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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NCAA reinstates suspended Buckeyes - Inspiration Fan of the Cardinals - NFL Week 1 Highs and Lows

Starting Over In Style ...
-• Plaxico Burress - You can't really talk career renaissance this season without starting the discussion with Burress, who is attempting to re-trace the Michael Vick post-prison comeback of the past two years. That's obviously a high bar of expectation to meet, but Burress is off to an impactful start to his Jets career, catching a 26-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass that helped boost New York to a comeback of its own. Burress had four catches for 72 yards and that score -- all in the second half -- in the Jets' 27-24 conquest of Dallas on Sunday night, his first regular season game since serving a 20-month sentence for illegal gun possession.

• Ted Ginn Jr. -- Now that's what the Dolphins had in mind when they drafted Ginn ninth overall in 2007, just ahead of prospects like Patrick Willis, Darrelle Revis and Lawrence Timmons -- difference-making plays with the game on the line. But Ginn's fourth-quarter heroics on Sunday came on behalf of San Francisco, where he's starting his second season, and first under new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Ginn's 102-yard kickoff return touchdown quelled a Seattle comeback after the Seahawks had closed to within 19-17, and his 55-yard punt return for a score less than a minute later provided the dagger.

• Darren Sproles -- How can the New Orleans Saints ever re-pay the San Diego Chargers for their generosity over the years? First, the Chargers let Drew Brees walk, and now Sproles is welcomed into the ranks of Saint-hood as well. The seventh-year running back/return man made a smashing debut in New Orleans' 42-34 season-opening loss at Green Bay last Thursday night, finishing the game with 250 total yards on 13 touches (seven catches for 75 yards, two rushes for 7 yards, two punt returns for 92 yards, and two kickoff returns for 76 yards). Sproles' 72-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter kept the Saints in the game when it looked like the Packers would blow their doors off.

• Rex Grossman -- We saw Plenty-Good-Enough Rex on Sunday in Washington, with Grossman seizing the starting opportunity he surprisingly earned in the preseason and not letting go of it in an impressive 28-14 Redskins upset of the visiting Giants. Grossman started a shaky 0 of 4 in the game, but then completed 21 of his final 30 passes, for 305 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a snazzy 110.5 passer rating. It's hard to believe considering his Super Bowl season of 2006, but it was just the fourth 300-yard passing game of Grossman's nine-year career, and the performance forced us to start viewing him as a legitimate No. 1 quarterback again.

• Cadillac Williams -- Lost amid the disappointment of all the Rams' injuries and their humbling 31-13 homefield defeat at the hands of the Eagles was the return to form of Williams in his first game with St. Louis. The former Bucs lead running back took over early for an injured Steven Jackson and wound up with a team-high 91 yards rushing on 19 carries, with five receptions for 49 yards. Those 140 yards of total offense led all running backs in the game, and made the Rams look smart for going out and signing Williams as a free agent at the start of training camp. With Jackson nursing a quad pull, the Rams could be riding Cadillac for the foreseeable future.

• Kevin Kolb -- Cam Newton got the screaming headlines and the highlight clips, but let's not forget it was Kolb who got the win in his highly-anticipated regular season debut with the Arizona Cardinals. Kolb wasn't perfect, but his 18 of 27 showing was good for 309 yards and two touchdown passes, and his 11.44 per pass attempt was the NFL's highest in Week 1. Arizona paid Kolb like a star even before he proved he deserved such treatment, but the Cardinals got some early return on their investment with scoring passes of 70 and 48 yards, matching their total of 40-yard-plus pass plays for all of 2010.

Same Old, Same Old ...
• Donovan McNabb -- Has anyone in recent memory suddenly lost more luster off their resume than McNabb, who put up a statistical line in San Diego that seemed like it had to be a typo, but wasn't? In an NFL that's more wide-open in the passing game than ever, McNabb somehow managed to play an entire game and throw for just 39 yards (7 of 15 with one touchdown and one interception) in the 24-17 loss to the Chargers, a game the Vikings actually led 17-7 into the third quarter. Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb both started and won their games in Week 1, but McNabb, the one-time Eagles franchise QB, looks like a shell of his former self.

• Chad Ochocinco -- On a night when Tom Brady threw for a team-record 517 yards (fifth-most in NFL history), the Patriots' big-name receiver managed just one catch for 14 yards, with Brady only targeting him three times on 48 attempts in the 38-24 win at Miami on Monday. Ochocinco actually should have been in negative yards for the game, because it was his rookie-like illegal formation penalty that cost New England a 41-yard completion to tight end Rob Gronkowski in the first quarter. Without that flag, Brady perhaps would have broken Norm Van Brocklin's NFL record of 554 yards passing in a game. For now, Ochocinco remains an afterthought in the Patriots' high-flying offense.

• Reggie Bush -- The ex-Saint had a few exciting moments against New England, but nothing we haven't seen before. His 11 carries for 38 yards rushing won't change anyone's mind about his potential to fill the role of Miami's lead running back -- just not happening -- and his nine catches for 56 yards and one touchdown weren't difference-making on this night. After watching his replacement in New Orleans, Darren Sproles, explode on the scene for the Saints in Thursday night's opener at Green Bay, Bush didn't exactly hold serve with his prime time showing.

• Shawne Merriman -- Not that the Bills needed much from him to squeak past the reeling Chiefs 41-7 in Kansas City, but the injury-prone veteran outside linebacker barely made an appearance on the stat sheet in his Buffalo regular season debut, recording just one lone tackle. Merriman briefly left the game early on with what appeared to be an arm injury, but later returned. Not that anyone really noticed.

