June 06, 2013

LAWT News Service

 

Las Vegas sports book directors are notoriously tight-lipped about their customers’ wagers, and rightly so. They’re particularly circumspect when it comes to reports of big-money wagers made by celebrities.

So there is no way of telling whether the otherwise innocuous tweet posted on Twitter by @Pregame_Steam that superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather bet more than $5.9 million on the Miami Heat minus-7 to defeat the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 is true.

Yahoo! Sports was unable to reach Mayweather or Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, to verify the report.

Mayweather frequently tweets photos of his betting slips. Usually, but not always, the tweets are of winning tickets. In a fascinating Sept. 12, 2012, story on Grantland. com, writer Dermot Hunt noted that between August 2010 and February 2012, Mayweather tweeted photos of 46 betting slips totaling nearly $3.9 million in wagers. According to Hunt’s record-keeping, May­weather won all 46, making a profit of $3,938,722.87.

If Mayweather did make the bet on the Heat and he won, he'd earn a profit of $6.49 million.

[Related: Here’s one career gamble Floyd Mayweather Jr. should take]

Several persons connected with Las Vegas sports books who did not want their names used said they think it unlikely Mayweather made such a monster wager. Signifi­cantly, though, none of them would completely rule it out as a fabrication.

Lorenzo Fertitta, whose family owns Station Casinos in Las Vegas, wouldn’t totally rule out the large wager.

“That would surprise me [he got down such a big bet in Las Vegas], but you never know,” Fertitta told Yahoo! Sports.

One Las Vegas sports book director, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he doubted Mayweather’s ability to bet that much on one game in the city.

“I don’t [think it’s true],” the bookmaker said of the huge bet. “The only place that gave him sizeable wagers was Cantor [Gaming] and I’ve heard they cut many players way back. I don’t think if he bet that at every book in town he could get that much, and we haven’t taken anything here.”

The beneficiary here, clearly, is Mayweather. He’s worked hard over the last eight years to develop the ‘Money’ persona that has made him rich and famous beyond his wildest dreams. Being associated with making an almost-$6 million bet further enhances that image he's worked so long to build and burnish.

If the Heat win by eight or more points tonight, it would be work checking Mayweather’s Twitter feed to see if he posts a winning ticket.

I’ll choose to be skeptical until there is proof. There were multiple reports in 2008 that Mayweather made $20 million to appear in Wrestlemania, though veteran reporter and industry insider Dave Meltzer said he believes the real payment was less than $3 million.

The point is, Mayweather is masterful at crafting the image of himself as essentially the Warren Buffet or Bill Gates of boxing, but how much of it is true is never easy to discern.

With Mayweather, though, you never know for sure. And that’s why he’s a winner whether the story is true or not. It simply adds to and builds the legend.

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June 06, 2013

By NANCY ARMOUR

AP National Writer

 

For most NFL veterans, minicamps are uneventful, maybe even tedious. It's one more practice in a career filled with hundreds of them.

For Johnny Jolly, however, the first day of the Green Bay Packers minicamp was what he'd imagined for the past three years. Those days he spent in prison and in rehab? It was the hope of stepping back onto the field that helped keep him going.

''It was excellent. It was excellent,'' Jolly said Tuesday, a grin spreading across his face. ''I'm out there laughing and joking with the guys, it just felt like I never left. It was just like, man, this is a relief. Oh my God, I'm back on the field, practicing with the dudes I love to play ball with. It was great.''

The defensive lineman was suspended indefinitely by the NFL before the 2010 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Two years earlier, in April 2008, he'd been arrested outside a club in his hometown of Houston for possession of codeine, a controlled substance. He pleaded guilty and was given probation, with the understanding that another misstep would mean significant jail time.

In October 2010, he was arrested again.

''It was crazy because I knew I needed to chill, but it was like I was getting a thrill out of what I was doing so I was just doing it,'' Jolly said. ''In my heart, I was like, 'I need to chill. I'm a football player and I need to take care of myself the other way.' But sometimes you lose focus. You can't get yourself back on track, so God sits you down and puts you back on track. And that's what happened to me.

''I hate that I had to go through that,'' he added. ''But it was a lesson learned.''

