09/19/2014

Noon Friday Al-Quadin incident; Updating UM's 2015 recruiting class and local targets; Dolphins, RB talk; Heat

Noon update: South Miami police last night investigated a domestic disturbance at the apartment of Al-Quadin Muhammad, the UM defensive lineman who is suspended from school this semester after punching a student three times -- and breaking his nose --- in an April incident at Sun Life Stadium.

Sgt. Henry Guzman said Muhammad was detained and eventually released and no charges will be filed.

"He was not at fault in any way," Guzman said."We got a call last night regarding a disturbance at his apartment building. He was not at fault.  We are trying to finish up the investigation and prepare our reports, but he was not at fault in any way."

He thus would seem on track to return to UM in January, unless the school decides otherwise. UM declined to comment.

Note: Because this and other blogs are now very difficult to find on The Herald' new web site, we recommend you bookmark this blog to see new posts.

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FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The direct Twitter messages from UM coaches, James Coley in particular, light up Alabama oral commitment Shawn Burgess Becker’s phone five or six times a day, by his estimate. Some tell the four-star Coconut Creek Monarch safety how much UM coaches want him. Others include a picture of his face superimposed atop a Miami jersey.

The Hurricanes have claimed several significant victories in this consuming, competitive, cut-throat battle for the top recruits in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

But a lot more work needs to be done locally on this UM class, and FSU, Alabama and Louisville, among others, are trying to seize on UM’s primary vulnerabilities: crowd size and several blowout losses since last November.

Former UM star Lamar Thomas, now a Louisville assistant, recently posted a picture of a half-empty Sun Life Stadium on his Facebook page to try to damage UM in recruiting. (We would expect more from you, Lamar.)

Miramar four-star cornerback Tyrek Cole, who recently was dropped by FSU (according to rivals.com) and now may end up at West Virginia, mentioned last month how FSU has so many advantages over UM now: “The winning part. FSU is at an NFL level. They have an indoor practice facility. Miami doesn’t. And the atmosphere favors FSU.”

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher told Seminoles fans in Coral Gables in May: “This area to me is critical. We are always going to get these kids.”

Fisher has landed several, including Matthew Thomas and LaMarcus Joyner; Hallandale four-star linebacker Shmar Kilby-Lane is orally committed for 2015. But UM has beaten out FSU and many others for several other elite local recruits, including Duke Johnson, Stacy Coley and Chad Thomas.

Miami Central High coach Roland Smith believes “Miami has to beat FSU [Nov. 15] to let kids know they’re back.”

That will be difficult, but UM still has a lot going for it: a marquee brand, a chance for some recruits to play immediately and often in their hometown, a university that’s well-regarded academically, and a staff that connects well with recruits.

“Al Golden writes to me every day, asking how my mom is,” Cole said. “Most head coaches don’t do that.”

UM so far has 21 oral commitments for its 2015 class, including six from Dade or Broward. Two of the six local recruits are high-end four-star prospects: St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett (averaging 7.0 yards per carry this season) and four-star Killian safety Jaquan Johnson.

Another UM oral commitment, Booker T. Washington four-star running back Mark Walton, says he will graduate a year early, in 2015, if he gets the needed test scores.

Because of their running back depth, the Hurricanes didn’t sweat Westminster Christian four-star running back Jordan Cronkrite’s de-commitment this week.

UM’s class, ranked 12th by rivals.com, also has four four-star players from outside South Florida: Bradenton-based defensive end Scott Patchan and offensive lineman Tyree St. Louis, Orlando running back Dexter Williams (said he is “90 percent” committed to UM), and California-based offensive tackle Bar Milo (Brad Kaaya’s friend and former teammate).

Among the local players UM is still pursuing:

### Coconut Creek Monarch’s Calvin Ridley (the nation’s No. 1-rated receiver) and teammate Burgess-Becker (rivals.com’s No. 83 overall prospect) say their Alabama commitments are solid.

Burgess Becker said “the SEC is a better fit because there are a lot of good players. I have a really good connection with [Alabama assistant] Mario Cristobal.”

Ridley said: “I really want to get away from home. Nothing against Miami.”

### Plantation American Heritage five-star Tarvarus McFadden, rivals.com’s fourth-best cornerback, said the Hurricanes offered him but said they aren’t in his top five, which includes Georgia, LSU, FSU, Ohio State and Central Florida.

### His teammate, quarterback Torrance Gibson --- rated 49th among all prospects --- said Ohio State is his front-runner “because Urban Meyer puts people in the league and works with left-handed quarterbacks” but said “Al Golden and James Coley reach out to me every day on Twitter” and he’s considering the Hurricanes because they offered him as a quarterback.

### Miami Central’s four-star Da’Vante Phillips, rated the nation’s No. 6 receiver, has said FSU has the edge because close friend Dalvin Cook is there but hasn’t ruled out UM.

### UM is in the mix for several other local 2015 prospects, including --- among others --- Booker T. Washington tight end Devonaire Clarington (UM in his top seven), St. Thomas Aquinas four-star receiver D’Vante Peete (“Playing in Miami with Brad Kaaya would be great”), St. Thomas three-star cornerback Rashard Causey (a very soft FAU oral commitment who says he likes UM and South Carolina in particular),four-star Westminster Christian safety/running back Tim Irvin (more than 30 offers) and three-star Booker T. Washington receiver Antonio Callaway, who has UF, Georgia and LSU as his top three.

CHATTER

### There remains mutual interest between the Dolphins and former Oregon star running back LaMichael James, a 2012 second-round pick who requested his release from the 49ers last week because he wants a more substantial role. James is expected to take the weekend to consider his options. He worked out for the Dolphins on Tuesday.

James has averaged 4.5 yards per attempt on just 41 NFL carries and ranked 10th in the NFL in punt return average in 2013, at 10.9.

### Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno, out with a dislocated elbow, has told teammates he’s aiming to return immediately after Miami’s bye, Oct. 12 against Green Bay.

### One thing that has to change: The Dolphins need to get back to maximizing the downfield receiving skills of Charles Clay, who is averaging 6.4 yards per reception (among the worst among starting tight ends) after averaging 14.6, 11.8 and 11 the past three seasons. Clay, in a contract year, said teams aren’t paying any more attention to him than last year. He has been bothered by a knee injury but doesn't use that as an excuse.

### Udonis Haslem said the four days that five Heat players spent bonding and working on their games at IndianaUniversity was eye-opening with regard to new addition Josh McRoberts.

“Everybody knows he’s an excellent passer,” Haslem said. “But people are going to be really surprised by his toughness. Underrated athlete. Can shoot it from range.” 

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

 

09/18/2014

Dolphins, Marlins, Heat, UM

This is a test for the new Herald web site.

Please see the last post and come back in a couple hours for a new one.

09/17/2014

7:15 p.m. Wednesday report: Dolphins, Hurricanes, Marlins, Heat, broadcast chatter

A few quick hits:

### Though Mike Pouncey practiced some today (he was limited) and has said he believes he could play in a game, he conceded this afternoon that a return Sept. 28 against Oakland, in London, is the most realistic timetable.

### There will be flux in the Dolphins' offensive line this week, however, with Dallas Thomas taking over at right guard, replacing Shelley Smith, who's out with a grade two knee sprain.

Thomas played half the game last week and graded out well.

“I’m excited --- it's another day to show I have improved since the last time,” Thomas said.

He’ll be working against a Chiefs defense that has lost two key players (linebacker Derrick Johnson and tackle Mike DeVito) to season-ending Achilles’ injuries in the opener but ranked sixth in the league in sacks last season. Among the players Thomas expects to match up with: Dontari Poe.

Thomas lost the right guard job after he was overwhelmed by Tampa All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in the second game of preseason.

“I took that as a lesson to learn,” he said. “This is a second opportunity and I will take full advantage of it.”

Joe Philbin said Thomas’ performance was “good, solid,” when he replaced Smith midway through the Buffalo game.

His best skills? Dolphins rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James, Thomas’ former roommate at Tennessee, points to his power and athleticism.

“Hopes are still high for Dallas,” offensive line coach John Benton stressed to me before Smith’s injury.

