<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:20:04 -0500 Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:20:04 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[How to Spot Counterfeit NFL Merchandise]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:40:42 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/counterfeit+NFL+merchandise.jpg

Selling counterfeit merchandise is a serious crime, and the Super Bowl is a prime location for these criminals.

In a townhouse development in Glendale, Arizona, a team of federal agents had a sting for illegal merchandise.

"The merchandise has an invoice attached with all of it. And it's very clearly marked. It's coming from China," said ICE New England spokesperson Dan Modricker.

Counterfeit NFL jerseys, along with NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball apparel, were all seized in an early morning search warrant.

How big of a business is this? Federal agents at the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, or IPR Center, are tasked with cracking down on the $200 billion annual counterfeit network.

Modricker is in town this week for Super Bowl XLIX.

"Our main point of being out here is to educate the consumer. And to make them realize that this isn't a victimless crime," Modricker said.

This haul here, worth about $100,000, is just from greater Phoenix and from the past few days.

So how does a consumer to spot a fake jersey while in Glendale?

"Their main goal is to make money. So they're going to crank these things out as quickly as possible. And so, you'll see that they don't even bother to lift the needle when they go from one letter to the next. So you'll see the cross-stitching from one letter to the next to the next. It's all one seam," Modricker said.

It's not just stitching; there is also shoddy coloring and rip-off holograms. Authorities also warn that some of the material used for this knock-off merchandise can be potentially harmful to your body. Modricker pointed to a pair of fake NFL team earrings.

"When you look at it, you have no idea who made this, what materials they used. I know lead is a lot cheaper than silver. So you don't know what you're putting into your body," he said.

Plus, Modricker says, it's crushing the economy, since up to 1.4 million Massachusetts jobs rely on intellectual property.

One man is in custody facing felony charges in Wednesday's sting. 



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Australian Open: Sharapova Cruises Into Finals]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 07:37:58 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP80796916905.jpg

Maria Sharapova has reached the Australian Open final for the fourth time, beating fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 in a lopsided semifinal on Thursday.

The second-ranked Sharapova needed 10 minutes to hold in her opening service game, fending off two break points. She responded to the only service break against her in the first set by winning six straight games to take the match away from the 10th-seeded Makarova, who had only taken one set off her in five previous matches.

She will next meet the winner of the all-American semifinal between top-ranked Serena Williams and 19-year-old Madison Keys.

Sharapova won the Australia Open title in 2008 and lost finals in 2007 and 2012. She opened the season by winning the Brisbane International title.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Players Quizzed Ahead of Super Bowl]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 23:23:21 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/gronk+quiz.jpg ]]> <![CDATA[NYC Man Among Finalists in $1M Super Bowl Doritos Ad Contest]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:53:17 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/dorito+add.jpg

You might see a Doritos commercial during the Super Bowl on Sunday featuring a couple of 20-somethings dancing on a rooftop in Astoria, Queens.

The ad starts in the apartment of Alex Pepper, a 25-year-old dancer and actor. This was his production, so he had an inside track on the starring role. He plays a guy who -- with his friend’s encouragement (and bag of Doritos) -- works up the courage to introduce himself to the neighbor he’s had a crush on.

Watch for yourself, here. It doesn’t end well for the budding lovebirds.

But the real-life ending could be a dream come true for Pepper.

His spot was selected as one of 10 finalists in PepsiCo’s annual Dorito’s Crash the Super Bowl contest, which has already earned him $25,000 and a trip to watch the game at University of Phoenix Stadium this Sunday.

He found out in a surreal phone call from "The Hunger Games" actress Elizabeth Banks.

Alex says the $25,000 is more than he made last year as an actor and dancer. And the whole experience is more than he could’ve imagined when he was sitting on the couch watching Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium last February.

“I saw this contest was happening at last year’s Super Bowl and thought, ‘Oh, that’s really cool. Would love to do that sometime,'” says Pepper.

Two weeks before the entry deadline, he decided that "sometime" should be now. So he called a few friends, asked his girlfriend to shoot with his Nikon D800 camera, and set a budget for the project: $80.

“Low budget,” he laughs. “And a lot of that went to duct tape.”

Duct tape?

Watch the end of the spot -- these amateur video producers managed to pull off a pretty slick industry editing trick. They needed duct tape to make a dummy that would stand-in for actress Morgana Phlaum, the star’s would-be crush.

She agreed to the shoot without hesitation, even after Pepper explained the ending.

“Can I throw you off a roof? And she was like, ‘Okay, yeah, sounds good!’”

Pepper’s resume includes theater and an appearance on NBC’s "Saturday Night Live." And the script was inspired by Pepper’s real-life professional nightmare: accidentally dropping a dancer during a move.

"There’s a lot you can’t control -- the floor lights get in your eyes or something like that -- and we took that idea and turned it into a commercial," Pepper said.

And if it airs as the grand prize winner on Super Bowl Sunday, Pepper will earn $1 million, along with a one-year "dream job" at Universal Pictures.

Worst case scenario? He’s headed to Phoenix with his girlfriend to watch the Super Bowl in person.

"The worst case scenario here is already pretty amazing,” he said.

Voting closes at midnight. You can vote for a finalist here.



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Out for Rest of Season]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:14:20 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-shoulder-injury.jpg

Kobe Bryant underwent successful surgery on a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the Los Angeles Lakers announced on Wednesday, and the 19-year veteran expects to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season.

Wednesday's news came with little shock, but it still carried with it great meaning. Bryant had now suffered season ending injuries in three successive seasons. At the end of the 2012-13 season, Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon. In the 2013-14 season, Bryant lasted only six games before suffering a fracture in his knee. For 2014-15, Bryant completed 35 games and waited until the halfway mark in the season before his shoulder gave out.

The expectation that Bryant would go under the knife and end his season leaked out of the Los Angeles Lakers' offices on Friday, Jan. 23. Later that day, the team sent a news release that confirmed Bryant's torn rotator cuff and specifically made mention of surgery as an option.

The news release also stated that Dr. Neal ElAttrache would examine Bryant on Monday. After Monday's meeting, Bryant decided that surgery would be required. ElAttrache previously performed Bryant's Achilles surgery and also operated on LA Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke's broken collarbone. The world famous surgeon performed both those operations within 24 hours of one another. No surprise, ElAttrache performed Bryant's latest shoulder operation, along with Dr. Steve Lombardo.

Over the weekend, Bryant released a dramatic video that all but confirmed his season had ended and surgery was on the horizon. In a video clip for an upcoming documentary film which placed cameras in the room, Bryant underwent his initial examination with Lombardo. In the clip, Lombardo clearly announced that Bryant's muscle had detached from the bone. Although not explicitly stating that the Lakers' superstar required surgery, the video appeared to show Bryant coming to terms with the severity of his injury.

To ease Bryant's mind on missing the remainder of the season, the Lakers lost their ninth game in a row to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. The defeat was the Lakers' 12th in the last 13 games, and LA's 34th defeat in 46 contests the season. Currently holding firm as the fourth worst team in the NBA, even a miracle would not save this team.

