Branch Traded

Mike Reiss has the news that Deion Branch has been traded to the Seattle Seahawks for a first round draft pick.

A special emergency edition of the Patriots Game Day roundtable has been convened to discuss this development.

Patriots Find Safety

David Scott takes a look at the Patriots coverage yesterday, including the Providence Journal making the bold decision to post all their stories immediately, instead of waiting for the paper to come out the next day. The new Patriots page at Projo.com is certainly impressive. Check in with the Patriots Game Day blog today as we’ll offer up a few more thoughts and links during the day.

The Patriots needed a fourth quarter safety to squeeze by the chippy Buffalo Bills yesterday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, 19-17.

John Tomase says that strange things happen in season openers and yesterday proved that. Mike Reiss looks at the Patriots dodging disaster right from the first play of the game yesterday. Lenny Megliola says that it wasn’t pretty, but in the end, the Patriots got the job done. Shalise Manza Young looks at the Patriots flirting with disaster before turning things around in Foxboro yesterday. Alan Greenberg looks at the Patriots escaping with a victory on an afternoon that saw Tom Brady have 3 yards passing in the first half. Jennifer Toland reports on the Patriots winning a game in which Brady was booed by the fans at Gillette. Michael Parente notes that it was an unlikely hero that stepped to the forefront for the Patriots yesterday. Mike Lowe observes that we’ve seen this act before – struggle early, but pull out the win in the end.

Christopher Price offers up his trusty 10 Things We Learned Yesterday column. Michael Felger says we don’t know any more about this team than we did before yesterday, but he seems pretty sure this is not a talented Patriots team. Ron Borges on the other hand, says that the Patriots did what good teams do on opening day…find a way to win, even if they’ve struggled much of the afternoon. Are we in a bizarro world here? Felger slams the Patriots seemingly giving them no hope this season while Borges is complimentary towards them? Ian Clark has the defense delivering a victory for the Patriots yesterday. Tim Weisberg notes that the defense again did the dirty work for the Patriots.

Jim Donaldson has Tom Brady expecting more out his offense and shouldering the blame. Karen Guregian writes that the Bills, despite losing Takeo Spikes and Troy Vincent early on, still exploited the Patriots most glaring weaknesses. Joe McDonald looks at how the Patriots managed to shift the momentum of the game in the third quarter. Greenberg analyzes the game in his Turning Point feature. Rich Garven notes that the Patriots still have the ability to close out those tight wins. Dan Pires says that the Patriots know that they have plenty of time to improve.

Plea to Joe Sullivan: Please keep Dan Shaughnessy away from the Patriots. He’s already ruined the enjoyment of following one of Boston’s professional sports franchises for many fans. Don’t let him do it to the Patriots as well. This was a typical atrocious, mailed-in article where Shaughnessy simply took the easiest, laziest storylines and cranked out a template column, complete with comparisons to the Red Sox and shots at Patriots fans.

Steve Buckley claims that while Tom Brady didn’t mention Deion Branch at all, he clearly talked about him in code during his post game press conference. Albert Breer says that Brady really needs Branch back to keep defenses honest for the QB and the running game. Weisberg has Brady taking the fall for the tough afternoon for the offense. David Brown notes that the early struggles of the offensive line were only the start of a zany afternoon for the Patriots.

Breer has a look at Don Davis, who had a rare turn at linebacker on a goal line stand and stuffed Willis McGahee on fourth down to turn the tide in the Patriots favor. McDonald also gives credit to Davis’ bit hit as a turning point of the game. Dan Ventura looks at Rosevelt Colvin playing a key role in the Patriots defense yesterday, making several big plays. McNamara looks at how the defense performed for the Patriots yesterday, including their defensive line stocked with high picks. Toland has Ty Warren and company coming up with the big play when needed.

Kevin McNamara looks at Laurence Maroney’s impressive NFL debut yesterday. Greenberg also looks at the debut by the rookie, who remains humble after his big splash on opening day. Bob Duffy looks at the Patriots impressive 1-2 punch at running back. Breer has Brady giving credit to the balanced rushing attack for the win. Steve Solloway has Corey Dillon choosing to let his performance do the talking for him.

Buckley offers up some of the best and worst from yesterday. The Projo has some talking points from yesterday’s win. Duffy looks at a low-key return for Rodney Harrison yesterday. McDonald points to Richard Seymour as his player of the game. He also offers up quick game analysis on both sides of the ball.

Guregian has several Bills accusing the Patriots of picking up Jonathan Smith and then dumping him just to get knowledge of some of Buffalo’s plays and intentions. Christopher L. Gasper looks at the Bills falling apart after a strong start yesterday. Check the view from the opposition on the pages of the Buffalo News and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Reiss’ notebook has a look at Ellis Hobbs shutting down Bills receiver Lee Evans. Tomase’s notebook looks at Rodney Harrison getting his licks in on the field, and continuing to round into form. Garven’s notebook reviews the big stop that turned things around for the Patriots. Brown’s notebook reports on Stephen Gostkowski passing his first test of a pressure kick, nailing a 32 yard field goal to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Parente’s notebook looks at the running backs taking up the slack for the depleted receivers. Lowe’s notebook looks at Bill Belichick winning his gambles, while Bills coach Dick Jauron didn’t fare as well with his.

If I missed anything, it’s likely on the Patriots Daily Links page, along with blog entries from around the Patriots world.

Next week’s opponent is the New York Jets, who won their opener under Eric Mangini yesterday against the Titans. Keep up with the Jets this week on the New York Sports Pages.

Chad Finn is ready to change seasons.

