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."

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school basketball games across Chicagoland for another basketball edition of High School Lites. Catch the show live at 11 p.m. Friday on CSN and streaming at CSNChicago.com

The show will feature numerous teams in the CSN Preps Power Rankings. The best game on Friday night could be No. 16 Benet traveling to No. 15 Notre Dame in a clash of unbeatens in the ESCC but there will be plenty of other highlights to check for.

The Red-West, North Suburban and Southland are all prominently featured on the show this week while High School Lites will also have highlights from the SouthWest Suburban.

This week's Viewers' Choice Game of the Week generated over 5,000 votes as Von Steuben will travel to Taft to represent the Red-North.

We'll also have a Getting to Know feature on Conant senior guard Jimmy Sotos.

Thursday's Game

Hyde Park at No. 7 Kenwood, 4:30 p.m. -- Kenwood will try to keep its momentum going as they host Hyde Park in a Red-Central battle. Kenwood (5-1, 1-0) is coming off of a Red-Central win over Dunbar earlier this week while Hyde Park (3-1, 1-0) defeated Lindblom for a conference victory as well. The Broncos are still unbeaten in Illinois as they're relying on senior big man Manny Patterson and his talented group of teammates. Hyde Park is trying to figure things out in head coach Jevon Mamon's first season as Andrew Anderson had a nice game against U-High at the Chicago Elite Classic.

Friday's Games

No. 11 North Lawndale at Westinghouse, 4:30 p.m. -- The Red-West is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season as this should be an interesting game. The Phoenix (5-1, 1-0) knocked off Marshall for a Red-West win on Wednesday while Westinghouse (3-3, 0-1) is coming off of a tough double-overtime loss to Farragut. Westinghouse is going to have to slow down Carlos Hines and Martrell Barnes but they can counter with a talented senior of their own in Coreyoun Rushin.  

Kankakee at Crete-Monee, 6:00 p.m. -- We also head to the Southland on Friday night as Kankakee (1-3, 0-1) travels to Crete-Monee (3-2, 1-0). The Warriors survived a high-scoring, double-overtime win over Rich East on Wednesday as they're led by senior and Toledo commit Dwayne Rose, the nephew of Derrick Rose. Kankakee is off to a sluggish start as they've lost some close games and they could use a conference road win here.

Rich East at No. 19 Bloom, 7:00 p.m. -- Keeping it in the Southland, Rich East (2-4, 0-1) will try to shake off a double-overtime loss this week as they travel to face No. 19 Bloom. Rich East has two one-point losses and the double-OT loss to Crete-Monee this year, so they could be better than the 2-4 record indicates. Bloom (4-1, 1-0) was impressive during Thanksgiving week at the Chicago Heights Classic as they look like one of the premier teams in the South Suburbs this year.

No. 24 Thornton at Lincoln-Way West, 7:00 p.m. -- These two teams battled in the SouthWest Suburban Red last season and both programs return some key pieces. Lincoln-Way West (2-4, 1-0) is led by senior Marco Pettinato as he's an All-Area candidate and big-time scorer. Thornton (3-2) will counter with a big scorer of its own with senior Alonzo Verge.

No. 16 Benet at No. 15 Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m. -- This could be the best matchup of Friday night as two unbeatens clash in the ESCC. Benet (5-0) is coming off of a runner-up finish in Class 4A as they bring back some talented players like Jack Nolan, Liam Lyman and Justin Enochs. The Redwings have looked very good early this season as they've piled up a lot of double-digit wins. Notre Dame (6-0) is also off to a hot start as they picked up an overtime win over Loyola and another victory over Bartlett last weekend. The Dons have a lot of size on the inside as Chris Heinichen, Jeameril Wilson and Sean Johnson are all 6-foot-5 or bigger.

No. 12 Stevenson at Mundelein, 7:00 p.m. -- Stevenson is off to a great start as they try to carry that into Mundelein in this North Suburban contest. The Patriots (6-0, 2-0) are led by Indiana commit and senior Justin Smith as he's one of the best players in the state this season. Mundelein (2-4, 0-1) dropped one to Zion-Benton earlier this week as they try to get back on track in the North Suburban race.

Lake Zurich at Zion Benton, 7:00 p.m. -- Two team with high expectations in the North Suburban face each other in this one. Zion-Benton (2-1, 1-1) dropped a conference game to leader Stevenson last weekend but recovered with a double-digit win over Mundelein during the week. Lake Zurich (4-1, 0-1) dropped its conference opener to Waukegan after a 4-0 start to the season.

Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Von Steuben at Taft, 6:30 p.m. -- This week's poll was a tight one as over 5,000 people voted and this game barely beat Lane at Uplift. The Panthers (0-2, 0-1) are trying to pick up their first win of the season after losing to an out-of-state opponent and No. 9 Uplift. Senior Rafael Cruz put up monster numbers last season as he's the player to watch for Von Steuben. Taft opened its Red-North slate at home against Lincoln Park as they're facing two tough opponents right out of the gate at home. They'll try to capitalize on those early conference home games with a win here.