Wednesday, December 29, 2010

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        Sincerely, ManuSamoa61

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Polamalu Questionable for Sunday's Game Against the Browns

The Pittsburgh Steelers probably won’t know until Friday whether safety Troy Polamalu can play in Sunday’s final regular-season game at Cleveland.
Polamalu hasn’t played or practiced for two weeks because of an injured right Achilles’ tendon. Coach Mike Tomlin said he won’t practice Wednesday or Thursday.
“Troy is improving,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “We’re going to look at him and watch him move. It’s not out of the realm of possibility he could play. If he’s healthy, he will.”
If Polamalu can’t go Friday, he won’t play against the Browns (5-10), who upset the Steelers 13-6 in Cleveland last season.
While the Steelers aren’t ruling out Polamalu, linebacker James Farrior said Monday it didn’t look good for Polamalu being ready by this weekend—despite what will be a 10-day break since Pittsburgh beat Carolina 27-3 on Thursday.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s broken nose isn’t considered a problem, even though it was bloodied by a hit in the Carolina game.
Tomlin also said running back Mewelde Moore is questionable because of a sprained right knee. Linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds have knee swelling, and cornerback Bryant McFadden  has a hip injury.
While last season’s loss in Cleveland to a one-win Browns team eventually prevented the Steelers from returning to the playoffs, they didn’t know it at the time. There will be no such uncertainty this year.
While the Steelers (11-4) have secured a playoff spot, they will win the AFC North, earn a first-round bye and ensure themselves of at least one home playoff game if they beat the Browns (5-10). Should they lose in Cleveland and Baltimore (10-5) beats Cincinnati (3-12), the Ravens would win the division and the Steelers would be forced to go on the road next week for a wild-card game.
If both the Steelers and Ravens lose, Pittsburgh would win the division based on a better divisional record.
Tomlin said last season’s loss won’t necessarily prove motivational when the Steelers resume practicing Wednesday. Pittsburgh has won 13 of its last 14 against Cleveland.
“What’s at stake right now and right here is enough motivation,” he said. “We’re trying to secure the AFC North title. In order to do that, we have to go into an AFC North city and do the job—and I’m sure they’re not for us doing it. So it’s going to make it interesting and exciting.”
Woodley said the Steelers haven’t forgotten last season’s loss in Cleveland, when Roethlisberger was sacked eight times for 60 yards in losses. That loss was the Steelers’ fifth in a row, but they bounced back to win their final three and have won 14 of 18 since.
“We have to take care of Cleveland,” Woodley said. “Last year, when we played Cleveland down there, they took care of business on us. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen this year.”

Monday, December 27, 2010

Louisville Basketball's Peyton Siva Named Big East Player of The Week

University of Louisville sophomore guard Peyton Siva has been named the Big East Conference Player of the Week.

Siva scored a career-high 29 points and had eight assists in a 114-82 victory at Western Kentucky in the Cardinals’ only game last week.
He hit 8-of-13 shots from the field, 4-of-7 three-pointers, 9-of-10 free throws and added two steals.
Siva was the first Louisville player of the week selected this season.

