every time Tebow threw or ran for a game-winning touchdown during the 2011 season were not proof enough.

But with a fan base in love with their star signal caller and the team finding unexpected levels of success behind the former Heisman Trophy winner, Denver only had one move to make if they wanted to get Tebow out of dodge.

The Broncos had to sign the one man, the one quarterback that would make Denver fans cast Tebow aside and unite behind an organizational decision to get rid of the guy who led their team to their first playoff victory since 2005-06.

That man is Peyton Manning and Elway did everything he could to get him to supplant Tebow including offering him what is expected to be a five-year contract worth approximately $95 million if all incentives are reached.

(No one can or should blame Elway for making a play for Manning – any good front office executive would have. At this point in his career, Manning is the far better quarterback and can bring the team to a higher level of success sooner than Tebow could.)

Even if Elway did not secure Manning this offseason, the plan was already in place to spend a high draft pick on a quarterback. Reports out of Colorado had Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden extremely high on Elway’s radar.

It was not just that Elway and Fox do not believe in Tebow and his future in the league. The Broncos as an organization have already bled every dollar they could out of the Tebowmania phenomenon.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining: Broncos hoping to rid Denver of both Tim Tebow and Tebowmania

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Manning chooses Denver, Tebow on the way out?

The chase for Peyton Manning lasted two weeks and in the end it was the Denver Broncos that wound up at the front of the line as Manning decided Monday to finish his career in Mile High. With a new quarterback headed to town, the question in league circles now becomes: What becomes of former Florida Gators signal caller Tim Tebow’s future with the team?

Released by the Indianapolis Colts on March 7, Manning met with representatives from five teams over the ensuing week. Arizona, Miami, San Francisco and Tennessee all had an opportunity to land the Super Bowl XLI MVP and 11-time Pro Bowler but in the end it was the Broncos that won the sweepstakes.

Now the focus of the national media and football fans everywhere turns to Tebow and where he will play football in 2012 and beyond.

Denver picked Kyle Orton to start the first five games of the 2011 season and began with a paltry 1-4 record. Tebow was installed as the Broncos’ starter against Miami and rallied the team to win seven of their next eight games including three in overtime and six in which Denver was either tied or losing at some point in the fourth quarter.

He also helped the Broncos advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2005 where he fueled a 29-23 overtime victory of Pittsburgh in the wild card round. Tebow threw for 316 yards with two touchdowns, ran for 50 yards and another score, and posted a quarterback rating of 125.6 in the contest. He also completed a game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas just seconds into overtime to send the Mile High faithful into a frenzy.

With the offseason in full swing, Denver executive vice president of football operations John Elway and head coach John Fox both spoke kindly of Tebow though neither showed a high level of enthusiasm in his future.

“Hopefully, he can be the franchise guy for a long time, but those are things we don’t know at this time,” Elway said on Feb. 24. “He made tremendous strides last year, and that’s without an offseason. He’s our starter going into training camp, and we have great expectations for him.”

The Broncos were always planning to bring two more quarterbacks in to compete with Tebow even has he held the starting job, but signing Manning obviously changes that dynamic. Tebow will no longer be the “starter going into training camp” and now may not even be with the team next season.

Since the Manning derby began, multiple reports have stated that Elway and Fox intended to trade or release Tebow should they land their horse. Others noted that Elway saw bringing in Manning as the only way to escape “Tebowmania” and give the team an opportunity to move on from a player they invested from a previous regime and were obviously not comfortable with from jump street.

In addition to his presence with the club, Manning expected to sign a three- or four-year deal and finish his career in Denver. Tebow, finding success after being thrust into the starting role to conclude each of the last two seasons, undoubtedly believes he is capable of being a starting NFL signal caller.

Though he probably would have been content to sit and learn the ropes from a player of Manning’s caliber in the short-term, Tebow’s contract (set to expire after the 2014 season) makes that situation unlikely. He will not want to languish on the bench behind Manning only to see his contract run out and the Broncos fail to re-sign him to be the heir-apparent to his replacement.

And Denver’s front office, which never fully bought into Tebow’s ability to be a starting NFL quarterback despite his success on the field in 2011, will likely prefer to draft someone better suited to their philosophy and allow him to develop behind Manning.

