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Patriots Trade Matt Cassel To Chiefs

Matt Cassel has been traded to the Chiefs and it appears he is actually part of the original Mike Vrabel deal that went down Friday between Kansas City and the Patriots. Cassel threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. He would have been the backup to Tom Brady this season, and collecting a $14.65 salary.

Jets Add Scott And Sheppard ... Ivy And Leonhard Could Be Next

Alright, there was a ton of moves Friday in the first day of free agency for the NFL and for the second year in a row it was the Jets that made the biggest splash. Former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott finally signed a 6-year, $48 million deal to join the Jets. You should know the drama by now ... first his agent signed a deal with the Jets ... then, apparently, Scott wanted to go back to the Ravens to see if they would beat the deal ... that forced the Jets to up their offer and Scott signed on with the Jets several hours later. It was not a fun several hours for Jets fans, believe me. Scott said that he never went back to Baltimore in a last ditch effort, but that is a little unbelievable. Still, at this point, who cares? The move was just the first of many for the Jets, which solidified its defense with two big moves and two others are expected as early as tomorrow. The Jets also came to their senses and resigned guard Brandon Moore to keep the offensive line intact.

Joining Scott on defense will be Eagles corner Lito Sheppard, who the Jets acquired in a trade for undisclosed draft picks late Friday night. Sheppard will start at corner opposite Darrelle Revis. The Jets will probably also add Ravens cornerback Corey Ivy, who visited the team Friday but didn't have a contract in hand. He is expected to be the nickel back for the Jets, the same spot he played in Baltimore. If that wasn't enough, the Jets are hosting Ravens safety James Leonhard Saturday and he is expecting to sign with the team as well. Of course, those last two could sign elsewhere, but it looks like the Jets may have filled all of their needs on defense in possibly two days. They needed two cornerbacks, a safety and a linebacker - and they could have all those spots filled by Saturday night.

On offense, signing Brandon Moore to a 4-year, $16 million deal was huge. The Jets needed to keep the offensive line in place, and they did. On a side note, the Jets did offer a similar deal to Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu but he resigned instead with Pittsburgh. Now, that is all well and good, but if you are to believe reports, Kemoeatu repeatedly called the Steelers repeatedly and basically begged them to take him back. They orginally said no, but came around and finally took him back. If it's true, that's pretty pathetic and I would worry about the guy's stability. Thank God the Jets got Moore instead.

So, that leaves quarterback and at least two wide recievers as need spots for the Jets. A couple of "draft experts" have the Jets drafting USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first round, which would obviously take care of QB. I would love it if the team traded the first pick and maybe a third or fourth rounder to the Cardinals for WR Anquan Boldin. That would be the perfect ending.

For all of you Patriots fans out there, your team made two moves. Former Jets tight end Chris Baker signed a nice deal with the rival Pats. Coming from someone who watched him every play in every game, he's a good get. He can block and catch the ball, so that was a very good move by the Patriots. The other move was running back Fred Taylor. This one I don't get as the Patriots already have like 50 RB's on the roster. But I guess you can never have enough depth. Also, the Pats traded away linebacker Mike Vrabel for some draft picks.

Jets Very Close To Signing Linebacker Bart Scott From The Ravens

The Jets and Ravens linebacker Bart Scott's agent, Harold Lewis, have agreed to a five-year, $40 million deal but Scott needs to give final approval before the deal is official. But, as of now, it looks like Bart Scott will indeed become the new inside linebacker for the Jets next season. Obviously it would be a huge signing if completed.

Some other deals:
Albert Haynesworth to the Redskins for 7 years and $100 million
Former Jet Chris Baker to (of course) the Patriots
DeAngelo Hall to the Redskins
Tony Richardson back to the Jets
Fred Taylor was supposedly headed to the Patriots, but he says that's not true

Jets Cut Ties With Lavernaues Coles, And Don't Have To Pay Him

Had to take a quick break from putting together tomorrow's Bristol Press sports section to write about a couple of Jets' moves today. First, earlier Wednesday, kicker Mike Nugent said he won't be back with the team next season. (Got no problem with that as the second-round pick turned into a huge bust.) Second, just about a half-hour ago, word spread that the Jets would be parting ways with wide receiver Laveranues Coles. But, apparently, the team has worked out a deal with Coles to where he becomes a free agent.