The Passion For The 7s Rugby

The most symbolic sporting moments of 2010 - perhaps the Superbowl winning New Orleans Saints as a metaphor of the rebirth of their city after Hurricane Katrina, the Ryder Cup as an emblem of European golf's rise, Rafael Nadal's three tennis Grand Slam wins as possibly the end of the Federer era - trip almost instantly off the tongue.
There are higher profile underdog stories such as Qatar's successful 2022 World Cup bid, Francesca Schiavone claiming the French Open as a 29-year-old 17th seed or Louis Oosthuizen winning the Open Championship at the home of golf by a mile, but perhaps the greatest against-the-odds triumph of 2010 was the miniscule Pacific island of Samoa being crowned champions of the 2009/10 IRB Sevens World Series.
Located halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, you could fit the 180,000 population of Samoa into Twickenham and the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and the adult male population of a sports-playing age wouldn't fill either one of the pitches.
Yet, on 30 May at Murrayfield, the home of Scottish Rugby, captain Lolo Lui scored a drop-goal penalty in the 14th energy-sapping minute of extra-time to win their Edinburgh Sevens Cup semi final against England and secure the title for Samoa.
Given the size of their nation, that in itself would be enough. Add in the fact that Samoa weren't using any of their legions of overseas-based professional rugby players and it becomes remarkable. Consider the fact that Samoa's entire delegation of athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics totalled six, that five of them didn't even get past the first phase in their events and in seven visits into the five-ring circus not one Samoan has returned with a medal, and it becomes exceptional.
Welcome home
"Before this year our greatest sporting triumph was winning the 2007 Hong Kong Sevens ... before that? I have no idea. I guess there hadn't been any major achievements," said Samoan coach Stephen Betham, who oversaw a remarkable transformation as his side won four of the season's last five events in Las Vegas, Adelaide, Hong Kong and, eventually, Edinburgh.
When they flew back from Scotland seemingly the entire population came out to greet them.
"It was unbelievable! When we arrived home we had to have a police escort from the airport into town. We were mobbed by people at the airport and for the 30-35 minutes drive into town there were people lined up on both sides of the road all the way into town. It was great to see; old people and young children lining the road waving and cheering the team," Betham recalls.
It almost goes without saying a national holiday was declared.
One of the primary factors in the triumph were the funding and the expertise that the IRB's high performance initiative has ploughed into the so-called Tier 2 and 3 rugby-playing nations, which as well as driving the development of the Game in the Pacific Island has also been helping the national teams in countries like Canada, Georgia, Namibia and Russia become more competitive.
Single greatest achievement?
"It is one of the great 'little-engine-that-could' stories in any sport anywhere in the world this year. It is proof that passion and planning, coupled with ability and opportunity, can help even the smallest of nations find their place in the sporting world.
"The fact that Samoa proved that emerging nations can not only compete but can also triumph against the traditional giants of the sport and the IRB's determination to give them every opportunity is one of the things that sealed our deal to sponsor the HSBC Sevens World Series," said Giles Morgan, HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship.
Mark Egan, the International Rugby Board's Head of Development and Performance, went one further, describing Samoa's triumph as a milestone for the sport.
"In terms of cup winning in global competition, it might be the single greatest achievement in the history of the sport," he said.
"You might think of Fiji, but they've about five times the Samoan population. No other country of such a small size and with such limited resources has achieved what they have done. With the right strategic investment small countries can compete, especially in Sevens."
Becoming a family
Repeating their success in the 2010/11 season will not be easy, however. Their star and IRB Sevens Player of the Year - 26-year-old winger Mikaele Pesamino - is bound for Sale Sharks in England's Aviva Premiership and may be lost to Samoan Sevens.
This follows hot on the heels of legend Uale Mai, the most capped player in Sevens history, whose move to Club de Rugby El Salvador in Valladolid, Spain, at the start of the year denied them another star player.
To make matters worse, captain Lolo Lui tore an anterior cruciate ligament in Dubai in the first event of the 2010/11 HSBC Sevens World Series and will be out for around six months.
Whatever happens, nothing can take away what the team achieved. In Samoa, they will be treated the way the bigger countries treat their Rugby World Cup or FIFA World Cup winning sides.
"We've become one family. After winning the World Series we've all become really close. This was our third year together and I knew they had all of the potential and the talent; it was about getting them a focus in their life and what their targets were and achieving their targets," Betham explained.
"We had an idea and we pulled in the senior players and convinced them of what needed to be done and they filtered it down to the younger players. They followed it through and we ended up at the top!" - IRB

Speed Thrills of Rugby Pacific Islanders

2009/2010 IRB Sevens World Series Player of the Year, Mikaele Pesamino is likely to lead a very powerful Samoan team to next month's Uprising International Sevens in Suva.
Uprising tournament organiser Randall Kamea said he had spoken to Samoan team officials and they had confirmed they would send their main team to the two-day tournament. "I have talked to the Samoa team coach and he has confirmed that all his top players will be coming and that includes the likes of Pesamino and others who have been playing for Samoa in the IRB series," Kamea said.
Kamea said Samoa's participation was going to make competition more interesting, especially with the Digicel Fiji team also in it.
"We will have the Iliesa Tanivula-coached side in the tournament, so fans surely can expect to see some top sevens action," Kamea said.
"I believe Tonga will also be sending a very powerful side." Kamea said they had confirmed 11 teams and the other five would be finalised within the next 24 hours. "At the moment we have Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand Maori, Samurai International, US Grizzlies, Les Bleu, Ponsonby and New Caledonia confirmed to participate," he said.
"We have also named the two local teams that will participate and that is the Uprising team as they are the hosts and Nadroga.
Kamea said the tournament would help Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and France to test themselves before they move to the Wellington Sevens. The Uprising International Sevens Tournament will be held at the tfl National Stadium on January 21-22, 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day the Cleveland Browns Passed Haloti Ngata

