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LEEInks List: Devastating injuries to Boston athletes in past decade 02.12.13 at 11:51 am ET
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It’s been a rough few weeks for the Celtics. First it was Rajon Rondo going down with a season-ending ACL tear. Then Jared Sullinger was lost for the season with a back issue that will require surgery. Now, Leandro Barbosa appears to have suffered a serious knee injury in Monday night’s loss to the Bobcats that ended Boston’s seven-game winning streak.

Where do the C’s go from here? The team can take one of two paths. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge could stick with the team he has minus Rondo, Sullinger and Barbosa, maybe make a couple of small upgrades before the trade deadline, and hope for an unlikely long playoff run. Some are pushing for Ainge to “blow up” the team, make a significant trade or two (possibly involving career-long Celtic Paul Pierce or the emotional team leader Kevin Garnett) and look toward the organization’s future. This might lead to the team missing out on the postseason for the first time since the 2006-07 season (the year before the C’s acquired Garnett and Ray Allen).

Whatever Ainge, Doc Rivers and the organization decide to do, it seems that these injuries — especially to the All-Star Rondo — are a crushing blow to the team’s already slim chances at a deep playoff run.

This certainly isn’t the only time a Boston team has been bitten bad by the injury bug. With that in mind, here are 10 of the most devastating injuries affecting Boston sports teams in the last 10 years.

10. Patriots, 2005 — Rodney Harrison suffers season-ending knee injury

By 2005, Harrison was a 12-year NFL veteran, slightly old and injury-prone. In a Week 3 matchup vs. the Steelers, the safety tore his ACL, MCL and PCL and was done for the season. To add to that, offensive lineman Matt Light also was lost for the season during the same game. Harrison was the team’s veteran leader in the secondary and his absence was costly. The Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC divisional round that postseason.

9. Red Sox, 2010 — Jacoby Ellsbury misses majority of season with multiple issues

Injuries decimated the Red Sox at a historic pace in 2010, as 19 players combined for 24 stints on the disabled list, and many of them were key players on the roster. Ellsbury had three of those 24 stints. In April, Ellsbury was placed on the 15-day DL after colliding with third baseman Adrian Beltre and injuring his ribs. Ellsbury came back at the end of May but re-injured the ribs and went back on the disabled list. Again, Ellsbury rejoined the Red Sox in the beginning of August, but after a week and a half, Ellsbury was done for the season.

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Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury, kevin garnett, rajon rondo, Rodney Harrison
The year in Boston sports: Biggest media controversies of 2011 12.30.11 at 9:42 am ET
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The Boston media did its best to live up to its reputation in 2011, creating and reporting on controversy throughout the year. Some of the issues were initiated by the players themselves, via tweets and press conferences. Others were started by former players who have moved over to the dark side.

With that in mind, we present our list of the top 10 Boston sports media controversies of 2011.

10. MLB institutes a dress code for media members

Although the dress code itself was not out of the ordinary, it was significant that MLB was the first professional sports league to police the fashion of its media members when it announced the policy in December. Items on the list of banned clothes include tank tops, short shorts/skirts, ripped jeans, visible undergarments, one-shoulder or strapless tops, clothes with team logos and flip-flops. The dress code came one year after the NFL had a situation on its hands when Mexican TV reporter Ines Sainz was the subject of catcalls from members of the Jets after wearing a tight pair of jeans to a practice.

Baseball Writers’ Association of America vice president Susan Slusser served on the guidelines panel and acknowledged: “I believe the baseball media in general could dress slightly more professionally,” adding partly in jest: “Don’t dress like a hobo and don’t dress like a ho, those are the extremes they’re looking at.” This would be disappointing news to fans of Heidi Watney, but she left NESN anyhow.

9. Rodney Harrison rips Patriots defense on NBC

After Ben Roethlisberger carved up the Patriots secondary for 365 yards on Oct. 30, Harrison, the former Patriots safety who now serves as an NBC analyst, questioned the defensive strategy of coach Bill Belichick and ripped the passive style of the secondary.