### Left tackle Brandon Albert has completely downplayed playing his former team this week, swearing it means absolutely nothing to him beyond any other regular-season game. OK then.

Daryn Colledge amused us today by noting that Albert's knowledge of the Chiefs would be of no help, since he has enough trouble remembering what happened yesterday.

### Second-year Dolphins cornerback Will Davis has played 70 defensive snaps, Jamar Taylor just 19 so far.

“I want to be on the field more,” Taylor said, not intending that as a complaint.

### Cam Wake said Dion Jordan, who will remain suspended through the Oakland game, has called him to check in. “He’s working hard, staying in shape as much as possible,” Wake said. “The real important thing is getting back in football shape.”

Jordan has been working out in Los Angeles, where he does martial arts training in the offseason.

### Besides Smith and Knowshon Moreno, Koa Misi and Terrence Fede also didn't practice today for the Dolphins.

### UM figures to look for a second quarterback in its 2015 class after Kevin Olsen's departure.

UM's one 2015 oral commitment at the position, Tampa-based three star prospect Dwayne Lawson, so far this season is 36 for 62 for 349 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also has run 27 times for 179 yards (6.6 average) and two TDs. His team is 1-1 after a 26-0 loss to Seffner last week.

Lawson and freshman Malik Rosier are considered dual-threat quarterbacks, though UM coaches have emphasized that Rosier is more than just a running quarterback. Brad Kaaya is UM's only natural pro style quarterback with eligibility remaining beyond this season.    

UM is very, very high on Jack Allison, a 2016 oral commitment from upstate (Palmetto).

Allison is considered among the top 100 prospects overall in the 2016 class.

### Al Golden reiterated today that he expects Stacy Coley to return from a shoulder injury and play against Nebraska this weekend.

### As expected, the Marlins announced Giancarlo Stanton's season is over after he sustained facial injuries when he was hit in the face with a pitch last week.

His final numbers: .288, 37 homers, 105 RBI, 31 doubles and 94 walks. He had seven homers of 450 feet or more, by far the most in baseball.

Stanton's home run total still leads the National League. Baltimore's Nelson Cruz leads baseball with 39. His 105 RBI are currently third, two behind the Angels' Mike Trout and one behind the Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez.

### CBS is sending Dolphins-Chiefs to only nine percent of the nation, with most of the country instead getting the Denver-Seattle Super Bowl rematch. CBS assigned Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon to the Dolphins game. A CBS spokesperson said today that all markets in Florida have been assigned the Dolphins game except Tampa and Panama City.... ESPN2 assigned Joe Tessitore and Brock Huard to UM-Nebraska on Saturday night....

Besides the much-anticipated sequel to ESPN's documentary on the UM football program (airing Dec. 13), ESPN's other films this winter include fixing of basketball games at Boston College in 1978-79; a look at the lives of former Marlins pitcher Livan Hernandez and his brother Orlando; the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, which disrupted the World Series; the Knicks championship teams from the early 1970s; and a documentary on former star receiver Randy Moss. 

### The Heat hired former Warriors and ex-Kings coach Keith Smart as an assistant coach. Former Heat point guard Chris Quinn was named an assistant coach/player development. David Fizdale will become Erik Spoelstra's lead assistant, as expected, with the title of assistant head coach.

Juwan Howard is expected to join Smart and Fizdale on the bench with Spoelstra. Quinn and Dan Craig likely would sit behind the bench.

09/16/2014

Rose leaving NBC-6; Is UM defensive improvement real?; UM, Dolphins, Marlins chatter

BUZZ COLUMN

Former Dolphins tight end Joe Rose, one of South Florida’s most recognizable sportscasters, is leaving his job as NBC-6’s lead sportscaster at the end of the year but will remain in radio, as a morning host on WQAM-560 and the Dolphins’ radio analyst on WINZ-940.

NBC 6 said Rose is retiring after nearly 20 years at the station.

But according to a station source, Rose, 57, has told people that NBC 6 is inexplicably buying out the last year of his contract, and he’s perfectly fine with that.

Station management has made decisions that have angered the sports staff in the past year, including dramatically cutting the length of the evening sportscasts. Though Rose is comfortable with the decision, NBC 6 looks foolish for buying him out.

“It’s time for me to slow down and get a decent night’s sleep,” Rose said. “It’s been a fun ride.”

The station also is still searching for a replacement for No. 2 sportscaster Courtney Fallon, who took a job with CBS Sports Net. Stefano Fusaro, a Univision sportscaster in Houston, has spoken to NBC 6 about that job.

UM CHATTER

On Saturday night, when UM visits a potent Nebraska team, we’ll know whether the apparent improvement in this Hurricanes defense --- which ranks eighth overall nationally --- is a mirage or real and legitimate and sustainable. Remember, the 2013 Hurricanes defense surged in September against FAU and UF and Savannah State, rising into the top 25 in several statistical categories, then unraveled as the season progressed.

UM doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt here, not after the past two years, and not after a less-than-grueling early season schedule featuring Louisville (which lost at Virginia), Florida A&M and Arkansas State.

That said, there are promising signs that should leave Canes fans guardedly optimistic: Miami ranks sixth in yards allowed per play, 15th in rushing defense, fourth in yards allowed per carry (just over 2.0), 13th in sacks and 35th in scoring defense, at 19.3.

The reasons for the improvement? Anthony Chickillo is playing the best of his career; “he’s more sound in his technique,” defensive tackle Olsen Pierre said… Calvin Heurtelou and Courtel Jenkins have been a clear upgrade at defensive tackle. One reason, Pierre said, is those two “listen and stay in their gaps” and do not freelance like others did “in the past.”….

Thurston Armbrister has blossomed into an impact player; his four sacks are tied for fifth nationally. Denzel Perryman is playing at a level worthy of Todd McShay ranking him the 25th-best prospect in next year’s draft…. Safety Deon Bush has given UM range and physicality it lacked last year, when he wasn’t completely healthy… And though Tracy Howard has struggled, UM has five legitimate, experienced cornerbacks --- its best depth in years.

What else has changed? “Our safeties are tackling a lot better in the alleys,” Al Golden said. “Guys know where they need to be. Guys know where the ball needs to be directed to the free hitters.”

Aside from FSU, Nebraska could be this defense’s biggest test; the Cornhuskers have an elite tailback (Ameer Abdullah), are 10th in scoring offense (47 points per game) and have allowed only one sack. Only Arkansas averages more yards per carry than Nebraska’s 7.4. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong had seven touchdown passes and 158 yards rushing in three games.

“If there’s any silver lining, we’ve seen running quarterbacks the past two weeks,” Golden said of Florida A&M and Arkansas State.

### Though some fans have questioned UM defensive backs for giving too much cushion to opposing receivers at times, one UM official said Mark D’Onofrio told at least one of his prominent defensive backs to give his receiver less space and it hasn’t consistently been executed. “You can’t blame that on Mark,” the UM person said.

And why has UM several times put a linebacker on a slot receiver, which some have second-guessed? UM likes having the extra linebacker in the game to protect itself against the run, and a safety is supposed to give the linebacker help in coverage.

### With Kevin Olsen departing, the total number of players who signed with UM under Golden, but either never made it to campus, transferred, quit football or were bounced prematurely has reached an astounding 30, according to the records of myself and my esteemed colleague, Manny Navarro.

Of those 30, 10 have had disciplinary problems, including five arrested and one (Al Quadin-Muhammad) who was dismissed from school for one semester but plans to return in January. Six were four-star prospects and six couldn’t qualify academically.

Three others had injuries that ended their football careers. Heck, a whole starting-caliber linebacker group has departed: Alex Figueroa (charged with sexual assault), Gionni Paul (at Utah) and Eddie Johnson.

Golden and his staff can’t be blamed for most of this; nobody knows when a player will be arrested, when a prospect will need to return home for family medical reasons (four-star safety Kiy Hester) and nobody would have predicted Olsen’s life would careen off track like this.

Some players who left were over-estimated by UM, including Beau Sandland (Mario Cristobal’s Jeremy Shockey comparisons were laughable in retrospect); four-star tackle Jalen Grimble (now at Oregon State) and the Jedd Fisch-recruited quarterbacks: Olsen, Preston Dewey (no longer playing football because of an injury) and Gray Crow (now a seldom-used H-back).

