NFL - Page 10

Hoping For A Little More ‘Resolve’ In 2012…

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By Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

You hear the word ‘resolve’ a lot in the world of sports.  It’s mostly said by coaches hoping that their team will rebound after a tough game.  I suppose you could argue that some other words could be used instead, but maybe it is a good time for me to suggest some quick resolutions for some folks in the realm I cover.

First of all, I have a resolution for Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo.  After years of bravado, maybe it’s time for this signal caller to put up or shut up.  How do you keep Romo away from your festivites?  Tell him he’ll have to play a big game there.

Tony Romo had better start living up to his hype. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Seriously, I’m tired of hearing that this guy could be the next Brett Favre. (Though he does have the off-field drama queen role down pat).  Either he shows what he can do in a pressure situation (this weekend against the Giants is a great opportunity) or it is time to turn off the hype machine.

Next up, LeBron James.  We know what this so-called “King” can do in the NBA regular season. However, we’ve been told that LeBron just needed a better cast of characters around him before he could win the title.

That excuse floated out the window when he left Cleveland for Miami last year, and he started talking about the multiple championships that the Heat would acquire.  Funny thing is, in  the 2011 NBA Finals, the best player on the court was Dallas’ Dirk Nowitski (who let his game do the talking for him).

Therefore, until the Miami Heat win the big one, maybe it’s time all of us have this joint resolution:  We saw Michael Jordan play.  Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time.  LeBron James, you’re no Michael Jordan.

LeBron James should never be compared to Michael Jordan until he delivers in a big game. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Now for a more local resolution.  For the Oregon football team, it’s pretty simple. The Ducks have had three marvelous seasons under head coach Chip Kelly.  Going to two Rose Bowls in the past three years (and playing in the BCS championship in the one between) is nothing to sneeze at.

But in early 2012, they need to do something to solidify their 2011 campaign as a step in an even higher direction.  They’re playing Wisconsin in Pasadena this Monday, and should probably borrow the mantra from the late Al Davis. Yep, they need to “just win, baby.”

You’ll find a an article written by myself an Mr. Don Smalley on what the Ducks (and Badgers) need to do to come out ahead on Monday.  What that article DOESN’T tell you is what will happen.

As I see it, it comes down to one factor I didn’t list: De’Anthony Thomas. The freshman phenom can do it all from lining up in the backfield, running a pass route, even returning kicks. Some have said Oregon hasn’t seen an offense like Wisconsin’s yet. (That’s bunk! They were called the Stanford Cardinal).

De'Anthony Thomas could be the difference in the Rose Bowl for the Ducks. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

The truth is, I don’t think the Badgers (or any other Big-10 school) has seen an athlete quite like DAT this year.  I’m looking for him to have a big day in front of his Southern California relatives, and that’ll be a big reason why the Ducks will finally get that elusive Rose Bowl win.  Here’s my prediction:  Oregon 42, Wisconsin 31.

Let’s get to one or two of my resolutions before I wrap this one up.  First, I intend to keep my long standing resolution not to every play leap frog with a unicorn. (I’ve heard that can be painful). I’m also planning to try and be a little nicer…but we’ll see how that goes. It may take a little more ‘resolve’ on my part.

Triple H had better watch out for Sam Finley when the WWE comes to Eugene. (Photo Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Seriously, 2011 had it’s ups and downs for me. But this was a good year, and my resolution is to take the EDN sports section and continue to mold it into something worthy of your constant attention.  We’ve had some great articles in our first year, but we want to take what is good and make it even better.

We’re going to be starting some weekly reviews for both college and prep basketball that I know you’ll want to read.  You’ll also find even more profiles than ever before.  For that matter, you’ll probably find EDN in some places you didn’t necessarily think we’d go.  Here’s a perfect example:  The WWE is coming to Matt Knight Arena in February, and I intend to be there. (Look out Triple H, here I come). So check back here and watch the evolution happen.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.

Is LaMichael Staying or Going?

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

Looked at any interesting stuff about LaMichael James recently? The rumors have been flying since a report came out in The Oregonian on Thursday that the Ducks’ running back would enter the NFL draft after the Rose Bowl.

Or did he? Because there’s also been reports that contradict the story that has everyone talking. Aside from a brief denial on his Facebook page, James hasn’t been able to  address the situation until yesterday. Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled that certain people were getting information about him from ESPN.

LaMichael James has not decided whether he'll enter the NFL Draft after the Rose Bowl yet. (Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“There’s really nothing going on,” said Oregon’s all-time leading rusher emphatically. “I don’t really know what happened with that deal. My family called me and asked if I had declared for the draft.”

Moreover, James wasn’t happy about hearing that he had make a decision he claims he hasn’t made.

“I think it’s kind of an unfair statement for someone to say something I didn’t say,” he explained. “If (running backs coach Gary) Campbell didn’t say it, then nobody really knows what happened. Because if I’m going to tell someone what I’m going to do, it’s going to be him. I haven’t discussed that with him or my family.”

In fact, James isn’t really focusing on what’ll he’ll do next until after a certain game in Pasadena.

“I’m really not thinking about it,” he stated. “The thing I’m thinking about is winning the game on January 2nd. I don’t want to make a decision or an announcement on it. My future is irrelevant right now. Come January 3rd, it will be relevant when the season is over. But I owe it to my teammates, the fans, and my coaches to think about the Rose Bowl. That is my important goal right now.”

De'Anthony Thomas is thrilled to be playing at home in January. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Ah yes, with all the scuttlebutt about their star back, you may have forgotten that the fifth-ranked Ducks are playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. They started up practices again over the weekend and James believes the team is going back to basics right now.