‘€œI look at that secondary, and they’€™re playing really soft coverage, that bend-but-don’€™t-break defense,’€ Harrison said. ‘€œI hate that. I think you have to challenge your players more. You have to start blitzing, force the quarterback into making mistakes. I know you can’€™t stop everything. I know they were afraid of their speed. But sometimes you’ve just got to go challenge them. And I just don’€™t see them doing it.’€

Earlier this month, Harrison took his criticism a step further, saying, “They should be concerned, because that secondary is probably the worst secondary I’€™ve seen in the last decade.” Added Harrison of Tom Brady: “He feels like he has to shoulder a lot of the pressure because that defense is so bad.”

Responded defensive lineman Vince Wilfork during a Dec. 12 appearance on The Big Show: “I want to [call the Patriots critics] all the time and tell them to shut the ‘f’ up.”

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Read More: bobby valentine, Chad Ochocinco, John Lackey, Mike Milbury
Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Rodney Harrison rips Brett Favre for being ‘classless’ 10.06.11 at 7:55 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WHAT’S HAPPENING LOCALLY THURSDAY:
NHL: Flyers at Bruins, 7 p.m. (Versus)

AROUND THE WEB:

‘™¦ On Tuesday, Brett Favre did a radio interview in Atlanta and said he was surprised that it took his replacement in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers, three years to win a Super Bowl title considering how talented the Packers have been since Favre’s departure. NBC football analyst Rodney Harrison responded by calling Favre “classless” and “immature.” Added Harrison of Favre: “Everything he’s accomplished in his career is now diminished. ‘€¦ He’s about himself. He’s about nothing else but himself.”

‘™¦ John Calipari and Rick Pitino are coaching neighbors in Kentucky, but Calipari is doing his best to pretend that his old friend doesn’t exist. Among the recent slights is a comment Calipari made this week about how other states have multiple programs that split loyalties, but Kentucky rules the Bluegrass State. Said Calipari: “There’s no other state — none — as connected to their basketball program as this one. Because those other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State. California, UCLA has all those. North Carolina has Duke. It’s Kentucky, throughout this whole state, and that’s what makes this unique.”

‘™¦ The case of Leo Nunez, the Marlins closer who was pitching under an assumed name, might just be the first of many. According a sports activist in the Dominican Republic, as many as 30 other Dominican natives now playing in the majors and minors are using assumed names to conceal their true ages, and there are more impostors from Venezuela, Panama and Nicaragua.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On Oct. 6, 1906, which Red Sox player homered in his final at-bat, as he committed suicide before the following season, shortly after he was named manager?

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Read More: aaron rodgers, brett favre, John Calipari, Leo Nunez
Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Giants employee accused of embezzling $1.5M 08.31.11 at 7:05 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WHAT’S HAPPENING LOCALLY WEDNESDAY:
MLB: Yankees at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI)

AROUND THE WEB:

‘™¦ A former payroll manager for the defending World Series champion Giants was arrested and charged with embezzling more than $1.5 million from the team’s salary and expense payments. Robin O’Connor, who was fired July 6, allegedly started taking the money beginning in June of last year. Her scheme unfolded when she forged a letter from a team human resources manager in an attempt to explain her boost in income while in the process of applying for a loan to buy a property in San Diego. O’Connor, a 41-year-old married mother of two who had a salary of $80,000, apparently admitted to at least some of the thefts after being confronted by Giants management.

‘™¦ In The Wall Street Journal, Reed Albergotti looks at another consequence of the NFL’s new kickoff rules: It makes it more difficult for teams to identify players who have the combination of ability and fearlessness needed to succeed in the league. He uses former Patriot Rodney Harrison and controversial Steelers linebacker James Harrison as examples of players who turned heads with their play on special teams and earned their way into the starting lineup.