The Red Sox managed to avoid a sweep at the hands of the lowly Kansas City Royals with a 9-3 win at Fenway. Gordon Edes has David Ortiz providing a big home run and then talking about his quest for Jimmie Foxx’s club record and the MVP. Jeff Horrigan looks at another good outing for Julian Tavarez. Stephen Krasner says that the magic number is now two…and it has nothing to do with the playoffs. Paul Doyle has more on the afternoon at Fenway. David Borges looks at the Sox avoiding the sweep. Phil O’Neill has Coco Crisp revealing that his finger has bothered him all season, which could go a long way towards explaining his disappointing performance this year.

Michael Silverman has more on Big Papi closing in on 50 home runs. Alex Speier says that the Sox are still pushing Papi for MVP. Edes’ notebook has Tavarez tipping his cap after another strong start. Horrigan’s notebook looks at Coco and Manny sitting this one out. Krasner’s notebook also has Tavarez tipping his cap. Borges’ notebook also examines the same topic. O’Neill’s notebook wonders if Tavarez could be a starter next season for the Red Sox as well.

Stephen Harris has a look at Bruins goaltending prospect Jordan Sigalet, who has seen his career advance despite battling MS. Marvin Pave has Matt Lashoff making a splash at Bruins rookie camp. Harris’ notebook says that we perhaps shouldn’t close the door so soon on the Sergei Samsonov trade.

ESPN has Vikings/Redskins at 7:00 and Chargers/Raiders at 10:15.

Weekend Watch – NFL Opening Week

The NFL launches into the first weekend of the regular season. The Patriots will host the Buffalo Bills in their opener Sunday at 1:00 PM on CBS.

For your Patriots coverage, the BSMW Game Day crew will have updates before, during and after the game, there is also a Football Outsiders column today from Bill Barnwell, looking at the performance of young quarterbacks (like JP Losman) during road games, and whether they do struggle as much as we might think they do. Get the rest of your Patriots coverage on the Patriots Daily Links page.

Check the view from the opposition on the pages of the Buffalo News and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. You can also check news and stories on the NFL on the New York Sports Pages.

A few resources for your weekend NFL viewing:

Here is the national distribution map for the CBS 1:00 PM NFL game on Sunday. Fox has a national doubleheader, though not in Boston because of broadcast rules. Here is the Fox 1:00 PM map and the Fox 4:00 PM map. Obviously all times are Eastern.

A BSMW reader has looked at the full NFL schedule for the season and gives his best educated guess as to which games we will be shown in the Boston market each week during the regular season. (No Drumlins)

He has a very nice breakdown of the broadcast guidelines for each week:

1. Either CBS (WBZ-4) or Fox (WFXT-25) will have a doubleheader each week.
2. The Patriots must always be on local TV by league rule.
3. If the Patriots play at home on Sunday afternoon, there must not be another game on TV at the same time, by league rule.
4. If the Patriots are on the road on a Sunday afternoon, Fox will not show a game in the same time slot, unless they have a doubleheader that day.
5. If the Patriots play in a national TV game (Sunday or Monday night) or have a bye, we will get the full slate of Sunday afternoon games without restriction.
6. Early in the season, networks usually send us out-of-market games involving divisional opponents. Later in the year they will send the game most likely to affect the playoff races if an AFC East team is not threatening the Patriots.
7. Fox usually sends us the Giants if unless they are blocked by one of the rules above.
8. The Giants and Jets never play at the same time, so one of their games will always be moved to either 4:00 or 8:15 once we get to the flex schedules.

I’ve read in a couple places that the NFL has mandated that ALL games this season be produced in HD. In the past CBS had traditionally only done the top three games, I believe. So there should be no worries about having to watch the Patriots in the old broadcast format. (UPDATE – I have been unable to confirm this. Other sites, including CBS Sports show only three HD games on that network.)

Here’s a look at a few of the weekly Patriots programs out there:

* Patriots All Access returns tonight (Friday) at 8:00 on WCVB channel 5. Host Mike Lynch will lead us through a segment on Rodney Harrison and his comeback from the devastating knee injury he suffered last season. All Access spent a day with him during his rehab this spring, and talks to the Safety about his joy at returning to the game he loves. Another segment will feature footage and sound from coach Bill Belichick, who was mic’d up during the preseason game with the Redskins.

* CBS4 Sports kicks off its Patriots coverage with New England Ford Patriots Kickoff, airing tonight (Friday), at 7:00 p.m. The one-hour special, hosted by CBS4 Sports Director Bob Lobel, will give fans a look at the upcoming season including Tom Brady’s thoughts in a one-on-one discussion. In addition, CBS4’s Steve Burton sits down with Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau.

* I watched FSN’s Football Block last night and came away pretty impressed with the new offering of Tweeter’s 4 Downs with Felger. I was skeptical coming in, mostly because I’ve been disappointed with a few things from Felger recently, but the show turned out better than expected. The highlight of the program was the Felger interview with Tom Brady. (Yes, Felger called him “Tommy” in the interview.) Brady had some very interesting comments on his situation and his view of the business side of football. At one point, he said:

“If everyone wanted to be the highest paid, if I wanted to be that, then we wouldn’t have a very deep team. I know in some ways it’s irresponsible as a player for me to say that, because sometimes I agree with the management. But I think we’re all in this together. We’re trying to build something special, and it’s not about who spends the most money. There are a lot of teams that spend a lot of money that don’t perform well. We consistently perform well.”

Brady also said that he re-signed with the Patriots because it’s the team he wants to play for, the coach he wants to play for, the guys he wants to play with, the stadium he wants to play in, the fans he wants to play for, and the area that he wants to live. He said with all that, it was worth it to him to take less money to retain all those other benefits. He also showed a mastery of X’s and O’s by diagramming a play and explaining all the options. If anyone ever questioned whether Brady “gets it”, this should’ve dispel any last doubts. (You can watch the interview on the FSN website at Cue It Up) The show featured a short panel discussion with Felger taking the lead and Ron Borges, Don Banks and Russ Francis providing the commentary. Borges was on his medication and behaved himself, and Francis wasn’t too far over the top in the other direction. Banks didn’t say a whole lot, but will likely be called upon to discuss more league-wide matters.

