<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Sat, 22 Nov 2014 12:38:56 -0500 Sat, 22 Nov 2014 12:38:56 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Gray Happy to Have Blount in Backfield]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:29:04 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jonas-gray-4tds.jpg

Less than a week after Jonas Gray ran all over the Colts to the tune of four touchdowns and 201 rushing yards, he has a new face in the Patriots backfield. Check that; it's a new face for Gray, who joined the Pats in the offeseason, but an old face for just about everybody else: LeGarrette Blount returns to New England after just 11 games in Pittsburgh, where he was released on Tuesday after leaving the field during the Steelers-Titans game before it was over.

Despite Gray's breakout performance, Blount's addition to the backfield didn't come as a shock.

“I wasn’t necessarily surprised," he said. "In this business, not a whole lot surprises me, especially given where I’ve come from. I just prepare the same way -- it doesn’t matter who we sign or who we bring here. I believe in Bill (Belichick) and whatever he’s doing.”

In fact, Gray said he's excited to play alongside Blount.

“We kind of knew of each other beforehand, and the guys here have nothing but good things to say about him," Gray continued. "It’s kind of funny, that running back position, they always talk about the camaraderie, so right away, even on the practice field, we acted like we’ve known each other for a long time,” he said.

“I’m excited, man. I think it’s going to be something good for us. For a team, what we want to do long-term, when these cold-weather games start coming up, I think it’s going to help. He’s a great guy to learn from, too, and I think we’re going to both motivate each other.”

The Patriots host the 7-3 Lions on Sunday.

<![CDATA[Buffalo Bills Hitch Rides Aboard Snowmobiles]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:53:34 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/KRAIG+URBIK1.JPG

Up to seven feet of snow wasn't going to stop the Buffalo Bills from flying out to Detroit for Monday’s game against the Jets — even if some players needed a novel way to get to the Bills’ stadium and a bus to the airport.

“Just texted with a Bills player who was picked up on a snowmobile to head to his game,” tweeted Albert Breer, national reporter for the NFL Network. “So in 10 years of covering the NFL, that’s a first.”

The game was supposed to have been played in Buffalo on Sunday, but was moved to Detroit because of the deadly storm.

The blizzard dropped 85 inches of snow on Buffalo, enough to bury Snookie, Jim Kelly and even Yao Ming.

On The MMQB, Peter King describes the planning that went into the "snowmobile rescues."

"I have covered the NFL for 30 years, and I must say I have never heard an NFL executive say he hoped a snowmobile would come up big for his team in advance of a game with big playoff implications," he wrote.

Photo Credit: EMILY URBIK
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<![CDATA[Ollie Impressed With Hamilton in Win]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:49:00 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2014.jpg

The Huskies moved to 2-0 on the season with a 65-57 win over the College of Charleston in their first game at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.  Not surprisingly, senior point guard Ryan Boatright led the way with 19 points, but freshman Daniel Hamilton added 15 points in 31 minutes.

“He plays with a lot of poise and a lot of maturity," coach Kevin Ollie said of Hamilton. "He knows the game, he can play on all three levels. He can shoot from 3, which we’ve seen; he can get to the rim, he’s got great ball-fakes, great footwork. And he can pass the ball. He threw a couple of lobs to Amida (Brimah), one of them Jeff Anderson called a charge. The other was a great pass. He’s like another point guard out there for me.” “I think he gambled a couple of times and got us out of our principles where we had the help and we got lucky on a couple of missed shots by (Canyon) Barry. It’s a learning process for him, but he’s very coachable. That’s the one thing I love: I can instruct him on something, and he’ll go out there and do it.”

Hamilton added: “I was getting in a rhythm. I’ve been shooting pretty bad preseason. At shootaround, we’ve got to take that seriously, because those are going to be game shots. I try to take as many shots as I can in shootaround, and when they came my way, I just wanted to knock it down.”

More good news: NC State transfer Rodney Purvis, who finally looked comfortable on the court, added nine points in 31 minutes of work, including two big shots down the stretch.

“The shot doesn’t go in, or does go in, we’ve still gotta play good defense," Ollie said. "And he started playing some real good defense. That gets you energized. To see those two 3’s go in, I know it felt good for him. You could see the exuberance on his face, the energy that he had. Hopefully, we can keep finding him for 3’s, because we need to shoot better.”

<![CDATA[Whitmer Heads Down the Home Stretch]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:30:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/chandler+whitmer+uconn+close.jpg

We don't know if senior quarterback Chandler Whitmer's UConn career can be described as a tough stretch but it's certainly been a learning experience.

The starter in 2012, when the Huskies went 5-7 under Paul Pasqualoni, Whitmer was benched early last season for Tim Boyle and later Casey Cochran. He began the 2014 season on the bench but Cochran retired from football after a Week 1 concussion and Whitmer again found himself under center. Back in the spring, it wasn't clear he'd even be part of first-year coach Bob Diaco's program.

But he persevered and he's down the home stretch. But at 2-7, the Huskies have already been eliminated from bowl contention, which means Whitmer will leave Storrs having never sniffed the postseason.

"It's tough and I don't want to be clichéd, but that's life," he said, via the Hartford Courant. "That's something that I've really learned, that life isn't always going to go as planned. It's more about how you handle the situation, and adversity. I've looked at it as a blessing, really, for me. People that have success their entire life — because that's all I had before I got here — people have success their entire life and get into a situation and don't know how to handle adversity. I guarantee it's going to happen at some point. For me, I've really tried to take that route and not pout and ask, 'Why me?' Just look at it as a blessing."

While Whitmer won't be on a winning team at UConn, he is the foundation for change that Diaco's trying to implement. And if the Huskies can finish strong over the final three weeks, that's a great start.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn to Co-Host 2016, 2017 Regionals]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:00:23 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

UConn has been selected to co-host the regionals for the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament for 2016 and 2017 in Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena, the school announced Thursday. Fairfield University will serve as the other host.

“We would like to thank the NCAA for honoring Webster Bank Arena with the women’s basketball regional,” said Arena President Howard Saffan in a statement. “It is a great reflection on the continued growth of the city of Bridgeport as well as the improvements throughout our venue. We could not have received this honor without our loyal partners at Fairfield University and the University of Connecticut.”

UConn Senior Associate Director of Athletics/SWA Deb Corum added: “The news today that UConn has been selected to co-host the Regionals of the 2016 and 2017 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport was exciting! This provides another opportunity for the fans in Fairfield County, and across the state, to see high level competition right here at home.

"The staff at Webster Bank Arena does an excellent job and teams that have played in that facility always enjoy a superlative experience. There has been wonderful collaboration in working with the staff at Fairfield University to submit this bid and I look forward to continuing to build that relationship as we work to make this the best regional site ever. But, my most heartfelt thanks go to the fans who have made the State of Connecticut the Basketball Capital of the World. THANK YOU!!! Without you, we would not have won this bid to host.”

And Fairfield Director of Athletics Gene Doris said, “We’re obviously delighted with the announcement. We’ve been hosting NCAA events pretty much since the building opened. We’re pleased to be partnering with the University of Connecticut and Webster Bank Arena in hosting this event.”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch was just as excited.

“This is great news,” he said. “In our improving downtown, we’re extremely proud to serve as home to Webster Bank Arena, which is a world-class sports and entertainment facility. It’s playing a key role in our city nearing a renaissance. And, I’m crossing my fingers that my alma mater, UCONN, gets to play – and win – in our backyard.”

Webster Bank Arena previously hosted two regionals, in 2006 and 2013. The 2016 tournament is scheduled for March 25-28 and the 2017 even it scheduled for March 24-27.

