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Football: Jahvid Best says he’s healthy, excited to be back at school to help coach running backs

Jahvid Best, back at Cal as a student assistant running backs coach, said he currently has no lingering effects from the series of concussions that ended his NFL career in 2011 after just 22 games.

“My health is fine,” he said Thursday during an informal media gathering to announce his return to school as a student and part-time coach. “I have no issues that are dragging on. It’s good that I left the game healthy. That’s very important to me.”

Best, 25, whose All-America career at Cal was ended when he suffered a head injury on a spectacular fall after a midair collision during the 2009 season, suffered two additional concussions in his second season with the Detroit Lions. He hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 16, 2011.

The Lions kept Best on the payroll through the 2012 season, but he never was cleared to play and the team finally released him last July.

“Oh man, that was tough for me,” Best said of leaving the game. “My playing days are over. I knew it was going to happen eventually. It happened a lot quicker than I wanted it to. So now I’ve decided to come back to school and figure out what’s next for me.”

Click here to read the rest of my story.

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Football: Ex-Cal players get NFL combine invites

Former Cal players Deandre Coleman, Khairi Fortt and Richard Rodgers have received invitations to the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Feb. 19-25.

 Here are thumbnails on all three (courtesy of Cal athletics):

* Deandre Coleman, DL, 6-5, 315, Seattle, WA (Garfield HS)

Coleman played in all 49 games possible with 25 starts during his career at Cal over the past four seasons after redshirting as a true freshman in 2009. He finished his career with 125 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss (-89 yards), 7.5 sacks (-39 yards), three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and four quarterback hurries. Coleman was a third-team All-Pac-12 selection of Phil Steele and an honorable mention All-Pac-12 choice by the league’s coaches as one of three Cal players to start all 12 games in 2013. He led the Golden Bears in tackles for loss (career-high 9.0) and tackle for loss yardage (-27 yards), while ranking third in sacks (2.5, -4 yards) and first among defensive linemen in tackles (40). Coleman played in the 2014 Senior Bowl following his senior collegiate season and contributed two tackles and a half tackle for loss for the winning South team.

* Khairi Fortt, LB, 6-2, 240 (Seattle, WA/Garfield HS)

Fortt was one of 12 national semifinalists for the 2013 Butkus Award at the collegiate level for the award given annually to the nation’s top linebackers at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. Fortt started the first nine games of the 2013 season at Cal in his first and only year of action for the Golden Bears after redshirting in 2012 following his transfer from Penn State. Fortt, who missed the final three games of the 2013 campaign due to injury, recorded 64 tackles to rank third on the team after leading the squad for most of the season. He was 18th in the Pac-12 with an average of 7.1 stops per game. He added 3.5 tackles for loss (-5 yards) and 0.5 sacks (-1 yard). In two seasons at Penn State from 2010-11, Fortt played in 22 contests and compiled totals of 50 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss (-23 yards) and 2.5 sacks (-16 yards). Fortt was an early entry for the 2014 NFL Draft who is foregoing his final season of collegiate eligibility.

* Richard Rodgers, TE/WR, 6-4, 245 (Worcester, MA/St. John’s HS)

Rodgers played in 35 of 37 possible games while starting 11 contests during three seasons at Cal from 2011-13. He finished his career with 59 receptions for 896 yards receiving (15.2 ypr) and two touchdown catches. Rodgers had his best campaign as a junior in 2013 when he totaled career highs of 39 receptions and 608 yards receiving to rank third on the team in both categories. He had 20 catches for 288 yards as a 2012 sophomore. Rodgers was an early entry for the 2014 NFL Draft who is foregoing his final season of collegiate eligibility.

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Football: Cal’s Super Bowl influence

Three former Cal players will be in uniform at MetLife Stadium today for Super Bowl XLVIII.

The headliner, of course, is Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who has waited all week to let his legs do his talking.

The former Oakland Tech HS star rushed for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season and leads all ball carriers with 249 postseason rushing yards.

Seahawks teammate Brandon Mebane and Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson help give the Bears representatives in the Super Bowl for the 12th time in 13 years.

Lynch, Mebane and Anderson all are making their Super Bowl debuts.

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Three other ex-Cal players took bows Saturday at the NFL Honors show at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

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Football: Marshawn Lynch gives lesson on how to become the Media Day story without really trying

Former Cal star Marshawn Lynch, threatened by the NFL with a $100,000 fine, participated in Tuesday’s annual Super Bowl Media Day.

Sort of.

Here are links to a few stories about Lynch’s unusual day with the media:

ESPN.com writes about how the Seattle Seahawks’ running back said his fans don’t care if he talks.”They just want to make sure I show up to perform,” he said.

– The Seattle Times provides a complete (albeit abbreviated) transcript of all Lynch had to say during his brief session with reporters.

– New York Post columnist George Willis reports that “Beast Mode was on Least Mode” during his 6 1/2 minutes with the media.

– The New York Daily News reports that Lynch made himself into the story of Media Day by trying not to be a story at all.

Yahoo Sports gives us all the details of Lynch’s endorsement deal with Skittles.

– Here is Cal grad and NFL Media columnist Michael Silver’s story on Lynch from an interview he did last week before the running back knew whether he’d attend Media Day.

– And, finally, Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith tells NFL.com he hasn’t seen a running back quite like Marshawn Lynch.

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Football: Ex-Cal star Keenan Allen named NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year by writers

His season ended with a playoff loss at Denver last weekend, but San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen was named the NFL’s 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Professional Football Writers of America.

