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Several NFL teams could use a back like ‘The Burner’

ATLANTA GA - JANUARY 02:  Michael Turner #33 AtlantFalcons runs upfield during game against CarolinPanthers GeorgiDome January 2 2011

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02: Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons runs upfield during the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Michael Turner

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Updated: June 4, 2013 6:58PM



Points pondered after deciding that the only thing worse than being stuck behind the wheel during a blizzard is sitting at a stop light during a blizzard surrounded by a half-dozen plow-type vehicles ... all of which have their blades raised three feet off the road.

■ For the time being, North Chicago’s own Michael Turner is out of work, having been axed by the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons who chose not to pay him $5 million for the 2013 season, which was the final year of a contract he signed as a free agent after starting his pro career with the San Diego Chargers.

Turner, nicknamed “The Burner” when NIU was trying to generate Heisman Trophy interest in the running back his final year in college, had a bad 2012 season for Atlanta, gaining just 800 yards on the ground and averaging a career-low 3.6 yards per carry. An NFL team can find a running back with those numbers for far less than $5, which begs the question: Which NFL teams will be in the market for a serviceable, backup running back for 2013 and might be interested in signing the former burner for something less than $5 million a season.

Thanks to the good people on the internet, here’s a short list: Denver; Indianapolis; Detroit; Cincinnati; Tennessee; Baltimore; Oakland; Seattle; the New York Jets; and, irony of irony, San Diego.

The latter is where Turner started his NFL career as a backup to future Hall of Fame LaDainian Tomlinson.

If you’re comparison shopping, the Green Bay Packers are paying backup running back Cedric Benson $825,000 for the upcoming season.

■ A lot of people have been asking the same question about the high school basketball tournament, and here is the three-word answer.

The Net Generation.

The questioners are seeking an explanation for the dramatic drop in the number of students who showed up to support their basketball team last week at Waukegan High School’s Dog Pound, as well as at other venues around the state — including Antioch.

Here’s the deal.. First of all, it’s been three years since Waukegan hosted a sectional — that was Jereme Richmond’s senior season at Waukegan, and the Waukegan community was flush with anticipation of winning a state title. Plus, that sectional was the community’s chance to say goodbye and thanks to Richmond for an amazing two-year run that coulda/woulda/shoulda resulted in at least one state title. That helped inflate the sectional crowd that year to overflowing status.

Since then, the high school basketball world has undergone massive change, thanks to the internet.

We’ve come so far with technology that, last week, a high school basketball fan in the Chicago area could watch virtually ever sectional game in the northern part of the state from the comfort of his living room. All you needed was a computer and the Web address “highschoolcube.com.”

Take, for example, Zion-Benton’s near-miss loss to St. Viator at Waukegan on Thursday, the game in which junior Milik Yarbrough scored 41 points. A guestimate is that there are 2,700 students at ZBTHS, and not more than 200 of them showed up at the Dog Pound for the game.

Did the other 2,500 not care? Au contrare.

Thanks to the internet, Zee-Bee fans could watch the game live at home, and flip back and forth to other games like Young/Curie and Rockford Boylan/Crystal Lake Central and Carmel/Lakes during timeouts and lulls in the action.

Not only that, but let’s say that the final shot by Zion’s Gabriel Ramirez had gone in instead of being deflected and falling short. If a Zee-Bee fan wasn’t watching on the computer, he/she would have immediately been texted by dozens of True Bee-lievers to go to highschoolcube.com and watch the replay of the game-winning shot.

If the shot had gone in, everybody at Zion would have seen it before school started the next day. And that’s way different than it was just five years ago.

That’s why they call it The Net Generation.

And why, Al Gore — the “inventor” of the internet — would be a lock to win if he ever ran for president.,

Oh, wait.

■ College of Lake County’s men’s basketball team wrapped up its first season under Chuck Ramsey with a 7-22 record.

That’s about what was expected, given that the Hall of Fame coach was hired after the recruiting door was closed last spring.

The Coach and assistant Bill Werly have been very visible at high school games this season, as they’re trying to increase the talent level at the junior college in Grayslake.

But the reality is, there are two kinds of players who should be going to CLC:

1) Quality players who don’ t have the grades to get into an NCAA Division 1 school (Aaron Simpson of North Chicago, who is tearing up the juco circuit at Lincoln College in central Illinois, is Exhibit A.)

2) High school seniors who had a breakout season this winter and want to play at the Division 2 or 3 level in college, but need another year of quality hoops to nail down a roster spot at the next level.

Between those two groups, there are probably 10 players in the county who, if they all went to CLC and learned under Ramsey, could help the Lancers flip that 7-22 script.

It will be interesting to see how many The Coach gets.

■ An inquiring mind wants to know: How come Lake County high schools are so dominant in boys soccer, but the same isn’t true for girls soccer?

■ Sports to keep an eye on this spring in terms of success for Lake County teams: Softball and girls track.

■ A reminder if you’re out that way: the cheapest gas in Lake County just might be the Marathon station at the corner of Route 45 and Washington, just east of CLC’s campus.



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