If the Lakers miraculously win every remaining game on their docket, they would finish with 48 wins. A season ago, the 2013-14 Dallas Mavericks finished with 49 wins and entered the playoffs with the eighth and final spot. Effectively, these Lakers have already been eliminated from the postseason.

For Bryant, the decision to get surgery should not have been difficult when considering the current standings and the nature of the injury. Ending the season rehabbing an injury should be an unwelcome familiar feeling, but Bryant's contract calls for only one more season. For Bryant's sake and for the sake of the fans, hopefully he can finish his Hall-of-Fame career on a healthy note.

At the moment, Bryant's involvement in training camp in Hawaii, which would be Bryant's last, remains unclear. According to the Lakers, Bryant will be out for approximately nine months and is expected to make a full recovery.

“I expect Kobe to make a full recovery and if all goes as expected, he should be ready for the start of the season,” ElAttrache said in the Lakers' official press release.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Debuts 1st Anti-Domestic Violence Super Bowl PSA]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:52:14 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/footballs.jpg

The NFL will air its first public service announcement against domestic violence as part of its No More campaign during the Super Bowl on NBC on Sunday.

A 30-second ad will air for $4.5 million, but the NFL has already released a chilling 60-second version. The ad is based on a real 911 call a domestic violence victim made in October.

The unsettling video starts out showing a disheveled home, with an unmade bed, books thrown on the floor, a sink piled up with unwashed dishes and a fist-sized punch in the wall. A woman is speaking in a rushed tone with the 911 dispatcher, pretending that she is ordering a pizza.

The dispatcher soon realizes the woman is unable to speak openly in her house because her abuser will hear. The final scene shows a framed picture of a woman torn from the wall and left by the trashcan.

The screen fades to black, and a message appears in white: “When it’s hard to talk, It’s up to us to listen.”

“The goal of the PSA is to activate and engage the vast audience of men and women across America in saying NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault,” No More director Virginia Witt told Today.com.

The NFL has faced a number of high-profile domestic abuse allegations involving its players, most notably Ray Rice.

That case inspired many women to speak out on social media using the hashtag #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft and restarted debates about the NFL's history of players accused of domestic abuse.

“Public awareness is the first, essential step toward changing the culture into one where domestic violence and sexual assault no longer happen,” said Witt.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[FAA: Super Bowl Is Strictly a “No Drone Zone”]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 17:34:05 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/drone+123114.jpg

If you are going to the Super Bowl, make sure you leave your drone at home.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Wednesday that the unmanned aircrafts are barred from flying over or near the game.

"Many familiar sounds are associated with the Super Bowl," the FAA wrote. "Cheering fans. Referee whistles. The spectacular halftime show. Booming fireworks. But one sound you shouldn’t hear is the whirring of an unmanned aircraft overhead. The Super Bowl is strictly a 'No Drone Zone'."

The restriction also applies to airplanes, hang gliders, hot air balloons, model rockets and most other flying machines. Violators of the ban could end up in jail for "careless and reckless" operation of an aircraft.

The warning came just two days after a federal government employee said he accidentally crashed a drone on the grounds of the White House. The man, who was off duty at the time, called the Secret Service after the crash and is cooperating with authorities in a probe of the incident.

The New England Patriots are set to take on the Seattle Seahawks live from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on Sunday, Feb. 1, airing on NBC.


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<![CDATA[New Britain Company Makes "Deflategate" Soda]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 17:10:25 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Deflated+ball+brew+dm+1200.jpg

Deflated footballs might be a controversy the New England Patriots are facing as they head to the Super Bowl, but the so-named "Deflategate" is a scandal with flavor that Connecticut soda company is drinking in with its trademark humor.

"It's more fun to play with squishy balls" is the tag line on New Britain-based Avery's soda's new limited edition soda, Deflated Ball Brew.

The soda, produced just in time for Super Bowl Sunday, is a citrus fusion of grapefruit, orange and lime.

A customer asked about creating the soda last week and the company thought is was a great idea, so they came up with a soda that would be taste on its own, but also work as a mixer with alcoholic beverages.

Like the air reportedly missing from 11 of 12 Patriots-provided footballs in the AFC Championships against the Indianapolis Colts that drew scrutiny, Avery's Deflated Ball Brew has "a little less carbonation than normal," the company said on Facebook, and one out of every 12 sodas is made to be flat.

However, as the Pats head to Arizona to play the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the soda company says "this soda is guaranteed to pump up any party."

Avery's is selling the Deflated Ball Brew at its New Britain bottling plant and at Stew Leonard's in Newington.

The company has even put together recipes for adult beverages that you can serve at your Super Bowl party, including Pigskin Punch, Gridiron Grog, Touchdown Tonic, Midfield Margarita and Squishy Ball Sangria.

In case anyone wonders where the company's loyalties lie, they said they will be rooting for the Patriots on Sunday.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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<![CDATA[PHOTOS: Memorable Halftime Shows]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:05:47 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/superbowl-halftime-01-160625501.jpg These performances rocked at the Super Bowl halftime shows. See more photos.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The 14 Most Heartbreaking Super Bowl Moments]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:11:53 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/edt-upsets.jpg The 49-year history of the Super Bowl has seen its fair share of shocking upsets, horrendous blunders and lopsided routs.

Photo Credit: NFL]]>
<![CDATA[Tiger Woods Explains Tooth Incident]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:22:08 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tiger+woods6.JPG

Tiger Woods finally explained how he lost his tooth while watching his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn capture her record 63rd World Cup title in Italy a week ago.

The golf champ’s publicist previously told The Associated Press that after the Jan. 19 competition, “a media member with a shoulder-mounted video camera pushed and surged toward the stage, turned and hit Tiger Woods in the mouth.”

“I had my mask on, so no one knew who I was, trying to blend in because there is not a lot of brown dudes at ski races, OK?,” Woods told reporters after playing at the Phoenix Open. “That was the whole idea of why I wore the mask." 

“I was looking down, and all the camera guys are below me on their knees or moving all around, trying to get a picture because she's hugging people, saying congratulations to the other racers as they are coming down,” Woods explained.

“Dude with a video camera on his shoulder, right in front of me, kneeling, stood up and turned and caught me square on the mouth,” Woods said. “He chipped that [tooth], cracked the other one. And so then, you know, I'm trying to keep this [mask on] so the blood is not all over the place. Luckily, he hit the one I had a root canal on.”

Woods said he was in a lot of pain after the incident.

“The flight home was a joke," Woods said. "I couldn't eat, couldn't drink until he fixed them, put the temporaries on. I couldn't have anything touch it. Even breathing hurt, because any kind of air over the nerve, the tooth that was still alive, was cracked.”

When asked if the cameraman felt bad about the incident, Woods said, “He didn’t care.”