* The other FSN offering “New England Tailgate” hasn’t changed too much, with all the usual banter and jokes, but a nice segment had Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie breaking down some film of JP Losman and how the Bills are attempting to make the reads as simple as possible for the young quarterback. Host Glenn Ordway did his usual smooth job directing the show, but with the exception of the film segment, the program still feels a bit too much like an amateur cable access show.

* Due to the financial state of the station, WB56 will not be carrying the Patriots Football Weekly TV show this season. The guys just found out last week that the show will not be carried this season by the station. They’re currently looking for another home, but might not be on the air this year except for their Patriots.com Internet radio show which airs Tuesday-Friday from Noon until 2:00 PM.

The Red Sox take on the Royals in decidedly underwhelming weekend series at Fenway Park. Keep up with the stories, coverage and blogs on the Red Sox Daily Links page.

If you’re looking for a College Football TV schedule, this is the best one I’ve found so far.

National Sports Media Columns

New England

David Scott looks at NBC’s opening night, USA’s US Open Coverage, and reviewed the local NFL previews. Susan Bickelhaupt looks at Chris Berman’s role changing and expanding on ESPN’s NFL coverage. John Molori had a look at NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” producer Fred Gaudelli, as well as FOX’s “cop out” in naming Joe Buck pregame host. Andrew Neff talks to Maine’s Gary Tanguay about the success of FSN New England’s Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight. He also reports on a couple of Maine radio stations picking up the New York Giants broadcasts for the benefit of the old time Giants fans in the region.

New York

Phil Mushnick looks at the NCAA’s efforts to speed up college football. He uses a good illustration of a restaurant with complaints of slow service to make his point of how poorly the NCAA has handled the situation. Richard Sandomir has a look at how the NFL really squeezed as much as they could from ESPN for Monday Night Football, mostly because they knew that the cable network was making a ton of money off of the league. Sandomir also had a look at NBC getting back into the NFL game, as last night’s Steelers/Dolphins broadcast marked the return of the league to the network for the first time since 1998. Andrew Marchand reports on Steve Phillips getting a new five year deal from ESPN, and also looks at a shakeup in ESPN’s NBA coverage. Marchand’s Memo of the Week is to Eric Mangini, where he advises the Jets rookie coach that he’d better win, or the media is going to shred him because of his non-cooperation with them. Neil Best talks to Cris Collinsworth about the mess that the NFL dodged by not firing or sanctioning Bryant Gumbel for his preseason remarks. We’ll be seeing a lot of Collinsworth on different outlets this season, but the analyst insists there will be no conflict. Bob Raissman has a look at the testy relationship between the NFL network carriers and even the league, with rumors of secret edicts being handed down by the NFL to force FOX to be off the air by 7:30 so that they don’t take viewers away from NBC’s pregame show.

More Eastern Columns

Michael Hiestand examines some of the big storylines in the broadcast world for his NFL season. Aaron Bracy looks at NBC promising to outdo the old ESPN NFL Primetime with it’s new Football Night in America Sunday evening studio show. Bracy also had a look on Thursday at Ron Jaworksi and Dick Vermeil reuniting, this time in the booth to call the second game of ESPN’s Monday night doubleheader. Bracy promises some media updates on his blog this weekend as well. Laura Nachman has Sports Talk 950-AM morning drive host Gregg Henson trying to build the station while dealing with a few “real world” issues as well. Jim Williams has a quick look at what Washington D.C. viewers can expect for NFL coverage. Chris Zelkovich reports on how this year’s Canadian Open could be the last one that is actually produced by Canadians.

South

Jim Sarni looks at the Marlins announcers being careful during Anibal Sanchez’s no-hitter not to jinx it for the rookie. He also has a very thorough look at the NFL offerings and options from the various networks and outlets. Barry Horn profiled Curt Menefee, who will handle the halftime and postgame hosting duties for the NFL on FOX this season while Joe Buck hosts the pregame show and then calls the game. Menefee will also handle the pregame shows when Buck is away for three weeks doing the MLB postseason. Barry Jackson has a look at the networks squaring off over flexible scheduling, as well as FOX having to give a fan a new truck as a result of a poorly executed joke by announcers Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa. Dave Darling rounds up all the changes that NFL viewers can expect this season with old faces in new places and new faces in different time slots and networks. David Barron has Lee Corso weighing on on Texas/Ohio State.

Mid-America

Bob Wolfley reports on how a Phil Simms interview on satellite radio influenced Brett Favre in terms of his decision to return to the Packers for another season. Roger Brown has Boomer Esiason down on the Browns. Judd Zulgad looks at the NFL broadcast wars heating up, as well as Bert Blyleven’s five game suspension from Twins radio for use of “a couple of naughty words” during a pregame show. Ed Sherman looks at the lineup shuffles in the broadcast world that are common when television contracts change hands. Teddy Greenstein thinks Rick Morrissey is too harsh on Notre Dame.

California

Larry Stewart looks at TiVo and CBS Sportsline teaming up for the benefit of fantasy football team owners. Stewart also wasn’t impressed with NBC’s incessant self-promotion last night. Tom Hoffarth has Tony Kornheiser a bit uncomfortable and skeptical about his role on Monday Night Football. John Maffei looks at the Chargers and Padres getting the national spotlight shined on them this weekend ESPN. Michael Lev has some friendly advice in an open letter to new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Topics include the NFL in Los Angeles, commercials, and TD celebrations. Jim Carlise goes into the KNBC’s new sports programe changes around the NFL broadcast world and also has a look at “The Challenge.” Jay Posner peruses the NFL broadcast lineup and also has a network-by-network preview.