Crow, incidentally, is being moved back to quarterback because of Olsen's departure, according to our Susan Miller Degnan.

Golden indicated he and his coaches speak to high school coaches and counselors to try to get a feel for players’ character.

“But it is a challenge,” he said Tuesday. “Everybody is going through it now. Maybe...in their high school or living at home, they [make] certain choices. Given the freedom of college, they make another decision.”

In the case of UM’s behavior-or arrest-related dismissals, “there is really no excuse,” Golden said. “We discuss it all the time, talking about choices and hanging around with the right people. It’s disappointing.”

### Though some UM football people believe the semester suspension of Muhammad was too harsh, a neutral party who has seen the evidence said it was deserved, that punching a student three times (and breaking his nose, in this case) in the Sun Life Stadium parking lot April 12 should warrant a one semester suspension at the very least.

### ESPN has given the marquee post-Heisman Trophy show time slot (9 p.m. Dec. 13) to the documentary sequel on the UM football program, which will focus on the 2001 team and address the Nevin Shapiro scandal and other issues.

CHATTER

### With the Marlins prepared to offer Giancarlo Stanton a longterm contract this winter, it’s worth noting that Stanton and his agent, Joel Wolfe, have been very impressed by how the Marlins have handled the aftermath of his injuries from being hit in the face with a pitch --– from owner Jeffrey Loria sending a private plane to transport Stanton and his family from Milwaukee to Miami, to Loria calling Bud Selig to line up the best medical specialists, to Loria calling or texting Stanton a bunch of times, to team president David Samson spending hours with Stanton’s father in the hospital last Friday.

“The Marlins have been great --– spared no expense, opened up every possible door,” Wolfe said. “We couldn’t ask for more. David had other commitments that day and he spent hours with [Stanton's] father, making him feel comfortable. It was a very decent thing to do.”

Could this make Stanton more likely to consider staying longterm? Wolfe said he doesn’t know yet, saying that decision is “not on his radar.”

Stanton is eligible for free agency after 2016.

### The Dolphins this week auditioned running back LaMichael James, the 49ers' second-round pick out of Oregon in 2012, and though he didn't sign immediately afterward, it's still a possibility at some point.

James and the Dolphins had discussions after the workout and James is contemplating his options.

### The Dolphins do not expect Dion Jordan or Reshad Jones to be reinstated early from their drug suspensions, according to a league official. NFL.com reported last week that both would be reinstated. Colleague Armando Salguero said Jordan won't be, and the Dolphins hadn't been given any reason to believe Jones will be, either. 

### One of the criticisms of this Dolphins team, under this staff, is that they take on the unemotional personality of their coach. And though Mike Wallace has never said that, he reiterated Tuesday that he was bothered Sunday that “I didn’t see anybody playing with emotion out there. We needed to be more into it.”

### Joe Philbin said Jarvis Landry will keep his punt return job despite his fumble Sunday… Michael Thomas said defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle told him he started ahead of Louis Delmas Sunday because “they wanted to see how I fit in as a starter.” Delmas played nearly four times as many snaps, but Thomas said he received high marks.

  

09/15/2014

Monday afternoon report: More Dolphins injuries; Philbin, Lazor unhappy with passing game

Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor pointed to one ugly statistic to sum up the state of the Dolphins offense:

Through two weeks, Miami is last in the league in passing yards per attempt.

“There is no doubt the blame rests 100 percent on me,” Lazor said.

Here's what Lazor, Joe Philbin and Kevin Coyle said today, and a quick injury update:

### We broke the story about Daniel Thomas re-signing with the Dolphins in our last blog. But Knowshon Moreno's dislocated elbow is not Miami’s only worrisome injury.

Starting guard Shelley Smith has a grade two knee sprain and was told he likely will miss two to four weeks.

Dallas Thomas played half the game after Smith left Sunday and did “a solid job,” Philbin said. He figures to be the starter next week, with Nate Garner also available. Billy Turner missed Sunday’s game with a bone bruise on his foot.

### The Dolphins made room for Thomas by cutting defensive back Sammy Seamster.

PHILBIN’S MUSINGS

### Among the things Philbin had to say: After watching the game three times, he blamed the passing game’s problems on multiple factors.

“The film says we’re not detailed enough in any one area,” he said. He said the depth and angles of some routes weren’t correct and pass protection was a problem in the interior of the line.

“There were times location of ball wasn’t where it needs to be. Our passing game is not at the level where it needs to be.”...

Why did he call six straight running plays when the Dolphins got the ball with 2:21 left in the first half, at their own 12 yard line, with all three timeouts?

“We had 45 yards of offense, three sacks, the last thing I wanted to do was go into halftime down 16-0,” he said. “I told Bill I want to run the ball every single time and go into the locker-room and make some adjustments and get it to a one-possession game, which we did twice in the third quarter. I think it was the right thing to do.

“My job is to put the team in position to win the game.  I had no thoughts we were going to throw an interception but if we didn’t get a first down, we would be punting the ball, giving them great field position. Somebody else could have a different opinion. That’s OK.”…

Philbin refused to discuss Moreno’s injury beyond saying he’s being evaluated. He said Miami resigned Thomas because “we think he can help us.”…

He said Damien Williams “stepped up and had a couple good runs. We thought he ran the ball pretty hard.”…

On CJ Spiller’s 102-yard kickoff return: “It wasn’t just one player or another; we didn’t compress the field right the way we should have, not as physical as we need to be at the point of attack. We didn’t take the right pursuit ankles.”

### He said the team is not doing any game planning that involves Dion Jordan and Reshad Jones. NFL.com has reported both players will be reinstated when the drug policy is finalized, but Philbin said the team hasn’t been told that.

“We’re operating under the premise the suspension will stand until told differently,” he said. …

Philbin said he made the decision to start Michael Thomas over Louis Delmas at safety, though Delmas played substantially more than Thomas.

Asked if it was a decision based on practice performance, Philbin said “everything” but that neither player was injured…

Philbin, on the offensive line: “Has to be better. Our tackles in pass protection held up well. Our interior in protection didn’t hold up. It has to be better.”

BILL LAZOR’S VIEWS

### Lazor said the fact Miami ranks last in passing yards per attempt “rests on the coordinator to get everyone on the same page. I am very discouraged by the job I’ve done in the passing game.”…

He added: “At this point,… we’re the same team we were last week. Have some of the same issues. Some we didn’t get fixed.”…

Lazor said of Ryan Tannehill’s ball placement: “There’s no doubt Ryan would tell you it needs to improve.” He said last Thursday was the best he has ever seen Tannehill throw. But that was in a practice, not a game, as Allen Iverson might say.

Without speaking specifically of Tannehill, Lazor said ball placement is “what separates the great ones and the good ones from the barely there ones. No one is perfect. We grade it every day in practice.”…

Lazor, asked if Tannehill's confidence has been damaged: “That’s up to Ryan. These are big guys here. These are grownups. These are guys who have had a lot of success. I do believe that confidence is a part in how they play. I also believe that they better learn how to get their own confidence going. I think confidence comes from working and perfecting. You can’t make it up. I can give him a pep talk, but that's not going to be real confidence.”

Lazor said the loss of Moreno “hurts because he’s a productive player. I think anyone that watches can see what emotion Knowshon plays with. He brings something to our team. There is no doubt losing him at the point we did in the game hurt.”…

Lazor, asked if he second-guessed any of his play-calling, said: “When I say responsibility is on me, [it’s] how we practice --- everyone doing it exactly right. That’s much more important than one or two decisions made on the game day. That’s what I believe in. It’s my responsibility to make sure it’s done right. Afterward, [there are always] things I wish I could have back.”…

He said he couldn’t comment on Philbin’s decision not to be aggressive at the end of the first half. “Has nothing to do with my wishes,” he said.

He said Mike Wallace “played well. After two regular season games, Mike has backed it up with his play.”...

Jarvis Landry played the most snaps among Landry, Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews. “No one is sitting there counting,” Lazor said. “We felt all five could help us.”   