<![CDATA[Jose Canseco Pranks Everyone with Finger Hoax]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:56:59 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP565783519558.jpg

Looks like Jose Canseco gave everyone the finger. 

The former Major League Baseball player took to Twitter at the end of October to announce that he had shot off his middle digit and had it reattached during surgery. Last week, Canseco claimed that the mangled finger fell off during a poker tournament because it had been “very loose” and “smelling really bad.” He also said he would be selling the thumb and gun that shot it off on eBay a few days later.

“Maybe I will make it a package the chrome 45 caliber Remington with the finger both for sale a package deal," he tweeted on Nov. 17.

But despite continuing to post on social media about the plan, Canseco reportedly will not be selling his appendage to the highest bidder—it was all just a prank.

When TMZ reporters followed up about the details of the unique eBay sale, Canseco finally admitted it was all a hoax, the site reported. He said he thought of the whole plan when he saw a fake finger in a Halloween store. 

What remains true, NBC Sports reports, is that the prankster did shoot off his finger but had it successfully reconnected with surgery.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Much Has Changed Since Giants Last Faced Cowboys]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:54:38 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/458696810.jpg

A lot has changed since the Giants and Cowboys squared off in Week Seven, when Dallas won 31-21. We went to the polls and exercised our right to vote (or not), we watched as Philip Rivers went from an MVP candidate back to being a candidate for quarterback of the San Diego Chargers, and we saw far too many people dressed as Ray Rice for Halloween.

What else has changed between then and now? Let’s take a look:

Then: The Giants had a one-game losing streak.
Now: The Giants have a five-game losing streak.

Then: Cowboys backup running back Joseph Randle had just been arrested for shoplifting boxer briefs and cologne.
Now: Randle ostensibly smells nice and has proper support.

Then: The Cowboys were 5-1 after winning five games in a row and everyone in Dallas was making plans to attend the Super Bowl in February.
Now: The Cowboys are 7-3 after losing to Washington and Arizona, beating Jacksonville in London, and somehow making it through their bye week without anyone getting arrested.

Then: Half of the fans at AT&T were blinded in the second half because Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decided to leave the blinds up at his billion dollar storage shed as the sun set in the west.
Now: Those fans are probably still blind.

Then: DeMarco Murray was on pace to break the single-season record for most rushing yards and attempts.
Now: Murray is slacking and is only on pace for 1,973 yards rushing and 390 attempts, shy of the records set by Eric Dickerson (2,105) and the worn-out carcass of Larry Johnson (416).

Then: Murray became the first running back to surpass 100 yards rushing in the first seven games of a season, rolling over the Giants with 128 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries.
Now: Murray will probably roll over the Giants again, using this game alone to pass both Dickerson and Johnson for those all-time records.

Then: The Giants looked like a playoff team and no one was talking about firing Tom Coughlin.
Now: Nothing to see here, move along.

Then: The nation was in the midst of an Ebola panic, and in advance of the trip to Dallas
Giants doctors prepped the team about how to protect themselves against the virus.
Now: The nation has moved on and is panicking about immigration.

Then: Victor Cruz had just been lost for the season with a knee injury.
Now: Not a single one of his teammates has honored him by dancing the salsa after scoring a touchdown.

Then: Emerging star Larry Donnell was working with fans to come up with a proper nickname.
Now: Fans just hope he can catch a single meaningful pass again.

Then: Odell Beckham Jr. scored two touchdowns against the Cowboys.
Now: He’ll have to have similar success if the Giants are to have any shot in this game.

Then: The Giants’ defense couldn’t stop the Cowboys’ offense in the second half.
Now: The Giants' defense probably won't be able to stop the Cowboys' offense at all.

Then: Eli Manning was making fans forget about his propensity for throwing killer interceptions.
Now: The old Eli is back, baby!

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Patriots Bring Back RB Blount]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:03:37 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP859843360681_0.jpg

LeGarrette Blount is back in New England on a two-year deal, according to several reports. The Patriots let him leave in free agency, and the bruising back signed a two-year deal with the Steelers, where he was to be the backup to Le'Veon Bell, one of the league's most dynamic players.

But after just 11 games, Blount was released. Specifically: He left the field on Monday night before the Steelers-Titans game was over because he was reportedly unhappy at not getting a single carry. Blount had showered and made his way to the team bus before some players had even spoken to the media. Safety Mike Mitchell went to the bus -- in full uniform -- to coax Blount back to the locker room but Blount didn't budge.

By Tuesday morning, Blount had been released and several players were glad to see him go. Center Maurkice Pouncey even called the move "a blessing in disguise."

Blount leaves Pittsburgh having played in all 11 games, but rushing for just 266 yards on 65 carries and two touchdowns.

In his one season with the Patriots, Blount rushed for 772 yards, including a 189-yard performance against the Bills in Week 17. He'll join a backfield that includes Jonas Gray (fresh off a 201-yard effort against the Colts), Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden and James White.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Calhoun Gives Purvis Advice Ahead of Puerto Rico]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:46:48 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rodney+purvis_uconn.jpg

The Huskies are in Puerto Rico for the aptly named Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament, where they will face the College of Charleston on Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

One of the matchups to watch will be sophomore center Amida Brimah versus 6-9 Adjehi Baru, who averages 13 points and 10 rebounds in two games this season for the Cougars.

“They have Baru down there that’s a senior,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said, via the Connecticut News. “That’s a load down there, a big-time rebounder, so we’re going to have to stick with him and have a game plan.”

Teammate Anthony Stitt added: “Baru is a tough player. He’s an animal. He’s got that length that they have down there so hopefully, he’ll be ready to compete with them tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, the redshirt sophomore Rodney Purvis said that Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun had a few words for him at practice last week. Purvis has been pressing, and it showed up during the exhibition games and the season opener.

"[Calhoun] "just be ready to make a play, just be ready to catch and shoot, things like that," Purivs said.

Ollie said, “That’s the luxury of having Coach there, because he knows so much about the game, and how to get to players. I’m just glad that he’s there if they need him. It’s just another that’s got my players’ backs, and I welcome it every day.”

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut/UConn]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco Staying With QB Whitmer]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:30:59 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+ucf+whitmer.jpg

We mentioned on Wednesday that even though sophomore Tim Boyle is averaging about a series a game, he never had any plans to leave the program. And to hear first-year coach Bob Diaco tell it, Boyle is the frontrunner to be the Huskies' starting quarterback in 2015. For now, however, that job remains Chandler Whitmer's.

But despite the competition, Whitmer and Boyle are close.

"We've been close since he got here," Whitmer said, via the Hartford Courant. "I think he just respects what I have to say and I respect him as a player. He's like a sponge, he just tries to soak everything.

"That's all you can ask for from a younger guy on your team. I've enjoyed working with him and I'm excited that hopefully he can get some more time in the next couple of games and get ready for next year."

Boyle is expected to see the field for the final three games, but Whitmer is atop the depth chart because he gives the Huskies the best chance to win, according to Diaco.

"There's no doubt that not only will he continue in his role for the final three weeks, but he'll continue to improve," Diaco said of Whitmer. "So that when he ends, he has no regrets, or maybe has righted some wrongs and move forward."

And while Whitmer won't be around when Diaco's rebuilding process is complete, he knows he's helping lay the foundation for that turnaround.

"It's tough, but also you've just got to take the mindset and approach and the responsibility that you're part of the rebuilding," he said. "You can always look back and say we were the class that helped turn this thing around.

