Browns coach Eric Mangini met with reporters Friday morning. Here is a transcript from the press conference:

Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini press conference 12-31-10

(Opening statement) “The only guy that is missing here today is Peyton (Hillis) but I’m still optimistic that he’ll be able to play. I feel pretty good about it but we will see.  We will see tomorrow where he’s at and just take it from there.  Yesterday is our third down day, thought we had a good practice. I thought it was up tempo, thought the level of communication was really good and looking to finish out the week here strong with the red zone and goal line review of what we did yesterday.”

(On how Mike Bell looked last week) “I thought he looked good.  I really felt that Mike had his best week of practice last week too and it translated, it really did.  He got a lot more opportunities. I felt he took advantage of the opportunities both in the running game, made some nice plays in the passing game.  I really liked the way that he practiced last week and he’s had a good week of practice this week so if he gets extended time again here this week I feel good about him.”

(On if running back is an easier position to plug someone in) “It just depends on what role it would be. First and second down versus third down, there’s a few different things on third down, two minutes, some of those packages where it’s a little higher level of communication.  Maybe that’s not fair, not higher, it’s just different and to take all of it to have to do all of it is a lot but if you did it as a segment where one was going to work on first and second down, one was going to work on third down I think that’s easier.”

(On if Troy Polamalu is going to play) “I don’t know.  You read different things throughout the week but you’re not sure at the end of the day.  Pretty significant game for them in terms of what is at stake and I’m sure that if he can at all, he will.”

(On if Peyton Hillis is still really sore) “That’s been primarily the main thing is the soreness and it gets better each day but figure another day of rest will give him the best chance to be effective on Sunday.”

(On if they will call up Quinn Porter from the practice squad to make sure they have enough numbers at running back) “We’ve talked about some different things.  We can still do something tomorrow if need be so we’ve got some time to see where he is tomorrow.”

(On if they are considering bringing anyone in that hasn’t been with the Browns) “I tell you anything is possible.  I had situations like that in the past, where you get someone at the end of the week and away they go.”

(On if they are going to run more Wildcat to supplement the running game) “That’s one of the great things about having Josh (Cribbs) is you can put him back there and get the running plays with him and those are pretty effective and they’re very different in terms of how a team has to defend him.  He’s another great option.”

(more…)

Keep up with the Browns by reading the following stories:


Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Opposing team links:

Best

Shock and awe visit the art museum

   For four months, starting in June, the Akron Art Museum presented “Detroit Disassembled,’’ a collection of 30 photographs by Andrew Moore, capturing the terrible beauty of a manufacturing colossus in disrepair. The photographs evoked ancient ruins, fragments, debris, echoes of what once was magnificent, including the River Rouge assembly plant, the Michigan Central Station, the United Artists Theatre. The images from the city were stunning in their size and brilliance. They also carried inspiration. A viewer from Akron or anywhere else in the industrial belt couldn’t help but conclude that this is the end of an era, that there is no going back. What will be the next economy? Know that the region has the capacity for greatness. Thanks go to Barbara Tannenbaum of the museum, Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell and the Akron Community Foundation for putting together and making possible this thought-provoking show.

Strickland commutes a death sentence

  Ted Strickland spared the life of Kevin Keith. In September, he commuted Keith’s death sentence to life in prison without parole. The governor did so because of ‘‘real and unanswered questions’’ surrounding the murders for which Keith was convicted in 1993. In recent years, attorneys for Keith have located information raising doubts about crucial eyewitness testimony. They also have learned more about another possible suspect, a man who claimed to have been paid $15,000 to ‘‘cripple’’ a police drug informant. A court still hasn’t heard the full range of evidence. If the state parole board wasn’t impressed, recommending that the execution go forward, the governor recognized that Ohio cannot afford to risk a mistake with the death penalty. He acted bravely on his own.

Boccieri changes his mind

      John Boccieri could have taken the easy road. The Democrat could have said no a second time to health-care reform. Instead, he changed his mind and sided with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in the House majority. His switch received national attention. What gained less play were his reasons for reversing course. For one, the legislation was stronger upon its return from the Senate, containing improved provisions for cost-containment that Boccieri had advocated. The changes made evident the imperative: Here was a rare opportunity to erect a framework for dealing with the twin concerns about health care, inadequate coverage and soaring costs. Boccieri stressed the relief that would come to households otherwise broken by illness. He knew he would pay a political price, and he did, losing his re-election bid in the 16th U.S. House District. What was impressive about his candidacy was steady defense of his decision. He had changed his mind for the right reasons.

Ohio extends the Third Frontier

On May 4, Ohio voters said yes to success. By approving state Issue 1, they backed $700 million in new state borrowing to extend the Third Frontier project, set to expire in 2012, for an additional four years. The project, launched during Bob Taft’s tenure as governor, is a proven job-creator, the public-private partnerships it encourages accelerating the development of high-technology products and processes. No single strategy is the answer to the state’s economic troubles. What the legislature, business leaders, academics and voters all recognized are the long-term benefits of rekindling the entrepreneurial spirit that once powered the state’s industrial might, the inventions of Edison, the Wrights, Firestone and Kettering leading to good jobs, lifting the entire state.

PERF points the way to excellence

Amid the harsh words, loose talk and episodes of acrimony, the Akron Police Department received some good news this month. The Police Executive Research Forum reported on its yearlong examination of the force. The Washington, D.C., consulting firm works with the nation’s larger law enforcement agencies. It found in Akron a solid force and recommended ways to get better, including a sustained commitment to the concept of community policing, improving communication and trust in neighborhoods. The smart move was Mayor Plusquellic bringing PERF to the city, seizing the opportunity to gain an intelligent and independent evaluation, something far removed from the overheated volleys of the police union president and others. Now comes the job of putting the advice into action, the department going from good to excellent.

 

Worst

James leaves home

    A young man leaves home to pursue his dream. No problem. People even come to Ohio with as much in mind. The problem with LeBron James taking his considerable basketball skills to Miami was the way he did so. Almost everyone understands that professional sports is a business, requiring cold, calculating decisions. James had every reason to strike the deal he thought best. What he overlooked is that he was leaving home. To be sure, Akron appreciates his generosity. He continues to be a positive presence here. Still, long-suffering fans viewed him as the one chosen to lead them to the promised land of an NBA championship. Thus, the announcement in prime time, on ESPN, felt like the most humiliating breakup ever. He showed more feeling for the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs!