Sentenced to six years for violating his probation, Jolly found himself behind bars. A man whose job only a few months earlier was to play football and work out now had to find ways to stay in shape in the short free time he was allotted. His teammates had been replaced by murderers, thieves and other convicted felons.

''From Day One, they was motivation,'' Jolly said. ''They were like, 'Man, you don't belong here. Get back out of here and go to the field. Get yourself together.' They would come out and work out with me and just be there, (help me) stay focused. (They'd say), 'Don't get in no trouble while you're in here. Just do what you're supposed to do and everything will work out for you.'''

Jolly was released after serving six months, and given 10 years of ''shock probation.'' Last month, he completed a court-ordered drug-rehabilitation program.

All the while, Jolly hoped he'd get another chance to play football.

A sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2006, he'd become an integral part of Green Bay's defensive line. He started all 16 games in 2009 and seemed to be a perfect fit in Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme, finishing the year with 24 tackles, one sack and 10 passes defended.

But three years is a long time to be gone from any job, let alone one as physically demanding as pro football. A career of three years is more likely than a hiatus of that length.

''You've got to have faith,'' Jolly said. ''The whole time I had faith that God was going to bring me back to playing football. I didn't know what team - I know where I wanted to be, which was Green Bay.''

Though Jolly knew the coaches and the system in Green Bay, it was the entire Packers organization that he wanted to be a part of again.

While many teams would have given up on a player in his situation, the Packers never did. Fellow defensive tackle Ryan Pickett called Jolly's mother to see how he was doing and keep tabs on him, and B.J. Raji also reached out. Aaron Rodgers was outspoken in his support.

And when Jolly finished his rehab, Packers director of player programs Rob Davis and personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith were there for his graduation.

''It's unexplainable,'' Jolly said of what the support meant. ''For me to be in the situation that I'm in and they're still worried about me while they're working and doing what they're supposed to do, I can't explain it.''

Jolly was reinstated in March. Though he said he never met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, he did sit down with Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy.

A conversation to lay all your sins bare may sound uncomfortable but, for Jolly, it was the only way to go.

''I had to lay it on the table and let them know where I was and how I felt,'' he said. ''It's best for me and it's best for them. For me to get it off my chest, and for them to hear me speak and knowing that it's true and coming from my heart. I think that was part of the thing for them signing me back, to know that I'm telling the truth.''

His restructured contract will pay him the veteran minimum of $715,000 if he makes the team. But that is months down the road, McCarthy said.

''The biggest thing for Johnny Jolly is just to be one of the 90. That's really the way I want to go about it,'' he said. ''The football part, I'm not really worried about. I just want to make sure that he gets into a routine. Regularity is important to everybody, especially a professional athlete. We just want to get him back into the regularity, the rhythm and the every-day procedures and get back on the horse and start riding again.''

Jolly is starting on a limited practice plan, though he did take some snaps when the defense went against the offense in team drills Tuesday.

''There's only so much you can tell in helmets, but just the fact that he was fired up and moving around, he certainly looks like he hasn't lost any quickness or strength,'' offensive lineman T.J. Lang said. ''You look at him, and you'd think he'd be just a big, power guy. But he's got a lot of quickness to him, and that's the thing you don't see too often with defensive linemen that big. He's got a lot of skills. I'm sure he's still trying to tone those skills, but he's a guy who, if he gets back to the way he played a couple of years ago, he could be a big impact player for us.''

Most of the teammates Jolly had when he was last in Green Bay are gone, and many of the current Packers don't even know his story.

''It happened so I had to deal with it,'' Jolly said. ''I ain't going to say I was perfect, but I've done everything I was supposed to do the best way I could and God blessed me to be back in this situation.''

Notes: After skipping last week's OTAs, CB Sam Shields was back for minicamp. Shields signed his tender, but is still hoping for a long-term deal. ''That's one of my goals,'' Shields said. ''If I have a great year this year, it'll speak for itself right there.'' ... K Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio were both good from 38, 43 and 50 yards. ... Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen was at practice.

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May 30, 2013

By JOSH DUBOW

AP Sports Writer

 

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Oakland Raiders first-round draft pick D.J. Hayden’s comeback from a near-fatal practice injury last year was dealt a setback when he was hospitalized with an abdominal injury that is expected to keep him sidelined until at least training camp.

Coach Dennis Allen said Tues­day at the start of Oakland’s second week of OTAs that Hayden first felt symptoms last Tuesday or Wednes­day. The cornerback was hospitalized late last week and had surgery to remove scar tissue from the abdominal region. The Raiders said they don’t know when Hayden will be released from the hospital.

Allen said he did not know if the latest injury was related to the torn blood vessel that nearly killed Hayden last November after a practice collision with a teammate at Houston.

“We can’t rule that out, obviously, but right now I don’t know exactly what the correlation is to it,” Allen said. “But we don’t anticipate it being an issue.”

Hayden was rushed into surgery last year for a tear of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart, after the collision. Doctors had to cut through Hayden’s sternum to save him. The injury is 95 percent fatal in the field, according to doctors, and is most commonly associated with high-speed motor vehicle accidents.

The Raiders selected Hayden 12th overall with their first first-round pick since 2010 in hopes of adding a major piece in an effort to rebuild the defense.

Hayden played 22 games at Houston, intercepting six passes that he returned for three touchdowns. He also recovered three fumbles and forced six before his senior season was cut short by the injury.

Hayden made his return to the field at a three-day rookie minicamp earlier this month and also participated in part of last week’s OTA before being sidelined.

“It’s obviously not a good thing, from a football standpoint,” Allen said. “As a rookie, you need all the reps you can get and all the work you can get.”

Safety Usama Young said he knew Hayden wasn’t feeling good on the field last week but did not know the extent of it until Tuesday. He exchanged text messages with Hayden.

“He says he is doing a lot better,” Young said. “I’m looking forward to him being back out there with us. It took me by surprise. I didn’t think he was that sick.”

The other notable news Tuesday was the first practice for defensive back Charles Woodson, who signed as a free agent last week to return to the team that drafted him fourth overall in 1998.

Woodson signed a one-year deal worth up to $4.3 million seven years after leaving Oakland as a free agent for Green Bay. Woodson got work at both strong and free safety in his first practice as the Raiders try to get him up to speed.

“It feels good to put the silver and black back on,” Woodson said. “It”s been a long time. I look good in silver and black, so it feels good to be back.”

Woodson, 36, is an eight-time Pro Bowler and 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He has 55 career interceptions, 17 sacks, 24 forced fumbles and 11 interception returns for touchdowns in eight seasons in Oakland and seven in Green Bay.

He played just seven games last year because of a broken collarbone but brings leadership and playmaking ability to a rebuilding defense that was lacking both.

“He’s a legend,” linebacker Nick Roach said. “He’s a living legend that is still playing, still playing at a high level. I played against him many a time when I was back in Chicago. I think it’s going to be great for the locker room just having that experience and having that knowledge.”

Woodson practiced with a jersey with no number. He wants to get his old No. 24 uniform back but cornerback Tracy Porter is currently wearing that number.

“It wasn’t waiting for me at my locker, so I’ll have to negotiate that, for sure,” Woodson said.

NOTES: Among the other Raiders who are sidelined are Porter (calf), CB Coye Francies (illness), DL Stacy McGee (foot), LB Miles Burris (knee) and TE Nick Kasa (hamstring).

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June 06, 2013

By Kenneth Miller

Assistant Managing Editor

 

Greg Pinto, the 48-year old stepson of legendary football player Deacon Jones, says that if the master could have the final say at his funeral; “He would enjoy seeing all of the people, point to the ceiling and say I gave it everything I had.”

The Hall of Fame defensive end credited with terming the word sack for how he knocked down quarterbacks died of natural causes on June 3. He was 74. His wife of more than three decades Elizabeth Jones and stepson Greg Pinto survive him.

Jones was the colorful and outspoken leader of the L.A. Rams Fearsome Foursome unit from 1961-71 and called Jones the “greatest defensive end of modern football,” by his coach George Allen. The Allen family had Jones present George Allen for his Hall of Fame induction in 2002.

His unofficial 159½ sacks for them and 173½ for his career – propelled him to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.

A 14th-round draft pick in 1961 out of Mississippi Valley State, Jones was one of the most durable players, missing just five games in his 14 pro seasons.

He once said: “Coming from a poor, inner-city neighborhood myself, I have an intimate knowledge of all of the problems people face there. It's not just the inability to afford a good education that is a problem. Inner-city kids have to be prepared for college in every sense. For instance, kids from Beverly Hills grow up hearing about the stock market and real estate deals over the dinner table. When kids from the ghetto enter college and the workplace, they don't know a thing about what they hear. And they are never told exactly what their commitment to their own neighborhoods must be.”

He established a non-profit organization in his name The Deacon Jones Foundation in Los Angeles in 1997 to assist young people and the communities in which they live with a comprehensive program that includes education, mentoring, corporate internship, and community service.

Pinto told the Sentinel that the foundation was idle for the past year due to the failing health of Jones and is not certain what the future of the organization holds.

In the NFL he was a giver, of tremendous pain as a defensive lineman who is known for inventing the now outlawed head slap he utilized to get to the quarterback.

But, in life he was a generous soul who never forgot where he came from and although not a native here, he fit right in after his playing career was done.

Jones also had several small acting roles both during and after his playing career. He was a guest star on a handful of television shows -- including episodes of “Bewitched,” “The Brady Bunch” and “The Odd Couple” -- and appeared in the 1978 Warren Beatty film “Heaven Can Wait.”

“He was honest and some of his comments were outrageous but also true. He was very confident and thoughtful. I can’t think of a bad memory about him,” said Pinto.

“Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history. Off the field, he was a true giant,” said Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, whose father, George, coached Jones with the Los Angeles Rams. “His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him. He was a cherished member of the Allen family and I will always consider him my big brother.”

“Deacon Jones has been the most inspirational person in my football career,” said former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood.

Jones made the Pro Bowl every year from 1964-70 and played in eight overall. He combined with fellow Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy on a defensive line that at times was unblockable.

Olsen died in March 2010 at age 69 and Lundy died in February 2007 at 71. Grier, who is 80, is the only surviving member of the Fearsome Foursome.

Jones played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1961-1971, as a San Diego Charger from 1972-1973, and finished his career in 1974 as a Washington Redskin.

In the world of football, Deacon is most well known as the man who coined the term ‘sack.’

He was named the “Secretary of Defense” by Los Angeles fans, the “Most Valuable Ram of All Time,” by the Los Angeles Times, and has been recently named as “Defensive End of the Century” by Sports Illustrated. He was unanimously voted to the NFL's 75 Year All Time Team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

As a personality in both radio and television, Deacon is almost as well known for his humor, candor, charisma, and interesting and knowledgeable assessment of the game. He tells it like it is. Deacon's media and broadcasting credentials are numerous and include a range of venues, from countless television appearances on shows like “Up Close”, ''Hardcore Football”, “Monday Night Live”, and “Pro Magazine”, to being a member of the Los Angeles Rams broadcast team as color analyst and personality on Fox Sports Network's “NFL This Morning.” Football fans love the intimacy and behind-the-scenes insight that Deacon brings to the game. He has appeared on virtually every television and radio sports talk show in both the U.S. and Canada.

Marketing, corporate imaging, and public relations have been Deacon's forte since he left the game. He has worked for companies as diverse as the Miller Brewing Company, Hagar Slacks, Pacific Coast Medical Enterprises, and Epson America, and represented the NFL and Champion Products as spokesman for their Throwback campaigns. He was in constant demand as a motivational speaker at corporate sales meetings and special events.

Deacon was chairman for AstraiZeneca Pharmaceuticals in their national hypertension awareness program, “State of the Heart,” represented the NFL with their licensees and advertisers, and is a favored guest on all television and radio stations.

Deacon's recent trip to Iraq to visit the troops has added another dimension to what he does and where his interests lie. He has agreed to join forces with General Franks in an effort to pay homage and lend support to the families of the military men and women who have been either killed or wounded in action.

Deacon has received numerous awards for community work, in particular, his work with youngsters and youth organizations.

 

Associated Press contributed to this story.

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May 30, 2013

By ANTONIO GONZALEZ (AP Sports Writer)

 

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- The second week of organized team activities began for the San Francisco 49ers without Michael Crabtree but with the tough task of replacing the team's top wide receiver.