I just read an article from Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun in which he detailed the 2006 draft and how two organizations that will forever be tied to each other function oh so differently. Obviously, the original Cleveland Browns were moved to Baltimore to form what we now know as the Ravens. The Cleveland Browns that exist today were created by the NFL as an expansion team in 1999 and the two franchises could not be more polar opposites.
The Ravens have enjoyed incredible success and are nearly a perennial playoff (if not SuperBowl) contender, while the Browns are a perennial bottom feeder in the NFL and AFC North. The story of the 2006 draft points out a bit of inside perspective as to why these organizations are what they are.
As Hensley details, in the 2006 NFL Draft which was headed up in Cleveland by Phil Savage (ironically a successful member of the Ravens' front office prior to his stint in Cleveland), the Browns held the 12th overall pick.
They were speaking with defensive monster, Haloti Ngata. According to the article, the Browns were on the phone with him advising him that unless a trade happened they would be selecting him at #12. Consistent with the Browns since their return, they just all of a sudden hung up. No explanation, nothing. They just hung up on the young man.
The Ravens immediately called and informed him that they traded a 6th round pick to move up to the Browns spot and they would be selecting the defensive tackle. The Browns selected Kamerion Wimbley from Florida State instead. Wimbley is just one of the multitude of 1st round picks that are no longer on the Browns roster including Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, Brady Quinn to name a few of the more recent disasters.
Ngata, on the other hand, has turned into a key component of the Ravens defense and has emerged as one of the best defensive players in the entire NFL. Who can say what directly Ngata's career would have taken if he were selected by the Browns and what direction the Browns team may have taken.
Obviously, hindsight is always 20/20, but there have just been far too many occurrences like this to give the Browns the benefit of the doubt. Everyone misses once in a while, but the successful teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh hit far more often than they miss. The Browns had a Ravens-esque type draft last season hitting (or at least appearing to hit) on multiple starters and impact players in Colt McCoy, Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Shawn Lauvao when healthy and potentially Monterio Hardesty. If the Browns are able to duplicate this type of "hit rate" for another draft or two, they will be legitimate contenders in the AFC North.
Ngata is an incredible player, but I don't think he's that great of a player that he would've significantly altered the course of the Browns franchise. There have been far too many mistakes similar to this draft day blunder that one player simply cannot erase. No matter how great he may be.

Kawika Mitchell is The Newest New Orleans Saint

Kawika Mitchell, an 8-year NFL veteran who won a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants, became the newest member of the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday, December 8.
The team signed the linebacker to an undisclosed deal after he impressed in a workout and a roster spot became available because the Saints put running back Ladell Betts on injured reserve, ending his season. The Saints did not need another running back because Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush are back from injuries and both are expected to play Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
"He had a good workout the other day," Coach Sean Payton said. "With the injury to (Stanley) Arnoux, we were able to bring in (Ramon) Humber as a special teams player; Kawika is a player that has a lot of experience and will number one give us depth and we'll look to see as we move forward how we can work him into our various packages. But he's someone with a lot of experience and we felt like his workout was very good."
Mitchell, 31, a South Florida product, was greeted at practice with the traditional new guy's welcome: 40 up-downs while the rest of the defense milled around him hurling invective until, upon completion of the grueling initiation, the defenders transform into a congratulatory mob.
"That's the first time I've been a part of something like that but it's alright," Mitchell said. "They've been giving it up for 12 weeks so I figure I can give them 40 up-downs."
Mitchell said he's ready for anything.
"I'm fortunate to be given this opportunity and I'm ready to do whatever is needed to help defend the title," Mitchell said. He did not return to the Giants in the 2008 season after they won the Super Bowl, and he said it's been instructive to see how serious the Saints are about their business after claiming their first NFL championship.
"It's good to be around and see what it's like the year after winning a championship," he said. "They're serious about getting another one."
Payton said Mitchell's ability to be an immediate contributor in special teams was a big plus and he left little doubt that is where the Saints expect to see him first. At the same time, Payton said the Saints won't hesitate to mix Mitchell into the defense as they enter the season's critical final four games.
In other personnel moves on the practice squad, the franchise signed running back Chris Taylor and released quarterback Sean Canfield.

Washington Seamount League High School Players

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Harvey Langi visits USC, down to five.

Harvey Langi (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) took his final official visit to USC this past weekend. The talented running back had earlier visited UCLA and Utah and although he said five schools are still involved, this one looks more like a two-team race.
Langi is one of the most versatile players in the region and arguably the top power back in the West, but has the ability to play linebacker of even safety at the next level. "It was an unbelievable trip, I had a real good time," Langi told "I talked to the running backs coach, coach [Kennedy] Pola the most. I was hosted by all the players that were still on campus. I was the only recruit there this weekend so I got to hang out with all of them. I am not taking any more visits. Now I am going to kick back with my family for the holidays and then make my announcement at the Army All-American Game."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Construction Begins On Samoa HP Centre

The construction of the Samoa Rugby Union’s (SRU) High Performance Facility will start today at Faleata with a special ground-breaking ceremony attended by the Prime Minister of Samoa and SRU Chairman, Hon. Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi.

The state-of-the-art facility will feature a High Performance gym, recovery and rehabilitation centre, four new training pitches, accommodation for up to 90 athletes and a dedicated administration centre for SRU staff. Construction is expected to be completed well ahead of Samoa’s Rugby World Cup preparation camp in August 2011.

The start of construction represents an important milestone for the SRU High Performance Programme, which is underwritten by International Rugby Board funding through strategic investments aimed at increasing the competitiveness of the global Game.

The IRB has contributed over GBP £1million to the project, which has been made possible through the donation of 36 hectares of land at the Faleata Sports Complex by the Samoan Government.

“The construction of the High Performance Facility in Samoa continues an impressive 12 months for Samoan Rugby,” said IRB Head of Development and Performance Mark Egan.