If he was simply released the team would have had to pay Coles the $6 million guaranteed on his contract for this upcoming season. I don't know how they got Coles to agree to void the last year of his deal, but they have, and are probably celebrating right now.

Coles was a disaster last season, dropping as many big passes as he had caught them. He dropped a fourth-down bomb against Seattle that would have given the Jets a first down late against the Seahawks, a game they lost and pretty much ended their season and Brett Favre's career. Hopefully this means the Jets are going to make a serious effort to trade for Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin. Friday is going to be a big day.

Knicks Finally Waive Talented But Troubled Guard Stephon Marbury

The Knicks have finally parted ways with Stephon Marbury, releasing the guard Tuesday night after five years with the club. Marbury will make close to $21 million this season and could be signed by any team now. He will be eligible for the postseason because he was waived by March 1. So, the soap opera has finally ended.

Rangers Fire Coach Tom Renney As New York Continues Free Fall

In what should make a whole lot of Rangers hockey fans happy today, the Blueshirts fired head coach Tom Renney. The Rangers have been in a free fall of late, winning just 2 out of 12 games to fall to sixth place in the Eastern Conference. In late January the team was just one point behind the Devils in the Atlantic Division standings. Now, with their recent downturn, the Rangers are just three points ahead of ninth-place Carolina and five in front of 10th-place Pittsburgh. The top eight, of course, make the playoffs. Renney (AP photo, top) took over the Rangers in 2003.

[Update: John Tortorella was named the Rangers new head coach Monday. Tortorella was a former assistant with the Rangers, and briefly served as interim head coach, going 0-4 at the end of the 1999-2000 season, before getting a shot with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was fired from Tampa following last season.]

Slumdog Millionaire Wins Best Picture, Mickey Rourke Loses

If I was a betting man, I would have went with Slumdog Millionaire tonight to win Best Picture ... and it just did. Good for them. I thought it was a great movie and I'm glad to see it win. I guess the only one of the big awards that I wanted to go the other way was Mickey Rourke winning for The Wrestler ... but it went to Spicoli instead. Like I said, the show was pretty bad, but when they got to the later stages, it regrouped because it focused on the actual awards. So, it rebounded well. All in all, I miss Sunday Night Football.

The Oscars Have Been Bad, But Way Back When Was Very, Very Good

Watching the Oscars tonight has been downright brutal. It's been a horrible production with disastrous music numbers, weird presentations, and, worst yet, Bill Maher (how the hell did that pompous jerk get on this show?) and there is still about a half-hour left. But while I'm being forced to watch the show, I keep thinking back to my own shining moment at the Oscars.

It was back in 2001 and I couldn't have been more nervous. Leading up to the awards ceremony was a truly agonizing experience for yours truly. Never before had I felt the way I did that night leading up the announcement of Best Supporting Actor. But, finally, there it was. The nominees were: Jeff Bridges (The Contender), Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire), Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich), Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator), and ... finally ... Benicio Del Toro (Traffic).

I was too nervous to cheer for Del Toro as my heart was in my throat. I knew exactly how he felt at that moment. This was his Oscar moment, but mine as well. I felt it all. You see, leading up to the show, I placed a little (well, probably not so little) wager on the winner of the award and went with Del Toro. He was the favorite and I decided to place some dough down on something that was completely foreign to me. Never before had I bet on anything outside the realm of sports or casino games. But the chance was worth taking.

Then ... the envelope was opened ... the winner was announced ... and I let out a huge sigh of relief wrapped in joy and covered in euphoria. Del Toro had won Best Supporting Actor and, better yet, I had won as well! As Del Toro walked up to the podium to accept the award, I was right with him. It was one of my greatest gambling moments and one I will never forget.

Of course, like all great gambling moments, there is a huge crash as well. The following year, I decided to try my luck once again and went with some dude from The Lord of the Rings in the same category. I was nervous, but confident this time. And ... of course ... the winner was ... well, not my guy - not me. My Oscar streak stopped cold at one and never again would I try my hand at picking winners.

But, still, that Del Toro-Carroll moment was great and one that I will never forget. (Unlike the horrible Oscar show I'm watching right now).

