Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: 7/28 – 8/4

The 2013 NFL regular season is exactly one month away from kicking off on Thursday, Sept. 5.

More than three dozen former Florida Gators are currently working out with their respective teams and trying to either keep or earn roster spots for the upcoming year.

Below are select updates on some of these Gators for the second full week of training camp from July 28 to Aug. 4.

The Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys squared off during the 2013 Hall of Fame Game, the first preseason game, in Canton, OH, on Sunday night.

RB MIKE GILLISLEE*, Miami Dolphins: Seven carries for 21 yards (long: 9)
LB JELANI JENKINS*, Miami Dolphins: Two tackles
C MIKE POUNCEY, Miami Dolphins: Started Hall of Fame Game
K CALEB STURGIS*, Miami Dolphins: Did not play – groin

QB TIM TEBOW, New England Patriots: Though cameras caught Tebow hauling in passes and protecting the ball in a drill last week, he will be nothing but a quarterback for the Patriots, according to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “He’s just practicing his open-field running,” McDaniels said. “We know Tim has a skill set that some of these other guys don’t possess in terms of ability to run with it, scramble with it when he has it in his hands. … He’s put in a lot of time and effort to improve his individual skill set to play the position of quarterback in our offense, and I think every day is a learning tool for him.” Tebow has also received a nod from starter Tom Brady. “We have good conversations,” Brady said, according to the Associated Press. “He loves playing football and that’s usually the type of guys who do well here.”

Read updates on seven other former Gators…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: 7/28 – 8/4

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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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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Hill, Beal, Zunino

1 » Though he will officially get a second opinion about his injured hip on Tuesday, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin is expected to be able to avoid surgery. According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the “conservative Seahawks doctors … believe the injury isn’t season-threatening” and are allowing him to get a specialist to look at his hip as a method of showing their trust in the player. “Percy’s a confidence player – he needs to feel good about his condition and himself,” a “Seattle source” told King. “This time should give him the best chance to feel right entering the season.” Harvin may (1) not need surgery, just a cortisone shot and some rest, (2) need minor surgery that would force him to miss some time, or (3) need season-ending surgery, which is considered doubtful at this point. This may be about Harvin being a “confidence player,” but it may also be about Harvin following his career-long trend of doing whatever he believes is necessary to sit out training camps and practices.

2 » New York Giants safety Will Hill candidly admitted on Sunday that his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy was for a positive marijuana test from last season. Hill said he failed more than one test and appealed the suspension but ultimately lost. He later explained that he started using drugs again because he felt a massive amount of stress. “It’s from family members, to everyone reaching their hand out thinking I’m an ATM, and people who think you owe them something. It was just a situation where I was visiting my hometown and a guy pulled a shotgun out on me right there in a park for some money. How do you deal with those situations? You really can’t, so I just dealt with it the best way I knew how,” he said.

Hill said he has not used any drugs since his last positive test and accepted the Giants’ offer to send him to a rehabilitation facility in Boston, MA. He was in rehab in March and April and went to an outpatient facility in Parsippany, NJ. “I talked to the team and they just told me to keep on moving forward, keep being positive,” Hill said. “Just take the suspension and leave it at that and don’t’ have any more mishaps.”

3 » Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal was unable to participate in USA Basketball’s most recent minicamp as he is still recovering from a stress fracture in his leg, but he told The Washington Post last week that he will continue to pursue representing his country and will remain involved with the program going forward. He also noted that, after three months on the shelf, he will begin participating in live contact work within the next week or two and will be 100 percent by the time his team’s training camp starts in approximately two months. “I have to take it slow. That’s the reason I didn’t participate [at Team USA minicamp]. I didn’t want to force the issue and end up being reinjured. Patience is definitely the key,” Beal said.

4 » Seattle Mariners rookie catcher Mike Zunino was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday after an MRI revealed he fractured the hamate bone in his left hand. Zunino will undergo surgery this week and is expected to miss six weeks while healing. Should he return to action after that timeframe, there would only be three weeks remaining in the regular season. He was hitting .242 with two home runs and 10 RBI in the first 29 games of his career before being injured on Thursday when he took a foul tip off his hand; he stayed in the game for three more innings.