Kasich misses the train

       John Kasich didn’t wait for the answers. As he campaigned for governor, he declared ‘‘dead’’ plans for enhancing passenger rail in Ohio. Thus, when Kasich won election, the state moved to halt the use of $400 million in federal funds to upgrade tracks and otherwise make improvements in its rail system. A small part of that sum was dedicated to assessing the landscape and crafting the way forward. Critics raised questions. Here was the vehicle for an informed response. Kasich couldn’t be bothered that states with emerging passenger rail systems have started slowly, gradually building speed and customers. He has touted the value of freight rail, yet he seemed unaware that freight would benefit from the investment. Many analysts rightly talk about a multifaceted, comprehensive climate and energy strategy for the country. Passenger rail has its role. Too bad it isn’t getting a start in Ohio.

Children Services risks its credibility

It’s been a tough few years financially for Summit County’s social service agencies. John Saros, the executive director of Summit County Children Services, took every opportunity to explain the rougher ride ahead for the child-welfare agency during the next two years as state funds for social services continue to erode. He was persuasive, quietly preparing the public for a new tax request, taking intelligent steps to position the agency for leaner times, among other things, outsourcing some key services to reduce costs.

Unfortunately, in one move, the board of Children Services jeopardized the agency’s credibility. Amid all the hand-wringing about funding woes, it exercised poor judgment in approving an $8,000 salary raise, a $6,250 bonus and very generous benefits for the executive director. Effective as Saros is, this wasn’t the moment for such a reward.

 

Senate Republicans foreclose on action


Record home foreclosure rates have made headlines across Ohio for several consecutive years. State lawmakers sounded as outraged as the public as more people lost their homes, abandoned properties piled up and the courts were overwhelmed with cases. Mortgage banks and loan-service companies, plus the federal government, have been criticized justly for programs that have been largely unimpressive in bringing down foreclosure rates. All the more encouraging, then, when the Ohio House approved and sent to the Senate a number of legislative proposals intended to curb the problem.

Then, Republican leaders in the Senate shelved the bills. They argued they needed more time to weigh the options. With elections looming in the fall, they indicated the foreclosure proposals would get a hearing during the lame-duck session. That never happened. Senate leaders decided not to get aggressive about slowing Ohio’s foreclosure rate.

Fact-finder eschews the facts

    The financial reality should have been plain. Income tax revenues for the city of Akron have declined during the past two years. The city has squeezed budgets and conducted layoffs. City unions have negotiated contract concessions. Other cities across Ohio and the country have faced the same. Yet, remarkably, all of this seemed to make little impression on the fact-finder reporting on negotiations between the city and the union representing police officers. He proposed pay increases for police officers, even arbitration regarding layoffs. The episode invited the question: Who runs Akron? The mayor and the City Council or an obscure state fact-finder? Thankfully, the union and the city since have reached a contract agreement. What linger are legitimate arguments that something must be fixed in the state’s collective-bargaining law.
 

Most galling

Grendell says never mind

         Timothy Grendell decided to jump from the Ohio Senate to the Ohio House. He campaigned to represent the 98th District in Geauga County. Voters embraced his candidacy, or at least they elected him. What did Grendell do shortly after his triumph? The Chesterland Republican told his new constituents he really wasn’t interested. He concluded he could be more effective remaining in the state Senate.

Why go through all the drama of running if you were ambivalent about holding the office? Critics asserted that Grendell hoped to make way for a family member winning an appointment to his vacant Senate position. Whatever the thinking, Bill Harris, the outgoing Senate president, had the right take, telling the Gongwer News Service, ‘‘I just think that when you go to people and ask them to vote for you, you’re making a commitment: I want to serve you.’’ Not if you’re Timothy Grendell.

Transparency takes a holiday

  During his successful campaign for Ohio governor, Republican John Kasich promised an open, transparent administration. Yet he became only the second candidate in the past seven campaigns for governor in the state to refuse to release his income tax returns. Kasich, a former managing director of Lehman Brothers for eight years until the firm collapsed, allowed a few reporters half-hour peeks at his 2008 returns. That was it. Ted Strickland, the Democratic incumbent, provided complete access to 10 years of returns. Kasich later ran into trouble when he withheld the names of job seekers who applied online to his private website, FixOhioNow.com. The governor-elect fumed that open-government requirements make it difficult to attract high-quality people to state jobs. What, exactly, was he saying about the people he has chosen for his administration?

Portage stiffs the feds

State auditors in 2009 found that a federal job-training program run by a partnership of Portage, Geauga and Ashtabula counties had violated federal spending guidelines and misused funds intended to prepare low-income earners for jobs.  Some Workforce Investment Act funds had gone to several ineligible recipients, among them relatives of county officials. Some funds had been spent improperly for gifts and incentives such as video games and gas cards.

The audits concluded that Portage commissioners did not exercise adequate oversight of the program. Based on the findings, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services this summer gave Portage County until July 1 to refund more than $700,000 in job-training funds. The commissioners refused to pay up. Their response, in effect, was come get it if you can.

 

Father Sam seeks a better deal

Father Samuel Ciccolini was the picture of rectitude ` until he pleaded guilty in July to violating federal tax laws. The founder and former executive director of the Interval Brotherhood Home has rescued many lives. He also admitted embezzling $1.3 million from the nonprofit Interval Brotherhood Home Foundation, which raises funds for the drug and alcohol treatment center.

Father Sam was jailed one single day, fined $350,000 and ordered to reimburse the foundation $3.5 million. The priest is hardly in danger of penury. Federal investigators found he owns an account worth $5.59 million in cash, stocks and bonds.

Now Father Sam and his attorneys are appealing the sentence, contending the financial penalties are too stiff. Have they forgotten that a plea deal with federal prosecutors called for him to spend 18 to 24 months in prison? You would think Father Sam would thank his lucky stars the judge didn’t treat him like any run-of-the-mill embezzler.

Be civil?  Not these folks

Many politicians talk about how they wish for noble campaigns, the issues discussed fully and civilly. Then, in the heat of the moment, such aspirations give way to darker impulses. Take Josh Mandel, the state treasurer-elect. In a television ad, he tarred his opponent with outrageous allusions to mosques and Muslims, playing to fears about terrorism. When criticism rained down, Mandel pledged to pull the ad. The Lyndhurst Republican was slow to do so, and even distributed a mailing that carried the same demagoguery.

Mandel hardly was alone. He shares billing for the most repulsive ads and mailings with the Ohio Democratic Party, led by Chris Redfern, which issued literature in legislative races that took a kernel of truth and turned it into a big falsehood, accusing can didates of doing and saying things that were not remotely close to reality. What are these pols saying about the rest of us? It isn’t flattering.

 

Da King

I’m optimistic about the coming year in poltiics, if for no other reason than….how much worse can things get ??? The last two-three years have been a disaster.

