November 22, 2010

Monday notebook: Martinez rumors all talk?

The rumors surrounding the status of redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez were flying like leaves in a fall tornado by the time Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini got to the podium for Monday's weekly press conference.

When he was finally finished with his 23-minute session with reporters, the majority of those rumors were deemed inaccurate.

According to Pelini, Martinez has not quit the team nor has he been suspended for something he did during Saturday's loss to Texas A&M. Pelini confirmed that Martinez was absent from a "team shakeout" session on Sunday, but he was excused by the coaches because he was physically unable to participate due to his injured ankle.

Pelini also addressed the well-publicized exchange he had with Martinez during the game, where he was caught by ABC cameras screaming at Martinez and poking him in the chest.

Though he wouldn't go into any details about what the incident was actually about, he did dispel some of the rumors claiming to be the answer.

"I know there's a lot of speculation about the exchange I had with Taylor," Pelini said. "He and I have handled that. First of all, I know there was speculation it had something to do with his injury. It had nothing to do with his injury. It was an issue totally unrelated to that. We handled it. Once again, I regret that it was on national TV."

Because Martinez missed the team shakeout - which is a voluntary light workout for players to "get the kinks out" the day after a game - many speculated it was because Martinez had either quit the team or been suspended.

Pelini said Martinez was definitely still with the team and was at Monday's practice, though he sat out due to his injuries. Pelini said he never had any doubt about Martinez's status with the team, and as long as he's healthy enough Pelini expected Martinez to be ready to start for NU against Colorado on Friday.

"Taylor Martinez is not suspended," Pelini said. "I think you guys know me well enough to know that if somebody was suspended I'd say so."

After the game, Pelini said he talked with Martinez for roughly 15-20 minutes about their exchange. Pelini said Martinez was more frustrated by re-aggravating his high ankle sprain and suffering a stubbed left toe and not being able to help the team than anything else.

"He was frustrated with the injuries, with those things that have happened," Pelini said. "But no, Taylor was just fine. We talked for a good 15-20 minutes in the locker room after the game… That stuff is nobody's business but ours. But I can say this - I have heard the things that are being said out there and the speculation as to what that was about, and they're way off base."

Pelini also confirmed that he had spoken with Martinez's father, Casey, about the incident to explain what happened and make sure everyone was on the same page.

"I just believe that a situation like this you've got to make sure you keep the parents in the loop," Pelini said. "Because he was getting phone calls that he wasn't sure were all about. Casey was confused with some of the inquiries he was getting because they were pretty far off base."

- Robin Washut

Monday practice takes
Crick staying put? With potentially three more games left in his junior season, defensive tackle Jared Crick could be slowly focusing his attention on forgoing his senior year and preparing for the NFL Draft in April. Instead, Crick insists that he's still zeroed in on this season and doing whatever he can to help the Huskers achieve as many of their post-season goals as possible. "I haven't talked to anybody about (entering the NFL Draft)," Crick said. "Right now, the next step is Colorado and after that it's whatever. I haven't thought about that at all."

Amukamara named Thorpe finalist: Nebraska actually got some good news on Monday when it was announced that senior cornerback Prince Amukamara was named one of three finalists for the 2010 Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top collegiate defensive back. Amukamara joins Texas Christian senior Tejay Johnson and LSU junior Patrick Peterson as the three finalists for the award, which will be presented on Dec. 9 at the ESPNU College Football Awards Show in Orlando.

Injury update: Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez was held out of Monday's practice and had a protective boot on his left foot because of a stubbed toe he suffered in Saturday's loss. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said Martinez would hopefully be back in practice on Tuesday, but he would be day-to-day the rest of the week. Running back Roy Helu, who sat out the entire fourth quarter after getting his calf stepped on, was also back at practice on Monday.

What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team returned to practice for the first time of the week in helmets only inside the Hawks Indoor Championship Center and on the fields northwest of Memorial Stadium on Monday. The Huskers will return to for a full-padded practice on Tuesday as they continue to get ready for Friday's regular-season finale against Colorado.

Cotton moving on after dirty play

More than 250,000 people have watched what happened to Nebraska tight end Ben Cotton while in a pile fighting for a fumble during the first quarter of Saturday's loss to Texas A&M.

While most fans completely understood Cotton's reaction of kicking at Aggie defensive lineman Tony Jerod-Eddie after Jerod-Eddie clearly gave him the business, both he and Pelini said all of Nebraska's players need to do a better job of keeping their composure, no matter the circumstance.

"I've seen the replay, but first of all I've got to make sure I handle myself better and go to the sideline and make sure I don't take my helmet off," Cotton said. "That was my mistake… I regret the whole thing. I definitely need to make sure that no matter what happens I need to handle myself better. I lost my cool a little bit there, and I just need to make sure I don't cost my team 30 yards in penalties again."

Pelini said he was obviously upset with the 30 yards in penalties Cotton earned the Huskers on the play after being flagged for a personal foul for kicking at Jerod-Eddie and then unsportsmanlike conduct for removing his helmet while still on the field.