“Samoa’s high performance progress has been significant over the past year with IRB Sevens World Series and ANZ Pacific Nations Cup titles achieved and an impressive set of results during the recent November Tests.”

“In that regard, it is fitting that the facility will be ready for the Manu Samoa’s Rugby World Cup 2011 preparation camp next August and we are delighted to be partnering with the Samoa Rugby Union on this important project which we hope will elevate the SRU High Performance Programme to a new level.”

“Of course, this project would not have been possible without the significant support of the Samoan Government, and on behalf of the IRB I would like to extend our gratitude to the Prime Minister and his Government for the donation of land on which this impressive facility is being constructed,” added Egan.

Rugby is the national sport in Samoa and as excitement builds with the start of the 2010/11 HSBC Sevens World Series this month and Rugby World Cup 2011 less than nine months away, the SRU High Performance Facility is central to the Union’s Sevens and Rugby World Cup 2011 aspirations.

Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, the Hon. Tuilaepa is excited about the potential of the new facilities to enhance the capacity of Samoa’s rugby performance at the regional and international level.

“The contribution and support accorded by IRB towards the elite development of rugby in Samoa is acknowledged with deep gratitude,” said Tuilaepa ahead of the ceremony on Monday.

The special ceremony will commence at 17:00 (local time) on Monday, December 13 on the site at the Faleata Sports Complex.

Mark Sanchez, Meet My Friends Troy Polamalu and James Harrison

There are still questions about who will be defensive player MVP.  The only thing for sure is that in spite of the efforts of the commissioner, it should be a Steeler—maybe even two Steelers sharing the award. 

The Steelers defense is ranked fourth in the league.  The pass defense is ranked first, giving up a miserly 60.1 rushing yards per game.  Yes, the defense ranks 23 versus the pass, but the good news is the J-E-T-S are coming to town.  And it is time to pad the pass defense statistics.
This Sunday Heinz Field welcomes the swagger and bravado of the Jets, Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. 

Sanchez, the California boy who has 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for 2010.  Sanchez, who last week against Miami had 44 attempts, 17 completions, 216 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 fumble lost, 1 interception and 6 sacks.  Mark Sanchez, who looked bewildered, bedazzled and beguiled the entire game—was he also continually fighting back tears? 

Mark Sanchez, let me introduce you to my little friends Troy Polamalu and James Harrison.  These two have a combined 11 sacks, 8 interceptions and 7 forced fumbles.  Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, who anchor a defense that gives up 60.1 rushing yards per game—a defense that will dare you to throw the ball and challenge Ike Taylor who currently can show you his impressive stats, holding his own with 56 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions and 1 forced fumble.
While I admit I am sometimes confused that this defense is 23rd against the pass, I must admit the vision of Mark Sanchez coming to Pittsburgh this week gives me glimpses of hope that this is the weekend that we will move up in the statistical column for pass defenses.  It is said that Sanchez plays worse in the cold being a warm weather California boy. 

But last year in the playoffs against Cincinnati, the temperature was 29 degrees, 9 degrees with the wind chill.  Sanchez amassed one touchdown, completing 12-of-15 passes with a passer rating of 139.4.  He led the Jets to a solid 24-14 victory against a team that (little did we know) was  giving the world a preview of the upcoming season, lackluster and underachieving.
Nevertheless, the Steelers are peaking, the Jets are flailing.  Santonio Holmes is coming back to town, Ike Taylor will be there to greet him.  LT is making his first round of the amazing LT comeback tour, Lamar Woodley and James Farrior have front row seats.

This is the game that springs the Steelers into the postseason.  This is the game that begins to dispel the nasty notions of fourth quarter meltdowns.  This is the game where we begin to believe again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All-State Football: Langi Rolled as Miners' Top Gun

Harvey Langi was unarguably the biggest star on Bingham’s 14-0 championship team, whose dominance people will grumble about long after the running back has moved on to Stanford, Utah, Southern Cal or any of the other half-dozen schools begging him to attend classes on their campuses.
The most famous high schooler in Utah is, somehow, humble about all this attention, instead trying to deflect it to his teammates.
“We had weapons everywhere,” he said. “We were like a soldier filled with different kinds of ammo and weapons.”
But Langi was the Miners’ top gun. His cutback moves made college coaches smile and his breakaway speed left defenders slapping the turf in disgust.
But 2010 season for Langi wasn’t just about long runs and touchdowns — he had 17, by the way, despite rarely playing into the fourth quarter. In October, Langi was suspended for the Miners’ first playoff game after police cited him for trespassing and said he admitted to smoking marijuana. Langi subsequently passed a drug test.
Langi called that experience “a big eye-opener” and “that all this stuff, I could have had dropped in a second.”
The opportunities presented to Langi, he seems to recognize, are too critical to mess up.
“I don’t want to be that guy people are like, ‘Oh, I remember Harvey, he couldn’t make it because he wasn’t eligible for college,’” Langi said.
So he continues to focus on school and football, preparing to get better. He watches the great running backs — Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson, even Walter Payton and Barry Sanders. Those are his college prep courses.
“Every time I watch them I get butterflies,” Langi said, “like I could do that and I want to do that.”