“We’re getting back to the fundamentals,” said James. “Everybody is pretty much healthy right now. I think we’re really happy to get back out here with each other.”

As for the drama surrounding James, his teammates aren’t letting it become a distraction. Just ask De’Anthony Thomas.

“That’s his decision,” explained the freshman phenom. “I’m happy for him and good luck to him. I would miss him if he was gone. Just being around him has motivated me to work hard and be a great leader. My job has been to contribute off him and he’s been my motivation.”

If anyone is excited for the matchup in Pasadena, it is Thomas. He grew up in the L.A. area and loves the chance to play in front of friends and family.

“It’s a great feeling to play back home,” said Thomas. “It’s just a great feeling to make it to the Rose Bowl. I know our team can’t wait, and we’ll see what happens.”

Speaking of which, a lot has been made about Wisconsin’s offensive prowess with good reason. The Badgers’ running back Montee Ball is a one-man scoring machine, and their quarterback Russell Wilson is a dual-threat.  But the Ducks aren’t overlooking their defense, either.

“They’re really good,” said offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich with a wry smile. “They’re rock-solid end to end. Up front, they’re very good. Their linebackers are spectacular, and might be the two best guys we’ve played all year. They have tremendous tacklers in their secondary.”

There lies the challenge for the speedy Oregon offense.

“You don’t see anyone run out of tackles against these guys,” Helfrich stated. “When we get in a one-on-one situation, we try to make the guy miss. That doesn’t happen too often with these guys. They’re incredibly sound in what they do.”

Moving onto to some other stuff, I want to make some things clear about my views on the meteoric success of Tim Tebow and his Denver Broncos.  I don’t dislike the guy, but I haven’t been ready to crown him as the greatest thing going in sports at the moment.

Tim Tebow, contrary to some, isn't winning these games singlehandedly. (Photo Credit: Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Sure, he’s been leading great drives in the final two minutes. However, hasn’t Denver’s defense had a role in setting him up for all those heroic comebacks?  They’ve been playing out of their minds the past few weeks.

For that matter, how the other teams have executed have had something to do with it, too. It seems like the opponents have played their usual schemes for three quarters well on Tebow, and then go (inexplicably) to a prevent defense.  Hasn’t any squad learned that the only thing a prevent does is prevent you from winning?

That’s particularly true against Tebow. While he doesn’t have the most accurate arm, he can inexplicably throw it on the money when the defensive backs are giving his receivers plenty of room.  It happened in the most recent miracle last Sunday against Chicago.

The Bears were leading 10-0 with a couple minutes left in the game, and had been aggressive against Tebow all day.  Then, they started playing soft and Tebow burned them for a touchdown that was the catalyst for another storybook affair.

But, in all fairness, Chicago’s defense wasn’t ultimately the reason they ended up losing 13-10 in overtime to the Broncos. You can blame that one on the Bears’ running back Marion Barber.

All he had to do on what should’ve been their final possession was take the handoffs and stay in bounds. That’s something you learn at the Pop Warner level when you have a lead and the other guys are out of timeouts.  Instead, Barber decided to run towards the sidelines and got pushed into the Chicago bench.

What a chowder head. If anything, he’s more responsible for the Broncos’ last win than Tebow. Did Tebow stop the clock for Denver in that situation, providing more than enough time to then tie the game? No.

Like I said, I don’t hate Tebow. I’m merely saying there have been other factors at work and I’ll wait a little longer before putting him in the same conversation of quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

With that, I’ve got some Christmas shopping to do. But check back here next Sunday, when I will have a very special column for you to read.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.

 

One Duck Is Headed To Another League…Who Do You Think?

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

He played in a Rose Bowl as well as a national championship game. Now he’s taking his talents to another league. Just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about LaMichael James. (More on him momentarily).

No, in this case, it’s former Oregon defensive back Marvin Johnson. He just signed a contract to play for a UIFL (Ultimate Indoor Football League) team in Illinois. Johnson will be playing for the Danville Dragons starting in March of 2012.

Former Duck Marvin Johnson just signed with the Danville Dragons of the UIFL. (Photo Credit: Eric Evans)

“I’m very excited,” said Johnson. “I haven’t played since the BCS Championship, so that’s been a long time off. I’m ready to get back on the field.”

He may not have played a lot since graduating last year, but the 5’11, 210-pound Johnson has been working out at his home in Southern California in case some squad gave him a call. Now he hopes that this opportunity will lead to greater things. His cousin (and fellow former Oregon standout) Jeremiah currently plays for the Denver Broncos and he’d like to reach that pinnacle, too.

“I’m just trying to open some eyes,” he explained. “I want to let everybody see what I’ve got and do my best. I’d like to have another winning season with a team, and get some great film going. Hopefully, that’ll help me get into a higher league like the CFL or the NFL.”

In the meantime, the Dragons are elated with their acquistion of Johnson and intend to utilize him in more than one position.

“Marvin has shown his ability to play multiple positions on defense,” stated Dragons’ head coach Jarrod Rogol. “We’ll utilize his speed and power offensively and, of course, he’ll make an impact on special teams.”

Johnson has no objections, claiming it takes him back to his days playing at Dominquez High School in Comption.

“I do see myself playing a lot of positions,” he said. “I’d like to play some offense, whether it’s at receiver, running back, or wherever I’m needed. When I was in high school, I played both ways and I’m ready to do that again.”

He’s also kept up on his alma mater, and likes their chances in the Rose Bowl on January 2nd.