Vonn won a super-G competition, breaking a 35-year-old record of 62 World Cup wins with a flawless run down the Olympia delle Tofane course.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Wholesome, Less Racy Super Bowl Ads Expected]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:36:32 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/super-bowl-commercials-AP322500772403.jpg Advertisers are spending record amounts of money on this year's Super Bowl commercials, hoping to score big with sports fans and consumers. After a string of domestic scandals in the NFL, analysts say expect to see more hopeful, positive ads.]]> <![CDATA[Super Bowl Preview: Seahawks v. Patriots]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 09:55:35 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/brady-wilson-2.jpg Just ahead of Super Bowl XLIV, here are five things you may not know about the history behind the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

Photo Credit: Getty images]]>
<![CDATA[Seahawks' Big Task: Stop Gronkowski]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 15:08:18 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP326652112586.jpg

This week’s Sports Illustrated cover features the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary. Cornerback Richard Sherman stands front and center with a big smile, flanked by big-hitting strong safety Kam Chancellor, nickel corner Jeremy Lane, free safety Earl Thomas and corner Byron Maxwell.

All look relaxed and confident. And why not?

In 2014, the Seahawks had the No. 1 defense in the NFL overall and were the top-ranked group against the pass. As they head into Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX matchup against the New England Patriots in Glendale, Ariz., they know they’ll present Tom Brady and the Patriots with the best defensive unit they’ve seen all year.

But one Patriot has the Seahawks very concerned: tight end Rob Gronkowski.

At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski is not only bigger than most tight ends, but also is more athletic, runs better routes and has better hands than most. And, his chemistry with Brady is strong. Gronkowski is Brady’s go-to receiver, especially in crucial situations. Other teams have trouble blanketing him.

In two playoff victories, Gronkowski has 10 receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns. This, after he had 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 TDs in 15 regular-season games.

If the Seahawks want to win a second straight Super Bowl, they’ll have to contain Gronkowski and limit the damage he can do. But that’s difficult. He’s bigger than most corners and able to outmaneuver most safeties.

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote this week that Gronkowski may be “the single most dominant and unstoppable offensive weapon in the game.” He said the Seahawks’ defense of him will be one of the key matchups.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week that Gronkowski has “all of the elements that you’re looking for from a big-game tight end.” He added that he’s been spending plenty of time watching film of Gronkowski, searching for the best way to neutralize him.

The Seahawks may employ a variety of coverages on "Gronk," with several players assigned to him, depending on situations. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is faster than most, and may help, but he’s six inches shorter than Gronkowski. Carroll said outside linebackers K.J. Wright (6-foot-4) and Bruce Irvin (6-foot-3) also are “pretty tall and long” and could be in the mix.

But the No. 1 Seahawk assigned to limit Gronkowski Sunday will likely be super-athletic safety Kam Chancellor, whom Carroll calls “about as big a strong safety as you can find.”

Wright told reporters in Arizona that he’s confident Chancellor – selected All-Pro this season along with his safety mate Thomas – can do the job.

“Our best against their best,” Wright said. “Of course I’ve got my money on Kam. He’s an All-Pro, he’s the captain of our defense. I expect him to win every battle.”

Chancellor is 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, known for his ability to hit, support the run defense with ferocity and leap over tall buildings (or at least the line of scrimmage in attempts to block kicks).

Chancellor told the Boston Herald he’ll be up for the task.

“He’s definitely a big, physical guy,” Chancellor said. “But it’s just big on big. You play big on big.”

Chancellor says the Seahawks have great coaching and game planning and prepare players to succeed. Sunday should be no different. He’s confident Seattle can do what it needs to do to slow Gronkowski.

“One thing we do is practice fundamentals,” Chancellor told the Herald. “We practice man coverage. We practice defense. So any situation they throw at us, any situation that occurs, we’re prepared for it and we’re ready for it.”

 

 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright Helps UConn Down USF]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 14:42:05 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/uconn+kentucky+win+6.jpg

UConn led USF by just two points with 12 minutes to go when Ryan Boatright decided enough was enough.

The Huskies' senior guard took the game over, scoring 19 of his 28 points down the stretch and leading the defending national champions to a 66-53 win on Sunday.

"I just told myself I'm going to be aggressive the rest of the way, and that's what I did," he said. "They gave me shots and I created some shots for myself and I knocked them down."

Rodney Purvis added 17 for the Huskies (11-7, 4-2 American) who beat the Bulls (7-13, 1-6) for the second time this month.

Nehemias Morillo had a career-high 18 for South Florida, which lost for the fifth straight time, a streak that began with a 58-44 loss to the Huskies in Tampa. Corey Allen Jr. added 11.

Connecticut led by 10 points at halftime and by 12 early in the second half.

But the Bulls used a 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Anthony Collins, to get back into the game and had a chance to tie trailing 39-37 with 12 minutes left.

But Amida Brimah blocked a layup attempt by Allen and the Bulls would not get that close again.

Purvis made a pair of free throws on the other end and then Boatright scored the Huskies' next 13 points. His second 3-pointer during the stretch put the Huskies ahead 54-43.

"When you're as talented as he is and he gets a little groove going, it's hard to stop the floodgates," said USF coach Orlando Antigua. "We tried to change up defenses and give them different looks and they did a great job adjusting."

The team's combined for 41 fouls, 23 of them by the Bulls whose big men spent much of the game in foul trouble. Collins fouled out and Bo Zeigler picked up his fourth foul just two minutes into the second half and played just 23 minutes.

UConn made 22 of its 29 foul shots. Boatright hit 10 of his 11 attempts from the line and Purvis was 8 of 12. USF was 10 of 16 from the line.

"Game like that, you're going to have, tit-for-tat," Purvis said. "Our main thing is just to stay aggressive."

The Huskies shot 46 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Bulls 35-18.

Daniel Hamilton had 10 rebounds and Kentan Facey added 9. Brimah finished with six boards and five blocked shots.

UConn, which fell behind by seven points in the teams' first meeting, had a better start in this one. The Huskies used an 11-1 run to take an early 18-9 lead.

South Florida managed just six field goals in the first half and the teams combined for just 15 before intermission, getting everything else from the free-throw line.

The Huskies improved to 7-3 at home this season and 4-1 in Hartford.

____

TIP-INS

USF: The Bulls played without starting forward Chris Perry, who was hospitalized on Saturday with chest pains. He was on the bench for the second half Sunday and team spokesman Steve Schoon said he will undergo more testing back in Florida.

UConn: Ryan Boatright moved up the school's all-time scoring list. He now has 1,491 career points, passing Kevin Freeman (1,476) for 18th place. Freeman is now the school's director of basketball administration.

UP NEXT

USF faces SMU at home on Wednesday.

UConn travels to Ohio for a game with Cincinnati on Thursday night.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[5 Key Factors for Super Bowl XLIX]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 14:24:14 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/170*120/jussbritt.jpg

Everyone knows the stars who’ll be playing in Super Bowl XLIX, and what kind of impact they can have on the outcome of this Sunday’s matchup between the Seahawks and Patriots in Arizona.

But beyond Tom Brady, Marshawn Lynch, Rob Gronskowi and Richard Sherman there are other lesser-known players, units and factors that could be key. Among these are:

1. Justin Britt, Seahawks right offensive tackle

The rookie from Missouri, a second-round pick, showed great promise his first season. The 6-foot-6, 325-pounder played every offensive snap of the regular season. And, the Seahawks running game ran more often off right guard and right tackle this year, with Lynch often getting big chunks in that direction. But Britt – who missed the NFC Championship Game with a knee injury – has been a liability as a pass blocker. According to the Washington Post, citing Pro Football Focus, Britt ranked dead last as a pass blocker among right tackles in 2014 and was fourth worst among all tackles. If the Patriots see Britt as a weakness – he’s reportedly fit again and will start Sunday – they could scheme to attack him in new and varied ways to exploit his deficiencies, which could be a big problem for Seattle’s passing attack, especially if the Seahawks fall behind.

2. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots offensive tackles

Both blockers are solid, with Solder at left tackle and Vollmer on the right side. But they anchor an offensive line that will be tested by the Seattle pass rush, particularly defensive ends Michael Bennett (seven sacks in 2014) and Cliff Avril (five). For the Pats passing offense to work efficiently, Tom Brady will need time and Solder and Vollmer will need to seal off the outside pass rush, whether it be against Bennett and Avril or blitzing linebackers or defensive backs.

3. Patriots special teams

It was the Seahawks who made big news on championship game Sunday by pulling off a fake-field goal play for a touchdown that started their comeback and then recovering an onside kick. But in a duel of special teams, the Patriots’ units are stronger, and in a game as close as this one is expected to be, that could be the difference in the outcome. The Patriots’ special teams were ranked No. 3 in the NFL in 2014 in the annual special teams analysis put together by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, behind only the Eagles and Bills. The Seahawks were 17th. The Pats blocked three field goals and one punt this season. Julian Edelman was fifth in the NFL in punt-return yards and averaged 11 yards per return. Matthew Slater – the son of former Rams Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater -- is a four-time Pro Bowler on special teams and a coverage and tackling star.

4. Bobby Wagner, Seahawks middle linebacker

He doesn’t look imposing as NFL linebackers go, at 6 feet and 241 pounds, and he's overshadowed by Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and the overall Legion of Boom defense. But the third-year pro from Utah State was selected first-team All-Pro this season and was NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December. He was a key to the Seahawks defense countering the Denver Broncos’ offense in last year’s Super Bowl and will be the man to counter Brady’s play-calling and audibles Sunday. After missing the first five games of this season, Wagner has been the catalyst to the Seahawks defensive revival. His wide-ranging speed, smarts and ability to rush the passer can destroy even well-designed plays. The Patriots will need to find a way to counter his effectiveness via blocking schemes or misdirection.

5. Turnover and penalty problems of the Seahawks

Seattle is a ball-control offense, with a strong running game. But the Seahawks – who usually take good care of the football – didn’t in the NFC Championship game against Green Bay. They had five turnovers, a problem they can’t repeat against the Patriots, who finished tied for second in the NFL this season with a plus-12 on the takeaway/giveaway charts. Seattle was right behind, tied for fourth at plus-9, so the NFC title game implosion wasn’t usual. But they can’t afford another flood of mistakes. Meanwhile, the Seahawks were the most-penalized team in the NFL, getting flagged 144 times for 1,112 yards while – and here’s the strange part – being the beneficiary of just 80 penalties against their opponents, the lowest total in the NFL.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Owner Strongly Defends Team]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 23:32:55 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Robert+Kraft1.jpg

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft made a strong defense Monday night of his team's actions and integrity regarding the NFL's investigation into under-inflated footballs being used in the AFC championship game.

At times sounding angry, Kraft said he expected an apology from the league once the Patriots are found to be not guilty of breaking any rules.

"I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots did nothing wrong in this process that was in violation of NFL rules," Kraft said at the team's first media availability in Arizona.

Kraft also said it "bothers me greatly" that the reputations and integrity of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have been "called into question, and by association our team."

He added that in 15 years together with Belichick and Brady, they had never lied to him.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe to Have Shoulder Surgery]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:27:34 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-torn-rotator-cuff.jpg

Kobe Bryant is set to have surgery on his torn rotator cuff, the Los Angeles Lakers said Monday.

Bryant's right shoulder was injured in last Wednesday's game against the New Orleans pelicans and neesds surgery to repair it, the team said in a statement.

Bryant was examined Monday morning by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, of the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, who confirmed that Bryant's rotator cuff was torn and advised him to have surgery to repair it, according to the team. He's scheduled to undergo the operation on Wednesday morning.

While Bryant was expected to miss the rest of the season with the injury, the team didn't confirm that in their statement.

The team said instead that it will provide an estimate for the shooting guard's return following the surgery.

Refresh this page for updates on this developing story.

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<![CDATA[Bill Nye Knocks Belichick]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:41:58 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Nye-Belichick_SplitScreen_sm.jpg

The cast of "Saturday Night Live" wasn't the only one poking holes in the New England Patriots' explanation for the "deflategate" scandal over the weekend.

Bill Nye offered his expert opinion as “The Science Guy” Sunday, saying coach Bill Belichick's recent account for why his team’s footballs were under-inflated during the American Football Conference championship game against the Indianapolis Colts doesn't add up.

“I’m not too worried about coach Belichick competing with me,” Nye told ABC’s "Good Morning America." “What he said didn’t make any sense."

The Patriots have denied allegations that the team broke NFL rules by intentionally under-inflating the footballs to gain an advantage in their 45-7 victory against the Colts, which clinched their chance to face the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Belichick said in one news conference that it's possible that climatic conditions and rubbing the balls ahead of last weekend's game affected air pressure.

But “The Science Guy” refuted that claim.

“By rubbing the football, I don't think you can change the pressure," he said. “To really change the pressure, you need one of these: the inflation needle. I can't help but say, 'Go Seahawks!’”

The NFL, which is investigating the allegations that the Patriots were involved in the ball issue, said evidence concluded that the footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half of the game. But the one used for the second half were in compliance with their policy.

“The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games,” the statement reads. “We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay.”

]]>
<![CDATA[Boston Hosts Pats Send-Off Rally]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 18:44:07 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/20150126_102348.jpg

It was a Patriots Super Bowl send-off like no other.

After a week of "DeflateGate" distractions, Patriots players and their fans made it clear they plan to channel that negative energy into a win on Sunday.

"We have the greatest fans in all of football," said veteran Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork. "That's the one reason we always play for our city."

The fans here definitely aren't fair weather fans, not only braving the elements Monday, but also sticking with this team through good seasons and bad.

"I was there in '91 when they only won one game, and I used to go home crying and my wife used to say, 'Aw, you always go home crying,'" said Ron Pietruszka, a season ticket holder for 37 years. "But now I'm coming home smiling all the time and she's happy, too, so they say, 'Happy wife, happy life.'"

"Who wouldn't want to be here right now?" asked Louis Chino of Chelsea, Massachusetts. "Us Patriot fans, you see, we out here, it's cold, it's a blizzard coming, but we don't care. Whatever, we celebrate the Patriots and on to victory we go."

Never one to guarantee a victory, Pats quarterback Tom Brady, who's been put through media ringer this past week, had one simple message for fans.

"Thank you guys for all your support, we'll be needing you all next Sunday night," he said. "Go Patriots!"

After the rally, the Patriots quickly hopped on a plane headed to Arizona and Super Bowl XLIX, leaving behind New England and its impending blizzard.



Photo Credit: NECN]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Launches YouTube Channel]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:48:04 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/77248493.jpg

Searching for Super Bowl highlights next week after the big game?

They'll be available, legally, straight from the source.

The NFL has protected its video as fiercely as any league, pushing most users to its website or to its broadcast partners.

On Monday, the league and YouTube announced a partnership between two of the most powerful brands in the marketplace, creating an official NFL channel on the video website. Clips will also be directly viewable through simple Google searches.

Content posted daily to the portal by the league will include game previews, in-game highlights, post-game recaps and clips featuring news, analysis, fantasy football advice and other original programming from NFL Network and NFL.com. Highlight packages from the current postseason were already viewable Sunday, and plenty of Super Bowl programming was scheduled to appear throughout the week and after the game.

Game highlights and other content will also be available through Google's search engine, which will display official NFL videos along with related news and information in a box at the top of the page. Kickoff times and broadcast information for every NFL game will be prominently displayed.

Google acquired YouTube in 2006. The tandem previously formed partnerships with the other three major American sports leagues, MLB, the NBA and the NHL. Google has been trying to mine more revenue from YouTube, which is positioned for further growth as consumers continue to shift toward online and mobile viewing and away from live television.

"We continue to see an insatiable appetite for digital video content, and this partnership further expands fans' ability to discover and access NFL content throughout the year," Hans Schroeder, the NFL's senior vice president of media strategy, business development and sales, said in a statement distributed by the league.

Previously, the NFL videos that popped up in a YouTube search weren't sanctioned. The NFL, like many other entities and organizations, has used a YouTube tool called "Content ID" to be able to block unlicensed videos.

Football fans still flocked to the site, of course. Maybe they pulled up one of those "Bad Lip Reading" montages of silly voice-overs accompanying game clips. Or in the hunt for that favorite highlight — "Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed catch," for instance — they found a bunch of shaky camera-phone videos that some New York Giants fan took of the TV screen.

Now those searches will be more fruitful.

The billion-dollar question, then, is whether this partnership will pave the way for eventual live streaming of games through the YouTube site rather than over the air or on cable. Probably not anytime soon, though. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said "the focus is on non-live highlights." He added that "the agreement will provide tremendous exposure for our broadcast partners."

YouTube spokesman Matt McLernon, pointing to the site's past streaming of live Olympic events, said the opportunity is there and the technology is waiting if the league were to decide to do so.

"We would welcome it with open arms if the NFL or any other league" wanted to show live games on the site, McLernon said.

Terms of the deal were not provided. But it's a safe bet that it's worth a lot of money.

The league, citing Nielsen data, said the 2014 regular season reached 202.3 million unique viewers, representing 80 percent of all television homes and 68 percent of potential viewers in the U.S., and NFL games accounted for the entire top 20 and 45 of the top 50 most-watched television shows last fall.



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ernie Banks Died of Heart Attack]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:27:29 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ErnieBanks2014.jpg

The family of Ernie Banks announced in a press conference Sunday that the famous Cubs player died after suffering a heart attack.

Banks' death was caused by the heart attack, according to Mark Bogen, the family attorney. Funeral arrangements are currently being made.

Banks passed away on Friday at the age of 83, just seven days before his next birthday.

Bogen also announced that a Facebook page has been created for fans to celebrate Banks' legendary life. The page, called Ernie Banks Remembered, was created shortly after Banks passed away.

Banks' family is currently working with the Chicago Cubs and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office to create a public memorial for Mr. Cub, Bogen said.

Liz Banks, the wife of Ernie Banks, was present at the press conference, but Bogen delivered the news and did not take any questions.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Ernie Banks Mourned]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:26:52 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Ernie-Banks-Chicago-Cubs.jpg

Ernie Banks is a Chicago legend who touched many lives, both on and off the field. He embodied the spirit of the Chicago Cubs and united fans as an unwavering point of pride for the team.

Fans across the country and in Wrigleyville are mourning the loss of "Mr. Cub," who passed away Friday at the age of 83. Here's what some of his big-name fans are saying.

President Obama and Michelle Obama: "He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team's behind him, and Mr. Class -- 'Mr. Cub' -- is ready to play two."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: "Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago's greatest ambassadors. He loved this city as much as he loved -- and lived for -- the game of baseball. This year, during every Cubs game, you can bet that No. 14 will be watching over his team. And if we're lucky, it'll be a beautiful day for not just one ballgame, but two."

Gov. Bruce Rauner: "Ernie Banks was a trail blazer who helped break down barriers, a veteran who served his country with honor, a respected community leader and the greatest Chicago Cub of all time. While we mourn him here, there's no doubt that up in heaven, 'Mr. Cub' is lacing up his cleats an asking Saint Peter if they can 'play two.'"

Sen. Dick Durbin: "'Mr. Cub' was so much more than a great hitter and Gold Glove fielder. His infectious love for the game of baseball was matched only by his passion for the people of Chicago ... His positive, hopeful Cub view of life filled every room and every baseball diamond he ever touched."

Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs: "Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known."

John McDonough, president and CEO of the Chicago Blackhawks: "Ernie was an illuminating superstar who was personable, humble and selfless. He was also the greatest player to ever wear a Cubs uniform. He loved the Cubs, Wrigley Field and the city of Chicago. The Friendly Confines were always a bit friendlier when he was around. I will miss him."

Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State: "I was honored to learn many things from him while I was in the Cubs organization. And I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with him throughout the years in our joint efforts to help others. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to his friends. I was privileged to have played baseball with him, and to call him my friend. Ernie Banks -- Mr. Cub -- will be missed."

Rev. Jesse Jackson: "He was not only a great baseball player, but beyond his talent as a shortstop and eventually a first baseman, was his character, his eternal optimism -- "let's play two today" -- and his personality was a racial bridge builder. He treated all people with dignity and respect. He never stopped reaching out to bridge the racial chasms."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Life and Times of Ernie Banks]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 09:18:58 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ernie_banksP11.jpg Ernie Banks is a baseball legend, the first African American to play for the Chicago Cubs and the first black manager in Major League Baseball. He is known for his skills at bat and in the field, as well as his sunny, positive attitude and love for the game. Click to see pictures from throughout this memorable figure's life.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Great Ernie Banks Dies at 83]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:28:34 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ErnieBanks2014.jpg

Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs great who was affectionately known as "Mr. Cub" and was the face of the franchise for decades, has passed away at the age of 83. 

Banks was the first African-American to don a Cubs uniform, and it was the only one he would wear.

In a 19-year career, Banks slugged 512 home runs, drove in 1636 RBI, and perhaps more than any other player who has ever played for the franchise embodied the spirit of the club in the eyes and hearts of Cubs fans.

Even after his playing career came to an end in 1971, Banks continued to be an ambassador for the team.

He was a constant fixture at Cubs games, often singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" after the passing of Harry Caray in 1998, and he was one of the most popular figures at the annual Cubs Convention.

Banks made his MLB debut in 1952 at the age of 22 years old, and as his career went on he cemented his status as a legend. He was never better than in the 1958 and 1959 seasons. He won the MVP award in both seasons, and he set career highs in both home runs and RBI in those seasons. 

Unfortunately for Banks and the Cubs, he never made it to the postseason as a member of the team. In the 1969 season, Banks teamed up with fellow legends Ron Santo and Billy Williams and led the team to a massive lead in the standings as August ended. As September unfolded however, the Cubs faded badly, and they missed out on the postseason as the New York Mets surged and ultimately won the World Series title. 

