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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Browns special teams ranked 3rd in NFL

By Marla Published: February 14, 2011

Even with a down year from Pro Bowl returner Joshua Cribbs, the Browns took third in the annual special teams rankings of Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.

Gosselin examines 22 categories and assigns points, 1 to 32 (1 for the best, 32 for the worst), then gives each team a total score. First was New England (269), followed by Tennessee (274) and Cleveland (277).

Most stunning about the Browns' high ranking was that it came despite finishing worst in kickoff returns (17.0 average). But that was offset by finishing first in kickoff coverage (17.8 allowed). They also finished eighth in the league in net punting, fifth in punt coverage and tied for fifth in field goal percentage allowed.

Two players with area ties -- rookie punter Zoltan Mesko of Twinsburg and kickoff returner Julian Edelman of Kent State -- helped the Patriots claim the top spot. Mesko finished with a 38.4 net and only five touchbacks. Edelman combined with Brandon Tate to return three kickoffs for touchdowns.

In other weekend notes:

** One shot off the lead going into the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic, Tiger Woods wore his signature red shirt, but shot 3-over 75 and tied for 20th. He's still seeking his first victory since the Australian Masters in November, 2009.

On Monday, Woods found the spotlight again when he was fined by the European Tour for spitting on the green after missing a par putt on the 12th hole. The amount of the fine was not specified.

"The Euro Tour is right - it was inconsiderate to spit like that and I know better," Woods said on Twitter, according to the Associated Press. "Just wasn't thinking and want to say I'm sorry."

According to the AP, Ewen Murray of Sky Sports also spotted Woods spitting on the second tee during the second round.

** That was not the only saliva flying over the weekend. According to Jared Sullinger's Twitter post, via the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio State's star freshman was spit on when Wisconsin fans stormed the court after Saturday's upset of the No. 1 Buckeyes in Kohl Center.

According to the Dispatch, OSU coach Thad Matta downplayed the incident during Monday's Big Ten coaches conference call.

"He got spit on when they stormed the court. A student ran by and spit on him. Nothing too major," Matta said, according to the Dispatch. "What are you going to do? Those things happen. It was a crazy environment, which was great for college basketball (and) for their fans and that sort of stuff. You don’t want stuff like that to happen, but you can’t do anything about it."

According to the Dispatch (and Sullinger's Twitter), he's using what happened as more fuel for a run at the NCAA title.

"Shoutout to everybody that is giving me fuel to the fire I have inside," he wrote on Twitter, according to the Dispatch. "Its only a matter of time until it explodes."

Ohio State hosts Michigan State on Tuesday at 9 p.m. (ESPN).

** Ohio State's Jesse Owens, a product of Cleveland's East Tech High School, was named No. 3 on the Big Ten's list of  icons and will be celebrated in a special on the Big Ten Network at 9 p.m. Sunday. The episode will include interviews with Owens’ daughters, Marlene and Gloria.

But in its press release, the conference practically second-guessed its placing of Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in front of Adolph Hitler. Red Grange and Magic Johnson have yet to be included on the network's list, with its specials running into March.

Former Chicago Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath said of Owens in an essay for the network, included on the annoucement, ''Thousands of athletes have distinguished themselves and earned acclaim for their schools in the storied 114-year history of the Big Ten Conference, but no individual’s accomplishments cast a larger shadow than those of Jesse Owens. In 1936, three years before the world went back to war, his fleet feet and indomitable spirit stood in stark contrast to Adolph Hitler’s plans for worldwide Nazi domination.
 
“The 1936 Olympics would take place in Berlin, and Hitler intended to use them to promote the Nazi movement and his theory of an Aryan ‘master race.’ But Jesse Owens proved to be a gloriously stubborn obstacle to those plans. He won four gold medals in a storybook performance that established the humble sharecropper’s son as the world’s greatest athlete beyond question.”
 
Owens won gold in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, the long jump and the 4x100-meter relay.
 
** I loved Sullinger's comments on Cleveland.com after the Buckeyes suffered their first loss in 25 games, which dropped them to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll.


"We know the feeling of defeat and we don't want to feel that feeling again, that kind of sickness to my stomach," Sullinger said, according to Cleveland.com. "I don't like losing. I classify myself as a winner in everything I do. With us taking a tough loss, that hit me in the stomach pretty hard."

** Stow's Ben Curtis finished tied for 15th in Dubai, shooting his low score of the event (69) in the final round.  Although it doesn't count in the PGA Tour statistics, the finish earned Curtis about $33,000. He had only five official top 25 finishes on the PGA Tour in 2010 and had missed the cut in his first two 2011 tournaments, the Farmers Insurance and the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

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