“I haven’t seen Wisconsin play,” Johnson explained. “But I know what the Ducks can do, so I’m going with them all the way.”

Furthermore, Johnson has a message for the people back in Eugene.

“I want to thank Oregon for the opportunity to come play out of high school,” Johnson said. “I had a great five years in Eugene that I will never forget. Once a Duck, always a Duck.”

You can expect that EDN willl give you an update on Johnson when the UIFL season begins in less than three months.

Now we can talk a bit about LaMichael James. On Wednesday, the Oregonian reported that the Oregon running back had already made up his mind and would enter the NFL draft after the game in Pasadena. James, however, through the UO media services department and his Facebook page denied that was the case. In fact, James says he hasn’t made a decision.

LaMichael James, contrary to some reports, hasn't decided whether he's going to enter the NFL Draft yet. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

So what to make of all this? It’s hard to say. I can accept arguments for him staying for his senior year, since he’d have one more shot at a Heisman and maybe rewrite a few more records in the process.

But really, at what cost? Let’s remember the most important achievement James can make at Oregon will take place this spring when he gets his degree. That greatly outweighs any other awards he could win. Moreover, if he were to play another season at Autzen, he’d risk another injury and a big NFL contract. Thus, if I were LMJ, I’d look at the game in Pasadena as my chance to end my college career in style.

I’m not LaMichael, however. I know he’s got a tough choice to make and there may be more to it than the reasons I listed above. With that in mind, the Ducks aren’t letting the rumors distract them as they heard similar stories about this time a year ago.

“It’s understandable,” said UO running backs’ coach Gary Campbell. “I know LaMichael has made quite a few accomplishments and I know everybody else wonders what else he can do. So I expect to hear it. I heard it last year, and it certainly is expected after this year.”

Let’s move onto a little hoops before I wrap this one up.  The Oregon men’s basketball team made it harder than it had to be on Monday night. They had a 14 point lead with six minutes to play against Portland State, before allowing the Vikings back in the game. That forced the Ducks to scrap their way to a 79-70 victory. While they’re happy with the win, they’ll acknowledge they have a lot to clean up before Pac-12 play.

“We kind of let up defensively,” said senior guard Garrett Sim. “We got a little comfortable with our lead, and we’ve got to finish the game better and not let the other team make a run at us at the end.”

Garrett Sim believes his Ducks have to close out games a little better. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/ Getty Images)

It’s tough to figure out the 6-2 Ducks. On the one hand, Oregon is winning the non-conference games they’re supposed to take care of. They also might have, for the first time in a very long while, a legitimate big man threat in 6’11 Tony Woods. You also can’t count out the inspired performance of Devoe Joseph.

But there are the problems I see in front of me. The Ducks don’t seem to be playing fast enough on offense, and they don’t seem to have a sense of urgency in the paint to grab rebounds. Maybe that changes in the next couple of weeks. If it doesn’t, their inability to close out games is going to come back to bite them hard.

Then again, the Pac-12 isn’t exactly carrying any juggernauts in basketball again this season. The one team that gets their deficiencies in order quickly could take the conference. Maybe that’s Cal (who is favored by many). It could be Oregon State. But considering that Oregon has plenty of talent and are well-coached by Dana Altman, I would not rule them out of the discussion just yet.

I’m not betting on them winning it, but I wouldn’t bet against them either. We’ll see.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.

 

Irish Could Rise Again, While Harris Has Fallen

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

We’ll get to what I usually start off with in a minute, but first, I’d like to take a moment to applaud Sheldon’s football season thus far. The Irish will be playing for the 6A state championship on Saturday in Portland. If they win, it’ll be their fourth title in the past 10
years.

Sheldon's Connor Strahm is currently ranked as the #7 Prep athlete in the State, but his ability and intensity are game changers.

Lane Johnson has done a remarkable job in his first year as head coach, but it is the players who make the team go. Connor Strahm is a force to be reckoned with as a receiver, or a linebacker. Strahm has 11 touchdowns on the season with 1083 total yards, 90 of those being passing yards. It runs in the family, both of his parents were All-Americans in their day. Many would say that he’s the MVP for the Irish.

Quarterback Dillon Miller hasn’t done too shabby either with 2414 passing yards (1.37 miles) and 27 touchdowns. In his case, it also runs in the family. His father, Chris, was a standout at Sheldon himself before becoming one of the better signal callers in Oregon history.

Still, it won’t be a breeze this weekend. They’ll be facing Lake Oswego, which is probably the best high school football team that hasn’t won a championship. The Lakers have come close to doing so in recent years, and would love to take the title at Sheldon’s expense. We shall see.

Cliff Harris is no longer an Oregon Duck. (Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Now then, earlier this week, University of Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris was dismissed from the football program. Apparently the talented yet troubled junior had been caught with a small amount of marijuana during Thanksgiving weekend in Fresno, California. It was just one of many incidents you could add to Harris’ naughty list. We all know about the driving with a suspended license at a very dangerous speed. That’s what prompted the initial suspension for the opening game against LSU. Certainly Harris didn’t help himself by getting pulled over without a valid license again over a month ago (resulting in a second suspension).

However, it probably wasn’t his questionable driving habits that drew the bulk of the ire from the Ducks’ coaching staff. Harris had a history of skipping team meetings and not attending classes. (The latter is a huge no-no for a student athlete). He was also known for not giving it his best effort in practices, particularly after head coach Chip Kelly didn’t put him back into the starting lineup after his brief reinstatement this season.