"We went through the worst and we're in the middle of really getting the program where it needs to be. That's kind of the responsibility a lot of seniors have taken."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Mosqueda-Lewis Had Tough Night vs. Stanford]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:24:35 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

In a night in which the top-ranked Huskies were shocked by No. 6 Stanford, perhaps the most unexpected moment came at the final whistle, when senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis took the inbounds pass with 2.6 seconds on the clock and UConn trailing 88-86, made her way to midcourt ... and somehow failed to get off a shot as time expired, even though she was uncovered.

 That capped a tough evening for Mosqueda-Lewis, who finished with 12 points on 3 of 11 shooting, and with her first three-point field goal coming midway through the second half.

 "When somebody does a really good job on somebody defensively it’s really two-pronged,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after the game, via the Connecticut News. “Defensively, they were really good and they kept switching people off of her. And then offensively I don’t think Kaleena really got the movement that we needed to get her open.’’

Stanford's Karlie Samuelson was responsible for slowing Mosqueda-Lewis and her effort wasn't lost on teammates.

 “Karlie did a great job,’’ Stanford's Bonnie Samuelson said. “She worked really hard all game. We did a really good job preparing for Kaleena. We know she’s a phenomenal shooter. This week our team was working really hard on the scouting report. And props to Karlie, she worked her butt off and did a really good job on her.’’

Meanwhile, Auriemma remains at a loss for why Mosqueda-Lewis never attempted at shot at the buzzer.

"We had something set up if we’re down two or if we’re down three,’’ he said. “And I can’t explain it.’’

On the bright side, sophomore Saniya Chong finished with 20 points and was one of the few players Auriemma praised after the game.

"I think I needed to step up,’’ Chong said. “Everything in general -- passing, defense, my offense -- to help the team and contribute as much as I can.’’

<![CDATA[Reminder: Eli Manning Is a Future Hall of Famer]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:00:32 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/457509652.jpg

There are a lot of things I don’t know. Who is less likeable, Jameis Winston or Nick Saban? Why are Notre Dame fans who didn’t attend the school more obnoxious than fans who did?

I don’t know, these are all questions I am incapable of answering.

But there are other things I know for certain: I will never look at “The Cosby Show” the same way again; Thanksgiving is the greatest American holiday; and Eli Manning is a future Hall of Famer. It’s sometimes easy to forget that, especially after Manning lays an egg like he did with last Sunday’s five interception outing against the 49ers.

Manning, in short, was terrible. It’s not often a team can overcome four interceptions and be in a position to win the game, much less against a great defense like that of San Francisco. But the Giants had a shot after Manning connected with Odell Beckham Jr. on a beautiful sideline completion that put the Giants at the 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter, trailing 16-10.

Beckham’s circus catch seemed to give New York all the momentum they needed to overcome San Francisco and steal a game they had no business winning. But then Manning, who has won two Super Bowl MVPs on teams that were big underdogs, missed on three straight fade routes and then capped the game with his fifth completion to the other team.

Brutal. Backbreaking. Just the opposite of the signature plays he made in winning two Super Bowls.
Two -- that’s as many as John Elway, Dan Marino and Shane Falco combined. Am I saying he’s on the same level as Elway, Marino or Falco? No, no, maybe. But the fact remains that no one who has won two Super Bowl MVPs is not in the Hall of Fame.

Jim Plunkett? Two Super Bowl wins, one Super Bowl MVP, and not in the Hall of Fame (or currently en route).

Bob Griese? Two Super Bowl wins, no Super Bowl MVPs, career passer rating of 77.1, and a face model for a bust in Canton, Ohio.

Eli Manning >> Bob Griese.

This is a golden era for NFL quarterbacks. Thanks to relaxed rules that have opened up offenses, any quarterback with a working arm can now throw for more than 5,000 yards. This has skewed stats, but the fact remains that these quarterbacks are going to Canton when their careers are over: Rodgers, Brady, Peyton, Brees, Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.

Eli is never mentioned among the league’s elite QBs, which makes sense because he’s not elite. Are Big Ben and Eli the statistical equivalents of the other four mentioned? Of course not. But if their careers ended tomorrow, all six of them would be bound for Canton. Rodgers, Brady, Peyton and Brees because they’re elite passers who won titles; Eli and Big Ben because they’re winners.

That’s the standard for the NFL Hall of Fame. Need proof? Look at how many Steelers are enshrined, some of whom are there because they performed best on the biggest stage, but who otherwise had pedestrian career numbers. Cough * Lynn Swann.

So, yeah, Eli Manning, three-time NFL leader in interceptions and possessor of an 81.5 career passer rating, is a future Hall of Famer.

Does he deserve to be? Who said anything about “deserve”? He’ll make the Hall of Fame because he’s a Manning who won two Super Bowl MVPs in the nation’s largest media market.

No matter how you define “fame,” he has a "hall" of a lot of it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Memo to Jets: Beware of QB Busts]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:00:00 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/454405308.jpg

David Klingler. Heath Shuler. Akili Smith. Joey Harrington. JaMarcus Russell.

No, these aren’t the answers to a Jeopardy category called “Crappy Quarterbacks.” They’re just a few of the many underwhelming signal-callers that have were chosen at or near the top of the first round of past NFL Drafts.

When it comes to the Jets and next spring’s draft, two things appear certain: 1) Gang Green will have a very high first-round pick, likely in the top five and a lock for the top 10; and 2) Nearly everyone on the planet (OK, that may be just a bit of an exaggeration) will be calling for whoever is running the team five months from now to select a quarterback with that pick.

Such a move will surely be tempting for a franchise that’s sorely in need of a dynamic talent to lead it and hasn’t had an elite player at the most important position in pro sports in more than 40 years. But given the fact that QBs drafted in the top 10 have had a spotty record of success over the past few decades, and that teams drafting that high usually have far more than one big hole to fill, it may not be the way to go.

Over the 20 drafts from 1991-2010, 27 QBs were top 10 draft picks. Many were successful. 13 made at least one Pro Bowl (big disclaimer here: Kerry Collins, Trent Dilfer and Vince Young were among those who received that “honor”), including a guy named Peyton Manning. However, 13 also failed to become solid NFL starters, including a guy named Ryan Leaf.

Several of the mock drafts I’ve seen have Florida State QB Jameis Winston joining Gang Green as a top five pick. Call me crazy -- I do write three columns a week about the Jets, after all -- but I think that they may win enough games to fall to a draft slot where they’ll have little chance to get Winston.

But say they do have that chance. Should they take it? Winston’s ability is undeniable. He’s got the size, arm and athleticism to be a star. And while his character comes with a giant question mark, no one seems to doubt that the kid is a winner. Hard to call him anything but that when, remarkably, he hasn’t lost a single game in nearly two years at FSU.

Winston may well be a Hall of Famer one day. He may also be a bust. There have been far more of the latter than the former among QBs drafted with high first-round picks.

With Geno Smith all but a forgotten man just two years into his NFL career and Michael Vick well into his 30s, the Jets surely need to find a QB of the future. But, at 2-8, they need to find a lot of things. Plus, there’s always the second round. Just ask Drew Brees. Or Colin Kaepernick. Or Brett Favre. (Just don’t ask Browning Nagle, Kellen Clemens, or, yes, Geno Smith.) 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Megatron, Suh to Challenge Patriots]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:34:00 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/458708968.jpg

The Patriots are a long way from that 41-14 late September blowout at the hands of the Chiefs. The offensive line has gelled, Tom Brady is back to being, well, Tom Brady, Jonas Gray has emerged as a legit threat in the backfield, and the defense has put the clamps on some pretty good opponents, including Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.