To start your year off right, I’ll point out the good news. Pelosi Galore will no longer be the Speaker Of The House. She will no longer be second in line for the presidency of the United States (I’m still trying to figure out how that happened in the first place. Shouldn’t there be a test of some sort ? Having Pelosi in line for the presidency is like having Forest Gump in line to chair the Federal Reserve should something happen to Bernanke. It’s simply unacceptable).

Speaking of the Federal Reserve, here’s a little year-end tidbit. Did you know that before the Federal Reserve was created, the value of the dollar INCREASED between the years 1800 and 1912 ? It’s true. One dollar could purchase much more in 1912 than it could in 1800. Since the Fed was created in 1913 to give us a more stable monetary and financial system, the dollar has DECREASED in value by 95%. Check it out yourself at The Inflation Calculator website. Great job, Fed.

Now for a pertinent quote about the Fed – “”Whoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce.” – President James A. Garfield.

Another quote – “Most Americans have no real understanding of the operation of the international money lenders. The accounts of the Federal Reserve System have never been audited. It operates outside the control of Congress and manipulates the credit of the United States.” – Sen. Barry Goldwater

I believe the non-auditing of the Federal Reserve is about to change now that some real conservatives will be in charge of House oversight of monetary policy, namely Rep. Ron Paul.

And I can’t leave out this prescient quote from my favorite guy – “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a monied aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power (of money) should be taken away from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.” — President Thomas Jefferson.

Perhaps I’ll make reading End The Fed by Rep. Ron Paul one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’m not sure if I do want to end the Fed, mainly because I can’t quite imagine it not existing, but I’m always open to suggestion.

Lots more quotes about the Fed here.
===
I should probably do one of those best-worst political recaps of 2010, but everyone else will do that, so I’m not gonna.
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Happy new year, everyone !!!

Browns coach Eric Mangini met with reporters Friday morning. Here are some of the highlights from the press conference:

Here are the burglary reports released Dec. 30 by the Akron Police Department.

Anyone with information on the cases is asked to call Akron police detectives at 330-375-2490. Anonymous tips can be made at http://ci.akron.oh.us/ASP/tip.html.

• 600 block of Plum Avenue, Dec. 29, someone entered side door. Taken: nothing.

• JDB Auto Service Center, 1138 Brittain Road, Dec. 28, someone entered by unknown means. Taken: miscellaneous catalytic converters.

• 500 block of Massillon Road, Dec. 29, someone forced open side door. Taken: TV, computer, Xbox 360 with controllers and miscellaneous video games.

• 300 block of Stull Avenue, Dec. 28 or 29, someone entered front of garage. Taken: snow blower.

• 300 block of Homestead Street, between Dec. 23 and 29, someone forced open front window. Taken: miscellaneous copper pipe.

• 1100 block of Derbydale Road, between Dec. 1 and 29, someone forced open garage door. Taken: two gas tanks, two stoves, miscellaneous tools.

• 800 block of Hamlin Street, Dec. 28 or 29, someone forced open side window. Taken: nothing.

• Safe Guard Properties, 361 Windsor St., between Jan. 1 and Dec. 29, someone forced open rear door. Taken: miscellaneous copper pipe.

• First block of Spruce Street, between Dec. 20 and 29, someone forced open front door. Taken: Xbox 360, TV.

The Reverend

So the task is: find the most important political/governance story of 2010. Uncover the story from 2010 which will have the biggest impact on the most people moving forward.

Which story would you pick?

The scheduled Islamic Center a few blocks from Ground Zero and the resultant Islamophobia?

The Beckathon and the Restore Sanity events?

The historic economic downturn, now in it’s third year?

The Citizens United ruling?

The BP oil leak?

The Tea Party?

Lots of craziness to choose from….and, of course, some serious stories as well. But what event or story will have the biggest and most enduring impact on the most Americans?

I think it’s the 2010 midterm elections……and I have two reasons.

1) The results of the 2010 midterms demonstrated that American conservative media…..Fox, hate-radio, NewsMax, etc……can successfully deceive enough voters to make a serious political impact.

The polling has been done. Those who received their information from the ususal-conservative-suspects have been disinformed the most.

Exhibit A:….

From: Sammon, Bill

Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM

To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers

Subject: friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the “public option”

A) Please use the term “government-run health insurance” or, when brevity is a concern, “government option,” whenever possible.

B) When it is necessary to use the term “public option” (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.”

C) Here’s another way to phrase it: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”

D) When newsmakers and sources use the term “public option” in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.

When the most often viewed “news” channel premeditatively works to deceive it’s viewers for the sake of very rich people, the same rich people who determine the policies of the Republican Party…..there’s bound to be negative results. The midterm-of-ignorance was that negative result.

2) The midterm-of-ignorance, helped along by very evil, shameless, conscienceless people working in conservative media, will set the nation on a destructive path where the only choice will be gridlock or hostage taking.

Republicans have already made it clear that destroying another Democratic president is job one in the Senate…..and that compromise is not a word that will ever be used in the House. That leaves gridlock, or capitulation by Obama and the Democrats to new and exciting hostage taking demands. Demands to help out the powerful even more while setting the not-so-powerful back even further.

Within this freak dynamic……and based on the “deal” made at the end of 2010……it is entirely possible that for the first time since FDR put in place the backbones of American economic security, our “bipartisan” leaders will agree to start dismantling those bones. Not strenghthen them….dismantle them.

The stage is now set, as it was in 1994, for a further plundering of America’s future for the sake of a tiny segment of the filthiest of rich.

That is why, sad to say, I have picked the midterm election as the story of 2010 which will have the most impact moving forward.

Having said all of that….I sincerely hope your personal New Year is a Happy one.

BEREA: Coach Eric Mangini recently conceded he’s on the hot seat. In a few days, he’ll learn if his ties with the Browns have been burned.

Mangini said he expects to discuss his future with Browns President Mike Holmgren on Monday. Just about everyone in Northeast Ohio is curious about Holmgren’s decision.

Even Mangini’s 6-year-old son, Jake, is asking questions.

”He must hear things,” Mangini said Friday. ”He asked if we were moving. I said, ‘Don’t worry about it, Jake. We will figure it out.’ ”

First, Holmgren must deliver a verdict. Will he fire Mangini or give him another season to turn the franchise around?

During Mangini’s second season in Cleveland, the Browns (5-10) have improved in several statistical categories and have consistently been competitive. Still, they’re 3-9 in games decided by 10 points or fewer, and they need to upset the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) Sunday to avoid finishing with a record of 5-11 for the second consecutive season.

Mangini knows the Browns’ 2010 season finale could be his last game as Cleveland’s coach. Nevertheless, he has tried hard to remain optimistic about his future.

