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Sunday, February 1, 2015

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Packers fire special teams coach after disastrous season

Shawn Slocum

The Green Bay Packers blew a spot in the Super Bowl in epic fashion and someone had to pay the price. That person was special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum.

Slocum was fired by Packers head coach Mike McCarthy Friday following a disastrous season across the board. Two of Slocum’s worst moments came in the NFC Championship Game when the Packers allowed the Seahawks to run a fake field goal for a touchdown, and when they failed to recover an onside kick. Stopping either play in all likelihood would have resulted in a victory and Super Bowl berth.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel breaks down some of the special teams low-lights:

Green Bay had seven blocked kicks, including five over the final seven regular-season games. The kickoff return game never took off — DuJuan Harris’ 20.7 yards per return ranked 20th.

Punter Tim Masthay regressed down the stretch. His net of 37 yards per punt ranked 30th in the NFL, his 14 punts inside the 20 ranked last.

The seven blocked field goals were a ridiculous amount and accounted for over 11 percent of the blocks in the league according to STATS Inc. The Packers also allowed a punt return for a touchdown in their surprising loss at Buffalo.

Slocum had coached under McCarthy since 2006. When you consider how bad the Packers were on special teams across the board, Slocum should have been fired a long time ago.

Serena Williams loses point as hindrance for yelling come on (Video)

Serena WilliamsSerena Williams and Maria Sharapova got into a battle of yells while squaring off in the finals of the Australian Open Saturday, and Williams even lost a point because of her exuberance.

Sharapova and Williams went back and forth trading loud “C’mon” yells during the second set of the match. Trying to pump herself up after dropping the first set, Sharapova would yell out cmon! after winning points. In response, Williams started doing it back and would even stare down Sharapova afterwards (you can see an example in the video above).

But at one point Williams cost herself by yelling it prematurely. Serving to ad court, Williams yelled “come on!” before Sharapova even returned serve (Serena must have figured she hit an ace). The chair umpire penalized Serena for causing a “hindrance,” and took away the point. Williams, who has exploded on officials for much less, calmly walked back to the deuce court and proceeded to win the game. The best part was after she won the next point, she did a quiet version of the come on:

The fans were loving the low-key c’mon.

Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard had brief handshake (Video)

One of the more notable moments from the Australian Open on the women’s side came after the quarterfinal match between Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard.

Sharapova romped in the match 6-3, 6-2 to remind the 20-year-old that she still has some work to do. Sharapova was ecstatic to be advancing to the semifinals, so she celebrated boisterously. Bouchard was down on herself for the straight-set loss and couldn’t really be bothered to give Sharapova a warm handshake, as you can see.

Another interesting aspect of the handshake to consider is that Bouchard is considered “the next Sharapova” in terms of ability to have on-court success and global marketability. There is little doubt that added to Bouchard’s disappointment following her poor performance.

Check out the photo to get an idea of how unenthusiastic Bouchard was:

Is there some tension there? There has to be. Plus you also have to recognize that this is a manifestation of how competitive Bouchard is and how much losing kills her.

As for Sharapova, she isn’t about to put herself above Bouchard in terms of status. She said after the match that Bouchard is doing so well in her career that she doesn’t need advice from the Russian.

Maria Sharapova Genie Bouchard

Serena Williams’ boyfriend-coach Patrick Mouratoglou: not thinking about Steffi Graf yet

Patrick Mouratoglou Serena Williams

Serena Williams is one of the most accomplished tennis players in the sport’s history, but she is still chasing one big mark: the one set by Steffi Graf.

Graf has the record for all tennis players with 22 grand slam singles titles. Williams is tied for second with Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert with 18, but she has a strong chance to separate herself with a win over Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open finals. Still, Serena’s coach and boyfriend Patrick Mouratoglou says he does not believe she is thinking about Graf’s mark yet.

After Williams beat Madison Keys in straight sets to reach the finals, Mouratoglou was asked whether his pupil/lover is thinking about tying Graf.

“To be honest I don’t think so. I think she feels it’s way too far still,” Mouratoglou said via the WTA. “She’s just looking at the next Grand Slam and it’s enough for her to feel the desire to go on. With the tournament she had, believe me she wouldn’t be into this final if she weren’t very motivated.”

He is right — it is a little too far to think about it immediately, but it has to be on Serena’s mind. If she beats Sharapova (again) that would give her 19. If she pulls down another major or two this year, she’ll be in striking distance for next year. And despite being 33 years old, Serena is not showing any signs of a potential slowdown in the future.

Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao close to deal for fight

Manny Pacquiao Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao are inching closer to reaching a deal to fight in May, according to reports.

TMZ reported Friday that the two sides reached agreement to fight at the MGM Grand on May 2, which is the venue and time of year for typical Mayweather fights. However, other boxing reporters say that while a deal is close, TMZ jumped the gun by saying it’s a done deal.

Prominent boxing reporters Chris Mannix and Kevin Iole weighed in:

The most telling tweet of all came from Showtime boxing executive Stephen Espinoza, who said TMZ’s sources were off here.

Earlier on Friday Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum said they were getting close to a deal.

“We’re looking to complete the paperwork. Everything is moving in the right direction. Hopefully, the next couple of days it will get done.”

The boxing world will be waiting and hoping that the deal finally gets done.

TJ Lang: Ndamukong Suh wanted to fight me after stepping on Aaron Rodgers

Ndamukong-Suh-dating-show

Green Bay Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang says Ndamukong Suh was so charged up in the Week 17 game between the teams that the Lions defensive lineman challenged him to a fight.