But the tasks don't get any easier down the home stretch as New England tries to hold onto one of the top two spots in the AFC and the first-round bye that comes with it. Next up: The Lions. Specifically, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on Johnson: “You have both sides of the coin with him,” Patricia said, via ESPN.com. “He’s a big, physical, strong player that is good if you are up there on him and even if you are off of him. So, it’s a big challenge for us to see if we can stop that from happening in either situation. I don’t think there is one definitive answer to say this is how you play this guy because I think he has certainly proved that if you are on him, off him, you double him, three guys on him, guys over the top, guys underneath, I think he has been extremely productive in all those situations.”

Exacerbating matters: Golden Tate, who was signed this offseason, lines up opposite Johnson and he's having a career year. "Golden Tate is an extremely explosive player,” Patricia said. “Great run after catch or run with the ball in his hands whether it is a reverse-type play or short pass or a deep pass where he can now get the ball in his hands and make things happen in open space. So certainly tackling is an issue and covering him.”

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Suh: "He’s an extremely disruptive player in any alignment that they put him in,” he said. “He’s a great football player. He plays the run well, creates a lot of problems in pass protection. He penetrates. He can handle double-teams and beat single blocks and moves with the other defensive linemen very well.”

And like Johnson and Tate, the Lions' defensive line has plenty of playmakers, which means the Pats can't just focus in on Suh.

“(Suh) definitely creates some opportunities for some other guys in there,” coach Bill Belichick said. “But that’s a good defense with guys like (Ziggy) Ansah and (Jason) Jones, and (C.J.) Mosley has done a good job for (Nick) Fairley. All those guys are hard to handle -- (George) Johnson -- they roll them all through there.

“They do a good job with their pressure defenses, bringing linebackers and secondary guys. They do enough to keep you off balance and there’s enough movement up front that you can’t really count on everybody being right where they are when the ball will snap. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they’re not."

The Patriots host the Lions this Sunday. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stewart Calls Loss 'a Shock']]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:27:55 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/215*120/AP933660798639.jpg

It's rare that the UConn's women's team is surprised by an outcome, but that was the case Monday night after an overtime loss against a very good Stanford group. The Huskies went from No. 1 to No. 4 in the national polls replaced by -- you guessed it -- Stanford.

UConn led by as much as 10 with six minutes to go, and had a seven-point lead with 3:37 left, but were betrayed by uncharacteristic miscues, missed shots and the odd spectacle of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis not even getting a shot off as time expired.

"It was a shock," Breanna Stewart said, via the Hartford Courant. "Saniya (Chong) has never lost a game (at UConn), and I was frustrated. We all could have done better. My free throws . … We talked about it in the locker room. Things need to change. This is not going to be a super successful Connecticut team if we don't change things."

Chong, a sophomore, scored 20 points, but she was one of the few bright spots in a game that should have never come down to the last shot. But it's November, the season is two games old, and there's plenty of time to fix things.

"I told the team during preseason that we're missing two things from last season (Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley) that have not been addressed yet," Auriemma said. "If we had those things, this would have never happened. We would have two more guys making shots taking pressure off Stewie.

"But it's probably a good thing it happened in November against a really good team. Now they know that this is the way it's going to be. Morgan Tuck, Stokes, Moriah Jefferson, K (Mosqueda-Lewis) and Kia Nurse need to make shots."

The Huskies host Creighton in the season opener this Sunday.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco: 'This Is a Tear Down and Rebuild']]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:46:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob-diaco-boise-state-sept.jpg

We're down the home stretch in Bob Diaco's first season and on paper, this team doesn't look much different than the ones that preceded it in recent years; UConn is currently 2-7, and neither the offense nor defense is where it needs to be.

With three games left, Diaco again reiterated the talking points we've heard for weeks: Changing the culture of losing isn't an overnight process.

“This is tear down and rebuild,” Diaco said Tuesday. "That is what we’ve been doing. It needs it. It is still in the beginning phases. Kind of like a baby lifting a coffee table. Did the baby get upset that it didn't lift the coffee table? Probably not. Just frustrated. Could see it on their face, but we understand where we are at as a team. They know. We are going to be ready and excited to play this game Saturday night.  We're going to bust our butts to prepare to win a game."

So how does transforming an underachieving program into a competitive one come about?

“It's experience. It’s maturity, it’s culture," Diaco said. "It’s a lifestyle. All areas of where we need to continue to come,” Diaco said. “There is enough instances and examples of not quite getting and understanding the lifestyle necessary to be a champion, collectively. There's examples of a lack of mature football intelligence in situations and game situations which takes coaching and time and experience. There’s instances of a lack of physical strength necessary to consistently do the jobs well. All the jobs. There's just development needs to take place in every area.”

Diaco also stressed that turning this around won't be easy, and it may not happen as quickly as some like.

“The fact of matter is it was a mess,” he said. “A giant mess. It is just a much smaller mess. Never shied away from what it it was. Whether physical development of team, that was what was shockingly so profound. How weak and fat the players were and bad their blood work and nutrients were. That was profound. ... Doesn’t mean that there was nothing here. Talented and enough players here to have a good team. We just aren’t a good team.”

And it's not clear when the Huskies will be good. But with Diaco in charge, it won't be for lack of trying.

<![CDATA[Boyle Looking Forward to Starting in '15]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:27:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tim+Boyle_722.jpg

Casey Cochran retired from football after suffering a concussion in Week 1. Chandler Whitmer is a senior and his college career will be over in three weeks. That leaves Tim Boyle, the sophomore who was forced into duty as a freshman and sees about a series a game in relief of Whitmer this year.

And when the Huskies take the field for the season opener in 2015 Boyle expects to be the starter. Partly because first-year coach Bob Diaco has called him UConn's future at quarterback, but also because, despite two pretty tough seasons, Boyle doesn't want to be anywhere else.

"Not even a thought in my mind about leaving," he said Tuesday, via the Hartford Courant. "One hundred percent, I'm staying."

Through six games, Boyle has completed 14 of 26 passes for 75 yards with two interceptions. He's expected to play against Saturday against Cincinnati and continue to gain experience that will hopefully serve him well when the job is his. Still, Boyle admits that playing just a series a game can be difficult.

"It's tough trying to keep a positive attitude, but the way I see it is I get to wake up and play football and go to school for free," Boyle said. "I don't see anything negative with that. I see playing one series in a game a blessing that I've got to get some game experience. Obviously I'd like to be playing more as a competitor but I'm completely and 100 percent OK with the decision he's making because it's what's best for the team right now -- and I can't be selfish in what I want to do. I have to understand what's best for the team," he told the Courant.

And that, in part, explains why Boyle is staying in Storrs.

"I've dedicated a lot of time and energy and passion to this program and I truly think Coach Diaco is the real deal and I think that we're actually, legitimately, going to go down a path of winning championships and I want to be a part of it," Boyle said. "I trust him 100 percent and I trust the players on this team. I think we're going to go places."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Auriemma Hopes to Use Loss as Learning Experience]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 11:38:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/AP562462179147_1200.jpg

UConn's 47-game winning streak is over after the top-ranked Huskies lost 88-86 to No. 6 Stanford in overtime Monday night. And while how a team plays in its second game of the season generally doesn't mean much, this stat is an eye-opener: Since Maya Moore left for the WNBA, the Huskies are 0-8 in overtime games decided by five or fewer points.

“That’s not good,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “It’s a double-edged sword. You have some teams that play so well that you’re not in that situation very often. I don’t know what our record was in those games before Maya graduated. I’m sure we won a couple."