Sidney Crosby Shows His Jealousy For Alex Ovechkin With Cheap Shot

Watching my Washington Capitals play the Pittsburgh Penguins on NBC and right before the second period ended, former golden boy (key word boy) Sidney Crosby of the Penguins let his jealousy get to him as he took a cheap shot at Superman, otherwise known as Alex Ovechkin, before he went to the bench. Ovechkin, proving he's as smart as he is good, went face-to-face with Crosby and didn't retaliate. (Why put Pittsburgh on the power play?) Ovechkin waved Crosby back to his bench and had what I'm sure was some choice words for the pretender. We will see if the pair go at it to start the third period, but either way, Ovechkin again proved that he is the greatest player in the NHL - and he didn't even have to do anything. Crosby was The Man ... but that was before everyone discovered Ovechkin. Luckily, he's on my team.

And, to update, Ovechkin and Crosby did not fight in the third period and the Capitals skated to an easy victory in Washington. On a quick side note, if I was in charge, I would suspend anyone who fights for the following game. I know people say I'm crazy - that fighting is part of the game - but I'm sick of it. If you really want to eliminate fighting that is the only way to do it. The league says it doesn't want its players fighting, but is a five-minute penalty or whatever really going to deter anyone?

(AP photo, top, of Alex Ovechkin.)

When It Comes To Ray Lewis Vs. Bart Scott, You Have To Side With Youth

We're a few days away from the start of the free agent period in the NFL, so things will definitely get interesting starting this Friday. The biggest free agents on the market are a pair of linebackers from Baltimore - Ray Lewis and Bart Scott - and the Jets are interested in both. (And I'm not counting players that got the franchise tag because there will be little chance of them getting a realistic offer considering the cost would be two first-round draft choices.)

But before we get into the two Raven linebackers, there is news that the Jets are going to release guard Brandon Moore very soon because he is due a $7 million roster bonus in a couple weeks. Apparently the Jets offered him a take-it-or-leave-it deal Friday night and Moore rejected it. A source told the Daily News that the contract was "a joke." Hopefully the Jets make a legit offer to keep Moore, as he is their best run blocker and the offensive line as a whole is very good. I understand trying to save the money, but who are they going to replace Moore with? There is nobody. Offensive line play is huge and I would have thought the Jets would realize that by now. But I guess not. Moore would make a killing in the open market, and that should be all the Jets need to hear to keep him. Also, the team released tight end Chris Baker, who was due to make $9 million over the next three years. They reportedly want to resign him at a lower price.

Now, since everything is pointing to the Jets keeping just Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge as the team's quarterbacks for next year, the team is likely gearing up to give either Lewis or Scott a huge contract. And with plenty of cap room now available, the Jets can pull it off. Of course, the big question is which linebacker do the Jets pursue.

When talk turned to available players in free agency a few weeks ago, I right away was pumped up about bringing in Ray Lewis to turn the Jets defense into a bunch of killers (on the field, not off it!) Lewis automatically would bring his attitude to an already solid defense and could turn them into the second coming of Baltimore very, very quickly. And that is new coach Rex Ryan's plan. But the problem with bringing in Lewis is his age. Ray-Ray will be 34 next season, meaning he probably has, at best, two more years in him. The Jets don't need another stop-gap - can you say Brett Favre? - so my original excitement has been tempered over the past several days.

Now, if Bart Scott wasn't available as well, I probably would be still be clamoring for Lewis. Scott wouldn't come with the big name, but he would make a similar impact on the field as Lewis would, and perhaps better. He's just 28 years old. Scott seems interested in the Jets as well. He said this on Sirius satellite radio:

"I can go to the Jets and I can set a tempo. I have some unique things to my game that's unique to just Bart Scott that everybody else can't do. You don't have to take me out. You can put me over the tight end, you can take me out of the box, you can leave me in the box. Every linebacker can't say that. You can put me in any situation - I'll flourish."

Hopefully the Jets learned their lesson last year and go after youth over name in improving their linebacking core. I know it would be hard to pass up a guy like Ray Lewis, but Bart Scott is the better choice.

And there is no way I want Jonathan Vilma back. I still hear tons of Jets fans (including brother Craig) say this guy is actually good ... but he had one good year in New York. That's all.

The Jets still need a cornerback and a safety for the defense, which hopefully they can address in the draft, but getting a linebacker would be a huge first step toward turning the defense over. On offense, getting a big-time wide receiver (Anquan Boldin!) is a necessity as well.