Masoli Thanks Ole Miss Fans

If you’re looking for a good example of how our collective attention span can now be clocked with an egg timer, look no further than the case of one Jeremiah Masoli.

In August, Masoli Madness took over.  Houston Nutt was called “dirty” for bringing him to Oxford.  UM fans screamed that the NCAA should give him a second chance.  Rival fans talked about him as though he’d knocked over banks and mailed anthrax.  And media folks… oh, boy, the media folks.  We all started yelling at the top of our lungs that Masoli to Ole Miss was a travesty. 

And just a few months later no one cares.  The Rebels didn’t win many games.  Masoli didn’t have a great year.  The earth never stopped spinning.  The moon never turned to blood.  And now the whole chapter will be but a footnote in the 2010 SEC football history book.

Well yesterday, the guy who came in with such a controversial bang left Ole Miss with a simple e-thanks.

Kyle Veazey of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger points out that Masoli gave a shout-out to Rebel fans on his website:

“… thanks to all the fans for a great season of support.  I know this season wasn’t all we had hoped for but it was a great ride.  One of my favorite moments in my career is the game @ LSU where we almost pulled it off.”

The fact that one of his “favorite moments” is when he “almost” pulled something off tells you what kind of year it was for the QB and the Rebels.  At least he walked the straight and narrow and avoided any public embarrassments.  Good for him on that front.

But just think of all the ink wasted and the vocal chords strained over the Oregon transfer back in August.  We should all try to remember The Great Masoli Overreaction of 2010 the next time a few columnists try to whip us into a frenzy by pushing our outrage buttons.

Sometimes the outrage isn’t worth it.

David Tua Has a Royal Chance At King

David Tua's next opponent, Demetrice King, brings a puncher's chance but little form to their heavyweight showdown in Auckland in the new year.
The 25-year-old American has been confirmed as Tua's comeback fight as the New Zealander recovers from shoulder surgery following his controversial draw with Monte Barrett last July.
King isn't shy, but he's not exceptionally talented either and with similar physical dimensions to the stocky Tua, he should provide an ideal stepping stone on the path back for the Auckland boxer.
"Built like a stubby tree trunk" was the description of King (1.8m and about 110kg) from one American commentator after his loss to respected Fres Oquendo in February. That fight was for the vacant USBA heavyweight title but Oquendo eventually pummelled King into submission – he didn't come out for the 10th round of the scheduled 12-rounder.
King's record since turning pro in 2003 stands at 15 wins and 19 losses from 34 fights. He has won only one of his last five fights– an impressive second-round knockout of rising American-based Tongan Bowie Tupou, who had previously been undefeated. But that was in August last year and he has fought only twice since then.
There are some other credible names in King's history, however. He has fought Michael Grant, Shannon Briggs, Chazz Witherspoon and Kevin Johnson – losing to all four. But he gave Briggs, the former WBO champion, a big scare in their 2005 fight at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In a furious start to the fight, King put Briggs down three times before copping a king-hit himself and being knocked out late in the second round.
King said one punch in that fight gave him the confidence he needed to know he could mix it in big company.
"I hit him with a hook and got him to wobble," he said of rocking Briggs. "When I saw that, I knew I had the power to hang with these guys. It most definitely made me feel like I want to go further."
King hasn't been able to push. But he has never lacked confidence. He has unsuccessfully chased Tua's nemesis, Hasim Rahman, for a fight over the past 18 months. Now he gets to step into the ring with Tua instead.
The fight is in Manukau on March 19 and is being tagged as "David Tua's Backyard Brawl". It is being promoted by former All Black Inga Tuigamala.
The fight is the last on Tua's restrictive deal with Maori Television. If he can achieve a convincing victory he will be free to chase more lucrative fights that will include pay per view deals in New Zealand.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Malcom Floyd's High Energy in Week 14 vs Chiefs

Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd’s numbers weren’t as gaudy as McFadden’s in Week 14. But there is no doubt Floyd made a significant impact in San Diego’s 31-0 victory against Kansas City.

Floyd caught two spectacular touchdown passes in the win. Both scores came in the first half as San Diego jumped out to a 21-0 lead. He finished with four catches for 51 yards. Floyd’s dose of high energy could be a glimpse of things to come down the stretch. The 6-foot-5 acrobatic starting receiver has been hampered by a nagging hamstring injury for more than two months. Sunday, Floyd showed he is at full strength.

So, his high-energy boost might be extending for awhile. The Chargers are 7-6 and trail the 8-5 Kansas City Chiefs by one game in the division. The idea of a healthy Floyd has to give the entire San Diego roster a boost.