Anquan Boldin sure seemed up for the challenge.

As for the other wideouts, they will likely need more time - and healthy bodies - to help fill the void.

Boldin caught the bulk of the balls during Tuesday's practice, the first one open to reporters that he has participated in since coming to the 49ers in a trade with Baltimore in March. He looked comfortable as ever in a red No. 81 jersey - and later in a San Francisco Giants cap walking out of the locker room. With Crabtree out for the foreseeable future with a torn right Achilles tendon, Boldin could be the key to San Francisco's depleted receiving corps this season.

''We have to make plays. The passing game goes through us. If we don't make plays outside, we won't be successful as an offense,'' Boldin said. ''It's definitely on us to get better as a receiver corps entirely.''

Coach Jim Harbaugh has decided to put veterans on one side of the offense and have an open competition among younger players on the other for Crabtree's spot.

Last year's catchless first-round pick, A.J. Jenkins, and Ricardo Lockette and Quinton Patton are the leading contenders for the ''X'' role Crabtree so skillfully occupied until tearing his Achilles in 7-on-7 drills last week. Recovery time can often take as long as a year after surgery, though the team is optimistic Crabtree will return at some point in 2013.

In the meantime, the NFC champions will rely on Boldin's experience to help groom the younger receivers into a bigger role, especially with reliable wideouts Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams both coming off serious knee injuries that occurred late in the regular season.

''Anquan is not a talkative guy,'' Harbaugh said. ''He's not a small-talk guy. He's just very serious about competing, and very serious about football and winning. I think it'll speak volumes if the young guys observe that.''

Boldin had 65 catches for 921 yards and four touchdowns for the Ravens last season. He also caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in Baltimore's 34-31 win over San Francisco in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound receiver said he already feels comfortable in San Francisco's complicated version of the West Coast offense. In his 11th year in the NFL, Boldin said he has run many of the same plays and routes throughout his career but the terminology with the 49ers is the major difference.

''For me, it's just translating right now,'' he said.

Boldin's big frame already has made him a favorite of starter Colin Kaepernick and the other quarterbacks. While it was only one practice without full pads, he was often the first read and easily targeted more than any other player on the field, including while catching a 25-yard touchdown pass from B.J. Daniels between three defenders.

''I guess I'm looked at as being able to step in right now and make plays,'' Boldin said. ''And that's what I want to bring. I want Kaep to be comfortable. I want the other quarterbacks to be comfortable enough to, even if it doesn't look like I'm open, just give me a chance. I'll make a play for you.''

That's exactly what Crabtree gave Kaepernick last season.

The 25-year-old Crabtree, the team's 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Texas Tech, had career highs with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns for the 49ers last season. He was one of the biggest reasons the franchise returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years, clicking with Kaepernick after his promotion over Alex Smith in November.

More than likely, the 49ers will need a collection of players to make up for Crabtree's loss.

Williams already was participating in some individual practice drills and said he hopes to be ready by training camp. Harbaugh has said Manningham might need more time to recover.

Jenkins and Lockette both trained with Kaepernick in the Atlanta area for about two months during the offseason. The trio even lived together in Georgia and often quizzed each other about the playbook.

Back on the practice field at 49ers headquarters, now it's up to the veterans to help speed up the learning.

''It's a credit to the young guys we have, they're not afraid to come ask questions, 'How do I do this? How do I run this route? Against this coverage, what do we do?''' Williams said. ''For me, I'm happy to do that stuff because I want to see these guys progress and move along and become better players. We've got it. We've got a bunch of them. Don't sleep on some of the young guys we have.''

NOTES: Harbaugh said RB Frank Gore has not been participating in practice because he is ''working through something,'' the coach's typical line for an injured player. Harbaugh said the injury is not serious. ... Second-year RB LaMichael James said he is up to 205 pounds, 10 more than his playing weight last season. He credited the offseason weightlifting program with helping him build strength and sees himself as the top option to return kicks and punts with Ted Ginn Jr. gone. ... Harbaugh said he received some tips from three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford before driving a high-performance Corvette Stinger at the track over the weekend. He said he got the car up to 118 mph the last two turns. ''Of course, by next week when I retell the story it might be up to 138,'' he joked.

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