But Auriemma has long stressed the importance of facing tough competition, especially early in the season when he's trying to mold his team for the rigors of February, March and April basketball.

“The players themselves are not in that situation enough times. That’s unfair to them. But what are you supposed to do? You can’t create them. I’m sure there were reasons for every loss that you would look back on … Sometimes it comes down to one play, one free throw. One play doesn’t cost you a game but one play can win the game. Some players just have the inherent ability to make those big plays in big moments. No matter how much you work on them, you need big-time players to make big-time plays at big-time moments.”

Junior forward Breanna Stewart dropped 23 points and pulled 10 rebounds against the Cardinal, but this is a new-look Huskies team without Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, who left for the WNBA after last season's national title.

“We need more contributions from more people because we’re Connecticut,” Auriemma said. “I don’t know how many more games Stanford will play at home that they’ll storm the court at the end of the game. This might be the only one. Some of our guys are just not in tune with that yet.”

Stanford has some experience with beating UConn, often when the Huskies are at the top of their game. Four years ago, the Cardinal snapped UConn's 90-game winning streak. Still, Stewart admitted to being shocked when the final buzzer sounded and Stanford had prevailed.

“We have a lot of new guys and they’ve never been in this situation before,” Stewart said. “Even with Saniya (Chong) and her class, they’ve never lost. I was frustrated because there are things you wish you could have done better. My free throws were awful, that kind of thing. After the coaches came in we talked about it and pointed out that things need to change. This is not going to be one of those Connecticut teams that you look back at as super-successful if we don’t change what we’re doing.”

The Huskies will get their first chance at redemption on Sunday when they host Creighton at Gampel Pavilion for a 1 p.m. tip-off.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[2014-15 Huskies Release Intro Video]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 11:29:34 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

Defending national champions UConn released its 2014-15 Intro Video on Monday and it begins with a silhouetted Ryan Boatright driving to the basket in a darkened gym. The rest of this season's roster is highlighted similarly, and that's interspersed with images of everyone from Emeka Okafor to Richard Hamilton to Kemba Walker to Shabazz Napier -- all players integral to the team's title runs.

If this doesn't get you pumped up for the season you should see a doctor immediately.

<![CDATA[Huskies Receive Letters of Intent From 2 Players]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 10:28:57 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2014.jpg

In the never-ending recruiting game, UConn landed two more big-time players on Monday. The school has received letters of intent from 6-2 guard Jalen Adams (Roxbury, Mass.) and forward Steve Enoch (Norwalk, Conn.).

“We’re very excited to have both these young men coming into our program,” Ollie said. “Not only are they quality basketball players, but quality people and outstanding student-athletes. I know they will be great additions to our UConn family.”

Adams, who attends Brewster Academy (N.H), is ranked 25th in ESPN's Top 100 recruits. He announced last week on Twitter that he had every intention of coming to Storrs. Enoch, who attends St. Thomas More School, is 98th.

Meanwhile, UConn senior point guard Ryan Boatright is among the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 players, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced Monday.

More details via the press release:

Many of last year’s NCAA Tournament stars were chosen to the Top 50, including Boatright, an All-Final Four team selection in 2014 when he helped lead his team to the NCAA title; three players from a Kentucky squad that fell to the Huskies in the title game, Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison; Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, the MVP of the 2014 West Regional; and Florida’s Michael Frazier II. Other returners of note include Tyler Haws of BYU, the nation’s No. 2 returning scorer (23.2 ppg), and Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet, the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year.

Seven freshmen were named to the team: Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, Jr. of Kansas; Stanley Johnson of Arizona, a high school Wooden Award honoree in 2014; Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor of Duke; Karl-Anthony Towns of Kansas; and Myles Turner of Texas.

The list will be pared down to 25 players in January and 15 players will be put on a ballot during the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament and a Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced during the week of the Elite Eight.

<![CDATA[Jerry Rice in China to Promote NFL]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 03:33:27 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/rice-horz.jpg

San Francisco 49ers legendary wide receiver and NFL Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice is in China trying to entice the world's most-populous country to tune into NFL football on every given Sunday, according to reports.

An NBC News crew captured Rice in the moment in Beijing, where NFL officials are "demystifying the game" by "putting footballs in [Chinese peoples'] hands."

On Sunday, Rice put on a clinic, which one young fan described as "the greatest football experience of my life."

There is also already a flag football league in Beijing, but NBC noted the country is "with little history of contact sports like American football."

Photo Credit: Mathew Luschek]]>
<![CDATA[Canseco May Sell His Shot Finger, Gun on eBay]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:57:12 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Jose-Canseco-1.jpg

Jose Canseco says he's parting with his finger forever — for a price.

The former major leaguer tweeted Monday that he'll sell his detached digit, along with the gun with which he accidentally shot it off. He tweeted last week that the operation to reattach the finger had failed, and it had fallen off during a poker game.

Canseco said he is also selling the chrome-plated .45-caliber handgun he was cleaning when he accidentally shot off the middle finger on his left hand.

In a series of tweets posted Friday afternoon, Canseco said his finger fell off during a poker game Thursday night, even after he had it surgically reattached. (Warning: The below tweets might seem disturbing to some.)

Canseco was apparently unaware that a bullet was in the chamber when he was cleaning the gun, Las Vegas Metro Lt. Mark Reddon told NBC News.

"It was a serious hand injury," but not a serious medical injury, Reddon said. "There was nothing suspicious. There was no alcohol involved, just a misstep with a handgun."

Canseco began his long major-league career in the 1980s with the Oakland Athletics before going on to play for the Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox and other teams.

He has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his MLB career. After retiring, he also competed in mixed martial arts and boxing.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stanford Next Up for No. 1 UConn]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 16:45:21 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/215*120/AP933660798639.jpg

UConn's second game of the season will be nothing like their opener. On Friday, Geno Auriemma's team cruised 102-43 win over UC Davis, UConn's 47th straight victory. On Monday, the top-ranked Huskies will face the sixth-ranked Stanford Cardinal. who have a 27-game home winning streak to protect.

The Huskies ended the Cardinal season last April on their way to their second straight national title. In fact, the last time Stanford has beaten UConn came in 2010. Despite recent history, Auriemma knows this will be a difficult game for his team.

"When you have someone as dominant as Chiney (Ogwuimike) was the last three years sometimes it becomes so overwhelming what she does it masks what some of the other players can do," he said Sunday, according to the Contra Costa Times. "Offensively there are a lot more spots on the floor they want to attack you from. It is more difficult to defend a team that can score from various places on the floor than where they are going 70 percent of the time."

Still, Auriemma is looking forward to facing Stanford's new up-tempo style.

"When you're at home and you've got the tradition and the number of All-Americans they have, I don't know there is another they could play," he said. "It seems like a school like Stanford with the players they can recruit year in and year that's exactly how you are going to play. You're not going to change that just because you are playing us."

One thing Auriemma has never shied away from is a tough schedule. He has a good reason for it too.

"In women's basketball we're always complaining that we don't get the respect some other sports get or we don't get the recognition the game deserves," he said. "But when you ask some of these big-time coaches why they aren't playing the kind of schedule that you should be playing they don't have a legitimate answer for that."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Tony Hawk Rides Hoverboard]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 08:28:20 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2014-11-17+at+3.26.35+PM.png

The hoverboard is reality, and Tony Hawk has taken a spin on it.

The pro skateboarder tested the $10,000 prototype Hendo Hoverboard after husband and wife Greg and Jill Henderson launched a Kickstarter to fund it. 

In the video, Hawk performs a few tricks on the board, which hovers an inch off the ground and uses magnets, though he also ends up falling several times.