COYLE’S THOUGHTS

He said “we gave up some explosive plays in the game, which concern me. We’ve got to get that fixed. We did a very good job [in the run game], with the exception of one play that broke out. We limited a good rushing team to 3.4 yards per carry. They were third in the league in rushing last year...

"They hit on a couple of crossing routes. They hit on an over route [that was a] miscommunication. Sammy Watkins is one of the most impressive receivers I’ve seen in a long time….We’ll do a better job against him next time we play.”…

On the Dolphins having no sacks, he said Buffalo ran “some quick screens and quick outs. There weren’t opportunities for any of the rushers to have multiple opportunities to rush the passer. We didn’t create as many third and longs as we would like to. You’ve got to be concerned with them running the ball.”…

He said Jelani Jenkins “did a good job.”…

And on Jordan and Reshad Jones, he said he will spend not one iota of time working them into the game plan unless or until he knows for sure they will be back.

“We won’t have anything ready [for them in the game plan],” he said. “We can’t waste practice time on what ifs. We have to [go with] guys ready to play.”

READER NOTE

Beginning Tuesday, The Herald is changing its blog comment policy, requiring everyone who posts a comment to sign in through Facebook. This was a decision made by management, not by any writers.

For those who read this blog but can no longer comment beginning Tuesday, we appreciate your continued readership. For those who wish to comment through Facebook, we welcome your contributions. 

           

 

09/13/2014

Daniel Thomas signs; 5 p.m. Moreno update; Heat players planning changes; Dolphins chatter; Stanton's future; UM postscripts

10:45 a.m. update: Facing the loss of Knowshon Moreno for an extended period, the Dolphins today re-signed running back Daniel Thomas, according to his agent, Tony Fleming.

Thomas, a second-round pick in 2011, averaged 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 yards in his three seasons with the Dolphins but lost his job in preseason to Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa.

Thomas missed Miami's first three preseason games because of injury.

The Dolphins saved $815,565 against the cap by releasing Thomas in the last round of cuts. He signed for the remainder of the season, but veterans who sign after the first week of the season do not need to have their contracts guaranteed.

Thomas worked out for the Patriots last week.

Moreno is expected to miss four to eight weeks with a dislocated elbow. Lamar Miller sustained an ankle injury during the game but could have returned if the Dolphins had chosen to put him back in the game, according to a team official. But the Dolphins will monitor his situation closely.

If Dion Jordan and Reshad Jones are reinstated this week after the finalizing of a new drug policy (the NFL's web site says they definitely will be reinstated), the Dolphins will need to remove three players from the 53-man roster to make room for Thomas, Jordan and Jones.

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5 p.m. update on the injury to Dolphins running Knowshon Moreno: The diagnosis was a dislocated elbow and he is expected to miss at least four weeks, according to Pro Football Talk. (PFT added the words "at least" after its initial report.) Fox reports "the hope" is that he will miss no more than a month.

If he misses four weeks, he could miss only three games because the Dolphins have a bye after playing Oakland Sept. 28.

Running back LaMichael James, cut recently by San Francisco, missed a month with that injury during preseason. Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert suffered that injury last week and was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. He cannot return until Week 10.

Houston Texans defensive star J.J. Watt missed about a month with a dislocated elbow during preseason in 2012, then played in all 16 games and had 20.5 sacks that season.

Damien Williams likely will become Lamar Miller's primary backup during Moreno's absence.

Miller ran for 46 yards on 11 carries today, with a 4.2 average, but dropped an easy catch on a third-down throw in the second half. Williams ran for 19 yards on five carries (3.8 per carry).

Moreno had one carry for four yards today before the injury. He led all NFL running backs with 134 yards rushing in Week 1.

Orleans Darkwa, the team's No. 4 running back, had three catches for 31 yards on Miami's final drive today.

Among unemployed running backs available: Daniel Thomas, cut by the Dolphins at the end of preseason. Thomas --- who averaged 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 yards per carry in his three seasons here --- worked out for the Patriots last week.

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Heat, Dolphins and Giancarlo Stanton chatter:

### Life After LeBron, the on-court version, officially begins in two weeks --- Heat training camp opens on Sept. 27 --- and expect to see some of the same names but with somewhat different games.

For Dwyane Wade, there will be a slimmer star, one entrusted with more ball-handling responsibilities and a greater offensive load.

For Chris Bosh, there will be more offensive assertiveness after spending weeks in the shadows of the Pacific Ocean polishing the low-post skills he displayed in Toronto but weren’t consistently needed here.

For Mario Chalmers, there will be a renewed offensive bent.

And for Udonis Haslem, there will be less need to pass up the open mid-range shot.

“Hopefully,” Haslem said, “I can be a little bit more of who I was in the past instead of just trying to stay out of the way all the time.”

Naturally, all would have preferred LeBron James stay.

But what awaits without him “got me excited for the next chapter, to rise up to the challenge,” Bosh told 790/104.3 The Ticket this summer. “It gives us an opportunity to play with a chip on our shoulder. It’s revitalized my attitude toward basketball. We have a very good team.”

So what will we see more of from Bosh?

“C.B. is going to get back down in the post” some, Haslem said.

In workouts at UCLA this summer with respected trainer Ed Downs and former Arizona and ex-NBA guard Miles Simon, Bosh has been working on operating with the ball in his hands more often and also polishing post moves that were often sacrificed to accommodate the Heat’s system.

“On the offensive end, he’s planning on more touches and being more of a focal point of the offense,” Simon said by phone. “The feeling I get from him is he can go back to his days as a Toronto Raptor putting up 20 and 10. He’s looking forward to meeting that challenge.

“He seems very focused. He has really expanded his game with the threes [the past two years] and he will be around the basket more this season. This summer, he has worked a lot on back-to-the-basket moves and a lot on footwork. You will see his game evolve. You will see him command double teams. He will come to camp in really good shape.”

Bosh said: “It’s cool to be in that situation again” of assuming a bigger role offensively. “I’m a much better player than I was the last time in that position.”

Wade, 32, said he will not get a complete feel for his new role until training camp and cautions: “I can’t go back five years.”

But Haslem said: “We’re going to need more from him not just offensively, but defensively as well, getting back to being that first-, second-team All Defensive player he was, leading our defense.

“He’s definitely going to have to be more aggressive. In the fourth quarter, there are going to be times for him to take over the game like he did in the past. Last four years, it was a little bit of everybody, but the offense was dictated going through LeBron. We’re going to have to go through Dwyane down the stretch now. He’s going to be the playmaker and decision maker on who takes the shots.”

Meanwhile, Chalmers will “go back to his natural position as a point guard and facilitate the team,” his father, Ronnie Chalmers, said.

“As sad we all are to see LeBron go, Mario’s excited to go back to his natural position. He loves being a playmaker. And there will be more opportunities to score.”

A Heat official said even beyond Erik Spoelstra’s staff changes, “you will see some tweaks in how we play.” The team’s gambling defense, which left open too many three-point shooters, needs addressing.

“We can’t just show up and expect to win it in the fourth quarter any more,” the Heat official said.

Haslem said he, Chalmers, Wade, Norris Cole and Josh McRoberts had a productive recent bonding session, over several days, in Bloomington, Ind., doing on-court work with Hoosiers coach Tom Crean, Wade's friend and former coach at Marquette.

 “I’m sure there are a lot of people counting us out, a lot of people not expecting much from us,” Haslem said. “We still think we can be highly competitive. We still think we have a chance to compete for the Eastern Conference title.

“I’ve spoken to D-Wade and CB. We’re excited about the challenge. We are highly motivated. But we are motivated in a good way. It’s not being bitter. It’s about ‘LeBron’s gone’ and we’ve got to pick up the slack.”

CHATTER

### Even after a 33-point eruption against New England, it was telling that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor began Monday’s film session by detailing a bunch of things the Dolphins did wrong. And that is exactly what this franchise needs, Mike Wallace said.

“He kind of tricked us,” Wallace said light-heartedly. “He buttered us up in the meetings [this summer], then we get on the field, he’s like a whole different person. He’s a madman. ‘You need to be here, you need to be there, you need to do this!’