The former Cal star led all NFL rookies with 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. He added six catches for 142 yards and two TDs in the playoff loss to Denver.

A third-round selection of the 2013 NFL Draft, Allen set team rookie receiving records in catches and yards as the league’s first rookie since 2011 to go over 1,000 yards receiving and the fifth since 2000.

Allen had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games twice, the first Chargers rookie to accomplish that since 1960, and his five total 100-yard games was also a San Diego rookie record.

He had nine receptions in two games, a regular-season high 128-yard receiving effort at Washington.

Allen played three seasons at Cal from 2010-12 and is the Golden Bears’ all-time leader in receptions (205), while ranking third in receiving yards (2,570) and touchdown catches (17).

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Basketball: Allen Crabbe waits his turn, fights frustration, has no regrets about NBA decision

Former Cal star Allen has gotten on the floor just once in the past 12 games as a rookie for the Portland Trail Blazers, and the immediate horizon doesn’t offer much promise of more.

“It can be a humbling experience sometimes for you,” Crabbe said Friday after practice. “It definitely is frustrating as a competitor, I’m not going to lie. It’s a new adjustment for me, a process I have to go through and something I have to stay positive about.”

The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year, who left Cal after his junior season and slipped into the second round of the NBA draft, is sitting on the bench for the first time since . . . well, the first time.

He’s been a starter for every team he’s played on since his freshman year in high school on the varsity squad. “But I got to play a lot,” he said.

Not the case so far with the Blazers. His three most recent appearances came in games after Portland had built leads of at least 30 points.

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Basketball: Warriors’ Mark Jackson praises Kidd

On Wednesday night, before the Nets ended the Warriors’ 10-game win streak, Golden State coach Mark Jackson defended former Cal star Jason Kidd, in his debut season as Brooklyn’s coach.

Kidd had won just 10 of his first 31 games, prompting questions about his qualifications to jump directly from his playing career to a head coaching position.

But Brooklyn’s 102-98 win over the Warriors was the club’s fourth straight in a stretch that also included an upset of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 ”I truly believe that Jason Kidd did not have to be an assistant coach to become a head coach,” said Jackson, who worked as a television analyst after retiring before entering coaching. “Because I watched him run teams and I played against teams that he was orchestrating. I got a lot of respect for him.

“He played the point guard position at as high a level as you can possibly play it. He’s been a coach on every team that he’s played on. He won a championship being an offensive coordinator, with all due respect to Rick Carlisle. But I am sure Rick will tell you the same thing.”

Kidd’s reign seemed in some jeopardy a month ago when he demoted assistant Lawrence Frank. Jackson took Kidd’s side on that one, too.

“I have never seen any one of The Pips try to lead,” Jackson argued. “That’s Gladys’ role. Let Gladys be Gladys.”

Jackson said Kidd should get a big share of the credit for getting the Nets pointed in the right direction.

“Give Jason a lot of credit,” Jackson said before the Nets’ win. “When you have adversity is when true leadership shows up. They’ve responded (to him). There’s a long time left to go in this season.”

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Football: Ex-Bears dot NFL playoff rosters

Fifteen former Cal players are headed to the NFL playoffs.

Tony Gonzalez is headed to retirement . . . and Canton.

The Hall of Fame-bound tight end closed out his unparalled career Sunday with four final receptions for 56 yards. The one-time two-sport Cal star wound up his NFL days with staggering numbers:

Career receptions: 1,325 — most-ever by a tight end, No. 2 among all receivers.

Career receiving yards: 15,127 — most-ever by a TE, No. 5 overall.

Career TD receptions: 111 — most-ever by a TE, No. 6 overall.

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Meanwhile, former Cal All-America linebacker Ron Rivera will lead his Carolina Panthers into the playoffs as the NFC’s No. 2 seed. Rivera coached the Panthers to a 12-4 record and a first-weekend bye.

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Running back Marshawn Lynch helped the Seattle Seahawks to an NFL-best 13-3 record. The seventh-year pro rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s 27-9 win over St. Louis, finishing the season with 1,257 yards and 12 TDs. It was Lynch’s fifth 1,000-yard season in seven years and third in a row.

For his career, Lynch now has 7,389 rushing yards to rank seventh among active NFL players. He has scored 58 rushing touchdowns.

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Keenan Allen finished a debut season that could land him Rookie of the Year honors. The 21-year-old wideout caught five passes for 89 yards in San Diego’s 27-24 win over Kansas City, the Chargers’ fifth win in their final six games, earning them a playoff date at Cincinnati next Sunday.

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Football: Another milestone for Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez, whose bobblehead was given out at a pair of Cal basketball games this week nearly 17 years after he left for the NFL, had another productive Sunday.

Gonzalez, 37, caught six passes for 62 yards for the Atlanta Falcons, including his 110th career touchdown, an ongoing NFL record for tight ends.

In the process, the former Cal two-sport star also went over the 15,000-yard receiving mark. He now has caught 1,313 passes for 15,008 yards.

(In case you’re wondering, that more than 8 1/2 miles).

He is just the fifth NFL player to surpass 15,000 yards, joining Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Isaac Bruce.

Gonzalez’s receptions total is No. 2 in league history and his TD receptions rank sixth.

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Ex-Cal star DeSean Jackson had a monster day with 1o receptions for 195 yards and a touchdown, but the Eagles lost 48-30 at Minnesota. Jackson’s updated season stats are impressive: 75 catches for 1,275 yards and nine touchdowns.

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Marshawn Lynch had 47 yards rushing and a touchdown and caught six passes for 73 yards in the Seahawks’ 23-0 road victory over the NY Giants.