Hawk had caught attention for another hoverboard video earlier this year — a fake video made by Funny or Die that featured the skateboarder, musician Moby and others riding boards high into the sky, in a prank for which Hawk eventually apologized.  

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright Needs to Work on Body Language]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:55:27 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP540027247210.jpg

Ryan Boatright wasted little time making a name for himself in the post-Shabazz Napier era. The senior point guard scored 24 points in the Huskies' regular-season opener against Bryant in a surprisingly tight game UConn eventually won, 66-53.

The Huskies' overall performance wasn't pretty, but that's why you schedule teams you should beat early in the season. It also gives Boatright an opportunity to show that he can be the leader this young team can look to when times get tough. With that in mind, coach Kevin Ollie would like to see Boatright tidy up one part of his game.

“We still want to work on his body language," the coach said, via the New Haven Register's David Borges. "But he’s being what a leader’s supposed to be. He’s seen what Shabazz did. He’s learned. He’s gonna have some up-and-down games, like everybody, but we need him to stay connected, being a leader.”

Boatright was asked what exactly Ollie was referring to.

“He knows that I put a lot of pressure on myself and I want to be excellent," the point guard said. "When I make bone-head mistakes, I just get down on myself, shake my head, stuff like that. Nothing extremely negative, but he just tells me I can’t get down on myself, I’ve just got to keep playing and know everything is gonna be OK.”

Boatright's next chance to work on being a complete player will come Thursday when the Huskies face the College of Charleston in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Ollie Looks to Samuel as Defensive Stopper]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:07:56 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn41.jpg

Ryan Boatright is the unquestioned leader of the 2014-15 Huskies, but it's an otherwise young group. And while they're short on experience, that doesn't mean they can't play.

Take sophomore guard Terrence Samuel, for example, coach Kevin Ollie's go-to guy when he's looking to clamp down on an opponent's best player. And that's exactly what UConn needed in its opener Friday, when it needed all 40 minutes to beat Bryant University, 66-53.

"Our defense took over the game in the second half," Ollie said via the Hartford Courant, "and it started with (Samuel) on (Bryant's Dyami) Starks, making him be uncomfortable."

Bryant was up six at the break and the Huskies didn't get their first lead of the second half until a Boatright layup made it 45-43.

"He just wanted me to pressure him," Samuel said of Ollie's instructions, "he wanted to play around, pull up or take a three-point shot. He wanted me to make him a driver, pressure him, draw him into Amida (Brimah) because Amida is going to block the shot."

The strategy worked, Bryant started missing shots, and UConn got their first win of the season.

"In the first two two exhibition games, I was a little too, too active on defense," Samuel said, "a little jumpy. Tonight I stayed composed and kept guys in front of me."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants-49ers Game]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 16:46:34 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/459081054.jpg

Well, you can put a bow on the Giants’ 2014 season, because Big Blue’s 16-10 loss to San Francisco all but guaranteed that the team will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.

You have to hand it to the Giants; when they stink, they don’t hold anything back. They’re like the Jets in that regard, except the Giants like to occasionally sprinkle in a Super Bowl win or two, unlike their stadium-sharers.

As usual, there were many candidates for Hero, Nero, Zero, but a blue ribbon panel of experts all agreed on the following honors.

Hero: Eli Manning.

When your quarterback throws for less than 200 yards, your starting running back runs for less than 100 yards, and your team gets caught with its pants down on a surprise onside kick  -- and yet you still win 16-10 on the road -- then you know someone had to step up big for your team.

For the 49ers, that player was Eli Manning, who threw five interceptions, or one fewer than he’d thrown to that point all season.

Sure, you could say that the 49ers’ defense was the game’s real hero, but you’d be wrong. The Giants’ offense moved the ball rather successfully through the air, with Manning tossing for 280 yards by spreading the ball around to Rueben Randle (seven catches, 112 yards), Odell Beckham Jr. (six catches for 93 yards) and 49ers linebacker Chris Borland (two interceptions).

From start to finish, Manning was the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Nero: Unknown media member.

I don’t envy beat reporters who have to attend press conferences and ask questions. Players and coaches rarely, if ever, say anything enlightening, and they are always on the lookout to make a media member look stupid.

The easiest way for them to make a media member look stupid is if a media member just happens to be stupid, as was the case with the chap during Sunday's postgame interview with Colin Kaepernick, who asked the 49ers quarterback (1:58 mark of this video) if he feels any empathy when he sees an opposing quarterback throw as many picks as Eli Manning did.

Kaepernick, as you’d expect, said, “Oh, yes, I sent him a bouquet of flowers and a note that read ‘Chin up, Eli.’ ”

Either that or Kaepernick answered the question with a humorless “no” and just glared at the reporter as if he were observing the dumbest mammal in the wild.

Zero: Red zone success for the 49ers.

Thanks to the heroics of Manning, the Giants’ effort on defense will be somewhat overlooked in Sunday's loss. But Big Blue’s defense was largely stout, especially deep in their own territory, holding San Francisco to 0 for 4 in the red zone.

Unfortunately the defense got gashed by a 48-yard touchdown reception by Michael Crabtree, who caught the ball on a slant and turned the Giants’ secondary into orange road cones. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jonas Gray Adds Running Game to Pats' Offense]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 10:28:10 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jonas-gray-4tds.jpg

Jonas Gray didn't come out of nowhere but it wasn't far from there. He spent six weeks on the Patriots practice squad before injuries led the team to sign him to the 53-man roster. Before that, he was an undrafted free agent signed by the Dolphins who played at Notre Dame.

Gray entered Sunday night's game against the Colts with 32 career carries. Four quarters later, he had 38 carries for 199 yards and four touchdowns and the Pats cruised to a 42-20 victory. The last time a player scored four touchdowns in a game after having never previously scored at all? 1921. So, yes, this was a remarkable evening.

I'll probably go home tonight, when we get back around 4 a.m., and just lay in bed, look up at the ceiling and just be astonished at what's going on," Gray said, via ESPN.com. "Just writing a great story."

Part of that story includes Patriots owner Robert Kraft telling Gray that the young running back would play well against the Colts on Sunday Night Football.

"I remember walking into the building and Mr. Kraft pulled me aside and said, ‘You're going to have a big game this week, so be ready,'" Gray said. "Just hearing that from the owner, just hearing that from the head coach, hearing that from the leaders of the team definitely gives you a positive outlook and definitely gives you the mindset to go out and do your best."

Coach Bill Belichick admitted that Gray, who spent last season on the Ravens' practice squad serving, in his words, as a tackling dummy for Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs, almost made the team out of training camp

"We talked about that long and hard," the coach said. "We really talked about bringing him up on the roster several weeks before we did. I had several conversations with him in previous weeks, telling him, ‘You're close. We want to try to get you on the roster but right now we've had a couple other issues we've had to deal with.' I think we all felt as a coaching staff that he would be playing for us at some point this year at that final cut. Obviously we didn't want to expose him, but we did what we thought was best."

Now Gray is an integral part of the league's most explosive offense.

<![CDATA[Patriots Put Colts in the Gray Area]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 07:35:32 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Jonas+Gray+111614.jpg

The Indianapolis Colts could have matched the New England Patriots for the best record in the AFC Sunday, but that was not the outcome running back Jonas Gray had in mind.

The former undrafted free agent, signed off the practice squad after Stevan Ridley suffered a season-ending injury, rushed for an astounding four touchdowns and 199 yards in the Patriots' 42-20 victory.

Before Sunday, Gray had run for 131 yards in his career, appearing in just three games for the Patriots and not making it to the field in his time with the Miami Dolphins in 2012 or the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.