Domata Peko Interview

Position: Defensive tackle; Team: Bengals

Height / weight: 6-foot-3 / 320 pounds; Age: 26
College: Michigan State; Hometown: Pago Pago, American Samoa
Domata Peko hasn't cut his mane since 2002. And five seasons into his NFL career, the popularity of his poofy, long hair also hasn't stopped growing. Peko's mane is very much a part of his game, but he's also been a solid contributor on the field. He leads the defensive line with 55 tackles after being voted one of the team captains this season. This week, the dude who calls most everyone "dude" talked to The Enquirer about some people's bizarre fascination with his hair, potentially making money off his mane, football in American Samoa and what one play has done for his career.
Q: Word is that fans and strangers will approach you on occasion and ask if they can touch your hair. Really?
Peko: Sometimes they don't even ask. I'll just feel something, and say, "What the heck?" I was at Hollywood Casino a couple of weeks ago, and someone just randomly said, "Hey, can I feel your hair?" It's not a big deal to me, but sometimes my wife doesn't like it. (laughs)
Q: Troy Polamalu has the Head & Shoulders endorsement. Would you endorse a hair product if given the opportunity?
Peko: It's actually in the works. My agent called me the other day and told me that someone called him and he's working on it. I don't think I can tell anybody about it right now. I'm really excited. Ever since I saw Troy's commercials, I've thought that seems pretty cool and hopefully I can do that.
Q: What's the football tradition like in American Samoa?
Peko: Football is starting to be really big out there. Rugby is our main sport. But now that more Samoans are coming into the NFL, people back home are seeing that as a way to provide for their families and make a name for themselves. Our genes in our culture, we're all big people and I think football is a perfect sport for us.
When I was growing up, I always thought about Junior Seau. He didn't grow up there, but he's Samoan. He was a role model who set an example for us. I had a poster of him on my wall from when he was with the Chargers.
Q: How often do you get back home?
Peko: I've been back one time since I've been in the NFL, and that was last (offseason). I wanted to go back home before that, but I didn't want to go back empty-handed. I wanted to go back with something for the people. So I started the Domata Peko Foundation. I bought shoulder pads and helmets for all six (youth) teams on the island. So now that I have the foundation, I'm going to try to keep going back every year. The next thing I'm going to try to do is start a camp and try to bring as many NFL players as I can down there to teach the kids.
Q: One of the highlights in all of college football from the 2005 season was your 74-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Michigan. Why do you think that play became so big on television highlight reels and YouTube?
Peko: I think it was a lot of things. The hair flopping. It was a rivalry game, and it helped us go to overtime and win. And you hardly get to see a big nose guard go 74 yards down the field and not get caught from behind. Whenever I go back to East Lansing - I went to the Final Four earlier this year when we played Butler - a lot of people remember me because of that. It kind of opened up the doors for me to make it to the NFL. It helped put me on the map. Scouts could see that this big man can move.

Stephen Paea Named Pac-10 Defensive Player of The Year

Oregon State senior defensive tackle Stephen Paea has been awarded the 2010 Pac-10 Conference Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year, league commissioner Larry Scott announced last Tuesday.  Paea won the award based on a vote by the conference’s 10 head coaches.

Paea, a native of Tonga, was a three-year letterman for the Beavers.  He finished 2010 with 45 tackles, including 10 tackles-for-loss and six quarterback sacks.  Paea also caused four fumbles during the season and is the new OSU record holder for career forced fumbles with nine.  He was a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, presented to the nation’s top defensive player, and was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week after OSU’s 36-7 victory over USC last month.  Paea is the second Beaver to earn the conference honor, joining Bill Swancutt (2004).  He also was co-recipient of the Morris Trophy in 2009, awarded annually to league’s top defensive lineman as voted on by the opposing offensive linemen.

Paea, a two-time All-Pac-10 First Team honoree, is joined on the team by junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers.  Rodgers is the first three-time Pac-10 First Team selection ever for a Beaver and also is only the third running back in conference history to make first team on three occasions, joining Charles White of USC (1977-79) and Napoleon Kaufman of Washington (1992-94).  Rodgers is the sixth-leading rusher in conference history with 3,877 yards. 

Senior center Alex Linnenkohl earned Second Team honors, while senior cornerback James Dockery, senior defensive end Gabe Miller, senior linebackers Keith Pankey and Dwight Roberson, junior tackle Mike Remmers, sophomore linebacker Uani `Unga (special teams) and sophomore cornerback Jordan Poyer (kick returner) all earned Honorable Mention.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Family Feud? Raiders' Satele Couldn't Wait for Alualu

Sunday’s battle between the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars was a family affair… sort of.
The Raiders are preaching the value of establishing a running game. In order to do so, however, center Samson Satele will have to do battle against Jaguars first-round pick Tyson Alualu.
Satele is relishing the opportunity to block the Cal product with a familial flair.
“I can’t wait for Alualu,” the Raiders lineman told the Oakland Tribune. “My cousin is married to his sister so it should be a good match.”
(Samson Satele)

(Tyson Alualu)
The Jags play a 4-3 defense, which is typically more difficult to penetrate than the NFL’s current favorite–the 3-4. That said, Jack Del Rio’s defense is currently ranked 17th in the NFL.