Lang was on the radio Friday with 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit and said Suh stepping on teammate Aaron Rodgers led to their battle. He says he didn’t see Suh step on Rodgers (watch the video here), but Rodgers’ words were enough to motivate him.

“From my vantage point, I turned around, I saw Aaron down, and I just tried to grab [Suh] to make sure he couldn’t land on him or anything,” Lang told “Valenti and Foster.” “A couple plays later we got into it a little bit. Aaron told me that – he was complaining that his calf hurt, that he got stepped on, which, for me, I’ve got to listen to my guy, my quarterback.

“We got into it after a block and just kind of started talking a little bit,” Lang continued. “I was telling him – he was challenging me to a fight, and I’m not afraid of him … It was all part of just the frustration, I think. I’m not going to say that I shut him down the whole game because we were double-teaming him 90 percent of the time — you’d be idiotic not to do that, the type of player he is. I think he was just frustrated that we were beating them and we were kind of getting after him a little bit.”

Lang brought up another really interesting point about Suh. He says Suh’s behavior seemed to be different when the teams met in Week 3. Lang noticed that Suh, who is regarded as one of the dirtier players in the league, was helping players up and being more of a sportsman on the field. Lang surmised that the change was due to Suh’s effort to clean up his image, especially with free agency looming.

Suh cried in his press conference after the Lions’ season ended, lending credence to the speculation that that was his last game with the team. We don’t expect him to be so soft-hearted when he steps back onto the field.

Mick Foley disqualified from wing eating contest for cheating (Video)

WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley may have gotten away with using foreign objects during his wrestling career, but skirting the rules at a chicken wing eating competition was not as easy.

Foley was a contestant at Wing Bowl 23 on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. When officials saw him trying to hide chicken wings in a fanny pack he was wearing, Foley was disqualified.

Mick-Foley-wing-eating

According to TMZ, Foley tried to play dumb until footage of him cheating was shown on the arena video board. He was then booted from the competition.

Was Foley’s ousting staged? It sure seems like it.

Hopefully Mick Foley went and hung out with his two favorite twins to help him get through this difficult time.

Rex Ryan: Seahawks need to ‘take the air out of the football’

Rex-Ryan-Bills

Rex Ryan has made a number of media appearances during the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, and the new Buffalo Bills head coach continues to prove he has not lost his sense of humor.

During an appearance on the CBS Eye on Football podcast this week, Ryan snuck in a couple of jabs at his favorite rival, the New England Patriots. For starters, he believes the Seattle Seahawks need to focus on one thing in order to beat the Pats.

“I will say this, I think Seattle needs to take the air out of the football,” Ryan said. “And run the football…”

Considering no one even asked Rex for his keys to the game, you could argue that he was forcing it.

His next joke was a little more clever. Ryan, who has a great relationship with Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis, was asked who he would take between Revis and Richard Sherman.

“Oh, I can’t say because one team will get me for tampering if I give my true honest answer,” Rex joked. “So I’m not gonna do it.”

Of course, Ryan was referring to the Patriots filing tampering charges against New York Jets owner Woody Johnson. It should be noted that Johnson’s comments about Revis were a bit more than just complimenting another team’s player.

To his credit, Rex did say that Belichick is going to go down as one of the greatest — if not the greatest — coaches of all time regardless of Sunday’s outcome. His comments were simply a reminder that he is still the same guy we saw mock Belichick earlier this season.

Jim Mora tweets photo to LSU recruit Maea Teuhema, claims he was hacked

Jim Mora USC fight on

UCLA head coach Jim Mora has had an up-and-down relationship with Twitter, and it abruptly ended once again on Thursday evening.

As Bruins Nation noted, Mora tweeted a photo of five-star offensive guard Maea Teuhema wearing a UCLA jersey. It appeared to be an obvious recruiting tactic, but it was also a recruiting violation. Why? Because Teuhema has already committed to LSU.

Jim-Mora-Maea-Teuhema

Of course, UCLA later claimed Mora was hacked. Someone wrote that Mora has not been represented by anything written on his Twitter account since Jan. 3, when he deactivated the account shortly after this handshake incident with Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.

Jim-Mora-hacked

Twitter accounts can be hacked, but more often than not that is just something people say after they screw up. Considering UCLA has been using the same exact photoshop tactic to recruit other players, it’s hard to believe Mora’s account was hacked.

In all likelihood, Mora meant to send Teuhema a direct message. His Twitter account has since been deactivated. That’s probably for the best.

H/T Dr. Saturday

Kobe Bryant planning to return next season

Kobe Bryant angry

Kobe Bryant is 36 and has suffered a number of significant injuries over the past few years, the most recent of which is a torn rotator cuff that will sideline him for the remainder of the 2014-2015 season. He still isn’t planning to call it a career.

On Thursday, Bryant said he intends to be ready to return to action by September to at least play out the final year of his deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe says it doesn’t bother him that many members of the media have been saying he should retire.

“I don’t really listen much to what you people have to say, to be honest with you,” he said.

Kobe’s latest season-ending surgery (third consecutive year) has a nine-month recovery period. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said he expects Kobe to return next season and that he is hoping the team around him will be vastly improved.

“I don’t think he’s retiring,” Kupchak said, per Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “He said he’s looking forward to training camp. That’s what we expect.

“When you’re winning games, it’s a lot easier to get ready to play and play through aches and pains. To me, a big part of Kobe’s contribution next year is if we can improve this team during the offseason.”

At some point, Kobe will have to accept that all of these injuries aren’t simply bad luck. His body is breaking down, which makes perfect sense after 18 seasons playing professional basketball. Given what Kobe said earlier this month, we wouldn’t be shocked if he changed his mind about playing next year.

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