We could go on and on about why and how Harris got himself in hot water, but he’s no longer Oregon’s problem. Having said that, some of you probably think I’m happy about the recent removal because I wrote a column calling for the two sides to part ways, got some hate mail over that one.

Brett Favre loves creating drama any chance he gets. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Nothing could be further from the truth. I take zero satisfaction from Harris’ demise. The guy has been blessed with an abundance of athletic talents, and when he has his head on straight, can be a very fun player to watch. It is tragic to see someone with so many gifts throw them in the garbage can. When he first came to Oregon, he told his fellow defensive backs that he was going to “lock this ‘stuff (ahem)’  down.” Now, for his own sake, Harris needs to lock his own stuff down.

I honestly hope that Harris can get his life together. Odds are he’ll turn pro a year early. I think that’s a mistake because it’s clear he’s got a lot of growing up to do. If it was up to me, I’d tell him to find another school and use that as a place to prove himself. Whatever he decides, I wish him well, and will be the first to salute him if he succeeds.

Would you like to know who I won’t salute? Brett Favre. Just when I thought I had heard his name for the last time (before he goes to Canton), Brett Favre found a way to get back in the news again. The rumors swirled that the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears were interested in signing the “retired” NFL quarterback this past week. Both teams vehemently denied the reports, and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

But Favre is claiming he’s enjoying his time away from the game and is done for good this time. If you believe that one, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Junction City to sell. Trust me, if Favre were to get an offer, the 42-year-old prima donna would be back tomorrow. The guy loves to create drama for the sake of drama too much. Then again, maybe his coming back wouldn’t be such a bad thing. He’d get knocked around even harder than before, and we know how everyone loves watching a train wreck. Perhaps that is what is needed for Favre to finally get lost and stay lost. Time will tell.

Tim Tebow may not be the sole reason for the Broncos' recent surge. (Photo Credit: Doung Pensinger/Getty Images)

One more NFL note before I wrap this one up. A lot is being made of the Tim Tebow phenomenon. I’m not going to take a side on whether he’s the real deal or not. Clearly, he’s helping the Denver Broncos win games at the moment, but it could be premature to start comparing him to John Elway. (That debate can be had in another year or two.) With that statement out of the way, am I the only one who thinks that there’s more to Denver’s late season surge than Tebow himself? The Broncos have been playing great defense all year, and that’s one reason Tebow has been in a position to pull out those comebacks. But what do I know?

It’s been another interesting week on the sporting front and we should all look forward to the next one. Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.

 

Civil War Was Hardly a Battle

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— Sam Finley, Sports Editor EDN 

Some Civil War. It was hardly a battle for Oregon against their rival Oregon State. Instead, the Ducks left the Beavers in the dust with a 49-21 whipping.

Now comes the time for a couple admissions. First of all, Oregon was not necessarily over that loss to USC and they took out their frustrations on OSU.

Chip Kelly credited a total team effort for the Ducks' Pac-12 North division clinching win over the Beavers. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

“It motivated us a lot,” said Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas. “We wanted to show the other guys what we could do, as well as show ourselves again what we can do.So we came out anxious to get some respect from the Pac-12.”

Second, contrary to what some said this past week, this was not just another game to play on the schedule for the Ducks.  Not to Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, anyway.

“It means everything,” said Barner with a big smile. “It’s bragging rights for another year. I can go to Corvallis, take my hat off and show my face and be happy about it.”

 

The Ducks can certainly be happy about a lot of things besides winning the annual state dispute. The victory gives them three consecutive seasons with at least ten wins. They also won the Pac-12 North, and will host the inaugural Pac-12 Championship on Friday as a result. Head coach Chip Kelly said the key to getting back on track came from an overall team effort.

“I think the defense set the tone for us early,” stated Kelly. “I took us awhile to get us into our rhythm offensively, but everybody contributed to this one.”

Yes, it took their offense a quarter to get going. But after the Beavers tied the game at 7-7, the Ducks ran off 42 points and you can point to a number of outstanding performances that made it happen. Quarterback Darron Thomas threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns. LaMichael James rushed for 150 yards and a score (in what might’ve been his last Civil War matchup). Barner scored a couple of his own.

Kenjon Barner is glad to have state bragging rights for another year. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images).

However, let’s give the game ball to senior tight end David Paulson. The soft-spoken, yet sure handed kid from Auburn, Washington led the way with a few more outstanding catches. On a surprising note, Saturday marked the first time he had a game with more than 100 yards in receiving. (105 to be exact).

“I think there was always a possibility of having a day like this,” said Paulson. “But you never really know until you see what defense they’re playing. We saw that the spots were open and we took advantage of it. It was fun to have the ball in my hands and help the offense out.”

Paulson had fun helping the offense out, and his teammates were glad to oblige one of their more reliable players.

“DP has been one of the most consistent guys all year,” said Thomas. “He comes out each week. Sometimes he’s banged up, but you wouldn’t know by his attitude. He caught every ball I threw his way. A very good game for him.”

Darron Thomas enjoyed throwing passes to David Paulson on Saturday. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Ironically, one of the other notable performers happened to be Paulson’s roommate. Defensive end Terrell Turner had two sacks and was willing to credit the living situation for their efforts.

“David was awesome,” said Turner. “I told him that’s why we’re roommates because we both played a good game.”

Of course, the fact that it was senior day also made their performances all the more memorable.

“It felt great,” Turner said. “I had my parents here, and they usually don’t make it out to that many games. So to have them here, and get to put on a show was awesome.”