“It’s great for our team. We need that. We don’t need anybody out there patting you on the back, trying to make you feel better. We need to get better. Coach [Mike] Sherman was demanding, but coach Lazor is a little bit more critical about every single little detail.

“If you take it in a negative way, you’ve got a soft skin. We can’t have that. This drives us. If it makes you down, you don’t need to be here; you’re not the guy for our team.”

### Meanwhile, Dolphins defensive linemen love how Kevin Coyle has added a package with five of them playing together, with two linebackers.

“It caught New England off guard,” Olivier Vernon said. “We added it this year, and it’s like the old school Bears defense.” Both Vernon and Cam Wake stand up in that 5-2 defense, with Randy Starks, Earl Mitchell and Jared Odrick playing with their hand in the ground. That lineup, when used, should be good against the run and effective rushing the quarterback.

### Ex-Hurricane Jonathan Vilma, 32, would have loved a call from the Dolphins amid their linebacker injuries last week, but Miami wasn’t interested.

But the Dolphins have four Hurricanes under contract (tied with UF for the most on the team), including practice squad receiver Tommy Streeter.

“I’m in a position I always hoped I would be, being on the Dolphins; I wore a Dolphins shirt on draft day [in 2012],” said Streeter, the former Miami Northwestern star, who averaged an impressive 18.5 yards per reception at UM.

“Every wide receiver coach I’ve had said I can play in this league. I’m a deep ball guy and still need to work on that. Vincent Jackson is the one guy who has the same stature as me [6-5] and he took me under his wing in Tampa last year.”

### It was notable that Knowshon Moreno did his most damage last Sunday (nine carries, 6.3 per attempt) when he ran behind left guard Daryn Colledge and center Samson Satele, who graded out second highest as a run-blocker of any NFL center last week, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Dolphins are paying Satele $46,875 for every game he’s active, and he hopes he’s retained after Mike Pouncey returns. Satele could also play guard but hasn’t done so since May practices before his rookie season for the Dolphins (2007).

### Moreno, who led the league in rushing through Week 1, is only 23rd in average salary among running backs at $3 million.

“That doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I’m glad the Dolphins were interested because that’s the one I wanted.” At least one other team showed interest, but Miami's offer was clearly the best.

### The Marlins’ current mindset is to offer a deal longer than four years to Giancarlo Stanton, but plans are still being formulated.

ESPN analyst and former Nationals GM Jim Bowden told me Miami should offer an eight-year, $240 million contract with a no-trade clause.

“That starts the ball rolling,” Bowden said. “It’s pretty hard as a human being, with two years left [before free agency], to turn down $240 million to $300 million.”

Bowden said Thursday’s facial injuries should be “a reminder to Stanton [of] the importance of security and the risks of waiting until free agency” after 2016. Stanton wants assurances from Jeffrey Loria that the team is committed to winning before even considering an offer.

### Please see the last post for UM-Arkansas State notes, postscripts and thoughts.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Postscripts, notes, quotes, thoughts from UM's win against Arkansas State

Postscripts from UM’s 41-20 win against Arkansas State on Saturday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium:

### If this was a harbinger of what we’re going to see from Brad Kaaya over the next few years, this is going to be a fun ride.

Aside from the one late interception, Kaaya was brilliant in his third college start: 16 for 24 for 342 yards and four touchdowns. The 342 yards is a UM record for a true freshman, according to the school.

His first two deep passes to Phillip Dorsett couldn’t have been better thrown, with the first going for a 63 yard touchdown and next covering 51 yards. He barely overthrew Dorsett on another deep ball later in the game.

Dorsett helped pad Kaaya’s passing yardage by taking a short pass for another 63 yard score in the third quarter.

But Kaaya was also sharp on intermediate routes, including a strike to Clive Walford for a 21-yard gain in the second quarter. James Coley smartly called several bubble screens (to Malcolm Lewis, in particular) and a nifty wheel route to Walford for a 19-yard touchdown. And Kaaya was very good executing play fakes.

“It felt good to start fast,” Kaaya told WQAM afterward. “All week long we talked about the shots we were going to take downfield. We came out of the gate full speed…. Going into the game, we had a few play actions set for Clive Walford. They left him wide open a few times…. Having a guy like Duke Johnson going into the game, the opposing defense is always thinking run. That helped on the second play, where we called play action (on the 63-yard TD pass to Dorsett)….

“Louisville week was a weird week," Kaaya added. "We had just finished camp. Other guys were out on sync that week, Monday game. We didn’t get back from Louisville until 6 a.m. and we couldn’t practice the next day. Having a full week of practice helped get our timing down. Just sticking to a routine is really essential. Teams that constantly practice properly --– those things win.”

Said Al Golden: “I thought he ripped it today. Some of the things that may not be noticeable to the casual viewer --- the line of scrimmage presence, the check to get us into the long run, the throw to Phillip down the sideline was an adjust. Freshmen don’t do that. Last week, he was almost trying to push it, aiming it. He was ripping it all day.”

UM entered the game just 3 for 23 on third downs --- worst in major college football --- but Kaaya completed four of his first five third-down passes for 45 yards. UM finished 5 for 12 on third downs.

Kaaya exited in the third quarter but returned for a series in the fourth after Arkansas State closed UM’s lead to 41-20. Kaaya threw his only interception to end that one series that he played in the fourth quarter, and Coley told him it was Coley's fault.

Kaaya became the seventh quarterback in UM history to throw at least four touchdown passes in a game. UM said that has happened on 15 occasions in school history.

If Kaaya had stayed in the game throughout, he could have approached 400 yards passing --- something that has been done only 11 times by UM quarterbacks.

### Dorsett had 138 receiving yards in the first quarter and closed with 201 (on four catches) --- the third highest total in UM history behind Eddie Brown’s 220 in 1984 against Boston College and Wesley Carroll’s 208 in 1990 versus California.

“It’s exciting,” Dorsett said of his day. “Have to keep doing what I’m doing. Can’t get complacent. Every time I have games like this, I have to make sure I work harder. We’re a real unselfish group.”

Dorsett has eight catches this season, four for touchdowns.

“It’s a trust in Brad a lot more,” Dorsett told WQAM. “Brad is more comfortable with us back there. He’s a lot more poised. He knows we have his back.”

### Other Canes receiving numbers: Walford 3 for 57, Braxton Berrios 3 for 44 (including a six-yard touchdown), Malcolm Lewis 3 for 11; and Duke Johnson 2 for 20.

UM did this without Stacy Coley, who missed the game with a shoulder injury.

### More from Golden, on WQAM: “Coaches did a good job of identifying what we’re going to see from this group. I felt confident all week. [The four practice] days were good for Brad. We executed really well. I thought we played physical on defense. We were running to the ball and striking. The safeties were physical.”

### UM’s running game was solid, with 146 yards on 35 carries. Johnson had 90 yards on 14 carries, including a 33-yard TD run, and Gus Edwards broke tackles on both his carries, with one going for a 27-yard touchdown and other gaining 11 yards. Joe Yearby’s numbers were modest (10 for 32), and Trayone Gray got two late carries for nine yards.

### Arkansas State finished with 28 more plays than UM (89 to 61) but was outgained by the Hurricanes, 488 to 321.

“The defense got so much better –-- light years [ahead],” Dorsett said.

### UM held A-State to 120 yards in the second half and Miami's pass rush was terrific after intermission, including one scintillating sequence featuring three straight sacks (two by Ufomba Kamalu and one by Deon Bush on a blitz). Thurston Armbrister collected his fourth sack of the season, Miami’s fourth and final sack of the game.

“We’re at the point now where it’s not how long is he going to continue to do this,” Golden said of Armbrister. “He is what he is. He’s long, strong, 240 pounds, has better stamina than he has ever had.”

Anthony Chickillo deflected a pass. Raphael Kirby had an interception on a fake punt. And besides the sack, Bush also had six tackles and a forced fumble.

"It was a good day overall," Bush said on WQAM. "Still made mistakes we have to correct on Monday. At the end of the day, it was a W against a good team. It took a lot of studying and conditioning" against that high tempo.