Despite not having postseason experience on his resume, Banks was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and he never stopped being an ambassador for the game and for the team. His indomitable spirit and constant optimism were a bright spot for the Cubs through some of the team's leanest years, and despite teams coming close in 1984 and 2003, Banks' teams were the ones that fans still talk about and remember.  

"Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball," Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. "He was one of the greatest players of all time.  He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And and more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known.  Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie's life in the days ahead."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Face a Test in Seahawks' Read-Option]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 00:19:17 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/russwillsea.jpg

To beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, the Patriots know they’ll have to contain running back Marshawn Lynch. Yet here’s the problem: If they focus too much attention on Lynch, quarterback Russell Wilson may burn them.

Wilson led all NFL quarterbacks in rushing in 2014 with 849 yards. In fact, Wilson ranked 16th in the league in rushing. And when Wilson does take off, his plays can be painful for defenses. He averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, had eight runs of more than 20 yards and scored six touchdowns.

What New England will face on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1, is the Seahawks’ read-option scheme, which forces defenses to choose between focusing on Lynch or being cautious, in case Wilson pulls the ball out and sprints around the defenders crashing on Lynch.

Against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks’ read-option was very effective. On 17 read-option plays, Seattle’s Lynch or Wilson gained 121 yards and scored two touchdowns. Most of the time, Lynch got the ball. But late in the game, Wilson had two key carries on the read-option that resulted in 16 yards and a score.

“They execute the read-option at a very high level,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia told the Boston Herald this week. “It’s extremely dangerous. They do it from a number of different looks. They obviously have tremendous skill players that can handle the ball and handle that type of offense.”

The read option, however, is not unfamiliar to the Patriots, who’ve faced it many times over the past two years. In fact, coach Bill Belichick brought Tim Tebow into camp last year largely to run the offense against his defenders.

One tactic is to emply a spy -- a defender whose responsibility it is to keep his eyes on Wilson and not let him break free if he decides to fake the handoff to Lynch. That spy might be delegated by how the Seahawks line up. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich has played the role well before, as has linebacker Jamie Collins.

Last season, Ninkovich played spy against Cam Newton of the Panthers.

But whoever it is, he’ll have to stay vigilant. Even one play where he’s tricked or loses concentration -- as happened to the Packers late in Seattle’s comeback win -- could be costly.

Ninkovich has said in the past that the read-option scheme is simply “a green light to hit the quarterback.”

But Wilson is an extremely skilled, smart and patient ball handler who can also exploit overly aggressive defenders.

“You just have to be under control and know what your assignment is every time,” said Ninkovich.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ravens' Cody Being Investigated]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 17:41:22 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Terrence+Cody+157365657.jpg

Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody is under investigation for animal cruelty

The case deals with the death of Cody's dog, an $8,000 bull mastiff from Spain.

The case is being discussed with the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office.

The team said Friday morning it plans to release Cody after the Super Bowl but didn't give a reason, NBC Sports reports. His one-year contract is set to expire in the spring.

The Ravens selected Cody in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He played in 57 games over five season but only one in 2014 after having hip surgery in the spring.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Patriots Probe ]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:05:33 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/super-bowl-footballs-AP339355819322.jpg

The New England Patriots used footballs that were under-inflated in the first half of Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts, evidence so far in the National Football League's investigation has found. 

But the team's footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed to have been properly inflated at the conclusion of the game, the NFL said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The NFL's investigation into the "Deflategate" controversy involving the Patriots is ongoing, and 40 interviews have been conducted so far, including of Patriots personnel, game officials and third parties with relevant information and expertise, the league said. The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss.

The league said it has obtained and is continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. It has also hired an investigatory firm with expertise in forensics to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.

"The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action," the statement said. "We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence."

The league said the Patriots have pledged their full cooperation and have made their personnel and other information available upon request. In the coming days, the NFL will be conducting interviews, examining video and other forensic evidence, in addition to any relevant physical evidence.

Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft also issued a statement on Friday, saying that he received a letter from the league on Monday informing him of the investigation. He said he instructed Patriots staff to be "completely cooperative and transparent with the league's investigators." During the three days the investigators were in Foxboro, he said the team provided access to every full- and part-time employee the league's representatives asked to speak with and produced every communication device that they requested to search.

"It is an ongoing process that the league and our team are taking very seriously," Kraft said. "Competitive balance and the integrity of the game are the foundation of what makes our league so special and I have the utmost respect for those principles. Our organization will continue to cooperate throughout the league's investigation."

The NFL began looking into the issue not only because doctoring the footballs could provide a competitive advantage, but because it would compromise the integrity of the game. Deflating a football can change the way it's gripped by a player, or the way it travels through the air.

"Our investigation will seek information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well," the statement said. "As we develop more information and are in a position to reach conclusions, we will share them publicly."

No timetable was given by the NFL for when the investigation might be wrapped up.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has denied altering the ball "in any way," saying that he would never break the rules. Coach Bill Belichick said he had "no explanation" for what happened, and like Brady said the first he heard of the entire ordeal was on Monday morning.

The Patriots will take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday, Feb. 1.



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rick Osentoski]]>
<![CDATA[Putting Balls To The Test]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 11:28:29 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/NC_deflatedballs0122001_1500x845.jpg University of Indianapolis football players take part in experiment to demonstrate the potential advantages of a partially deflated ball.]]> <![CDATA[Inmate Vows $88B Suit for "Gross Stupidity" After Cowboys "Stolen" Victory]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 13:59:59 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/terry-hendrix.jpg

A prison inmate still reeling from the Dallas Cowboys' playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers has decided to take action to remedy to defeat, announcing intent to sue NFL officials for $88 billion for "gross stupidity" and "the loss of a Super Bowl."

In a hand-written notice, Terrance Hendrix, a 51-year-old inmate at the Fremont Correctional Facility in Colorado, accused the NFL and its officials of "committing fraud" and "gross negligence" when they overturned a potentially game-changing catch. He's seeking $88,987,654,321.88 — Bryant's jersey No. 88 book-ended by digits 9 through 1 — in damages on behalf of the team, its fans and "all people in or and from the sovereign Republic of Texas."

Dez Bryant's catch at the Green Bay 1 yard line on fourth down late in the fourth quarter put the Cowboys in position to take the lead in a game that sent the winner to the NFC Championship Game. Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, though, and referees overturned the call.

According to the lawsuit, Hendrix stated that referees Dean Blandino and Gene Steratore and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "have stolen a victory from the plaintiff(s) because the Cowboys offense would have perfectly created an 'autobahn' for DeMarco Murray to drive into the end zone for the score and victory." That loss, he writes, constitutes the theft of a Super Bowl committed against the "hearts, minds and souls" of the players, cheerleaders, fans and all Texans.

Hendrix is acting as his own attorney in the case.

Officials with the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL declined to coment.


NBC Owned Television Stations' Esther Katro contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Blount: From Unemployed to Starring Role]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:39:41 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/blountbakpat.jpg

On Nov. 18, LeGarrette Blount was out of a job. The running back had just been released by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his career was in doubt.

Blount had left the field the night before while the Steelers-Titans Monday night game was in progress, upset that he hadn’t had a single carry. One source with the Steelers told the NFL Network that the reason for his release was “selfish behavior.”

So, just over two months ago, Blount seemed like the most unlikely of potential Super Bowl difference-makers.

But after he re-signed with the New England Patriots just two days after his release, Blount is heading nto Super Bowl XLIX as one of his team’s biggest offensive stars and a factor in the team’s run to the AFC championship.

Blount carried the ball 30 times for 148 yards in this past Sunday’s AFC Championship Game victory over the Colts. And in the five regular-season games he played with New England late in the season, Blount averaged 4.7 yards per carry, with 281 yards on 60 carries for three touchdowns.

At 6 feet and 250 pounds, the former standout from Oregon has plugged right back into the New England offensive scheme he had been a part of in 2013. That season, he averaged 5.0 yards per carry, collecting 772 yards on the ground and scoring seven touchdowns for Bill Belichick’s team.

When Blount became available, Belichick didn’t hesitate. He re-signed Blount and immediately gave him the ball.

Now the Patriots have a physical, hard-to-bring-down back almost in the mold of Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Both defenses in the Feb. 1 Super Bowl in Arizona will have to stop the big backs early to set the tone.

Belichick isn’t usually effusive with his praise, but he’s very happy he has Blount again. Blount had left the Patriots as a free agent after the 2013 season to sign with Pittsburgh.

“You don’t see a lot of guys like him,” Belichick told reporters this week. You just don’t. I thought a couple of cuts he made (against the Colts), the way he can stop, start, accelerate, change directions – for a 250-pound guy or whatever he is, he’s got great vision and athleticism. At times he looks like a small back, but he’s not. He’s a big guy and he’s a hard guy to tackle.”

The way Blount has played with the Patriots led to some criticism of the Steelers’ decision to release him, based on the fact that Pittsburgh could have used him when No. 1 back Le’Veon Bell was unavailable for its playoff game against the Ravens.

But this week, Steelers president Art Rooney II said he has no regrets.

“I think we made the decision for the right reasons,” Rooney told ESPN.com. “Not going to worry about it too much. We just have to make sure that we make a better decision this year and fill that position with someone we’re comfortable with and who will be a good fit.”

Now Blount has a chance to win a Super Bowl ring. He’s gone from unemployed to a potential Super Bowl star. Like Belichick, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is grateful Blount is on their side again.

“He’s tough to bring down and has the ability to make people miss in the hole, which I think is a unique trait for a bigger back,” said McDaniels this week. “Obviously he played well (vs. the Colts), really carried a big load for us and made a huge impact. … We’re very happy to have him here with us.”

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Beats UCF 67-60]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 22:11:16 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/215*120/481616597.jpg

Ryan Boatright scored 18 points and had seven assists to lead UConn to a 67-60 win over UCF on Thursday.

Amida Brimah added 14 points and had four blocked shots for the Huskies (10-7, 3-2 American) who won for the first time in three games. Omar Calhoun added 11 points and Daniel Hamilton had 10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

B.J. Taylor led UCF (9-9, 2-5) with 13 points and Justin McBride added 11. Adonys Henriquez and Daiquan Walker each chipped in with 10.

The defending national champions never trailed and led by as many as 18 points after a 19-2 first half run.

UCF fought back, cutting the lead to five points on a 3-pointer by Henriquez with 3 ½ minutes left, but UConn held on.

The Knights have now lost two in a row and three of their last four.

Boatright, who had been held out of double figures in his last two games, hit his first four shots from 3-point range and had 12 points by intermission.

The Huskies attempted 17 shots from 3-point range in the half and hit 10 of them. They were just 1 of 3 after the break.

UConn jumped out quickly. A 3-pointer from Calhoun and a lob dunk by Brimah made it 5-0 and forced a UCF timeout a minute into the game.

Philip Nolan drew a charging foul, the 14th time he's done that this season, sparking the run that appeared to give UConn control of the game and a 36-18 lead.

But the Knights closed the half on a 15-3 run, and scored the last 10 points to close the gap to 39-33 at intermission. UCF held the Huskies without a bucket for the final 3 minutes of the half, after keeping them scoreless for a 4-minute stretch earlier.

UCF did a better job guarding the 3-point line in the second half, but that left Brimah open underneath and he converted numerous lob passes into dunks.

The Huskies had not played on campus since losing to Yale on Dec. 5. They have played at seven different arenas since then, including four home games in Hartford and another game 80 miles away in Bridgeport.

UCF came in with just one road win on the season, an overtime victory at Houston.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Luck, Sherman Not Worried About Deflategate]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 15:25:32 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/461910968.jpg

We're four days into the latest Patriots-related scandal (if you can even call it that): Deflategate. There seem to be two camps on the matter: 1) Patriots, by reputation, are definitely guilty and should be punished severely. (Some are calling for coach Bill Belichick to be fired, while others think he shouldn't be allowed to coach in the Super Bowl.) And 2) It's not a big deal because, at the end of the day, we're talking about footballs.

We fall into camp No. 2. As does Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who was on the receiving end of a 45-7 beatdown last Sunday, courtesy of the Patriots. On Wednesday night, he was the top pick in the Pro Bowl, hardly a worthy consolation prize to missing out on the Super Bowl.

"The energy is sort of sucked out of you, you do feel deflated," Luck told reporters (via ESPN.com), before realizing the unintentional joke. "Aww, shoot," he added.

As for deflating footballs, Luck added: "I don't know. Things in the media tend to be blown out of proportion a little bit. It's the nature in where we are today in society. You can't take anything away from them being a heck of a team and they are a good football team."

Meanwhile, halfway across the country, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who will face the Patriots in the Super Bowl, shared his thoughts.

"If it's against the rules, it's against the rules," he said. "But it's not going to have any effect on this game. Nobody is going to get suspended [for the Super Bowl], and nothing's going to happen. We're gonna play this game. Whatever they did, the risk/reward was greater.''

When asked if he ever intercepted a deflated football Sherman said, "I'll have to go back to my collection and check 'em. I'll have to see if pounds are missing. Really, I've never heard of that. I'm not sure anything will come [of] it, if it's true or not true. It didn't have much effect on the [AFC Championship Game], if any."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Brady: "I Didn't Alter the Ball"]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 19:24:25 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tom-brady-presser-thumb-AP210855816629.jpg

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said he "didn't alter the ball in any way" at a Thurday afternoon press conference amid the "Deflategate" controversy.

"I feel like I've always played within the rules. I would never do anything to break the rules," he said. When a reporter asked if he were a cheater, he said, "I don't believe so."

The NFL is investigating after ESPN reported that the Patriots used under-inflated footballs in Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Earlier Thursday, Belichick said at a press conference that he had "no explanation" for what happened, and that the first he heard of the controversy was on Monday morning.

Brady told reporters Thursday afternoon that he first heard about the under-inflated balls Monday morning during his regular weekly radio interview. At the time, he said, he laughed, thinking that it was just "sour grapes" on the Colts' behalf. "It ends up being a very serious thing," he said.