”There is uncertainty with things, and the [players] have responded exactly the way that I’ve asked them to, which is to be consistent in their preparation, in the meetings, at practice and all of those things,” Mangini said. ”. . . .I think this organization and this team have a tremendous future, a really bright future, and I’m excited about being a part of that.”

The rest of the Browns’ coaching staff is in the same boat as Mangini. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll acknowledged their time in Cleveland might be coming to an end, but both of them said it’s not a funeral.

”I love Eric,” Ryan said. ”He hired me, and I’d be more than happy to go out with him if that’s what it takes.”

Proud of defense

Ryan began his Friday news conference by supplying reporters with fact sheets that feature the defense’s accomplishments. According to Ryan’s handout, the Browns are ranked seventh in points allowed, ninth in takeaways and sixth in red-zone defense. The only other teams in the top 10 of those categories are the Chicago Bears and the Steelers.

”I’m not up here pumping a resume,” Ryan said. ”I just want our guys to get the credit they deserve on defense and our coaching staff.”

Ryan said he thinks Mangini and Co. deserve more time to guide the team. After all, it’s already heading in the right direction, he said.

”Everybody wants to win now, and I understand that,” Ryan said. ”I’m not crying about that at all. But I just see our team getting so much better, and it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating that we lose those close games because, in my opinion, I think we are just right there. We’ve got tremendous leadership. Eric Mangini does a great job, and he’s brought the right people in with [General Manager] Tom Heckert. If [the coaching staff is fired], I won’t be crying about it because that’s life in the big city. But I like it here in Cleveland.”

Regardless of the outcome, Ryan is confident he will be interviewed for a head coaching job sometime in the offseason. When asked whether he would be surprised if he doesn’t receive that type of opportunity, Ryan said: ”Yes, I’d be really shocked because I think I’ll definitely get interviewed. I have a really, really good feeling about that.”

Answering the bell

Browns running back Peyton Hillis missed practice all week with sore ribs. He is listed as questionable on the team’s injury report, but Mangini is hopeful Hillis will be ready for the Steelers’ top-ranked rushing defense.

”I’m still optimistic that he’ll be able to play,” Mangini said. ”I feel pretty good about it, but we will see.”

If Hillis is sidelined, or even limited, backup running back Mike Bell will receive more playing time. After Hillis was hurt early in the first quarter last week when Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed hit him in the back, Bell had his most productive game since being traded to the Browns from the Philadelphia Eagles this season.

Bell had seven carries for 27 yards (3.9 average) and two catches for 48 yards. The performance boosted his confidence.

”I definitely got into a rhythm that I haven’t been used to,” Bell said. ”I hadn’t played that much all year, so I was so excited, as you could see with my actions after every carry I had. I’m about to blow up [against the Steelers], though. That was just like a warm-up to this [Sunday].

”I’ve just been waiting for my chance for the most part. So now that it’s here, it’s fight or flight now. I’ve been talking about it, so now I’ve got to be about it.”

Bell has been practicing well as of late, and it has shown, Mangini said.

”I really felt that Mike had his best week of practice last week, too, and it translated, it really did,” Mangini said. ”. . . .I really liked the way that he practiced last week and he’s had a good week of practice this week. So if he gets extended time again here this week, I feel good about him.”

Mangini also feels good about wide receiver Josh Cribbs’ ability to supplement the rushing attack. Cribbs’ injured right foot hasn’t hindered him as much lately, as evidenced by his two runs for first downs out of the Wildcat offense last week.

”That’s one of the great things about having Josh,” Mangini said. ”You can put him back there and get the running plays with him, and those are pretty effective and they’re very different in terms of how a team has to defend him. He’s another great option.”

Other injury updates

Returning to practice for the first time in weeks, Steelers standout safety Troy Polamalu (ankle) fully participated Friday. He is listed as questionable on the Steelers’ injury report.

”I’m anticipating him playing,” Daboll said of Polamalu. ”He’s a difference maker. You have got to put a big fluorescent light on his number and stay away from him. Don’t go near the guy, because he’s awesome.”

Also for the Steelers, running back Mewelde Moore (knee) and defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps) have been ruled out for Sunday. Linebacker Jason Worilds (knee) is questionable, and linebacker LaMarr Woodley (knee) is probable.

In addition to Hillis, defensive linemen Kenyon Coleman (knee) and Shaun Rogers (ankle, hip) and right guard Floyd Womack (knee) are questionable for the Browns. Special-teams ace Eric Alexander (groin), cornerback Sheldon Brown (shoulder), linebackers Marcus Benard (shoulder) and Matt Roth (thumb), tight end Robert Royal (shoulder), defensive end Brian Schaefering (shoulder), right tackle John St. Clair (ankle) and tight end Benjamin Watson (ankle) are probable.

Brownies

Daboll said it didn’t bother him when former Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who some consider a candidate to replace Daboll as offensive coordinator, watched the Browns’ practice a couple of weeks ago. ”Josh is a great friend,” Daboll said. . . .The NFL reduced the fine Steelers linebacker James Harrison received for his devastating hit on Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in Week 6. Harrison was fined $75,000, but the league lowered the penalty to $50,000. Massaquoi suffered a concussion and missed a game because of the blow.

 


Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@
thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohiomm.com/blogs/browns/. Follow the Browns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.

Stephanie Storm

KENT: Anthony ”Humpty” Hitchens has been here before — several times, in fact.

Friday afternoon’s visit to Kent State was different though, this time coming with the junior point guard now playing for James Madison University instead of with the Golden Flashes’ arch rival Akron.

As such, the game must have had a much different feel for Hitchens, who transferred from Akron in May, especially with the Flashes uncharacteristically struggling through a second-half scoring drought in a 60-51 loss to the Dukes.

With all the hype that usually surrounds a Kent/Akron game, Friday’s New Year’s Eve matchup between KSU and JMU probably felt more like an exhibition to Hitchens, considering what he’d become accustomed to in play at the M.A.C. Center.

Still, Hitchens contributed 11 points in the victory. That included three 3-pointers with two coming during a pivotal second-half stretch that snapped Kent State’s 15-game home winning streak. With the win, James Madison (10-3) increased its winning streak to four games.

Hitchens ”is completely unafraid to take shots in very difficult situations in the game, and he’s made a fair number of them,” James Madison coach Matt Brady said. ”The other thing Humpty’s done for us is he’s added a measure of toughness to our group mentally and even in some ways physically.

”He’s a kid who can dig out some rebounds and handles his defensive assignments really well. He’s been really helpful to us, and I don’t know if our record would be what it is if it weren’t for him.”

The loss was the second consecutive clunker for Kent State (9-5), which entered the afternoon action looking to bounce back from a 76-58 loss at Morehead State on Tuesday. Instead, the Flashes looked even worse in shooting a season-low 30 percent for the game, bogged down by 23.5 percent shooting in the second half.