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Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: July 21-27

The 2013 NFL season is just one week away from beginning with preseason action kicking off on Sunday, Aug. 4.

More than three dozen former Florida Gators are currently working out with their respective teams and trying to either keep or earn roster spots for the upcoming year.

Below are select updates on some of these Gators for the first full week of training camp from July 21-27.

QB TIM TEBOW, New England Patriots: His first full practice with his new team generated its fair share of excitement with some fans in attendance occasionally chanting his name. Though he is listed as the third-string quarterback – and therefore worked behind center in 11-on-11 drills during practice – Tebow also participated in drills where he caught the ball and attempted to break a tackle. In other words, New England may have more planned for him than head coach Bill Belichick wanted to admit initially. “I just do what I’m told and work as hard as I possibly can to do the best job I can with whatever I’m asked to do,” he said.

Comcast SportsNet‘s Patriots beat writer Tom E. Curran described Tebow’s practice as, in one word, “horrendous.”

After practice, Tebow was swarmed by the media and questioned about former Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez. “It’s just heartbreaking and sad, and all my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that were involved,” he said. “I understand why you [the media] have to ask all the questions; that’s part of doing your job. Part of mine is listening to instruction, and we’ve been told not to talk about it.”

Tebow was happy to defend former Gators head coach Urban Meyer, however. “I feel like Coach Meyer is a great man, one of the best I’ve had the privilege of being around,” he said. “He is someone that not only tries to win football games, he’s someone that tries to invest in young men’s lives and help young men grow. He cares very deeply about that. That’s one of the reasons I’m so close to him and why I’m proud of him.”

Read updates on more than a dozen other former Gators…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: July 21-27

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Bengals ink DE Dunlap to new six-year contract

Updated on Saturday, July 20 at 3 p.m.

The Cincinnati Bengals and former Florida Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap came to terms Monday on a brand new six-year contract that includes $40 million in base salary alone, according to Pro Football Talk.

Instead of earning just $630,000 in base salary on the final year of his rookie deal, he will earn $20 million between now and the conclusion of the 2014 season.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s Joe Ready, Dunlap already received an $8 million signing bonus and will tack on $1.3 million in base salary for 2013. He will also pick up an additional $3.7 million when he reports to training camp this year and $5.7 million more as a roster bonus if he remains with the team on March 31, 2014.

Dunlap is also due a $300,000 annually via workout bonus and annual salaries of $1 million in 2014, $3 million in 2015, $4.05 million in 2016, $5.05 million in 2017 and $6.7 million in 2018. He can earn an additional $4.5 million in escalators.

A first-round talent who slipped to the second round and became the No. 54 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft due to some maturity concerns following a DUI arrest prior to the 2009 SEC Championship, Dunlap left Florida as a junior and came on strong during his rookie season in Cincinnati.

He registered 8.5 sacks in the final six games of the 2010 campaign and finished with 9.5 takedowns that year. Dunlap has been unable to duplicate that pass rushing success, totaling 10.5 sacks in the last two seasons, but he did force four fumbles (recovering three) in 2012 while also grabbing his first career interception and returning it 14 yards for a touchdown.

At just 24 years old, Dunlap’s ceiling remains high, and he is on the way to earning a full-time starting role with the Bengals.

Dunlap won OnlyGators.com’s NFL Player of the Week award four times in 2012, tied for second-most among Gators in the league last season.

He is the second former Florida player to sign a lucrative six-year contract in this offseason as wide receiver Percy Harvin inked a $67 million deal after being traded to the Seattle Seahawks.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Meyer, Merklein, Harvin, Miami

1 » Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer sat down for a question-and-answer session with CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler (believe it or not) that was published on Friday. In the piece, he mentions the Florida Gators on a few occasions, the highlights of which are below. Check out the other topics by clicking here.