“It was a special day,” said Paulson. “It was senior day and I looked back at the five years I’ve been here. I’ve had a great career and it’s kind of sad that it’s coming to an end. But it was fun to perform well in one of my last games here.”

Now the stage is set for UCLA (who clinched the Pac-12 South over the weekend) on Friday. If the Ducks can win that one, they’ll be back in the Rose Bowl for the second time in the last three years. It would also give them their third consecutive season of appearing in a BCS Bowl Game, setting up the goal of finally winning one.  That being said, they have to get past the Bruins first.

Terrell Turner had two sacks in the Civil War win. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

“We’re excited for the chance to represent the Pac-12 North,” said Kelly. “The challenge for us is to play in a short week, and we haven’t done that. But the Bruins have the same challenge, too.”

Indeed, Oregon has a challenge on their hands and I’ll give my usual predictions later this week. In the meantime, let’s go over some other things that happened over the past few days.

I watched the Packers and Lions tussle on Thanksgiving Day and came to conclusion or two. One is that Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL right now. As he led Green Bay to a 27-15 victory over Detroit, I marveled about how calm and cool he was in leading his offense down the field.

Some will say that Tom Brady is still the guy, but he hasn’t won a playoff game since the ’07 season (when his Patriots blew their perfect season in the Super Bowl). Peyton Manning is injured and may not be back. Thus, for my money, Rodgers is the guy I want as my signal caller at this time.

I could go on and on about him, but why don’t I move along to what irked me during that game? Ndamukong Suh really put his put foot on it, didn’t he? What was the Lions’ defensive tackle doing by kicking that Packer in the head? That action, by itself, was stupid.

Aaron Rodgers, in Sam's opinion, is the best quarterback in the NFL right now. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

But doing it after a recent meeting with the NFL Commissioner to allegedly clarify the rules really takes the moron cake. It is clear this guy has some anger management issues, and the league needs to discipline him accordingly.

I’ve heard that Suh is a nice guy off the field, and it looks like he does a lot of good work with charities. Still, there is no place for his on-field behavior and should be suspended for a few games.

Let’s get to some high school football before I wrap this up. In 5A action, Marist’s outstanding year is over. The Spartans lost 31-14 against Mountain View on Friday in the OSAA semifinals. Still, head coach Frank Geske and his boys have little to hang their heads about their 11-1 campaign. Next season, look for them to make another run at the title.

Meanwhile, at the 6A level, Sheldon showed why they might be the best team in the state against Grant. The Generals were supposed to provide them a tougher matchup, but the Irish ran them right off the field in a 49-7 blowout.

Now Sheldon will face another potential test in the OSAA 6A semifinals on Saturday against Central Catholic. But if Connor Strahm can play at his usual high level, you’ve got to like their chances against the Rams. And what a feather it would be in Lane Johnson’s cap to win a state title in his first season as the head coach? We shall see.

With that, there’s a lot of stuff going on this week and I intend to cover it as only I can.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.

Colvin is full steam ahead

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No one said the track to the NFL was an easy one.

Cameron Colvin has been on that track and it has been full of twists and turns. But the 2007 Oregon graduate hasn’t given up on his dream, and maybe it’s proper he currently plays for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League.

Cam Colvin had a cup of coffee with the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, but his ankle prevented him from making the team by the bay. (Photo Courtesy: Cam Colvin)

Colvin has been dealing with twists and turns all his life. He didn’t have the “normal” childhood. Far from it.

Colvin’s father passed away of pneumonia and a heart attack at the age of 39 when Colvin was just six year old. If that wasn’t enough, his mom died of congestive heart failure when Colvin was just 15 years old, leaving he and his sister to live with their godmother.

“I think dealing with all of that made me strong,” Colvin said. “My mother taught me a lot in those 15 years. It made me understand life and how to deal with adversity.”

All the while, Colvin was making a name for himself as a wide receiver at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif.

He always had he dream of playing in the NFL, but a  suffered a broken ankle in the sixth game of his senior year at Oregon.

Colvin was one of the top recruits in the country when he came out of De La Salle high in 2004. The five-star standout was the leading vote-getter and consensus No. 1 college recruit in the West among the Long Beach Press-Telegram’s Best in the West elite. Colvin was also the top choice on the Contra Costa Times’ Cream of the Crop list. He led the Big Valley League with 28 catches for 423 yards and six touchdowns in just six games.

In other words, the kid had game.

Showing some flashes of what made him a five-star recruit, Colvin goes through two Arizona defenders as a freshman. (Photo Courtesy: Cam Colvin)

Those accolades prompted ESPN to invite him to a local station in San Francisco to announce his college of choice. High school students do this all the time now, but it was a rarity eight years ago.

“It was an honor to be one of the first ones to do it,” Colvin said. “I really didn’t decide until on my way to the station.”

Colvin had offers all around the country, but narrowed the choice down to three. It was going to be Oregon, Michigan or USC. NFL star Braylon Edwards was his host at Michigan on a recruiting trip and Mike Williams and some dude named Reggie Bush were his hosts at USC.

But several friends, including then-Oregon wide receiver Demetrius Williams, played for the Ducks and it really came down to that.

“It was just a comfort level for me,” Colvin said. “I had never seen a game at Autzen Stadium, but man, there’s nothing like it.”

When he picked up the Oregon hat instead of the USC or Michigan hat, the roar that came out of the Duck football offices sounded similar to a full crowd at Autzen.

It was that big of a pick up for the Ducks.