‘™¦ Lakers guard Ron Artest said he will donate the $125,000 (plus any additional winnings) he’s receiving for his apperance on “Dancing With the Stars” to cancer research. Artest originally had said he wasn’t considering the show because of a lack of dancing skill, but his 8-year-old daughter convinced him otherwise. “She said, ‘Daddy, you can do it,’ ” Artest recalled. “It’s going to be fun.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On Aug. 31, 2002, which Red Sox player committed an error for the first time in 250 games, ending his American League-record fielding streak at 592 chances?

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Read More: James Harrison, Robin O'Connor, Rodney Harrison, Ron Artest
How the Cincinnati Bengals could become the New England Patriots 01.04.11 at 2:13 pm ET
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I grew up with the Paul Brown-led Cincinnati Bengals, the greatest teacher the NFL has ever known. The Bengals of the 1970s had players like Ken Anderson, Tommy Casanova, Bill Bergey, Al Beauchamp, Ken Riley and later Anthony Munoz, Tim Krumrie and Boomer Esiason. All of them had the great combination of talent, character and intelligence. The criticism of the 2-14 2002 Bengals (coached by Dick LeBeau) was that they had character and intelligence but not enough talent. They drafted talent but not enough character and football IQ. Now – following a 4-12 season with lots of questions about the future – it’s time to reassess and come up with a comprehensive football operations plan to put the Bengals on the right path.

No matter the criticism of ownership (some of it very legitimate) or how bad it gets, I believe the Cincinnati Bengals will someday compete year-in and year-out for an NFL championship with the right short-term and long-term plan. Do it the right way, and you wind up like the New England Patriots, the premiere organization in the NFL. That’s what they should aspire to. I’ve had the true privilege and benefit of watching the team work at different levels up close – or at least as close as you can without having Robert Kraft sign the paycheck.

If Mike Brown and his daughter, Katie, asked, here’s what I’d do:

1. Hire a true GM and a coach. Don’t laugh but this could be Marvin Lewis. Lewis is a tremendous evaluator of talent, much in the fold of Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. There’s a reason Lewis is greatly respected around the NFL by people like Bill Belichick (who is for all intents and purposes GM/HC of the Patriots). If you’re Mike Brown, you have to start with the front office and the coaching staff. If you decide that Lewis is a good man and the right coach you’re most comfortable with – which I think is the case and that matters a lot to Brown – then bring him back for another year. Marvin has had to do way too much baby-sitting in the last four years, robbing him of on-field focus.

2. All about operations. If you bring back Lewis (and as I type this, NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reports and the Bengals later confirmed that Mike Brown has done just that) then that means you’ve decided to agree – to some degree – to his conditions of reworking the front office and facilities. While much has been made of the need of a true GM – like Mike Holgrem in Cleveland and Newsome in Baltimore – the Bengals desperately need to invest in their personnel/football ops departments even more. They need more people who can dedicate themselves to football research, including remote college, area and pro scouts who can offer constant input. Jim Lippincott is a terrific football man but he needs help like every other NFL Super Bowl-contending franchise has.

3. Decide Carson Palmer’s future. There is an out clause in his contract – which the Browns smartly wrote in – that allows them to move in a different direction if the wheels fell off. There are obviously those who think that’s what happened this year but upon further review, it is the opinion of this close observer that Palmer was distracted by receivers who made demands on him and he was not allowed to be the true leader of the offense. With Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco gone, Palmer can now work with the future skill stars of the offense in speedy Jerome Simpson, a solid slot receiver in Jordan Shipley (a bigger Wes Welker) and Jermaine Gresham (the best rookie tight end this side of Rob Gronkowski).

