Sports Outside the Beltway

Penguins Sale In Jeopardy?

Sale of Pittsburgh Penguins in trouble? (KDKA)

More than a month has passed since a Connecticut real estate developer signed a letter of intent to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins.

There’s been no sale as of yet.

KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan has word that the deal may be in trouble.

Sam Fingold won exclusive negotiating rights to the Penguins when he offered $175 million dollars to buy the hockey club.

The deal has hit some major snags and tonight there’s serious doubt that Fingold and the Penguins will ever make the deal.

At $175 million dollars, the Penguins shocked the hockey world by fetching a sale’s price that hockey insiders thought they would never reach.

Now it appears the insiders might have been right all along.

The soap opera continues. Interestingly enough, the NHL wants to keep the Pens in Pittsburgh:

In recent weeks, the NHL has made it clear that it does not want the Penguins to leave Pittsburgh and would block such a move if there is a viable plan to build a new arena.

Of course, that’s been the whole issue over the past few years: the Pens, no matter how hard they try, cannot get anyone to finance the new arena. The only party to come forward has been the Isle of Capri casino, which would build an arena if they get a gaming contract in Pittsburgh. However, they are one of many possible gambling groups vying for a Pittsburgh license, and chances are that only one or two of the companies will get one. The state and local governments have promised a plan B, according to the article, but I’ll believe it when it happens.


Steelers Sign New Contract With Parker

Willie Parker inks nice new deal (KDKA).

Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Willie Parker has just inked a new contract with the team.

KDKA’s John Steigerwald reports that the four-year contract is worth $13 million with over $3 million of it guaranteed.

This is a decent deal, and it signals what has been suspected for a while: Parker is the new go to guy for the Steelers running game. I hope that the Steelers can adjust to featuring a “fast back” as opposed to a “power back”, which has been what they have done for many years. Parker did very well, but that was with a beefy and dependable third down back in Jerome Bettis. Should the Steelers be unable to establish Duce Staley, Dan Kreider, or any of their other backs as a legitimate third down back, I think they will struggle. That, coupled with the Hines Ward injury, makes me a bit uneasy about the Steelers offense to start the season. They need either the recievers or the running game to be firing on all cylinders, and at the moment, there are gaps in both. Next week is going to help us see how well the Steelers will defend their Super Bowl title.


Joe Paterno Ties Longetivity Record

Joe Paterno ties record for coaching longevity.

When Joe Paterno runs out of the Beaver Stadium tunnel on Saturday afternoon to kick off another Penn State season‚ he’ll officially equal a record for coaching longevity established 74 years ago.

Predictably‚ Paterno said he knew nothing about the impending milestone until asked about it during Tuesday’s teleconference.

When his Nittany Lions open the 2006 campaign against visiting Akron‚ the 79-year-old coaching wonder will begin his 41st season stalking the sidelines for Penn State‚ joining another football legend – Amos Alonzo Stagg – as the only major college coach to serve so long at one institution.

Stagg spent 41 seasons at the University of Chicago from 1892-1932.

That is simply an amazing run, and puts Paterno in the company of a simply amazing coach. Let’s take a look at Stagg’s accomplishments:

He is credited with numerous innovations‚ including the huddle‚ the lateral pass‚ the man in motion and using a tackling dummy in practice.

“I’m in good company‚” Paterno said.

“When I was a younger coach‚ (Illinois coach Robert) Zuppke had a book out and Stagg had a book out. They had a great impact on the game and I read those books‚ but I never met (Stagg). I met his son when he coached at Susquehanna‚ but I never met the dad.”

First off, that is an amazing list of accomplishments for Stagg. However, staying with any program for that long is amazing – and I am certain that when Paterno was starting, reading the book written by Stagg to learn about coaching, there is no way he thought he was approaching that record. Paterno will certainly go down in history as one of the best coaches in college history, and definately one of the best of this era (Bobby Bowden being the other standout). It is impossible to imagine Penn State without him, considering that Paterno had been coaching almost 20 years when I was born. I have known no other Penn State coach, and have no idea who will come next.


Cowboys Backup QB Tony Romo Signs 1 Year, $3.9 Million Contract Extension

Cowboys beat writers Jean-Jacques Taylor and Todd Archer of the DMN report that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has agreed to a two-year contract, sources said today. Romo gets $900,000 for ’06, $1 million for ’07 and a $2 million signing bonus.

Their colleage, Matt Mosley, adds more:

Because Romo was already signed through this season, the deal is basically a one-year extension. He could make another $1 million in incentives if he takes a certain amount of snaps over the next two seasons.

Stuck in traffic on his way to Texas Stadium, Romo said, “At the end of the day, the reason I want to stay here is because the Joneses are about winning. The coaching staff has instilled some confidence in me, and I’ve shown them I can be somewhat successful.”

The Cowboys wanted to sign Romo to a longer deal, but both sides decided to focus on the next couple of seasons. “They stepped up to the plate,” Romo said of Jerry and Stephen Jones. “Personally, it’s nice to see Jerry show this type of commitment. I think it will be beneficial for both sides.”

That’s a pretty hefty contract for an undrafted free agent who hasn’t taken a single meaningful snap in the NFL. It’s clearly a reflection, though, that Parcells and company think he can be the starter in the next couple of years.

If not sooner. Local NFL columnist Rick Gosselin joins a spate of national writers when he writes, “count me among those who believe Tony Romo will close the season as starter.” Given that Bledsoe is only 34 and a borderline Hall fo Famer, that strikes me as crazy. But, then, I’m not talking to the Dallas coaching staff on a regular basis.


Terrell Owens on Cover of ESPN’s 2006 NFL Preview

Terrell Owens on Cover of ESPN's 2006 NFL Preview Photo An enlightening and touching piece by Tom Friend on controversial wideout Terrell Owens is featured in the current issue of ESPN the Magazine, garnering the cover to boot. For those not familiar with the man’s backstory, it helps explain why he is how he is. And there’s a lot of good and bad from the people who know Terrell, the football player, best.

This story, which I’d never seen before, is quite instructive of both sides of the man’s complex personality:

In a home playoff game that day against the Packers, Owens’ stone hands resurfaced. He fumbled once and dropped four balls. As he sat on the sidelines, awful childhood memories flooded back. Like when he’d fallen asleep on a high school bus with his mouth open, and a teammate spit on his tongue. Like when kids called him “Purple Pal” for being so dark-skinned. That’s how those four botched passes made him feel — angry, insecure — and he figured, that’s it, they’re not going to throw to me again. He didn’t trust them, Tuna. He doesn’t trust anybody, Tuna.

So he walked up to Young and said, “Steve, believe in me.” And Young was stunned. He told TO, “You’re one of the best in the league, and you’re only your third year in, so don’t worry about me believing in you, okay? Just catch the next one.”

The next one came with three seconds left, the 49ers trailing by four. Owens ran a route called “All Go Double Comeback,” and caught it at the goal line with two Packers aiming for his skull. He sobbed afterwards, which was an odd reaction to some, but not Derrick Deese, the 49ers left tackle who played dominos with Owens virtually every day. “TO was emotional because the touchdown signified that we knew what he knew — that we had to go back to him to win the game,” Deese says. “That meant more than the catch.”

A whole lot more at the link.


Vinatieri has Broken Bone in Non-Kicking Foot

Indianapolis cut ties with the most accurate kicker in NFL history to sign a guy who was considered the most clutch. Now, they might not have his services in the season opener.

Kicker Adam Vinatieri’s tenure with the Indianapolis Colts apparently is starting on the wrong foot. The Indianapolis Star reported Thursday that Vinatieri has a broken bone in his left foot, which he uses to plant before kicking. According to the report, Vinatieri suffered the injury during practice August 14. The Colts are uncertain whether their newly acquired kicker will be available for the team’s season opener against the New York Giants on September 10.

“That’s what he told us about a week and a half ago,” Vinatieri’s mother, Judy, told the newspaper. “They sent him to a specialist. They found a small broken bone in his foot.”

Arguably the best pressure kicker in NFL history, Vinatieri left his long-time home with the New England Patriots this past offseason and signed a five-year deal with the Colts. Vinatieri, 33, made 82 percent (263-of-321) of his field goals in 10 seasons with the Patriots. He has replaced Mike Vanderjagt, who converted 87.5 percent (217-of-248) in eight years with the Colts. But Vanderjagt did not come through when the Colts needed him most, missing a 46-yard attempt with 17 seconds left in a 21-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC divisional playoffs in January.

Vinatieri made virtually every clutch kick for the Patriots, helping them become the second team in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span (2001-04). He kicked a 48-yard field goal as time expired to give the Patriots a 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI and drilled a 41-yarder with four seconds left in a 32-29 win over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Patriots would not even have made the Super Bowl in the first year of their title run without Vinatieri, who kicked a game-tying 45-yard field goal in a heavy snowfall with 27 seconds left in regulation and booted a 23-yarder in overtime in a divisional playoff win over Oakland.