Police Photo Obtained By TMZ Shows A Beaten Rihanna After Alleged Fight With Chris Brown

Here is what I think is the first and only copy of the police photo of singer Rihanna after allegedly being beaten by singer and boyfriend Chris Brown before the Grammy's a couple weeks ago. The photo was obtained by TMZ. Even though it's not completely clear, you can see that Rihanna appears to be beaten pretty badly. Brown was arrested in connection with the events on Feb. 8.

The Boss Makes An Appearance ... YouTube Should Shrink ... And GameDay's New Pitch

As you can see, GameDay has a brand-new look and feel. Even though I didn't neccesarily plan it this way, the new look coincides with the start of Spring Training and the baseball season. The last time GameDay went through a makeover was right before the NFL kicked off. So, who knows what I'll do next.

On a another note, YouTube has gotten a little annoying. With their new wide-screen format, as you can see below, videos no longer fit perfectly into the blog space, so it's going to be a little tricky posting videos from now on.

Finally, George Steinbrenner, the great owner of the New York Yankees, made an appearance at Yankees spring training today. I remember talking with fellow Yankee fans and saying that when The Boss goes, so will the Yankees. Unfortunately, we've seen that happen already. But I fully believe that will end this year. I'm picking the Yanks to win the AL East and, believe it or not, Alex Rodriguez should be voted in as MVP, but will finish second because the media won't let the steroids subject go away.

(AP photo, top, is of Derek Jeter.)

Greatest Hockey Player In World Ovechkin Proves It In This Video

Who Is Your Favorite To Win NCAA Tourney? Plus, Pitt Takes Control

After Monday night's intense showdown between No. 1 Connecticut and No. 4 Pittsburgh, it's only fitting that we get everyone's opinion on who they think is the favorite to win the NCAA Tournament as we head into the stretch run this season. So, this week's First & Goal poll question is up and ready to go to the right of the page. The results, as always, will be in next Tuesday's paper. Spread the word.

Here is my First & Goal column from today:

If the Pittsburgh Panthers wanted to send a message to their rivals from Connecticut last night, it was delivered loud and clear when DeJuan Blair flipped Hasheem Thabeet over his back and to the floor in the first half.

The body slam had Thabeet, UConn’s star center, on the bench for about four minutes, and for the most part, completely out of the mix for the Huskies from then on.

Thabeet ended with just five points, four rebounds and five fouls and the Panthers had themselves a 76-68 victory in Hartford Monday night.

It was a stark contrast to the 25 points and 20 rebounds Thabeet recorded against Seton Hall Saturday afternoon.

For Pittsburgh, it was certainly mission accomplished.

UConn, which earlier in the day was ranked No. 1 for the third straight week, did get a measure of revenge later, elbowing Blair in the face and knocking him out of the game for about three minutes in the second half.

But Blair was able to light up the Huskies for 22 points and 23 rebounds along the way.

UConn’s hold on the top spot in the AP poll will likely come to an end next Monday, but the bigger development is that Pittsburgh is now clearly the team to beat in the Big East. And that is a complete turnaround from where the conference stood at tip-off.

UConn has played head and shoulders above the rest of the conference this entire season, but the heavyweight fight Monday night changed all of that in an instant.

Pittsburgh is the conference’s best team now.

There is still another UConn-Pittsburgh matchup on the horizon, as a March 7 meeting remains, so the conference is still very much up for grabs. Plus, there is a possible third game in the Big East tournament, which could determine who gets a No. 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, making Monday’s game just the start of what could be a furious finish to the Big East season.

While I’m sure the Huskies and their faithful would have liked to have all but wrapped up the conference last night, Pittsburgh’s win has given Big East fans reason to stay glued to television from now until March Madness to see who will ultimately deliver the final blow.

The first shot, however, was clearly delivered by Pittsburgh.

READER’S POLL RESULTS
This week we decided to let you make the call on which home game we should attend tonight and you the reader came to a clear answer. So, tonight we will cover the St. Paul boys basketball game against Berlin in Bristol at 7 p.m.

In Wednesday’s paper, we will have full coverage with a game story and photos.

We usually break out this special poll about once a year, but we just might up that and do it again during the spring sports season.

(AP photo, top, Hasheem Thabeet lands hard after attempting a rebound against Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair during the first half Monday night.)