"I don't think there's any coach in America that works harder than [Mark] D'Onofrio," Bush said. He's a whiz at the game, has us in all the right plays all the time."

### A-State averaged just 3.6 yards on its 89 plays. “It’s yards per play and red zone stops,” Golden said. “[A-State] has good talent, they’re quick. Our guys responded really well. We had to play a lot of guys because of the pace of that first quarter.”

### Concerns? UM’s third-down defense had some very good moments Saturday but wasn’t good enough overall, allowing conversions on 9 of 21 attempts. A-State quarterback Fredi Knighten was 7 for 10 for 89 yards on third downs, closing 22 for 40 for 217 yards overall.

UM missed too many tackles, with Jamal Carter whiffing on at least two. Tracy Howard’s coverage remains shaky at times and he had a pass interference call.

And UM committed too many penalties (11 for 93). “The selfish penalties will kill you,” Golden said of Kamalu slamming down the Arkansas State quarterback.

### Golden said: "I wish we had gotten a little more from the twos… Chad Thomas, Darrion Owens, the twos played a lot of football for us."

### Al Golden said in the postgame news conference that he expects suspended Al-Quadin Muhammad to return to UM next semester.

### Four-star running back Jordan Cronkrite de-committed from UM, telling a Gator web site that UM coaches haven't called him recently. But UM still has oral commitments from two other four-star backs: Jordan Scarlett and Dexter Williams. And another highly-regarded back, Booker T. Washington's Mark Walton, said he hopes to graduate a year early, next June, and enroll at UM next summer.

 ### Please check back later for the Sunday buzz, including lots of Heat, Dolphins and Giancarlo Stanton chatter… Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

09/12/2014

Media column: Highlights, lowlights and thoughts on the Ray Rice coverage; Media notes

MEDIA COLUMN

The Ray Rice story, thrust again into the national spotlight this week, produced both exemplary and delinquent journalism.

Some thoughts on media coverage:

### It was awkward enough that ESPN’s Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer attempted to discuss the controversy during Monday’s San Diego-Arizona game, a challenge that was simply too daunting for two broadcasters who don't announce many NFL games. But the conversation careened when Dilfer inexplicably commended the NFL’s handling of the case.

“The NFL sent a strong message,” Dilfer said, as viewers’ jaws dropped.

Amazingly, Berman didn’t dispute that assessment and instead offered a rambling soliloquy about how the NFL could become a leader on the issue before he was mercifully interrupted by a blocked punt.

And this also was odd: Dilfer said he spoke to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti after the video was released but never said what Bisciotti told him. And Berman, incredibly, didn’t ask.

### Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, after showing the elevator video, offered this: “I think the message is take the stairs.”

Kilmeade assured everyone the next day that “domestic violence is a very serious issue for us.” Too late for damage control, Brian.

### There have been three suspensions of announcers because of comments made relating to the Rice story: Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman (by ESPN earlier this summer) and Ted Robinson, who was benched two games by the San Francisco 49ers and Pac-12 Network this week for saying on air that it was “pathetic” that Janay Palmer married Rice after the incident and criticizing her for not speaking up about being punched.

### Norah O’Donnell, a very good political reporter, asked most, but not all, of the key questions during her CBS interview with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who didn't have a good answer when she asked how TMZ could obtain the video but the NFL could not.

And when Goodell said it “was ambigious” about what happened in the elevator, O’Donnell posed the obvious follow-up:  “But what was ambiguous about her laying unconscious on the floor being dragged out by her feet?”

After Goodell said: “There was nothing ambigious about that… We did not know what led up to that,” O’Donnell shot back: “But what changed? On the first tape she was lying unconscious on the ground, being dragged out by her feet. Did you really need to see a videotape of Ray Rice punching her in the face to make this decision?”

But there were other questions that O’Donnell should have asked: What did Rice and Janay specifically say happened in the elevator? What, if anything, did she say to convince Goodell that a lenient two-game suspension was warranted?  Why didn’t he ask the casino for the video, which is legal? And why did Goodell interview Janay with Ray Rice present --- something that’s highly inadvisable with domestic abuse victims?

### Best journalism on the story: 1) TMZ not only obtaining the elevator tape but correctly reporting that Goodell never asked the casino for a copy. 2) AP reporting that a law enforcement official sent the tape to an NFL official. 3) ESPN’s Outside The Lines filling in more details, including confirmation that Rice spat on Janay twice before punching her.

### Joy Taylor, sister of Jason Taylor and co-host of 790/104.3 The Ticket’s morning show, wrote a powerful column with first-person perspective:

“I will never forget the first time I was abused,” she wrote. “Everything happened so fast, the attack, the police, my family getting involved, it was the worst night of my life. Until the next time it happened, and the next, and every time after that. When I hear the names that people call Janay Palmer (Rice) I cringe knowing that I was ridiculed the same way. Idiot. Stupid. Weak. I know the judging looks, the shame, the excuses…

“I have endured years of abuse since I was a child. I never thought as an adult I would allow someone to take my power and control me. I defended him and stood by him. I lied for him… I made the decision to forgive my abuser, and I suffered the consequences.”

Taylor, 27, told me that her father “was emotionally and mentally abusive until I was 16… when my parents divorced.” She said the man who physically abused her was a former boyfriend but “no charges were every brought because I didn’t press charges. Eventually, I stopped telling anyone about the abuse because it was so frequent.”

We encourage you to read Taylor’s essay on theticketmiami.com or through her twitter account, @JoyTaylorTalks.

### ESPN made the sensible move by using accomplished reporters (Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen) and former team executives (Louis Riddick, Andrew Brandt, Mark Dominik) to analyze the case on their evening editions of SportsCenter instead of relying on former players to state the obvious.

### CBS, which debuted its new Thursday NFL package this week, devoted 25 minutes of its pre-game show to the Rice story, and the highlight was James Brown's thoughtful commentary calling for the outrage over this story to be "channeled to truly hear and address the long-suffering cries for help by so many women and do something about it. Like an ongoing, comprehensive education of men about what healthy, respectful manhood is all about. And it starts with how we view women. Our language is important. For instance, when a guy says, ‘You throw the ball like a girl,’ or ‘You’re a little sissy,’ it reflects an attitude that devalues women....

"Consider this: According to domestic violence experts, more than three women per day lose their lives at the hands of their partners. That means that since the night of February 15 in Atlantic City, more than 600 women have died. So this is yet another call to men to stand up and take responsibility for their thoughts, their words, their deeds."

### During that CBS pre-game show, Deion Sanders --- who two years ago was cited for misdemeanor assault in an incident that resulted in the arrest of his wife (they have since divorced) --- oddly and akwardly felt compelled to tell viewers that he has never "abused" anyone and wouldn't partake in that "nonsense." 

### For those who wondered about this: The assault charge was dropped against Rice earlier this year after he agreed to enter a pre-trial diversion program, and ESPN legal expert Roger Cossack explained that Rice cannot be prosecuted for the assault now because it would be a case of double jeopardy.

Some legal experts disagree with that and say double jeopardy is not in play in this case because Rice did not plead guilty, according to the Wall Street Journal.

### What was lacking in sports cable network coverage was the absence of any medical expert who could have offered insight into how common it is for victims to stand by their abuser, as Janay Rice has done, and why they do it.

### It was uncomfortable but fascinating to see Ed Reed squirming on Showtime’s Inside The NFL set, as he tried to reconcile the violent man he saw on tape with the former teammate he respected. Reed felt clearly conflicted.

### A bit much: Boomer Esiason claiming he would have left the set of Inside the NFL if Showtime had aired a replay of the TMZ elevator video. Esiason said he was concerned about the damage it would do, psychologically, to Janay Rice. But the damage had already been done.

Ultimately, Showtime made a defensible decision to not replay the video because it had been aired numerous times by other outlets.

### NFL free agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who has no affection for Goodell because of his handling of the Saints’ Bountygate scandal, said on Twitter: “I know firsthand the commissioner will go great lengths to ‘gather all the evidence,’ but he purposely did not in this instance. If the commissioner had really asked for the video, he would have made it very public and very clear that the casino refused to give it to him.”