• Matt Hasselbeck -- The numbers say Hasselbeck played pretty well in his Titans debut (21 of 34 for 263 yards with two touchdowns), but the reality is his ugly, final-minute interception cost Tennessee a chance to win. Trailing by just two points and maybe 20 yards shy of a potential game-winning field goal try, Hasselbeck got greedy and unwise, heaving up a jump ball deep down the left sideline that only Jaguars cornerback Dwight Lowery had a chance to catch. Lowery hauled it in at the Jacksonville 20, and that was the ballgame. It was the kind of inexcusable mistake you don't expect from a 13-year veteran quarterback.

• Derrick Mason -- The Jets found a way to beat the self-destructing Cowboys 27-24, but with little help from the ex-Ravens receiver. Mason and New York quarterback Mark Sanchez don't seem to be speaking the same language just yet, and Sanchez's riskiest throws against Dallas seemed to be aimed in Mason's direction. He caught three passes for just 19 yards, but that's minimal impact considering Mason was on the field for 43 snaps in his New York debut.

• Braylon Edwards -- The former Brown and Jet gets the chance to start over in San Francisco this season courtesy of fellow University of Michigan alum Jim Harbaugh. But the new 49ers head coach didn't get much payback from Edwards in the win over Seattle. Edwards had a polite three catches for 27 yards, with the lone highlight being a 12-yard completion in the fourth quarter that provided San Francisco with its first third-down conversion of the game after an 0-for-9 start.

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Ohio State offense vs. Miami defense

• The Buckeyes were not crisp on offense last week against Toledo, with senior QB Joe Bauserman showing sloppy footwork, spotty accuracy, and flat-out missing receivers at times. Ohio State needs more production and big plays from its quarterback this week, so it will be interesting to see if head coach Luke Fickell turns to freshman Braxton Miller if Bauserman struggles again. What Miller lacks in experience he makes up for with athleticism, and his physical skills make more of the playbook available to offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. It could benefit Bollman to get Miller on the perimeter and allow him to make plays with his arm and legs against a fast, athletic Miami defense.

NCAA reinstates suspended Buckeyes

Ohio State (2-0) is girding up to play at Miami on Saturday.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Just in time for its first road game of the season, No. 17 Ohio State got some good news for a change.
The NCAA reinstated three Buckeyes players on Tuesday who were suspended for taking envelopes with $200 cash from a university booster at a charity event earlier this year.
Tailback Jordan Hall and cornerback Travis Howard, tabbed as starters for the Buckeyes in the preseason, along with backup safety Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown, were suspended two games for violating NCAA rules by taking the improper benefits at an event in suburban Cleveland in February.
"It's always good, because these are all your brothers," linebacker Etienne Sabino said soon after the news spread of the reinstatements. "These guys you go to camp with, we work out all year long, we hang out off the field. You're happy for them and you're happy they're going to be out there with you. It's exciting."
The NCAA's only additional stipulation was that the players pay $200 to another charity.
"The university appreciates the NCAA's expeditious response in reinstating these three student-athletes," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement.
The three were suspended just two days before the opener against Akron. Last week, interim coach Luke Fickell said they would be permitted to play in Ohio State's second game against Toledo, but the NCAA on Friday afternoon said it still was looking into the case.
The NCAA confirmed on Monday that it sent questions to Ohio State concerning the three players.
Earlier on Tuesday, Fickell said his team was in limbo when it came to the status of the three players.
"Right now we're just ... waiting. We're not going to make any jumps to conclusions," Fickell said. "We'll wait and see and hopefully we'll hear something soon."
The reinstatement of the three players adds much-needed depth to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is already down three 2010 starters and a backup, all suspended for the first five games of the season for accepting cash and improper benefits from a local tattoo-parlor owner. That scandal led to Jim Tressel being forced out as head coach on May 30, and to three-year starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor giving up his senior season to jump to the NFL.
In its statement, the NCAA said, "Reinstatement decisions are independent of the NCAA enforcement process and typically are made once the facts of the student-athlete's involvement are determined. This is typically well in advance of infractions decisions. The enforcement investigation into the Ohio State University is ongoing."
In other words, the suspension and reinstatement are considered independently of the other, more serious, Ohio State violations.
Ohio State went before the NCAA's committee on infractions on Aug. 12 in that case.
On top of the suspensions,several other key Ohio State players are hurting. Wide receiver Corey Brown hurt a leg and was on crutches in the second half of the Toledo game. Defensive end Nathan Williams missed the Toledo game due to knee pain but is expected to make the trip to Miami.
Fickell said the injuries, the suspensions and all the distractions all make it difficult to prepare for Miami (0-1).
"I guess it's a part of the game," Fickell said. "I can't let that affect us, and we just have to continue to move on and deal with it however it comes. But hopefully we'll hear something soon and just so that we can most importantly prepare ourselves mentally."
Smith told The AP on Saturday that he didn't think the suspension of the three players would have an affect on sanctions pending against Ohio State from the tattoo case.
"The (three) athletes shared that they were educated (by Ohio State's NCAA compliance office) and that's part of the rationale that the NCAA used to (levy) additional sanctions," Smith said.
Smith said he does not believe Ohio State's bigger case, involving the tattoo benefits, merits more severe sanctions than those which the university has already proposed. It has vacated its 12-1 season in 2010, will return bowl monies it received for that season and would go on two years of NCAA probation. It offered as mitigation that Tressel was forced out and that Pryor, the center of NCAA investigations of improper benefits and loaner cars, has left the program.
"I don't think a postseason ban is warranted," Smith said. "I've always said, that's the one thing we would appeal. Anything else, we can accept. But I can't speculate what (the NCAA is) going to do

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