Is It The End Of The World? It Sure Seems Like It At Shea Stadium



Here is a crazy video of what is left of Shea Stadium. Watching this video kind of reminds me of the movie "28 Days Later" or anything similar to that. It seems like the end of the world is here. It's kind of sad seeing what Shea has turned into. I spent a lot of summers at Shea Stadium watching the hated Mets and in the fall at Jets games. I actually was at the last game the Jets ever played at Shea and I went onto the field after the game. I managed to get a nice piece of the turf that I tore off the ground and brought it home. It lasted for a while, but God only knows where it is now. If I was older, I definitely would have taken better care of it - not sure if that would be even possible, but it is still one of those regrets I have. Of course, I really want to head back there after watching this to get a closer view. But knowing my luck I'll get arrested for trespassing. So, this video will have to do for now.

Man-Beast Climbs Huge Snow Bank At Bristol Press Office Parking Lot

And tonight, something completely different. In what turned out to be quite the spectacle, an unknown man (or "beast" as writer James Drzewiecki was saying) climbed to the top of the 15-foot snow pile in The Bristol Press' parking lot on Wednesday. The "beast" stayed up there for at least 10 minutes, and when a group of workers (contrary to what has been said, there is still a bunch of us here after 4 p.m.) gathered at the windows, the "beast" started throwing snowballs and pieces of ice. He was shrieking in what seemed to be a foreign language at all who would listen. Several people actually did witness his ascent to the top of the snow pile and described him as having bear cub-like movements.

He was quick and agile, they said. I managed to snap the above photo with my camera phone before he finally made his way down the snow pile, in a less than graceful manner. He then patted himself off, got into his car, and headed off toward Bristol Central High. Any information that can help us identify the "beast" would be greatly appreciated and we might come up with a reward for anyone who can bring this man to Bristol Press Sports judgment.

Brett Favre Won't Be Back With Jets, Says He Will Retire

In what may come as a surprise - if only for the timing - Brett Favre has finally called it a career. Favre reportedly told agent Bus Cook to contact the Jets today and tell them that he is retiring. (More recent reports have said that he has indeed done that.) In an e-mail to ESPN, Favre said he had no regrets ending his career with the Jets and praised a bunch of people with the organization.

"Mike [Tannebaum] and Woody [Johnson], as well as the entire organization, have been nothing short of outstanding,'' Favre said in the e-mail. "My teammates - Thomas [Jones] and Kerry [Rhodes] included - were a pleasure to play with. Eric [Mangini] could not have been any better. I enjoyed playing for him. My time with the Jets was short, but I'm honored to be given that chance.''

So, there will be no long, drawn out offseason with Favre holding the team hostage like he did with the Packers.

Apparently Cook did have informal discussions with the Jets about possibly trading the quarterback to the Vikings, according to ESPN, but the Jets said no.

Favre's retirement will save the Jets $13 million in cap room for next year.

The question now is who will be the Jets quarterback next year. Right now they have Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge on the roster ... not exactly an exciting bunch. Clemens was supposed to be the QB of the future, but that went to hell two years ago when he was horrible after taking over for Chad Pennington. Ratliff had a couple of big games in the preseason, but that was against second and third stringers. Ainge probably took about two snaps in practice last year.

The free agent class is not a good one either, with Rex Grossman, Jeff Garcia and Byron Leftwich the top quarterbacks. None of those are the answer for the Jets.

The team is already in discussions trying to figure out a plan for the quarterback position, including possible draft options. I still think the team should at least put in a call to the Cardinals and see if they could pry Matt Leinart away for a couple of draft picks. Of course, they'll need to wait until Kurt Warner makes a decision about his future. If he retires, obviously, Leinart will not be traded.

A couple of thoughts on Favre:

**First, it was a great move by the Jets bringing him to the team in the offseason. He injected adrenline into the entire franchise and when he took the field for the first time as a Jets at home the place was electric. While I hated Favre and what he did to the Packers for several years in a row, welcoming a star of that caliber to the team is a chance I'll always take. And don't forget that a ton of people thought the Jets were going to the Super Bowl after they beat the Patriots and Titans on the road in back to back games.

**Second, the wheels came off the train after that and Favre was suddenly old and simply horrible. He was terrible and completely destroyed the Jets season with his play down the stretch. It was in the final game where Jets fans finally had enough and were ready to turn the page and move in a different direction. I think Favre sensed that and knew that he would have to prove himself to the fans next year, something he didn't have to do this past year. He obviously wasn't up to the challenge.

