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Bosh out of All-Star Game; Marlins bringing back familiar names for TV job; More former Dolphins having cognitive problems; Mark Richt implements new rules; Heat chatter; Examining Panthers' popularity; Radio news

4 p.m. update: Chris Bosh will miss Sunday's All-Star game with a strained calf, according to USA Today. Bosh had never mentioned the injury either in recent days or at All-Star media availability earlier in the day. Al Horford will replace him.

The Heat, as of now, isn't commenting on the injury. Strained calf injuries can obviously vary in severity. Goran Dragic's recent strained calf --- which wasn't considered on the high end of the severity scale --- sidelined him eight games and 2 1/2 weeks. 

Quick 11:30 update: According to sources, the Marlins are hiring three familiar names with organizational ties for their TV analyst job: Al Leiter, Eduardo Perez and Preston Wilson. [The Marlins confirmed this at 3:30.]

The three will share the 150-game package, alongside Rich Waltz. They replace Tommy Hutton, whose contract was not renewed.

Leiter, 49, pitched three of his 19 big league seasons with the Marlins, including the 1997 World Series champions, and went 162-132 in his career. He has worked for Fox and ESPN and most recently for MLB Network and the Yankees' YES Network.

Perez, 46, was the Marlins hitting coach from June 2011 through the 2012 season. The former big league first and third baseman was Houston's bench coach in 2013 and worked for ESPN since then, his second stint with the network.

Wilson, 44, played for the Marlins for 4 1/2 years of a 10-year career in which he hit .264 with 189 homers and 668 RBI. He has worked primarily as a studio analyst for Marlins coverage on Fox Sports Florida in recent years, though he did work a few games in the booth. The Marlins and Fox have not determined how many games each analyst will do.

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FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Amid recent news that Earl Morrall had a confirmed case of a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to the type of jarring hits prevalent in football, other former Dolphins are suffering with cognitive issues, wondering whether the game they loved left them with irreversible brain damage.

Morrall’s family told The New York Times last week that the former quarterback had the most advanced stage of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) when he died in 2014.

Meanwhile, ex-Dolphins All-Pro defensive end Bill Stanfill said by phone Thursday he has been diagnosed with frontal lobe damage in his brain, while former All-Pro receiver Mark Duper said this week that he believes he has CTE after being diagnosed with symptoms in 2013.

“It’s all very sobering,” former standout defensive lineman Manny Fernandez said.

Many scientists attribute CTE to repetitive brain injuries and consider it a cause of dementia and memory loss. A definitive diagnosis is possible only after an autopsy, but efforts are being made to diagnose it in the living.

Fernandez said this week that four members of 1972 Dolphins have cognitive issues but understandably declined to identify them. Former star safety Dick Anderson said two of those four require assistance, though Anderson and Fernandez note it’s impossible to know whether those four have CTE, Alzheimer’s Disease or advanced dementia.

Fernandez said another ’72 Dolphins player called him last week, spooked by the Morrall news.

“I’ve talked to a half dozen teammates over the last two years [about cognitive difficulties],” Fernandez said. “Quite a few are having issues. Quite a few have been tested.”

Last November, Fernandez, 69, left his home north of Albany, Ga., to drive to South Florida for a funeral. Two and half hours later, he realized he had left his suit and garment bag at home.

Though he said, “I’m not the first person to forget pre-packed clothes,” that incident gave Fernandez impetus to get neuropsychology testing. That testing, which is still ongoing, doesn’t diagnose CTE but can detect symptoms.

“It sure as hell made me want to find out,” Fernandez said. “They say you’re the last to know.”

How many concussions did he have?

“More than I can remember,” Fernandez said. “Two were diagnosed as concussions. Two times, I don’t even remember. Nobody hit anybody with their head harder than I did. But my wife [who died last year] had Alzheimer’s and never took a hit. Where did she get it?”

Stanfill, a first-team All-Pro during the Dolphins’ 1972 undefeated season, said he was diagnosed with frontal lobe damage in his brain in 2003 and tests last October indicated he is “20 percent worse.”

Stanfill, 69, who lives about an hour away from Fernandez in rural southwestern Georgia, said he took thousands of hits to his head as a player and has no doubt his lobe damage was caused by that.