”We held them to 37 percent and had only 11 turnovers,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. ”If you’d have told me that before the game, I would have felt pretty good about our chances.

”But we missed so many shots in the second half. We couldn’t finish a layup, couldn’t make a 10-footer on the baseline and I can’t believe the amount of mid-range jumpers we missed. It was as bad of a shooting performance by a group as we’ve had in a long time.”

Kent State took a 28-27 lead into the locker room at halftime, but JMU used a 12-2 run to open the second half to build a seven-point cushion. With the Flashes going three-plus minutes without a basket, the Dukes’ lead grew to 13 points with 12:03 to go in the game.

Six of those points came on two 3-pointers by Hitchens within the span of a minute, and the Dukes never looked back.

”For the one stretch where they took the lead on us, we didn’t play good defense at all,” KSU junior forward Justin Greene said. ”All of our defensive principles just went out the window.”

The Dukes didn’t have a very good shooting game overall either, but were bolstered by a 41.7 percent clip in the final half to raise the team’s overall shooting percentage to 37.3.

”We played a stretch in the first half of about six really good minutes and in the second half, maybe a stretch of seven minutes where we played really well,” Brady said. ”I thought those two stretches were the deciding factors for us to win.”

Dukes junior forward Rayshawn Goins, a load in the post at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, finished with a double-double with team highs in points (14) and rebounds (13) in 27 minutes of play.

The Flashes were led by senior guard Rodriquez Sherman, who had 17 points, five rebounds and five assists.

”I think we’re forcing the issue on the offensive end,” Sherman said. ”Sometimes we really force trying to get it into Justin down low. Even if there’s three people there, we’ll still try to get it in there.

”And when plays break down, we’ll try to force it to the basket and end up throwing a crazy pass or getting called for charge. I don’t think it’s pressing. We just gotta slow down as a team and make the smart play.”

The Flashes open Mid-American Conference play next week with a 7 p.m. matchup Jan. 8 at Akron.

 


Stephanie Storm can be reached
at sstorm@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohiomm.com/blogs/browns/. Follow the Browns on Twitter
at http://www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns and
on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.

INDEPENDENCE: First the losses piled up on the Cavaliers. Now the injuries are following, making it no surprise coach Byron Scott is so eager to get to the new year.

Anderson Varejao did not make the trip to Chicago for Saturday’s game against the Bulls. Varejao broke a bone in his cheek in Wednesday’s loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, and his face swelled up on the flight home. He must be fitted with a mask, and for now will miss at least the game against the Bulls and Sunday’s home game against the Dallas Mavericks.

In addition, guards Mo Williams (hip) and Daniel Gibson (leg) did not practice Friday and both remain questionable for Saturday, meaning the Cavs could be without 60 percent of their starting lineup when they face one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

”We’re glad that 2010 is over with, even though 2011 isn’t starting out good, it can’t get. . . .” Scott said, before chuckling and cutting himself off. ”I take that back. It’s got to get better. That’s how we’re looking at it. It’s going to get better.”

Scott’s first inclination was correct — it can’t get much worse.

The Cavs went 1-14 in December, their worst month since they went 1-15 in November 2002. They tied for the worst record in the league that season and wound up with LeBron James.

It’s also the seventh time in team history (minimum eight games) they have won one game or less. That overtime win against the New York Knicks on Dec. 18 saved the Cavs from their third winless month in franchise history and the first since the 1981-82 season.

As it is, the outlook remains bleak. Without Varejao against the Bulls and Mavericks, the Cavs are missing a huge part of their struggling defense.

”He’s the anchor of our defense. He’s our emotional leader,” Scott said. ”He plays as hard as anybody in this league. He’s playing at an All-Star caliber. We’re missing all those elements when he’s not in the game.”

Varejao was clubbed in the face Wednesday by former Cav DeSagana Diop. Scott said there was nothing malicious about the play, and it was so difficult to notice when it happened, he had to rewind the film to see exactly when it occurred.

Varejao is expected to see a specialist and receive his mask. After the Mavericks on Sunday, the Cavs are off until hosting Toronto on Wednesday.

If traveling and altitude are concerns for Varejao, here is another: The Cavs depart on a five-game, 10-day West Coast trip next week. As for how long Varejao will be out, no one knows.

”Your guess is as good as mine right now,” said Scott, who will start either Ryan Hollins or Leon Powe at center. The Cavs recalled Samardo Samuels from Erie of the NBA Development League for added depth in the frontcourt.

The Bulls have their own injury problems with center Joakim Noah, who will miss the next few weeks with a thumb injury.

As for Williams and Gibson, their fates won’t be known until closer to tip-off. Williams is dealing with a left hip flexor injury suffered in a loss to Orlando, and Gibson suffered a left thigh contusion in the loss to the Bobcats.

Manny Harris would start at guard if either Williams or Gibson can’t play. If both have to miss the game, Ramon Sessions would join Harris in the backcourt. Sessions did well to break down Charlotte’s defense on Wednesday and get to the basket, finishing with 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and just one turnover in 31 minutes.

”Just being aggressive, pushing the ball,” Sessions said. ”I’m the type of guy who likes to get to the basket. There’s no secret about that.”


Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.cavs.sg.ohio.com. Follow the Cavs on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ABJCavsInsider.

Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll met with reporters Friday afternoon. Here is a transcript from the press conference:

Browns Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll press conference 12-31-10

(On how much Colt McCoy has improved since his first game against Pittsburgh) “I think each game is a learning experience for him in this league.  He had a rough one in a couple of plays last week, but he’s been doing a good job for the teams he’s played and the amount of games he’s played.  I think he’s got a chance to be pretty good.”

(On how tough it is to go against Pittsburgh’s run defense) “It’s hard.  You’re going to have to do it, but the longest run they’ve given up all year is 24 yards.  They’ve given up 18 runs of 10 yards or more.  It’s tough.  You’ve got to have outside, inside and understand there is going to be ones and twos and zeros because there is every game against that team.  You’ve got to stay at it and you have got to be able to throw the ball too.”

(On the chances of Peyton Hillis playing Sunday) “I hope that’s he’s going to be able to go.  He hasn’t practice.  He’s running all of the plays that we are obviously going to run, so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for when they let me know.  I’m hopeful, but I don’t know percentage-wise what it’s going to be like.”

(On if he feels good about Mike Bell if Hillis is unable to play) “Yes.  Mike, when he got some opportunities last week, did a nice job.  You can’t replace a guy like Peyton, but Mike has been preparing the last couple of weeks very, very well.  If he has got to do it, I have confidence in him.”