### No surprise that ESPN’s Keith Olbermann, who has hammered Goodell repeatedly in recent weeks, called for the commissioner’s resignation on Monday, alleging he and others orchestrated a cover-up and that “Goodell is an enabler of men who beat women.”

AROUND THE DIAL

### CBS is sending Sunday's Dolphins-Bills game to a very small part of the country: Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers/Naples, Tampa, most of New York (but not New York City) and Erie, Penn. 

The game will be called by the lowest team on CBS' depth chart: Philadelphia Phillies announcer Tom McCarthy and former NFL safety Adam Archuleta.

### More migration of sports to cable: Fox announced that it is moving as many as five National Championship League Series games to its cable network, Fox Sports 1. Only Games 1 and 6 of the NLCS would air on Fox.

### According to Sports Business Journal, the NBA is nearing extensions with Turner and ABC/ESPN that would dramatically increase their rights fees. In return, the NBA won't create a new package for Fox or NBC. 

### Sun Sports --- Rich Waltz, Tommy Hutton, Craig Minervini and the production crew --- did terrific work handling Thursday's Marlins coverage in Milwaukee, which included Giancarlo Stanton being hit in the face with a pitch, benches clearing and absurd umpiring calls.

The network showed prudent restraint by not airing video of a stadium employee sweeping Stanton's teeth off of home plate. Hutton's outrage --- which percolates from time to time --- was warranted, and it amused us when Hutton admitted on air that he had to make an effort to keep from cursing.

Please see the last post for a lot of on-field (non-media) news from Friday.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

09/11/2014

9 p.m. Dolphins/drug update; Al-Quadin gone from UM this semester; Stanton update; More comments besmirching Luol Deng

9 p.m. update:

Dolphins players Dion Jordan and Reshad Jones --- both suspended for the first four games of the season --- will be reinstated under the league’s new drug policy, the NFL’s web site reported Friday. But exactly when they would return to the team remained unclear.

Hours after the players union announced Friday that it has reached an agreement with the league on a new drug policy, the NFL said Friday night that no deal has been struck and “significant unresolved issues” remain.  According to ESPN, the major unresolved issue is whether players being reinstated from suspension would be eligible for games this weekend.

Jordan and Jones were optimistic about their suspensions being lifted, but the players and the Dolphins were still awaiting word from the league on Friday evening.

Jordan tested positive for an undisclosed amphetamine, but under the new agreement, use of amphetamines during the offseason no longer will result in a suspension for a first-time offense. But in-season positive tests for amphetamines would result in a suspension.

Jones has not disclosed the drug he took but recently complained that his positive test -- which was appealed and upheld -- was not for "anything that helped me play better. That's not me. If that was me, I would have really gone out and gotten big and faster, but I didn't. I don't have to do that."

Neither player has practiced with the team since the preseason, and the Dolphins would need to release two players to make room for them. Jordan has been working out in Los Angeles.

Other players whose suspensions reportedly will be lifted include Denver receiver Wes Welker and Dallas defensive back Orlando Scandrick. Cleveland receiver Josh Gordon’s season-long suspension will be cut to 10 games, according to multiple reports.

Among changes in the new drug policy, as detailed in an NFLPA news release:

### The NFL immediately will begin testing for human growth hormone. According to the NFLPA, players “have the right to challenge any aspect of the science” of the test. The collection of blood specimens is prohibited on game days.

### The threshold for a positive test for marijuana will increase to 35 nanograms per millimeter, up from the previous limit of 15 ng/ml.  Players had complained that 15 ng/ml was too low, asserting they could test positive if they were merely in the vicinity of second-hand spoke. The NFLPA says “there will be additional steps for players who test positive for the substance before suspension.”

### Players who are convicted or plead guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol will receive a two-game suspension. But players rejected an NFL proposal to immediately suspend a player arrested for DUI before the case is adjudicated.

### An independent arbitrator will hear appeals for all positive drug test violations. The NFL and NFLPA will jointly select and pay three to five arbitrators.

### NFL and team employees, agents and NFLPA officials could face fines up to $500,000 or termination if found to have breached confidentiality of players on drug-testing matters.

“We stood up and fought for what was right,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement. “Twenty-five years ago it was NFL players that set out to make the game clean by asking for and collectively bargaining the first drug testing policy in professional sports. Today, this union and these player leaders have approved a policy that will serve the game well for generations of players to come.”

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Noon update: ### Defensive end Al Quadin Muhammad is no longer enrolled at UM and will not be allowed to play football this season, the school announced today. But he will be allowed to return next semester if he chooses.

UM hopes that he will return to UM next semester but it was not clear if Muhammad will choose to do that.

Muhammad is being punished for a confrontation with a roommate that left the roommate with a broken nose. The incident happened a while ago, and the former roommate has since graduated.

The UM football staff isn't happy with this decision, which was made above the athletic department.

According to someone involved in the process, the ultimate decision maker in cases of this kind is vice president of student affairs Patricia Whitely.

Muhammad told UM that he hit the roommate in self-defense, according to UM athletic department person. There were conflicting statements when witnesses were interviewed.

Al Golden held Muhammad out of UM's first two games, meaning he will not lose a year of eligibility.

Muhammad, a sophomore, was a four-star prospect coming out of Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey, rated the nation's No. 3 weakside linebacker prospect and 49th best player overall. He had two sacks as a freshman.

He's the second four-star prospect UM has lost this week (with Muhammad, at least for a semester). Freshman safety Kiy Hester transferred to Rutgers because of a family medical issue.

### The Dolphins listed Koa Misi and Billy Turner as doubtful; Mike Pouncey, Jordan Tripp and Terrence Fede as out; and nobody as questionable on their final injury report for Sunday's game in Buffalo. Nine players, including Randy Starks and Mike Wallace and Philip Wheeler, are probable.

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11 a.m. update on Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton, who suffered multiple facial fractures after being hit in the face by a pitch last night in Milwaukee:

### Jeffrey Loria has arranged for a private jet to take Stanton and his family back to Miami today. Stanton spent last night in a Milwaukee hospital.

### Stanton did not lose consciousness and the Marlins believe the fractures will heal without surgery. He had bleeding inside his mouth. He will need dental work on three teeth when he returns to Miami, Fox Sports' Craig Minervini said.

### Yahoo report that Stanton "legitimately wants to come back" this season, but Mike Redmond has said he's unlikely to play again this year. The season ends Sept. 28.

### Yahoo said Stanton had a "tooth lodged in his cheek" and the hole in his lip was "so big" that the doctor's index finger fit in it.

### Dr. John Martin, a Miami-based oculo-plastic surgeon, said Stanton was fortunate the ball did not hit his orbital bones: "He's lucky. He could have lost his vision if that had been the case. The orbital bone
is there to protect the eye, but with a ball going 88 miles per hour, it could have crushed the bones completely and you could lose your vision completely or lose your eye completely."

### If this is indeed the end of the season for Stanton, as the Marlins expect, then let's put his season in perspective: Stanton leads the NL in home runs (37), slugging percentage (.555), OPS (.950), total bases (299), extra-base hits (99), RBI (105), walks (94), at-bats per HR (14.5).... He was on pace to become the first player to lead the NL in homers, RBI and slugging percentage since Dante Bichette in 1995...

He drew 24 intentional walks.... His 154 career homers are tied with Dan Uggla for most in franchise history... According to ESPN, he has seven home runs of 450 feet or more this season. No one else in baseball has more than two.

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Many of you might have seen the racially-charged comments that Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry made about new Heat forward Luol Deng before he became a free agent this summer.

More comments besmirching Deng came to light tonight in an audio recording obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The tape, from June 6, includes Ferry discussing Deng as a potential Hawks free agent target.

Ferry has told reporters he was merely reading the comments from a scouting report written by someone else but he never says that on the tape obtained by the AJC, causing some to suspect that some of those comments might have been his own interjections. (You can make your own conclusion if you listen to the tape on the ajc.com web site.)

Among the Ferry comments, the majority of which came to light tonight through reports from the AJC and Yahoo Sports: “He’s a good guy overall but he’s not perfect. He’s got some African in him. I don’t say that in a negative way.