The key is having him ready come playoff time, not the season opener. He’ll be ready by then.


Cowboys Trade TE Ryan to Jets, Who Send TE Jolley to Bucs

The Cowboys swapped a TE to the Jets, who in turn swapped one to the Bucs.

Tight end Doug Jolley, who never fulfilled expectations after being acquired by the New York Jets from Oakland, was traded by the Jets to Tampa Bay on Thursday. The Jets also acquired tight end Sean Ryan from Dallas and claimed wide receiver Sloan Thomas on waivers from Tennessee. Both the Jolley and Ryan deals involved undisclosed draft choices.

Ryan, a fifth-round pick by Dallas in 2004, has played in nine NFL games and started two. Thomas, who played at Texas, was a seventh-round pick of Houston in 2004 and played in one game for Tennessee last year, making two special teams tackles.

The Jets got Jolley in April 2005, giving up their first-round pick in that draft and obtaining the Raiders’ second-rounder in the deal. But he had just 29 catches last season for 324 yards and one touchdown, a 60-yarder.

According to the Nick Eatman, Ryan fetched a 7th rounder.

TE Sean Ryan Photo owboys head coach Bill Parcells has said many times in the last month that several teams around the league have expressed interest in acquiring his players.

Apparently, one of them was tight end Sean Ryan, who was traded to the Jets Thursday for a seventh-round draft pick in 2007.

Ryan was considered the fourth tight end for the Cowboys, who already have Pro Bowler Jason Witten, rookie Anthony Fasano and fifth-year pro Ryan Hannam, who was added through free agency this past spring.

First-year pro Tony Curtis is the now fourth tight end on the current roster and has flashed some potential here in the preseason, catching two passes for 50 yards. Curtis spent last season on the practice squad, and could end up there again if he is released this weekend.


In two seasons, Ryan played just nine games, including two starts, but has not had a catch in a regular-season game.

Ryan, a fifth-round draft pick for the Cowboys in 2004, spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad. He was called up for the final six games of the year and played primarily as a blocker. Last season, Ryan was expected to have a bigger role, but suffered a foot injury early in training camp that eventually landed him another spot on the practice squad. Again, he made his way back to the 53-man roster by Thanksgiving. Ryan played the last six games of the season, but again, did not record a reception.

Obviously, the Jets and Cowboys both lost in this trade, given that they got far less value in return than their initial outlays. Still, the essence of managing a team in a salary cap world is knowing when to cut your losses. It looks like both clubs decided it was time to do just that.


Greg Ellis Converts to LB, Earns McGinnest Comparison

Brad Sham recounts how Dallas Cowboy Greg Ellis has made the transition from defensive end to linebacker — and back to happy camper.

The Greg Ellis who went from June’s minicamp to the start of Oxnard’s late-July training camp was the antithesis of the Greg Ellis we all knew. That one was the ultimate team player, never complaining, just good-soldiering. Suddenly, convinced he was yesterday’s newspaper headed for the bottom of a birdcage, Ellis wanted to be traded. Flat-out told anyone who would listen he didn’t see how he fit in to the plans and sure wished they’d just let him go somewhere he could still make a contribution. Never mind Parcells and owner-general manager Jerry Jones said at every opportunity Ellis was a valued member of the defense and would have a major role and wasn’t going anywhere.

Well, here’s your story: On the verge of the regular season, Greg Ellis is back. I mean all the way back to happy. Not yet as confident as he was a couple of years ago, but getting there. And happy again, yes, Greg Ellis happy again.


Truth to tell, heading into his ninth NFL season, Ellis probably thought he had as much chance of becoming a rabbi as he did a linebacker. Even in June’s minicamp he was still a defensive end, although he recalls now that Parcells came to him last December and said, “I’ve figured out what I’m going to do with you.” He didn’t tell Ellis what that was, mind you, but the player knew to get ready for something.

Surprisingly, that something really didn’t come until, as Ellis recalls it, about the second day of training camp. “He told me, ‘Just start meeting with the linebackers,’” Ellis recalls. “And I do. That’s what I am now. Don’t go to any D-Line meetings. (Nose tackle Jason) Ferguson is all over me all the time. ‘You deserted us, man.’ But it’s what I am now.”

Early in camp, Parcells started occasionally calling Ellis by a foreign name to which he now responds: Willie, as in Cleveland linebacker Willie McGinest, his former New England star defensive end-turned linebacker Ellis reminds him of so much. The transformation had begun.