(On if the plan last week was to split some carries between Hillis and Bell or if it was a result of Hillis getting injured) “Yes, he got dinged up pretty good on the second play.  He was going to try to go, but you knew he needed some time.”

(On the notion that this could be his last game as offensive coordinator here in Cleveland) “I haven’t even thought about it, I’ve been working on Pittsburgh.  I’ve got enough on my plate with the Steelers coming in.”

(On if they will be able to do some different things with Joshua Cribbs in the lineup this week to spell Hillis) “Yes, and he’s been slowly getting back to speed.  I thought last game was probably his most up tempo game for him.  It’s always in there, it depends on how he feels and how he thinks he can plant and run.  If we need it, we are definitely going to have to go to it.  You have got to have alternatives.”

(more…)

Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan met with reporters Friday afternoon. Here is a transcript from the press conference:

Browns Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan press conference 12-31-10

(Opening Statement) “Good afternoon everybody. The Pro Bowl balloting came and went and we didn’t have any defensive players on it. Joe Haden was an alternate, I believe. Talk about a guy that is deserving, man does he come on.  He is really phenomenal.  What I wanted to do is just address a couple things about our defense because I think they’ve worked their (tails) off.  They’ve lost both captains early in the year, with Robaire (Smith) and Scott (Fujita).  I just wanted to let everybody to know because every time I hear and you know me I should never listen to the radio but I do and the guy doesn’t like me and that’s cool.  I’m good because I don’t like him but it’s like people just don’t know how hard these guys have worked and really what they’ve done so I wanted to point it out.  Right here in 2010 that’s this year, the defensive rankings, we’re in the top 10 in points allowed we’re seventh, takeaways we’re ninth and red zone we’re sixth.  Red zone I always think that’s real important. I think points allowed and takeaways are the most important stats in football for defense.  Maybe some people say it’s yards or whatever it is. I think we’re 13th in rushing defense per carry, 13th in passing defense but I really think it’s points allowed and turnovers and these guys are doing a great job.  You see that and we’re in the top 10 in all three of those and there are only three defenses in the league that can say that.  There are only three defenses in the league, Chicago, Pittsburgh and us.  Two of those teams are playing for home field advantage in playoffs.  I believe, I don’t know if Chicago is still or not but that’s saying something.  I don’t think people realize the type of effort these guys are playing with.  The free agents we’ve picked up have been outstanding for our defense, I mean tremendous.  It’s right there evidence by the improvement we’ve had.  When’s the last time the Browns have been the top seven or whatever it is in scoring? 1994, so it’s been a while.  That’s been a while.  To be that high in takeaways 2008 and 2001 but neither one of them are any good in scoring defense.  I don’t know if you’ve got to look back for when they didn’t have facemasks or what but our defense is playing pretty (darn) good fellas and I think you need to know that.  I think you also need to know in the red zone, we were sixth last year, we’re sixth again this year.  Only two teams have giving up five rushing touchdowns that’s us and Pittsburgh, we’re playing against these guys.  We’re first in first quarter points.  By the way Mike O’Connor put all these together, he’s going to be a scout.  He put all these stats together.  Third quarter points, we’re fifth in the NFL.  We have seven takeaways, I thought that would be an NFL record, seven takeaways in two minute.  In two minute situations, we’re second in the league and takeaways we’ve got seven of them.  The Bears somehow have nine, that’s a bunch of takeaways.  To see all this that’s saying a lot for what these guys have done.  We’ve got one first round pick in our defense and that’s Joe Haden and he’s playing like a first rounder, (heck) he’s playing like the first player taken.  He’s doing a great job.  His teammates are doing an excellent job and they all believe in each other and they work their (tails) off.  Again, I don’t see enough good praise on these guys, the way they’ve worked.  They’ve responded without their captains, we’ve got some veterans in there (David) Bowens, (Eric) Barton, (Chris) Gocong who we got, these linebackers are really playing well.  Upfront (Ahtyba) Rubin is really becoming a good player, the safeties, Abe Elam’s really come into his own.  It’s been a lot of great things.  Is our record any good?  (Heck) no we’re not very good.  (Heck) I’m looking here the last time a defense played with one first round pick, they were 1-15 or 0-16.  We have 16 undrafted free agents and the league averages just about eight.  These guys have worked their (tails) off.  Why I’m saying all that is because this game Sunday, we’re the Cleveland Browns and we’re going to go in here and beat the (heck) out of these guys.  They want to go for home field and all this stuff, I haven’t seen one good thing written about our defense from anybody over there or anything else and that’s just fine by us.  We’re working our (tails) off all we’re thinking about is Pittsburgh.  We know we’re from Cleveland, we know how big of a game it is and we’re going to get in there and get after their (behinds).  That’s all we’ve really got to say.”

(On 18 of their points allowed behind pick-sixes from the offensive side) “Everybody gives those up.  When you go through a full season everybody gives up points like that.  We’re not farming anybody else’s land. I just want to make sure that everybody knows that job that these guys have done, and these coaches have been excellent.  Jerome Henderson with the secondary, he’s been tremendous. He’s developed those two young players and they’ve done a great job.  (Matt) Eberflus it always goes without saying how good he is at linebacker and then Bryan Cox, he’s got guys you really need a roster to figure out who they are and we’re going to add a couple new ones this week.  I just want everybody to know these guys are working hard. We’re not looking to go and just slap it out there, we’re looking to go in there and beat these guys.  We’ve got a lot of fight left in us we’re going to give them (heck).”

(On what his mindset is going into what could potentially be his last game here) “We’ve been working out (tails) off.  It might be, it really might, and that’s just the way things are.  It’s win now, everybody wants to win now, and I understand that.  I’m not crying about that at all, but I just see our team getting so much better and it’s frustrating.  It’s frustrating that we lose those close games because, in my opinion, I think we are just right there.  We’ve got tremendous leadership.  Eric Mangini does a great job and he’s brought the right people in with Tom Heckert.  If that happens, I won’t be crying about it because that’s life in the big city, but I like it here in Cleveland.”

(On if it is frustrating to see all of the hard work by his players and coaches and not be rewarded with playoffs) “You know how it is, only the best teams go.  Right now, we don’t have enough wins to get in.  Do I think we are improving?  Absolutely.  Do I think we can compete with all of these teams in here?  Yes.  In our season, we have been playing all of these guys.  It’s just unfortunate, but to me, it’s not a disappointing season.  I want to win obviously, I want to make the playoffs, but I’ve seen a ton of growth, especially in my room.  We weren’t real good last year and to see these guys become one of the better defenses, and really we are.  People can say what they want, but the facts are the facts.  We are a better defense.  We are the only team in the league not to give up 30 points, these guys ran up 28 on us last time we played them.  You’re in every game when you do that.  I’m proud of our efforts and I’m proud of the way our guys are playing.  I don’t think this is going to be a swan song, I think we are going to get in here, get after it and see what happens.  If a change is made, a change is made.  That’s life, but these guys are really coming on defense, I can tell you that.”

