Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL Power Rankings – 2008 Preseason

The gang at ESPN has ranked all 32 NFL teams. Here’s the top 10 (final 2007 rankings in parenthesis):

1 (1) Patriots 16-0-0 A healthy Tom Brady and a happy Randy Moss make the Patriots championship contenders this season and for years to come. (MS)

2 (2) Colts 13-3-0 They haven’t had a lot of offseason turnover and they already were very good. Continuity means a lot. (PY)

3 (6) Chargers 11-5-0 If the Chargers can get over their injury issues, they could be in the Super Bowl mix all the way to Tampa. (BW)

4 (3) Cowboys 13-3-0 Felix Jones should help the running game immediately. But who will emerge as the No. 2 receiver? Patrick Crayton wasn’t up to the task in late ’07. (MM)

5 (4) Jaguars 11-5-0 They sometimes get overshadowed by division rival Indianapolis, but the Jaguars have an elite roster and an elite coach in Jack Del Rio. (PY)

6 (9) Giants 10-6-0 Teams other than the Patriots aren’t supposed to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Will Michael Strahan retire? Can they compensate for free-agent losses at LB? (MM)

7 (8) Steelers 10-6-0 A very strong draft catapults the Steelers into Super Bowl contenders. RBs Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall should be one of the best 1-2 punches. (JW)

8 (7) Seahawks 10-6-0 New O-line coach Mike Solari stands out as the Seahawks’ top offseason acquisition, perhaps allowing them to keep their edge in the NFC West. (MS)

9 (13) Browns 10-6-0 The 2007 darlings face high expectations. The offense will score. Can the D, anchored by additions Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, hold up its end? (JW)

10 (5) Packers 13-3-0 This is an unpredictable team in the wake of the retirement of Brett Favre. Who will step up and make the big plays this year? (JW)

Click here for 11-32.

Dropping the Packers, were 13-3 and lost in the NFC Championship game to #10 seems about right. After all, they lost one of the best quarterbacks in League history to retirement. But how do you justify dropping the team that beat them, along with the #4 ranked Cowboys and the #1 ranked Patriots on their way to winning the Super Bowl down to 6th place? Even if Strahan retires, they still have the most dominant defensive front in the League and Eli Manning should only get better.

I like the Cowboys’ chances at #4, though, especially since that puts them as the favorite team to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. They’re a deeper team than the Giants, I think, and have really shored up their defensive backfield with the Pacman Jones trade and the drafting of Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. But the Giants deserve to be considered the team to beat.


Colorado Avalance choose Tony Granato as their next coach

This is one of the most bizarre strategems I’ve ever seen as a sports fan. Demote your coach back in 2004 to being just an assistant, then re-name him head coach in 2008.

DENVER — Tony Granato returned as coach of the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, four years after he was demoted from the job.

Granato will take over from Joel Quenneville, who parted ways with the Avalanche two weeks ago by mutual agreement.

Granato was 72-33-17-11 when he led the team from 2002 to 2004. He has been an assistant coach since July 2004, when the Avs hired Quenneville.

George Steinbrenner used to shuffle Billy Martin, Bob Lemon, and others in and out as New York Yankee manager, but I never recall any of them stepping down to being a coach and then getting the manager’s job back.

The Avalance have been one of the more successful NHL franchises over the last 15 years. So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt in their re-hiring Granato.


Jason Taylor and The Miami Dolphins- The end of the road?

I really think Jason has played his last game in a Dolphin uniform. From AP-

MIAMI – The feud between Jason Taylor and Bill Parcells intensified Wednesday, making it likely the six-time Pro Bowl defensive end has played his last game for the Miami Dolphins.

Coach Tony Sparano said Taylor isn’t expected to take part in any team activities through training camp.


Following a voluntary team practice Wednesday — with only Taylor missing — Sparano signaled the Dolphins are ready to move on without their top defender.