Although he spurned the Wolverines, Colvin did play in "The Big House" in Ann Arbor, helping Oregon to a 39-7 Duck victory. (Photo Courtesy: Cam Colvin)

“Signing Colvin was very important for Oregon for on and off the field reasons,” said AJ Jacobson, the editor of DuckSportsAuthority.com, the Rivals.com Duck affiliate. “It was their first major head-to-head recruiting victory over USC, and at the same time, reinforced Oregon’s recruiting inroads into California’s top high school programs such as De La Salle.”

But while the Ducks were making strides in recruiting, Colvin had a hard time making his own stride in Eugene.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound wide out had a hard time living up to other people’s expectations. In his first three seasons as a Duck, Colvin had just a total of 54 receptions and five touchdowns in 24 games.

But some coaching upheaval didn’t help him either.

In Colvin’s four seasons, the Ducks went through three offensive coordinators. It wasn’t until Head Coach Mike Bellotti found Chip Kelly in New Hampshire in his senior season that Colvin finally started to find his way as a player.

“One of the first things Chip said to us was that we were going to punch people in the mouth, no matter who it was,” Colvin said. “His tenacity rubbed off on us.”

It showed as the Ducks got off to a hot start, including a huge 39-7 win in the Big House of Michigan. Oregon was 4-1 and ranked No. 9 in the country. Colvin had 20 catches for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He was poised to have a banner season along with the team.

Everything was set up for the team to make a run to the Rose Bowl and perhaps more. The Ducks defeated Washington State 53-7 to go 5-1, but it came at a costly price. Colvin broke his ankle on a bubble screen where a defender rolled over on it.

His season and college career were over.

Colvin wasn’t the only Duck to go down that season. Quarterback Dennis Dixon and running back Jeremiah Johnson both went out with a knee injuries that derailed Oregon’s national championship possibilities.

“It was devastating,” Colvin said. “Not only for me, but to see so many guys go down. It was our senior year and we were really clicking as a group.”

Colvin is trying to resurrect his football career by playing in Las Vegas for the UFL's Locomotives. (Photo Courtesy: Cam Colvin)

Colvin’s broken ankle was a devastating one. The trainers at Oregon told him it would take eight to 10 months to recover.

“I was like, ‘What?’,” Colvin said. “The (NFL) combine was just four to five months away. I had to recover quickly.”

Colvin did all he could to recover. He even went to a foot specialist in Florida as well as recovering with the training staff at Oregon. When he worked out for the San Francisco 49ers, he still had stitches in his foot.

“They gave me a two-year contract and said they would give me a shot if I recovered,” Colvin said. “But I just didn’t have that same Cam Colvin explosiveness and it’s a business.”

After his release, Colvin took some time off for himself.

“I had to get my body healthy and in the meantime,” he said. “I was able to start my business, Cam Colvin Inc.”

The business (camcolvinuniverse.net) is a marketing venture, and Colvin has struck deals with such companies as Marvel Comics and Blue Star Jets.

But that was in 2009 and, while the business is thriving, Colvin’s body is healthy. Thus, he’s trying to do what he does best: play football.

Colvin is currently a wide receiver for the Locomotives.  After playing two games, his numbers may not show it, but he is now able to do the things he is used to doing on the gridiron.

“We’re pretty much a running team because we have some outstanding backs,” he said. “There is a lot of NFL talent on this team We also have an amazing coaching staff with Jim Fassel (former New York Giants coach) and receivers coach Tim Rattay (former 49ers quarterback).”

Colvin’s agent has told him that several teams have been looking at him and, if he is able to stay healthy after the UFL’s six-game season, he will get another shot somewhere.

“Right now I’m taking everything day to day and just the cards fall where they may,” he said.

And he’s waiting to see where the track leads him next.

— Don Smalley for EDN

Thinking As I Go Along…

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By Sam Finley, EDN

Bet you didn’t see that one coming on Saturday, did you?  Oh, not that the Ducks would beat Nevada.  I think everyone thought it would be a mismatch, and most had Oregon scoring anywhere from 40 to 50 points.  But a 69-20 victory over the Wolf Pack?  No, that was a little more than I expected.

Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell has developed a lot of great Ducks since 1983 (Photo Credit: Eric Evans)

Then again, while I thought Darron Thomas would have a better passing game than he did against LSU, I didn’t see him tying a school record with six touchdown passes in one game. That’s why I’ll go out on a limb and say he’ll have a chance to break that record this weekend.  Here’s my prediction:  Oregon 72, Missouri State 10.

Now that I’ve gotten my Saturday prediction out of the way, I have to say I’m still impressed by what I saw from another DT: De’Anthony Thomas.  Let me be clear: I knew he’d be a special player, and I wrote off his two fumbles against LSU as freshman growing pains.

That being said, his putting up around 200 yards of total offense so soon against anyone is a worthy feat.  There’s no question which running back will be getting the handoffs when LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner need a breather.  

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be so shocked about De’Anthony’s big day. He is, after all, under the tutelage of running backs coach Gary Campbell.  He hasn’t really developed THAT many good backs since 1983. No, aside from Reuben Mayes,Derek Loville, Maurice Morris, Onterrio Smithp, Jonathan Stewart, and LaMichael James (just to name a handful), Campbell has been average at best.

In all seriousness, Gary Campbell has worked wonders as a long time member of the Oregon coaching staff, and is a classy guy to boot.  Hmmm, maybe I should do a profile piece for EDN on him in the near future?  I’ll have to take it up with the sports editor.  But he’s a nice guy who I know better than anyone else, so maybe I can make it happen.