However, Pelini said after talking with Cotton and seeing replays of the incident, he was mostly just made about Cotton taking off his helmet.

"I had no problem with the initial part of what happened with Ben," Pelini said. "What I didn't like was that Ben took his helmet off. He knows better than that. Once again, I dealt with it right there. Ben and I were on the same page. In fact, Ben came over after (the play). Ben was really upset, and that needed to be dealt with right there or he was going to get himself in a lot of trouble. At that point, I'd rather have him be upset with me then do something crazy.

"Believe me, we were on the same page. A few minutes later, Ben came back over to me and apologized for the whole incident. Once again, you deal with it directly."

Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman said during Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference that Jerod-Eddie was "remorseful" about his actions and that he and Sherman had talked about the play since the game.

"I said that's not what we're about and he agreed," Sherman said.

All things considered, Cotton was pretty lighthearted about the whole situation.

"A lot of things happen in fumble piles," Cotton said. "Everyone's scrambling for the football. What happened is in the past. There's nothing you can do with it now."

Asked about what he thought Jerod-Eddie was trying to do on the play, Cotton jokingly gave him the benefit of the doubt.

"Just trying to find his way to the football," Cotton said.

- Robin Washut

Pelini not buying Big 12 conspiracy theory

After Nebraska was flagged for 16 penalties for 145 yards compared to Texas A&M's two penalties for 10 yards, many Husker fans were convinced that the Big 12 Conference was officially out to get NU.

The conspiracy theories have been running wild the past few days, and Pelini was asked his thoughts on the issue for the first time on Monday. While he may have just not wanted to make his true feelings public, Pelini said he wasn't buying into the notion that the Big 12 was manipulating games through biased officiating.

"I'm not commenting on that," Pelini said. "You just trust the integrity of people and you hope your football team is getting a fair shake. Our team is excited about the game on Friday and about all the things that come with it, and we've moved on past Saturday. We're excited to go out and play, and we've got a lot to play for. We've moved on."

One of the more subtle yet most interesting moments of Pelini's press conference, though, came when he was later asked if he thought the Big 12 was "out to get Nebraska" this season because of its coming move to the Big Ten Conference next season.

After a long, noticeable pause, Pelini said:

"No. I don't know. I don't know. I've never even really thought about that. I can't even speculate on something like that. That's pretty far out there."

Pelini said he and athletic director Tom Osborne had communicated with the Big 12 office about some of the penalties Nebraska was called for on Saturday, but they had yet to get a response.

Later on in the interview, Pelini was asked if certain players, such as sophomore defensive end Eric Martin and sophomore safety Courtney Osborne, were being watched a little more closely by officials because of their history of questionable hits this season.

Both players were called for personal fouls against the Aggies, including two on Martin on special teams and a roughing the quarterback penalty on Osborne that eventually led to A&M's game-winning field goal.

"Yeah, there's a possibility of that," Pelini said.

Quick hits

***Martinez sat out of Monday's practice with a protective boot on his left foot. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said Martinez stubbed his toe in Saturday's loss when his left foot was stepped on.

However, Watson said the major injury issue with Martinez was still his sprained right ankle, which he re-aggravated after getting it stepped on by center Mike Caputo against the Aggies. Watson said Martinez would try to return to practice on Tuesday, but he would be day-to-day the rest of the week.

"That's the plan, to get him back out here tomorrow, but we'll see how far we can get him," Watson said. "It's just like it really was two weeks ago. We'll just take it day-to-day and keep working with it."

***Pelini addressed the incident involving defensive coordinator Carl Pelini where Carl was accused of breaking the camera of a Texas A&M reporter as he walked off the field after the game.

"There were a lot of things going on," Bo said. "There was a player kind of in a group of people trying to get out of it, and Carl saw it and went over to try and pull the player into the locker room. I guess it happened pretty close on the way into the locker room. As he did so, apparently he went through the camera to get it, and something happened to the camera. I know Carl regrets that that happened, but that's what happened. I talked to the player that was involved too."

However, pictures and video have surfaced since the press conference showing that Carl went after the reporter and there were no Husker players anywhere near the incident. Carl has declined interviews for the rest of the week.

***Running back Roy Helu didn't play at all in the fourth quarter on Saturday after getting his calf stepped on earlier in the game. Helu was back at practice Monday and Watson he would be good to go for Friday's game.

"It's one of those injuries I think more than anything else it just stung," Watson said. "He just wasn't full speed, so we didn't put him back in at that time."

***Asked about how Nebraska could address its penalty problems moving forward, Bo said it was merely a matter of maintaining focus and executing consistently.

"We need to fix that aspect of it," he said. "Some of them were bone-headed penalties. Some of them were lack of focus or lack of concentration. You can't use crowd noise or anything else as an excuse. You've got to go in and execute your football, and that means doing things the right way consistently."

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