(more…)

OXFORD: Michigan State assistant Don Treadwell has been hired as head coach at Miami, replacing Michael Haywood.

Treadwell has been Michigan State’s offensive coordinator and receivers coach for the last four years.

He was a team captain and four-year starter at Miami in 1978-81. He will become the school’s 34th head coach.

Haywood left Miami for Pittsburgh after two seasons in Oxford.

Miami plays in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6 against Middle Tennessee State. Treadwell plans to attend the game.

Tim Reynolds

MIAMI: Given the opportunity, LeBron James would change countless things about 2010.

Losing to Boston in the playoffs. How his infamous Decision to leave Cleveland was executed. The fraying of some long relationships with the Cavaliers.

But regrets?

None, the two-time MVP said while looking back on the year unlike any other in his life — and looking ahead to 2011, a year the Miami forward hopes to have defined by championship instead of controversy.

”It absolutely was a good year,” James said in an interview with the Associated Press on Friday while relaxing alongside the Heat practice court. ”I don’t regret any decision that I’ve made and I’m happy where I am now. I think my family, my friends, they’re all excited with my new beginning. And I definitely am.”

He meant that in many different ways.

Business-wise, while studies suggested his ”Q Score” — the measure of how something or someone appeals to a broad audience — took a big hit over the offseason, sales of his new Miami jersey and his latest line of Nike sneakers are booming. Personally, some of those who have known him best say he’s as happy as he has been in years. And on the basketball court, the Heat are soaring.

Winners in 16 of their past 17 games, the Heat will take a 25-9 record into 2011, and have more than a few people around the NBA saying they’re playing as well as any team in the league, maybe better. All the negativity after a 9-8 start seems long forgotten.

”Overall, where we’re at now is what I envisioned,” James said. ”Did I envision our tough times early on? Not to that extent. I knew we would have some bumps along the road, but to the extent where we were at? I don’t think any of us expected that. No one here in Miami or no one in the league expected us to have these trials and tribulations. But it made us who were are today, going into 2011.”

So in other words, the Heat collectively have taken a similar road as James did personally over the past 12 months.

A year ago, he was still expecting to deliver on his promise of bringing a title to Cleveland, even as nonstop speculation swirled about his plans for free agency July 1. The opinions and predictions were everywhere: He was going to New York, to Chicago, to the Clippers, staying home in Cleveland.

Everyone, it seemed, ”knew” what he was going to do. Everyone, that is, except James himself.

While many suspect otherwise, James still says he didn’t make his decision until the morning of July 8, announcing it to the world about 12 hours later in a televised special that raised $4 million for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America — along with the ire of millions who watched it live.

”He can take this year, for the rest of his life and the rest of his career, and look at it as a stepping stone for him as a basketball player and as a man,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. ”He was on a team projected to win a championship, was the MVP and then everything came crashing down real fast. So he had to make a tough decision, and he made it based on what was best for him as a man.”

James grew tired long ago of discussing The Decision, even though he’s still asked about it almost daily.

He says he prefers to look ahead, not back.

”I’ll set goals for the year, but I’m not a resolutions guy,” James said. ”My New Year’s resolution would be the same as going into every NBA season, just to be productive every day, as a basketball player, as a father and friend on and off the court, and do the things that need to be done to help us win a championship. So if I had to have one, my resolution would be the same as my preseason goals.”

Just about everyone in the Heat locker room had some sort of relationship with James before this season, but even those who were closest to him — Wade in particular — didn’t have a complete picture of him while largely watching from afar.

Wade marvels at James’ basketball talent.

He also marvels just as much about James’ personality, something few people get a chance to fully learn about.

”LeBron is known as being one of the top-paid athletes, he’s known for his business savvy, he’s known for being wise beyond his years,” Wade said. ”So people would be surprised to know that he’s the silliest, goofiest person in the world. . . . I just say he loves what he does. He loves being the person he is.”

He’s loving Miami as well.

It’s still not home — Miami won’t replace Akron, where his mother and children still reside most of the time — but James said he’s growing increasingly comfortable each day with his new surroundings. James is settling in a $9 million house, photos of which were leaked online to his chagrin, the latest loss in a quest for some semblance of privacy.

”It’s getting better as the days go on,” James said. ”Honestly, I like to relax. Most of the time I sit at home, just chill, enjoy the weather. That’s definitely a good time to reflect, sit outside and enjoy what Miami has to offer.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra began the process of enjoying what James had to offer this summer. They went to lunches and talked about anything and everything, though largely not about basketball. Spoelstra wanted to know what made him tick, what he liked, what he disliked.

He wasn’t surprised by much of what he learned, except perhaps one thing.

”He’s the first one,” Spoelstra said. ”In training camp, he was the first player at breakfast, usually is the first player to get to the arena. He likes extra time to prepare. Everything we do, he likes to arrive early. He takes this very seriously. If you think about it, he’s been under this microscope since he was in seventh, eighth grade — and he’s always been able to answer the bell of expectations.”

Well, most expectations, that is.

James turned 26 on Thursday and his friends and family got him a wide array of birthday gifts, from reading material to electronics, even though he’s notoriously hard to shop for because he usually buys whatever he wants for himself.

For all his riches, he can’t buy a championship ring.

That’s what 2010 was about, and of course, that’s what he’s clamoring for in 2011.

”You try to continue to be blessed and take pride in what you do, the game of basketball, the centerfold of everything,” James said. ”I’ll continue to get better. I’ll continue to win. Someday, I hope to bring championships to this franchise. And off the court, I want to keep inspiring kids. I don’t want them to be LeBron. I want them to be better than LeBron.”

CLEVELAND: Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao will miss at least two games because of a a broken cheekbone.

Varejao was hurt during loss Wednesday in Charlotte. The team says Varejao’s face swelled up on the flight back to Cleveland.

He will not travel with the team to Chicago for Saturday’s game, and he also will miss Sunday’s home game against Dallas.

Varejao will wear a mask when he returns.

Guards Mo Williams (hip) and Daniel Gibson (leg) are both questionable for Saturday’s game. Both are traveling with the Cavs, who have dropped five straight and 15-of-16.

Injury report for Dec. 31, 2010

Browns — Questionable: DL Kenyon Coleman (knee), RB Peyton Hillis (ribs), DL Shaun Rogers (ankle, hip) and OL Floyd Womack (knee). Probable: LB Eric Alexander (groin), LB Marcus Benard (shoulder), CB Sheldon Brown (shoulder), LB Matt Roth (thumb), TE Robert Royal (shoulder), DL Brian Schaefering (shoulder), OL John St. Clair (ankle) and TE Benjamin Watson (ankle).