Roy Helu Jr. Included In Big 12 Super Seniors

There's plenty of talented underclassmen across the Big 12 -- 10 members of the All-Big 12 first team carry the designation -- but every program needs solid seniors on the field and in the locker room.
(Helu in a record day vs Missouri)
One of them were Roy Helu Jr. of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Roy Helu Jr., RB, Nebraska: Helu's quiet confidence carried the Huskers all season while Taylor Martinez and a dominant secondary soaked up all the headlines. This senior saved his biggest day for Nebraska's most important, rumbling for 307 yards and three touchdowns in what ended up being every bit the Big 12 North Championship it was advertised. Helu was the difference that day and has made a difference since arriving in Lincoln in 2007. Put it this way: The world would be a better place if there were more Roy Helu's running around.

Stanley Havili Named USC Inspirational Player of the Year

USC junior defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, a 2010 All-Pac-10 first teamer who led USC in sacks and tackles for losses, was named the Most Valuable Player of the Trojan football team at the annual awards banquet Sunday (Dec. 12) at the Galen Center.
Casey, a 2-year starter, had 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for losses in 2010 to go along with his 67 tackles. He also had 2 pass deflections, an interception and a fumble recovery. This is his second consecutive USC Defensive Lineman of the Year Award.
Senior fullback Stanley Havili won USC's Most Inspirational Player Award and was named Co-Lifter of the Year. Junior offensive tackle Tyron Smith was presented with USC's Offensive Lineman of the Year Award, while junior linebacker Chris Galippo won the Special Teams Player of the Year Award. Senior tailback Allen Bradford, who ran for 212 yards and scored twice (on a 73-yard run and 47-yard reception, both career longs) in the season-ending UCLA victory, won his second consecutive Player of the Game versus UCLA Award, as well as the Jack Oakie "Rise and Shine" Award for the year's longest run.

Niners Score a Win for Christmas

Mike Iupati is used to knocking guys around for a living. The rookie left guard for the San Francisco 49ers is known for delivering crushing downfield blocks in the running game and keeping nasty-intended defenders away from his quarterback.

He took a break from gridiron action yesterday, however, to deliver a little holiday cheer to local children as they went Christmas shopping for their families.

Although Iupati, No. 77, doesn’t have any children of his own, yesterday he had three young boys look up to him for more than just being tall.

“He’s the best guy,” said Fabian Perdomo, 9, as he gave Iupati a big hug.

The 49ers have teamed up with Samaritan House and Visa to take children shopping during the holidays for four years now. The children participating in the annual event come from Samaritan House clients who are currently struggling to get by in the poor economy.

“Community service is extremely important to the 49ers throughout the year but during the holidays, it is particularly important for us to support those in need,” said Joanne Pasternack, the 49ers Foundation director.

Pasternack, a San Mateo resident, volunteered for Samaritan House when she was younger and linked the 49ers up with the nonprofit to help give back to the community.

Yesterday, 49ers players Josh Morgan, Nate Davis, Reggie Smith, Moran Norris, Nate Clements, Chris Maragos, Chilo Rachal and Manny Lawson joined Iupati in taking 36 children holiday shopping.

“The kids aren’t shopping for themselves,” Pastnernack said. “They get to spend the day with the players and then give the presents they buy to their families.”

Visa donated $250 gift cards to each child.

Iupati helped Perdomo, Jose Rouque and Andrew Vaihol with their shopping duties, although it was not always easy considering all the toys and other items from which to choose.

The boys discussed the merits of toys and games and how to play them with Iupati as they cruised Target.

They checked out boxing gloves and tennis racquets before ending up in the video game aisle.

Toys were not the only items being bought, though. The children were also buying clothes, baby items and even a blender.

But the 49ers do play football and wide receiver Josh Morgan could not avoid fielding questions about the team’s upcoming game with the Seattle Seahawks. Iupati also took time to sign some autographs for fans in between his time with the kids.

Iupati, 23, does not have his own children but does have two nephews and a niece he was inspired to shop for as he hung out with Perdomo, Rouque and Vaihol.

“I wish I had kids,” Iupati said with a smile.

Samaritan House is a nonprofit agency that provides food, shelter and job resources for those in need. It relies on donations from the public to implement its various programs. For more information visit

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Iupati Sidelined in 49ers 40-21 Win Against Seahawks

49ers announced starting LG Mike Iupati was questionable to return against the Seahawks due to a shoulder stinger.
Leading 37-7 midway through the third quarter, it would be a surprise to see the 49ers rush a less-than healthy Iupati back into the game. Adam Snyder has taken over for Iupati.

Roy Helu Jr. Strikes First with the Opening TD in Loss to No. 9 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship

(Roy Helu Jr.)
Nebraska fans had to feel a little uneasy when they saw running back Roy Helu Jr. limp off the field on the Huskers first possession. He wasn't down long, but it gave cause for concern.

Or not.