4. Bring in Josh McDaniels as your offensive coordinator. This serves a number of purposes. You need a new ‘voice’ and ‘direction’ from Bob Bratkowski for the offense. Josh McDaniels has clearly established himself as one of the best young coaches in the NFL who has worked with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for several successful years. He has the cache to rework Carson Palmer‘s approach, vision, thinking, etc. Palmer’s biggest problem this season – without question – was forcing the ball into small spaces in coverage. His vision seemed to completely disappear or become VERY narrow. Examples… Tampa Bay, at Pittsburgh, at Baltimore, at Indy, etc. McDaniels would point this out and would be the PERFECT fit for the need the Bengals have. Also, Cedric Benson has proved himself a stud running back in the last two years. He’s 28 with lots left in the tank. Keep him and Bernard Scott.

5. Draft to needs, not best player. Get yourself an impact player with the 4th pick. Early consensus is DB Patrick Peterson of LSU. The Bengals have never been a team to move down and with prime position this season, there’s no reason to start now. With a rookie salary cap looming as part of a new CBA, signing a top-5 pick won’t be nearly the detriment to the Brown family as it has in the past. The Bengals are loaded with young talent. This is a great chance to add to it. Get a guy like Florida’s Mike Pouncey (brother of Pittsburgh Maurkice) as center and then steal a QB in fourth or fifth round. I am VERY HIGH on Greg McElroy. Traditional NFL-system pocket passer, very solid front-foot mechanics and has played in winning system at Bama. He is very, very bright and considered a strong character-type. I see him as a Ken Anderson-type only at a huge program.

6. Bridge QB. Get a good back-up to Palmer to bridge the present to the future. If you don’t bring back Palmer, you need someone to step in and win now. They did that with Jon Kitna in 2003 and it worked out very well early on for Palmer, long before the Bengals became a reality show and before Kimo VonOelhoffen hit his knee in Jan. 2005 and his elbow was banged in Dallas in 2008. Whether or not you bring Palmer back, you need a legit starting QB with experience and no disrespect to Carson’s brother Jordan and his runpee.com website won’t cut it. There are several options out there Alex Smith could be one. They had one in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Only one start in the books but Matt Flynn could be one. Actually, Jon Kitna could be brought back again. That wouldn’t be all bad.

7. Need to raise the on-field leadership of the D. They are clearly a very, very talented and deep group. They have a great coordinator in Mike Zimmer under contract who’s not going anywhere. However, they need what Romeo Crennel had with the Patriots in their back-to-back Super Bowl title years of 2003-04. Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison. They were much more than talented players. They were leaders on the field who directed and corrected. That’s what the Bengals could really, really use to reach the next level. That’s exactly what the Steelers have in Troy Palomalu and the Ravens have in Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.

8. Draft or sign rookie free agent as an energy player. My personal favorite here is Matt Szczur of Villanova. Full disclosure – I am a Villanova ’88 grad but anyone who has watched Szczur on the Main Line of Philadelphia knows this kid can do it all. He’s the best NFL prospect to come out of Villanova since Brian Westbrook and Nova has produced NFL players like Ray Ventrone who played a key special teams role on the perfect regular season of the Patriots in 2007. His brother Ross (Villanova ’10) is on the Pats’ practice squad. Szczur is quick, tough and a bone marrow donor to a girl within the past year so that answers that character question. He has been drafted by the Cubs in MLB which speaks to his pure athleticism. Hearing he really wants to play in the NFL and he would be a perfect fit for a team like the Bengals. The Patriots have done a phenomenal job with this as they have 21 undrafted players on their roster. They’re 14-2. That worked out pretty good.

9. Get back to being a football team, not a reality show. With T-O and Ocho likely on their way out, this should be a pretty easy task. While it’s great that everyone was talking about the Bengals in the last two seasons because of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” in 2009 and Ocho’s and TO’s reality shows, it eventually became a focus. This was completely out of Lewis’ hands. The team committed WAYYY too many penalties that pointed to a lack of discipline and focus. They were among the league leaders in false starts and illegal formations – completely avoidable mistakes if you’re a focused team.

10. Preparation is everything. Too many times over the past five years – even in division winning seasons – the Bengals have suffered from not being ready for a multitude of game situations. They need more players committed to learning all of these scenarios, two-minute drills, etc. Again, while Lewis takes responsibility for this area, he needs more players who are committed to it.