Tedy ready to Bear Down

John Tomase and Mike Reiss each report on Tedy Bruschi’s return to practice yesterday, where the Patriots linebacker sported a cast on his wrist with the words “Bear Down” written on it. Reiss explains that the slogan has been used as a rallying cry for the University of Arizona since 1926.

The BSMW Game Day crew makes their predictions in a weekly roundtable entry that could be pulled at any time.

David Brown looks at how the Patriots braintrust sees things when it comes to filling holes on the roster. Gerry Callahan thinks that Bill Belichick should be more like Bill Parcells when it comes to the Deion Branch holdout. Shalise Manza Young has Johnathan Sullivan asking people not to judge him until they get to know and see him more. Albert Breer has Tully Banta-Cain prepping for his increased role. Alan Greenberg has Tom Brady talking about his offensive weapons, but disagrees with him about their potential. Eric McHugh has Belichick talking about how being a special teams coach helped prepare him to be a head coach.

Karen Guregian notes that the Patriots appear to be in midseason form as far as not cooperating with the media is concerned. Jennifer Toland has a look at the exciting potential of rookie Laurence Maroney. Dan Pires says that an eventful offseason and training camp hasn’t blurred the focus of the team. Guregian also has a look at Josh Miller helping out rookie Stephen Gostkowski. Tim Weisberg has a look at the Patriots offensive line.

Ron Borges reports on Deion Branch’s hearing getting delayed. Tomase says that the hearings were delayed and the order flipped.

Reiss’ notebook has Chad Jackson trying to do a lot of catch up this week. Young’s notebook has more on Bruschi’s return to the practice field. Tomase’s notebook looks at Jackson and Nick Kaczur returning to the practice field. Toland’s notebook has more on Bruschi. Pires’ notebook looks at Tully Banta-Cain getting his chance to shine.

Jim McCabe, Jim Lazar and I.M. Bettor offer up their selections for the week.

David Scott offers up a look at NBC’s kickoff night, some USA tennis and a breakdown of NFL preview sections from Thursday. Susan Bickelhaupt looks at Chris Berman moving on from NFL Primetime – but seeing his duties increase with ESPN adding Monday Night Football.

Baseball

Michael Silverman says that barring a historic collapse by someone else, the Red Sox are not going to the postseason in 2006. Gordon Edes and Phil O’Neill focus on the Red Sox who got away. Tom Yantz has Mike Lowell still going all out with the Red Sox fading away.

Sean McAdam writes that the Red Sox could still get to the bottom of some pressing issues over the final 22 games. He lists out five questions that need answers. Steve Buckley advises the Red Sox on what they should be focusing on for the rest of the season. Edes’ notebook says that Craig Hansen will be getting plenty of work for the Red Sox for the rest of the season.

An article in the Baltimore Sun discusses how Red Sox and Yankees fans have taken over Camden Yards and other ballparks when their teams come to town. If you needed more reason to dislike Dan Shaughnessy, this article provides it. He says that “It’s obnoxious how they take over other people’s parks” and then advises Baltimore fans on how to shut up Red Sox fans:

"Ask, 'How's that 9-21 in August working out for you?'" Shaughnessy says. "They folded like a cardboard box in a tsunami."

Even though Shaughnessy used to work in Baltimore, this is disturbing in that it is another example of he being the one that an out of town paper seeks out as they feel he is the authority on Boston.

Stephen Harris has Bruins veterans reporting a day early to check out rookie Phil Kessel, and finding out that he is as good as advertised. Douglas Flynn has former Bruin and Natick native Dan LaCouture getting ready to sign with the Devils and dealing with the duties of fatherhood.

Jackie MacMullan talks to Charles Barkley as he prepares to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Check back later for a look at Patriots programming and the weekly media column roundup…

Lester Speaks

Red Sox rookie Jon Lester spoke with the media for the first time since it was revealed that the 22-year-old is suffering from a rare form of blood cancer. (Anaplastic large cell lymphoma.) He will be starting chemotherapy treatment at the Dana Farber Clinic on Friday. Tony Massarotti is awed that Lester was able to remain stoic and steady, as well as dignified while talking about his experience and situation. Gordon Edes says that the rookie is in good spirits as he gets set to begin his treatment. Ian Browne looks at Lester bravely taking on his fight with composure and confidence. Steven Krasner has Lester hoping to be able to talk and think about baseball come spring, but knows there is a load road to travel before then. Tom Yantz thinks that Lester appeared slightly pale during his appearance yesterday. Lenny Megliola notes that Lester will need some of the toughness he showed on the mound during this fight that he’ll have on his hands for the nest few months. Alex Speier has Lester adjusting to the diagnosis and preparing for the tough times ahead. Bill Ballou says that Lester will be looking to join a select group of major league players who have successfully fought off cancer to return to the majors. Joe Haggerty notes that Lester appeared to be “fighting back the flowing tears of confusion, fear and uncertainty” while revealing to us a lot about his character.

The Red Sox did play a game last night, though it was over quickly, as they were trounced by the White Sox 8-1 at Fenway Park. Jose Contreras was dominant for Chicago. Coco Crisp scored the only Boston run on a solo home run. Gordon Edes reports on Marlins rookie and former Red Sox prospect Anibal Sanchez pitching the first no-hitter in the majors since 2004. Jackie MacMullan looks at how this season has worn on Terry Francona, and how his coaches fret over his health. Steve Buckley does his best SNL “old man” imitation, saying that in the old days, the booing was much more harsh than anything these young whippersnappers of today could ever imagine in their worst dreams. That’s the way it was and we LIKED it…Bill Reynolds, with an outstanding grasp of the obvious, tells us that this team isn’t nearly as good at the 2004 Red Sox.

Get the rest of the Red Sox stories, including coverage of last night’s loss, over on the Red Sox Daily Links page.

Patriots/NFL

The NFL kicks off the regular season tonight with a matchup between the Steelers and Dolphins. The Globe has an NFL preview today, with several articles focusing on the kicking game in the NFL.