The game was touted as a battle of titans at quarterback, with rising star Andrew Luck facing off against veteran Tom Brady, long a rival of the Colts throughout Peyton Manning's tenure under center.

But for the Patriots, in actuality, the game was played as much on the ground as it was in the air. The Pats rushed for 244 yards. Brady threw for 257.

Luck, meanwhile, threw for 303 yards. Coby Fleener made seven catches for 144 yards, with Reggie Wayne adding 91.

The Pats' defense held the Colts to 19 rushing yards.

Colts not named Luck combined for four yards. Former third-overall draft pick Trent Richardson carried the ball seven times and broke even.

Rob Gronkowski, who led Patriots' receivers with 71 yards, added a touchdown, as did Tim Wright, who made his only catch in the end zone from two yards out.

Brandon LaFell, Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman also made their presence felt, receiving at least 50 yards apiece.

Brady wasn't flawless in the win, completing 19 passes on 30 attempt and throwing two picks. But he spread the ball around, targeting nine receivers in a game that Gray helped diversify.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Best of NFL: Week 11]]> Sun, 16 Nov 2014 23:04:25 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/458986756.jpg Don't miss the most dramatic images from the eleventh week of the 2014 NFL season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Reggie Wayne Talks Special Bond With T. Y. Hilton]]> Sun, 16 Nov 2014 15:30:53 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2014-11-16+at+2.09.54+PM.jpg Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, now in his 14th season, has mentored third year wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who's an emerging star in the league. The players discuss their special bond ahead of the Colts- New England Patriots showdown Sunday night. ]]> <![CDATA[Canseco Says Shot Finger Fell Off]]> Sat, 15 Nov 2014 00:47:54 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jose-canseco-getty.jpg

Jose Canseco’s struggle with his shot finger continues.

The former baseball star accidentally shot himself in the finger while cleaning what authorities say was a large-caliber handgun last month, but in a recent series of tweets, Canseco says the procedure to save his finger apparently didn’t work.

In the tweets, he details how his finger fell off Thursday night during a poker game.

(Warning: The below tweets might seem disturbing to some)

Canseco shot a finger on his left hand, apparently unaware that a bullet was in the chamber, Las Vegas Metro Lt. Mark Reddon said.

"It was a serious hand injury," but not a serious medical injury, Reddon told NBC News. "There was nothing suspicious. There was no alcohol involved, just a misstep with a handgun."

Canseco began his long major league career in the 1980s playing for the Oakland Athletics, before going on to play for the Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox and other teams.

He has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his MLB career and after retiring also competed in mixed martial arts and boxing.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFLer's Parents Slam Cops on Arrest]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 20:25:00 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/familyMcDonald.jpg

The parents of 49ers football player Ray McDonald spoke publicly for the first time since prosecutors decided not to charge the defensive end with felony domestic violence, criticizing the police for the information they released, saying it caused their 30-year-old son to get "slaughtered by the lynch mob."

Speaking to NBC Bay Area by phone on Friday, LaBrina McDonald said she and her husband, Ray McDonald Sr., were tired of keeping quiet. McDonald Sr. said the police released information in "bits and pieces" to make everyone think that his son "attacked" his pregnant girlfriend when "that was totally wrong." He chastised the police, saying they didn't have the "full facts."

"We are a very close family and we come from a close knit community," added LaBrina McDonald. "And we know our son. To hear and read all those things that folks are saying and prejudging — it's heart-breaking. We had to grit our teeth and bite our tongues until this was all done and over."

The San Jose police responded to media requests for a response to the criticism Friday by issuing a three-paragraph statement citing the mandatory disclosure of the California Public Records Act, which include police reports.

"Based on the overwhelming request by various media outlets for police records regarding the Ray McDonald case, the San Jose Police Department complied with state law," police said.

The statement also added that police are "very cautious and sensitive about the information we provide to the media and the public because we do not want to interfere with an active and ongoing investigation. Many times we are precluded from sharing very intimate details about an investigation because we must allow the investigators to conduct their followup investigations."

The McDonalds decided to speak out after the Santa Clara County district attorney's office announced Monday that it wouldn't prosecute the 49er, who was arrested Aug. 31 after a birthday party he threw himself at his San Jose home.

The police news release at the time cited "visible injuries" to a woman officers accused McDonald of harming, but an internal DA memo released this week showed there was "insufficient evidence" and conflicting testimony to charge him with any crime.

There was indeed a fight, the prosecutors noted, where McDonald told his then 10-weeks-pregnant girlfriend she was an "unfit mother." But when the punch flew, both McDonald and the woman said she threw it, according to the document.

McDonald "grabbed her neck" to remove her from the house, which "resulted in a visible injury," the memo says. The action was used to restrain her, according to the documents. She told police that she was "fighting back." The prosecutor's memo describes the injuries as "seemingly minor" and characterizes the fight as a scuffle, "rather than an attack."

"He only restrained her," Ray McDonald Sr. said. "That was it."

Neither parent would not comment on their son's relationship with the woman at the center of the fight. They would not identify her, and would not answer whether she and their son still intended to get married. "You'll have to ask Ray," LaBrina McDonald said.

Ray McDonald told CSNBayArea that he was "doing stuff to try to better our relationship... because we do care about each other, love each other."

It was the "visible injuries" line that irks the McDonald parents, who own an insurance company in Florida and have one other child, a 32-year-old daughter.

"This basically led the public to believe that he hit or attacked her," the family said in a statement first issued to the Mercury News. "The fact that no additional information was given in this press release, in our opinion was very irresponsible and leads us to question the integrity of the ranking individuals that approved this press release."

READ: Ray McDonald Parents Statement on San Jose Police

NBC Bay Area was the second news outlet to obtain that statement and also an exclusive video interview with both parents from the airport on Friday as the couple was heading to Jamaica to celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary.

LaBrina McDonald said that it was hard as a mother to watch her son's name be tarnished — a son she described as laidback, a "big teddy bear," a "Mama's boy," and a talented piano player. 

Since she's a "big talker," LaBrina McDonald said it was especially hard for her not to tell her friends what happened from her son's point of view that night. Ray McDonald Sr. said it was his son who counseled them "to be patient," saying that soon, "the truth will come out."

For the McDonald parents, they are only too happy that there were no charges filed against their son.

"He's a loving person," LaBrina McDonald said. "Just because he makes a lot of money and is a defensive lineman doesn't mean he's a bad person." 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of LaBrina McDonald
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<![CDATA[6 Games Left: Plenty of Time for More Aggravation]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 13:30:50 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/458289534.jpg

After playing their best game of the season in the 20-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Jets are off this week, meaning that local fans will actually get the chance to watch some good football this Sunday -- at least after the Giants play their 1 p.m. game.

At 2-8, Gang Green is essentially playing the last six games of the season for pride (the paycheck probably doesn’t hurt either). The question is, how many more games can they win, or, in other words, how bad can they screw up their draft position?

Let’s have a look at the rest of the schedule:

Week 12 – at Buffalo: Judging by their first matchup, not to mention Thursday night’s 9-point effort vs. the Dolphins, we know the Bills are offensively challenged but tough on defense. At 5-5, they’re a longshot for the postseason, but still in the hunt. If the Jets don’t turn the ball over a half-dozen times again --  know, you gotta dream big -- they’ve got a good shot, but this is a game the home team should win.

Week 13 – vs. Miami at home: QB Ryan Tannehill has stepped it up in recent weeks, as has the Dolphins' D, yielding just 56 points over the past five games. At 6-4, Miami has a solid shot at playing in January. But opportunity to play spoiler at home may be just what Gang Green needs for a third win.