Steelers — Out: RB Mewelde Moore (knee) and DE Aaron Smith (triceps). Questionable: S Troy Polamalu (ankle) and LB Jason Worilds (knee). Probable: LaMarr Woodley (knee).

KANSAS CITY, Mo.: One person has died in a storm that swept through southern and central Missouri Friday, damaging homes, buildings, boats and power lines.

Emergency Management Coordinator Brad Nash said there was one fatality in Dent County, but he had no details.

The National Weather Service reported that three mobile homes were destroyed and numerous other structures were damaged by what might have been a tornado.

The storm also caused damage at Fort Leonard Wood and threw boats and docks around Table Rock Lake.

A storm system also hit Phelps County. Yvonne Chaney of the Phelps Regional Medical Center in Rolla said five people had been taken to the hospital with injuries.

BLACKSBURG, Va.: A spokesman for an auto parts supplier says four people have been injured in an explosion at the company’s plant in Virginia.

Jim Burke, spokesman for Federal-Mogul Corp. in Southfield, Mich., said the injured were employees of a local contractor that was cleaning duct work.

Eric Earnhart, a spokesman for Roanoke Carilion Hospital, said two critically injured patients were flown to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

George Ward, lead security officer at Lewis Gale Montgomery Hospital, said two other people were treated there for relatively minor injuries.

The Blacksburg plant is one of 107 operated by Federal-Mogul worldwide. It specializes in bearings.

NEW YORK: Stock indexes were mixed Friday in quiet New Year’s Eve trading.

The last day of the year contrasted with a sometimes gut-wrenching 2010. Despite investors’ concerns about the U.S. economy, the possibility of European countries defaulting on debt, the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index and the Dow Jones industrial average are both up about 14 percent for the year, including dividends. The Nasdaq composite index , is up about 18 percent for the year after dividends.

In afternoon trading Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 8 points, or 0.1 percent, to 11,577. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose less than a point to 1,258. The Nasdaq composite index dipped 9, or 0.3 percent, to 2,654.

The Dow is poised to end the year at its highest level since August 2008, before the height of the financial crisis. The S&P had its best December gain since 1991.

The numbers hide the fact that it was a rocky year. Stocks plunged in the spring after Greece required an emergency bailout to deal with its debt crisis. That raised concerns about debt in other European countries, including Ireland, which needed a bailout later in the year.

The May 6 ”flash crash,” which cost the Dow nearly 1,000 points in less than a half-hour, also rattled investors. The Dow fell 14 percent from a high of 11,205.03 on April 26 to its low of 9,686.48 on July 2.

”The flash crash made retail investors take a step back and say, ‘Is this really just a legalized gambling arena?’ ” said Scott Rostan, a financial consultant for investment banks and an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

A distrust of the stock market helped fuel a boom in commodities, which finished 2010 at their highest levels in years. Gold closed above $1,400 an ounce after rising throughout the year on global economic worries. Oil prices rose from a low of $70 a barrel to close the year higher than $90.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to a yearly high of just under 4 percent in April and then plunged as low as 2.38 percent in October. That contributed to a historic drop in mortgage rates that brought 30-year fixed-rate loans to a low of 4.17 percent early in November.

Stocks came back in the last two months of the year after the Federal Reserve announced a $600 billion bond-buying program to lower interest rates and stimulate the economy. Bond yields fell to levels not seen since the 1950s.

”It was a market that needed stimulus and responded miraculously,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential. ”Corporate fundamentals were clearly excellent, but to get the push that the market needed to keep it going, it needed more buyers.”

Investors were also encouraged by an extension of Bush-era tax cuts and improving economic reports on unemployment, retail sales and consumer confidence, which suggested that Americans were beginning to spend again. By the end of December, investors began moving money back into U.S. stock funds after selling for every week since May.

Consumer discretionary stocks in the S&P 500 have risen 26 percent this year, making them the best performers of the 10 industry groups in the index. Health-care and utility stocks have been the worst performers, rising less than 1 percent for the year.

The Russell 2000 index, made up of small-cap stocks, had the best overall performance of domestic stock indexes. It returned 27.8 percent in 2010, including dividends.

In large part because of worries over the health of the euro, the dollar rose throughout the year against an index of six heavily traded currencies. It reached its peak in June before falling to nearly the level where it began the year.

NEW YORK: Still digging out from a blizzard, New York expects nearly a million visitors in Times Square tonight for the country’s largest annual New Year’s Eve celebration.

Nationwide, revelers are setting aside concerns about the weather and even potential terrorist threats to ring in 2011 at large and small gatherings.

From California, where waterlogged residents have contended with record winter rainfall, to the snowbound states along the Eastern seaboard, New Year’s Eve celebrations beckon as a respite from the brutal weather that closed 2010. The forecast today is relatively clear, except in the Rocky Mountain region, where a snowstorm is bearing down.

The snow has disappeared from Times Square, although mounds of it remain throughout the city.

Thursday night, vendors were already selling hats and noisemakers, crews were preparing TV sets for the ball drop and tourists milled around Times Square, scoping out a good location for tonight.

”I’m going to be here, near the closest restroom, just in case,” said Mohammed Azuz, 23, of Tripoli, Libya.

In Chicago, city officials are expecting unseasonably warm temperatures to draw a robust crowd to Navy Pier for two fireworks shows. The city is offering penny fares for public transit.

In Portland, Ore., where a 19-year-old Somali-born man is accused of plotting to kill thousands gathered downtown last month for a Christmas tree lighting, police said no New Year’s plans are being scaled back.

”Your standard bar and club parties will be going on,” Sgt. Pete Simpson said. ”It’s just not an outdoor thing here.”

New York will be the city in the spotlight as it battles back from a severe snowstorm and security concerns eight months after a Pakistani immigrant tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly police have a strict security plan in place, with sealed manhole covers and counter-snipers on rooftops. Backpacks are banned and partygoers must pass through checkpoints.

Host Ryan Seacrest and the singer Kesha are among the celebrities who will appear on the nationally televised countdown to the ball drop at Times Square. Singer Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas will headline the Los Angeles portion of the show.

The Times Square ball, which will drop at midnight to signal the beginning of the new year, is 12 feet in diameter and holds more than 32,000 LED lights.

Ed Crawford, chief executive of Philips Lighting North America, which has lighted the Times Square ball since the millennium celebration in 2000, said the lights are so energy efficient, the ball uses the same among of power as two standard ovens.

”There will be lots of special effects. The ball can do anything,” Crawford said.