Mike Reiss looks at the Patriots efforts to transform themselves from an old team into a younger team – all while remaining a contender. He notes that the current roster now has an average age of 27 years. He also looks position-by-position through the roster.

These kicking articles in the Globe, while all very good, just seem to me just a little bit of a swipe against the Patriots for losing Adam Vinatieri. Obviously there is a connection…had Vinatieri not gone to the Colts, would all these articles be in here today? I doubt it. I don’t know…just a little weird to me.

Ron Borges has a feature on the history and evolution of the kicking game in the NFL. This is Borges at his best…no Patriots or Belichick mentions or agenda…just pure football. Dearly departed (to Houston) Jerome Solomon offers up an article on how the best kickers (such as Vinatieri) handle the pressure of clutch kicks. Jackie MacMullan looks at how Vinatieri is adjusting to his new surroundings with the Colts, while Reiss looks at the Patriots rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski adjusting to life in the NFL.

The Herald has a more complete Patriots preview. Articles include Michael Felger wondering (shrieking?) if the new-look Patriots are any good. There is a John Tomase article on Richard Seymour. Karen Guregian has Brady giving a thumbs up to his receivers.

Tim Weisberg has 10 NFL questions from around the league. Christopher Price looks at the Patriots prepping for opening day. Ian Clark says that the strength of the Patriots begins up front. Michael Parente has Ben Watson poised for a breakout season. Alan Greenberg has a look at rookie Ryan O’Callaghan. Lenny Megliola looks at Doug Flutie being honored with a Wheaties Box. Check out more Patriots articles and blogs on the Patriots Daily Links page.

Bill Doyle has a nice piece on the venerable Gil Santos, who started calling Patriots game from a shack atop Fenway Park back in 1966. Reiss looks at NBC, proud to be back with the NFL.

Coming soon…WEEI Ringtones? God help us all.

NBC has Steelers/Dolphins at 8:30. ESPN2 has Tigers/Twins at 8:00.

Kason Shuts ‘em Out

The Red Sox got another strong pitching performance from an unexpected source, as rookie Kason Gabbard pitched seven shutout innings to help the Red Sox to a 1-0 victory over the White Sox at Fenway Park. The game also featured the return of Big Papi to the home town lineup.

In Gordon Edes‘ lead story, Gabbard’s win takes a back seat to the good news from Jonathan Papelbon’s MRI. Jeff Horrigan agrees that it was a good night all around at Fenway for the Red Sox. Joe McDonald looks at Gabbard’s strong outing for his first major league victory. David Heuschkel looks at the Red Sox continuing their streak of strong performances from unlikely starters. Garry Brown reports on the Red Sox muzzling the White Sox powerful lineup for the second night in a row. David Borges asserts that Red Sox fans have seen plenty of miracles the last couple nights at Fenway. Bill Ballou looks at the Sox lineup getting back to normal last night with the return of Ortiz.

Jeff Jacobs says that Big Papi scared us all, but we’re glad to have him back among us. Michael Silverman looks at David Ortiz’s return to the Red Sox lineup last night. Sean McAdam says that Ortiz made Fenway a happier place just by being back in the lineup. Alex Speier has another look at the return of Big Papi. Dan Shaughnessy says that it is great and all that David Ortiz is back in the lineup, along with the rest of the injured Sox hitters, but says fans need to a get a grip if they think there are still playoff hopes on Yawkey Way.

David Borges has Kevin Youkilis irked by fans who boo his teammates, and the Sox first baseman places the blame for the fan’s venom on WEEI. Karen Guregian reports on the results of Jonathan Papelbon’s MRI, which revealed no tears in the rookie closer’s shoulder. She also has a column urging the Sox to shut Papelbon down for the rest of the season. Jon Couture also has a look at Papelbon, and the relief felt by all at his diagnosis. Silverman has a look at Mike Timlin making his case as closer while Papelbon is sidelined. Steven Krasner’s Inside the Game looks at a number of things from last night’s game, including Terry Francona’s decision to stick with Timlin for two full innings.

Edes’ notebook has a look at the White Sox struggles against Gabbard. Horrigan’s notebook has Julian Tavarez earning another start for the Red Sox. McDonald’s notebook has more on Papelbon’s medical reports. Heuschkel’s notebook also updates us on the rookie closer’s shoulder. Borges’ notebook has the Red Sox finally getting a dose of good news with the report on Papelbon. Ballou’s notebook also has coverage of Papelbon. Couture’s notebook has more on Tavarez sticking in the rotation for another turn.

Patriots

Alan Greenberg has a nice mini-feature on Junior Seau, and how Bill Belichick and the Patriots are counting on their new #55 to take care of things in the middle of their defense. Michael Parente says that the Patriots will be hard-pressed to recognize the Buffalo Bills who come to town on Sunday. Michael Felger tells us once again that the Patriots have no depth. He says that it is “frustrating” that Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick weren’t more aggressive this summer in building the team for this season. Felger says the team looks like a 10-6 squad with a loss in the second round of the playoffs, just like last year. Felger hasn’t been dubbed the “shrieking panic monger” for nothing this summer…I struggled to find the point of Lenny Megliola’s column today…yeah, Bill Belichick is dry, and doesn’t say a whole lot. Yeah, he’s a good coach too. Where’s the story here? I did find this line curious though: “it’s fair to say that at the least this team has to make the playoffs, and get by the second-round this time, or else they become the Bruins.” What?

Felger and Ron Borges report on the latest in the Deion Branch saga. Borges has the Patriots and the NFL taking issue with the arbitrator having the power to rule over Branch’s non-injury grievance. Felger’s piece has Branch’s attorneys looking even more silly and desperate:

Kessler revealed that if Branch loses both grievances, he will seek damages (through arbitration) against the Patriots for extra compensation this year. Kessler said Branch will seek to be paid the difference between what the Pats are scheduled to pay him this season (just over $1 million, minus fines) and the first-year money being offered by Seattle and the New York Jets, deals that guarantee Branch $13 million in bonuses.