The Bengals have the foundation of a winning franchise but they need to work on the infrastructure. By following the above general game plan, they have the chance of building a winner for years to come.

Respectfully,
Mike Petraglia
@trags

Read More: Bill Belichick, Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals, Katie Brown
Rodney Harrison on Titans: ‘They’re dirty, they’re cheap’ 11.29.10 at 6:49 am ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison labeled the Titans a “dirty” team when discussing Sunday’s fight between cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Texans receiver Andre Johnson.

“This is no surprise to me,” said Harrison, who has a history of criticizing the Titans, dating back to when Harrison played for the Patriots. “This team, this is their personality. They’re dirty, they’re cheap. And whenever we played this team, the coaches would say before [the game], ‘Guys, beware. They’re going to tape a cheap shot at you, they’re going to try to provoke you [into] doing something.’ ”

Harrison wasn’t the only analyst to have negative things to say about Tennessee’s behavior.

“When I was at Indy, we played against Tennessee twice a year,” Tony Dungy said. “I always warned my players, ‘You have to keep your cool, especially against Cortland Finnegan. He’s going to try to get on your nerves.’ ”

Said CBS’ Shannon Sharpe: “Why is it I can close my eyes, and if there’s a team involved in a fight, I know it’s the Tennessee Titans? And if I keep my eyes closed, I know another guy is going to be involved, and it’s always Cortland Finnegan.

“I understand that [Titans coach] Jeff Fisher says, ‘We don’t coach this, we don’t condone this,’ but why is his team always involved in stuff like this?”

Read More: Andre Johnson, Cortland Finnegan, Rodney Harrison, Rumor Mill
Rodney Harrison, we hardly knew ye! 06.03.09 at 10:40 am ET
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Today marks the end of an era in the National Football League, as Rodney Harrison closed the curtain on an illustrious 15-year career.

Harrison was taken by the San Diego Chargers in the 5th round of the 1994 NFL draft out of Western Illinois. The career that the hard-hitting safety had wasn’t exactly expected on that April afternoon over a decade ago.

Harrison leaves the gridiron for the bright lights of broadcasting with NBC Sports, most likely as a member of the peacock’s Football Night in America. NBC auditioned Harrison for a future job during this year’s Super Bowl pre-game coverage.

Check out the stats on Harrison. Despite contact with certain pharmaceutical products, this strong safety should be in line for a bust in Canton, Ohio. Harrison twice played in the Pro Bowl, in 1998 and 2003.

Just ask former Ravens head coach Brian Billick about his feelings on Rodney Harrison. Actually, Billick’s affection for the former Patriot was caught on tape by ESPN, so no need to ask the question.

The HGH suspension, aside, Harrison certainly found himself some controversy during his 15 years in professional football. After then-Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt said that the Patriots were “ripe for the picking”during the 2005 playoffs, Harrison gave Vanderjagt a new nickname.

Harrison was also named the NFL’s dirtiest player in a 2004 player’s poll. In this interview with SI, the title doesn’t seem to affect him much.

After being given such a dubious distinction, Harrison tried his hand at officiating. The results of this experiment were captured in this story for ESPN.

Rodney Harrison’s career will be judged not by his refereeing skills or his Chris Berman-esque nicknames, but it will be judged on how he performed on the game’s biggest stage, the Super Bowl.

Harrison ends his career with a pair of Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, including an interception in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles. However, when the words Super Bowl and Rodney Harrison will be paired together, this infamous moment will almost certainly come to mind.

Considering the outcry by sportswriters about pro athlete’s and their use of steroids, will Rodney Harrison ultimately end up in Canton? He certainly has the numbers to warrant a bronze bust and yellow jacket.

To quote mathmaticians the world over, the numbers don’t lie. And for No. 37, the chapter on playing football closes, and the chapter on retirement and broadcasting begins.

Read More: New England Patriots, NFL, Rodney Harrison, Super Bowl XXXIX