Week 14 – at Minnesota: Vikings are 4-5, but I don’t know how. Oh wait, I do -- they’ve beaten really lousy teams (and needed OT to turn back the woeful Bucs). Yes, the Jets qualify as one of those, but even their DBs can handle rookie signal caller Teddy Bridgewater to get the W.

Week 15 – at Tennessee: Speaking of lousy teams and overwhelmed first-year QBs. Visitors win.

Week 16 – vs. Pats at home: L.

Week 17 – at Miami: Can’t see Gang Green sweeping a decent Dolphins team. If Miami fades as I expect them to, they’ll also be playing for pride come the last Sunday of the regular season. But that should be enough to split season series with Jets.

If the Jets manage to go .500 the rest of the way, their 5-11 record would both look, well, like 5-11 looks, and likely take them out of the running for a Top 5 draft pick. It almost surely won’t be enough to save Rex Ryan’s job, or John Idzik’s for that matter. But it should be plenty to subject the team’s fans to even more aggravation.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots' N-Word Thank You Tweet ]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 15:00:49 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/New+England+Patriots+Twitter+N+Word.jpg

The New England Patriots is apologizing after its Twitter account publicly thanked a user whose handle contained a racial slur. 

As the team was thanking its one million Twitter followers with automated digital custom jerseys, a Twitter account containing the N-word also received a jersey.

The Patriots have since deleted the tweet, and the account with the N-word has since been deleted.

The team also apologized to fans shortly after as the tweet went viral.



NECN reached out to the New England Patriots for comment and have not yet heard back. 

Photo Credit: twitter.com/patriots]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright: Purvis Lucky to Only Miss 1 Game]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 11:44:59 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rodney+purvis_uconn.jpg

Rodney Purvis will miss the Huskies' season opener Friday against Bryant University because he played in more than one summer league, an NCAA violation.

The good news is that he'll be available for the rest of the season, which is welcome news to a young UConn team eager to get Purvis in the backcourt rotation with Ryan Boatright, Terrence Samuel, Omar Calhoun and Sam Cassell Jr. And Boatright, more than anyone else on the roster, is quite familiar with what it means to have to sit out for NCAA violations.

The senior point guard missed nine games as a freshman because of eligibility issues.

“I tell him, ‘You’re lucky it’s only one game. I sat out, like, 13.’ So, he’ll be alright," Boatright said, via the New Haven Register's David Borges.

It was nine games, not 13, but we take Boatright's point.

Coach Kevin Ollie added: "He's just got to wait 40 more minutes, and he’ll be alright."

Ollie was asked about the NCAA rule that prohibits playing in multiple summer leagues.

“I have no idea," he said. "Your guess is better than mine. I guess to keep guys out from playing three or four of them, but I have no idea.”

Meanwhile, the Huskies still have a game to play, Boatright's first without backcourt mate Shabazz Napier.

“I’m probably gonna have a few more shot attempts than I normally do," he said. “We’ve been waiting on this day for a long time, to be able to beat up on somebody else rather than on each other. I’m excited, and I think the team is excited.

"Winning a national championship, you’re gonna get everybody’s best shot," Boatright continued. "But just going to UConn, you’re gonna get everybody’s best shot. I think whatever school you go to, when you see UConn on the schedule, you’re like, ‘That’s UConn.’ You’re gonna get everybody’s best shot.”

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut/UConn]]>
<![CDATA[Auriemma: Freshmen Will Take Time]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 11:38:48 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

Geno Auriemma and the Huskies will begin their back-to-back national title defense Sunday at 10 p.m. ET when they face UC Davis. Three days later, they'll face Stanford before returning to Storrs for the home opener on Nov. 23.

And while Auriemma, now in his 30th season, knows the routine, everything is completely new for the four freshmen: Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams.

"Other than Kia Nurse, they are very quiet, very introverted on the court," Auriemma said, via the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. "They all have their moments when they are pretty good, but they also are getting adjusted to the realities of what it's like to practice against who they have to practice against. It's already hard to go to college and play. Then you throw in having to practice against our [veteran] players … it's been a real eye-opener for them, for sure."

One of the benefits to playing for Auriemma is that freshmen aren't rushed onto the court. There's too much depth and too much to learn. But watching and learning usually pays dividends down the road; even Breanna Stewart, college basketball's best player, had to find her way as a freshman.

"I try to remind them that Breanna Stewart was a lot better than any one of them coming out of high school and even she had a nightmare in January and February of her freshman year," Auriemma said. "No one is immune. But the cool thing is that they are no less competitive."

And sometimes, the biggest adjustments can be off the court.

"It's all what I expected," Ekmark, who is from Arizona, said. "Being a freshman, living in a city that's 2,000 miles from home can be a little scary. But I am adjusting well, focusing on helping the team win. And the basketball is exactly what you would expect when you move up a level from high school. It's more intense, physical and faster. It's what I expected, it's what it is."

<![CDATA[Let's Hate the Niners Together]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 12:49:36 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/178*120/kaepnjhrz.jpg

It’s a rare team that can engender a great deal of antipathy from opposing fans without the luxury of winning a single Super Bowl, but the Jim Harbaugh-era 49ers are that unicorn franchise: three straight NFC Championship Game appearances, one Super Bowl trip (a loss in the Har-bowl) and a legion of haters who love to see Jim Harbaugh lose his mind when things go against San Francisco.

Count me among the legion.

I’m indifferent to the fortunes of most NFL teams, but I enjoy watching the Niners lose. I have nothing against their fans -- like all fan bases, most of them probably pay their taxes and stay out of jail -- but the team itself is simply easy to root against.

Them losing means two things: I probably won’t have to see many instances of Colin Kaepernick kissing his biceps following a touchdown, which was totally badass when I was 12 and into professional wrestling; and I will probably have the opportunity to see many instances of Jim Harbaugh getting his khakis in a bunch.

That’s it, that’s all I’m going on.

Are there players and coaches on the 49ers who kiss babies and rescue baby seals? Probably. Have I read about them? No. Do I want to read about them? What, and interrupt my straight-forward narrative of why I root against the 49ers? No, thanks, I have enough nuance in my life.

The Niners are more inconsistent and unpredictable this season than the Giants. San Fran beat St. Louis on the road, 31-17, and then two games later lost at home to the Rams, 13-10, when Kaepernick fumbled at the goal line on a quarterback sneak that would have won the game for San Francisco. Harbaugh went ballistic, Kaepernick’s biceps went unkissed: It was a perfect ending. Ya know, as long as you weren’t a Niners fan.

Whether or not the Giants can win this week boils down to one question: Can they score more points than San Francisco?

To do that, the Giants will need to keep San Fran from approaching Seattle’s rushing total in last week’s 38-17 drubbing (350 yards). To put that into perspective, the Giants allowed the Seahawks to go down-back-down-back-down-back and half way back again. Hopefully the Seattle running backs were given the week off to rest their legs.

Rashad Jennings’ legs should be well rested after missing the last four games with a sprained knee. For the Giants to have any chance in this game, Jennings will have to have a solid outing. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 yards rushing, 100 yards receiving, and maybe a blocked punt or two.

In the absence of such numbers, the Giants would benefit from another good game from budding superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who last week played so well that Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman exchanged jerseys with Beckham after the game, perhaps confusing Odell with his brother David, who played futbol, not football.

Let’s face it, the Giants’ season is on the line this week. Keep Harbaugh angry and keep Kaepernick’s lips away from his biceps. The rest will take care of itself. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>