Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jaguars, Jones-Drew marriage could go on after this season

One would have to think that Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, would be on the first plane out of Jacksonville when his contract expires after this season and sign with a contender.

A lot of us would be wrong on thinking Jones-Drew wants out. It's quite the contrary. There is talk that the Jaguars are willing to give Jones-Drew another contract. At the right price.

General manager David Caldwell would like him to come back and head coach Gus Bradley would also like him in the locker room. Jones-Drew, who many thought would be cool to the idea, actually buys in to the direction of the franchise.

"I want to be here," Jones-Drew said. "It's a fun environment. It's different than I've ever been a part of. It works. It takes time to build anything. It's starting to turn around for us, and we're starting to play well. That's exciting."  

"Seeing what I've seen and been through the business part of it, you want to work that thing out as best as possible," Jones-Drew said. "But sometimes it doesn't do that. We've seen it. Look at Peyton Manning. Who would have thought he wouldn't be playing for the Colts right now.

"It happens. Hopefully, things work out well. And if they do, we'll be back."

There is talk of the team offering Jones-Drew an incentive laden two year deal worth $10 million.

Bradley gives a lot of credit to Jones-Drew for being a professional, when he could have been a headache. Being an elite running back having to share carries with the likes of Jordan Todman, playing through injuries, and being in a rebuilding situation can make one a malcontent. Not so says Bradley.

''He's been great, he really has been,'' Bradley said. ''When you're an elite running back - he had like 1,600 yards - those guys want the ball all the time. It's a different mindset now. When you say, 'Let's try this,' he could bow up. He could say, 'What's going on?'

''And if he did do that, I would understand. He fought it a little bit, then he said 'OK.' I'm sure he's not waving pompoms and is ecstatic over it. But the truth of the matter is he's doing better.''   

I guess Jones- Drew likes where he is and that's a good thing. He understands the nature of the business and wants to be part of the change in Jacksonville.

"It Girl" of the week: Cynthia Escobar

The Just Sports & Just Us "It Girl" of the week is Cynthia Escobar.

Ravens' Matt Elam calls Calvin Johnson 'pretty old'

The Detroit Lions will face the Baltimore Ravens next Monday night with both teams having a lot on the line. Both teams are fighting for their playoff lives and whoever loses will find it tough to make it past the regular season.

The Ravens know they'll have to contend with one of the league's top offenses led by receiver Calvin Johnson. But for some reason like everyone else that goes against "Megatron" the Ravens defensive backs talk as if he's average.

Safety Matt Elam had a lot to say about Johnson including calling him "pretty old".

“Big, fast, athletic, unstoppable, freak,” Elam said.

“He’s pretty old, so I don’t know how physical he’ll be,” Elam said. “He’s a big guy, but he’s older. I guess when they get older they’re not going to be as physical, you know what I’m saying? We’re going to have to be physical, make him uncomfortable.”

Johnson does have a height and weight advantage against most defensive backs and the Ravens don't have a lockdown corner that can contend with Johnson. But that didn't stop others in their defensive backfield from chirping.

“We’re not going to get scared because of the name on the back of his jersey,” Chykie Brown said. “He puts his pants on just like we do. We’ve got to out there and do us — get physical on him, play tough on him.” 

Johnson doesn't get involved in any of the trash talking debates but let's his play on the field do the talking for him. I'm sure quarterback Matthew Stafford will make it a point to get the ball to Johnson.

Columbus' Nikita Nikitin doesn't see the need to learn English

Nikita Nikitin, a defenseman playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League, has told R-Sport he refuses to learn English. I don't agree with it but with three Russian teammates in Columbus I can understand his logic. Artem Anisimov, Sergei Bobrovsky and Fedor Tyutin are there to help him on and off the ice.

It probably doesn't make for any good team building exercises but I guess they get along just fine in Columbus. Russian players have always been criticized for not adapting to their new surroundings, but Nikitin doesn't see it as a big deal.

“You always hear Russian speech in the team, although because of that I should admit I don’t learn English,” he said.

“I understand everything I need to, but I can still only speak with difficulty. But there’s always guys around who give me prompts.”

Nikitin may want to rethink his stance on learning English if he's ever traded which is a certainty in professional sports.

Providence's Kris Dunn finished for the season

The optimism surrounding the Providence basketball program is turning into doubt and skepticism once again.

Point guard Kris Dunn, the top rated point guard in the 2012 class will have shoulder surgery and miss the season. Dunn, a sophomore, suffered the injury during an exhibition game against Rhode Island College on Nov. 2. He returned after a three-game absence and averaged 3.8 points in four games before deciding to have surgery. Dunn missed nine games last season after having surgery on the same shoulder before enrolling at Providence for his freshman season.

Providence coach Ed Cooley has been snakebit by eligibility issues and injuries during his time at Providence. He's optimistic that Dunn will come back next season and play a key role in what he hopes will be a Providence renaissance.

"We are looking forward to assisting Kris as he recovers from his surgery," coach Ed Cooley said. "His health and well-being are our primary concern. There is no question that he will rebound from this and continue to improve as a basketball player. We are confident that Kris will be a key member of our team in 2014-15."

Even though the Friars do have some pieces to be competitive, they'll find the road tougher without their point guard. Bryce Cotton is available but he has spent most of his time of the ball. Freshman Brandon Austin is currently suspended for an undisclosed disciplinary on-campus incident.  

The Friars said that they'll apply to the Big East for a medical hardship waiver for Dunn.

Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard wins the Jack Tatum Award

Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard was honored by the Touchdown Club of Columbus, Ohio as the winner of the Jack Tatum Award, given to the defensive back they feel is the best in college football. The award named after former Ohio State Buckeye and Oakland Raider great, Jack Tatum.

Ironically, the Spartans knocked off the Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship game with the help of a stellar effort by Dennard.

Dennard is also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, the top award given to the best defensive back in college football.

Dennard is a physical corner who also excels in coverage. Dennard had 33 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 10 pass deflections and 2 forced fumbles this season for the Spartans.