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Heisman winner Griffin wows at NFL Combine

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Heisman winner Griffin wows at NFL Combine

From Comcast SportsNet
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Robert Griffin III proved he's the fastest quarterback at this year's NFL scouting combine. It might not be enough to supplant Andrew Luck as the No. 1 pick. The two finally got a chance to demonstrate their athleticism Sunday when workouts began. Griffin showed his speed in the 40-yard dash, finishing officially in 4.41 seconds -- the best of any quarterback. Unofficially, Luck ran a 4.59, the same time Cam Newton posted in 2011, but the time was later adjusted to an official 4.69, fourth among quarterbacks. Even so, not much has changed in the rankings. "I think what was surprising to some people was how athletic Andrew Luck is. I think a lot of people might be surprised to compare his measurables to Cam Newton from a year ago," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "Cam Newton hits you over the head with a sledge hammer as far as his athletic ability; it's pretty obvious, whereas with Andrew Luck, it's sneaky athletic. " His broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches) was two inches short of Cam Newton's best in 2011, and Luck's vertical jump (36 inches) was actually better than Newton's (35 inches). Griffin and Luck both skipped Sunday's throwing drills as planned, opting instead to do that with familiar receivers in a familiar environment during Pro Day workouts. Justin Blackmon, the No. 1 ranked receiver in this draft class, ran the gauntlet -- a drill in which players must catch balls thrown quickly in succession. Blackmon sat out the 40, as expected, after he said he hurt his hamstring last week. Three receivers led the official results: Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, Stanford's Chris Owusu and Miami's Travis Benjamin all finished with official times of 4.36. Receivers A.J. Jenkins of Illinois and Devon Wylie of Fresno State rounded out the top five at 4.39. Miami's Lamar Miller (4.40) was the fastest running back of the day. Defensive linemen and linebackers will work out Monday. But as has been the case all week, the quarterbacks were the feature attraction. "I don't think they really hurt themselves here," Mayock said. "Most teams will take into account and appreciate the fact that they worked out. Those two quarterbacks are specials kids, and what they did in gym shorts today isn't going to change anything. Outside of not throwing the football, nothing is going to change. Both of them had athletic days (today) which I knew they would." ------ FANS WELCOME: A little more than three weeks after the NFL allowed fans to watch the Super Bowl's media day for the first time, league officials let a smattering of fans watch the combine workouts for the first time. The league gave out about 250 free tickets to some of Sunday's workouts. NFL Network televises the performances, but league officials traditionally have kept the workouts closed because they didn't want spectators becoming a distraction by cheering. On Sunday, fans got to see the showcase group and the head-to-head battle between Griffin and Luck. ------ CRICK ALMOST READY: Nebraska defensive lineman Jared Crick is nearly recovered from the pectoral tear that cost him more than half his senior season. When his college career ended, he was eighth on the school's career sacks (20), including 9 in both 2009 and 2010. Now he's trying to prove he's healthy in time for April's draft. "I'm not there yet, but I'm getting there," he said. "I'm almost there. I've got to keep showing them that I'm improving, and I'm getting better." Crick said he can now do his normal weight-lifting routine, and he plans to do all the workouts March 8. If he's healthy, Crick might be a first-round pick. "I know my question mark about the pectoral is if I'm going to be able to get back to 100 percent in time for OTAs (offseason team activities)," he said. "As long as I prove I'm on schedule for a full recovery, that's all I can do." ------ TOONING UP: Good hands are just part of the Toon family's legacy. Last season, Nick Toon caught 64 passes for 926 yards and 10 touchdowns for Wisconsin, the same school his father, Al, starred at before a successful NFL career. Al Toon caught 517 passes for 6,605 yards and 31 touchdowns from 1985-1992, all with the New York Jets. Living up to his father's reputation is something the younger Toon has prepared for his entire life. "I think my biggest strength is my hands," he said. "A receiver's job is to catch the ball. That's something my dad taught me from a young age, something I've continued to work on." as one of the 300-plus invitees to this week's workouts in Indy, the son is hoping to emulate his father's NFL career. "My dad was a great route runner, had great hands," Nick Toon said. "He was fast, and he was one of the first of his kind as far as the big receivers go. I think I look like him a little bit when I'm out there playing. That would only make sense."

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

The Wrigley Field basket has played a huge role in this week's Cubs-Reds series.

In Monday night's game, Cincinnati catcher Curt Casali hit a game-tying homer into the basket in the seventh inning of a game the Cubs went on to lose.

But the basket giveth and the basket also taketh away.

Tuesday night, it was Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs who were singing the praises of one of the strangest ballpark quirks in baseball.

Schwarber connected on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning off Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, hitting a fly ball through the impossibly-humid air and into the basket in left-centerfield for a 4-3 Cubs win.

"Whoever thought about that basket — whenever that occurred — tell them, 'thank you,'" Joe Maddon said. "Although it did work against us [Monday]. When it works for you, it's awesome."

Schwarber has stood under the left-field basket many times with his back against the wall, thinking he might be able to make a play on a high fly ball only to see it settle into the wickets and turn into a chance for a Bleacher Bum to show off their arm. 

But is he a huge fan of the basket now that it worked in his favor?

"I guess so," Schwarber laughed. "Yesterday, it cost us, but today, it helped us out. It's just the factor of Wrigley Field. Happy it worked out today."

It was Schwarber's first career walk off RBI of any kind.

It was the Cubs' fourth walk-off homer of the season, but their first since May 11 when Willson Contreras called "game" on the Milwaukee Brewers. 

The Cubs are now 4-1 since the All-Star Break and hold a 2.5-game lead in the division.

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease picked up a win in his first start, but his second did not go as well.

Cease pitched six innings Tuesday at the Royals and gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk. He struck out seven, but took the loss in an ugly game for the White Sox.

The game got off to an ominous start with Eloy Jimenez getting injured on the first batter Cease faced. The White Sox defense didn’t help Cease much either with three errors (Cease had one of those on an errant pickoff throw).

After giving up six runs in the first four innings, Cease settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced. He finished with seven strikeouts against just one walk and threw 67 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Cease struck out six in his first start and is the first pitcher in White Sox history to strike out six or more in each of his first two career appearances.

A deeper look at Cease’s numbers show his swing and miss stuff hasn’t quite caught on as expected so far. Cease got 13 swinging strikes in 101 pitches in his major league debut. He got 12 whiffs on 108 pitches on Tuesday. His slider did get five swinging strikes on 25 pitches against the Royals.

Fastball command remains a key part to Cease’s success. He only threw 26 out of 54 fastballs for strikes in his debut. Cease improved upon that with 31 strikes on 50 fastballs against the Royals.

Most of the Royals’ damage came against Cease’s fastball as well. Six of the Royals’ eight hits off Cease, including all three extra base hits, were off heaters. Cease also gave up four hits with two strikes.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Cease since he joined the White Sox, but he hasn’t hit the ground running in the majors just yet. Having 13 days between the first two starts of his career due to the all-star break and the White Sox giving him some extra rest also isn’t the ideal scenario for a young pitcher.

Cease’s ERA is now at 5.73, which isn’t going to set the world on fire. Still, there have been enough positives in his first two starts to see where reasonable improvement could lead to Cease becoming the pitcher the White Sox expect him to be.

 

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