Riiight. So if Branch loses both grievances, he’s then going to attempt to seek damages from the Patriots…Bob Duffy has rookie Ryan O’Callaghan catching on quick to the Patriots and NFL way of business. Greenberg also has a Q&A with Rodney Harrison in today’s paper. Albert Breer has a quick look at rookie tight end Garrett Mills.

NESN has Red Sox/White Sox at 7:00. (ESPN Nationally)

Return of the Broadsheet Bully

Ron Borges had a rough few days here covering the Deion Branch contract situation and trying his best at every turn to attempt to make the Patriots look bad. Here’s a look at a few statements made by the Boston Globe columnist, and some rebuttal thoughts on each:

From Friday’s Patriots dropped the ball column:

If their trade demands are absurd (read that a first-round pick or more when Donte’ Stallworth was worth only a fourth and a backup player, and Ashley Lelie cost basically a third-round pick and a short-yardage runner), what then happens to Branch?

Borges and the like can say that the Patriots can only get a mid-round draft pick or spare part because that’s what players like Lelie, Stallworth, etc were expected to fetch and that the Patriots are being unreasonable if they demand more. So is Borges saying that Branch is only on the level of a Stallworth/Lelie type?

However, Borges and others ALSO think Branch should get the 43 million dollar Reggie Wayne contract, and that isn’t unreasonable because he’s worth it, to them. So why isn’t he worth more in a trade? Isn’t the Reggie Wayne leve of receiver worth more in a trade than a Donte Stallworth or Ashley Lelie? Is Branch closer to Stallworth/Lelie or Joey GallowayKeyshawn Johnson? (Each were traded for two first round picks)

Follow along this further, if the Patriots see this through to the bitter end, and allow Branch to come back after week 10, and then franchise him next spring, other teams can still sign him…but will need to give the Patriots two first round picks. If that is the case, why should the team settle for a second rounder now? And why is demanding a first round pick now “absurd” as Borges says?

Borges went through the usual Patriots are “cheap” routine, and went through a list of “what if these teams allowed their receivers to leave” scenarios. This was a nice Straw Man tactic used by Borges.

While we’re talking cheap…let’s talk cheapness for a moment…were the Steelers cheap with Antwaan Randle El?…..Colts cheap with Edgerin James?……Jets with John Abraham?…..Bills with Nate Clements (who they franchised)….Denver with Trevor Pryce?….Saints with LeCharles Bentley?….Seattle with Steve Hutchinson?

In addition, one of the scenarios Borges outlined above was Pittsburgh allowing Randle El and Hines Ward to leave. Well, the Steelers did allow Randle El to leave, (as the Patriots did with Givens) however, Ward is still there, and Branch should still be here had he honored the last year of his contract.

The holes in Borges’ faulty reasoning are endless…another quote from the same article:

but no team has yet won a Super Bowl by running the ball and throwing to their tight ends.

As emailer Malachi S. points out:

In the last 10 years alone, both the ’97 Broncos and the ’00 Ravens did exactly that. Both teams were led in receptions by their tight end (Shannon Sharpe) and both ran the ball exceptionally well.

From Saturday’s Branch offers refused column:

According to the Jets, their offer of a second-round choice was flatly rejected, with no counter demand made by the Patriots.

The insinuation is that the Patriots have acted in bad faith by not counter offering. According to most published reports, Chayut and Branch have never countered the Patriots first contract offer of months ago. Who is negotiating in bad faith here?

The point has been made elsewhere, but bears repeating here: If these offers from the Jets and Seahawks were so genuine and sincere…then why did they come in at the last moment? Especially on the Jets side, it seems to be nothing more than trying to cause trouble for a division rival.

in the second section of Borges’ Sunday Football Notes:

It became fashionable for some Patriots toadies in and out of the media to attack not Deion Branch but his agent, Jason Chayut, since Branch’s summer-long holdout began, but Chayut proved his point Friday.

A disappointing development has seen Borges turning into little more than a toadie for agents such as Jason Chayut and Brad Blank. You’ll recall that Borges had up close and personal access to David Givens’ foray into free agency, thanks to their mutually shared agent, Blank. This relationship was of course never mentioned in the Globe stories.

With Chayut, Borges again seems to be trying to send a message…essentially separating himself from other media types and giving his support to Chayut. Borges’ anti-management stand (except when it comes to the Raiders) has been well documented. With more organizations becoming tight-lipped about their dealings, agents have become reporter’s best friends. Of course, their statements are always going to be ridiculously slanted in favor of their clients, making them not the most objective sources for stories.

As reader Dana B emailed in:

His over-the-top defense of agent Chayut tells us more about Borges than it does about the dispute. We know that he is rabidly anti-management. One might conclude that his support of the agent is an extension of that bias. I think the larger agenda here is to demonstrate his support for agents generally, who just might be his best source of insider info to help fill his columns. Why otherwise launch an ad hominem broadside at his colleagues and readers than to send a friendly signal. And then he panders to the poor players claiming that “… no one in the Patriots locker room feels Branch deserves to be treated this way.

You also gotta question a guy who has defended Don King to the point of blows with another writer having the audacity to call anyone else a “toadie.”

Just as significant is that no one in the Patriots locker room feels Branch deserves to be treated this way.

No one, huh Ron? Did you talk to every single person in there? I think you forgot to add “They hate their coach.” This “locker room unrest” theme was just way too predictable, not to mention impossible to prove or disprove.

To top everything off, after all this work, Borges can’t be pleased that Mike Reiss ran a column yesterday (Experts don’t back Branch) which said that Branch faces a tough battle in winning his grievances.