Now that he admits to being a linebacker, Ellis sounds a lot like that in recalling the day Parcells told him he thought he should switch. “As a player,” he recalls, “you want to do what the coach says is best for the team. But inside, you’re thinking, ‘Man, are you sure about this?’ But he said I reminded him of McGinest because we were both basketball players and good athletes and he was pretty sure I could do it.”

The fact that Ellis has made the conversion from end to linebacker in his ninth season is somewhere between impressive and amazing. The way he is now able to talk publicly about Parcells is startling, given the dialogue of spring.

“That Bill is something else,” Ellis says now, shaking his head. “He’s unique. He really knows his players. What he’s done with me is what I needed to be done. I was pessimistic. I thought I’d just be doing a lot of standing around. But he got me back into it again. He reeled me back into it, and I really appreciate it.”

As a Cowboys fan, I’m glad to see this in more ways than one. Ellis has been a superb player during a mostly down period for the Cowboys and has been dogged his entire career by the fact that the team passed up a chance at drafting Randy Moss when they took Ellis in the first round. He hasn’t been the superstar Moss has, to be sure, but he’s been a solid contributor on and off the field since arriving. And that’s being recognized:

Ellis has been designated, by the coach, the lone Cowboys captain for each of the first three preseason games. This is a gesture not lost on Ellis, who has prided himself on his leadership role on the Dallas defense for the last several years.

“You know that leadership is something I take seriously,” he says, “and it’s been challenging to be a leader, to feel like one, while I’m still learning. But it’s been a fairly quick process, and as I get a little more confident I’m starting to be a little more vocal again.

“But I was pretty surprised to be made the captain in Seattle. I mean, I’d only been trying this about seven days at the time, and we’re in the locker room before the game and he says, ‘OK, Captain will be 98.’ I mean, I’d have thought he’d be saying, ‘Well, he’s learning a new position, we don’t want to put too much extra responsibility on him.’ But he sees fit to make me the captain also. It was unexpected, but he’s making a statement. I hear him. I mean, you notice not only have I been the captain, I’ve been the only one. The other team has three, four guys. Every game the ref has looked at me and said, ‘Where’s everybody else?’ I have to tell him, ‘I’m it.’”

And so he is.


The Kiss of Death

Sports Illustrated has come out with their NFL predictions for 2006. Here is who they think will be playing in the Super Bowl.

I’ve followed the Dolphins since my discharge from the military. My football allegiances are torn between the Dolphins and the team I grew up following, The New York Jets.

Miami finished 9-7 last year, capped by a 6-game winning streak at year’s end. I stick to what I said at season’s end, Miami was a very over-rated team. Of those 6 wins, only San Diego and New England had winning record. The win in the week’s final week against the Patriots was helped by the fact that New England rested much of its key personel plus the team not necessarily taking the game all that seriously. Anyone remember Doug Flutie’s drop kick?

Dante Culpepper has joined Miami, and that’s an improvement on the QB situation. Other problems remain, namely the team’s aging defense plus a thin secondary that’s been burned already during pre-season play. I’m not as skeptical about Miami’s 2006 season as I was at the end of the 2005 campaign, but I don’t see Miami making it to the Super Bowl.

As to Carolina, they seem as good a choice as any in the NFC but I feel that conference is pretty wide open.

My own Miami Dolphin prediction for 2006- 9-7 and a first round wildcard playoff loss.

Note- The title of this post refers to SI’s jinx at picking Sports Champions. It supposedly began when the magazine picked the Cleveland Indians as the best team in baseball in 1987. Cleveland finished that season with the WORST record in MLB.

Hat tip- Stuck on the Palmetto


What is Hugo’s handicap?

Some news from Venezuela.

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) – The government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has promised a socialist revolution for the poor, on Wednesday criticized an ally’s move to seize two golf courses to build affordable housing.

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said the “national government does not agree with” the move by Caracas Mayor Juan Barreto, a Chavez loyalist, to take over the golf courses and two plots of land for the low-income housing plan.

Chavez, a former paratrooper who has promised a revolution to end poverty in the world’s No. 5 oil exporter, has harshly criticized wealthy Venezuelans for their lavish lifestyles.


Barreto had issued decrees calling for the “forced acquisition” of two golf courses in neighbourhoods of Caracas, Venezuela’s capital.

Critics said Barreto had not adequately demonstrated the city’s intentions for the land as legally required in expropriation cases.

Since it is inconsistent with his other policies and beliefs, one has to guess Chavez likes to play golf.

Since he’s either a Socialist or Communist, I bet Hugo Chavez hits the ball with a decided draw. Watch out for those duck hooks the next time you visit Caracas.


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