**Third, for me, the legend that is Brett Favre will never be the same. It's one thing to be a star in Wisconsin, and a whole other thing to be a star in New York. Favre wilted under the bright lights of New York and that is how I will remember him as a player. I know we got the old Favre, but it's on him for not adapting to that.

**Fourth, if the reports are true that Favre, or his agent, made one last effort to get traded to the Vikings then it just shows the kind of person Favre is. I'm sure the Vikings would rather take their chances with Tavaris Jackson anyway.

Alex Rodriguez Tested Positive For Anabolic Steroids, According To SI

According to Sports Illustrated this morning, Alex Rodriguez was one of 104 players who tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2003 - which was when he was with the Rangers, not the Yankees. A-Rod (AP photo, top) told SI that "you'll have to talk to the union" when asked about the result. Given a chance to explain the positive result he told SI, "I'm not saying anything." He won't be punished even if the report is correct.

Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin Says Florida Coach Urban Meyer Is A Cheat


Ask and I shall receive. It's not really, really big news, but something that I thought was interesting enough to bring up here. It seems Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin is already trying to create college football drama with SEC rival Florida. Kiffin claims that Florida coach Urban Meyer cheated in the recruiting of a wide receiver (Nu'Keese Richardson), one in which signed with Tennessee anyway on Wednesday. Here is what Kiffin had to say about Meyer and his recruiting tactics to a group of fans at a signing day breakfast Thursday morning, according to WVLT-TV:

"I'm gonna turn Florida in right here in front of you. While Nu'Keese was on campus, his phone kept ringing. One of the coaches says, 'who's that?' And he said, 'Urban Meyer.' I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him."

Tennessee said they will not make a formal complaint.

Here is Florida's reponse: "There was no rule violation and we have confirmed this with Southeastern Conference. It is obvious that Coach Kiffin doesn't know that there is not a rule precluding phone contact with a prospect during an official visit on another campus during a contact period," Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. "His allegations are inappropriate,

out of line and, most importantly, totally false. It is completely unfair to Urban Meyer, our coaching staff, our football program and our institution. The appropriate action at this time in my opinion is for Coach Kiffin to make a public apology. His comments not only slandered our coach, but he violated SEC rules by publicly criticizing another coach and institution."

While I can understand where Kiffin is coming from, he's got to realize that the best way to use that information to his advantage is keep it to his team and use it for motivation in beating the Gators next year. Now that he's gone public with it, Florida is going to be pumped up to play a subpar Vols squad and will likely beat them by 35. Kiffin could have had the surprise attack in his corner and, if he used the information correctly, could have resulted in a huge upset. College football is all about emotion and this would have been huge motivation.

Kiffin, who was horrible as head coach of the Raiders, already made a big mistake in his new job, months before the season begins. Hopefully he gets it together quickly or he'll think working for Al Davis was a pleasure.

[UPDATE: This was quick - an apology from Lane Kiffin. "At an energetic breakfast with some of our donors and alumni I made a statement that was solely meant to excite the crowd," Kiffin said in a statement. "If I offended anyone at the University of Florida, including Mr. Foley and Urban Meyer, I sincerely apologize. That was not my intention."]

Mets Reportedly Will Bring Back Oliver Perez For Three Years

For all of my readers that support that other New York team, here is some news that I don't think you'll be particularly exciting about. The Mets are close to bringing back pitcher Oliver Perez, according to multiple reports.

The New York Post says the deal is for $36 million over three years. Perez wanted four years, but the Mets stood tough and got the deal they wanted.

GameDay Column: There's A Hiring Freeze At ESPN? Well, Maybe If You're An Average Joe

Sadly, the football season came to an end last night with the Steelers thrilling victory over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, but that doesn’t mean you’ve heard the last from me about the league. I thought I’d hit on a bunch of stuff from the season and now going forward into the black hole in the sports world known as February.

**We’ll kick things off with a note about ESPN. The network put a hiring freeze in effect last week, which is all well and good. After all, they can do what they please running their business. The only problem is the hiring freeze doesn’t really tell the whole story – you see, if you’re an average Joe, you’re not getting a job. If you’re a washed up former coach or player, well, you’ve got a home at ESPN. One day after announcing the freeze, ESPN went out and hired former Jets and Chiefs coach Herman Edwards. So, if you’re from Bristol, forget about ESPN. But if you “play to tie the game” you got a job. Good going, ESPN!

