Archive for January, 2010

Julius Peppers could be answer to Falcons’ problems

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Matt Ryan probably wouldn't mind having Julius Peppers as a teammate. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

From an NFL fan’s perspective, there is one great thing about an uncapped year. Your favorite team can’t use the excuse, “We’d love to sign that free agent but we just can’t fit him under the salary cap.”

So to the members of Falcon nation, I present to you possibly the first name on the Falcons’ offseason shopping list: Julius Peppers.

Yes, it could happen — at least the part about Peppers’ availability. There are strong indications that the Carolina Panthers — who failed to come to terms with Peppers on a multi-year contract last season and were forced to sign him to the steep one-year franchise tag fee of $16.683 million — will allow Peppers to enter free agency.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter already is speculating that, “Carolina’s division rival Atlanta Falcons would be a logical landing spot, as Peppers would get to play the Panthers twice a season.”

Let’s examine all of the obvious …

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Herschel: He’s only a (MMA) freshman! (watch the video)

That's Herschel Walker on top and Greg Nagy pleading for help. (Jeffrey M. Boan.)

That's Herschel Walker on top and Greg Nagy pleading for help.

Last week, I blogged about the fact that the difference between Herschel Walker (MMA) at 47 and Evander Holyfield (boxing) at 47 is Walker wasn’t embarrassing himself by still trying to compete in his career sport (football).

Now, I’m starting to wonder if mixed martial arts can be a new career venture for Walker.

Did you see the video of his bout last night against Greg Nagy? Now, I don’t know a lot about MMA, other than this: 1.) Personally, I’d rather not try it. I need to protect these typing fingers; 2) Nagy is not one of the sport’s biggest stars. But how impressive is it that Walker, a novice, just destroyed him? If Walker chose to, he can make a lot of money in MMA and further grow the sport — dropping boxing further into the abyss.

I’ve posted two videos below. One is a short highlight clip, the other is the entire first round. A few things stand out. Walker, outside of still being in incredible shape, …

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Montana still all-time greatest quarterback, but Manning close

joe-montana.xxivThe difficulty in trying to compare athletes from different eras is circumstances change. Integration. Training methods. Rules. The game itself (how many three-receiver sets did Otto Graham use?)

So yes, trying to rank the all-time top 10 quarterbacks is a set up for debate. But with the Super Bowl next week, there is little question that Peyton Manning has a chance to leap to the top, or at least near it. He has led Indianapolis into the title game for the second time. His team – hardly the NFL’s most talented – might be 18-0 if it didn’t use the final two weeks of the regular season for nap time.

Quarterbacks can’t be measured just on statistics, or for that matter just on titles. It comes down to this: Who would you want to have the ball with the game on the line?

For me, the answer is simple: Joe Montana. But if the Colts beat the Saints next week, Manning will jump to No. 2 on my list.

What made Montana so special? Former teammate Randy Cross said, “Some people lead …

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Saban gets a statue? Is his birthday a holiday now, too?

OK, you can understand Alabama having a statue for "Bear" Bryant . . .

A "Bear" Bryant statue at Alabama is understandable …

All hail, Nick Saban.

After only three seasons, Alabama is building a statue for its football coach. Can’t imagine what he gets if the Crimson Tide wins another championship. Does the school attempt a hostile takeover of neighboring states and give him parts of Mississippi and south Georgia? Maybe some coastline, between Pensacola and Panama City? Or was that already included in his original contract?

Alabama, coming off its BCS title in Saban’s third season, confirmed that a bronze statue of the coach already is in the works. It is expected to be completed by April 17, the day of the annual “A Day” spring game, when all banks and Walmarts will be closed.

Plans are for Saban to be carried into the stadium that day by servants, with

... But a statue for Nick Saban already?

… But isn't it a little early for a statue of Nick Saban?

trumpets blaring and angels singing. OK. Might’ve made that part up.

Three years and you get a statue? Most jobs, you don’t even …

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Georgia Tech putting it all together at the right time

How did Georgia Tech do in the physical battles Thursday? Just look at this picture. (Curtis Compton/AJC).

How did Georgia Tech do in physical battles? The picture says it all. (Curtis Compton/AJC).

The calendar hasn’t even turned to February, and Georgia Tech just played the kind of basketball game it wants to play in March. Tough team defense. A strong presence inside. Freshmen all over the floor making plays — blocking shots, hitting jumpers, not throwing away the ball — or hope.

And when was the last time things went so well that coach Paul Hewitt used only two timeouts?

Tech didn’t just win an ACC game Thursday. It made a fairly significant statement about avoiding the kind of backslide that has plagued this program the past few years. The Jackets bounced back from a loss at Florida State by leveling Wake Forest 79-58.  In doing so, they held the Demon Deacons to 32.8 percent shooting. They blocked eight shots. Even the opposing coach acknowledged that Tech won the physical battles. (Statistical evidence: Tech dominated the boards in the second half, 27-10.)

“They took us out …

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We’re live from Tech-Wake (and Jackets need to take control)

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When we last watched Georgia Tech in a home game, the Jackets held on to defeat Clemson, 66-64, for their third win over a ranked ACC team of the season. It seemed they had started to turn the corner.

Then came Sunday’s reminder that this corner might take a while to turn.

The Jackets had the ball and a one-point lead in the final half-minute at Florida State. Then Zach Peacock missed a free throw, Glen Rice committed a foul at the offensive end, the Seminoles hit two free throws and the Jackets eventually lost, 68-66.

In the final 26 seconds of the game, Tech went 0-for-3 from the floor, 0-for-1 from the free throw line, committed two fouls and had a turnover. Such are the growing pains of a team that has four freshmen (Rice, Derrick Favors, Brian Oliver, Mfon Udofia) and a sophomore (Iman Shumpert) in its regular rotation.

That needs to change tonight against Wake Forest. If the Jackets are to return to the NCAA tournament this season, they can’t afford to have similar …

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Should it be Crawford over Johnson in All-Star Game? (UPDATE II: Horford in)

Is Jamal Crawford a more deserving All-Star this season than Joe Johnson?

Is Jamal Crawford a more deserving All-Star than Joe Johnson?

(The Hawks have confirmed that Joe Johnson and Al Horford made the Eastern Conference All-Star team. See link below.)

Last week, former NBA and Michigan star Chris Webber – a relative newbie to broadcasting for TNT — said what I believe a lot of people were thinking: that Hawks guard Joe Johnson might be added to the Eastern Conference All-Star team but Jamal Crawford deserved it more.

In fact, I might even take that one step further. While Johnson is a three-time All-Star and again the team’s leading scorer — he had 31 points in a loss at San Antonio Wednesday night — a case could be made that he has been the Hawks’ third-best player this season, behind Crawford (the super sub)

Which Hawk is the most deserving All-Star?

  • Joe Johnson
  • Jamal Crawford
  • Josh Smith

View Results

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and Josh Smith (who has matured and is less prone to firing up jumpers from Macon).

The balance of the All-Star …

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Future watch: Braves lead locals in young talent (UPDATE: Heyward is No. 1 prospect)

Jason Heyward has a chance to win the right field job in spring training.

Jason Heyward may win the right field job in spring training.

(UPDATE: Jason Heyward has been named the No. 1 prospect by Scouts Inc. and the Braves have five players listed in the top 85. See below.)

A little clarification this morning.

Last week,  I suggested that the Braves needed to sign free agent outfielder Johnny Damon to fill their need for a leadoff batter. There has been a void at the top of their order since Rafael Furcal left town. That void has coincided with the Braves’ failure to make the playoffs. Go figure. For the record, Damon is still available and Frank Wren is still not taking my advice. Maybe I should send a nice email? Flowers?

Anyway, back to the clarification: At no point was it my suggestion that the Braves’ general future is doomed without Damon. In fact, there is some slight confirmation this week that their future is pretty bright.

Led by outfielder Jason Heyward, the Braves’ farm system ranks fifth in baseball in organizational talent, according …

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Everybody needs to just back off Tim Tebow

224608_Senior_Bowl_Football Tim Tebow will go down as one of the greatest college football players in history (as hard as that is for some Georgia fans to stomach).

It also possible he will go down with other great college players, including Heisman Trophy winners, who weren’t good enough to play in the NFL. Archie Griffin, Johnny Rogers, Andre Ware, Danny Wuerffel, almost every other quarterback who played at Florida and even your David Greene all come to mind.

But for some reason, Tebow is being treated differently right now.

I’ve never seen a college athlete so ridiculously dissected and debated daily. I’ve never seen a college athlete – who by the way exemplified everything we want a college athlete to be – seemingly have so many people (mostly rival SEC fans) pulling against him. Is there some motivation to root against a player’s desire to make a living?

Look, I get the whole 24/7 media feeding frenzy thing. I’m part of it. But what this guy is being subjected to right now doesn’t seem quite …

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Heard this before? Thrashers scrambling and star unsigned

Is it one leg over the boards or one foot out the door for Ilya Kovalchuk? (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Is it one leg over the boards or one foot out the door for Ilya Kovalchuk? (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Here we are again. The night starts with the team ranked 25th of 30 in the standings, the stands are half-empty and the talk leading to another trade deadline is not about the potential inbox but the likely outbox.

This is not what the NHL banked on (pun absolutely intended) when it brought Atlanta back into the league. It is not what former owner Ted Turner intended when he spent $80 million for an expansion franchise that in 2009 was ranked 29th in total value ($143 million), ahead of only the Phoenix Coyotes, who were in bankruptcy. It’s certainly not what the shrinking base of hockey fans in Atlanta deserves.

But here we are. Again.

“I expected us to compete for a playoff spot,” Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said, “and that’s what we’re doing.”

Well, yes. Welcome to the NHL, where teams have to lose a game and practically spread an incurable disease not to get a point in …

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