All eyes now remain in Colorado but shift from Manning to Tebow and his agent Jimmy Sexton. Unless there is a miracle in Mile High or at least a change of heart by Broncos management including a peace offering to Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner will likely be looking for a new place to call home sooner than later.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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SIX BITS: Wuerffel, Tebow, Pouncey, women

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel has been added to the ballot for induction as part of the 2012 class for the College Football Hall of Fame. Wuerffel is one of 76 players on the candidate list, which also includes eight former coaches. Should he be nominated for induction, he would be the seventh Florida player and 10th representative of the Gators (three coaches) to be placed in the hall of fame. The National Football Foundation will announce the 2012 class on May 15 and induct it at an awards dinner on Dec. 4, 2012.

2 » Speaking at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine last Friday, Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway had some positive comments to throw the way of Tim Tebow, who will enter the team’s training camp as the starting quarterback. “Hopefully, he can be the franchise guy for a long time, but those are things we don’t know at this time,” Elway said, according to NFL.com. “He made tremendous strides last year, and that’s without an offseason. He’s our starter going into training camp, and we have great expectations for him.” Denver will bring in two more quarterbacks to compete with Tebow but how they acquire them should give some insight into their thoughts on Tebow. If the Broncos draft a signal caller high or sign a high-profile free agent like Matt Flynn, it could be an indication they have not bought in, whereas should they sign a lower-tier free agent and draft a quarterback in the later rounds, it could speak to the opposite. Elway is confident in Tebow’s intangibles but plans to work with him on his footwork and ability to read coverages in the offseason.

3 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey missed another critical playoff game this year with a high-ankle sprain after reaggravating the injury he suffered one year ago that caused him to out of the 2010-11 Super Bowl. He had surgery on the injury after the season and is expected to make a full recovery going forward. “The reports we got and the last time we saw him, he was progressing just fine,” team general manager Kevin Colbert said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “High-ankle sprains, they’re a different injury and then when you re-injure it sometimes you’ve got to do some procedures to shore that joint up.” Pouncey is no longer wearing a cast on his foot/ankle but is in a boot for the time being. He and his brother were at the NFL Combine this past week to support running back Chris Rainey, their close friend and former teammate.

4 » No. 4 Florida lacrosse (4-1) extended their winning streak to four games with consecutive victories over Siena (23-5 on Friday) and Detroit (22-3 on Sunday). Junior attacker Ashley Bruns scored a school-record eight goals against Siena, helping the Gators post their highest total in program history. One of the eight was Bruns’s 100th career goal, making her the second player in school history to reach that mark. Bruns scored four more on Sunday (12 for the weekend), leading the way for Florida in both contests and helping earn her the ALC Offensive Player of the Week award on Monday. Junior attackers Kitty Cullen (seven goals, three assists) and Gabi Wiegand (six goals, three assists) joined her in the scoring party.

5 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (9-1, 5-1 SEC) tore through the league this year and took down the No. 3 Georgia Gym Dogs (5-3, 4-2 SEC) in exciting fashion at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Friday. Florida, which defeated Georgia 197.525-196.825, had two gymnasts win a total of five events. Freshman Kytra Hunter, named SEC Gymnast of the Week on Monday, took the vault (9.95), floor exercise (9.95) and all-around (39.675), while junior Marissa King won the uneven bars (9.925) and balance beam (9.95). UF swept UGA in the meet and is set to take on Nebraska and Utah over the next three weeks before participating in postseason action.

6 » After earning a season-highlight win on Senior Day in the O’Dome, Gators women’s basketball (18-11, 8-8 SEC) concluded the 2012 regular season by falling 75-59 at the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols (21-8, 12-4 SEC) due in part to 20 costly turnovers. Though Florida was unable to continue their magic against Tennessee, eight-seeded UF will hope to make a splash in the 2012 SEC Tournament, which begins for them against Auburn on Thursday at 1 p.m. The Gators also got some good news on Tuesday when it was announced that junior forward Jennifer George (first-team All-SEC) and senior guard Deana Allen (SEC Co-6th Woman of the Year) earned awards from the conference’s coaches.

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