“I’m glad we know this. We’ve gotten the information, and that’s important,” Sparano said. “I know that Jason is not going to be in any minicamps, and I know that right now Jason is not going to be at training camp.

“So that’s what we know. Jason’s a player under contract with the Miami Dolphins. He knows that. Both parties are well aware of the information. That’s all I’m going to say about it. … We need to discuss the current players on our team right now that have been busting their butt for nine weeks here.”

There was much speculation before last month’s NFL Draft that Miami was trying to trade Taylor. I strongly believe Parcells did try to do that, but Miami(or the local news media) was expecting too much in return for the veteran. Is a All-Pro defensive lineman age 34, worth a first or second round draft pick? If a team picks smartly, they can get 5-10 years from the draft pick. Taylor? Three years maybe. I always thought Miami was looking for a sucker, and apparently no one fell for it.

Another thing, these sessions at Dolphins training camp are OTAs, and the O stands for optional. Since when does optional mean mandatory? Jason Taylor has other interests, and the football season is four months away. I can understand why he prefers to be elsewhere, if not necessarily agree with it.

In any case, Taylor is not likely to be a part of a rebuilt Dolphins’ sometime in the future. Miami is 2 years away at least from being non-pathetic. Being a playoff contender is even further away. Taylor isn’t likely to be a contributor by the time Miami plays in their next playoff game.


Saints’ Charles Grant indicted for involuntary manslaughter

The charges involve a shooting last February in Georgia. From AP-

BLAKELY, Ga. – New Orleans Saints defensive end Charles Grant has been indicted on a charge of involuntary manslaughter stemming from a February altercation at a nightclub.

Grant, who was stabbed in the neck during the fracas, was charged by an Early County grand jury that also charged Laquient Macklin with felony murder and feticide in the shooting death of Korynda Reed, 23. Reed died after being taken to the Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, after the fight early Feb. 3.


District Attorney Charles M. Ferguson could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Sheriff’s Capt. Will Caudill said at the time of the melee that there was no known connection between Grant and Reed. He said the fight started inside the club and then moved outside, and Grant was attacked after shots were fired.

Woodrow Gray was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault in the knife attack on Grant, a former University of Georgia star from nearby Colquitt.

Grant was selected by the Saints in the first round of the 2002 NFL draft. He had 2 1/2 sacks in 2007 while starting 14 games for the Saints and has 38 1/2 over his six-year career.

In addition to Grant and Macklin, and Marshae Stromer, Anthony Wilson, Jarvis Tinson, Rodreaco Gray and Woodrow Gray were charged with involuntary manslaughter for alleged participation in the fight.

I have no opinion in regards to the charges. The tragedy in this story involves the young mother who lost her life. God bless her family.


Catcher Mike Piazza announces his retirement

He was one of the best hitting catchers of all-time. From AP-

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Mike Piazza is retiring from baseball following a 16-season career in which he became one of the top-hitting catchers in history.

“After discussing my options with my wife, family and agent, I felt it was time to start a new chapter in my life,” he said in a statement released Tuesday by his agent, Dan Lozano. “It has been an amazing journey … So today, I walk away with no regrets.

“I knew this day was coming and over the last two years. I started to make my peace with it. I gave it my all and left everything on the field.”

The 39-year-old Piazza batted .275 with eight homers and 44 RBIs as a designated hitter for Oakland last season, became a free agent and did not re-sign. He was not available to discuss his decision, according to Josh Goldberg, a spokesman for Lozano.

Taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers on the 62nd round of the 1988 amateur draft, Piazza became a 12-time All-Star, making the NL team 10 consecutive times starting in 1993.

“He was one of those hitters who could change the game with one swing. He was certainly the greatest-hitting catcher of our time, and arguably of all time,” said Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine, Piazza’s former teammate on the New York Mets.

Piazza finished with a .308 career average, 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs for the Dodgers (1992-98), Florida (1998), Mets (1998-05), San Diego (2006) and Oakland (2007).