Borges did some great work over the summer covering the NFL’s search for a new commissioner to replace Paul Tagliabue. His reporting of the candidates and selection process was top notch and a credit to the Globe. It even had me rethinking an earlier position on Borges. However, this recent coverage again shows that Borges should not be allowed anywhere near a Patriots story, as he is simply incapable of writing objectively about the team. Keep on the national NFL beat…just keep him away from Foxboro.

Carlos Lifts Sox Spirts

After all the horribly bad things that have happened to the Red Sox the last few weeks, there was a ray of light last night, as Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek returned to the lineup, and native son Carlos Pena hit a walk off home run in the 10th inning to give the Red Sox a 3-2 win over the White Sox at Fenway Park.

Gordon Edes looks at the sweet relief Pena provided the Red Sox with his game winner. Jeff Horrigan has Pena turning dreams into reality. Stephen Krasner has reinforcements arriving for the Red Sox last night. David Heuschkel wonders if we saw the last magical moment of 2006 for the Red Sox last night at Fenway Park. David Borges has the old Red Sox walk-off magic returning to Fenway for one night.

Nick Cafardo has Pena living a backyard dream with his game winning homer last night. Tony Massarotti looks at Jonathan Papelbon, who holds a lot of the Red Sox future in his shoulder. The rookie closer is due to have an MRI today, which could show a rotator cuff or labrum tear. Lenny Megliola has the Sox all hanging out at The Last Chance saloon, hoping to still salvage the season. Alex Speier has a story on Manny returning to the Red Sox lineup last night, and showing while he was out that his is irreplaceable in the lineup. Rob Bradford says that the Red Sox kept and dealt away the wrong prospects.

Christopher L. Gasper has David Ortiz eager to return to the field, but awaiting final clearance from the doctors first. Michael Silverman has Big Papi expecting to play tonight. Horrigan has Papelbon not ready to give up on himself or the team’s chances of coming back this season. Horrigan looks at Julian Tavarez, who despite getting a standing ovation from the fans for his 6 2/3 innings of solid work, did not acknowledge the ovation because of boos he heard earlier in the year. Bill Ballou reports on the signing of first round pick Daniel Bard, who has some Worcester roots.

Gasper has a look at Jon Garland – the winningest pitcher in the American League since the start of the 2005 season. Cafardo has White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen expecting the most from his team every time they take the field.

Edes’s notebook has Julian Tavarez coming through with a very effective start last night for the Red Sox. Horrigan’s notebook reports that Curt Schilling could miss his next scheduled start on Saturday as well. Heuschkel’s notebook looks at Papelbon getting his MRI today instead of yesterday – with two different stories why. Borges’ notebook has more on Ortiz’s chances of playing tonight. Ballou’s notebook has more on Pena’s game winner.

Chad Finn offers up nine innings worth of thoughts on the Sox.

The Patriots are getting ready for their season opener Sunday at Gillette against the Bills. Wide Receiver remains a position generating a lot of discussion for the Patriots. Mike Reiss and Michael Felger each have a look at the players attempting to fill the positions, and how a couple of new guys, Doug Gabriel and Jonathan Smith are attempting to learn the ropes. Shalise Manza Young has Gabriel getting a crash course in the Patriots offense. Alan Greenberg has Gabriel eager to get started with his new club, but a bit puzzled as to why the Raiders traded him. Rich Garven and Michael Parente also each look at the Patriots new receivers getting their work in with their new club.

Greg Doyle on the Patriots Game Day page has an extensive look around the NFL. Check out past entries on the blog for commentary on the Patriots roster cuts, the practice squad, the Deion Branch situation and Ron Borges’ one-sided reporting. Albert Breer notes that the Patriots preparations for Buffalo could be difficult, as the Bills sport an entirely new coaching staff, system and roster. Dan Pires has a look at Rodney Harrison gearing up for his regular season return for the Patriots on Sunday. Breer has a look at Johnathan Sullivan, who had charges from earlier this summer against his dropped, and he also made the roster this week.

John Molori has a look at NBC’s Sunday Night Football production, which promises new innovations.

Reiss’ notebook has Harrison ready to take the field for real this Sunday against the Bills. Felger’s notebook has a look at the Patriots injury situation with Laurence Maroney, Ty Warren, Tedy Bruschi and Chad Jackson all unknown factors for this weekend. Young’s notebook has rookie Ryan O’Callaghan getting ready for his NFL debut Sunday. Garven’s notebook says that Deion Branch won’t be a distraction for the Patriots in their game preparation. Parente’s notebook looks at the ESPN report that has Maroney out for Sunday’s game.

NESN has Red Sox/White Sox at 7:00. TBS has Braves/Mets at 7:00.

Weekend Watch – Labor Day Edition

The Deion Branch saga is due to be resolved in some form or fashion this afternoon. Ron Borges sneered in the Globe today that Branch had received an offer, and followup reports indicate that the Jets and Seahawks are vying for the services of the holdout wideout. The Patriots Game Day blog weighs in on Borges’ take from this morning and the latest news. Keep checking back all weekend for further updates and commentary. ProFootballTalk.com has been keeping up with the updates throughout this morning. Throughout the weekend, check in at the Patriots Daily Links page for stories and coverage of the team, which includes scheduled roster cuts this weekend.

FSN is planning another Patriots-oriented show to dovetail with the New England Tailgate show. This from their announcement this week:

Boston Herald football writer and ESPN Radio Boston host Michael Felger is in the locker room every day and this season he will expand his role on FSN with his very own 4 Downs with Felger 30-minute show every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Ever the contrarian, Felger's opinions will be regularly challenged by the equally opinionated Boston Globe football writer Ron Borges, three-time NFL Pro-Bowler and former New England Patriot Russ Francis, and Sports Illustrated's football writer Don Banks.

The Red Sox have to be glad August is over, but it remains to be seen if September is any kinder. Keep up with the Red Sox/Blue Jays weekend series on the Red Sox Daily Links page.