After stopping Oklahoma on a fourth down try, Helu took the first play of the Huskers' next drive 66 yards for a touchdown to put them ahead 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

It was reminiscent of the opening play against Missouri earlier this year, when Helu finished with 307 yards rushing and had three long touchdown runs. He won't hit 300 yards today, but that run was as important as any this year, establishing the early momentum in favor of the Huskers.

Helu is as important as any third of the Huskers' running attack, but he might have had the fewest headlines heading into today's game. Quarterback Taylor Martinez's injury has been of particular concern, and Rex Burkhead's performance last week with 101 yards, a rushing touchdown and two passing touchdowns earned plenty of attention.

Although Nebraska suffered in a tough loss, they look to capture the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl against Washington on December 30th.

Polamalu & Steelers Defense Ensures Bengals' Losing Streak Continues for 10th Loss of the 2010 Season

Carson Palmer talked all week about how former college teammate Troy Polamalu is the NFL's best defensive player. Then Palmer went out and helped make a strong argument that Polamalu is exactly that.
Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley returned interceptions for Pittsburgh's only touchdowns and the first-place Steelers sent Cincinnati to a franchise record-tying 10th consecutive defeat, winning 23-7 on Sunday.
The Steelers (10-3) couldn't get into the end zone on offense despite dominating the time of possession -- a 9½-minute drive in the second half produced no scoring -- but it didn't matter as they closed in on a playoff spot by playing just well enough to beat the Bengals (2-11).
Palmer threw three interceptions, two to Polamalu, as Cincinnati matched the David Shula-coached 1993 Bengals by losing 10 consecutive games in the same season. The overall franchise record is 11 consecutive defeats from 1992-93.
The Steelers keep seeing Polamalu make play after play like these. Unfortunately for Palmer, he does, too.
"He has talent like no one else," safety Ryan Clark said. "He's just making amazing plays right now."
Last week, Polamalu chopped the ball away from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter, leading to Ben Roethlisberger's decisive TD pass to running back Isaac Redman and a 13-10 victory that gave Pittsburgh the AFC North lead.
This time, Polamalu cut in front of intended receiver Terrell Owens to intercept Palmer's pass and return it 45 yards for a touchdown, tying it at 7 with 4½ minutes left in the first half. Both of Polamalu's career regular-season interception return touchdowns are against Palmer, who roomed with Polamalu while at Southern Cal. Polamalu had the other in 2004.
"I was just doing my job," Polamalu said. "I just happened to be in the right position."
Palmer and Owens talked briefly on the bench about an apparently incorrectly run pass route. An unhappy Palmer walked away from Owens after seemingly not being happy with the explanation.
"I'm not sure what happened with our guys," Palmer said. "When they keep showing the highlights over and over again, that's going to be dejection. Right now, it's just frustration. I don't know if anybody has the words right now to describe what we're feeling as a team."
A lot of quarterbacks have the same feeling after being upstaged by Polamalu, who has helped lead the Steelers to four consecutive victories and an enviable position in the AFC playoff race.
"No one is playing as good as Troy Polamalu in football right now, in my opinion," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "When we need a play, he provides it."
The Steelers, up 13-7 after the long but unproductive drive that extended over much of the third quarter, sealed it with Woodley's 14-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter.
Polamalu also made an interception with two minutes remaining, his sixth of the season, after Cincinnati drove to the Steelers 16.
That pass also was intended for Owens, who came in needing only 39 yards to become only the third receiver in NFL history with 10 1,000-yard seasons but made only one catch for 22 yards.
"I was just out there running around," Owens said. "It wasn't until late in the game I got some looks. There's nothing I can do. ... I'm sick of losing."
Long before that, the Bengals drove 69 yards on their possession for Palmer's 1-yard scoring pass to Andrew Whitworth on a tackle-eligible play -- a drive kept going by Woodley's offside penalty. Whitworth is the first Bengals offensive lineman to catch a touchdown pass in 15 seasons.
Cincinnati's offense spent much of the rest of the game huddling along the sideline as Pittsburgh held the ball for 13:15 of the third quarter, even though leading rusher Rashard Mendenhall ended with a nondescript 66 yards on 18 carries.
The Steelers didn't get much out of all these drives, only three field goals by the perfect-so-far Shaun Suishan. He converted from the 23, 35 and 41. He is 9 for 9 with Pittsburgh.
"I think one drive we went 140 yards, we kept going back and forth and back and forth," Roethlisberger said of the 9½-minute drive, which included three holding penalties. "It's not good enough because we have to score points. Field goals aren't good enough. Luckily our defense bailed us out."
Roethlisberger had an active if not entirely productive afternoon in a game played mostly in rain, although pregame forecasts of in-game snow and whipping winds proved inaccurate.
Roethlisberger, playing on a gimpy right foot and wearing a visor in the first half to protect his broken nose, took hits from three different defenders on one play before getting loose to complete a 9-yard pass to Mendenhall. He also improvised after a shotgun snap sailed high, scrambling for 13 yards to the 5 to set up Suisham's 23-yarder, which put Pittsburgh up 10-7 at the half.