Staying on the topic of Oregon assistants, and I don’t mean to shamelessly self-promote in my column, but you really should check out the fall issue of Eugene Magazine.  I have a short piece about Oregon wide receivers coach Scott Frost, and it’s all about his time at Nebraska and in the NFL, as well as what he likes about working at the U of O.

Moving onto other things, did anyone see Serena Williams’ tasteless behavior at the U.S. Open on Sunday?  That she tried to get away with a distractive shout before Sam Stosur had the chance to hit the ball is despicable by itself.  If she was a young tennis pro playing her first major event, it would be one thing.  Unfortunately, Serena has played long enough to know that kind of tact just doesn’t cut it.

However, continually berating the official after you’ve been (and correctly I might add) penalized a game point is way out of line.  I’m disappointed that the USTA only fined her $2,000 for the shenanigans, but I’m glad that Stosur won.  While Williams whined and moaned, Stosur kept her mouth shut and let her tennis racket do the talking.  Sometimes, good things happen to the right people in the end.

Oregon wide receivers coach Scott Frost is subject of a Eugene Magazine article written by yours truly. (Photo Credit: Eric Evans)

Speaking of the end, maybe it’s time if you’re a Dallas Cowboys’ fan (and thankfully, I’m not) to understand that Tony Romo is not going to hack it as a big-time quarterback.  I had a little chat with a buddy of mine after Dallas built a 24-10 lead against the New York Jets on Sunday night.  My exact words to him were to wait and see: the Cowboys were going to turnover the ball once or twice, and Romo was going to be the guilty culprit.

Moments after I made that statement, Romo fumbled the ball at the Jets’ one yard line.  If he holds on, the ‘Boys probably get at least a field goal and leave New Jersey with a win.  Instead, his botched ball gave the Jets new life, and they found a way to tie it up late.

Then, in the final minute, Tony Romo decided to make up for that mistake by throwing a ball in the same direction as Jets’ cornerback Darrelle Revis.  Everyone, including the ball boy knows that Revis might be the best DB in the NFL right now, and you don’t take that risk.  Why?  Because he’ll likely intercept your pass, and that’s exactly what happened.

It’s also why the Jets won 27-24 on a field goal shortly after Revis’ pick.  If I were a Cowboys’ fan, I’d be calling on owner Jerry Jones to get rid of him after all these choke jobs he’s pulled the last few years.  But again, I’m not, so I guess he’s Dallas’ problem.

My problem right now is I have a lot more to say, but not enough time to write it in.  Maybe that’s why the good folks at EDN let me do this on a weekly basis.  But check out my usual profile piece on Friday.  I, tenatively, have a fascinating piece about a certain member of the Oregon offensive line.  Should be a good read.

In the meantime, I’ll see you in the bleachers.

Sam Finley has been the EDN sports editor since June 2011.  You can e-mail your feedback to him at [email protected]

 

JOEY IS ONE LUCKY DUCK

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By Sam Finley, EDN

This past week, Joey Harrington pulled off his biggest feat yet.  No, he’s not back in the NFL, hoping for one last shot at glory.  Those days, whatever you may think of his pro career, are over.

Rather, what happened to him transcends anything that happened at Oregon or any other athletic accomplishments.  Let’s review what happened this past week, shall we?

Joey Harrington has been a winner on the field and off. (Photo Courtesy: John Giustina)

On Sunday, the former Oregon quarterback was hit by an SUV while riding his bicycle in the the Portland area.   Joey then spent a couple of nights in the hospital with a broken collar bone, a punctured lung, as well as a cut on the head.  Had he not been wearing a helmet, the injuries might’ve been much worse.

Since ending his football career over a decade ago at the U of O, there seem to be two trains of thought on the former Heisman candidate.  One, predominantly held in the Eugene area, is that Joey Harrington is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of Oregon football.  Another, held by many outside the Willamette Valley, is that Joey Harrington was one of the biggest busts to ever put on an NFL uniform.

It is true that Joey Harrington did not have the pro career that many people thought he would have, and that he probably expected to have.  (Though if you look at the overall talent on the offensive lines he had around him, it wasn’t entirely his fault, but that’s a story for another time).

But let me ask you something: When Joey collided with that car, do you think he was regretting that his days with the Lions, Dolphins, Falcons and Saints weren’t what he’d hoped for?  No, I’m pretty sure that Harrington was thinking that he’s lucky to be alive.  I’m sure he’d agree that his survival was a much bigger miracle than any comeback he led at Autzen, or even winning the Fiesta Bowl in early 2002.

Actually, even before the accident, Joey Harrington exemplified someone who knew that there were more important things in life than sports.  He graduated as a two-time honor student and a degree in business administration.  Harrington is also an accomplished pianist who has occasionally played with notable acts like Blues Traveler and Third Eye Blind.  Moreover, Joey currently has a wife and kid that are probably very happy to still have him around right now.

Add to that list, he has a nonprofit foundation that he established with his initial signing bonus with the Lions.  Clearly, this is a guy who knew that football was only going to take him so far in this world and that it would be smart to have a plan for when it was over.

Are there any current Ducks that fit this description?  I’m sure there are several, but the one that stands out in my mind right now is LaMichael James. 

I still remember when I first interviewed LaMichael on the phone in 2009 for a cover story in Eugene Magazine.  He struck me as a humble kid, and he told me that he prided himself in being a good student more than being a football player.

LaMichael James is not only a top running back, but an Academic All-American as well. (Photo Courtesy: Eric Evans).