"Everyone's obviously trying to figure out what happened," Brady added. "I was as surprised as anybody when I heard Monday morning what was happening."

The quarterback said he goes through the same process before every game, choosing between 12 and 24 balls to use during the game. He said he did that Sunday night. "When I felt them, they were perfect," he said.

Much like Belichick, Brady said he has no knowledge of any wrongdoing.

"Obviously, I'd like to know what  happened," he said. "In the meantime, I'm going to try to do the best I can to get ready to play against the Seahawks." 

Asked if the controversy might serve as motivation for the Patriots, Brady said "We've got a lot of motivation as a team. I think our team's overcome a lot of adversity this year. Sometimes in life the biggest challenges end up being the best things that happen in your life."

Softer balls are generally considered easier to throw and catch, and quarterbacks, specialists and equipment managers are known to have very individualized preferences in how footballs are readied for games, The Associated Press reported. Belichick said he was unaware of the process for game balls until the accusations were raised.

"I think we all know that quarterbacks, kickers, specialists have certain preferences on footballs," Belichick said. "They know a lot more about it than I do. They're a lot more sensitive to it than I am. I hear them comment on it from time to time, but I can tell you and they will tell you that there is never any sympathy whatsoever from me on that subject. Zero."

Brady reportedly addressed his teammates behind closed doors at Thursday's team meeting. Per teammates, he told them he prefers the football "a certain way." He also told them to stay focused on next Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks.



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola]]>
<![CDATA[Bowles, Jets Should Emulate the Pats (But Leave the Footballs Alone)]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 15:25:46 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bowles+intro.jpg

A not-very-scientific study has revealed that, had the Jets played this season with deflated footballs, they would either have won 12 games and would likely be preparing right now for the Super Bowl that’s still somehow 10 days away… or absolutely stunk and instead lost 12 games, which actually sounds kind of familiar. Needless to say, the study has a relatively large margin of error.

Of all the things the Jets should do differently in 2014, taking the air out of the footballs almost surely isn’t one of them. But, when it comes to turning things around in all things not pump-related, the Jets have an incredible role model in the Patriots.

As new coach Todd Bowles said in his introductory press conference yesterday, “It’s not going to happen overnight. We have pieces in place and we’ve got to build and we know that. Obviously the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, and they’re in our division, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

I couldn’t agree more with Bowles on success not happening overnight -- or on the fact that the Pats are in the Super Bowl. As for having the pieces in place, well…

Gang Green does have some talented players, though not nearly enough of them, but as the Patriots have shown, in a sport characterized by the salary cap, free agency and all-too-frequent career-threatening or -ending injury, it’s not about having the pieces in place, it’s about having a plan and assembling the pieces on the fly.

Yes, the Pats are headed to their sixth Super Bowl in 14 seasons, but the only constants during that amazing run are owner Robert Kraft, coach/GM-in-all-but-name Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady.

New England last made the big game in 2012. Just three years later, only 17 players remain from that squad’s final 53-man roster.

In order to achieve success in a division where the Pats have been dominant for an eternity, new GM Mike Maccagnan has to constantly unearth new talent while holding on to the team’s core assets. There aren’t many, but DLs Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and C Nick Mangold -- who’s getting up there in age but is still as good at his position as anyone in football -- certainly fit the bill.

Bowles, meanwhile, has to consistently “coach up” that ever-changing talent base to get the most out of it. In the Pats’ last Super Bowl, Julian Edelman, then in his third year in New England after being chosen in the seventh round of the 2009 Draft, was a complete afterthought, following a regular season in which he caught just 4 passes. This year, he caught 92 -- and threw a pretty nice one a few weeks ago.

That’s why the Pats are who they are. That’s who the Jets need to be.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies Looking to Stay Sharp in Blowouts]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 12:54:36 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

Another game, another win for UConn. This time (like most other times), it was a blowout, a 100-45 affair against an overmatched Central Florida team. It was the Huskies' 16th straight victory.

Senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who struggled with finding her shot in recent weeks, appears back on track. She led the way with 23 points.

"Our focus right now is on trying to stay sharp and making sure that we play hard every single possession,” Mosqueda-Lewis said, via SNY.com. “We want to work on things every game and make sure we’re better at something. Two things we’re really trying to sharpen right now is defense and rebounding and we’re doing well.”

Coach Geno Auriemma, meanwhile, spoke honestly about the competition, and the need stay sharp as UConn prepares for playing in March and April.

“I don’t think Central Florida is as talented as some of the teams that we’ve played, but they play harder than a lot of teams we’ve played,” Auriemma said. “That’s for sure. ...

“The challenge for us is to stay in that mode where we’re trying to execute some things we want to do,” the coach continued. “Once the first half ended tonight, things changed in how we wanted to play. We weren’t going to score 60 points in the second half. That’s not how we play. But at the same time, we’re not really worried what the score is. I just want to make sure that they don’t develop bad habits, that they don’t get sloppy with the way we want to execute and want to play.

“The hard part is trying to figure out how to get our starters enough minutes. K played 12 minutes in the first half. If you don’t play her in the second half, it’s not really a game. It’s not really a practice. It’s nothing. So the hard part is figuring out how long do we leave in and how much time do we need them to get.”

For some perspective on what the Huskies are doing in 2014-15, consider this: Their average margin of victory in seven AAC games? 45.7 points. Put another way: Good luck, rest of the conference.

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<![CDATA[Huskies Need Boatright]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 12:42:12 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/217*120/AP1201238715.jpg

The Huskies are 9-7 and losers of two straight heading into Thursday's matchup with Central Florida. And if they're going to get themselves out of this funk, things, as coach Kevin Ollie has alluded to, are going to have to change.

We're not talking about revamping the lineup, but something as simple as senior point guard Ryan Boatright doing more. Don't misunderstand; it's not like Boatright isn't already doing his part, similar to what Shabazz Napier and Kemba Walker did before him, but he needs to do more. This team is younger, more inexperienced and, not surprisingly, more inconsistent.

"The only thing I can do is get the ball to the open man," Boatright said Wednesday, via the Hartford Courant. "The last few games my assists have been up over eight. But I've got to figure out a way to insert myself back in the game. I'm used to scoring 15 plus. … I've got to figure out how to get myself back in the game."

Also not helping: defenses are keying on him. In the first 10 games, Boatright averaged 19.2 points. In the last six, it's down to 9.8.

"I can tell him to throw the ball to the open man and hopefully the open man throws it back to him and he makes a shot," Ollie said. "It is what it is. They're double-teaming him, focusing on him, so we've got to be aggressive. You can't really double-team a person on a fastbreak situation, and that starts with rebounding. It's a snowball effect. Got to do first things first, get a defensive stop, get the rebound with a box out and then let him push it. I'm going to try to do a better job of getting him off the ball where he can play off the catch and I think he's got to figure out. Somebody's open, so you've got to trust him.

"So all [the other players on the floor] have got to be alive, and you've got to make those guys alive if you're going to be a great leader and a great point guard and I think he's on his way to doing that."

The Huskies' season is at a crossroads. They can start to build on solid performances as January gives way to February and be in tournament form by March. Or they can continue to stumble their way through the schedule and hope an NIT invite is in their future.



Photo Credit: AP]]>