On why ‘no question’ he would still be at Florida if health issues never surfaced
“I realized not too long after [around February 2011]. I called Jeremy [Foley] and said, ‘I made a mistake.’ Once I felt like everything was under control, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I do?’ I just told Jeremy as a friend in conversation. The talk was more about one day getting back into it. He was very supportive. Then I started at ESPN and had a ball with that, but is that enough? Is that what I was called to do? I planned to take more than a year [off] though.”

On regrets for the way his Florida tenure ended
“I didn’t at first. I thought we did a good job. We did our best. I look back now, the way it ended was certainly a regret. Does that mean it haunts me? Not at all. I’ve always felt our job is to do a good job and do it the right way, do it ethically and for the best interest of the student-athlete — check, check, check. I’ll always be associated with the school, and my great friends are there and all that. Absolutely none with that. It just wasn’t a normal way to move on. There would have been if I would have stayed out. I was worried about survival for a little bit.”

2 » Florida brought back a huge name in Gators tennis on Friday when the school announced that Mark Merklein has returned to the program as an assistant coach with the men’s team. Merklein, a two-time national champion (doubles in 1993, singles in 1994) and the 1994 SEC Player of the Year, earned four All-American nominations and three All-SEC nods while at Florida and was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. Considered by many to be the best men’s tennis player in school history, Merklein wound up competing as a professional for 12 years and even serving as a volunteer assistant for the Gators from 1998-2002 while he was on the tour. He was the head coach of the USTA Player Development Center for six seasons (2006-11) before being hired by Michigan as an assistant coach for the past two years (2012-13). “When I left I even said to everyone, including Mr. [Jeremy] Foley, that it was a goal of mine to one day come back and coach and win national championships,” Merklein said in a school release. “I’ve said it so much now, it’s time to actually do it and put the work in. I’m excited to do that alongside [head coach Bryan Shelton].”

3 » Wide receiver Percy Harvin has only been employed by the Seattle Seahawks for a few weeks now, but he is already turning heads at the team’s facility. According to The Seattle Times, Harvin’s teammates and coaches have already begun taking notice, and second-year quarterback Russell Wilson is ecstatic about the potential of Seattle’s offense this season. “His talent level is unbelievable, off the charts,” said Wilson of Harvin. “He brings an explosive mentality to the game, which a lot of our guys already have. But to have him is truly tremendous. He’s a guy that’s been one of the best football players in the National Football League for the past several years.” Harvin also told the paper that he expect to play some running back on occasion and will likely be back for kickoff returns.

4 » ESPN’s decision to kick-off Florida second football game of the season, on the road against the Miami Hurricanes, at noon has caused quite a stir amongst fans over the past 24 hours. The Gators and Hurricanes will square off on Sept. 7 in Miami Gardens, FL at Sun Life Stadium in a game which everyone involved assumed would be played at night, likely at 8 p.m. Instead, Florida-Miami will take place under the extreme heat of the South Florida sun with kickoff just after noon, earlier than any UF-UM game has been played since at least 1987. The Miami Herald’s Manny Navarro did some digging to learn why ESPN chose that time slot.

According to the network, ABC will be airing a NASCAR race at 8 p.m. while ESPN is broadcasting Notre Dame-Michigan. The 3:30 p.m. slot on ABC will be used for regional games (those in Florida will see Oregon at Virginia). Hurricanes AD Blake James apparently tweeted that Miami “requested and lobbied” for the 8 p.m. slot, while ESPN spokesman Mike Humes pointed out that the network values its noon window. “We average probably around three million viewers for that time slot. So it wasn’t like, ‘Let’s put the worst game on at noon.’ The noon window does really well with fans,” he said. “We view this as a great matchup. Scheduling games is like putting together different puzzles with different time zones and commitments, and this was the best window.”

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Florida defensive line coach Bryant Young resigns

After serving two years as assistant defensive line coach for the Florida Gators, former 14-year NFL veteran Bryant Young has decided to resign from his post with the team.