**For the second straight year, the Super Bowl was simply awesome. The back-and-forth fourth quarter was just outstanding and had me glued to the television. When Larry Fitzgerald broke free for that long touchdown, I knew there was way too much time left on the clock. And the Steelers came right down the field and scored the game-winning touchdown. I wanted the game to go in the opposite direction, but I can’t deny the greatness of the finish.

**Were there commercials this year? I didn’t even notice. Super Bowl commercials are the most overrated thing in the history of television. Maybe back in the day, when they still ran the Bud Bowl, commercials were something to talk about. Now, they’re just commercials.

**Going forward, sports are going to stink until March Madness hits. February is the worst sports month of the year, and here we are. And, no, hockey and basketball don’t count. They don’t get interesting until the postseason.

**One thing I never managed to get into my column was a strange celebrity sighting at a Jets game this year. After getting stuck without a parking pass, we had to park in a satellite parking lot and take a bus a short ride to the stadium. Well, on that bus was Tate Donovan (top page) and Bobby Cannavale (above). Donovan used to be on Friends as a Jennifer Aniston love interest and a number of other movies and TV series and Cannavale was on Third Watch as a paramedic. All we could talk about after seeing them was: a. Why didn’t they have a parking pass? And, b. How sad is it that they were riding a school bus with us common folk.

**The only thing worth looking forward to now is the NFL free agency period. Hopefully by then, Brett Favre will have an answer on whether or not he’ll retire. The only problem with him retiring for the Jets is that they won’t have a quarterback next year. Kellen Clemens is out of the picture and Brett Ratliff had a couple of good games in the preseason against third-stringers. That’s it. And no, I don’t want Rex Grossman or Derek Anderson or Byron Leftwich. And forget about Matt Cassel. He’ll either be back with the Patriots or end up with the Chiefs, which is apparently the new hot rumor. It’s not a good spot to be in for the Jets, as they might be forced to take back an old Favre because there are no alternatives.

**Finally, our First & Goal poll will try to keep people interested in the sports world after such an exciting Super Bowl. The question: Which of these local teams has been the most impressive so far this winter sports season? The choices are on the right side of the page. Vote now.

Olympic Hero Michael Phelps Caught Smoking Pot, Regrets It, Of Course

Here is Michael Phelps' statement about him smoking marijuana in the photo above: "I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again."

The photo took place at a Nov. 6 party in South Carolina, several weeks after the Olympics. Read The Story Here

Phelps was charged with driving under the influence in Maryland in 2004, when he was 19. He was sentenced to 18 months probation and fined $250.

First & Goal Column: Readers Say Steelers Will Roll Over Cardinals

While the Super Bowl won’t crown a champion for another several hours, the readers of The Bristol Press have made no mistake of who they think will head off to Disney World with the Vince Lombardi Trophy in hand.

After several days of voting right here you have chosen your champion — the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And if the final poll results have anything to say about the game tonight, it won’t even be close. The Steelers racked up 65 percent of the vote to the Cardinals 34 percent. Pittsburgh received almost double the amount of votes on their way to a wire-to-wire victory.

The upstart Cardinals, who shocked the football world by beating the Falcons, Panthers and Eagles in advancing to the Super Bowl tonight, couldn’t pull in enough of the underdog vote to make a dent in the final tally.

The Steelers, who knocked off the Chargers and Ravens to advance to Tampa, were impressive enough in the playoffs that even the Cinderella Cardinals couldn’t stop them in our poll.

After breaking down tonight’s game, everything points to a blowout victory for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has the superior defense with the ability to shut down the Cardinals explosive offense — led by Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Arizona has the edge on offense, with its big play ability, but if the Pittsburgh secondary can shut down the big Arizona receivers this could turn into yet another Super Bowl blowout.

While our readers had no problem picking a champion in our poll, that doesn’t mean I have the same confidence in one choice or the other.

I can realistically see the Cardinals pulling off another upset and beating the Steelers in Tampa tonight. After all, underdogs have been all the rage this year, starting with the biggest one of them all — the Giants beating the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

So, in making my Super pick, I either have to go with my head (which says Steelers) or my heart (which is pulling for the Cardinals).

When all is said and done this will be your final score:

Pittsburgh 24, Arizona 20
(AP photo, top, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu should be celebrating a Super Bowl championship tonight according to our readers.)