There are days “I can’t remember where to go,” said Stanfill, who receives assistance from his wife.  “And even some old friends, I don’t have a clue what their name is. I want to be cremated but I want my brain tested [for CTE].”

Stanfill worked as a real estate broker after his playing career but retired five years ago because “my memory was so bad. I felt I needed to retire because I didn’t want to screw over my clients.”

Like many former players with cognitive difficulties, Stanfill is awaiting financial relief.

The NFL and players agreed to a potential $1 billion settlement of a lawsuit brought by former players to compensate them for brain damage, but some former players are appealing because it doesn’t include CTE. That has delayed payments in the range of $190,000 for every former player diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or moderate dementia.

“I deserve every cent I can get out of this lawsuit,” Stanfill said.

Duper, 57, said he’s doing “OK” and that occasional use of a hyperbaric chamber helps.

“It definitely affects your life, but you’ve got to be positive,” Duper said. “I don’t want to have suicidal thoughts. Some days are better than others. I still have problems with names. I remember faces better than names.”

Duper, who is operating under the belief that he has CTE, said he had four or five concussions, one time on consecutive weeks, but usually went back in the game quickly.

Anderson recalled a game when former teammate Jake Scott was “knocked out” with a concussion. When a coach told Scott to go back in the game, Anderson intervened and said, “He’s not going back in.”

Former Dolphins All-Pro guard Bob Kuechenberg, 68, said he has a “contest when I head toward the kitchen. Do I remember why I’m going there? Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.”

Though he has no evidence of cognitive damage, Kuechenberg said: “I know I have [CTE]. Why would I not have it? I would guess we all have it. There’s nothing you can do.”

Andersen, 69, keeps close tabs on the 45 or so living members of the ’72 team that went 17-0. Seven have died from that team, but only one of those seven (Morrall) was known to have a condition related to the brain (Parkinson’s Disease and CTE). 

Duper, a two-time All Pro in a career that spanned from 1982 to 1992, said several teammates have come to him expressing concern about their own health.

“I tell them to go to a doctor and get tested,” he said. “When you got your bell rung when I played, people thought it was a joke. You didn’t know how serious this is until now.”

CHATTER

### Because opponents don’t fear several of the Heat’s perimeter shooters, Chris Bosh said Heat players are being left unguarded on the perimeter far more than ever before in his 5 1/2 years here. He said trying “to get in that upper part of the East, it's tough to do that without shooting.”

Though he says “I'm always a believer in making due with what you have, we could always use another shooter. Everybody could. It's a perceived weakness we have and it's something we have to get over.”

The Heat, scanning the trade market for a three-point shooter, is making 32.3 percent of its threes, 28th in the league and among the lowest in team history. Miami’s 15-win teams in its first season (1988-89) and in 2007-08 both shot threes better than this one.

### The Heat has been seeking a second-round pick for Jarnell Stokes in a move that would open a roster spot and slightly lessen its luxury tax bill.

### Players say even though Al Golden was no walkover with regard to serious rules violations, new UM coach Mark Richt is even more serious about it. One player was told failed drug tests leave players at risk of being thrown off the team, not merely suspension.

Anyone who steals something will be thrown off the team. When players are speaking to the media, they cannot wear earrings or chains. Richt prefers them clean-shaven, too.

### How much has the Panthers’ surge affected their popularity? Their average home attendance has gone from 11,265 last season (30th and last) to 14,831 (25th).

TV ratings have doubled in the past month, but perspective is needed there. Whereas Heat games on Fox Sports Sun average a 4.4 rating (4.4 percent of Dade/Broward homes with TV sets), Panthers games on Fox Sports Florida average just above a 0.2, though January games averaged a 0.4 and last Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh got a 0.6.

### Former Channel 10 reporter Johanna Gomez, who now does freelance for Fox and Sun Sports, will have an on-air audition on 790 The Ticket's morning show on Friday and next Tuesday through Friday. Gomez will work alongside Jonathan Zaslow and Brett Romberg (when Romberg is available).

The station is looking for a replacement for Joy Taylor, who left to do a new, not-yet-announced show on FSN1.

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