"He’s a guy who would have a nice store out front that’s beautiful and great but he may be selling some counterfeit stuff behind you. For example, he can come out and be the unnamed source for a story and two weeks later said that's absolutely not me and can't believe somebody said that, but talking to reporters you know it's him….

"He could be a lawyer in the locker-room when the coach is not around, but when the coach is around could be the greatest guy in the world… In Chicago, they will tell you he was a good guy for their culture but not a culture setter. He played hard and all those things but he was very worried about his bobblehead being the last one given away that year or there is not enough stuff of him in the team store. He's a little bit of a complex guy.”

During the meeting, a Hawks official -- identified by Yahoo as part-owner Michael Gearon Jr. --- said: "Oh my God, that comment sounds like [Donald] Sterling" and worries whether it might end up on TMZ.

The Hawks made a two-year, $20 million offer to Deng, according to Yahoo. But he opted instead to take essentially the same offer from the Heat.

Two days ago, Deng offered a thoughtful respond to Ferry’s “African” comments. It will be interesting to see if he responds to the additional comments made public tonight.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told USA Today this week that he does not believe Ferry should lose his job.

DOLPHINS NOTES

### NFL Network's Ian Rapaport reported tonight that Dion Jordan --- suspended four games for amphetamine use --- would be among the players who would immediately become eligible to return once NFL players approve a new drug policy. Reshad Jones also remains hopeful that his four-game suspension would be reduced or ended.

### Philip Wheeler said today that he's more comfortable playing and tackling with a cast on his hand than he was a week ago and expects to play Sunday. Koa Misi is expected to miss the game with a sprained ankle, with Jason Trusnik filling the middle linebacker job in his absence. 

Trusnik not only never received any major college offers to play college football, he didn’t land any Division 2 offers either.

“I didn’t think anything was going to work out with football,” said Trusnik, who attended Division III Ohio Northern and is certified to teach pre-kindergarten through third grade. "I thought I would get a good education and get a job.”

But something interesting happened along the way. He became a Division III All-American at Ohio Northern, was signed by the Jets as a free agent and eventually ended up a Dolphin.

His growth as a linebacker has been “considerable,” Philbin said.

Trusnik has made 15 career starts, 10 of them with the Browns in 2009.  “Everybody wants to be a starter in the league,” he said.

What stand outs about Trusnik, according to linebacker coach Mark Duffner, is his competitiveness, toughness and how well he prepares himself.

“You are going to get everything he's got from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head,” Duffner said. “He’s a physical player and over his career, he's gotten to be a pretty instinctive player.”

### Jelani Jenkins will replace Dannell Ellerbe at weakside linebacker.

When former general manager Jeff Ireland drafted Jenkins in the fourth round in 2013, he envisioned a player who could be an asset in pass coverage on third down, potentially more. Jenkins flashed those skills Sunday, when he stuck closely to the Patriots tight ends and running backs.

Jenkins was a track star in high school in Olney, Md., and was both a Parade All-American and the nation’s No. 1 linebacker prospect when he entered UF. But as the Dolphins’ shortest linebacker (6-0), he has had to prove he can hold up against the run, which has been a question.

“As a linebacker, you want to be effective on all downs and that’s one thing I’ve had to prove,” he said. “I think my [run defense] has improved.”

Duffner said what helped Jenkins against New England is that “he played fast. That’s what we want him to do.”

### Philbin said today new linebacker Kelvin Sheppard has picked up the system well. He graded out significantly below average against the run in Pro Football Focus ratings the past two NFL seasons (for the Bills in 2012 and Colts in 2013) but was very good against the run as a rookie for Buffalo in 2011 after being drafted in the third round from LSU.

“I’m a very physical linebacker,” he said. “I love getting downhill against the run. This offseason, I worked my butt off on my third down coverage.” He said he “and some of my former teammates are still trying to figure out” why he was cut by the Colts last month.

### One wild card in the equation is Chris McCain, who came to the Dolphins as a linebacker but played mostly defensive end in the opener, when he collected a sack in 15 defensive snaps. He returned from illness today and said he split time between linebacker and defensive end in Thursday's practice.

“He’s shown flashes of productive play at outside linebacker,” Duffner said. “The more we can get him repetitions, the more we will see improvement. He’s continuing to get opportunities.”

09/10/2014

Wednesday night quick hits: Moreno's theatrics; Dolphins, Hurricanes, Beckham/MLS

A six-pack of Dolphins, Hurricanes and MLS/David Beckham notes on a Wednesday night:

### Want to amuse Dolphins players? Just ask them about Knowshon Moreno’s strange behavior during games. (Hey, whatever works.)

Let Ryan Tannehill explain it:

“When it’s a TV timeout and we’re all sitting in the huddle talking with each other and he’s five yards away, flexing and looking into the crowd, it’s different,” Tannehill said today. “I’ve never been around anyone that does that. It’s kind of fun. I look at him and I’m like, ‘Guys, do you see this guy?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, he’s out there.’”

“He’s kind of off on his own, talking to himself, staring off into the crowd, but he’s intense. He’s focused on what he has to do, he runs hard and I love it. I love being in the huddle with him.”

### The Dolphins are trying to bring new linebacker Kelvin Sheppard up to speed very quickly, because he could be one of only four or five healthy linebackers on the active roster Sunday if Philip Wheeler joins Koa Misi, Jordan Tripp and out-for-the-season Dannell Ellerbe on the sidelines.

(Chris McCain’s status is in doubt because he has missed the past two days of practice with an illness. He played through a hip injury last weekend.)

One concern about Sheppard: During his three-plus year career with the Bills and Colts, 50 passes have been thrown with Sheppard in coverage and 39 have been completed, for 354 yards, or 9.1 per reception.

In practice this week, Jason Trusnik has been playing middle linebacker (in place of Misi) and Jelani Jenkins has been getting first-team snaps at Ellerbe's weak-side linebacker spot. Jonathan Freeny and Sheppard can play Wheeler's strongside linebacker spot. Wheeler has been limited in practice because of a thumb injury that hampers his ability to tackle.

### It will be interesting to see what kind of damage Cam Wake can do on Sunday against former Hurricanes player Seantrel Henderson, now Buffalo’s starting right tackle after being drafted in the seventh round this past May.

Bills coach Doug Marrone said that “anything we heard that was a red flag” about Henderson "has been just the opposite. We’ve had no [problems] at all… It’s a credit to the young man.... He's a heck of a football player. What's there not to like?”

Henderson allowed a sack Sunday against Chicago.

### Beyond Brad Kaaya and Braxton Berrios, the next UM freshman positioned to make the next-biggest impact is KC McDermott, who is about even with Taylor Gadbois in the right tackle battle.

They shared snaps against Florida A&M last Saturday, and it wouldn’t be surprising if McDermott eventually surpasses Gadbois, who played poorly in the opener.

“I’m very hard on him,” said KC’s brother, UM center Shane McDermott. “I need to remember he’s a freshman. I yell at all the freshmen. We need to hold them to a higher standard.”

### Al Golden has declined to say what he will do when Ryan Williams is healthy, but let’s make this clear: UM’s priority this year isn’t developing Kaaya; it’s winning, and Golden intends to do what he believes gives Miami the best chance to win.

Now, if the staff can develop Kaaya, and if UM believes he gives them the best chance to win, that would accomplish two things at once, and the Hurricanes would be happy with that.

But Golden doesn’t want to commit to Kaaya publicly, beyond a game at a time, because he wants to give himself the flexibility to make a change should one be needed. UM won’t consider playing Williams until he has the mobility to escape oncoming pass rushers.

### Though MLS’ two preferred local stadium sites were rejected, David Beckham told Bloomberg News today that "Miami will happen.. I said I want to bring a team here and I will take a team to Miami. There are speed bumps along the way and we’ve come up against those.

"I’ve been very cheeky in a way because I’ve gone into Miami and I said ‘OK, I wanna build Old Trafford or Wembley stadium next to Buckingham Palace. My dream was to have our stadium on a waterfront. It’s not worked out like that and we have alternative sites. It will happen.”

Beckham’s group has been studying sites in downtown Miami and near downtown. A site near Marlins Park remains a possibility.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz