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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jones-Gunn fight set in Philly

There was a boxing event in Philadelphia today, and with it, an upset.

Yes, Roy Jones Jr. did show up at a press conference in downtown Philly to sell his Dec. 4 WBU cruiserweight championship fight against Bobby Gunn at the Northeast Philadelphia Armory.

"He's a celebrity," Gunn said. "He is like the Michael Jordan of boxing."

Jones, 44, is 54-8 and hasn't fought since June of 2012. But he has won his last two fights and is making noises about a couple of notable boxers.

"Floyd Mayweather is talking about being the best of all-time, and he is starting to (tick) me off," Jones said. "And I still don't like Bernard Hopkins. So there are a lot of options for me out there."

Jones is 1-1 against Hopkins, the light-heavyweight champion ... and many rounds removed from that level. So Gunn (21-5), it will be, for 12 rounds, in a club-fight setting that frankly would seem to be beneath Jones, a former world heavyweight champion and once the best fighter, pound for pound, in the world.

"This fight will not be forgotten," Gunn said. "And the critics will eat their words."

Gunn, 39, last fought in 2012, breaking his hand and losing to James Toney.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

In Giant spot, Kelly had neither quarterback ready

Chip Kelly had an obligation last week to pick a quarterback. But whenever he was asked about it, he ran and ducked and seemed to enjoy keeping his choice a secret.

Finally, he picked Michael Vick, who was not ready to play Sunday ... then grew worse during  a 15-7 loss to the New York Giants.

That meant Matt Barkley did not receive many first-team practice reps. So when he was called on, he wasn't ready, either.

Two free throws, bricked.

Next, the Eagles will visit the Oak

 “Watching him in practice," said Kelly of Vick, "I didn't see any ill-effects, and none of our coaching staff or training staff or doctors saw them. He moved around pretty good, moving in the pocket, running around, doing those things. He said he felt good. Obviously, I listen to him. I am not going to put him out there if he said he didn't feel good.”

Kelly has to stop listening to trainers and players and make the decision himself. Pick the right quarterback, get him ready, and trust him with that revolutionary offense that Eagles fans were promised.

Either that, or continue to sag in a droopy NFC East.

Check out my column on the topic, along with my story on the quarterback crisis, in the Daily Times Monday and, as always, on

Get these sports notes

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Flyers could benefit from Rangers woes

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Barkley ready to move forward

Every opportunity was there Sunday for Matt Barkley to charge into Eagles lore.

He had the ball. He had his timeouts. He had the Dallas Cowboys in sight. First place was on the line in the NFC East.

And then all three of his possessions would end in an interception, the Eagles losing, 17-3.

Rookie mistakes?

“I know what I am capable of,” said Barkley, who had entered when Nick Foles reported concussion symptoms. "I believe I can do great things in this league. And this is just a start. It was funny, Tony Romo was kind of smiling after the game, and he told me that in his first start, he threw three picks.

“I'll take that for what it's worth, and I will take this game in stride and learn from it. But this game is not going to set a tempo for the rest of my career.

“Keep trusting in yourself and the system and move forward from there.”

Check out my column on the Birds' rookie quarterback, his missed opportunity and his determination to be resilient in the Daily Times Monday, and as always, on

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Berube not annointing Mason No. 1

Craig Berube met with hockey writers Thursday evening, before the Flyers-Penguins game.

This was the conversation:

There is a break in the schedule coming up. Will that allow time to implement your system?

"Yeah. I think it's important right now with what happened so far to get some practice time and some time together as a team, on and off the ice. I think it's good."

Will there be more than just practices?

"I don't know. Our players have some things lined up for the team, which is good to do. And it's good to get some good practice time in here and work on some things and work on conditioning and system and stuff."

Any specifics?

"I don't know exactly what they've got lined up, no."

Practice every day?

"Saturday is a scheduled day off right now."

How is team attitude? Are players starting to press?

"Well, they have done that, but the attitude is good. They all believe in what we are doing here and I think they have all bought in. So that part I am not worried about. But, yeah, you don't want them pressing too much. You want them to play fast and loose. You want them to play. They are good players and it's confidence. But when you do things right, the confidence will come. That's what you've got to concentrate on: Doing things right."

What is the most difficult thing to implement in practice right now?

"I don't think there is anything really difficult. I think it's just the style of play more than anything, the speed. I want our attack better. I want our 'D' up in the rush more. I want to change the offensive zone play a little bit of it used to be. I just think that stuff right there. It is ingrained in these guys for so long. But I think there's a lot of good things. Our play without the puck has been pretty good. The neutral zone and the 'D' zone, for the most part, besides the last game, that one goal ...
"But I think we are playing with the puck more as a team. And that's a priority --- a big-time priority for me."

Any flashes of the old Giroux?

"Yeah. I see him improving. I'd like to see less 'press' out of him and just a little more free-flowing Claude playing the game and doing his thing. It's coming."
On break, will you take a look at matching up personnel to system --- the players out there, what they are capable of doing?

"That's a good point. Yeah. I think that we do that every day. Some guys take a little longer than others, and a lot of it is a speed thing too. And I do believe that you can get somewhat quicker. Not everybody is going to be able to go as fast as other guys, but just a quicker play, the quicker thinking, that sort of thing, that takes practice to get there. It takes time."

Mason is making sixth start in eight games, are you ready to anoint him as No. 1?

"No. No. He's just played well and that's the way it's gone so far. Too early."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sixers add center

By JACK McCAFFERY @JackMcCaffery

PHILADELPHIACenter Daniel Orton, who played last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, has signed as a free agent with the 76ers.

The Sixers waived center Tim Ohlbrecht in a related move.

The 6-10, 255-pound Orton played at Kentucky, left early, and was the 29th overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Orlando Magic.

Orton, 23, split time last season between the Thunder and its D-league club, the Tulsa 66ers. He averaged 2.5 points in 13 NBA games.

After being drafted by the Magic, Orton was sent to the D-league, where he played two games and suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2010. He returned to play six games for the Magic in 2011-2012, averaging 2.8 points.

He averaged 12.5 points on 53 percent shooting, eight rebounds, two assists and two snuffs per game with Tulsa last season.

Ohlbrecht had been claimed off waivers by the Sixers in July, after he played three games last season for the Rockets.

With the moves, the Sixers’ roster remains at 20 players.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An Eagles notebook

PHILADELPHIA --- No, Riley Cooper is not vanishing from the Eagles' preferred offensive plans. So say, anyway, the six times he was targeted in the Eagles' 31-20 victory Sunday in Tampa, and his four receptions, and his touchdown, and his 120 receiving yards.
Isn't that the same Riley Cooper who did not catch a pass a week earlier against the Giants, and who had not caught more than two in a game all season?
“We ran the same offense, did the same things,” Chip Kelly said Monday. “Riley has been open a lot. We just haven't thrown the ball to him.
“When you look at the production out of a receiver, we always look at catches and drops. And I think we had him for two drops on the season so far. When the ball has been thrown to Riley, he's had an opportunity and he's done it.
“The ball was thrown to him more on Sunday and he took advantage of it.”
Despite the recent boxscore entries, Kelly has not lost faith in Cooper's ability to be a first-string wide receiver.
“We've been happy with Riley,”Kelly said. “We have had confidence in him the whole way.”
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Safety Patrick Chung missed two games with a shoulder injury, but returned to play Sunday in Tampa … and injured his shoulder again.
A pattern?
A concern?
“We are concerned when anybody is hurt,” Kelly said. “He missed a game and didn't finish this last game. So it's obviously a concern for us.”
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Nick Foles ran four yards for a touchdown, giving the Birds an early lead against the Buccaneers. The play, Kelly said, was planned.
“It was a designed run call,” the coach said. “It wasn't a check with me, or a look-around-and-see-what-they-are-in-defensively situation. We just looked at how Tampa Bay was deploying themselves inside in the red zone. We had that play up whether Nick is the quarterback, whether Matt (Barkley) is the quarterback, whether Mike (Vick) is the quarterback, whether you’re the quarterback. That play was just called in from the sideline.”
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The Eagles Monday re-signed wide receiver B.J. Cunningham. Tight end Emil Igwenagu was released to create the roster space.
Cunningham, the all-time receiving leader at Michigan State, was a sixth-round Dolphins draft choice in 2012. After being waived by Miami, he joined the Birds' practice squad, but was released last August, accepting a settlement following a foot injury.
Igwenagu was an undrafted free agent from Massachusetts who played three games for the Birds last season, yet was inactive through the Birds' 3-3 2013 start.
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Brent Celek had one reception for 10 yards Sunday --- that, and his head coach's admiration.
“Through six games, Brent has been fantastic, a warrior, just doing everything,” Kelly said. “He is really helping in the blocking game and has had some key catches on the screen.
“ He's come up with some really big catches during the season, but I thought Brent played another outstanding football game.”
l l l
For good reason, Kelly has not yet gained a sense that fans of the Eagles have a particular distaste for the Cowboys, who will visit the Linc Sunday.
“No,” he said. “That's just because there are a lot of other teams they don't like, either.”

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Get these sports notes

So they are all out of here, the lot of them, Andy Reid and Charlie Manuel, Doug Collins and Peter Laviolette, a clear-the-bases, one-year-swing grand slam.
Argue each case, analyze the reasons for the moves, acknowledge that each circumstance was different. But they are gone, replaced by new coaches with fresh, multi-year contracts. So it will be two years --- and probably longer --- before there is another head-coaching switch for the Sixers, Flyers, Eagles or Phillies.
All of which means one thing: The general managers should start working their job-contact networks.
Sam Hinkie, in his first season in charge of the Sixers’ rebuilding, is safe. Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ G.M. since 2010, should survive one more losing season, two at the most. But Ruben Amaro Jr. and Paul Holmgren would probably be wise to duck.
Holmgren should be in the Flyers’ Hall of Fame. He’s had a strong run as the G.M., pushing his team into the Stanley Cup finals once, then making the tough but necessary decision to remove the irritants that were Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. But while it appeared that he’d acquired some valuable young talent in return, it’s growing clear with each shift that he has not assembled a hockey club capable of scoring often enough to contend.
Holmgren bounced John Stevens in favor of Laviolette, and then replaced Laviolette with Craig Berube. And that’s about the limit. Either Berube succeeds, or the next coaching change will be made by Ron Hextall, who is already on site. Hey, if Bobby Clarke can be an ex-Flyers general manager, then no franchise legend is really safe.
Amaro, whose connections with the Phillies are two-generations deep, is going to be a tough test case for David Montgomery. But he became the Phillies’ general manager the day after their 2008 championship parade and for so many reasons — injuries, age, too many Laynce Nix level talent miscalculations — the Phillies are an 89-loss team, just five years later. Another losing season, and he can have the office next to Ed Wade, who has the one next to Dallas Green, and someone else can try to rebuild the Phillies.
I don’t get why Jimmy Buffet is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Big East basketball media day is Wednesday in New York, and for the first time in decades, the organized story-spinning is going to be necessary. If ever a conference needed to reintroduce itself — and to position the spotlights just the right way — it is the reconfigured, non-football, non-BCS former Catholic 7.
There will be TV money and coaching stars and tradition, nationally ranked teams, major markets and the potential for basketball excellence. But no matter how the Not-as-Big East is presented, no conference was more damaged by the recent swirl of realignment.
Butler, Xavier and Creighton are interesting … but they are not Notre Dame, Louisville, Connecticut or Syracuse. That means the Big East has a gap to bridge. And while it is easier to do so in basketball than in football, the potential for falling into it has never been greater.
Get Hamlet?
Those who insist that coaching pro football and coaching college football are completely different jobs — and that those who move from the one to the other are doomed to look foolish — have one more exhibit of evidence.
Lane Kiffin, groomed in the pro game and the former Oakland Raiders coach, was proven to be overmatched at both Tennessee and USC, two programs where it is almost impossible not to succeed.
So, yes, it can be easier to coach in the antiseptic NFL than it is in the college game, where recruiting, alumni relations, parents and admissions offices can conspire to run the ultimate prevent defense.
Oh? You thought it was just the other way around --- that the college coaches were overmatched at the pro level? Surprise.
It’s OK for high schools to organize gangs of students to collide with one another at high speeds while wearing armor, often violently. Football, some like to call it.
But those same grown-ups who authorize such carrying-on are also quick to prevent it if anyone is in risk of getting a little wet.
Hey, if there is lightning in the area, pull the players off the field and the fans out of the stands. But for the sake of all things Americana, don’t postpone high school football games because it is raining. Because if it is acceptable to charge an admission fee to watch those very players risk drawing blood, then trying to protect them from becoming muddy is just too soggy with hypocrisy.
Craig Berube bristled when was asked about being known as a fighter on the day he was named the Flyers’ head coach.
"What do you mean, a ‘fighter’?" he said. "If I was a fighter, I’d have been in boxing."
All of which brought to mind, and then into conversation, the brief career in the legitimate ring of former Phantoms enforcer Frank Bialowas, who was so pounded in a heavyweight mismatch at the Ice Works in Aston that he went all no-mas on that idea and never fought — err, boxed — again.
Reminded of that story, Berube just moved on.
n Though the characterization of Kelly as the most tenured Philadelphia major-league coach was more whimsical than accusational, Union coach John Hackworth was right to kick up a mini-protest. It wasn’t that his ego required him to be at the top of the list, which he would be. It was that by every definition, the Union is as major as any franchise in the region.
Hey, even if it was just a touring, in-training version, that was Celtic FC that came to Chester in 2010 and lost, 1-0, to the Union. That alone is proof that the MLS is major league in more than just its letterhead — not some convoluted indoor-football nonsense.
Just put it this way: I am giving the two-finger point-to-the-eyes I’m-watching-you signal to a certain Jadaveon Clowney.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Berube: Changes coming

Craig Berube met with hockey writers before his first game as the Flyers' coach Tuesday night in the Wells Fargo Center.

This was the conversation:

How does the anticipation for coaching compare with playing on a game night?

“Well, as a player, I was young. I was probably a lot more nervous than I am now. I’m an old man now.”

No nerves?

“No, not really. I have been behind the bench a long time, and I think my team is ready to compete and work hard.”

On Mason, Emery

“I’ve seen pretty good goaltending so far. Mason’s got a lot of talent. He’s a young kid. He obviously had the one great year and kind of fell back a little bit. But I think coming in here last year he rebounded and feels pretty confident right now.  He’s got a lot of skill. And Ray Emery has got huge heart, won a Stanley Cup and he is a winner, a good veteran, a great guy to have around. He wins games. Ray Emery wins games. He went 17-1 last year and if you go back to his record in Ottawa and stuff, he wins games.”

Has he considered his goaltending rotation going forward?

“Sure. We all sit down and discuss it and kind of come up with a little game plan.”

Is he a one-goalie guy, or more likely to choose a 50-50 split?

“Well, that’s nice if you have it happen, but we are not there yet. So it will work itself out.”

Will we see any new combinations?

“Yes. Yes, you will.”

Such as?

“Well I juggled a few guys around. Simmonds will be up with Giroux. Voracek will be back with Lecavalier.”

How difficult is it to be installing things with season already started?

“It’s tough. But we worked on it a bit today. It takes time. But I think that they understand what we want to do. There’s always going to be flaws in it until you master it at some point. And then there’s still some flaws. But I am just looking for the execution with the puck, first of all, and without the puck. Play good defense, work hard, compete out there, be a fast team.”

Changes in breakouts?

“Well, I think it’s been a problem for a while, yeah. I mean, that’s definitely a concern.”











Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quarterback controversy alert

As if it ever has worked any other way, the Eagles have bumped into a tidy quarterback controversy. That's because, with their season and Michael Vick's left hamstring both malfunctioning Sunday, Nick Foles did plenty to help them defeat the New York Giants, 36-21.

Vick left the game with 1:25 left in the second quarter, and the Eagles could have attributed that to caution. But oddly, both Vick and Chip Kelly insisted afterward that, had it been necessary, he could have played. Still, Kelly kept Foles in the game ... and was rewarded with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes.

Kelly insists that Vick will start Sunday in Tampa Bay, though mid-week medical reports could swing his mind.

If the Vick-or-Foles, Foles-or-Vick debate rages, Kelly will have to take some of the blame/credit. He was the one who kept the competition humming deep into the offseason, an indication that he was not so sold on Vick that he could never be persuaded to change his mind.

“We're always going to compete,” Kelly said, when asked if Foles had an opportunity to win the No. 1 job, “and to make sure that the best guys are on the field.”

And so, it begins.


Check out my column on the situation, along with my story about the Birds' improving defense, in the Daily Times Monday and, as always, on


Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Peter Laviolette met with hockey writers before the Flyers' game with the Maple Leafs Wednesday.

This is the transcript:

Lecavalier was attracted to your system, has there been a comfort level from him?

"I've seen enough of Vinny, coaching in Carolina, coaching in Philadelphia, coaching in the Eastern Conference, especially coaching in Carolina where we played them so many times, to know what he is capable of. I think when our team can get up and be firing on all cylinders, which I don't think we've had in camp yet, I have seen it in practice but I haven't seen it translate to the game, and you'd like to think that makes its way through as the season opens up here tonight. But I have seen him and what he is capable of doing through practice and exhibition games, and I think the more comfortable he gets here with the system and what it is that we are doing with new linemates, I think he is really going to like it and really adapt to it well."

Is this a year that Simmonds can take it to the next level and be an All-Star level?

"Well, he is already a real good player, I mean he pushed 30 goals and was one of our leading goal-scorers last year. We certainly would like to see him continue to progress. He is young. I think that is what slips by the wayside a little bit last year --- we were so young. Simmonds was young, Voracek was young, Claude was a young captain, Schenn, Couturier, so there was a lot of young players on our team, and now you develop more and you start to get into that fourth and fifth and sixth-year pro, you can really start to spread your wings. So we are hoping that we get advancement from a lot of young players, but certainly Wayne, to see him continue to build on what he has in the past two years here."

Is it important to get a young guy like Scott Laughton in the game early to see how he handles the speed of the NHL?

"I mean, he already played real well for us last year in camp. He seems to weather full lineups that he played against and we played against, so I don't see that being an issue. I think the most important thing that we focus on is getting a win, and less getting somebody in for comfort level. But he is going to be fine. When we do use him in the lineup, I am not concerned that he won't be able to keep up with the speed or that he doesn't know the system or how we are going to play the game. I think he has had enough experience here over the course of the two years that he's been here and got to know the locker room and myself and the system and the environment. I don't see it being a problem."

Do you prefer a more physical player in there due to Toronto's style?

"I think we've got enough physical players in the lineup. I am not concerned about that."

Why the Flyers' struggle in the preseason, and your comfort level now?

"I think the guys are ready. Like I said, it was difficult. The lineup was busted up a little bit in training camp but we've got to look at a lot of players and evaluate a lot of different things in the organization. I would have liked better results in a couple of the games where we had close to a full lineup. We didn't get them. There certainly are things that we could have done better in those games. Like I mentioned yesterday, in the New Jersey game, better offensively, and in the Washington game, better defensively. So you go back and you look at those things. And that's what training camp is for. It would have been nice to get wins but we didn't. But that doesn't take away, I think, from the confidence that the guys have going through those games and the process and the three days of practice and working on things that we need to work on."