With the US Open a Labor Day weekend tradition in New York, get the coverage from the event on the New York Sports Pages.

For your weekend reading, here is our weekly roundup of sports media columns from around the nation:

New England

David Scott passes along some Steve Burton follies, Ron Borges and Michael Holley getting in the rotation at CN8 and some more thoughts from Howard Bryant. He reminds us to check back over the weekend for a Deutsche Bank gallery update and reminds us that the Boston Sports Review cover jinx is alive and well. Susan Bickelhaupt profiles Pat O’Brien, who is back with CBS Sports, hosting the nightly “US Open Late Night Show” from Flushing Meadows. Curiously no mention of O’Brien’s voice mail conversation in which he asks a woman for a threesome and drugs from last year which still surfaces on morning radio shows on almost a weekly basis. John Molori’s Media Blitz talked with Gary Tanguay about the Patriots pre and post game shows on WBCN. Tanguay feels that their programming can challenge WEEI’s revamped Sunday lineup. John Howell talks with ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit about broadcasts getting longer with more commercials and games getting shorter thanks to rule changes. Bill Doyle talks to Bob Fouracre, ready to start his 37th season calling Holy Cross Football. Andrew Neff looks at high school football dominating the radio waves in the state of Maine.

New York

Richard Sandomir looks at the new instant replay at the US Open and notes that the hard part for the player is going to be knowing which calls to challenge. Sandomir also looks at FOX jumping into College Football with both feet, getting four-fifths of the Bowl Championship Series. Phil Mushnick complains about sporting events – this time Andre Agassi’s matches in the US Open – which are scheduled too late at night for New Yorkers (or anyone on the East Coast) to be able to watch them all the way through. Andrew Marchand reports on a minor shake-up at ESPN-1050 am. In Marchand’s Memo of the Week, he calls upon Suzyn Waldman to step up her analysis and presence in the Yankees radio booth. Bob Raissman says that instant replay in sports, especially tennis, takes away from the momentum and drama of the event. Jane McManus says that the US Open Instant replay is pretty impressive, though not perfect just yet.

Other Eastern Columns

Aaron Bracy talks to Tony Kornheiser about Monday Night Football. The Washington Post columnist admits that the gig isn’t his dream job, and that this might even be his only season in booth for the games. An interesting part of the column is Kornheiser admitting that he is thin-skinned and takes criticism hard, so when a Post colleague was harsh about this performance a couple of weeks ago, Kornheiser struck back, calling the critic a “two-bit weasel slug” – though he says he was trying to be funny. Bracy’s Blog adds in a few tidbits from the US Open. Laura Nachman looks at some major changes in the sports lineup for Philly’s CN8 lineup. Bob Smizik looks at radio options for Steelers fans looking for information and discussion on the Super Bowl Champions. Chris Zelkovich knocks CBS and TSN for not properly informing viewers that last Sunday’s golf was on tape delay.

Jim Williams gives us Ten reasons why Baltimore sports fans should care about the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. Michael Hiestand looks at FOX bringing in longtime Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez as an analyst for the BCS title game. Michael McCarthy looks at the pitfalls of the multi-media age, some of which Tony Kornheiser has already experienced. Kornheiser’s partner at the Post and on Pardon the Interruption on ESPN had this to say about critics:

"There are always jerks in features and news sections insulting sportswriters and I, for one, come out swinging. Way too many of them think they're superior in talent when they're not." These jealous colleagues, he added, "make far, far, far less money in a lot of cases and hate that."

Earlier in the week, McCarthy also looked at why Agassi is still must-see TV.

South

Jim Sarni has former Celtics, Jets and Dolphins play-by-play man Howard David hosting The Gameday Insiders weekends on WFTL (850-AM). Sarni has a ton of other information in his column, including the lyrics to NBC’s Sunday Night Football opening song – which was written by Pink. Dave Darling has more from Herbstreit about rule changes in college football this season. Barry Horn looks at the plethora of Cowboys from the 90′s who are now the broadcasters of the 00′s. David Barron gets the college football season off to the proper start by relating a story from the (brief) college football career of Houston TV anchor Ron Stone. He then has a quick overview of the local and national coverage.

Mid-America

Ed Sherman has more on college football shortening the length of games, not by subtracting commercials, but by taking away 10-15 plays per game. Dan Caesar looks at ESPN and NBC battling it out to see which has the better and more desirable prime-time NFL slot. Bob Wolfley has Cris Collinsworth questioning Brett Favre’s decision to come back to the Packers this season. He feels he should’ve tried to go somewhere where there might be a better chance to win, because if Green Bay struggles this season, the pressure is going to be on to play Aaron Rodgers and develop him for the future. Judd Zulgad looks at Chad Hartman deciding to give up his job as Timberwolves play-by-play man in order to remain as a talk show host on KFAN.

West Coast

Joe Davidson critiques the coverage of the Bay Area media outlets this week in the wake of the news that Don Nelson was returning to coach the Warriors. Larry Stewart reports that FOX could have Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw as one of its tandems for a BCS Bowl game. He also examines the “shorter games” issue in college football this season. Tom Hoffarth looks at High School football getting national air time on ESPN and FSN – an idea that some are uncomfortable with. John Maffei talks to Bill Werndl, the San Diego radio host who has has been working as a spotter for college and professional football games since 1973, and last year marked 20 years with ESPN. Michael Lev looks at ABC’s Saturday Night Football – the network’s college replacement for the Monday NFL game. The college game has the advantage of flexible scheduling, something they never enjoyed with the NFL. Jay Posner looks at San Diego fans missing out on San Diego State football because of the spat between Cox Cable and CSTV. Cox is in the position of power here, because they know they won’t lose subscribers as long as they have the Padres games. Jim Carlisle reports on KVTA (1520 AM)’s revamped “Prep ‘N’ Pro Sports Show.