A few months later during the spring of 2010, after surviving some off-field controversies (that won’t be rehashed here), LaMichael told the media that his biggest goal was to become an Academic All-American.  Well, at the end of this past season, while he didn’t win the Heisman Trophy (and repeatedly said he didn’t care), he did his accomplish his academic goal

Now, LaMichael may very well become the next Barry Sanders when he reaches the next level.  But there are only so many people who can make that happen. (They are called superstars for a reason). Trust me when I tell you that LMJ is probably going to value his degree (when he graduates) in sports business more than whatever accolades he might receive as a pro.

By now, you might be asking just what is the point of this column?  Too often, many people have become obsessed with how many touchdowns are being scored, how many baskets are being made, or how many home runs are being hit.  As a huge sports fan myself, I’ll admit I might’ve fallen into this category when I was younger.

But while it is fun to savor statistics and athletic feats, sometimes we lose sight of the fact that these guys are human beings.  When they’re in college, they have to take exams and write term papers just like the other students.  When they get out of school, whether they make it to the pros are not (and many do not), they have to figure out how to make a living just like the rest of us.

Even if their athleticism can lead them to the greatest pinnacle in their sports, maybe sometimes it’s better to cheer louder when these guys succeed off the field than on it.  Yes, there are indeed some things that are more important than sports out there.  Just ask Joey Harrington.

Sam Finley has been the EDN Sports Editor since June 2011.  He welcomes your feedback.

A FEW SPORTING OBSERVATIONS…

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It was a crazy week in the world of sports.  On the national scene, The NFL lockout ended and that means there will indeed be a pro football season.  It also means that we’re going to hear even more ridiculous rumors about Brett Favre making another comeback attempt.  Brett, if you’re reading this column, please stay retired this time.  You’ve become an embarrassment, and If I want melodrama, I’ll watch Dr. Phil.

Darron Thomas and Chip Kelly will be starting their season soon. (Photo Courtesy: Eric Evans, Oregon Media Services).

On a more serious note, the end of the lockout also means teams can sign their draft picks as well as undrafted free agents.  Plenty of former Ducks have found new teams, but since time and space are limited, let’s focus on two of them:  One who wasn’t a surprise, and one that might’ve shocked you.

First off, in the not-surprised category, Jeff Maehl is now hoping to showcase his receiving skills with the Houston Texans.  From my perspective, Houston may have just signed the best undrafted player for the 2011 season.  With his reliable hands and deceptive speed, he should be able to do in the pros what he did at Oregon: Make the plays when they are needed the most.

Aside from his obvious athleticism, the Houston sports media pool is going to find out what we already know in Eugene:  This is a classy kid who always made time for an interview.  As a sports journalist, you can’t ask for more than that.

Now to the shocker:  Jeremiah Masoli has signed a contract to play running back for the San Francisco 49ers.  Considering the way he left Oregon (no reason to rehash the drama) and the way he floundered at Ole Miss, did you see this one coming?  Really, I didn’t.

That being said, here’s hoping that Masoli understands the opportunity in front of him.  He has a chance to change the public perception from all the wounds he’s inflicted on himself the past couple of years.  Hey, if Michael Vick can be forgiven, maybe one day Masoli can be remembered as the gifted quarterback that led Oregon to a Rose Bowl.  But he’s going to have to keep his mouth shut and stay out of trouble.  We’ll see.

In the meantime, the current Ducks have less than two weeks until fall camp and no one has to be happier about that than head coach Chip Kelly.  He spent this past Tuesday in Los Angeles at Pac-12 media day politely declining to answer numerous questions about the NCAA investigation.  It might mean he’ll get to talk about football for a change.

Now, for those who didn’t read last week’s column, whether or not you think Chip is guilty, people have to understand that he’s been gagged by his bosses at the U of O not to say anything on this subject.  If your employer instructed you to be quiet about a sensitive subject wouldn’t you heed his or her wishes?  Or would you open your mouth and risk getting fired?

Thus, it must be asked to one sports columnist in Portland (who shall remain nameless):  Do you like going out of your way to waste everyone’s time with your loud-mouthed commentaries disguised as questions or do you simply like to hear yourself talk?  Trying to ask questions in a bombastic manner aren’t going to extract information from your desired subject,  gag order or not.

Whatever happens with Chip, there is one thing that is clear to me:  If Darron Thomas can match last year’s performance this season, he will surpass Joey Harrington as the greatest quarterback in Oregon history.  

Darron Thomas might wind up the best quarterback in Oregon history when it's all said and done. (Photo Courtesy: John Giustina, Oregon Media Services).

In my inaugural EDN column, I picked Joey Harrington as the best signal caller that Oregon has ever had.  I based it on his overall record (only three losses as a starter), and the fact that he did lead the Ducks to two Pac-10 championships.  The overall steady body of work over two-and-a-half years simply cannot be topped until someone has a similar string of success.

Well, Darron Thomas has only lost one game in one full season in the starting role (and it came in the BCS championship), and as a junior, he’s got two years to pull off that feat. He’s also shown he can turn it on at anytime to lead his team to victory.  Remember how quiet you were at Autzen when Stanford had the Ducks down 21-3 last year?  Did you notice how unfazed Thomas was as he led Oregon drive-after-drive to secure the amazing 52-31 smashing of the Cardnial after that point?  The guy has proven to be a cool customer, and as long as he stays healthy, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be known as the greatest when it’s all said and done.

Of course, it’ll also help DT’s case if the Ducks can go back to the BCS game this season.  Will they?  That’s the subject for another column.  In the meantime, enjoy the games and I’ll see you in the bleachers.

 

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