Florida announced Young’s resignation on Wednesday afternoon, noting that he is stepping away from the program “for non-football reasons.”

“After heavy consideration and giving over two decades to the game of football, I have made a personal decision to resign from my position at the University of Florida in order to pursue more time with my family,” Young said in a school release.

“I am humbled by and grateful for the opportunity I have had to positively influence the hardworking student-athletes and young men whom I will surely miss,” he continued.

“However, I have come to the realization that it is time to invest more in my family during this fleeting season in life. I have truly loved my time being a Gator, enjoyed a great working relationship with Coach [Will] Muschamp and will also miss the dedicated staff at this University. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity and support I have received from Coach Muschamp, Jeremy Foley and the entire athletic department.”

Young was a member of Muschamp’s original coaching staff and served as a defensive line coach (specializing on defensive tackles) alongside then-defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn left to become defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks after the 2012 season and now Young has decided to move on as well.

“We are very thankful for Coach Young’s contributions to the program and I respect his decision. This is strictly a personal decision and has nothing to do with NCAA compliance, but just an opportunity to evaluate his future path,” Muschamp said. “I always have, and will continue to be very supportive of Coach Young and his family. Our entire staff will be there for him to provide any assistance and guidance in the future. We wish he and his family nothing but the best.”

Young spent all 14 of his NFL seasons with the San Francisco 49ers where he was coached by Quinn. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, four-time NFL All-Pro, Super Bowl XXIX champion and the league’s Comeback Player of the Year in 1999.

It is unlikely that the Gators hire a replacement for Young as Muschamp brought in Brad Lawing as the team’s new assistant head coach and defensive line coach in January. However, Florida does now have a coaching spot open on the roster. Muschamp could hire someone to coordinate special teams as those duties are currently being handled by the coaching staff as a whole.

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SIX BITS: top 25, tennis, Muschamp, PIT, Tebow

1 » Despite ending their 2013 NCAA Tournament run in the Elite Eight for the third-straight year, Florida Gators basketball was placed at No. 9 in the final USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 poll of the 2012-13 season. Florida was not the only Elite Eight team to fall outside the top eight of the poll, however, as Marquette checked in at No. 11 in the final rankings. Indiana (Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse) and Kansas (Sweet 16 loss to Michigan) took the two other spots in the top eight. The Gators also checked in at No. 9 and No. 10 in 2011-12 and 2010-11, respectively, after losing in the Elite Eight. Florida will likely enter the 2013-14 campaign ranked in the preseason top-10.

2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (17-2, 10-1 SEC) ran through its competition over the weekend, extending their winning streaks to 10 consecutive team matches and 30-straight individual matches. Florida swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-10, 4-6 SEC) and Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-12, 1-10 SEC) in a pair of home showdowns over the weekend at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The Gators won all 11 matches and had the opportunity to celebrate Senior Day against the Bulldogs on Sunday. Seniors No. 1 Lauren Embree and No. 125 Caroline Hitimana were each unable to finish their singles matches due to Florida registering a quick 4-0 victory but both won their doubles contests. The No. 20 duo of Embree and junior Sofie Oyen picked up an 8-2 win, while Hitimana and junior Alex Cercone won 8-0.

On Monday, head coach Roland Thornqvist praised Embree at his press conference, making note of her incredible career and tremendous work ethic. “You want to know why Lauren Embree is the best college player to ever play the game?” he asked rhetorically. “It was Monday morning at 8:30, and after a weekend full of matches and practices, she runs to the courts, hits serves for 30 minutes, then I show up and we go at it [on the court] for an hour and 15 minutes. By 10:00, she’s done with two workouts already while the rest of tennis America is still sleeping. That’s why we’re good and that’s why she’s good. She sets the tone, the bar is high, and I think everybody feeds off of it. We’ve just been blessed to have that for four years. Frankly, it’s just amazing.” The Gators women’s tennis program is hoping to win its third-straight national title.

Read four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: top 25, tennis, Muschamp, PIT, Tebow

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