Mike Piazza was one of the all-time steals in the amateur draft. In a time when the Dodgers kept wasting first round picks on pitchers who kept not making the ML roster(Anyone remember Bill Bene, Dennis Livingston, or Dan Opperman? Didn’t think so?), the Dodgers made up with it partially with their selection of Piazza.

Piazza is a certain Hall of Famer. If his glove work had been better, he’d be one of the top five catchers all-time. Still he makes the top ten. Good luck in retirement Mike.


Cowboys Re-Sign Newman to 6 Year, $50.2 Million Deal

Pro Bowl safety Terence Newman will likely finish out his career as a Dallas Cowboy.

The Cowboys and Newman on Tuesday agreed to a six-year contract extension worth $50.2 million, beating a deadline in which the salary-cap rules will change after NFL owners decided to opt out of the final three years of the collective bargaining agreement. He will receive $22.5 million guaranteed over the first three years of the contract.

Newman, the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, joins the likes of Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Bradie James, Jay Ratliff and Roy Williams in choosing to remain with the Cowboys with an extension before being able to hit the free-agent market.

Excellent news. It’s a lot of money to pay a guy who turns 30 this year, especially when the team has just invested a 1st and two 4th rounders on cornerbacks in the most recent draft (counting the trade for Adam “Pacman” Jones). But you don’t let top notch corners go in a pass friendly league if you can help it .

Yes, the price was steep. But it’s the going rate:

The deal puts Newman in the same neighborhood as two of the richest deals signed by cornerbacks last March. Philadelphia lured Asante Samuel away from New England with a six-year, $57 million deal, and Seattle kept Marcus Trufant with a six-year, $50.2 million. Both of those contracts included $23 million and $20 million guaranteed, respectively.

If anything, Newman was a bargain.


Boston Lefty Jon Lester throws a no-hitter

He was the first Red Sox southpaw to do so in 52 years.

Now he can add a no-hitter to his already amazing list of accomplishments.

The 24-year-old lefty shut down Kansas City 7-0 Monday night for the first no-hitter in the majors since Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz threw one last September.


Jon Lester (3-2) allowed just two baserunners, walking Billy Butler in the second inning and Esteban German to open the ninth; he also had an error when he threw away a pickoff attempt.

Lester struck out nine, fanning Alberto Callaspo to end the game before pumping both fists in the air.

Catcher Jason Varitek, who has been behind the plate for a record four no-hitters, lifted his pitcher into the air. Manager Terry Francona gave a long, hard embrace to Lester, who missed the end of the 2006 season after he was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I’ve been through a lot the last couple of years. He’s been like a second dad to me,” Lester said. “It was just a special moment right there.”

Centre-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury made a diving catch of Jose Guillen’s line drive to end the fourth – the best defensive play of the night. Lester also got help from first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who made a nice scoop on shortstop Julio Lugo’s throw after David DeJesus hit a grounder in the third.

The fans at sold-out Fenway Park held their enthusiasm until the final out of the seventh, rising to their feet when Lester fanned Guillen on a 93 mph fastball. They remained standing for the entire ninth inning, even as German walked and moved around to third base when Tony Pena and DeJesus grounded out.

With cameras flashing and the fans screaming at full throat, Callaspo fell behind 0-2. He took a ball and fouled one off before reaching for a high and outside 1-2 fastball to end the game.


Lester and Jonathan Papelbon combined to one-hit the Royals on July 18, 2006.

Buchholz no-hit the Baltimore Orioles last Sept. 1 in just his second major league start.

Mel Parnell was the last Red Sox lefty to throw a no-hitter, beating the Chicago White Sox on July 14, 1956. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan is the only other person in history to no-hit the Royals.


Varitek also caught Buchholz’s no-hitter, along with gems by Hideo Nomo and Derek Lowe.

An impressive game by an impressive person. Lester’s pitch count was high 130, and this was his first ML complete game. I hope last night doesn’t cause any arm woes. Steve Busby pitched two career no-hitters and was a hell of a pitcher for a short time, but Kansas City management(Jack McKeon) helped to blow the pitcher’s arm out by having him pitch 150 pitch games.


Oscar Pistorius, Double Amputee Olympic Sprinter

As incredible as it sounds, a man with no legs will be able to compete as a sprinter in the 2008 Olympics.

Oscar Pistorius Photo Stu Forster/Getty Images In its ruling, the CAS said the IAAF failed to prove that Oscar Pistorius

Double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius won his appeal Friday and can compete for a place in the Beijing Olympics. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the 21-year-old South African is eligible to race against able-bodied athletes, overturning a ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

More amazing: the opponents argue that he has an unfair advantage.

Pistorius appealed to CAS, world sport’s highest tribunal, to overturn a Jan. 14 ruling by the IAAF that banned him from competing. The IAAF said his carbon fiber blades give him a mechanical advantage.


“The panel was not persuaded that there was sufficient evidence of any metabolic advantage in favor of a double-amputee using the Cheetah Flex-Foot,” CAS said. “Furthermore, the CAS panel has considered that the IAAF did not prove that the biomechanical effects of using this particular prosthetic device gives Oscar Pistorius an advantage over other athletes not using the device.”

It’s hard not to admire Pistorius, who was born without fibulas and had his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday, and wish him all the best.

At the same time, those of us who grew up watching “The Six Million Dollar Man” and its spinoffs can certainly envision a scenario where those with prosthetic limbs do have an advantage over the “able bodied.” And what’s the standard for assessing that? No better than the best human legs ever in existence? Knowing how obsessive competitive athletes can be — survey after survey shows they’re willing to risk losing years of their life if they can win now — we might see the day when someone decides it’s worth it to have perfectly healthy legs amputated.

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Former NFL Center Curtis Whitley dead at 39

Whitley played for 3 NFL teams in the 90′s. While its not known what the cause of death is yet, Whitley had a history of drug and alcohol use. RIP. I put the AP article below the fold.


Annika Sorenstam announces her retirement

She will play the remainder of the 2008 LPGA season and then make her final competitive appearance in Dubai. From AP-

Annika Sorenstam will retire after the season, ending an LPGA Tour career in which she has won 72 tournaments to date and delivered a defining moment when she teed it up against the men on the PGA Tour.

“I think I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I could,” she said during a news conference Tuesday at the Sybase Classic in Clifton, N.J. “I have given it all, and it’s been fun.”

The 37-year-old Sorenstam has hinted at retirement the past several seasons, saying she wanted to devote more time to her growing business and to start a family. She is engaged to Mike McGee, son of former PGA Tour player Jerry McGee.

“This would be very much like Annika to get on top and then quit,” said Judy Rankin, a Hall of Famer and television analyst.

Sorenstam said her final event would be the Dubai Ladies Masters after the LPGA Tour season ends.

“I’m leaving the game on my terms,” she said.

The decision comes two days after Sorenstam won the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill by seven shots for her third victory of the season, and first against a field that included Lorena Ochoa.

Playing the tour and successfully raising a family aren’t simple things to do. Just look at the list of LPGA golfers who are Moms and won on tour. Other than Juli Inkster, there isn’t a player/Mom with wins in double figures. Note- Nancy Lopez is a Hall of Famer like Juli, but Nancy’s best days are behind her. She has trouble breaking 80 now.

Annika has never been a favorite of mine. Partly because some of her conduct makes it look as if she thinks rules don’t apply to her.(I did give her credit for turning down an invite to the Samsung last year) Another reason is that I’m always partial to underdogs. Annika when playing at the top of game, runs away from the field in a LPGA tournament. I like watching golf, but seeing someone win by 8 shots is just boring to me. If you say Annika was the greatest golfer to ever play the LPGA Tour, you won’t get an argument out of me.

I wish Annika happiness off the course. She will be missed.


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